2018-12-30

Once more: My Position on the Jesus Mythicism Question

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by Neil Godfrey

I have been asked once again to explain concisely why I believe Jesus is a myth.

My initial response to that question is “Who doesn’t believe Jesus was a myth?” There is no dispute among biblical scholars, or at least among critical biblical scholars (let’s leave aside the apologists) that the Jesus of our canonical gospels is mythical. No-one believes Jesus really walked on water or literally raised the dead.

Critical biblical scholars, for various reasons, believe that “the historical Jesus” (the Jesus who is not a myth) lies hidden behind those gospel narratives and that with appropriate tools like criteria of authenticity or some adaptation of memory theory they can catch glimpses of what that historical Jesus may have been like in the eyes of his contemporaries.

As for Paul, there is no question that his Jesus, and especially his crucifixion, is a theological construct. Critical scholars generally tell us that Paul had no interest in the historical Jesus but only in a heavenly one, that is, in a mythical one. Jesus’ death was a theological event with power similar to that of Isaac’s blood to atone for sins. (Simon Gathercole in his article I recently addressed reminded me that Dale Allison said scholars have in recent times come to accept the authenticity of one passage in 1 Thessalonians that is considered evidence of Paul’s belief in a historical man and I am in the process of tracking down and studying those references.)

I believe in the Jesus of the gospels and of Paul’s letters: that is, I believe the Jesus of the gospels and Paul is a literary, mythical or theological figure. I don’t know of any critical scholar who would seriously suggest otherwise.

So the question I am sometimes asked is more meaningfully re-worded: “Why do you believe there was no historical Jesus behind the writings of the gospels and Paul?”

My only reply can be: I don’t “believe there was no historical Jesus behind the writings….” To believe that something is or is not so requires a level of evidence that is generally not found when it comes to many biblical stories or characters, or even many classical narratives of very early history among the ancient Greek and Roman historians. I have posted several times now on the clearly stated methods used by the leading historians of ancient history and shown that none of them uses the tools of biblical scholars to discover some past historical figure behind our histories and biographies. None. Yet it is not hard at all to find even biblical scholars themselves addressing the inability of those tools to provide a valid result.

I think the irrational character at the heart of many peoples’ beliefs in the historical Jesus is discerned when they cast aside calm, rational discussion of the evidence and react with hostility, ad hominem, misrepresentation. We can understand such reactions coming from people who feel threatened in some way. (I should add that there are a good number of Jesus mythicists who are just as guilty of personal insult in preference to well-reasoned and evidence-based argument. Most of those, at least in my experience, belong to the “Type 2” mythicists.)

I have posted many times why historians of ancient history can legitimately believe in a historical Julius Caesar or a historical Socrates (even though they may not be able to tell you with confidence exactly what such ancient persons were really like) and I have also made it clear that our level of evidence for such persons (even for “nobodies” like the historicity of Cicero’s slave Tiro and a stammering rival rhetorician to Seneca) is qualitatively far richer than the evidence we have for a historical Jesus behind our mythical or theological documents.

I don’t think there is much room for argument about that difference in the qualitative character of the evidence. Perhaps that’s why some people are not interested in serious discussion about historical methods that might expose the nakedness of certain biblical scholarship, and why they so often prefer instead to stay and fight or disappear in flight.

Was there a historical Jesus? I don’t know. I can’t say. Can the evidence we have be explained without appealing to a historical Jesus? Yes, I tend to think it can. (Despite the gross misrepresentations of the arguments of those who demonstrate this fact.)

What methods do I apply to our evidence?  I try to apply the methods that one very distinguished biblical scholar said should be applied to the study of Jesus. The methods Philip Davies spoke of are no longer relegated to fringe extremism in the studies of “biblical Israel”. (I think it was Thomas L. Thompson, a scholar in the same “school” as Davies, who said that we must first tend to the Jesus we do know about and have before us: that is the literary figure. I believe we need to apply the normative methods of historians (not speaking of New Testament historians) to explain that Jesus.)

Philip Davies

[S]urely the rather fragile historical evidence for Jesus of Nazareth should be tested to see what weight it can bear, or even to work out what kind of historical research might be appropriate. Such a normal exercise should hardly generate controversy in most fields of ancient history, but of course New Testament studies is not a normal case and the highly emotive and dismissive language of, say, Bart Ehrman’s response to Thompson’s The Mythic Past (recte: The Messiah Myth) shows (if it needed to be shown), not that the matter is beyond dispute, but that the whole idea of raising this question needs to be attacked, ad hominem, as something outrageous. This is precisely the tactic anti-minimalists tried twenty years ago: their targets were ‘amateurs’, ‘incompetent’, and could be ignored. — Philip Davies, Did Jesus Exist, 2012

I can see little fundamental difference between the methods of which Philip Davies spoke and the methods of his peers in classical and ancient history departments, or in just about any other history department I know of. I am slowly working on collating my various posts on historical methods that I hope can be a ready reference in future whenever I am asked the question again.

 

 

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Neil Godfrey

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86 Comments

  • Pofarmer
    2018-12-31 00:09:01 GMT+0000 - 00:09 | Permalink

    Thanks Neil.

  • 2018-12-31 00:11:33 GMT+0000 - 00:11 | Permalink

    Neil said:

    Was there a historical Jesus? I don’t know. I can’t say. Can the evidence we have can be explained without appealing to a historical Jesus? Yes, I tend to think it can.

    I feel the same way about the pyramids. Did the Egyptians use slaves to build the pyramids? I don’t know. I can’t say. Can the evidence we have can be explained without appealing to human builders? Yes, I tend to think it can. Perhaps aliens built the pyramids …

    lol (just kidding)

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

      Quite a few mainstream scholars do explain the gospels without reference to a historical Jesus; ditto for the letters of Paul. It’s just that they don’t go out of their way to say there was therefore no historical Jesus.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-12-31 07:26:19 GMT+0000 - 07:26 | Permalink

      You say you are kidding but you bring up a point that some people seriously advance. Whatever passes for “proofs” or “evidence” for alien builders is an untested assertion. Every piece of evidence can be tested against a range of possible explanations, everything from the most mundane to the most esoteric. If evidence cannot be conceived as originating from mundane explanations then I suggest we are looking at a hoax. I restrict my options entirely to the mundane, to what we have known and experienced in history already. Anything that appeals to aliens or supernatural agents I simply dismiss as a matter of course. An explanation has to be grounded in human experience or it cannot be considered an explanation at all.

    • Tim Widowfield
      2019-01-01 22:01:46 GMT+0000 - 22:01 | Permalink

      John: “Did the Egyptians use slaves to build the pyramids?”

      Actually it’s well within the mainstream to answer that question with a resounding “No.”

      https://harvardmagazine.com/2003/07/who-built-the-pyramids-html

      Sometimes the questions we ask and the expected answers blind us to all the possibilities. We get stuck thinking there are only two boxes to choose from.

  • MrHorse
    2018-12-31 00:43:10 GMT+0000 - 00:43 | Permalink

    My view is the gospel Jesus is the historical Jesus.

    It’s just a question of whether that traditional gospel Jesus is based on a real preacher dude (and a. whether he lived in the first 2-3 decades of the first century AD; and b.(i) when the texts about him were started, (ii) when those first texts were distributed, and where, and (iii) were finished).

    • db
      2018-12-31 01:59:03 GMT+0000 - 01:59 | Permalink

      • MrHorse, does Jesus ben Ananias qualify?

      Per comment by Richard Carrier—April 10, 2016—per “Historicity of Jesus: Live Q&A”. Richard Carrier Blogs. 21 January 2015.

      [I]t’s already in mainstream literature that Mark appears to have modeled the crucifixion narrative on the story of Jesus ben Ananias who died in the 60s during the siege of Jerusalem. (I discuss this and cite the literature in OHJ.)

      And many sayings of Jesus actually originated as sayings of apostles, like Paul. They were then simply repackaged and rewritten as sayings of Jesus.

      Cf. Theodore Weeden. ap. Neil Godfrey (2006) “Tale of Two Jesus’s“. vridar.info.

      • Matt Cavanaugh
        2019-01-05 22:09:21 GMT+0000 - 22:09 | Permalink

        You mean mainstream literature like G.A. Wells’ Did Jesus Exist? (1987) or Robert M. Price’s Deconstructing Jesus (2000)? I can’t recall off-hand, but did either of those authors declare Mark ‘appeared to have modeled’ the passion on ben Ananias, or merely noted certain similarities? Price, certainly, points also to numerous allusions to the OT.

        Which sayings of Jesus does Carrier identify as of the apostles? And which other ‘apostles like Paul’? On what evidence does he base this assertion?

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-12-31 02:20:40 GMT+0000 - 02:20 | Permalink

      I use the term “historical Jesus” as it is understood in the literature. Most historical Jesus scholars I have read (apart from apologists) say the Jesus in the gospels is the Jesus as understood and interpreted by the church some decades after the “real Jesus” was crucified. That Jesus figure is wrapped in theology and mythical interpretation. To find the “historical Jesus” (or to come approximately close to him, they would say, rather than committing the sin of being too exact and knowing exactly what he was like, how every perception is an interpretation, etc.) they all say they must get “behind” the text. My own position is that if we get behind the text we only find a blank desk.

      • hazur
        2018-12-31 17:36:59 GMT+0000 - 17:36 | Permalink

        Neil: “My own position is that if we get behind the text we only find a blank desk.” I like your post but I think this is lacking in it. You state there “Can the evidence we have be explained without appealing to a historical Jesus? Yes, I tend to think it can.” I think your position would be better reflected by this: Can the evidence we have be BETTER explained without appealing to a historical Jesus? Yes, I tend to think it can.

        • db
          2018-12-31 17:46:46 GMT+0000 - 17:46 | Permalink

          Per Carrier, the probability that Jesus existed (“Historicity Jesus”), could not reasonably be higher than 1 in 3 (i.e. ~33%).

          In that sense I concur with hazur.

          • 2018-12-31 18:08:23 GMT+0000 - 18:08 | Permalink

            I saw Carrier explain that quantifying a little more clearly in a video somewhere. He said if we gather all the figures as heavily mythologized as Jesus and we put their names in a hat, the likelihood of pulling the name of an historical figure out of that hat was, at best, 1/3.

  • Gary
    2018-12-31 02:52:49 GMT+0000 - 02:52 | Permalink

    Thank you for answering my question, Neil. I don’t regularly read your blog, so this may be your “umpteenth” time giving this explanation, so I appreciate you taking the time to do it again.

    Up front, I am an atheist/non-supernaturalist. I am also a former conservative Christian. I deconverted in 2014 after encountering a former evangelical pastor turned atheist—Bruce Gerenscer—on the internet (I was trying to “bring him back to his Savior”) who insisted that I read some of Bart Ehrman’s books before he would talk to me any further. I was not looking to deconvert. I was very happy as a Christian. However, the evidence presented by Ehrman severely shook my fundamentalist Christian faith to the point that I could no longer believe.

    So is Ehrman my new omniscient god? No. But I do respect his opinion. I follow his blog regularly and I find him to be very even-handed with the evidence. I know that some of the readers of this blog disagree, but here is the principle reason why Ehrman believes that an historical, crucified Jesus did exist in the first century. I’d be curious of your response to this statement. If you have already reviewed it in another post, feel free to direct me to that post, as I’m sure you and your regular readers are probably bored with covering this basic terrain of your mythicist belief system.

    Bart Ehrman:

    The earliest followers of Jesus were convinced that he was the messiah. How do we know? Because they called him this, repeatedly, constantly, all over the map. As I have explained, the word “messiah” comes from the Hebrew word for “anointed one.” In Greek, “messiah” gets translated as “christ.” So anyone who says Jesus Christ is saying Jesus the Messiah.

    “Christ” was early and universally (by Christians) applied to Jesus. They called him the messiah so much that it became Jesus’ second name. You find this already in the writings of the New Testament – in fact, in our earliest author, Paul, who refers to him as Jesus Christ, Christ Jesus, or just Christ, as a name. For Christians, Jesus was the messiah.

    This claims is what made the Christian message both laughable and infuriating for non-Christian Jews. Most Jews knew full well that Jesus could not be the messiah. Jesus was just the opposite of what the messiah was supposed to be. The messiah was supposed to be the powerful ruler (earthly or heavenly) who destroyed God’s enemies and set up a kingdom on earth. Was that who Jesus was? Is that what Jesus did?

    Precisely the opposite. Jesus was an obscure and virtually unknown rural preacher who was arrested as a criminal, humiliated, and tortured to death by the Roman authorities. It’s no wonder that most Jews found the Christian claims ludicrous.

    And this is a powerful argument that the earliest Christians – all of them Jews – did not invent Jesus. They didn’t make him up. If they had made him up, a Jesus they called the Christ, they absolutely would not have made up a messiah who got crucified. That’s the opposite of what they would have made up. There were no Jews that we know of who expected that the messiah would suffer and die. If Christians were to make up a messiah, it would not be a crucified criminal. But Jesus was a crucified criminal. Whom his followers called the messiah. Rather than make the idea up they had to explain the idea away.

    Christians spent considerable time and effort trying to convince fellow Jews that Jesus was the messiah despite the fact that he had been crucified. Paul claims this message was the major “stumbling block for the Jews” (1 Corinthians 1:23). It was the one thing that kept Jews from becoming followers of Jesus.

    If the message of a crucified messiah is precisely the thing that made belief in Jesus impossible for Jews, then it is not a message that would have been made up to convince Jews. If you wanted to make up a Jesus who was the messiah, what would you say about him? Possibly that he is now sitting on the throne in Jerusalem ruling the Jewish people. Why didn’t anyone make that kind of Jesus up? Because everyone knew full well that there wasn’t a Jesus sitting on the throne in Jerusalem ruling his people. Everyone knew, in contrast, that Jesus was a crucified criminal. As a restule, his followers had to reconcile their faith (Jesus is the messiah) with historical reality (he had been crucified).

    The idea of a crucified messiah was NEW. It was an idea forced upon Christians by the clash between what they expected and what had happened. They didn’t invent the idea of Jesus. They invented the idea that the messiah was crucified.

    In short, the fact that Jesus was completely unlike anything anyone expected of a messiah is a compelling proof that the man Jesus was not an invention of his early followers. He was a real person. Who was really crucified. His followers had to make sense of that as well as they could. And the result is Christianity.

    • MrHorse
      2018-12-31 03:58:23 GMT+0000 - 03:58 | Permalink

      Ehrman has provided a tremendous amount of insight into the literature in and around the NT narratives. But he seems to have back-tracked from his earlier scholarship and works, and plateaued at a historical Jesus without very little substance for one.

      He does a lot of what seems to be special-pleading via hand-waving and flowery prose, as is present in the text you cite above.

      He seems to have come close to declaring Jesus a myth 12 yrs ago when he was quoted by a Washington Post reporter telling a packed auditorium at the University of North Carolina –

      “Sometimes Christian apologists say there are only three options to who Jesus was: a liar, a lunatic or the Lord,” he tells a packed auditorium here at the University of North Carolina, where he chairs the department of religious studies. “But there could be a fourth option — legend.” http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/04/AR2006030401369.html?noredirect=on

      I think he got burnt by that, and that has influenced what he has said since (his wife and friends are religious, according to that article).

      • Gary L. Matson Jr
        2018-12-31 05:47:38 GMT+0000 - 05:47 | Permalink

        Interesting. I’m going to copy and paste your comment onto Ehrman’s blog and see what he says. I’ll copy and paste his response here.

      • A Buddhist
        2018-12-31 13:10:26 GMT+0000 - 13:10 | Permalink

        In all fairness, Ehrman claimed that what he meant was that it could have been a legend that Jesus had proclaimed himself to be the Lord/Messiah.

      • 2018-12-31 15:16:23 GMT+0000 - 15:16 | Permalink

        Legendary doesn’t mean Mythical.

        • db
          2018-12-31 17:02:34 GMT+0000 - 17:02 | Permalink

          Legendary should mean non liquet. In the absence of convincing evidence, it is possible, but not necessarily probable, and certainly not certain.

      • Gary L. Matson Jr
        2018-12-31 22:51:36 GMT+0000 - 22:51 | Permalink

        Here is Ehrman’s response, on his blog, to your comment above:

        Bart December 31, 2018

        There simply is no arguing with a someone who subscribes to conspiracy. Evidence just doesn’t matter. For those who think evidence does matter, the issue is not even debated: Jesus certainly existed, however many legendary accounts sprang up about him. But in any event, this person has misconstrued what I said. The fourth option was not for me at the time or ever that Jesus was a complete “myth.” It is that there are “legends” told about him. There are also tons of legends told about Constantine and Abraham Lincoln. Doesn’t mean they didn’t exist! That has to be established on other grounds.

        • 2018-12-31 23:06:57 GMT+0000 - 23:06 | Permalink

          That’s what I meant. For instance, a widely popular apologist book is “The Jesus Legend” by Eddy and Boyd, who certainly believe Jesus existed.

        • MrHorse
          2019-01-01 00:21:08 GMT+0000 - 00:21 | Permalink

          Bart’s accusations of subscribing to ‘conspiracy’ and claiming ‘evidence doesn’t matter’ for mythicists are misrepresentations and so strawman and other fallacies: the assertion that ‘evidence doesn’t matter’ shows breath-taking unawareness of what evidence is.

          His references to legends about Constantine and Abraham Lincoln are red-herring fallacies.

          Ehrman often resorts to tortuous arguments,eg. “if” statements in relation to whether Paul knew his biological brother, and other sequential pats of this interview –

          “Paul knew Jesus’ brother, James, and he knew his closest disciple, Peter, and he tells us that he did,” Ehrman says. “If Jesus didn’t exist, you would think his brother would know about it, so I think Paul is probably pretty good evidence that Jesus at least existed,” he says.

          In Did Jesus Exist?, Ehrman builds a technical argument and shows that one of the reasons for knowing that Jesus existed is that if someone invented Jesus, they would not have created a messiah who was so easily overcome.

          “The Messiah was supposed to overthrow the enemies – and so if you’re going to make up a messiah, you’d make up a powerful messiah,” he says. “You wouldn’t make up somebody who was humiliated, tortured and the killed by the enemies.”

          So Jesus did exist, but who was he? Ehrman says when historians focus on the life of Jesus, they discover a Jesus who is completely different from the one portrayed by popular culture or by religious texts.

          “The mythicists have some right things to say,” Ehrman says. “The Gospels do portray Jesus in ways that are non-historical.” https://www.npr.org/2012/04/01/149462376/did-jesus-exist-a-historian-makes-his-case

          Ehrman has been quoted saying

          “In the entire first Christian century Jesus is not mentioned by a single Greek or Roman historian, religion scholar, politician, philosopher or poet. His name never occurs in a single inscription, and it is never found in a single piece of private correspondence. Zero! Zip references.”

          Here https://stern255.wordpress.com/2014/08/29/atheists-use-quote-mining-also/

          and here https://www.christiancentury.org/blogs/archive/2013-04/unmentioned-jesus

          Ehrman is certainly quote as saying something similar in a 2012 interview with Ben Witherington here https://www.patheos.com/blogs/bibleandculture/2012/06/07/bart-ehrman-on-did-jesus-exist-part-three/

          A. It is obviously important for a historian to look at all the evidence. To most modern people, it is surprising to learn just how little evidence there is for Jesus outside the Christian sources. He is not mentioned in any Roman (or Greek, or Syriac, or… whatever – any pagan [i.e., non-Jewish, non-Christian]) source of the entire first century. Never. That strikes people as surprising. He is mentioned a couple of times within about 80 years of his life by two Roman sources (Pliny and Tacitus; I’m not sure Suetonius can be used). And he is almost certainly referred to twice in the Jewish historian Josephus, once in an entire paragraph. But that’s it for the non-Christian sources for the first hundred years after his death. It’s not much. But it’s something, and since these are not sources that based their views on the Gospels (since these authors hadn’t read the Gospels), it shows that Jesus was indeed known to exist in pagan and Jewish circles within a century of his life.

          Since that 2012 interview there have been several publications that dispute almost all of those extra-biblical sources (except Seutonius), and there are other pre-2012 arguments against the veracity and hence against the validity of most of those passages, including Josephus Antiquities 20.200 and Tacitus Annals 15.44 (that Bart never mentions), eg.

          a. if Antiquities 18.63-4 is suspect, then so is Ant 20.200, and both are suspect on the basis of what both Origen and Eusebius falsely attributed to Josephus in a few works of theirs. Several people have proposed Ant 20.200 is a deliberate interpolation. Richard Carrier has argued it was an accidental one.

          b. Tactius Annals is suspect on its poor provenance and poor witness by patristic fathers: one would think they would have used it if it was available to them. In the 1920s Arthur Drews published his concerns in relation to a late 4th/ early 5th century passage by Sulpicius Severus – https://en.wikisource.org/wiki/The_Witnesses_to_the_Historicity_of_Jesus/Part_2/Section_2#II._Arguments_against_the_Genuineness.

          Jay Raskins has interesting, propositions for an argument about Annals 15.44 being a simple interpolation – https://jayraskin.wordpress.com/2011/04/04/294/

          • Neil Godfrey
            2019-01-03 06:35:41 GMT+0000 - 06:35 | Permalink

            When I read Ehrman excerpts like the above I come back to wondering who read the mythicist books that Ehrman claims he himself read in preparation for his book Did Jesus Exist? I

            What the same excerpts further illustrate for me is just how far Ehrman and the field of New Testament studies is in methods from other history departments. He clearly has no idea just how far removed his methods are from the likes of M.I. Finley. Even Albert Schweitzer addressed the method Ehrman insists is his platform by pointing out that it was circular and had no ability to prove the historical existence of Jesus.

          • Neil Godfrey
            2019-01-03 08:37:44 GMT+0000 - 08:37 | Permalink

            This passage has been throbbing in the back of my head and I think the only way to stop that pain is to type a response to it here:

            “The Messiah was supposed to overthrow the enemies – and so if you’re going to make up a messiah, you’d make up a powerful messiah,” he says. “You wouldn’t make up somebody who was humiliated, tortured and the killed by the enemies.”

            Sometimes, sometimes, some of the most highly reputed scholars come up with such absurdities. I suppose even the greatest musicians sometimes create flops, too, so it’s good to know they’re human.

            So if I were to invent a Messiah in around 30 CE I would write a story about him conquering the Romans and freeing Jerusalem and all nations coming to worship at his feet there. Now that’s going to convince lots of Jews living at that time, isn’t it. Just tell them not to believe their eyes but to have faith that it really has happened when they were all asleep last night.

            And no no, we would never invent a saviour figure like an Abel, an Isaac, a Joseph, a David fleeing from his enemies, a genuine martyr — no-one could possibly relate to esteem anyone who let themselves be martyred, the shameful fools!

            Hoo boy!

            • DW
              2019-01-03 20:00:42 GMT+0000 - 20:00 | Permalink

              “So if I were to invent a Messiah in around 30 CE I would write a story about him conquering the Romans and freeing Jerusalem and all nations coming to worship at his feet there. Now that’s going to convince lots of Jews living at that time, isn’t it. Just tell them not to believe their eyes but to have faith that it really has happened when they were all asleep last night.”

              Indeed! It’s the kind of bizarro argument I’d expect to read in a Lee Strobel apologetics book. In these later years we’ve seen Ehrman transition from questioning scholar to a sort of apologist for his own ideas about Jesus as an apocalyptic prophet. It makes a person wonder about how getting into the habit and practice of apologetical thinking can begin to warp and degrade a person’s mind and judgment.

    • db
      2018-12-31 04:53:35 GMT+0000 - 04:53 | Permalink

      • Gary are you up to date on the argument for the first Christology viz. “High”, “Low”?

      Some works by Raphael Lataster available online, i.e. free to read at your convenience.

      • Lataster (2014). “The Fourth Quest: A Critical Analysis of the Recent Literature on Jesus’ (a)Historicity”. Literature & Aesthetics. 24 (1): 1–28. ISSN 2200-0437.

      • Lataster(2015). “Questioning the Plausibility of Jesus Ahistoricity Theories – A Brief Pseudo-Bayesian Metacritique of the Sources”. Intermountain West Journal of Religious Studies. 6 (1): 63–96. ISSN 2155-1723.

      • Lataster (2016). “Review Essay: Bart Ehrman and the Elusive Historical Jesus”. Literature & Aesthetics. 26 (1): 181–192. ISSN 2200-0437.

      [Paul refers to] divine revelations from a Celestial Jesus (who seems eerily similar to pre-Christian Jewish—and non-existent—figures like the Son of Man and the Logos) —(p. 182)
      […]
      Historicists and mythicists both posit a different form of Jesus that preceded the Gospel’s version of Jesus. Unfortunately for the historicist, there is not a single piece of evidence, pre-New Testament, for the mundane Historical Jesus. This is not the case with the Celestial Messiah, who some pre-Christian Jews did honour, as even [Bart] Ehrman now acknowledges. —(p. 184)

      • db
        2018-12-31 18:31:26 GMT+0000 - 18:31 | Permalink

        Also you may wish to read:

        • Lataster, Raphael (2015). Jesus Did Not Exist: A Debate Among Atheists. CreateSpace. ISBN 978-1-5148-1442-0.

        • Price, R.G. (2018). Deciphering the Gospels: Proves Jesus Never Existed. Lulu. ISBN 978-1-4834-8782-3.

  • Gary
    2018-12-31 02:54:09 GMT+0000 - 02:54 | Permalink

    Source of above Ehrman quote: https://ehrmanblog.org/mythicists-and-the-crucified-messiah/

    • Neil Godfrey
      2018-12-31 03:22:21 GMT+0000 - 03:22 | Permalink

      Thanks. Gary. Yes, I think I will respond to Bart Ehrman’s claims as you have quoted him in a post soon. It’s the season for such posts, it seems, after addressing both Gullotta’s and Gathercole’s treatment of Carrier and Doherty. (My point in each post, as I am sure most of us realize, is to address what I consider very poor scholarship from scholars when addressing mythicism, and not for me to be somehow defending mythicism. I find myself disagreeing with aspects of both Doherty and Carrier. But if there has been a dominant theme running through Vridar posts it has been attempting to alert readers to interesting new information from scholars that is not common public knowledge while also drawing attention to where certain “public intellectuals” let the public down badly.

      I have found much in Bart Ehrman’s earlier works of great value, especially his Orthodox Corruption of Scripture.

      • Gary
        2018-12-31 05:43:35 GMT+0000 - 05:43 | Permalink

        I’m very interested in your point of view, Neil. I’ll try to read more of your previous posts. I certainly agree that the evidence indicates that the overwhelming majority of the Jesus Story is legend. As a member of Ehrman’s blog, I believe that Bart Ehrman holds the same view.

        But is it really plausible that a story about a “crucified Jewish messiah” developed out of thin air among first century Jews?? I find that hard to believe. My guess is that there was an historical Jesus, an apocalyptic preacher, who attracted a small band of Galilean peasants, who made the mistake of saying or doing something during a trip to Jerusalem for Passover that got him crucified. His small group of followers experienced illusions or vivid dreams in which they believed he “appeared” to them, and the resurrected Jesus story took off. All the rest of the Jesus Story is fiction.

        No. There is no evidence to prove this other than the fact that such an unheard of and very unlikely messiah belief started among first century Jews.

        • Neil Godfrey
          2018-12-31 07:39:00 GMT+0000 - 07:39 | Permalink

          As you may have seen from my subsequent post since, I believe your question is based upon a misunderstanding of the evidence:

          But is it really plausible that a story about a “crucified Jewish messiah” developed out of thin air among first century Jews??

          No-one that I know has ever suggested that a crucified messiah (to say it has to be a Jewish messiah is tautology) developed out of thin air. Of course not.

          But as my Novenson posts demonstrate, many New Testament scholars ignorantly seem to argue from the proposition that the only concept of messiah in second temple Judaism was a militant conquering one in this world. That is simply not true. It is simply unsupported by the evidence we have.

          Second Temple Jewish literature and even the canonical literature all speak of a dying messiah. Some even suggest a suffering messiah prior to death. The evidence for all of this is undeniable, in my opinion.

          Yet so many Christian apologists and their agnostic and atheist backers seem to parrot for some unknown reason that such a messiah was inconceivable among Jews. If that were the case then it stands to reason that Christianity did not begin among Jews at all. But to argue that would in this day and age be a sure way to attract charges of anti-semitism.

          I am convinced that Christianity began as a Jewish cult of some sort and it necessarily follows that some Jews could conceive of a suffering and dying messiah.

          When critics say the messiah for Jews had to be a conquering figure, then I simply reply that that’s exactly what Christianity offers. There would be no Christianity without the resurrection and ascension following the crucifixion. If Jesus had ended his career on the cross and in the grave then we would not have Christianity today.

          Jews have long toyed with passages in the Psalms and Isaiah and Daniel and Zechariah pointing to the notion of a suffering and dying messiah. If not, then we have to claim that Jews jumped on the “me too” bandwagon and said, Hey, we want a suffering and dying messiah option, too! I think that is the least credible option of all.

          • Gary
            2018-12-31 18:24:50 GMT+0000 - 18:24 | Permalink

            I consider myself to be an “non-supernaturalist (atheist) evangelist”. I attempt to talk Christians out of their superstitions. I have found that the most powerful weapon in my arsenal against Christian supernaturalism is consensus expert opinion.

            So when a conservative Christian apologist tells me that the majority of experts believe in the historicity of Jesus, I respond: Sure. I believe in the historicity of Jesus because the majority of experts believe it.

            When a conservative Christian tells me that the majority of experts believe in the Empty Tomb, I respond: Sure. I believe in the historicity of the Empty Tomb because the majority of experts believe it.

            I then turn the tables on them: “So since you trust majority expert opinion, then you accept majority expert opinion that the Gospels were NOT written by eyewitnesses or associates of eyewitnesses, right?” (Without eyewitness testimony, the strength of their argument for the historicity of the literal bodily resurrection of Jesus collapses.)

            They typically respond, “The majority of experts are biased!”

            To which I say: Wait a minute! You expect me to accept the historicity of Jesus and the Empty Tomb based on majority expert opinion but when it comes to a majority expert opinion that you don’t like, you reject it??? What’s up with that? Doesn’t that demonstrate that your beliefs are based primarily on a bias and not on evidence?

            They will usually hem and haw and then go on to argue that on the issue of the authorship of the Gospels, the majority expert opinion is biased against the supernatural and that is why they deny eyewitness authorship. To which I reply: Even a large percentage of experts (NT scholars) who believe in the bodily resurrection of Jesus AND the reality of miracles do not believe that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses or the associates of eyewitnesses. They are shocked. Who are these bodily-resurrection-believing experts? Answer: The overwhelming majority of Roman Catholic NT scholars.

            They will then try to convince me that I should not place my “faith” in expert opinion but should do the research myself. My reply: Do you do this for every other fact claim in your life? Do you intensively research the safety of flying on airplanes, crossing bridges, drinking water from a faucet, etc., etc.. or do you trust the majority expert opinion?

            They are usually left with their pants down around their ankles and try to escape the conversation.

            So what does this have to do with our conversation?

            The overwhelming majority of JEWISH experts on the Jewish Bible (the Old Testament) reject the idea of the concept of a dying messiah being found anywhere within its pages. Now, I could spend the next 20 years of my life researching this issue myself, but the fact that the overwhelming majority of Jewish scholars, and, and even a significant minority percentage of (non-evangelical, non-fundamentalist Protestant) Christian scholars reject the idea of the concept of a dying messiah being present in the OT.

            By you insisting that such a concept DOES exist in the Old Testament, defying the majority expert opinion of scholars, you are giving aid and comfort to a fringe position held almost exclusively by evangelical and fundamentalist Protestants.

            • db
              2018-12-31 19:30:11 GMT+0000 - 19:30 | Permalink

              FYI: Another strike against Ehrman is his heavy reliance on hypothetical sources, now undermined by Mark Goodacre′s work.

              Per Carrier (10 December 2018). “Adventures at the Society of Biblical Literature Conference, Part 3: Closing Out”. Richard Carrier Blogs.

              Goodacre points out, advocates of Q lean a lot on presuppositions about how they think Luke “should” have composed his texts, rather than on evidence that their assumptions actually matched Luke’s. A claim like “Luke would not spoil Matthew’s order” become without evidence “Luke did not spoil Matthew’s order.” And yet even the premise has not been established—why wouldn’t Luke “spoil” Matthew’s order? He spoiled Mark’s. So why would he scruple against changing up Matthew as well? Luke wanted his own order. As all authors did. Just look at how Matthew used Mark; and John, the Synoptics. So there is no basis at all for believing Luke “would not” do that. It’s all the more absurd since the Q theorists must necessarily agree Luke altered (and thus “spoiled”) the order in Q. Or else that Matthew did! “Authors wouldn’t do that” is thus refuted by the Q theory itself. Rendering Q self-contradictory as a thesis.

            • db
              2018-12-31 19:59:12 GMT+0000 - 19:59 | Permalink

              Gary wrote: “The overwhelming majority of JEWISH experts on the Jewish Bible (the Old Testament) reject the idea of the concept of a dying messiah being found anywhere within its pages.”

              For the sake of argument we will assume this is true.
              Given:
              1. Paul was a Jew.
              2. Paul′s terminology “according to the scriptures” is indeterminate per sources used.
              3. Paul and other members of his “Christian” sect did discover a crucified Jewish messiah in scripture and confirmed by personal revelation.

              • It is possible that Paul′s source was Ascension of Isaiah or a similar scripture from the Second Temple period rather than the “Jewish Bible” per se.

              • Klaus Schilling
                2019-01-01 20:08:24 GMT+0000 - 20:08 | Permalink

                Paul is completely fictional, intended as a native Jew who abandoned the cult of YHWH and went through a conversion (metanoia) to the faith in The Father. The Catholic redaction then identified YHWH with The Father and substituted the Messiah for the Son of the Father (Bar Abbas).

              • db
                2019-01-01 20:31:44 GMT+0000 - 20:31 | Permalink

                Per “the faith in The Father”, what was the status of YHWH?

              • Klaus Schilling
                2019-01-02 11:09:17 GMT+0000 - 11:09 | Permalink

                Depending on context, YHWH is ‘The Son’ or one of the ‘archons and exousia’.

              • db
                2019-01-02 14:50:51 GMT+0000 - 14:50 | Permalink

                Per YHWH as one of the ‘archons and exousia’, is that similar to Marcionism’s understanding of YHWH?

              • 2019-01-03 19:54:10 GMT+0000 - 19:54 | Permalink

                Yes, it is already similar.

            • Neil Godfrey
              2019-01-01 03:21:21 GMT+0000 - 03:21 | Permalink

              In a recent set of posts about evidence for early Jewish belief in a dying or suffering messiah a clear distinction was maintained by the scholar between Jewish works of late antiquity or even earlier, the Second Temple era, and Jewish works that have been produced from the medieval era up to today.

              Arguments were based on probable expectations in sources that were extant before Christianity became a serious force, sources that were produced when tensions between early Christianity and early Judaism were rife, and sources that have been produced since the settling down of entrenched positions.

              In other words, what some rabbis have been saying in recent times is invalid as evidence for our study of earlier times. Besides, there are some scholar Jews who argue that the evidence favours the idea that the dying and suffering messiah was initially a Jewish idea picked up by the Christians. But Bart Ehrman, I understand, rather than engage with his arguments simply poo-poos him and ignores him, presumably on the understanding that he hopes others will also ignore him.

              That’s not the way to conduct serious debate.

              • Gary
                2019-01-01 04:58:25 GMT+0000 - 04:58 | Permalink

                The big problem for your position, Neil, is that you are appealing to fringe scholarship, where fringe scholarship is defined as a position held by a very, very small group of scholars and opposed by the overwhelming majority of scholars. This is exactly the tactic used by evangelical and fundamentalist Christians on the issue of the alleged eyewitness authorship of the Gospels. They reject overwhelming consensus opinion and appeal to fringe scholarship. We atheists should not do the same thing. If both sides reject consensus majority expert opinion, we are left with no basis for verifying truth claims. Each person is his or her own final authority on all issues.

                I have presented several quotes from Jewish sources which claim that your position is an extreme fringe position among Jewish scholars. Why do you reject the overwhelming consensus opinion of Jewish experts but accept the opinion of a small (one person??) group of fringe scholars?

                Whenever conservative Christians run into “Jewish scholarly consensus” that contradicts their views on the Old Testament, these Christians allege that later Jews altered the earlier Jewish texts. Jewish scholars say that this is absolutely false. So who should one believe?

                I’ll stick with the majority Jewish expert opinion over fundamentalist Christians any day of the week. It saddens me that some atheists would join fundamentalist Christians in questioning Jewish history.

              • db
                2019-01-01 19:24:37 GMT+0000 - 19:24 | Permalink

                I’ll stick with the majority Jewish expert opinion

                Neil Godfrey (18 October 2018). “The Phlogiston Jesus“. Vridar.

                The radical thinker who came along to challenge that assumption was Antoine Lavoisier. His collaborator, Antoine François, comte de Fourcroy, sounded a bit like certain mainstream scholarly critics of historical Jesus studies when he wrote:

                What proves that they are not in the true road to truth, is, that each phlogistian has framed a particular theory of his own, which has little or no relation to any other theory; so that there are now nearly as many theories, as many different kinds of phlogiston, as there are defenders of phlogiston.

                Antoine François de Fourcroy, Elements of Natural History, and of Chemistry, 2nd edn, vol. 1 (tr. William Nicholson), London, 1788, pp. xvi-xix. — cited in Boantza and Gal (2011).

                Now that sounds very much like mainstream critical scholars lamenting the failure of historical Jesus studies to discover “a” historical Jesus. It also sounds like the same criticism raised by many mythicists in relation to incompatible theories about the historical Jesus.

                (We should also be aware that Antoine Lavoisier’s oxygen theory did not replace phlogiston overnight; it also took some time for the new theory to stabilize, ironing out its own initial variants and inadequacies and come to a settled conception that was able to answer all the problems and questions raised against it.)

              • db
                2019-01-01 19:40:46 GMT+0000 - 19:40 | Permalink

                I’ll stick with the majority Jewish expert opinion

                Per Carrier (15 June 2012). “The Dying Messiah Redux”. Richard Carrier Blogs.

                The evidence from the Talmud cannot be dismissed so easily. If b.Sanhedrin 98b explicitly says the suffering servant of Isaiah 53 is the messiah (and it does), and if b.Sanhedrin 93b says the messiah will endure great suffering (and it does), and b.Sukkah 52a-b likewise has a dying-and-rising “Christ son of Joseph” ideology in it (and it does), even saying (quoting Zechariah 12:10) that this messiah will be “pierced” to death (and it does), then my statement “only when Jews had no idea what Christians would do with this connection would they themselves have put it in there” becomes obviously correct: there is no plausible way later Jews would invent interpretations of their scripture that supported and vindicated Christians.
                […]
                [Per the Jonathan Targum] anyone who read his Targum, and then the Hebrew (or Greek), could put two and two together: “this servant is the messiah” + “this servant dies and is buried and then exalted” = “the messiah dies and is buried and then exalted,” the very doctrine we see in the Talmud (as discussed above), which just happens to be the same doctrine adopted by Christians.

              • Neil Godfrey
                2019-01-03 06:59:20 GMT+0000 - 06:59 | Permalink

                The big problem for your position, Neil, is that you are appealing to fringe scholarship, where fringe scholarship is defined as a position held by a very, very small group of scholars and opposed by the overwhelming majority of scholars.

                Sorry, but this is simply not true at all. I am appealing to no head count of scholars for anything. I am examining the arguments and assumptions and methods and logic and evidence of each work that I read. When we hear, for example, that “most scholars” believe Jesus existed then we are hearing unsupportable and pointless claims. Most scholar in question have, I suggest, never studied the evidence for Jesus’ existence at all. (Recall Ehrman even declaring to his readers as far as he know he was the first to do so.)

                In my recent posts on the interpretation of the Suffering Servant texts I was following through the works of one of the most reputable mainstream scholars who has ever lived. I also pointed out that I acknowledged some views of his conclusions had since changed and that I am in the process of following those up right now.

                I believe that if we are to engage with the scholarship behind any claim we need to engage with the works of scholars who are working on such claims. If only 5% of a field are actually immersed in topic X then those 5% count far more than any other 95% who are not examining or questioning the topic but are merely relying upon what they have always assumed all their student lives.

                This is exactly the tactic used by evangelical and fundamentalist Christians on the issue of the alleged eyewitness authorship of the Gospels. They reject overwhelming consensus opinion and appeal to fringe scholarship. We atheists should not do the same thing. If both sides reject consensus majority expert opinion, we are left with no basis for verifying truth claims. Each person is his or her own final authority on all issues.

                You say you do not follow my blog regularly, which is fair enough, but I challenge you to find any work were I have merely “appealed to some fringe scholar” to sustain a view. Please do take that request seriously. I want to understand how you could even think what you say you are thinking.

                I argue the case; I find the arguments used; I text them on the principles I mentioned above; I compare; I find myself changing my mind. I never appeal to “what scholars say” as my backup unless I have already engaged with what those scholars say and I name them. And I NEVER say their views are right because they suit my biases. That is outright nonsense from someone who I cannot imagine has ever read serious posts in this blog.

                I have presented several quotes from Jewish sources which claim that your position is an extreme fringe position among Jewish scholars. Why do you reject the overwhelming consensus opinion of Jewish experts but accept the opinion of a small (one person??) group of fringe scholars?

                Right. So what difference does it make if the sources speak of claims by Jews. Please explain to me how a racial preference makes someone’s views more likely to be correct? Did you read my post about ideological bias in this field?

                And please, Gary, I don’t think you are even reading these comments. I have attempted to point out now that I DO NOT POSE THE OPINION OF ONE SMALL (ONE PERSON) GROUP AGAINST a majority. Count how many scholars I did list, please do that.

                But what set up are arguments, and evaluations of arguments, and if I have yet to look at another side I say so.

                And surely you cannot expect one ideological or religious group today to have more authority than many other scholars who have specialized in the evidence we are discussing. Unless you think Jewish scholars, no matter what their special interests are) are by racial virtue more correct than anyone others who have specialised as historians in a particular question. Did the Jewish sources inform you of their background and biases when presenting their arguments?

                Whenever conservative Christians run into “Jewish scholarly consensus” that contradicts their views on the Old Testament, these Christians allege that later Jews altered the earlier Jewish texts. Jewish scholars say that this is absolutely false. So who should one believe?

                You don’t “believe” anyone. You do your own homework. You check out the sources used by each side. You check the logic of their claims. You look for supporting evidence for each of their claims and you don’t rest satisfied until you have seen a bona fide copy of the evidence for yourself.

                You give me the impression you are wanting an easy ride and to go along with whoever “sounds right” with the “biggest side”. I really don’t even understand why you seem to be introducing some sort of anti-semitic factor into any of these arguments, anyway. Is that what you are doing? Are you insinuating that Boyarim is some sort of “self-hating” Jew and I should not question anything but accept the Jewish account of a particular question without question?

                I’ll stick with the majority Jewish expert opinion over fundamentalist Christians any day of the week. It saddens me that some atheists would join fundamentalist Christians in questioning Jewish history.

                Ah, so at last it comes out. You are insinuating I am an antisemite and that the scholarship I engage with is antisemitic, and especially from a self-hating Jew if a Jew supports it.

                Very clever. You really fooled me into thinking you were a bona fide visitor to this blog. I will be very happy add your details to our spam filter.

            • Pofarmer
              2019-01-01 19:03:00 GMT+0000 - 19:03 | Permalink

              Gary, just an aside here. But, one problem that you have here is that the “Consensus of Scholars” that you have here is also a consensus of believers. Something like 97% of active biblical “Scholars” are also Christians, and some large group of those, probably over 60% are subject to faith statements about believing in the living Jesus or some such. That’s why Raphael Lataster writes that determining Jesus historicity should be left to the atheists.

          • Gary
            2018-12-31 21:05:16 GMT+0000 - 21:05 | Permalink

            Can anyone provide me with a reputable Jewish source that states that the concept of a dying messiah exists in the Hebrew Bible (OT)?

            I will provide a couple of quotes from Jewish websites that reject this claim:

            “Throughout Jewish history, there have been many people who have claimed to be the mashiach, or whose followers have claimed that they were the mashiach: Shimeon Bar Kochba, Shabbtai Tzvi, Jesus, and many others too numerous to name. Leo Rosten reports some very entertaining accounts under the heading False Messiahs in his book, The Joys of Yiddish. But all of these people died without fulfilling the mission of the mashiach; therefore, none of them was the mashiach. Thus, the mashiach and the messianic age lie in our age or in a future age, not in the past. In our generation, thousands of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s followers claim that their brilliant Rebbe was the mashiach. But his more sensible students have now, after his death, expressed disappointment that it turned out that the Rebbe just did not fulfill the expectations described above in his lifetime, and admit that we are still waiting for the real mashiach to come.” –Torah 101

            • Gary (another Gary)
              2019-01-02 23:36:51 GMT+0000 - 23:36 | Permalink

              Gary said, “can anyone profile me with a source…?”

              Mashiach, simply being an anointed “king”, “leader”, not a savior, suffering and dying (and actually referring to restoration of life, or at least entrails), in pre-BC Jewish writings, includes Razis.

              Razis, one of the elders of Jerusalem, who was called father of the Jews (2 Macc 14:37).

              Being surrounded, Razis fell upon his own sword, preferring to die nobly rather than to fall into the hands of sinners and suffer outrages unworthy of his noble birth. But in the heat of the struggle he did not hit exactly… (2 Macc 14:41-43).

              With his blood now completely drained from him, he tore out his entrails, took them in both hands and hurled them at the crowd, calling upon the Lord of life and spirit to give them back to him again. This was the manner of his death (2 Macc 14:46).

          • Gary
            2018-12-31 21:36:18 GMT+0000 - 21:36 | Permalink

            From Jews for Judiasm:

            “Jesus supposedly taught the disciples to understand the Scriptures as referring to himself as the Messiah, the Suffering Servant, who was to arise from the dead after dying as an atonement for mankind’s sins. Teaching about a suffering messianic figure who dies for other people’s sins some Christian’s claim was standard Jewish interpretation until the rabbis supposedly corrupted the true teaching to hide that Jesus fulfilled Isaiah 53.

            However, when Jesus “was teaching his disciples and telling them, ‘The Son of Man is to be delivered up into the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when he has been killed, he will rise again three days later” (Mark 9:31) we are told “they did not understand this statement” (Mark 9:32). This was obviously a concept that was unfamiliar to them.

            The news of Jesus’ death brings a reaction of “mourning and weeping” (Mark 16:10) from Jesus’ disciples. “And when they heard that he was alive . . . they refused to believe it” (Mark 16:11). John explains, “For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise again from the dead” (John 20:9). The disciples reaction is not what would be expected if they saw events as fulfillment of Isaiah 53.

            One would expect that if there were any first century C.E. Jews who were familiar with the interpretation of Isaiah 53 espoused by present-day Christians, that it would have been Jesus and his followers. Yes, there are New Testament anachronisms that attribute such teachings to Jesus. Yet, we find instances where Jesus and/or his followers express themselves in a manner that runs counter to this new Christian interpretation.

            It is apparent from the Gospels that before and for sometime after the crucifixion Jesus’ own disciples didn’t view Isaiah 53 as referring to a suffering messiah who would die for the sins of the people and then be resurrected. It was only in the post-crucifixion period that these notions developed among the followers of Jesus. There is simply no evidence that this was a Jewish interpretation of the passage. The Question remains as to who are the Jews contemporary with Jesus that supposedly held to what has become the present Christian understanding of the meaning of Isaiah 53? They simply cannot be identified because they never existed.”

        • db
          2018-12-31 08:28:52 GMT+0000 - 08:28 | Permalink

          Gary wrote: “[I]s it really plausible that a story about a “crucified Jewish messiah” developed out of thin air among first century Jews”.

          • Paul and other members of his “Christian” sect were not creating a “crucified Jewish messiah” out of thin air. They were “discovering” (not developing) a “crucified Jewish messiah” in scripture and confirmed by personal revelation.

          • Pofarmer
            2018-12-31 16:11:17 GMT+0000 - 16:11 | Permalink

            And Paul actually tells us that this is exactly what he is doing.

          • Gary
            2018-12-31 21:13:52 GMT+0000 - 21:13 | Permalink

            I agree. Paul did not invent the “resurrected dead messiah” motif. This idea was already in vogue among Jewish Christians before Paul. The question is: Where did it come from? Would any Jew create a story about a crucified messiah who performs NONE of the expected acts of a messiah? In addition, if these Jews believed that it was their duty to convert fellow Jews to believe that a man named Jesus of Nazareth was the messiah, would they really invent a story that has this messiah executed by crucifixion as a criminal? How many Jews are they going to convert with that story???? History tells us: Very few.

            If mythicists can provide compelling evidence that there were first century Jews who already believed that the messiah could be a dead messiah, then yes, an invented crucified messiah story is plausible. But if that is not the case, if there is no evidence that any first century Jews believed in a dead messiah concept, then mythicists need to explain the sudden appearance of this bizarre belief.

            • db
              2019-01-01 01:18:17 GMT+0000 - 01:18 | Permalink

              See continued comment by Gary—31 December 2018—per Neil Godfrey. “On Bart Ehrman’s Claim Jews “Would Not Make Up” a Crucified Messiah”. Vridar.

              • 2019-01-01 01:23:59 GMT+0000 - 01:23 | Permalink

                And let’s not forget Dr. McGrath points to Targum Jonathan, a possibly pre-Christian Jewish interpretation of Isaiah 53 in messianic terms, and it accomplishes this by making it the enemies of the messiah who suffer.

            • MrHorse
              2019-01-01 01:44:02 GMT+0000 - 01:44 | Permalink

              Garry wrote –

              Paul did not invent the “resurrected dead messiah” motif. This idea was already in vogue among Jewish Christians before Paul.

              What information do you have that supports the proposition that a ‘resurrected dead messiah’ motif was already in vogue before Paul ??

              • Gary
                2019-01-01 02:45:03 GMT+0000 - 02:45 | Permalink

                The Early Creed in First Corinthians 15, for one, unless you believe that Paul was lying that he had received this tradition from someone else. Most scholars believe First Corinthians was written in circa 55 CE, so at least by that date, a dying/rising messiah belief existed.

            • MrHorse
              2019-01-01 01:52:50 GMT+0000 - 01:52 | Permalink

              Gary wrote –

              Would any Jew create a story about a crucified messiah who performs NONE of the expected acts of a messiah? In addition, if these Jews believed that it was their duty to convert fellow Jews to believe that a man named Jesus of Nazareth was the messiah, would they really invent a story that has this messiah executed by crucifixion as a criminal? How many Jews are they going to convert with that story???? History tells us: Very few.

              If mythicists can provide compelling evidence that there were first century Jews who already believed that the messiah could be a dead messiah, then yes, an invented crucified messiah story is plausible. But if that is not the case, if there is no evidence that any first century Jews believed in a dead messiah concept, then mythicists need to explain the sudden appearance of this bizarre belief.

              I think the crucified-Jesus messiah story is not a first century one. I think it’s a story that started in the 2nd century, it evolved over a few years, with the narrative eventually set in the early first century.

              • gary
                2019-01-01 02:40:28 GMT+0000 - 02:40 | Permalink

                Most scholars believe that the Gospel of Mark was written in circa 70 CE. Since that book contains a crucifixion story, either Mark invented it or this story existed prior to Mark. Either way, we are talking about the FIRST century not the second.

              • MrHorse
                2019-01-01 03:15:18 GMT+0000 - 03:15 | Permalink

                Gary, several people have determined it is likely that Gospel of Mark is largely based on Paul and, variably, the OT and a reaction to aspects or accounts of the first Roman Jewish war.

                Tom Dykstra, Mark Canonizer of Paul, 2012.

                Read R.G. Price Deciphering the Gospels, 2018.

                Richard Carrier argues the same in On the Historicity of Jesus, 2014

                Older similar books include —

                Thomas L Brodie The Birthing of the New Testament, 2004.

                J. Duncan M. Derrett, The Making of Mark: The Scriptural Bases of the Earliest Gospel.
                Volumes 1 and 2. Shipston-on-Stour, Warwickshire: P. Drinkwater, 1985

                Dale Miller and Patricia Miller. The Gospel of Mark as Midrash on Earlier Jewish and New Testament Literature. Studies in the Bible and Early Christianity 21. Lewiston/Queenston/Lampeter: Edwin Mellen Press  

            • Neil Godfrey
              2019-01-01 03:31:59 GMT+0000 - 03:31 | Permalink

              Some scholars have presented reasons for believing the idea came from the Suffering Servant passages in Isaiah and the suffering David in certain Psalms of David.

              Daniel’s Son of Man is a symbol of Israel collectively, but the literature of the Second Temple era shows how the figure evolved into a single person with messianic trappings.

              Zechariah’s passage about killing the shepherd was also derived from earlier prophecies about a Shepherd of Israel.

              I will try to organize my posts in due time, but if you look up the word “messianism” as a search term here you will almost certainly run into a number of posts addressing the evidence for the above evolutionary course of the dying messiah.

    • db
      2018-12-31 05:54:54 GMT+0000 - 05:54 | Permalink

      “Mythicists, Jesus, and the Messiah”. The Bart Ehrman Blog. 9 November 2016.
      Latter comment by Bart—November 12, 2016 [now formatted]:

      Doing history is a matter of considering the evidence. If I want to claim that something happened in history, I need evidence of it.
      • If I want to say that Jews interpreted the messiah as a future king, . . . I can.
      • If I want to say that Jews interpreted Daniel 9 as a reference to a dying messiah, . . . I cannot.

      “Mythicists and the Crucified Messiah”. The Bart Ehrman Blog. 10 November 2016.
      Latter comment by Bart—November 12, 2016:

      The point is that you would not call the one crucified specifically the “messiah.” You might call him something else — the “sacrifice for sins,” the “savior,” or something else — but not “messiah.”

      Per Carrier (28 October 2016). “The Ehrman-Price Debate“. Richard Carrier Blogs.

      Argument 18: The Jews would never invent a messiah who gets killed. Score 1. This is one of Ehrman’s two most typical and predictable arguments (the other being the brothers argument, discussed above). It’s both false and fallacious.
      […]
      • First, it’s false. The Jews did invent a messiah who gets killed. Explicitly in the Talmud: the Messiah son of Joseph will die, presaging the end times, at which the Messiah son of David would resurrect him, beginning the general resurrection of Israel. The Talmud says Isaiah 53 and Zechariah 12 are about this apocalyptic messiah being killed and resurrected. And before Christianity, Daniel 9-12 says much the same thing: the last messiah will be killed, presaging the end times, at which the Archangel Michael would descend and resurrect Israel (including the killed messiah). There is evidence this scheme was elaborated in the Dead Sea Scrolls literature as well. And Ehrman himself has admitted that “chosen one” was a key-word used by Jews to identify passages about the messiah in the OT (as many experts concur: OHJ, pp. 67-68), and Isaiah 53 says a “chosen one” will die and thus atone for the sins of Israel, and even the Talmudic Jews thus agreed this passage was about the messiah. (See OHJ, pp. 73-81, 137-43.) So the claim that Jews “would never do this” is outright false.

      • Second, it’s fallacious. Hebrews 9 makes perfect sense of a dying messiah on existing Jewish theology. That that can be done entails it could be done. Therefore, the claim that it can’t be done is false. But if we accept it can be done, we can no longer argue “the Jews would never do it because they never did,” because that would declare impossible every innovation in the entirety of Jewish history. Which is absurd.

      • Having the messiah die before returning as “a great warrior king and mighty cosmic judge who would destroy his enemies” (as Ehrman says a messiah must be) was actually a theologically brilliant idea in the context of the time (OHJ, pp. 153-59), perfectly in line with Jewish thinking about how heroes and powers and victories against evil operate (from exalted martyrs to atonement magic: OHJ, pp. 143-45, 209-14, 430-32, with p. 142; and PH, pp. 131-34, with p. 141). Hence, Jesus is still exactly that messiah Ehrman says a messiah was supposed to be. His playing that part was simply said to be coming any time now, his powers having been gained by first submitting to death, just like all the other dying and rising personal savior Lords of the era; and, incidentally, just like the exalted “chosen one” of Isaiah 53.

      • So when Ehrman says, “You can’t explain the crucified messiah as something that was made up,” he’s flat out, demonstrably wrong. It’s also not a logically valid rebuttal to mythicism. On mythicism, that the crucifixion was a stumbling block for (only some) Jews was because they couldn’t understand how anyone would know an archangel had been crucified in outer space, without a “sign” confirming it (OHJ, pp. 613-15; compare pp. 610-13). Likewise, the only kind of messiah you can invent is one who isn’t a conquering warrior. Thus it would always entail some cryptic stumbling block the inventors had to overcome with scripture and traveling miracle acts. So would an actually crucified man have entailed. Therefore, the existence of a stumbling block is entailed by both theories, and therefore argues against neither.

      • Gary
        2018-12-31 17:51:38 GMT+0000 - 17:51 | Permalink

        I will reply to your comment below in replying to Neil.

      • MrHorse899@yahoo.com
        2019-01-01 02:04:40 GMT+0000 - 02:04 | Permalink

        comment by Bart—November 12, 2016:

        The point is that you would not call the one crucified specifically the “messiah.” You might call him something else — the “sacrifice for sins,” the “savior,” or something else — but not “messiah.”

        Jesus means savior (Jesus is from Joshua which, in turn, is from Yeshuah (and variants) which means “to save, save alive, rescue.”

        Jesus was called both: Jesus the messiah/Christ (ie. the messiah (Hebrew: mashiach, מָשִׁיחַ‎, māšîaḥ, = the Christ).

        (Ehrman = smoke-screen incompetence).

  • Pingback: On Bart Ehrman’s Claim Jews “Would Not Make Up” a Crucified Messiah |

  • 2018-12-31 10:43:46 GMT+0000 - 10:43 | Permalink

    I fully agree with Neil’s analysis.
    However, I propose a particular kind of mythical: the astrological one.
    I bring back this article of presentation of my work to your attention
    https://www.academia.edu/4123998/KRST_a_mythical_quest_by_Pier_Tulip.
    On the main page of my profile you can find other articles related to the astreotological thesis of early Christianity.
    In truth, my thesis has gone beyond what is oulined in the conclusions of KRST but for now it is expressed in my last work only in Italian language: The Marble Code, which I hope will soon be translated.
    The synthesis is that at the base of the first Christian sect, detached from a cult sect from Alexandria, or a direct evolution of it, which suffered Buddhist influences, had created a new myth that promised “eternal life”. Eternal life that would not have come true in Hiperuranium, but directly on this earth.
    Jesus as told in the Gospels is an allegorical character, but perhaps a first priest of the new religion was a real person: the Egyptian of Flavian memory also found in Acts?

  • Clarke Owens
    2018-12-31 15:10:03 GMT+0000 - 15:10 | Permalink

    The following point is one that I made once before on these blogs, and I’m not an expert on it, but it’s a point that I never see discussed, and that I wish were discussed. It arises from some limited reading I’ve done regarding the ecumenical councils that were set up, beginning with Nicaea in 325 C.E. at which theological issues were debated and decided. It appears from my limited reading that these councils dealt exclusively with issues of the cosmic Christ. E.g., the Arian (sp?) controversy determining that Christ was not “begotten” by God in the usual sense, but rather existed from all time, co-existent with God, i.e., the second leg of the traditional trinitarian concept. It’s rather like reading Plotinian philosophy, but it has nothing whatsoever to do with a human being who walked the Earth. It seems to me that if Jesus had, in fact, been a real human being who had walked the Earth for 33 years, the people who were so obsessed with him as to found a church based on his existence would make some reference, or have some concern–somewhere, somehow–with that actual existence. The impression that I come away with (and again, it’s only an impression, since I am no scholar on this topic) is that the progress of Christianity moves, or historically did move, on two tracks: one for the clergy, and one for the common people, the flock. The people were to be given what they could understand: legends, stories, homilies, prayers. The professionals were responsible for philosophy, which was presumably to be “believed,” or at least adhered to on pain of excommunication. That is, the professionals had their “truth,” and the common people had theirs.This two-track idea, if it has any validity, would seem to relegate historicity to a relatively minor point of significance. I wonder what others think about this.

    • Neil Godfrey
      2019-01-01 03:36:24 GMT+0000 - 03:36 | Permalink

      It’s an interesting question. A similar one I have is to ask how all of those ethereal concepts of Jesus arose among the gnostics if Jesus had had a normal human provenance. I can understand people trying to simplify complex gnostic entities with a simple parable tale, but I cannot figure out how esoteric ideas of Jesus could emerge from witnesses to a real person.

  • Gary
    2018-12-31 21:50:26 GMT+0000 - 21:50 | Permalink

    From Jews for Judiasm:

    “Jesus supposedly taught the disciples to understand the Scriptures as referring to himself as the Messiah, the Suffering Servant, who was to arise from the dead after dying as an atonement for mankind’s sins. Teaching about a suffering messianic figure who dies for other people’s sins some Christian’s claim was standard Jewish interpretation until the rabbis supposedly corrupted the true teaching to hide that Jesus fulfilled Isaiah 53.

    However, when Jesus “was teaching his disciples and telling them, ‘The Son of Man is to be delivered up into the hands of men, and they will kill him; and when he has been killed, he will rise again three days later” (Mark 9:31) we are told “they did not understand this statement” (Mark 9:32). This was obviously a concept that was unfamiliar to them.

    The news of Jesus’ death brings a reaction of “mourning and weeping” (Mark 16:10) from Jesus’ disciples. “And when they heard that he was alive . . . they refused to believe it” (Mark 16:11). John explains, “For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise again from the dead” (John 20:9). The disciples reaction is not what would be expected if they saw events as fulfillment of Isaiah 53.

    One would expect that if there were any first century C.E. Jews who were familiar with the interpretation of Isaiah 53 espoused by present-day Christians, that it would have been Jesus and his followers. Yes, there are New Testament anachronisms that attribute such teachings to Jesus. Yet, we find instances where Jesus and/or his followers express themselves in a manner that runs counter to this new Christian interpretation.

    It is apparent from the Gospels that before and for sometime after the crucifixion Jesus’ own disciples didn’t view Isaiah 53 as referring to a suffering messiah who would die for the sins of the people and then be resurrected. It was only in the post-crucifixion period that these notions developed among the followers of Jesus. There is simply no evidence that this was a Jewish interpretation of the passage. The Question remains as to who are the Jews contemporary with Jesus that supposedly held to what has become the present Christian understanding of the meaning of Isaiah 53? They simply cannot be identified because they never existed.”

  • Neil Godfrey
    2019-01-01 03:32:32 GMT+0000 - 03:32 | Permalink

    Reply mainly to Gary,

    Some scholars have presented reasons for believing the idea came from the Suffering Servant passages in Isaiah and the suffering David in certain Psalms of David.

    Daniel’s Son of Man is a symbol of Israel collectively, but the literature of the Second Temple era shows how the figure evolved into a single person with messianic trappings.

    Zechariah’s passage about killing the shepherd was also derived from earlier prophecies about a Shepherd of Israel.

    I will try to organize my posts in due time, but if you look up the word “messianism” as a search term here you will almost certainly run into a number of posts addressing the evidence for the above evolutionary course of the dying messiah.

    • MrHorse
      2019-01-01 03:55:09 GMT+0000 - 03:55 | Permalink

      db provides an interesting schema* based on Gnostic and pseudo-Gnostic theology such as Marcion’s that might provide a pre-Judaic basis. Something like –

      a daemon or bad creator God made the world as per Gnositc and some Jewish theology (which is why the Jews lost the Temple to the Romans),
      a good god was necessary to balance or save the world
      the second god manifests as Jesus the Messiah-God based on what the Jews had prophesied and with the trapping of a long theological history with the attributes you outline: the Suffering Servant of Isaiah and the suffering David [in certain Psalms of David].

      That allows for the influence of the changing and increasingly diverse theologies of the intertestamentary period, as well as the obvious groundings of the nT narratives in the OT narratives.

      https://vridar.org/2018/12/31/on-bart-ehrmans-claim-jews-would-not-make-up-a-crucified-messiah/#comment-89494

      • db
        2019-01-02 03:15:14 GMT+0000 - 03:15 | Permalink

        Fairen, Glen J. (2015). “Revelations of Lesser Gods: The Heresy of Christian Anti-Judaism and the Logic of a Demiurge for Nostalgic Israel”. ERA. Dissertation: University of Alberta. doi:10.7939/r3cz32979.

        According to the Apocryphon of John, after Yaltabaoth created the material world as an imperfect reflection of the divine realm,

        when he saw the creation which surrounded him and the multitude of the angels surrounding him who had came into being from him, he said to them, ‘I am a jealous God and no other god exists beside me.’ But his proclamation indicated to the angels who dwell with him that another God does exist. For if there were not another who exists, of whom would he be jealous? (ApocJohn 14:1-4)

        For the author(s) of the Apocryphon of John not only is the creator God ignorant of both his true origin and his status as less than divine, but also by evoking Isaiah (46:9), the author(s) are making it very clear that this corrupted, ignorant being is to be identified with the creator deity of the Hebrew Bible, YHWH. —(p. 212)
        […]
        Plutarch postulated a “maleficent soul, which had at some stage itself broken away from the intelligible realm” as a rationalization for the “chaos” of the material realm —(p. 213)
        […]
        [Per the Dead Sea Scrolls] “Belial [who] is unrestrained in Israel” is understood as the default god of the world —(p. 215)

    • Gary
      2019-01-01 20:46:55 GMT+0000 - 20:46 | Permalink

      You are a very smart man, Neil. I do respect your opinion. You have studied this information in great detail. But the fact remains that you are not an expert. With all due respect, you are doing exactly what fundamentalist Christians do: They appeal to a few fringe experts and their own non-expert research to form their worldview. I just don’t think that is wise. A society in which every person believes that he or she is the final authority on every issue is a society in chaos. We must accept and respect consensus expert opinion.

      The overwhelming majority of Jewish scholars reject the idea that the concept of a dying messiah existed in Second Temple Judaism. Why do you choose to believe fringe expert opinion instead of accepting overwhelming majority consensus?

      • Gary
        2019-01-01 20:51:28 GMT+0000 - 20:51 | Permalink

        I will post again this comment by a prominent Jewish scholar:

        “BOYARIN’S BOOK concludes with a chapter about “The Suffering Christ as a Midrash on Daniel.” It basically contends that Jesus’s vicarious suffering and death is informed not only by the Suffering Servant of Isaiah 53, which can be taken for granted, but also by Boyarin’s strange reading of Daniel’s vision. It also claims that the idea of a suffering and dying Messiah was common among the rabbis, relying mainly on a single passage in the Jerusalem Talmud that refers to the mourning over the Messiah’s death (Boyarin’s reading of it is by no means as certain as he pretends it is), and on the famous passage in the Babylonian Talmud about the leper of the house of David (quoting Isaiah 53), and on another passage that is preserved only in Raimundo Martini’s medieval Pugio Fidei and may or may not go back to a fourth-century midrash. This is not much.

        …BOYARIN’S BOOK leaves the reader irritated and sad. It has very little that is new to offer—and what appears to be new is wildly speculative and highly idiosyncratic. Even judged by its commendable intentions—to win over dogmatic defenders of the perfect uniqueness of Christianity or Judaism—it is disappointing. As the younger Talmud professor in the acclaimed Israeli movie Footnote says to his hapless student, “There are many correct and new aspects in your paper—only what is new isn’t correct and what is correct isn’t new.”

        —Peter Schäfer is Perelman Professor of Jewish Studies at Princeton University and the author, most recently, of The Jewish Jesus: How Judaism and Christianity Shaped Each Other (Princeton University Press).

        • MrHorse
          2019-01-01 21:11:30 GMT+0000 - 21:11 | Permalink

          Peter Schäfer, a Christian expert on Judaism … is just furious at Daniel Boyarin …

          The catalyst for Schäfer’s anger is Boyarin’s new popular book, The Jewish Gospels …

          Finally, Schäfer has a speculative thesis of his own – the major developments in post-Second Temple Judaism were really drawn from Christianity!…

          … What’s really going on here is that Schäfer has his own popular book out, The Jewish Jesus: How Judaism and Christianity Shaped Each Other which argues some themes very similar to Boyarin’s book. But Schäfer’s book has been a bust (#107,387 on Amazon) while Boyarin’s book has been relatively successful (#7,102 overall, and #1 in Judaism-Theology, #4 Judaism-History of Religion, and #24 in books on Jesus). Sour grapes. https://bltnotjustasandwich.com/2012/05/31/peter-schfer-slams-daniel-boyarinscholarly-brawl/

          David Ratliff
          Excellent argument for a concept of a “Divine Messiah”
          August 17, 2016

          I am 69 years old and for most of my life I have been a student of the origins of the “Christian church”, the so-called search for the historical Jesus, and the Judaisms of the time of Herod until the complete destruction by the Romans. One thing I have read repeatedly over the years in Jewish books on the subject is that there could not have even possibly been a Jewish concept of a “divine Messiah”, that the notion that Jesus Christ being God-Incarnate would have been unthinkable to a Jew of that time, that it is a concept born from pagan corruption. It was a great surprise to read a book by an acknowledged Talmud scholar that presents the idea that such a concept was not only possible but was also held by some Jews of the time. These Jews were not corrupted by Hellenization or pagan theologies. While true they did not constitute a majority opinion or interpretation of the “son of man” vision, nevertheless it is fascinating that the concept was seriously considered and believed-in by some of the Jewish scholars of that time. I highly recommend this book to both Jewish and Christian readers, and certainly also to those of the “Messianic Jewish” persuasion. https://www.amazon.com/The-Jewish-Gospels-Daniel-Boyarin/dp/1595584684/ (specifically https://www.amazon.com/gp/customer-reviews/R1F8R85ZQ3GKMY/ref=cm_cr_dp_d_rvw_ttl?ie=UTF8&ASIN=1595584684)

          Moreover, early Gnosticism likely arose out of Judaism (in Alexandria)

        • Neil Godfrey
          2019-01-01 21:51:08 GMT+0000 - 21:51 | Permalink

          I think your comment here gives me an good opportunity to point out how we approach experts who are divided. As a rule I read several detailed reviews of books I study and I try always to learn something about each reviewer, his ideological bias, his background interests, etc. (I do that because one of the “mainstream experts” in the field of history (E.H. Carr) advised his students to follow that approach.

          I always read the book myself and I never rely on reviews to tell me what to think. As I read the book I will be thinking of how other reviewers were thinking about what I’m reading. Sometimes I discover a review has not been completely fair or even honest; other times I find myself in agreements with a particular reviewer.

          When I read a book I always study the sources mentioned for AND against the author’s argument and will try to follow those up to assess the arguments and evidence for myself. When I see a reviewer disagreeing with a book I will as a rule try to find more about the alternative arguments opposed to the thesis I am reading.

          I do not simply point to, say, Daniel Boyarin, and tell readers that he has it right. I give links and other information, as a rule, for people to follow up the arguments for or against for themselves.

          I listed Boyarin among a cluster of other (mostly non-Jewish) scholars who argue the same point as Boyarin in some ways. Actually I personally think the particular book by Boyarin is very thin in its argument and rests almost entirely on a “law of probability”. But I have also discussed other works that do explore in detail more of the evidence that can be marshalled for such a view. Boyarin’s approach to the question was not theirs; theirs was more detailed, painstaking with each piece of data from the Second Temple era and Late Antiquity (which material shows very different biases from later Jewish literature and scholars.)

          I never rely on reviews to tell me how to respond to a book and its author’s ideas. I love reviews because they often give me a different or often a more critical perspective as I read. Sometimes I will come away agreeing with one or more reviewers; but not always.

          I posted on New Year’s Day a saying by another scholar who was addressing two types of scholars in his field. We can debate a particular view by counting hostile reviewers or we can engage in a debate that shares the arguments of both the reviewed author and reviewers of different opinions. I think if we follow the latter we are behaving in the way we would expect the “experts” to engage.

          I think experts would find much more satisfaction on the whole engaging with others who question and check things, than on those who sheepishly close their minds and accept what they say because a large herd of them thinks the same way.

          • db
            2019-01-02 00:02:29 GMT+0000 - 00:02 | Permalink

            Neil Godfrey wrote: “I personally think the particular book by Boyarin is very thin in its argument and rests almost entirely on a “law of probability”.”

            Comment by Daniel Boyarin—19 October 2012—per Theophrastus (31 May 2012). “Peter Schäfer slams Daniel Boyarin–scholarly brawl”. BLT — Bible * Literature * Translation.

            [The Jewish Gospels] is a book written for a popular audience. As such, it is not expected to communicate only new research. It’s a statement of my opinion and arguments for that opinion. Take them or leave them. I tried to indicate where I was drawing on accepted scholarly opinion and where not but could not give in that context the full kind of documentation and discussion of earlier work for which I am (in)famous. As for Larry Hurtado, I’ve read his work and disagreed with it openly (I think there is non Christian evidence for worship of the Son of Man). He may be right and I may be totally wrong, but it is wrong for him to imply that I’ve ignored him. We’ve even been in conversation on these matters and continue to disagree. As for the notion that anything can be found in the OT; I don’t think so. On the other hand, in a long paper published in the Harvard Theological Review, I tried to make the case that there were tensions that remained in the religious world of the Bible that resulted from the merger of El and J, as they were two quite different types of God, far heavenly God of justice on the one hand and young war God on the other, so that biblical henolatry was always under a certain kind of tension which shows up, inter alia, in such texts as Daniel and thence in first-century Jewish apocalypses and the Gospels.

      • Neil Godfrey
        2019-01-01 21:30:32 GMT+0000 - 21:30 | Permalink

        I do not believe that the posts in which you see me engaging with the scholarship, both biblical and others, are mere “appealing to the experts”. I do attempt to share with others what “experts” are saying and writing, and I do offer often enough my own assessment of their arguments generally in conjunction with what other research has turned up. Anyone who has followed some of my debates with certain biblical scholars will know that I do have a better grasp than some of them of the topics under question.

        1. I have never claimed to be an expert, but I am a very well read lay person who does know his stuff — thanks to a number of lucky circumstances in my life these past few years.
        2. I have never appealed to “a few fringe experts” to justify my own arguments but always to mainstream scholarly research. If you think the scholars whose works I study are “fringe” then I suggest you look up their credentials and status from the links I generally add to their names.
        3. You imply I see myself a some sort of “final authority”. That is absolute nonsense and I cannot imagine anything I have written to lead you to such an impression of me. Very often when someone asks my opinion on certain questions I will respond with “why ask me? my views are always in flux as I learn more!”
        4. I do not know why you imply I do not respect consensus opinion. Of course I respect it. But I do know from the experts, mainstream experts, that it is fallacious to always simply “accept” expert opinion if we have serious questions that appear to undermine it.

        In our studies of NT scholarship Tim and I have discovered many, many fundamental errors of basic logic, of facts, of failing to read the expert works they cite and so argue from misconceptions. Do you think I should just keep quiet about such shoddy work and not raise questions of the experts in those cases? That might be the way of things in some cultures but not ours. What do you think I should do when I see in a book by an expert something that is clearly fallacious or simply flat wrong?

        Yes, of course the majority of Jewish scholars have always rejected the idea that Jesus was the messiah. Of course. But when I pointed out the a sound historical method of research is to compare the Jewish sourced in different ages I was repeating what a mainstream expert in early Christian history pointed out, and I posted on that very point not so long ago.

        I expect to be challenged here, but I expect to be challenged on the facts and logic and knowledge I present. If you want to kow-tow to experts even though experts themselves say no-one should ever do this in the fields of history, humanities, etc, then you are wasting your time at the wrong blog.

        My approach to experts in any field is to understand what they say and why they say it. That means I want to know the logical processes, the methods, the data they use to come to their conclusions. And any expert who cannot help a lay person do that has betrayed his or her responsibility as a public intellectual and no longer deserves to be called an “expert”. Luckily, I find most “experts” are very willing to share their knowledge, and the processes they used to attain their knowledge, and I learn a lot from them in the process.

        But as a pupil I know I am expected to ask questions where I don’t understand something or think I identify a fallacy. If I find an expert clarifies his point, sometimes modifies it, then I am pleased to engage with such a person. But when an expert reacts unprofessionally and digs heels in and turns on me for daring to question him or her, then I usually think that expert has something to hide. (I have worked with academics most of my life, by the way. I know I do not have to be in awe of them but I do respect them and engage with them where I have questions.)

        • Gary
          2019-01-02 03:00:16 GMT+0000 - 03:00 | Permalink

          What I am curious about is, how many Jewish scholars believe that a “dying messiah” concept existed in Second Temple Judaism? If there are only a handful of them, by definition that is a “fringe”. But if you can show me that a significant minority of Jewish scholars hold that view, that is a different story. I don’t believe that we must accept majority expert opinion when it is nearly evenly divided, but when it is the consensus opinion (the overwhelming majority), then I question the wisdom of a non-expert appealing to a (very small) minority position.

          Do you have a source which lists the approximate number or percentage of Jewish scholars who agree with your view?

          • db
            2019-01-02 05:00:05 GMT+0000 - 05:00 | Permalink

            FYI:

            • Wise, Michael O. (1999). The First Messiah: Investigating the Savior Before Jesus. HarperCollins. ISBN 9780060696450.

            • Knohl, Israel (2000). The Messiah before Jesus: The Suffering Servant of the Dead Sea Scrolls. University of California Press. ISBN 9780520928749.

            Knohl is best known for his theory that Jewish culture contained a myth about a messiah who rose from the dead in the days before Jesus of Nazareth. One of the historical antecedents of this messianic figure is Menahem the Essene who is mentioned several times in rabbinic literature. He also finds evidence of this belief in the Dead Sea Scrolls.

            Per Neil Godfrey (14 December 2018). “Modern Scholars on Pre-Christian Jewish Beliefs in Suffering Messiahs and Atoning Deaths”. Vridar.

            I am currently sharing the evidence for a pre-Christian Jewish beliefs in a suffering servant, even dying, messiah set out by Joachim Jeremias, but in response to a reader’s comment I would like to list here some contemporary scholars who have presented similar or related arguments. I can only list the few whose works I have read and no doubt there are many more I am yet to discover.

            • Gary
              2019-01-02 16:11:19 GMT+0000 - 16:11 | Permalink

              Thanks for the info. I’ll check it out.

  • Neil Godfrey
    2019-01-01 22:07:10 GMT+0000 - 22:07 | Permalink

    One more thing: we are not discussing physics or mathematics here. We are immersed in one of the most ideological of studies. We are enquiring into the origins of two major religions that influence millions today. Many of the scholars themselves are adherents to those religions in some form.

    So we should expect to encounter criticisms, reviews, publications, presentations that come with some subtle ideological bias at some point. That this is what we are engaged with surely means we need to be all the more careful weighing up the arguments and evidence for competing views, as well as being all the more careful to avoid siding with numbers or names who make us feel comfortable.

    (As for the Daniel Boyarin issue, recall his name was only one of many others that I have posted about in detail. Nothing wrong in extracting all the facts, all the data, and examining all the inferences, etc. and coming to our own (always tentative) conclusions.)

    • Gary
      2019-01-02 16:12:21 GMT+0000 - 16:12 | Permalink

      Good points. I’ll check into this more.

      • Neil Godfrey
        2019-01-03 07:03:59 GMT+0000 - 07:03 | Permalink

        Gary, you get your information from Jews for Judaism. That organization is so obviously partisan, an “evangelical” or even “fundamentalst” equivalent of Christian fundamentalists. You clearly have no interest in engaging with scholarship attempts as far as possible to remove itself from such motives and interests.

        You have been wasting my time and the time of others. You fooled us when you came here by hiding your true interests and motives.

        I will add you to my spam filter.

  • Marty
    2019-01-03 15:52:44 GMT+0000 - 15:52 | Permalink

    Neil,

    We are three days into this new year and it looks like I will have to give up sleeping to keep up with you.

    I came across this book a while back maybe it will be of interest to you and your readers. I think you will find it of interest in relation to your study on the Messiah’s.

    Messiah Ben Joseph by David C. Mitchell, forward by Robert Gordon, ISBN 978-1-53-274392-4 copyright 2016.

  • Pingback: Wow! Popular Atheist Blogger Neil Godfrey Bans Me from his Blog for Questioning his Mythicist Views – Escaping Christian Fundamentalism

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