NPR: The veracity of Adam and Eve is a crisis for faith

On yesterday’s Morning Edition show on National Public Radio, religion correspondent Barbara Bradley Hagerty did a piece on biblical literalism: “Evangelicals question the existence of Adam and Eve.”  (The link contains not only the broadcast piece, but its full transcript).  I’ve always maintained that this piece of the Old Testament, which is easily falsified by modern genetics (modern humans descended from a group of no fewer than 10,000 individuals), shows more than anything else the incompatibility between science and faith.  For if you reject the Adam and Eve tale as literal truth, you reject two central tenets of Christianity: the Fall of Man and human specialness.  These can then be saved only by post facto theological rationalizations about why humans are special in an evolutionary sense, and also sufficiently sinful to require salvation.

It’s a pretty good piece given that it’s only about eight minutes long, and accurately portrays the controversy.  Here is the cast of characters:

The diehards (Biblical literalists):

Fuzale Rana, president of Reasons to Believe.  “But if the parts of Scripture that you are claiming to be false, in effect, are responsible for creating the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, then you’ve got a problem.” . . . “I think this is going to be a pivotal point in Church history because what rests at the very heart of this debate is whether or not key ideas within Christianity are ultimately true or not.”

Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

“When Adam sinned, he sinned for us,” Mohler says. “And it’s that very sinfulness that sets up our understanding of our need for a savior.

Mohler says the Adam and Eve story is not just about a fall from paradise: It goes to the heart of Christianity. He notes that the Apostle Paul (in Romans 5 and 1 Corinthians 15) argued that the whole point of Jesus’ crucifixion and resurrection was to undo Adam’s original sin.

“Without Adam, the work of Christ makes no sense whatsoever in Paul’s description of the Gospel, which is the classic description of the Gospel we have in the New Testament,” Mohler says.

The accommodationists

Dennis Venema,  a senior fellow at BioLogos who has written there about the genetic problems with the Adam and Eve story.

Asked how likely it is that we all descended from Adam and Eve, Dennis Venema, a biologist at Trinity Western University, replies: “That would be against all the genomic evidence that we’ve assembled over the last 20 years, so not likely at all.”

John Schneider, former teacher at Calvin College.

“Evolution makes it pretty clear that in nature, and in the moral experience of human beings, there never was any such paradise to be lost,” Schneider says. “So Christians, I think, have a challenge, have a job on their hands to reformulate some of their tradition about human beginnings.” [JAC: What he means is that they have to make new stuff up.]

Daniel Harlow, religion professor at Calvin College.

“Evangelicalism has a tendency to devour its young.  You get evangelicals who push the envelope, maybe; they get the courage to work in sensitive, difficult areas, and they get slapped down. They get fired or dismissed or pressured out.”

“Uncle” Karl Giberson, former vice president of BioLogos.

“When you ignore science, you end up with egg on your face.  The Catholic Church has had an awful lot of egg on its face for centuries because of Galileo. And Protestants would do very well to look at that and to learn from it.”

Why is this important?  Because it strikes at the heart of the debate between science and faith.  Here is a case in which science has absolutely falsified a major tenet of a major religion.  (This isn’t new, of course, for the Biblical Flood never happened either. But the flood is nowhere near as important in Christian theology as is the Adam and Eve tale.) This shows, first of all, that the accommodationist claim that science and religion aren’t in conflict is flatly wrong. The only way to save the comity of science and religion is to assert, hypocritically, that Biblical literalists simply have the wrong faith.

Second, it will force believers to choose one path or another: they can be literalists, and look really dumb to thinking people, or they can be accommodationists, and make stuff up to save the Adam and Eve story. Fuzale Rana, literalist though he is, is correct when he says, “But if the parts of Scripture that you are claiming to be false, in effect, are responsible for creating the fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith, then you’ve got a problem.”

Yes, you’ve got a problem.  Because if Adam and Eve didn’t really exist in the way the Bible describes them, maybe Jesus didn’t either.  And if he didn’t, there goes Christianity.  For even non-literalist but evangelical Christians, like Francis Collins, hold fast to the literal truth of the divinity and resurrection of Christ.  Why does that story bear more veracity than Adam and Eve? If it doesn’t, there’s simply no good reason to continue being a Christian.

Few religious accommodationists, including those at BioLogos, have the stomach to dismiss the Adam and Eve story as complete fiction.  Rather, they concoct all sorts of convoluted stories about how there could have been a literal Adam and Eve but that the two weren’t really the genetic ancestors of all humanity.  Or there was some point in which God instilled a pair, or a small band of humans, with some inherent sinfulness.  But of course that looks pretty bad, too, for it becomes palpably clear that “sophisticated theology” is just a rearguard action against the advances of science.  As I always say (and I want some credit for my quote!):

“Theology is the art of making religious virtues out of scientific necessities.”

I suspected that BioLogos wouldn’t like the NPR story, for Dennis Venema, its own guy, was on record as dissing the historicity of Adam and Eve but not trying to save the story in some other way, which of course is a major goal of Biologos‘s attempted rapprochement with evangelical Christians.  So today Linda Applegate and Darrel Falk (president of BioLogos) issued a response to what I saw as a fairly evenhanded story on NPR.  They’re trying so save some historicity of Adam and Eve, and it’s worth quoting in extenso just to show the tortuous ways accommodationist Christians try to save the story:

While we at BioLogos appreciate many aspects of the story, we need to make one all-important clarification: the debate over the historicity of Adam and Eve is primarily a theological debate, one that is more complex than the story lets on. All science can say is that there was never a time when only two people existed on the earth: it is silent on whether or not God began a special relationship with a historical couple at some point in the past. This subtle but extremely important point was missed entirely in the NPR story. It is a consideration that we raise repeatedly at BioLogos. See, for example this article by Daniel Harrell and this series by Denis Alexander. . .

It is important for Evangelicals to know that science is silent on the historicity of two people named Adam and Eve, just as it is silent on the existence of persons named Abraham, Isaac, and Moses. Adam and Eve may well have been two real people, who through the grace of God entered into a paradisiacal relationship with him, until—tragedy of tragedies— they allowed their own self-centered desires to reign in their hearts, instead of their love for God. Although genetics convincingly shows that there was never a time when there were just two persons, the Bible itself may even provide hints of the existence of other people—likely we’ve all wondered about those hints since we were children. “Did Cain marry his sister?” we want to know. “Who were the people that Cain was afraid of as he wandered the earth after killing Abel? If they were his brothers or nephews, why didn’t the author refer to them that way?” The author doesn’t seem to be as puzzled by this as we are. We’ve always known about those little pointers—in fact, ancient interpreters wrestled with them too, long before Darwin or modern genetics appeared on the scene. So it ought not to necessarily surprise us for genetics to come along and confirm that, sure enough, there were others around at the time of Adam and Eve.

The NPR story, as much as we appreciate it, implies that, according to science, there are only two options for Christians—dismiss the conclusions of science, or dismiss the notion of a historical couple named Adam and Eve. This is simply not the whole story. Any dismissal of a historical couple, who entered into relationship with God only to sin and break that relationship, is going to have to come from theology. There is no scientific reason to upset that theological apple cart. Indeed as scientists, we must respect the theological diversity of Evangelicalism.

Cain and Abel, of course, were the sons of Adam and Eve, not just “others who were around at the time of Adam and Eve”.  And their existence wouldn’t change the fact that humanity was, according to that story, genetically descended from Adam and Eve, because Cain and Abel (and any sister they had), were genetic descendants too. 

BioLogos says that “any dismissal of a historical couple” who broke a convenant with God “is going to have to come from theology.” But of course theology isn’t capable of dismissing or verifying a historical couple. That’s the purview of science, and science already tells us that the whole story is bogus.  We’re not descended from two people, and there’s not the slightest evidence that there were ever any two people who caused humanity to be sinful, or that humans suddenly started behaving badly only about 10,000 years ago.  The Adam and Eve story is bunk, the fictional remnants of a superstitious and prescientific age, and theologians who want any credibility (is that an oxymoron?) should admit as much.

Was the serpent really a kitteh? Remember, these stories are metaphorical.

h/t: Uncle Karl

195 Comments

  1. Jer
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 6:46 am | Permalink

    What’s shocking to me is how many theologians just seem to gloss over the fact that the Adam and Eve story is a mythological parallel of the story of the fall of the nation of Israel and the Exile of the Israelites from their nation to Babylon.

    God gives Adam (Israel) the Garden of Eden (Promised Land) on one condition – that Adam (Israel) do what God says. Life is idyllic for a while then Adam (Israel) is led astray by a woman who has been listening to a snake (wives of kings who worship foreign gods) who tempt Adam (Israel) into also listening to the snake (worshiping foreign gods). God finds out and exiles them from the garden (exiles Israel to Babylon).

    I mean it’s right there, all of it. The fall of Adam and Eve and their exile from the Garden is the fall of Israel and the Babylonian Exile. It’s the same goddamn story, just in a “mythic” rather than “historical” form.

    • Sajanas
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 7:27 am | Permalink

      And what’s really sad? The kings that worshiped foreign Gods were much, much more successful and long lived than the ones that adopted the Yahweh cult and kept trying to carve a Jewish empire out of much, much bigger empires. If it is an allegory, its also one that is deliberately rewriting history too, which somehow makes it worse in my eyes.

    • Ray
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:01 am | Permalink

      Well, I wouldn’t really say it’s the same story, but it’s definitely spun to push the same ideology. Adam/Eve and the Serpent, however is much closer to the Greek Epimetheus/Pandora and Prometheus.

      In any event, it seems pretty clear that both the Hebrew and Greek versions of the story, as well as the whole attributing misfortunes to disobedience to YHWH thing, predate the exile. (As a bonus, there’s a more obscure Babylonian story along similar lines – Adapa and the south wind)

    • Posted August 10, 2011 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      “Israel” didn’t fall to the Babylonians. Israel was conquered by the Assyrians. It was Judah (and only Judean elites) who were exiled by the Babylonians.

      • Heleen
        Posted August 11, 2011 at 12:16 am | Permalink

        The Bible as standardized has a (Judah / Jerusalem temple) centered, biased view of history. Large parts are post-Babylonian exile, and try to present a view of history that justifies all political moves to independence of the Jerusalem based kingdom.

    • Mike Wilson
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

      Would all the near eastern and beyond parallels to this story also then be referring to the exile of Israel to Babylon?

      • TruthOverfaith
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 12:23 am | Permalink

        Mike Wilson,

        Kirk Cameron is calling you.

  2. Posted August 10, 2011 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    The Adam and Eve story is the reason you get wingnuts like Ken ham maintaining a whiteknuckle grip on biblical literalism. That one story provides the theological basis for the existence of evil and the need for redemption (hence Jesus), but it is also used to solve problems of theodicy. If the world contains suffering because a dude ate some fruit, then God is not to blame. But that rationale only works if Adam and Eve existed for realsies.

    • Claimthehighground
      Posted August 11, 2011 at 9:36 am | Permalink

      I’d like to weigh in on this topic, really I would…but you see, I’m up here on Mt. Ararat with a group looking for traces of the wood from Noah’s Ark. I know it’s here somewhere, I just know it.

      • TruthOverfaith
        Posted August 15, 2011 at 12:24 am | Permalink

        It’s right next Jesus’ circumcised penis skin!

  3. Posted August 10, 2011 at 7:04 am | Permalink

    The falsity of the Adam and Eve story was a major factor in leading me out of religion. If they don’t exist, Original Sin doesn’t exist, and there’s no need for a Savior (or to douse babies with water). And God promptly disappeared in a puff of logic.

    This knowledge won’t sway everyone, though. If history confirms anything to us, it’s that people will continue to believe even after their fairy tales are proven false. The BioLogos gambit seems desperate to us, but to the believer, it’s just as easy to accept that God “annointed” 2 people to be the spiritual ancestors of us all as that 2 people were created to be our actual ancestors. That’s the great thing about making stuff up – neither story is really that much more ridiculous, because they’re both absurd.

    • Sajanas
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 7:34 am | Permalink

      I’d imagine it would also even worse when they own up to there not being an Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua and a significantly different history of David and Solomon (not to mention all the things about Jesus that *never* happened). Its a lot of Bible to get rid of, and I think a lot it is important, if for no other reason than because the Gospel Jesus definitely believed in it, which is a major strike against his divinity, or at least his smarts.

      My first experience with the Bible getting it wrong was The Flood… I think I realize that the creation story was even more bunk than that though, since it was obvious that Adam an Eve were just a story, since it had no dinosaurs, and light before the sun, etc. But the Lutheran church always talked about ‘sin’ and not ‘Original Sin’, so it seems like they’re already well prepared to cut that story loose. I don’t think I ever heard mention of Adam and Eve during my time in church either. But, even then, I think you still have to *ask* if it’s fake… no one just tells you, “Oh yeah, these stories aren’t real”. So I can imagine there are Lutherans who believe in it, even though the church doesn’t care one way or the other.

      • truthspeaker
        Posted August 10, 2011 at 7:57 am | Permalink

        Do you mean the ELCA Lutheran church? Because I’m pretty sure the Wisconsin and Missouri synods still hold to Biblical literalism.

        • Sajanas
          Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:22 am | Permalink

          Definitely the ELCA… we were warned about the Missouri synod people 🙂

          In general the ELCA solution to theological problems was just to ignore them. I never heard word one about evolution from the pulpit. I bet some of the adult Sunday school classes talk about it, along with the less happy funtime parts of the Bible, but as a kid I learned by my own reading, and the lie by omission really grated on me.

      • Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:55 am | Permalink

        I’d imagine it would also even worse when they own up to there not being an Abraham, Jacob, Moses, Joshua and a significantly different history of David and Solomon (not to mention all the things about Jesus that *never* happened). Its a lot of Bible to get rid of, and I think a lot it is important, if for no other reason than because the Gospel Jesus definitely believed in it, which is a major strike against his divinity, or at least his smarts.

        Good point. If you start knocking out the factual basis for most of the important stories, what does that leave? One can compartmentalize and explain away the need for a single story to be literally true. But when multiple stories, each of which are theologically important, are shown to be factually false? Even a hardened believer would have to start questioning.

        The difficulty is how to get this information in front of people who don’t want to see it. Especially the Jesus stuff. If I’d read “Jesus, Interrupted” years earlier, I could have save a lot of time de-converting.

        Of course, we also can’t underestimate the ability of believers to waive away all these facts as “the wisdom of men” and continue on their merry way.

        • Posted August 10, 2011 at 9:18 am | Permalink

          The difficulty is how to get this information in front of people who don’t want to see it. Especially the Jesus stuff.

          The ‘Net will take care of that.

          Whenever you come across somebody assuming the non-fantastical nature of Jesus, if the setting is at all appropriate, remind the audience that the Dead Sea Scrolls are silent, Philo is silent, Pliny the Elder is silent, all the Roman satirists are silent…Hell, even the Christians themselves are perfectly silent for at least a generation, and they really don’t start chiming in in force until at least a few generations — and they universally come off as a bunch of whack-job lunatic fanatics.

          Once people realize that the Christians of the second century were the Raelians of their day, there’s not much left to hold on to.

          The other thing you can do is laugh — and it’s not hard. The Bible opens with this story of an enchanted garden with talking animals and an angry giant that’s the prime topic of discussion. It features a talking plant (on fire!) that gives magic wand lessons to the reluctant hero. And it ends with zombie snuff porn, with the antihero demanding his thralls fondle his intestines through his gaping chest wound. The whole thing is unredeemable nonsense, and nobody wants to look like an idjit for still believing in faery tales.

          Cheers,

          b&

          • Nom de Plume
            Posted August 10, 2011 at 10:06 am | Permalink

            the Dead Sea Scrolls are silent, Philo is silent, Pliny the Elder is silent, all the Roman satirists are silent

            To be perfectly honest, this doesn’t seem so damning to me from an historical standpoint. Ancient history is full of holes, and barely brushes on plenty of important events. The aforementioned Pliny the Elder, for instance, died in the eruption of Vesuvius, and we might not have any firsthand accounts of that cataclysm at all if his nephew, Pliny the Younger, hadn’t also been there.

            Myself, I am agnostic on the historicity of Jesus. If he is indeed historical, I’d say he was probably a wandering crackpot who made more than the usual stir.

            • Posted August 10, 2011 at 10:20 am | Permalink

              But that’s just the point. Jesus’s story is the greatest story ever told — and, yet, nobody ever bothered to tell it. All we know about Jesus is that he was the living incarnation of the divine entity who created Life, the Universe, and Everything, that he rose from the dead along with hordes of other zombies…you’re not going to have somebody Philo detailing his diplomatic mission to Caligula to complain about the treatment of Jews at the hands of Romans and not have him complain about the unjust execution of the human embodiment of the very religious construct (the Logos) Philo himself invented.

              If he is indeed historical, I’d say he was probably a wandering crackpot who made more than the usual stir.

              But how can such a person, even if extant, in any way be considered as Jesus? If he wasn’t born of a virgin, if he didn’t preach the Sermon on the Mount, if he didn’t have that scene with the moneychangers, if he didn’t raise Lazarus, if he wasn’t tried by the Sanhedrin and Pilate on the eve of Passover, if his crucifixion wasn’t accompanied by a mini-apocalypse, if he didn’t raise from the grave a couple days later with his wounds still gaping, if he didn’t continue to preach for a month and a half with his gaping wounds, if he didn’t ascend into the sky from the outskirts of Jerusalem…how on Earth could he be Jesus?

              And, besides which, on what evidence do you base your conclusion that he was a wandering crackpot who made more than the usual stir? None of the documents we do have (all from many decades after the alleged facts) describe Jesus as the polar opposite of your description.

              You might as well declare Darth Vader to be historical, because there’s some guy in the Bronx named “Derek Vlad” who wore a black cape to a costume party one day.

              Cheers,

              b&

              • Nom de Plume
                Posted August 10, 2011 at 11:58 am | Permalink

                But how can such a person, even if extant, in any way be considered as Jesus?

                Oh, there obviously wasn’t any “Son of God” or “living embodiment” of anything. All I’m saying is that suddenly, around 30-40 years after his putative death, there a bunch of accounts of some guy, and I don’t think it’s unreasonable to say that these accounts may have been loosely (very loosely) based on a real living figure. A maybe a composite of people.

                Or maybe not. He was quite possibly just invented. For me, as an atheist, the historicity of Jesus was never more than a sideshow anyway. There was either a loony 1st century itinerant rabbi who claimed to perform miracles (and there were probably a lot them, actually), or there wasn’t. For me, it’s scarcely relevant.

              • Ian
                Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

                (Gamely trying to be constructive)

                “But how can such a person, even if extant, in any way be considered as Jesus?”

                I think this is the important statement.

                If this is your criteria for the existence of Jesus, he can’t. You’re right to say he didn’t exist in those terms and most scholars would agree with you. Jesus, as portrayed by the gospels and as encoded in the orthodox Christian creeds didn’t exist.

                As long as you state that is what you mean by the existence of Jesus, I think you’re all set.

                It isn’t what I mean when I talk about the existence of Jesus, however. Nor when historians of Christian origins talk about it. There we are talking sources. What are the sources on which the Christian myth is based. Many, in fact, most are obviously mythological. Some really don’t seem to be. Some are best explained as having a source in a real Jewish preacher, killed by the Romans. Some scholars deliberately use likely name “Yeshua” for that source, explicitly so they distance themselves from claims that the Jesus you’re interested in existed. He didn’t.

              • Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

                Some [sources] are best explained as having a source in a real Jewish preacher, killed by the Romans.

                And yet, every single fucking time I ask you to even hint at where I might possibly perhaps find these sources, you stamp your feet and / or run away.

                Really, this is getting quite tiresome.

                b&

              • Ian
                Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

                I included a link in a previous comment to what I mean by sources. I suspect you didn’t read it.

                So take all early Christian writing – up to the end of the second century say. Especially the gospels canonical and not, also the early letters, both canonical and not.

                And then you go through, word by word and find who’s copying from who. Sometimes that is easy. Lots of Matt and Luke are copied whole cloth from Mark. Sometimes it is obviously literary, but we have to reconstruct the previous source: Matt and Luke both use something that we don’t have, but it is clearly a literary relationship. That’s another source.

                You find changes in theology, breaks in chronology and drastic changes in style. Places where language is odd but would be explained if it were translated out of another language, for example. Or a chunk of poetry that uses very different terminology. These are good indicators of prior sources.

                You find situations where writers need to make up stuff to justify something. Where they start doing theology. And you can surmise that they feel the need to do so, because they are reacting to something earlier that was widely known, but they didn’t approve of.

                So you have a bunch of sources (not sources as in, bits of documents we have, but in terms of different things that what we do have are based on).

              • Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

                So take all early Christian writing – up to the end of the second century say. Especially the gospels canonical and not, also the early letters, both canonical and not.

                <sigh />

                You can’t do it, can you?

                I asked for the three best sources that document an actual, historical Jesus. Instead, you hand-wave at about an 80-year period of documents, not a single one of which you can point to as being reliable without everybody busting out in laughter at the notion.

                And, yet, you think that, amidst all that bullshit about virgin zombie orgies, it makes sense to pretend that some of those zombies were just sick, and they maybe had gotten a blow job so weren’t true virgins.

                Well, go run along and have fun with those action figures. I’m sure they’ll start talking sense to you any day, now.

                Cheers,

                b&

            • Achrachno
              Posted August 10, 2011 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

              Ben — the Dead Sea Scrolls are silent, Philo is silent, Pliny the Elder is silent, all the Roman satirists are silent

              Nom — To be perfectly honest, this doesn’t seem so damning to me from an historical standpoint. Ancient history is full of holes, and barely brushes on plenty of important events.

              Ben was being modest and doubtless could have extended his list. Jesus is unmentioned in “contemporary” (early to mid 1st century) literature, despite the fact that we have the works of at least a couple dozen writers in the area from the period. Even the gospels are not really “contemporary”, but are probably products of the turn of the 2nd century. Some claim Mark dates to c. 70, but their arguments don’t stand scrutiny, IMO.

              Your mention of “holes” strikes me as an example of the common attempt to make excuses for the fact that there is no strong or reliable evidence that Jesus ever had a 1st coming. Historicists are full of excuses for why they have no good evidence, but seem not to notice that they’re still left standing there with empty hands.

              The book that made me into a “mythicist” was “The Historical Evidence for Jesus” by G.A. Wells. It’s not an easy or popular work, but the argument is solid and has never been refuted by theologians, despite a couple of attempts (by Habermas, & a British theologian whose name I’ve forgotten at the moment). Most of them seem to prefer to make believe Wells does not exist, for some reason.

        • Sajanas
          Posted August 10, 2011 at 9:34 am | Permalink

          There are always going to be some people that will shut their ears and ignore what you have to say. But for a lot of people, I think just making good documentaries for television would be a good gateway. Not everyone will check out a book or read a webpage, but “Secrets of the Bible” or “Archaeology of the Bible” can draw people in, even those that aren’t skeptical at first. And the people who are doing real archaeology on the Biblical times need to publish and popularize and show their evidence too. I think in time the real history behind the Bible will be pretty hard to ignore.

          • HuntingGoodWill
            Posted August 16, 2011 at 5:16 pm | Permalink

            Actually, the Israeli government wanted the best scientists to find evidence for the exodus from Egypt. They wanted it really, really bad. But the Israeli scientists couldn’t find it and they worked their butts off.

            So were they bad Israelis, or good scientists?
            No, they were neither. Because scientific facts (or the lack thereof) don’t know party bias. What they were, was a bunch of cultural, secular Jews (read: people who don’t bother to call themselves Atheists, because after all, they are circumcised and like gefillte fish).
            There is no German Physics, French Chemistry, Jewish Mathematics or Polish Astronomy.
            But there is Christian, Islamic or Jewish Theology AND therefore revisionist HISTORY.

            And it doesn’t dictate (anymore) current research in the Western World/secular societies. What it does, is remap, alter and simply invent an alternative “map” of “former truths”. It, in reverse, “predicts the past”. You see this especially with Muslims, who claim not only their Holy Comic to be “sacred”, but also, scientifically correct. But you cannot “predict the past”, so you must project the future on it………..not only that; you really DO “predict the past”, by claiming it’s the only possible way IT COULD HAVE BEEN, otherwise (“the only possible way things exist now!”), our current “reality”, wouldn’t exist.
            An argument from the new field of “brute-force ignorance” 😉

            And the more that “projected prediction” is at distance from your everyday life, your current reality, the better for the Theoliarohistorian.
            People getting healed by magic, resurrections, flying horses, teleportation, telekinesis, bi-location, levitation and all that good stuff? OF COURSE IT HAPPENED!!!! Why else would we talk about it??? Now, what about cable TV and mobile phones being used daily, at that time back then, in Judea. And even if you are an Atheist or Anti-Theist AND on top of that a big Sci-Fi fan, you will not view both sets of nonsensical, made up “facts”, as equally likely; in fact you will declare the second set of “facts” as COMPLETE nonsense…………….while cable TV and mobile phones DO exist today and could’ve been by some means of “conspiracy”, be forgotten for the last 2000 years. However unlikely it is, this scenario is orders of magnitude more likely than the first, yet………….
            No, the first set of supernatural nonsense will be believed AND should be believed or at least “respected”, because it’s “sacred” (??!!)
            The difference? One is mass-delusion, a “reverse-projected prediction”, the other (the mobile phones and cable TV 2000 years ago, in Judea) just some crazy, unlikely idea for a book of fiction.

            Speaking of magic. There is more evidence for the historicity of Harry Potter, than for Jesus. But the invention of Jesus is and was far more profitable than writing the Harry Potter novels. On the other hand, nobody was killed because of Harry Potter. Even though the Church warns, that Harry Potter is dangerous, because his stories may lead kids to believe in the supernatural, Satanism and witchcraft!………..oh, the irony.

    • Tulse
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:39 am | Permalink

      to the believer, it’s just as easy to accept that God “annointed” 2 people to be the spiritual ancestors of us all as that 2 people were created to be our actual ancestors.

      But that solution doesn’t really work for the whole “collective punishment” aspect of Original Sin, since the whole notion was that we humans inherited this defect (and thus deserved infinite torture forever) from our ancestors. If there were other humans around at the time of Adam and Eve, why did everyone now living get stuck with “spiritually” inheriting their sin, as opposed to the sinless nature of all the other humans around then?

  4. Steve Smith
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    the Adam and Eve story is not just about a fall from paradise: It goes to the heart of Christianity.

    Here’s a depiction of the fall of Adam, who’s thrown out of his garden home in paradise after catching his wife in bed with a man sporting a serpent tattoo:

    I prefer the jazz that Lynch used for the full film, rather than the Dave Brubeck used in this pilot scene.

  5. Sigmund
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    You have Albert Mohler as an accomodationist And a literalist!

    • Posted August 10, 2011 at 7:23 am | Permalink

      Oy vey, you’re right. An obvious mistake, which I’ve now corrected. Thanks!

  6. Kevin
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 7:29 am | Permalink

    Of course, the Adam and Eve myth also is held tightly by those invested in continuation of patriarchy.

    Adam was made first; Eve later as a “help mate”.

    Then Eve was punish far more severely than Adam for eating the IQ-raising sin-fruit. And Adam was given specific dominion over her.

    It’s a pretty sophisticated “just so” myth, actually. It explains why humans are smarter than other animals, why humans wear clothing, why women menstruate and give birth, why snakes crawl on their bellies … that’s a lot of ‘splainin in just a few verses.

    Of course, the difference between this myth and your garden variety fairy story is that it doesn’t end with “…and they lived happily ever after.”

    • Drew
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:14 am | Permalink

      I’m sorry, but eve was an “help meet” not “a[sic] ‘help mate'”

      Carry on then.

      • dbredes
        Posted August 12, 2011 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

        Yes, a “help meet [fitting] for him,” hence the strange back formation “helpmeet.”

    • Posted August 10, 2011 at 9:07 am | Permalink

      Well, whether Eve was made later depends on which of the two creation stories you prefer. I was raised Episcopalian, so we just ignored embarrassing questions like that, and just sat around and drank instead. I don’t even remember my priest ever even using the word “god.” We did worry a lot about social injustice. We never did anything about it, of course, but we worried about it.

    • moseszd
      Posted August 11, 2011 at 3:18 am | Permalink

      There is a core issue that leads to doctrinal disputes in this area. The reason being is that there are TWO creation stories in Genesis.

      The first is the polytheistict Israelite deriveded from (Canaanitete) creation story in which MAN and WOMAN are CREATED IN OUR IMAGE. The writing in ancient text is in the female voice. Specifically, El’s wife, Asheroth.

      Modern Christians, btw, say the voice is Jesus talking to his daddy. But the that makes no sense when he says “MALE AND FEMALE in OUR IMAGE.” Unless Jesus got a holy sex change…

      The second story is the Judean story. That’s where woman was created out of Adam’s rib. That’s the patriarchy-defenders jump on when they’re trying to prove man is better than woman, or what ever the hell they think…

      This is, btw, old hat. Certainly nothing I came up with. Rather it was some German bible scholar who figured this out hundreds of years ago.

  7. Posted August 10, 2011 at 7:31 am | Permalink

    It is important for Evangelicals to know that science is silent on the historicity of two people named Adam and Eve, just as it is silent on the existence of persons named Abraham, Isaac, and Moses.

    Oh, how far theology has fallen! Now, it’s reduced to stamping its feet and screaming, “But you can’t PROVE there’s no monsters under the bed!”

    And, even here it fails. I think we’d all agree that Moses is nobody if he didn’t part the Red Sea as he led the Israelites out of Egypt and to the (brink of) the Promised Land. And we know, without doubt, thanks to modern archaeology, that those events never happened; ergo, science is not silent on the existence of Moses. Science has spoken: Moses is a myth.

    Isaac is nobody if he wasn’t Abraham’s son, and Abraham was nobody if he’s not the single male ancestor of the Jews. Well, there wasn’t a single male ancestor of the Jews, so Abraham and Isaac are another pair of myths.

    I’m reminded of a quote I once heard — was it from PZ? “Theology is the art of making religious virtues out of scientific necessities.” The ultimate theology will, in short order, be scientifically revealed to be necessarily atheistic.

    Cheers,

    b&

    • Sajanas
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 7:38 am | Permalink

      I got into a discussion of this with my girlfriend’s mother about this, because she thought that maybe, somewhere, there was a guy named Moses who did something important. And my point was that, sure, there have been many people named Moses, but unless they lead a huge number of people out of Egypt to conquer Canaan, it doesn’t really matter. If it was a guy named George who took a tour group out of Egypt to Canaan, and told them not to work on Sunday along the way back, its not the same story at all.

      • Claimthehighground
        Posted August 12, 2011 at 5:17 am | Permalink

        Actually George told them not to work from sundown on Friday to sundown on Saturday. It was George’s friend Chris who told them not to work on Sunday.

    • Greg Esres
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 9:12 am | Permalink

      ==And we know, without doubt, thanks to modern archaeology, that those events never happened; ergo, science is not silent on the existence of Moses. Science has spoken: Moses is a myth.===

      Far too exaggerated of a claim, IMO. Archaeology is too small of a sampling of what existed that long ago for it to assert authoritatively what didn’t exist. I suspect no archaeologist would make such a claim.

      This sort of claim is one archaeology find away from disproof, just like Troy. That strikes me as too risky for a claim that’s not very important anyway.

      • Posted August 10, 2011 at 9:30 am | Permalink

        It’s hardly an exaggerated claim at all.

        Cairo to Jerusalem is under 300 miles. A hundred feet a day will get you there in about 40 years. So, we’re talking about a major nomadic migration, tens of thousands of people, moving barely faster than a glacier. With all their animals, all their garbage, all their poop…in one of the most arid environments on the Earth. That stuff gets preserved for forever, and those kinds of migrations are visible on satellite imagery even thousands of years later. Guess what? No sign of Moses and his merry men.

        Similarly, we know who built the Egyptian pyramids, and it wasn’t the Jews. And the Egyptians left no records of the plagues. And….

        See, the problem is that the Bible is nothing but over-the-top faery tales. The Flood. Exodus. Israelites conquering the entire Middle East. Zombie Jesus and his zombie zillions. Disproving all that is as easy as disproving the existence of a rampaging horde of angry rhinoceroses through my office as I type. And it’s been done. Repeatedly, through multiple lines of evidence.

        Cheers,

        b&

        • truthspeaker
          Posted August 10, 2011 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

          Tens of thousands of people? Even if Exodus gives such a number, historians know that numbers like that in ancient texts are wildly imprecise.

          • Beau Quilter
            Posted August 10, 2011 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

            (Exodus 12:37)
            “And the children of Israel journeyed from Rameses to Succoth, about six hundred thousand on foot who were men, besides children.”

            Add the women and children, and you have over a million. Some NT “scholars” estimate 2.5 million, by assuming this was only an account of fighting-age men.

            Exodus does give a number.

            Besides, what’s the difference between an ancient text that is “wildly imprecise” and an ancient text that is simply false?

            • Posted August 10, 2011 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

              Egg sack lily.

              Any source that can misreport a simple headcount by three or more orders of magnitude can’t be relied upon for anything. Whatever they might have been talking about, it doesn’t even vaguely resemble what’s in the text.

              b&

              • truthspeaker
                Posted August 11, 2011 at 8:16 am | Permalink

                You realize you’re saying that Pliny, Herodotus, and Livy can’t be relied on for anything? They also used wildly exaggerated numbers when describing military actions.

              • Posted August 11, 2011 at 8:29 am | Permalink

                You actually point to a very deep problem that runs throughout the field of history.

                It’s actually a variation on perhaps the biggest problem with religion.

                The proper answer when faced with poor or missing evidence is, “I don’t know.”

                The historian replies, “But then you want us to throw out practically everything we know about history!”

                And my response is, “No, I’m asking you to admit that you really don’t know anything about history.”

                We really can’t have any kind of confidence in the reports of those authors, or in the reports of many others. Besides, we don’t even have their reports — with rare exception (most notably, the Dead Sea Scrolls), all we have are centuries-old copies-of-copies-of-copies. That sort of provenance would be laughed at in any other academic discipline, but it doesn’t even warrant a raised eyebrow in the history departments.

                A very few of those documents are well-supported by archaeological evidence; elsewhere in the thread I mentioned Caesar’s autobiography. When you start to have multiple intertwining lines of evidence such as that — especially when it’s grounded in hard, physical evidence — you can start to narrow the error bars. But far too many of them are, frankly, worthless for anything other than analyzing the views that particular author wished to promote.

                But, yeah. Reading a not-so-ancient copy-of-a-copy of an ancient text and uncritically accepting it as fact because you’ve got nothing better? That’s bad scholarship, and I see it everywhere I look in modern interpretations of ancient history — this thread being exhibit A.

                Cheers,

                b&

            • Claimthehighground
              Posted August 12, 2011 at 5:28 am | Permalink

              Wait, wait…imprecise? Then you mean that Methuselah didn’t live to be 969 years old & Noah to 950? Oh, the agony. And all this time I thought there were at least a couple of things I could cling to in those sacred writings. You’ve ruined it for me. Hope you’re pleased with yourself.

      • Sajanas
        Posted August 10, 2011 at 9:58 am | Permalink

        The historical existence of the Exodus is *nothing* like Troy, and even Troy isn’t nearly so grand as imagined in the Iliad, nor do you suddenly find people worshiping Athena because they found a city that might have once been the basis for Troy.

        The Torah imagines a *400 year* enslavement of Jews by the Egyptians, a highly literate people, whose records have survived on a wide variety of public buildings, scrolls, and wall paintings. The fact that *nothing* is recorded of half a million slaves should put Exodus pretty thoroughly in the myth section of history. Especially when you consider that the Egyptians are actually the first contemporary people to mention Israel (in the 1300s, a century after after the traditional date for the Exodus). And that was only a tiny note in a long list of conquests. All modern archaeology points to the development of the Jews in Canaan, and Yahweh and El deriving from local Canaanite gods.

        • Dan L.
          Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

          The timeline stuff is interesting. Abram AKA Abraham hailed from “Ur of the Chaldeans” according to Genesis, but Ur wouldn’t have belonged to the Chaldeans before 1000 BC, and probably more like a hundred or so years after that. Abraham didn’t have a son until he was nearly 100 according to the OT chronology, and it was several generations AFTER Abraham that Joseph brought his people to Egypt — and it wasn’t until a bunch of generations afterwards that Exodus took place. If you trust the Biblical chronology then Exodus should have happened about 700 BC or even a few hundred years later.

          • Posted August 10, 2011 at 1:20 pm | Permalink

            Worse yet, in the entire Bible the Philistines are an ever present threat, even during the time of Abraham. Yet according to archaeology, the Philistines didn’t arrive in the Levant until around 1100 BCE. Their arrival was so epic that the Egyptians lost control over the area shortly after (that’s right, Egypt had sort of colonial control over the Levant before, during, and after the supposed Exodus).

            The fact that the Bible never mentions their arrival means that none of the traditions in the Bible are older than at least 1000 BCE, when no one was alive to remember the dramatic arrival of the Philistines.

      • Dan L.
        Posted August 10, 2011 at 10:27 am | Permalink

        I’m not sure what your last paragraph means, but archaeologists found Troy about a hundred and fifty years ago and have been excavating it ever since.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Troy#Archaeological_Troy

        Troy VII is an excavation layer that is contemporary to the kingdom of Mycenae in Greece circa 1000 BC and was destroyed by war. The rough archaeological consensus is that Troy VII really was a prosperous city destroyed during a war with the kingdom of Mycenae and that the Iliad is the result of a few hundred years of oral history about that event.

        “Without doubt” might be a little strong, but bottom line: no archaeological evidence FOR Exodus and a fair amount of archaeological evidence AGAINST Exodus (some of it circumstantial, such as the Egyptians not mentioning the slavery or Exodus of the Israelites in hieroglyphs anywhere). It’s about as clear as a negative verdict in archaeology can get.

        • Greg Esres
          Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:24 pm | Permalink

          “It’s about as clear as a negative verdict in archaeology can get.”

          No doubt, it’s just that that’s a low bar to clear. Archaeology is always highly speculative, just like literary criticism.

          Trust me, I love these archaeological finds and enjoy bringing them up to religious friends, just to make them uncomfortable. But I don’t put too much stock into them and don’t ever use them to justify my unbelief. Finding a boat on the top of Mt. Ararat wouldn’t bother me a bit; you couldn’t draw from that there was a world-wide flood, because that’s just not possible. And if it were, it doesn’t mean that any sort of deity caused it.

          • Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

            There’s a different quality to these particular Biblical claims that make them special, however.

            There’s no way to read Exodus without concluding that the author literally means that hundreds of thousands of Jews lived in Egypt for centuries, built the pyramids, and later fled Egypt on a 40-year trek across a couple hundred miles.

            And there’s no way that any part of that could fail to leave behind unmistrakable piles of evidence.

            And there aren’t even hints of the slightest bit of said evidence.

            There’s no possible way to salvage an historical origin to the story.

            Worse, it completely obliterates any possibility of having a discussion about the real origins of the myth — namely, that it’s a prime example of cultural storytelling, just like all the other myths of all the other cultures from the period. We don’t get hung up about an historical Odysseus on a literal Odyssey; we instead appreciate it for exactly what it is. So why on Earth can’t we do the same with Exodus (and the entire rest of the Bible)?

            Cheers,

            b&

            • Tulse
              Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

              why on Earth can’t we do the same with Exodus

              Because that would make baby Jesus cry.

            • Posted August 11, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

              I think it was Dan Dennett who put it something like this way:

              “Santa Claus is real! His name is Fred Dudley, he lives in Miami year round, is skinny, hates children and never buys gifts.”

              • Posted August 12, 2011 at 6:54 am | Permalink

                I am so going to steal that!

                Thanks,

                b&

      • Tulse
        Posted August 10, 2011 at 10:39 am | Permalink

        Archaeology is too small of a sampling of what existed that long ago for it to assert authoritatively what didn’t exist. I suspect no archaeologist would make such a claim.

        Do you feel similarly ambivalent about the veracity of Mormon claims that a lost tribe of Israel came to North America? Or about theosophical claims that a race of golden yellow beings lived in northern parts of the earth on a continent called Plaksha and reproduced via budding?

        At what point does lack of evidence become evidence? Or must one always remain completely agnostic about such claims?

        • Greg Esres
          Posted August 10, 2011 at 11:53 am | Permalink

          “Do you feel similarly ambivalent about the veracity of Mormon claims that a lost tribe of Israel came to North America”

          I would list the Mormon claims as “unlikely,”, but there’s stronger evidence than just a lack of evidence. For instance, the genetic evidence that North American natives aren’t related genetically to Jews.

          Likewise, I would view the Jewish exodus from Egypt as “unlikely”, at least on the scale described in the Bible, but not physically impossible, unlike “budding”.

      • Steve Smith
        Posted August 10, 2011 at 11:06 am | Permalink

        no archaeologist would make such a claim

        The archaeological evidence is conclusive: The Jews were never in Egypt, there was never an Exodus, and and no Jewish conquest of the land of Israel. In fact, the Jews were still polytheists when the first Passover was supposed to have happened.

        All major Old Testament stories are discredited by archaeological findings. This is widely acknowledged by professional archaeologists. See, for example, Ze’ev Herzog, Israel Finkelstein, William Dever, or many others:

        Deconstructing the walls of Jericho
        Ha’aretz, Friday, October 29, 1999
        This is what archaeologists have learned from their excavations in the Land of Israel: the Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert, did not conquer the land in a military campaign and did not pass it on to the 12 tribes of Israel. Perhaps even harder to swallow is the fact that the united monarchy of David and Solomon, which is described by the Bible as a regional power, was at most a small tribal kingdom. And it will come as an unpleasant shock to many that the God of Israel, Jehovah, had a female consort and that the early Israelite religion adopted monotheism only in the waning period of the monarchy and not at Mount Sinai.Most of those who are engaged in scientific work in the interlocking spheres of the Bible, archaeology and the history of the Jewish people – and who once went into the field looking for proof to corroborate the Bible story – now agree that the historic events relating to the stages of the Jewish people’s emergence are radically different from what that story tells. …

        • Dan L.
          Posted August 10, 2011 at 11:21 am | Permalink

          The link you gave — the domain name expired a few days ago so the link is broken. Do you have any other links to good resources on this though? I love this stuff.

          • Sajanas
            Posted August 10, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

            The Bible Unearthed by Finkelstein has a lot of this stuff in it.

          • Steve Smith
            Posted August 10, 2011 at 3:01 pm | Permalink

            Google cache. Here’s biblical archaeologist William Dever’s account of how he lost his Christian faith attempting to prove the truth of the Biblical story and ended up discovering the Bible’s falsity. “Losing Faith: Who Did and Who Didn’t, How Scholarship Affects Scholars”:

            About 15 years ago, in my archaeological work I began to write about ancient Israel. Originally I wrote to frustrate the Biblical minimalists; then I became one of them, more or less. The call of Abraham, the Promise of the Land, the migration to Canaan, the descent into Egypt, the Exodus, Moses and monotheism, the Law at Sinai, divine kingship—archaeology throws all of these into great doubt. My long experience in Israel and my growing uncertainty about the historicity of the Bible meant that was the end for me.

            As for Ze’ev Herzog’s article, a quick search shows that Ha’aretz doesn’t have it online, and unfortunately it exists online only in a few transient places like Google cache. At the risk of drawing critism from our “website” host, I’ll just blockquote Herzog’s article here, with the defense that bits are free and this article is tangentially relevant to the falsifiability of Genesis.

            Deconstructing the walls of Jericho
            Friday, October 29, 1999

            Following 70 years of intensive excavations in the Land of Israel, archaeologists have found out: The patriarchs’ acts are legendary, the Israelites did not sojourn in Egypt or make an exodus, they did not conquer the land. Neither is there any mention of the empire of David and Solomon, nor of the source of belief in the God of Israel. These facts have been known for years, but Israel is a stubborn people and nobody wants to hear about it

            By Ze’ev Herzog

            This is what archaeologists have learned from their excavations in the Land of Israel: the Israelites were never in Egypt, did not wander in the desert, did not conquer the land in a military campaign and did not pass it on to the 12 tribes of Israel. Perhaps even harder to swallow is the fact that the united monarchy of David and Solomon, which is described by the Bible as a regional power, was at most a small tribal kingdom. And it will come as an unpleasant shock to many that the God of Israel, Jehovah, had a female consort and that the early Israelite religion adopted monotheism only in the waning period of the monarchy and not at Mount Sinai.Most of those who are engaged in scientific work in the interlocking spheres of the Bible, archaeology and the history of the Jewish people – and who once went into the field looking for proof to corroborate the Bible story – now agree that the historic events relating to the stages of the Jewish people’s emergence are radically different from what that story tells.

            What follows is a short account of the brief history of archaeology, with the emphasis on the crises and the big bang, so to speak, of the past decade. The critical question of this archaeological revolution has not yet trickled down into public consciousness, but it cannot be ignored.

            Inventing the Bible stories
            The archaeology of Palestine developed as a science at a relatively late date, in the late 19th and early 20th century, in tandem with the archaeology of the imperial cultures of Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece and Rome. Those resource-intensive powers were the first target of the researchers, who were looking for impressive evidence from the past, usually in the service of the big museums in London, Paris and Berlin. That stage effectively passed over Palestine, with its fragmented geographical diversity. The conditions in ancient Palestine were inhospitable for the development of an extensive kingdom, and certainly no showcase projects such as the Egyptian shrines or the Mesopotamian palaces could have been established there. In fact, the archaeology of Palestine was not engendered at the initiative of museums but sprang from religious motives.

            The main push behind archaeological research in Palestine was the country’s relationship with the Holy Scriptures. The first excavators in Jericho and Shechem (Nablus) were biblical researchers who were looking for the remains of the cities cited in the Bible. Archaeology assumed momentum with the activity of William Foxwell Albright, who mastered the archeology, history and linguistics of the Land of Israel and the ancient Near East. Albright, an American whose father was a priest of Chilean descent, began excavating in Palestine in the 1920s. His declared approach was that archaeology was the principal scientific means to refute the critical claims against the historical veracity of the Bible stories, particularly those of the Wellhausen school in Germany.

            The school of biblical criticism that developed in Germany beginning in the second half of the 19th century, of which Julian Wellhausen was a leading figure, challenged the historicity of the Bible stories and claimed that biblical historiography was formulated, and in large measure actually “invented,” during the Babylonian exile. Bible scholars, the Germans in particular, claimed that the history of the Hebrews, as a consecutive series of events beginning with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and proceeding through the move to Egypt, the enslavement and the exodus, and ending with the conquest of the land and the settlement of the tribes of Israel, was no more than a later reconstruction of events with a theological purpose.

            Albright believed that the Bible is a historical document, which, although it had gone through several editing stages, nevertheless basically reflected the ancient reality. He was convinced that if the ancient remains of Palestine were uncovered, they would furnish unequivocal proof of the historical truth of the events relating to the Jewish people in its land.

            The biblical archaeology that developed from Albright and his pupils brought about a series of extensive digs at the important biblical tells: Megiddo, Lachish, Gezer, Shechem (Nablus), Jericho, Jerusalem, Ai, Giveon, Beit She’an, Beit Shemesh, Hazor, Ta’anach and others. The way was straight and clear: every finding that was uncovered would contribute to the building of a harmonious picture of the past. The archaeologists, who enthusiastically adopted the biblical approach, set out on a quest to unearth the “biblical period”: the period of the patriarchs, the Canaanite cities that were destroyed by the Israelites as they conquered the land, the boundaries of the 12 tribes, the sites of the settlement period, characterized by “settlement pottery,” the “gates of Solomon” at Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer, “Solomon’s stables” (or Ahab’s), “King Solomon’s mines” at Timna – and there are some who are still hard at work and have found Mount Sinai (at Mount Karkoum in the Negev) or Joshua’s altar at Mount Ebal.

            The crisis

            Slowly, cracks began to appear in the picture. Paradoxically, a situation was created in which the glut of findings began to undermine the historical credibility of the biblical descriptions instead of reinforcing them. A crisis stage is reached when the theories within the framework of the general thesis are unable to solve an increasingly large number of anomalies. The explanations become ponderous and inelegant, and the pieces do not lock together smoothly. Here are a few examples of how the harmonious picture collapsed.

            Patriarchal Age: The researchers found it difficult to reach agreement on which archaeological period matched the Patriarchal Age. When did Abraham, Isaac and Jacob live? When was the Cave of Machpelah (Tomb of the Patriarchs in Hebron) bought in order to serve as the burial place for the patriarchs and the matriarchs? According to the biblical chronology, Solomon built the Temple 480 years after the exodus from Egypt (1 Kings 6:1). To that we have to add 430 years of the stay in Egypt (Exodus 12:40) and the vast lifetimes of the patriarchs, producing a date in the 21th century BCE for Abraham’s move to Canaan.

            However, no evidence has been unearthed that can sustain this chronology. Albright argued in the early 1960s in favor of assigning the wanderings of Abraham to the Middle Bronze Age (22nd-20th centuries BCE). However, Benjamin Mazar, the father of the Israeli branch of biblical archaeology, proposed identifying the historic background of the Patriarchal Age a thousand years later, in the 11th century BCE – which would place it in the “settlement period.” Others rejected the historicity of the stories and viewed them as ancestral legends that were told in the period of the Kingdom of Judea. In any event, the consensus began to break down.

            The exodus from Egypt, the wanderings in the desert and Mount Sinai: The many Egyptian documents that we have make no mention of the Israelites’ presence in Egypt and are also silent about the events of the exodus. Many documents do mention the custom of nomadic shepherds to enter Egypt during periods of drought and hunger and to camp at the edges of the Nile Delta. However, this was not a solitary phenomenon: such events occurred frequently across thousands of years and were hardly exceptional.

            Generations of researchers tried to locate Mount Sinai and the stations of the tribes in the desert. Despite these intensive efforts, not even one site has been found that can match the biblical account.

            The potency of tradition has now led some researchers to “discover” Mount Sinai in the northern Hijaz or, as already mentioned, at Mount Karkoum in the Negev. These central events in the history of the Israelites are not corroborated in documents external to the Bible or in archaeological findings. Most historians today agree that at best, the stay in Egypt and the exodous occurred in a few families and that their private story was expanded and “nationalized” to fit the needs of theological ideology.

            The conquest: One of the shaping events of the people of Israel in biblical historiography is the story of how the land was conquered from the Canaanites. Yet extremely serious difficulties have cropped up precisely in the attempts to locate the archaeological evidence for this story.

            Repeated excavations by various expeditions at Jericho and Ai, the two cities whose conquest is described in the greatest detail in the Book of Joshua, have proved very disappointing. Despite the excavators’ efforts, it emerged that in the late part of the 13th century BCE, at the end of the Late Bronze Age, which is the agreed period for the conquest, there were no cities in either tell, and of course no walls that could have been toppled. Naturally, explanations were offered for these anomalies. Some claimed that the walls around Jericho were washed away by rain, while others suggested that earlier walls had been used; and, as for Ai, it was claimed that the original story actually referred to the conquest of nearby Beit El and was transferred to Ai by later redactors.

            Biblical scholars suggested a quarter of a century ago that the conquest stories be viewed as etiological legends and no more. But as more and more sites were uncovered and it emerged that the places in question died out or were simply abandoned at different times, the conclusion was bolstered that there is no factual basis for the biblical story about the conquest by Israelite tribes in a military campaign led by Joshua.

            The Canaanite cities: The Bible magnifies the strength and the fortifications of the Canaanite cities that were conquered by the Israelites: “great cities with walls sky-high” (Deuteronomy 9:1). In practice, all the sites that have been uncovered turned up remains of unfortified settlements, which in most cases consisted of a few structures or the ruler’s palace rather than a genuine city. The urban culture of Palestine in the Late Bronze Age disintegrated in a process that lasted hundreds of years and did not stem from military conquest. Moreover, the biblical description is inconsistent with the geopolitical reality in Palestine. Palestine was under Egyptian rule until the middle of the 12th century BCE. The Egyptians’ administrative centers were located in Gaza, Yaffo and Beit She’an. Egyptian findings have also been discovered in many locations on both sides of the Jordan River. This striking presence is not mentioned in the biblical account, and it is clear that it was unknown to the author and his editors.

            The archaeological findings blatantly contradict the biblical picture: the Canaanite cities were not “great,” were not fortified and did not have “sky-high walls.” The heroism of the conquerors, the few versus the many and the assistance of the God who fought for his people are a theological reconstruction lacking any factual basis.

            Origin of the Israelites: The fusion of the conclusions drawn from the episodes relating to the stages in which the people of Israel emerged gave rise to a discussion of the bedrock question: the identity of the Israelites. If there is no evidence for the exodus from Egypt and the desert journey, and if the story of the military conquest of fortified cities has been refuted by archaeology, who, then, were these Israelites? The archaeological findings did corroborate one important fact: in the early Iron Age (beginning some time after 1200 BCE), the stage that is identified with the “settlement period,” hundreds of small settlements were established in the area of the central hill region of the Land of Israel, inhabited by farmers who worked the land or raised sheep. If they did not come from Egypt, what is the origin of these settlers? Israel Finkelstein, professor of archaeology at Tel Aviv University, has proposed that these settlers were the pastoral shepherds who wandered in this hill area throughout the Late Bronze Age (graves of these people have been found, without settlements). According to his reconstruction, in the Late Bronze Age (which preceded the Iron Age) the shepherds maintained a barter economy of meat in exchange for grains with the inhabitants of the valleys. With the disintegration of the urban and agricultural system in the lowland, the nomads were forced to produce their own grains, and hence the incentive for fixed settlements arose.

            The name “Israel” is mentioned in a single Egyptian document from the period of Merneptah, king of Egypt, dating from 1208 BCE: “Plundered is Canaan with every evil, Ascalon is taken, Gezer is seized, Yenoam has become as though it never was, Israel is desolated, its seed is not.” Merneptah refers to the country by its Canaanite name and mentions several cities of the kingdom, along with a non-urban ethnic group. According to this evidence, the term “Israel” was given to one of the population groups that resided in Canaan toward the end of the Late Bronze Age, apparently in the central hill region, in the area where the Kingdom of Israel would later be established.

            A kingdom with no name

            The united monarchy: Archaeology was also the source that brought about the shift regarding the reconstruction of the reality in the period known as the “united monarchy” of David and Solomon. The Bible describes this period as the zenith of the political, military and economic power of the people of Israel in ancient times. In the wake of David’s conquests, the empire of David and Solomon stretched from the Euprates River to Gaza (“For he controlled the whole region west of the Euphrates, from Tiphsah to Gaza, all the kings west of the Euphrates,” 1 Kings 5:4). The archaeological findings at many sites show that the construction projects attributed to this period were meager in scope and power.

            The three cities of Hazor, Megiddo and Gezer, which are mentioned among Solomon’s construction enterprises, have been excavated extensively at the appropriate layers. Only about half of Hazor’s upper section was fortified, covering an area of only 30 dunams (7.5 acres), out of a total area of 700 dunams which was settled in the Bronze Age. At Gezer there was apparently only a citadel surrounded by a casematewall covering a small area, while Megiddo was not fortified with a wall.

            The picture becomes even more complicated in the light of the excavations conducted in Jerusalem, the capital of the united monarchy. Large sections of the city have been excavated over the past 150 years. The digs have turned up impressive remnants of the cities from the Middle Bronze Age and from Iron Age II (the period of the Kingdom of Judea). No remains of buildings have been found from the period of the united monarchy (even according to the agreed chronology), only a few pottery shards. Given the preservation of the remains from earlier and later periods, it is clear that Jerusalem in the time of David and Solomon was a small city, perhaps with a small citadel for the king, but in any event it was not the capital of an empire as described in the Bible. This small chiefdom is the source of the “Beth David” title mentioned in later Aramean and Moabite inscriptions. The authors of the biblical account knew Jerusalem in the 8th century BCE, with its wall and the rich culture of which remains have been found in various parts of the city, and projected this picture back to the age of the united monarchy. Presumably Jerusalem acquired its central status after the destruction of Samaria, its northern rival, in 722 BCE.

            The archaeological findings dovetail well with the conclusions of the critical school of biblical scholarship. David and Solomon were the rulers of tribal kingdoms that controlled small areas: the former in Hebron and the latter in Jerusalem. Concurrently, a separate kingdom began to form in the Samaria hills, which finds expression in the stories about Saul’s kingdom. Israel and Judea were from the outset two separate, independent kingdoms, and at times were in an adversarial relationship. Thus, the great united monarchy is an imaginary historiosophic creation, which was composed during the period of the Kingdom of Judea at the earliest. Perhaps the most decisive proof of this is the fact that we do not know the name of this kingdom.

            Jehovah and his consort: How many gods, exactly, did Israel have? Together with the historical and political aspects, there are also doubts as to the credibility of the information about belief and worship. The question about the date at which monotheism was adopted by the kingdoms of Israel and Judea arose with the discovery of inscriptions in ancient Hebrew that mention a pair of gods: Jehovah and his Asherah. At two sites, Kuntiliet Ajrud in the southwestern part of the Negev hill region, and at Khirbet el-Kom in the Judea piedmont, Hebrew inscriptions have been found that mention “Jehovah and his Asherah,” “Jehovah Shomron and his Asherah, “Jehovah Teman and his Asherah.” The authors were familiar with a pair of gods, Jehovah and his consort Asherah, and send blessings in the couple’s name. These inscriptions, from the 8th century BCE, raise the possibility that monotheism, as a state religion, is actually an innovation of the period of the Kingdom of Judea, following the destruction of the Kingdom of Israel.

            The archaeology of the Land of Israel is completing a process that amounts to a scientific revolution in its field. It is ready to confront the findings of biblical scholarship and of ancient history. But at the same time, we are witnessing a fascinating phenomenon in which all this is simply ignored by the Israeli public. Many of the findings mentioned here have been known for decades. The professional literature in the spheres of archaeology, Bible and the history of the Jewish people has addressed them in dozens of books and hundreds of articles. Even if not all the scholars accept the individual arguments that inform the examples I cited, the majority have adopted their main points.

            Nevertheless, these revolutionary views are not penetrating the public consciousness. About a year ago, my colleague, the historian Prof. Nadav Ne’eman, published an article in the Culture and Literature section of Ha’aretz entitled “To Remove the Bible from the Jewish Bookshelf,” but there was no public outcry. Any attempt to question the reliability of the biblical descriptions is perceived as an attempt to undermine “our historic right to the land” and as shattering the myth of the nation that is renewing the ancient Kingdom of Israel. These symbolic elements constitute such a critical component of the construction of the Israeli identity that any attempt to call their veracity into question encounters hostility or silence. It is of some interest that such tendencies within the Israeli secular society go hand-in-hand with the outlook among educated Christian groups. I have found a similar hostility in reaction to lectures I have delivered abroad to groups of Christian bible lovers, though what upset them was the challenge to the foundations of their fundamentalist religious belief.

            It turns out that part of Israeli society is ready to recognize the injustice that was done to the Arab inhabitants of the country and is willing to accept the principle of equal rights for women – but is not up to adopting the archaeological facts that shatter the biblical myth. The blow to the mythical foundations of the Israeli identity is apparently too threatening, and it is more convenient to turn a blind eye.

            • whyevolutionistrue
              Posted August 10, 2011 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

              Please DO NOT put such long comments online any more; I’ve written about this recently. If you can’t refer to a website, do this by private email. I’ll let this one stand, but I’ll excise future comments by anyone that are this long.

              thx
              the management

              • Steve Smith
                Posted August 10, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

                OK SRY

                But this:

              • Achrachno
                Posted August 10, 2011 at 11:40 pm | Permalink

                It was a tad long, but you’ve got to admit it was interesting. I’m glad to have seen it anyway. Thanks, Steve. And thanks Jerry for not deleting it.

            • Steve Smith
              Posted August 11, 2011 at 5:22 am | Permalink

              Also for those interested, NOVA produced a good show on biblical archaeology highlighting the evidence showing that the events described in Exodus and other chapters never happened. It’s online at NOVA: The Bible’s Buried Secrets.

    • Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      “Theology is the art of making religious virtues out of scientific necessities.”

      That was written by the esteemed Jerry A. Coyne, PhD, and posted on March 11, 2011 (according to my scrapbook which I title “Ideas Worth Stealing”).

  8. Michieux
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 7:35 am | Permalink

    I’ve never thought terribly deeply about biblical stories, but in these, my later years, I’ve tended to see the story of “the fall” as relating more to human psychology than any literal notions of “Adam and Eve”.

    I reckon the story relates to a time – as imagined by those folk thousands of years ago – when the human animal first became human, as we understand human to be today. “The fall”, in this reckoning, is the emergence of human consciousness in the human animal, thus setting humans apart from other species for ever after.

    The warning not to eat of the fruit of the tree of knowledge seems to fit with this reckoning. It is an admonition that if one eats of that fruit, one had better be prepared to suffer the consequences. The consequence being that we appear to be the smartest ape ever, but are we, really?

    For the record, I don’t believe in any gods, but I entertain the merest whiff of a hope that we can aspire to something better than we presently are.

    • Posted August 10, 2011 at 9:10 am | Permalink

      I’m sure it can be done: Take the fruit of the tree and squeeze out the juice. Add a pinch of yeast and wait about six weeks. Drink.

      • Claimthehighground
        Posted August 12, 2011 at 6:06 am | Permalink

        You’re on the right track. Religions, especially monotheistic ones, have seen the world as unleavened bread: flat, geocentric, with a god or gods who need constant placating and adoration. Science or rather scientific inquiry and empiricism is the yeast that causes our views of nature to rise to new heights of understanding. So I consider myself a yeastist. Of our many rituals, my favorite involves sacrificing yeast to the malted barley and grain, and with love and much devotion (and high heat in a closed container), we eventually find liquid communion with nature. Glory be to the yeast, from which manifold blessings flow.

    • Ian
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 9:23 am | Permalink

      I think there’s a really crucial point here. Religious stories aren’t created randomly. If a religious story is to be successful, repeated, then to form part of some book which is finally considered scripture, it has to be somewhat successful psychologically.

      So once you get rid of the details. If there is no historic basis, then there is nothing of particular significance left in the story.

    • Dan L.
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      I think if you rephrase it in terms of “civilized” instead of “human” it gets somewhere closer to the truth. See for example:

      My personal take is that Adam and Eve are supposed to represent completely human people that, like modern hunter gatherers, take part in the local ecology instead of trying to remake the ecology the way civilized people do. A&E in the garden were like modern hunter gatherers, having to do only a couple hours of “work” each day to feed themselves and spending most of their time in leisure (again, like modern hunter gatherers). The fall was the invention of the social hierarchies that enabled the labor and class stratifications that enabled the beginning of civilization. As Diamond describes at the link above, the first agriculturalists probably did experience similar travails to A&E getting kicked out of the garden.

      I think the Cain and Abel story lends some credence to this as well. Cain represents early agriculturalists whereas Abel represents early pastoralists. Cain’s murder of Abel represents the subjugation of nomadic pastoralist peoples by agriculturalists whose societies could support specialized labor forces such as a standing military. Note that Abel was more highly favored by God, which to ancient Hebrews would mean he was essentially “luckier” and had a happier more successful life on earth — just as ancient nomads would almost certainly have been happier and healthier than their stunted, malnourished agriculturalist cousins.

      • Marella
        Posted August 10, 2011 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

        I see the allegory in the same way. Life before agriculture was far better than after it for most people. It is only in the last century or so that life in the west has improved much and that’s because most of us are no longer involved in farming.

    • Exrelayman
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

      “The consequence being that we appear to be the smartest ape ever, but are we, really?”

      We seem to be, but this can be undone by attending a Bible college.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

      I read it the same way.

  9. DrBrydon
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 7:41 am | Permalink

    “All science can say is that there was never a time when only two people existed on the earth: it is silent on whether or not God began a special relationship with a historical couple at some point in the past.”

    That is also a point upon which the Bible is silent. If the story of Adam and Eve in Genesis is not true, no alternative story is going to have scriptural foundation. It remains to be seen whether science has something to say about alternate explanations. At some point the theologians have to present some reason why an alternate explanation should be compelling. It’s hard to imagine that it wouldn’t impinge on history, archeology, psychology, paleontology, anthropology, or any of the other disciplines that examine the past.

    I think it’s a shame about Jesus, though. If only he’d known about the scientific evidence showing there was no original sin, he could have saved himself a lot of trouble.

  10. llwddythlw
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 7:42 am | Permalink

    There’s an irony for me in the name “Reasons to Believe”, a group of biblical literalists. In 1957, a British orthodox Rabbi, Dr. Louis Jacobs wrote a book “We Have Reason to Believe” which was an attempt to take on board higher biblical criticism into orthodox Judaism and abandon a literalist approach. The aftermath of the book was known as “The Jacobs Affair”, and the Rabbi left the orthodox movement to establish the Masorti movement in Britain.

  11. John
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 7:43 am | Permalink

    It’s a huge problem for believers and I’m happy that it was highlighted by NPR.

    When you tug at the string of the Eden myth and Original Sin, the whole fabric of Christianity is unraveled. If Original Sin isn’t real, the Catholic “Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception” becomes obvious nonsense. Without a literal Adam, the Gospel of Luke’s genealogy of Jesus, tracing his ancestry back through Adam in 77 generations, becomes an obvious fabrication. Most importantly, without Original Sin there was no need for a savior, the self sacrifice of Jesus becomes pointless.

    • Tulse
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:43 am | Permalink

      If Original Sin isn’t real, the Catholic “Doctrine of the Immaculate Conception” becomes obvious nonsense

      Since few people, even Catholics, know what that doctrine actually is (and really, who cares if Mary was without Original Sin?), I don’t think that would be that big a deal. The more important issue, as you note, is that without Original Sin, there is no need for Jesus.

  12. Posted August 10, 2011 at 7:56 am | Permalink

    “Theology is the art of making religious virtues out of scientific necessities.”

    Great quote, and if you’re the origin of it, you should get the credit.

    I watched the 20 believers video, and then got new of this piece on the NPR program. Well, what can anyone say? Listening to the 20 voices of belief on the video it was impossible not to be struck by the strangeness of what they were saying, and how out of sync what they said was with the world they are living in. At least you’ve got to hand it to the Archbishop of Canterbury: he was quite visibly aware that what he was saying was, if anything, an attempt to wriggle out of a difficult situation. But not one of the voices sounded either convincing, or, let it be said, really convinced.

    This is a very embarrassing situation for Christians, and to suggest that it is a theological question and not a question of science or history, should be just as embarrassing. How on earth can this be a theological question? And to speak, as Denis Alexander does, of Federal Headship, or whatnot, is so patently a get-out-of-jail free card, that there should be some embarrassment just making the suggestion. How on earth is anyone to be taken seriously who is busily at work trying to patch the holes in a theory, when it is all along springing more and more leaks?

    As for science falsifying a central tenet of a major religion. Yes, it does that. But we also have to remember that the claim that Gabriel recited the Qu’ran to Mohammed is conclusively disproved by the fact that the Qu’ran is a pastiche of borrowings from Christians, Jews and Zoroastrians. In fact, no religion can provide evidence for its central theological claims. For scientists, though, to continue pretending that their religion provides any basis at all for the religious beliefs that they hold is a major scandal.

    Watching John Polkinghorne trying to get out of his little corner was almost laughable. How can an intelligent man speak in such terms? He says that the question of God’s eternity and temporality is much disputed in theology today! How is that possible? God would have to be dipolar, says Polkinghorne, both eternal mind, and temporal mind, and that means, he thinks, that God could not know the future. What does it mean to use such outlandish language? And what could settle such a dispute? Conceptual problems are hard enough, and some philosophical ideas seem to be endlessly disputed in more and more different permutations. But at least there is some sense of what is being wrestled with. In the case of God, since it cannot be known that such a being exists — Edward Feser notwithstanding — how can we have a dispute about its atemporality, temporality or eternity? This way madness lies. But then, when you remember that Polkinghorne was a physicist, you have to wonder what queer quirk of the mind could lead someone like him to ponder over such fanciful speculations which can have, in the nature of the case, no empirical verification, not even so much as the fact that it is where the equations lead. This should be seen to be a scandal.

    Same with Francis Collins. Once you accept, he says, that there is a being who exists outside of nature, then you can reasonably think that this being could intervene in the natural process. But he’s forgetting the fundamental premise of Christianity, that God is the creator, and that means, the maker and preserver of all things. Most people forget the italicised part. In Christian theology God sustains all that exists. If God were to stop sustaining existence, it would be immediately annihilated. But that means that he actively sustains every single aspect of existence, both those aspects that appear to us good and those that appear to us bad. To God they are equal, and equally in need of sustenance — which obviously makes the problem of evil insoluble. Plantinga thinks not, but he misunderstands, for if in fact God sustains all this, and finds it very good, then there is no reason to think that anything else created by such a being would be any different. So there is no sense in which we could here be awaiting a glory yet to be revealed to us. This only makes sense if you think in temporal terms, but God is eternal. It’s all desperately silly.

    • Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:04 am | Permalink

      Eric, thanks for your take, especially the notion of God “sustaining the world.” And I had forgotten the laughable “federal headship” model and have added a link to it.

      And yes, the quote is mine. I’m claiming it here in public just so nobody else takes credit for it!

      • Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:40 am | Permalink

        <ahem />

        Yes, but is it thin at one end, big in the middle, and thin at the other?

        b&

    • daveau
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:26 am | Permalink

      “(God is) the maker and preserver of all things.”

      Why is there entropy then? Is God incompetent, or merely slacking off?

      • Achrachno
        Posted August 10, 2011 at 11:26 pm | Permalink

        daveau — Why is there entropy then? Is God incompetent, or merely slacking off?

        To be even just an incompetent slacker, you must first manage to exist.

  13. Dominic
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 7:58 am | Permalink

    Is it stupid to question how non-Africans have Neanderthal or Denisovan DNA – all in the last 6,000 years?
    http://www.nature.com/news/2011/110809/full/476136a.html
    It is just too absurd – Biologos, just pack your bags up & go home.
    http://www.newscientist.com/article/mg21128254.000-stone-age-toe-could-redraw-human-family-tree.html

    • Tulse
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:46 am | Permalink

      Is it stupid to question how non-Africans have Neanderthal or Denisovan DNA – all in the last 6,000 years?

      That’s an example of Man’s Fallen Nature — he is so depraved post-Fall that he mated with monkeys.

      The Fall really is a handy out, like saying “a wizard did it”.

  14. Stolen Dormouse
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:01 am | Permalink

    It is interesting that, although the Adam and Eve story are in the Jewish scripture, Judaism does not have (or at least doesn’t emphasize) the consept of Original Sin. I gather that rabbinic thought talks about the “good inclination” and the “evil inclination.” But the idea is that these must be balanced to get motivation for progress.

    Strange that the same myth can get interpreted so differently in two religions using the same basic text.

    –Stolen Dormouse

    (I’m Jewish by culture, but not by belief,like our host.)

    • llwddythlw
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:21 am | Permalink

      I think it originated with Augustine. It’s not a Jewish concept.

      The concepts of “yetzer hara” and “yetzer hatov” (bad and good inclinations) make it clear that it’s very much a human affair.

      I’m Jewish by education and culture, but I align myself with the Church of Martin Amis.

  15. yesmyliege
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    “…Because if Adam and Eve didn’t really exist in the way the Bible describes them, maybe Jesus didn’t either…”

    You won’t find many even apologetic Biblical scholars who will defend the proposition that the Jesus the Bible describes actually existed.

    Like the God of the gaps, we have a Historical Jesus of the gaps. A mere man who could never have performed real miracles he was, who could never have attracted the huge crowds the Bible claims, because if he had done these things, he would have been written about by the many historians of the time. Historians who somehow managed to notice several other evangelicals named Jesus at the time, even though they all never amounted to a hill of beans.

    It is becoming apparent that there is no coherent case that can be made that Jesus Christ existed at all, and the academic apologists are circling their wagons and simply asserting historicity by consensus based on overwhelming evidence – evidence which doesn’t exist and is never produced. All the while viciously aspersing yet never directly addressing the cogent works of mythicists.

    Christians would be shocked at the admissions of these so-called scholars, and would be devastated to learn that all they were taught about Jesus Christ is almost certainly not true. It would be a catastrophe for their faith, and their education on the topic can not happen too soon for my tastes.

    • Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:36 am | Permalink

      PZ had a post yesterday about how believers constantly shuffle between God-as-ground-of-being and God-as-miracle-working-cracker.

      It’s the same with Jesus.

      He constantly shifts between the miracle-working zombie son-of-a-virgin and a plain-jane itinerant preacher so unremarkable that it’s hardly surprising nobody noticed him.

      What’s even more puzzling is the number of self-proclaimed non-Christians who will argue at great length about how there’s absolutely no doubt whatsoever that Jesus existed…and who all trot out the same tired-old generations-late non-evidience as the Christians, ignore the libraries of contemporary evidence to the contrary, and insist that Jesus was the polar opposite of what everybody who ever did write anything about him at the time said he was.

      I don’t get it. Nobody gets so excited defending an historical Mitra or Osiris or Dionysus. But Jesus? No! He can’t be like all the other Mediterranean solar demigods! He was real!

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Mark Plus
        Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:53 am | Permalink

        Jesus’ “miracles” seem kind of underwhelming in retrospect because they didn’t stick. Jesus allegedly went around healing and resurrecting people with his woo-woo powers, yet they all eventually died, or died again. What did it accomplish to cure someone of, say, leprosy, if that person would just die later from cancer?

        As for the resurrected people like Lazarus, again what did those miracles accomplish in the long run if they all died a second time? Otherwise we would have to postulate that Lazarus in his deathless body walks the earth in 2011 like a character from “Highlander.”

        • Tulse
          Posted August 10, 2011 at 9:03 am | Permalink

          Wow, you have a pretty high standard for miracles.

          • Mark Plus
            Posted August 10, 2011 at 9:17 am | Permalink

            Christians have a pretty high standard for a god, so I don’t think I’ve brought up an unreasonable issue about their god’s credibility.

            BTW, I’ve wondered why the gospels don’t attribute any dental miracles to Jesus. I had a problem with my right eye last year (a BRVO), and while going to and from my ophthalmologist over several weeks, I realized that ophthalmologists have something mythological going for them that, say dentists, lack, because the former can preserve and sometimes even restore sight – an ability also attributed to Jesus.

      • Ian
        Posted August 10, 2011 at 11:20 am | Permalink

        O wow, this I’ve got to see.

        “non-Christians who will argue at great length about how there’s absolutely no doubt whatsoever that Jesus existed” [Citation Needed]

        “ignore the libraries of contemporary evidence to the contrary” [Citation Needed]

        “insist that Jesus was the polar opposite of what everybody who ever did write anything about him at the time said he was” [Citation Needed]

        • Posted August 10, 2011 at 11:29 am | Permalink

          Eh, you yourself have done exactly that.

          As I recall, where we left that off, you had made this astounding claim:

          I think it is much more likely that a itinerant Galilean preacher, a disciple of John, came to Jerusalem at passover, was talking about being a messiah, got crucified for insurrection, and then his followers interpreted this colossal failure as some kind of spiritual success (as countless followers of failed messiahs have ever since). That’s the kind of process that happens all through history, and it is a better fit for the evidence, than some grand conspiracy.

          And I asked you to respond with evidence:

          If you wish to convince me, please start with two brief data sets:

          * The best three citations you’re aware of that support your thesis, be they Biblical or extra-biblical. The ‘Net is teeming with translations of Classical documents, so all I need is the author’s name and enough hand-waving for me to track it down from there. For example, you might mention Pliny the Younger’s correspondence describing his torture of Christians, and that’d be plenty for me.

          * The three best-documented examples of this process happening with somebody other than Jesus. Again, no need for anything exhaustive on your part; the names of the individuals would be plenty in this case.

          You never did respond. Do you care to do so now?

          Cheers,

          b&

          • Ian
            Posted August 10, 2011 at 11:51 am | Permalink

            I said “I arrive at the point where I think it is *possible* that Jesus was a myth constructed whole-cloth … but I think it much more likely”

            You said “self-proclaimed non-Christians who will argue at great length about how there’s absolutely no doubt whatsoever that Jesus existed”

            That there is trolling. Deliberate misrepresentation, or just plain ignoring what’s been said, because you’ve already decided what someone else believes.

            I’m sorry but you have no desire to be convinced.

            You were given a whole bunch of references, with ISBNs, which you dismissed as the Courtier’s reply (even though at least two were written by non-theists).

            You are a creationist, sir. Just one with a different pseudo-science. Like creationists, the best place to start is a really basic undergraduate text-book on the subject where you can get a sense of the actual methods and resources used in the field, and the actual conclusions reached. I even offered, by blog and separately by email, to buy you such a textbook.

            But like creationists you never will bother, and you’ll continue to scream victory over how your opponents can never give a decent answer to why, if humans evolved from monkeys, there are still monkeys. As long as there are monkeys, you’re free to keep thinking evolution is crap. Because you aren’t willing to do the previous step of figuring out why scholars think that you can have monkeys *and* evolution.

            The phrase “self-proclaimed non-Christians” says it all.

            • Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:06 pm | Permalink

              I really don’t see what’s so hard about this.

              Look, if a creationist came to me with that exact question about us evolving from monkeys, I’d probably post a link that includes the hominid fossil record, complete with pictures.

              All I’m asking from you is the same: the three best pieces of evidence for your theoretical construct of Jesus, and three examples of other gods who started as historical figures about whom the tall tales grew to the point of their deification.

              Is that really so hard?

              Why do you throw a temper tantrum every time I ask you for specific evidence?

              If your theories have even a pretense of merit to them, providing the evidence I ask for should be even easier than providing the listing of hominid fossils I provided above.

              Cheers,

              b&

              • Ian
                Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

                Yes, but the creationist would say “I don’t care about hominid links, you still haven’t shown me why there, if we evolved from monkeys, there are still monkeys.” (I know this because, as well as arguing with mythicists, I also argue a lot with creationists, and they do). Evidence is not evidence if you don’t listen to it. Facile dismissal of evidence is a standard part of the creationist toolbox (the skulls of the hominids, you know they’ve been debunked as being small apes and children, right? – what *real* evidence do you have?)

                “three examples of other gods who started as historical figures about whom the tall tales grew to the point of their deification”

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_who_have_been_considered_deities

                “the three best pieces of evidence for your theoretical construct of Jesus”

                Blaming Jews for the crucifixion, the shift from apostolic to family succession in the early church, the embarrassment of the baptism, the multiple independent attempts to put Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem. Among probably another 20 or so significant pieces of evidence that the early church would much rather that they could have invented their myth whole-cloth, but were constrained by a pre-existent biographical source.

              • Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

                http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_people_who_have_been_considered_deities

                Oh, how utterly useless. Not only does it include Mary and Jesus, but it opens with several examples of the broad category of “emperor.”

                Last I heard, nobody had ever claimed that any of the Caesars were the divine word that spoke the universe into existence, or that they ascended bodily into heaven, or any of the rest of the nonsense.

                It should be perfectly clear exactly what I meant by my request, but it obviously isn’t.

                Do you believe there was an historical Zeus, Ra, Quetzalcoatl, Krishna, Wotan, Osiris? Were they actual historical personages about whom tall tales were told with later generations? If so, there’s no point in continuing this discussion.

                “the three best pieces of evidence for your theoretical construct of Jesus”

                Blaming Jews for the crucifixion, the shift from apostolic to family succession in the early church, the embarrassment of the baptism, the multiple independent attempts to put Jesus’s birth in Bethlehem. Among probably another 20 or so significant pieces of evidence that the early church would much rather that they could have invented their myth whole-cloth, but were constrained by a pre-existent biographical source.

                You really don’t understand what a source is, do you?

                In which document did which author blame the Jews for the crucifixion?

                In which document did which author describe the baptism?

                In which document did which author identify the location of Jesus’s birth?

                This whole “doctrine of embarrassment” is one of the sorriest of apologetics offered by Christians ever. That you not only find it credible but cite it as the best evidence pointing to the reality of Jesus pretty much says it all, doesn’t it?

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Ian
                Posted August 10, 2011 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

                There are plenty on that list who were considered pre-existent, who ascended bodily to heaven, gods who exist in trinity. The page explicitly says so. You just need to read it.

                Like I say, the skulls of the hominids have long been debunked. Creationism. Gotta love pseudo-science.

                And you might want to look up source criticism in the dictionary if you think I don’t know what a source is.

                You really are a dick, Ben. What’s frustrating is that I called you as a troll two days ago, and still keep walking into your crap, because it really bugs me off that there are pseudo-scientists in the atheist community too.

                But I’m done. Go read a book. Pull the stick out your arse. And stop being paranoid, seeing theism where there is none.

              • Posted August 10, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

                Have there been hominid fossils that have been debunked? Of course. But only a tiny minority. At this point in a conversation with a creationist, I would pick the three best-evidenced hominid fossils, from a wide spread of dates. I think you’d agree that such wouldn’t be much of a challenge.

                But you yourself have agreed that pretty much none of these Christian “sources” of yours amount to a hill of beans. And yet you’re insisting that they’re somehow meaningful.

                And, to prove my point, you have never, ever pointed to the three best such sources. And you never will

                You have no Lucy, and it shows. All you’ve got is a pile of pig teeth you pulled from pig shit, and you’re trying to convince me that you’ve really got evidence of Nebraska Man.

                b&

              • Posted August 10, 2011 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

                You really are a dick, Ben.

                No, he really isn’t.

            • yesmyliege
              Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:54 pm | Permalink

              You sound like a James McGrath acolyte with that “mythicists are just like creationists” bullshite. Screw you.

              • yesmyliege
                Posted August 10, 2011 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

                That was meant for Ian.

            • Marella
              Posted August 10, 2011 at 6:28 pm | Permalink

              Ben is one of the most thoughtful and interesting commenters on this or any other blog, oops website. He is certainly not a troll. You are however a dickhead.

              • Max
                Posted August 10, 2011 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

                Ben, you’re still trying to shift the burden of proof. I haven’t made any assertion except that yours is a fringe position that is rejected by the consensus of professional scholars. I don’t need to show evidence for anything else, because I’m not claiming anything else.

                As for Lucian on Peregrinus, as you admit, it doesn’t bear directly on the question. Hardly enough to justify calling those who disagree with you irrational.

              • Max
                Posted August 10, 2011 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

                Marella, I’m sorry, this was not intended as a reply to your post. I posted it here by mistake.

          • Max
            Posted August 10, 2011 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

            Ben, I followed the lengthy exchange you had with Ian yesterday, and it seems to me that you did very little there except maneuver to shift the burden of proof. You may have scored an empty rhetorical victory of sorts, but you gave me nothing worth thinking about — no defined thesis, no coherent argument, no evidence, no references that I could follow up for more information.

            As you well know, the position you seem to hold (that there was no historical Jesus of any sort) has been explicitly rejected by almost, if not quite, every qualified, professional scholar working in the field, whether Christian, Jewish, atheist or other. The references Ian gave are excellent. For those with no time to read them, a quick check of the Wikipedia articles “Jesus,” “Historicity of Jesus” and “Jesus Myth” will confirm that your position is a fringe view. These articles also provide copious additional references.

            “The Courtier’s Reply,” as you said yesterday? Not at all. Rather, it’s an argument from authority, and a very legitimate one in this context. All of us know most of what we know about history (and most other things) through the work of experts. No one has the time or the skill to examine every historical question at first hand from primary sources in the original languages. When a strong consensus exists among the experts on a given topic, as it does on this one, it is perfectly reasonable to accept it, unless there is a compelling reason not to. And the key word here is compelling. It is acceptable, indeed commendable, to challenge scholarly consensus, but the one who does so has the burden of making a real case, not just tossing out questions and assertions.

            It may be that you (or someone else) will overturn the consensus. That sort of thing happens frequently in historical scholarship, just as it does in science. But you (or someone else) must do the hard work: learn the languages, learn the methods, study the existing historical and critical literature, and then submit your work for peer review. If your thesis has merit, it will gain a foothold, at least. If it has a lot of merit, it will probably become the new consensus. Historical scholarship thrives on new ideas, if they are well supported. But a daring, surprising, contrarian thesis that’s poorly supported is, frankly, just a bore.

            One last thought: It’s fine to espouse a fringe theory or two as a hobby. I’ve got a couple of my own, and I don’t feel any obligation to support them at the level I’ve demanded of you. The difference is that I will cheerfully admit to being a bit of a crank on these topics. I’ll admit that the scholarly consensus is against me, and that I’m just rooting, recreationally, for the few defenders of my cranky position to come up with a better case.

            • Posted August 10, 2011 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

              Once more, into the breach.

              The historicist postion is, “Jesus existed.”

              But that’s hardly enough to go off of. “Jesus” was a very popular name in first century Judea, after all.

              So, we need to know which Jesus it is we’re supposed to be discussing…and this is where things fall down.

              For, in order to support an historical position, what you really need is a specific theory of Jesus that is supported by and explains the evidence.

              Ian actually has done better than most historicists here. I quoted his theory of Jesus above — in short, that Jesus was a mortal messianic rabble-rousing preacher executed by the Romans one Passover.

              That problem is that this theory is not only unsupported by evidence, but positively refuted by it.

              That it is unsupported by the evidence Ian has already amply demonstrated in his utter failure to offer up even a single passage of a single reliable source in concert with his theory. But, it’s also refuted by the evidence he chooses to ignore when it suits him.

              The earliest accounts of Jesus are generally agreed to be found in the Pauline epistles, reasonably dated to no earlier than the late first century. And, in these letters, Jesus is the eternal divine force who created Life, the Universe, and Everything. He is the salvation of humanity. More to the point, “Paul” writes almost nothing whatsoever of Jesus’s life and times, and he pretty much never quotes anything Jesus said — even (especially) Jesus’s most famous sermons and sayings. And the biographical bits we do get are most telling: he was crucified by the archons of some vaguely-distant age, and he presided over the Last Supper. But Paul’s retelling of the Last Supper is in fact instructions on how to perform the Eucharist, and we know that he stole the ceremony from the Mithraists.

              I don’t think I’ve yet to positively state my own Theory of Jesus, and it’s reasonable that I should do so. And that theory, simply, is that Jesus is a syncretic pagan demigod with the same origins as all the others. This theory is more than amply supported by the evidence. Not only are the Gospels indistinguishable from pagan stories of demigods, but Justin Martyr in the early second century went to great pains and in excruciating detail showed exactly where the Christians got Jesus from. (Of course, he attributed the parallels to a conspiracy of evil time-travelling demons, but I think we can safely dismiss that theory of his.) Lucian even gives a non-specific account of how some of those stories got inserted in his account of the passing of Peregrinus. The theory is consistent with the lack of contemporary evidence and the proliferation of irreconcilable disagreement of the nature of Jesus throughout all of Christian history. And it’s hardly extraordinary — we have countless examples of similar divine origins in all the other pagan demigods. Centuries earlier, academics had already identified Osiris and Dionysus as different “incarnations” of the same deity, and we see many more deities with the same biography and same “calling cards,” including Jesus. We even have a particularly well-documented example of this process in Serapis.

              That’s probably a good stopping point lest I become an even worse thread hog. As with Ian, if you wish to convince me of an historical Jesus, all I ask is that you define exactly who Jesus was and provide positive evidence supporting your theory.

              Shirley that can’t be too much to ask?

              Cheers,

              b&

              • Max
                Posted August 10, 2011 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

                Ben, I don’t wish to convince you of anything, really. I’m simply noting that you’ve done nothing to make me question the consensus of qualified, professional scholarship, on which, like any reasonable person, I normally rely, unless I have a specific and compelling reason not to.

                This latest post is an improvement on your earlier ones. You do, at last, set out an argument. But it’s hardly convincing. Have these points never been considered by the professionals? It seems unlikely. What have they said in reply? How do you account for their failure to be convinced? These are not trivial questions, in my view.

                And how well supported are the factual claims you make? Your statement that the gospels are “indistinguishable from pagan stories of demigods” is obviously exaggerated, so why should I trust your other factual claims? And of course you still do not cite your sources, primary or secondary. All is oracular assertion.

                Moreover, what you say here seems to evade the central question: all the factual claims you make seem reasonably consistent with Ian’s “real person, heavily mythologized” thesis. If you’re going to say, as you do, that Ian’s thesis is “refuted by the evidence,” you’re going to have to do better. Where is the decisive test: the evidence that we could only see if Jesus were a purely mythic figure or that we could never see if he were a mythologized real person? That’s what you’d need to show in order to demonstrate that Ian’s position has been refuted (‘refuted’ is a strong word, and shouldn’t be used lightly).

                Finally, and this is of great signficance to me as an indicator of your habits of argument, you return to your old trick of shifting the burden of proof. It means nothing to me whether Ian has answered your questions. You are the one espousing a fringe theory, and you are the one who must bear a heavy burden of proof. It seems to me that you’re still shirking it.

              • Posted August 10, 2011 at 4:23 pm | Permalink

                Have these points never been considered by the professionals?

                I am unaware of any “professional” who has ever attempted to reconcile the silence of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Philo, and the others with their claims of an historic Jesus. Maybe they have and I’ve missed it; if so, I’d be happy to consider what they have to say.

                Similarly, I’ve never encountered a “professional” who addresses the early-second-century testimony of Justin Martyr that I referred to, which brings us to your next point:

                And how well supported are the factual claims you make? Your statement that the gospels are “indistinguishable from pagan stories of demigods” is obviously exaggerated, so why should I trust your other factual claims?

                This is in no way an exaggeration. Justin Martyr, First Apology:

                Chapter 21. Analogies to the history of Christ

                And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter. For you know how many sons your esteemed writers ascribed to Jupiter: Mercury, the interpreting word and teacher of all; Æsculapius, who, though he was a great physician, was struck by a thunderbolt, and so ascended to heaven; and Bacchus too, after he had been torn limb from limb; and Hercules, when he had committed himself to the flames to escape his toils; and the sons of Leda, and Dioscuri; and Perseus, son of Danae; and Bellerophon, who, though sprung from mortals, rose to heaven on the horse Pegasus. For what shall I say of Ariadne, and those who, like her, have been declared to be set among the stars? And what of the emperors who die among yourselves, whom you deem worthy of deification, and in whose behalf you produce some one who swears he has seen the burning Cæsar rise to heaven from the funeral pyre? And what kind of deeds are recorded of each of these reputed sons of Jupiter, it is needless to tell to those who already know. This only shall be said, that they are written for the advantage and encouragement of youthful scholars; for all reckon it an honourable thing to imitate the gods. But far be such a thought concerning the gods from every well-conditioned soul, as to believe that Jupiter himself, the governor and creator of all things, was both a parricide and the son of a parricide, and that being overcome by the love of base and shameful pleasures, he came in to Ganymede and those many women whom he had violated and that his sons did like actions. But, as we said above, wicked devils perpetrated these things. And we have learned that those only are deified who have lived near to God in holiness and virtue; and we believe that those who live wickedly and do not repent are punished in everlasting fire.

                Chapter 22. Analogies to the sonship of Christ

                Moreover, the Son of God called Jesus, even if only a man by ordinary generation, yet, on account of His wisdom, is worthy to be called the Son of God; for all writers call God the Father of men and gods. And if we assert that the Word of God was born of God in a peculiar manner, different from ordinary generation, let this, as said above, be no extraordinary thing to you, who say that Mercury is the angelic word of God. But if any one objects that He was crucified, in this also He is on a par with those reputed sons of Jupiter of yours, who suffered as we have now enumerated. For their sufferings at death are recorded to have been not all alike, but diverse; so that not even by the peculiarity of His sufferings does He seem to be inferior to them; but, on the contrary, as we promised in the preceding part of this discourse, we will now prove Him superior— or rather have already proved Him to be so— for the superior is revealed by His actions. And if we even affirm that He was born of a virgin, accept this in common with what you accept of Perseus. And in that we say that He made whole the lame, the paralytic, and those born blind, we seem to say what is very similar to the deeds said to have been done by Æsculapius.

                That’s but a small sampling; Martyr is obsessed with the topic.

                So, if we are to give any weight at all to the writings of the original Christian apologist, we have three options on the table: he was right, and Jesus was the real deal and the other sons of Jupiter were myths perpetuated by demons; he was half-right in that Jesus is analogous to all the other sons of Jupiter but no demons were responsible for them; or he was entirely worng, and Jesus was a human figure whom the earliest recorded Christians nevertheless identified as indistinguishable save for holiness from all the other pagan gods. Only the middle option seems even remotely plausible. But perhaps you can offer another option?

                Again, I could continue, but this is already pushing the word limit.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Max
                Posted August 10, 2011 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

                Ben, I find it all but inconceivable that these points have not been addressed in the secondary literature. If you haven’t encountered them, you probably haven’t read very widely. As for Justin Martyr, you said “indistinguishable,” not similar. ‘Indistinguishable’ is a much stronger word, hence an exaggeration.

              • Posted August 10, 2011 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

                I don’t claim to be a theologian or an historian — far from it! But I’ve engaged with countless people over the years on this topic, including a great many educated ones. The ones with the greatest breadth and depth of knowledge on the subject — the ones who provide their own translations of the original papyri, for example — have been the ones least supportive of the historicity of Jesus. One of them is a semi-regular here and might even deign to chime in.

                Regardless, I’ve never encountered in print or on the ‘Net an historicist explication of the silence of the contemporaries that was anything more than, “Oh, well, Jesus was such a nobody that it’s hardly surprising that nobody noticed him. But he was still so revolutionarily inspiring that Christians turned him into a god.” And I don’t think I’ve ever had any historicist even pretend to attempt to explain how Martyr’s writings, in the early second century, are compatible with an historical Jesus.

                You, I must now note, included.

                I quoted two whole chapters of Martyr in which he details numerous pagan demigods and how Jesus was exactly the same. I could quote even more of the same from him, as you should be aware if your bona fides are what you’re implying they are. Yet all you can do is quibble that “indistinguishable” isn’t the right adjective? When Martyr himself repeatedly uses language such as “nothing different,” “no extraordinary thing to you,” “is on a par with,” and “accept this in common”? I have no clue what dictionary you’re using, but mine says, “not able to be identified as different or distinct.” That’s practically a direct quote of Martyr!

                So, will you care to address the substance? Explain how your own theory of Jesus (which you haven’t yet offered) is consistent with Martyr? Perhaps you can offer a reasonable explanation why the first-ever Christian apologist would be obsessed with convincing pagans that Jesus was — and, I’ll still use the term — indistinguishable from a pagan demigod save for the reality of his divinity and the demonic origins of the competition?

                Or will you continue the pattern of historicists of ignoring the actual evidence in favor of “just-so” stories that require one to squint at “common knowledge” and “expert consensus” in exactly the right way that supports official Church dogma?

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Max
                Posted August 10, 2011 at 6:12 pm | Permalink

                Ben, there’s a big middle ground between being an expert and having “engaged” with some unnamed people over the years. As I said, it seems probable that you haven’t read very widely. Ian gave you several opportunities to deny that your knowledge is limited to what you’ve picked up from blogs, and you passed on every one.

                You said that the “Gospels” were “indistinguishable from pagan stories of demigods,” not that some parts of the gospels are similar to some parts of such stories, or that Justin Martyr used the word ‘indistinguishable’ as part of his discussion. I think your original statement stands as an exaggeration. If that’s a specimen of your concern for accurate use of words, then I have little reason to trust your other factual claims. What “minor” imprecisions of expression do they contain?

                Again you try to shift the burden of proof. I’m not going to allow that. We’re not in a situation in which the “Jesus was purely mythical” thesis stands unless decisively refuted. You have the fringe position, so it’s your burden to show me why I should take it seriously. If you can’t, or don’t wish to bother, then I’ll continue to accept the consensus of professional scholarship.

                And finally, you have a disturbing habit of slinging around unsupported claims that others are trying to defend “official Church dogma.” This, by itself, raises serious questions about your ability to evaluate evidence. The community of professional scholars whose consensus I’ve cited includes many Jews, atheists and others who have no reason to promote the dogma of any Christian church, so the implication that their work is biased in that direction is absurd.

              • Marella
                Posted August 10, 2011 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

                Max;
                Please read Robert Price’s “The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man”. Bob Price is one of the most accomplished biblicists on the planet and he finds that there is no evidence for a historical Jesus. The most comprehensive work in this area is “Jesus, Neither God Nor Man” by Earl Doherty. It is a much tougher read but it is impossible IMHO, to read this book and still imagine that Jesus was a real person.

              • Posted August 10, 2011 at 6:54 pm | Permalink

                Jesus tittyfucking christ on a pink pogo stick.

                I tempt the wrath of our host by quoting not one but two entire chapters of the First Apology of the first apologist, explain in detail how it can only possibly be consistent with the mythicist position and is perfectly inconsistent with the historicist position, and all you can do is whine about my lack of a DD?

                Fine. Whatever.

                I’ll leave you with one final fact for you to whine that I’m distorting.

                You might think that you’re not defending the faith, but the historicist is exactly what the “wholly man” part of “wholly man and wholly god.” It is, in fact, supported by nothing but theology, including amazing amounts of exegesis and hermeneutics.

                Had you or Ian ever bothered to offer up any original sources — as I’ve repeatedly done, I might add — it would have been trivial to demonstrate such a fact. Yet, as with pretty much every other historicist I’ve ever encountered, original documents are anathema to you. Hell, you won’t even quote any of these modern authorities you worship, so who am I kidding in thinking you’d offer up an original source?

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Max
                Posted August 10, 2011 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

                [Posted this in the wrong spot. Something in the system won’t let me reply so many levels down.]

                Ben, you’re still trying to shift the burden of proof. I haven’t made any assertion except that yours is a fringe position that is rejected by the consensus of professional scholars. I don’t need to show evidence for anything else, because I’m not claiming anything else.

                As for Lucian on Peregrinus, as you admit, it doesn’t bear directly on the question. Hardly enough to justify calling those who disagree with you irrational.

              • Posted August 11, 2011 at 5:23 am | Permalink

                As for Lucian on Peregrinus, as you admit, it doesn’t bear directly on the question.

                I admitted no such thing, as anybody capable of basic reading comprehension would have understood. Indeed, you just proved my point:

                I shouldn’t have to spell this out, but I know I do anyway: what Peregrinus did is what others did before him, though presumably not all for the same motives.

                Your posts any more are nothing more than a repeated insistence that you will not engage in the debate, and now you’re flat-out lying about what I’m writing in the posts you’re replying to.

                This whole exchange, sad to say, is most typical of the historicist position. We’ve had at least four, by my count. None have offered even a shred of evidence to support the position. Two have insisted that the “consensus of professional scholars” stands, while being perfectly unable to even hint at what that consensus is or how it’s supported. The other two were drive-bys; the first a content-free cheerleader and the second a Christian apologist trotting out the ancient lie that Jesus is at least as well evidenced as Julius Caesar — again without actually pointing to any of that evidence.

                So, this is enough for me. I’ll respond to those who those who address evidence — which is to say, it’s damned unlikely that there’ll be any reason for me to respond further.

                Cheers,

                b&

                P.S. Anybody with too much free time might want to do a quick statistical analysis: how many times does the word, “evidence,” appear in this thread, and how many times do each of the contributors use it? b&

              • Max
                Posted August 11, 2011 at 7:20 am | Permalink

                Ben, you said “Lucian of Samosata documented exactly how the myth of Jesus was built up, though granted after its initial origins.” The initial origins (the historical Jesus or the initial myth creation) are what the discussion is about, hence I am correct to say that you have admitted that this text does not bear directly on the question. It’s only an analogy, and more evidence of your tendency to exaggerate by using strong words such as “exactly” without justification.

                I notice that you have never denied that the consensus of professional scholars is as I have stated. Nor have you ever explained why the burden of proof should fall on those who disagree with your fringe view.

              • Posted August 11, 2011 at 4:09 pm | Permalink

                Doherty also reminds us that Paul always seems to say “Lord’s supper”, not “last”, too.

            • Max
              Posted August 10, 2011 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

              Ben, I’d be more inclined to take you seriously if you talked a bit less like a character from Deadwood. Seriously, show some respect for this forum. As for my being somehow objectively allied with Church orthodoxy because I accept the exceedingly minimal claim that there was some sort of completely un-supernatural historical Jesus, well, I doubt that I’ll get much thanks for that from any church. And as for the rest, you’re still just trying to shift the burden of proof.

              Marella, Price appears to be a serious scholar, so I imagine his book would be worth reading. (Doherty I don’t know. He seems to be self-published, which is not usually a good sign.) But the existence of one or two outliers doesn’t call into question the scholarly consensus I’ve referred to. There’s an outlier or two in every field. My question would be, what makes you think Price is right and everybody else is wrong, other than your preference for his conclusion? You can’t just cherry-pick scholarship that way. Or rather, you can, if this is just a harmless hobby. But if you’re serious about the question, you should be able to give a specific reason for believing that a scholar whose views lie well outside the mainstream is correct. Just saying that you read his book and it seemed pretty convincing isn’t enough. You say it’s impossible to read Doherty’s book and still believe that Jesus was a real person, but clearly many people have read it (at least to review it) and have not been convinced. I’m not an expert in this field, and I don’t plan to be, so I’ll stick with the consensus of the experts until Price or someone else manages to gain some sort of foothold, which clearly hasn’t happened yet.

              • Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

                Seriously, show some respect for this forum.

                Last I checked, Jerry cared most about rational arguments backed by verifiable facts. I’ve provided copious amounts of both; you have yet to either pretend to offer a single fact in support of your thesis or directly address any of the facts I’ve offered.

                One of us is being offensive, but it would be the one making fact-free irrational assertions.

                Just to drive the point home, I’ll throw you another bone. Lucian of Samosata documented exactly how the myth of Jesus was built up, though granted after its initial origins. His Passing of Peregrinus is a short and easy read. There’s even a phrase in there that, in isolation, supports the historicist position…until one realizes that this was written at least a half-dozen generations after the purported time of Jesus. The remaining 99% of the prose about Jesus is exactly what I’m claiming as the origins of the Christ myth. (No, not that the whole thing was invented by Peregrinus — the text doesn’t say that. I shouldn’t have to spell this out, but I know I do anyway: what Peregrinus did is what others did before him, though presumably not all for the same motives. Some I’m sure were even sincere.)

                I’ve lost count of how many original sources I’ve quoted, cited, or alluded to in this thread, but it’s easy to count the original sources offered by the historicists: a big, fat goose egg. Hell, the latest joke of an historicist even dragged out that old Christian canard about Jesus being as well-evidenced as Caesar!

                When the law is on your side, pound on the law. When the facts are on your side, pound on the facts. When neither are in your favor, pound on the table. And I’d personally appreciate if you’d cut out the racket.

                Cheers,

                b&

              • Max
                Posted August 10, 2011 at 9:24 pm | Permalink

                [One more try. The system is giving me a hard time about putting this in the right place.}

                Ben, you’re still trying to shift the burden of proof. I haven’t made any assertion except that yours is a fringe position that is rejected by the consensus of professional scholars. I don’t need to show evidence for anything else, because I’m not claiming anything else.

                As for Lucian on Peregrinus, as you admit, it doesn’t bear directly on the question. Hardly enough to justify calling those who disagree with you irrational.

              • yesmyliege
                Posted August 11, 2011 at 8:26 am | Permalink

                Max said:

                “…you’ve done nothing to make me question the consensus of qualified, professional scholarship, on which, like any reasonable person, I normally rely, unless I have a specific and compelling reason not to….”

                You have used the consensus of these “qualified professional” experts as a mauling stick several times in this thread. The problem is that the vast majority of these so-called experts are as far from being “professional” and “qualified” as can be imagined.

                The historicity of Jesus has NEVER been properly examined by Biblical scholars, almost all of whom are believing Christians who work at Christian institutions which demand sworn fealty to…wait for it… the historicity of Jesus. Their methods are a laughing stock to actual historians, who have little interest in pursuing the question of the historicity of JC, even if a research grant could be acquired, and no desire to be embroiled in a political firestorm as a result.

                It is not surprising to me that Avalos has published on the need to eliminate Biblical studies curricula from legitimate educational institutions: http://www.amazon.com/End-Biblical-Studies-Hector-Avalos/dp/1591025362

              • Max
                Posted August 11, 2011 at 10:12 am | Permalink

                Yesmyliege, although there are many exceptions, bible scholars who work at minor sectarian institutions are usually not part of the community of qualified professionals to which I’ve been referring. I’m talking about the sort of people who work at major research universities or institutes and interact regularly with classicists and historians. It’s simply false to say that the work of scholars such as Marcus Borg, John Dominic Crossan, Paula Fredriksen, John P. Meier, E.P. Sanders, and Geza Vermès (just to name a few of the major figures who have written on the historical Jesus), is a laughingstock to actual historians. Criticism, sure, but criticism of a respected peer. The suggestion that historians are avoiding the question of the historical Jesus because they’re afraid of controversy is absurd. No one who has spent any time around a university history department would make any such claim. This sort of cheap slander is beneath you, or it should be, and the implied corollary, that only you and your associates are bold enough to speak the truth on this topic is, well, I can’t think of a gentler word than pathetic.

      • Achrachno
        Posted August 10, 2011 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

        Ben — What’s even more puzzling is the number of self-proclaimed non-Christians who will argue at great length about how there’s absolutely no doubt whatsoever that Jesus existed…

        I’ve noticed that too. Some atheists seem as deeply invested in the existence of Jesus as any Baptist.

        • Sajanas
          Posted August 11, 2011 at 8:24 am | Permalink

          I’d like you to consider that a lot of us grew up as Christians, or in Christian households, and still live surrounded by Christians. Few of these Christians have ever done any extra research into the faith to which they have made a lifelong commitment, and the church itself makes very little effort to discuss the finer points of its own theology with its members, much less Christian history and biblical archaeology. This is particularly the case with young people. Myself personally, when I did a bit of reading about the real history behind the Bible last year, I was actually shaking with rage at the volumes of stuff that they don’t teach you, because the church is not interested in people making up their own minds from evidence, its about indoctrinating you.

          The whole historicity of Jesus aside, there are plenty of parts of his story that are clearly, completely false, like the Global Census of Caesar. But they don’t stop teaching those parts, do they? The pastors and minsters and priests all know that its not true, but they still present it as Gospel truth, and what they are doing is *lying*, either directly or by omission.

  16. daveau
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:22 am | Permalink

    Because if Adam and Eve didn’t really exist in the way the Bible describes them, maybe Jesus didn’t either.

    Or, as we know from our recent Hawking excursion, there is no need for a Jesus. Not to mention the complete lack of historical evidence…

    All science can say is that there was never a time when only two people existed on the earth: it is silent on whether or not God began a special relationship with a historical couple at some point in the past.

    Menage a trois?

    Although genetics convincingly shows that there was never a time when there were just two persons, the Bible itself may even provide hints of the existence of other people…

    Oh, great. Now science is actually proving the bible. Never mind that they’ve said the exact opposite for the last 2000 years.

  17. DiscoveredJoys
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    I suspect that Biologos need to think about their cunning explanation a little more.

    Adam and Eve may well have been two real people, who through the grace of God entered into a paradisiacal relationship with him, until—tragedy of tragedies— they allowed their own self-centered desires to reign in their hearts, instead of their love for God.

    Does this mean that descendants of people other than Adam and Eve weren’t part of ‘the Fall’ and therefore are not tainted by Original Sin?

    • Giacomo Boschi
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 9:04 am | Permalink

      I think so. I wonder why no accommodationist does ever explain what happened to them. It doesn’t seems too hard to me: imagine that at that time there were three couples: A, B and C. A represents Adam and Eve, B and C represent the rest of the species. A generates two sons, d and e, while B and C generate f and g respectively. After, d and e marry f and g respectively and generate other children. From this point on, every newborn is a descendant of A (our Adam and Eve), and at the same time A doesn’t constitute a “genetic bottleneck”. Of course we know from science that these couples should be much more than three, but nonetheless this reasoning can be reiterated for a finite number of generations, until everyone is a descendant from Adam and Eve.

      So, if I were an accommodationist, I’d say that there was a “transitional period” when a part of the people wasn’t tainted by original sin. Only when the last of them died (without offspring or after marrying a descendant of Adam) Adam and Eve became the common ancestor of all the Homo Sapiens.

      • Gregory Kusnick
        Posted August 10, 2011 at 10:45 am | Permalink

        I’m not a population geneticist (or any kind of geneticist) but there’s probably a mathematical argument to be made that Original Sin would have to be selectively advantageous to go to fixation within historical time.

        • Marella
          Posted August 10, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

          And hard to see how it could have made to the Australian Aborigines, who have been almost completely reproductively isolated for the last 50,000 years at least.

  18. Mark Plus
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:39 am | Permalink

    Christianity’s dependency on unsupported assertions from ancient texts and long-dead authority figures contrasts with Buddhism in interesting ways. Buddhism makes empirical claims which we can test in the here and now and which don’t depend on whether an historical Buddha existed. For example:

    Buddhists ‘really are happier’

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/health/3047291.stm

    In that respect Buddhism comes closer in outlook to science, mathematics and philosophy, where we can examine the evidence and lines of reasoning for ourselves regardless of the reputation of previous authorities in these areas. Mathematicians, for example, don’t accept a theorem just because a great mathematician vouches for it; they want to study the proof of the theorem and look for flaws in its logic. That shows why any literate person in late antiquity could forge a gospel or a letter from an apostle; but no one could forge a mathematical treatise and plausibly attribute it to, say, Archimedes, unless he displayed similar training and first-rate mathematical ability of his own.

    Christians of course claim that they have the peace which preventeth all understanding; but when they have to defend their myths as literal historical accounts, they come across as some of the most anxiety-ridden people around because of the cognitive dissonance.

    • RFW
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 10:21 am | Permalink

      Somewhere, within the last few years, I read an account of the Dalai Lama saying that if Buddhist belief is found to contradict science, then Buddhism has to change.

      Aside: One has to be careful in bandying about the noun “Buddhism” because it encompasses an extraordinarily wide variety of belief systems, ranging from magical folk belief to extremely elevated philosophy. But one big difference vis a vis Christianity is that Buddhists generally recognize that other Buddhists as being in the fold: none of this “you’re a heretic, you’re not a real Christian” nonsense.

      The bible is a fine book, useful for guiding one’s behavior along decent channels, but it must be understood as a sort of scriptural mulligatawny stew that includes snippets of history, poetry, flights of imagination, outright mythology, and much else. Aesop’s fables and all of classical mythology are, in their own way, just as useful for the purpose. Perhaps in saying this I am pinpointing a basic flaw in Christian belief, viz that they take the view that the Bible is in some way special or exceptional. Accept that the Bible is just of many ancient writings that offer guidance and you are golden. Maybe.

      • Posted August 10, 2011 at 6:27 pm | Permalink

        Large maybe with a side of “ORLY”? 🙂

        I do not consider the Biblically-inspired/justified hatred of gays (which escalates to state-approved murder in places like Uganda), railing against abortion/contraception and constant sheilding of paedophile priests and as anything approaching “golden”. After all, all the people guilty of the above crimes are using the Bible as a, perhaps THE moral guide. If two people can read the same behavioural guide and come away with diametrically opposed moral views as “all gays go to Hell” and “love thy neighbour”, that guide is worse than useless.

  19. John Edwards
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    As an English ex-christian I have to say what a good service creationists and biblical literalists continue to do in helping people like me see the light and abandon faith! Having tried up until a few years ago to continue as a Christian while fully accepting the overwhelming evidence for evolution (as many English Christians do),they helped me see that there was a conflict that needed to be resolved. I chose to go with evolution and abandon faith. Here the arguments about Adam and Eve have the same effect. By saying that the doctrines of the fall, the atonement, etc depend on the literal interpretation of the Adam and Eve story, they make it easier for thinking people to abandon Christian doctrine along with the ‘just so story’.

  20. eric
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    In the literalist account, God imposes a collective punishment on the direct decendents of a couple of evildoers.

    In the non-literalist account, God imposes a collective punishment on the relations of a couple of evildoers.

    How does switching from the former to the latter resolve the fundamental immorality of the story? Collective punishment is wrong, a benevolent God wouldn’t use it, and an omnipotent God wouldn’t need it.

  21. martindh
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:58 am | Permalink

    In the back of my memory I find a parody of Chick comics called (I think) “The Others”.

    Its theme is the fact that most humans are not descendants of Adam and Eve, are imbued with original sin and, thus, have need of the redemptive grace of Jesus.

    Lucky us!

  22. Posted August 10, 2011 at 9:13 am | Permalink

    Has any Adam and Eve literalist ever given a plausible answer to where the boys’ wives came from; i.e., one that doesn’t involve banging their mother?

    • Juggler_Dave
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 9:44 am | Permalink

      Well, “plausible” is open to interpretation, but some apologist out there (don’t remember which one) says Eve had other unmentioned children and that Cain and Abel married their sisters. Incest is fun for the whole family after all.

      • DrBrydon
        Posted August 10, 2011 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

        I just finished reading Robin Fox’s “The Tribal Imagination”. In his discussion of in-marriage and incest, he looks at various myths for examples of accepted practices. One of the acceptable circumstances for incest would be the necessity created by there being no other men or women with whom to breed. He suggests that it would have been reasonable to the authors of Genesis for the boys to have married daughters (unnamed in the Bible) of Adam and Eve. He also discusses story of Lot, who, after fleeing Sodom, had sex with his daughters out of necessity since their beaus were dead.

        • Posted August 10, 2011 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

          My recollection of Lot’s incest is that his daughters actually got him drunk and then they took turns on the old bugger.

          How anyone too smashed to notice (or care) that they’re boffing their own daughters can still maintain an erection is beyond me.

          • truthspeaker
            Posted August 11, 2011 at 8:23 am | Permalink

            In modern times, men who have sex with their daughters often claim that their daughters came on to them. I view the Lot story the same way. “I was drunk! It’s not my fault!”

      • Posted August 12, 2011 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

        some apologist out there (don’t remember which one) says Eve had other unmentioned children

        That “apologist” would be Genesis 5:3, ie. the Bible itself ;-). Still leaves you with the brother-sister thing — but that’s OK, because genetic defects had not yet crept into the original perfectly created human genome yet (no, I am not trawling through the AiG pigsty to find a reference for that argument. But I’ve seen it used).

  23. Bernard J. Ortcutt
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 9:35 am | Permalink

    The falsity of the Adam and Eve story isn’t even the most bothersome part of it (at least in Christian theology).

    The story is that Adam made me sinful and Jesus redeemed that sin. Where am I in this story? We are constantly told by Christians that the Bible is the source of morality, but where is any recognition of personal, moral responsibility in any of this? The twin doctrines of imputation of sin and vicarious redemption are deeply immoral doctrines.

    • Posted August 10, 2011 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      So if we suffer because Adam sinned, and Jesus saved us from our sins, THEN WHY IS THERE STILL SUFFERING?

      Jesus Christ this stuff doesn’t make a bit of sense even if you accept the ridiculous premises.

      • Posted August 10, 2011 at 10:38 am | Permalink

        There’s only going to be suffering until Jesus flies back from outer space and sets up a perfect New Earth (you know, after the apocalypse) where everyone who was his buddy when they were alive gets to crawl up out of their graves and live forever.

        If you leave that part out, then of course it doesn’t make sense.

  24. Posted August 10, 2011 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    I would say it’s also a significant problem that nobody in the Church took the story of Adam and Eve as a metaphor until they had to. Until science made it ridiculous to continue believing in a literal story, this shit was real, man. You won’t find Augustine and Aquinas writing about “an early member of the homo lineage” who sinned and passed guilt onto all of his descendents through his jizz. No, the Adam from Genesis did that, and he lived in a magical garden. Fact.

    • PB
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:08 pm | Permalink

      You DON’T advertise your weakness!
      This is the standard rule for positioning marketing. Actually when you’re attacked on weak points, you try to ignore it, deny it, then if everything else fail: release the attack dogs!

      That’s the way the religious works, Moses jesus even Mo understand !

      😀

  25. Posted August 10, 2011 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    Two things:

    It is important for Evangelicals to know that science is silent on the historicity of two people named Adam and Eve, just as it is silent on the existence of persons named Abraham, Isaac, and Moses.

    True enough, except for the last name. Archeology has a little to say about the existence of a guy named Moses who led a band of Jews out of slavery in Egypt and then wandering the desert for 40 years. And it ain’t looking so good… It does not appear likely that anything even remotely similar to that ever happened.

    I agree that science can say nothing about the Abraham and Isaac story. Except that Abraham was a stone cold psycho and in the modern age, Isaac would be whisked away by Child Protective Services so fast you’d blink if you missed it.

    Adam and Eve may well have been two real people, who through the grace of God entered into a paradisiacal relationship with him, until — tragedy of tragedies — they allowed their own self-centered desires to reign in their hearts, instead of their love for God.

    I thought on first read that “tragedy of tragedies” was meant to be sarcastic. Seriously. She ate a fucking apple. (Or maybe a pomegranate, but whatever) That’s a “tragedy of tragedies”??? Blurgh.

    • Sajanas
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 10:40 am | Permalink

      Abraham and Isaac do have some historical basis though, since they are shown moving between various cities and lands in their travels, a lot of which had very specific windows of existence, which don’t surprisingly match the time when they are supposed to have lived.

      And its not like the archaeology is always saying the Bible is wrong too. I recall reading something which was suggesting Saul was at least quasi-historical, because the locations named in his kingdom did exist at roughly the right time, and were all destroyed at a similar time. Not great evidence (like a name on a coin would be) but its less likely to be an anachronistic story like A&I.

      • eric
        Posted August 10, 2011 at 11:45 am | Permalink

        How is a list of contemporaneous historical locations evidence that the story is at all true?

        Consider that I could write a piece of fiction right now, and have my characters visit various existant locations. An historian 2,000 years from now could use the places in the story to date the story because of the AUTHOR’s familiarity with those places. But that says nothing about whether the CHARACTERs ever existed.

        • Posted August 10, 2011 at 11:53 am | Permalink

          Indeed, Michener has written some wonderful novels that are entirely fictional, yet entirely plausible and overflowing with factual history. The Source is even set in Israel’s current geographical location and spans time from the stone age to modernity.

          It’s far more historically accurate than anything in the Bible, and yet is unashamedly fictional.

          Cheers,

          b&

        • Sajanas
          Posted August 10, 2011 at 11:57 am | Permalink

          Its mostly telling when the author uses places contemporaneous with their own time… if I recall, A&I used a lot of places and peoples that existed in the 700s, for example. With Saul, a lot of the places they described were destroyed ruins for a good chunk of the rest of the block of Israeli history when the Bible was written. Its not proof per say, but its more possible that could point to the preservation of a legend than something more anachronistic.

          Course, I’m no grand expert in all this, so if I’m really

        • Ian
          Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:12 pm | Permalink

          Very true.

          What’s interesting is that most mythological representation is written after the fact, often quite a bit after the fact. Large swathes of the Hebrew bible are written centuries after they claim to have been written.

          So, you’re right, the correct naming of places doesn’t tell us anything about the history of the characters in the story. But does tell us that the sources on which the story is based are older.

          Nothing to hang a religious belief off, and no succour to folks wanting to believe the story. But it does say something interesting (from a historians p.o.v.) about the history of the text.

          In the same way that Michener, if found 2000 years hence, could be read as evidence of the history of the C20, without having to regard him as anything but fiction.

    • truthspeaker
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

      Disobeying God is always a tragedy to these authoritarian clowns. Apparently humanity would be better off if Adam and Even had obeyed God without question.

      • Crit
        Posted August 10, 2011 at 7:47 pm | Permalink

        But then there would be no (need of) Christians.

    • Posted August 10, 2011 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

      Just wondering, is there any archaeological find that could cast (more) doubt of the historicity of Jesus? Mmm, something like a copy of the Jerusalem Post for the week after Passover, 33AD, saying “All quiet in Jerusalem – festivities without incident”. Well, not that obviously, but something like that?

      • Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:01 pm | Permalink

        You mean, like the Dead Sea Scrolls?

        Because that’s exactly what you’ve just described….

        b&

      • Sajanas
        Posted August 11, 2011 at 8:31 am | Permalink

        There’s also a pretty huge set of papyrus fragments that was discovered some decades ago at Oxyrhynchus and is still being decoded. They were actually asking for help recently at ancientlives.org, for people to come and help them annotate the letters in the papyri (though I found it very difficult to do as a layman). Early Christian documents could still turn up, and they do, though none have broken into the pre-Paul period.

        But really, I think its unlikely, and the most damning fact is that the people in the 2nd and 3rd Centuries, who lived when the Roman Empire still existed, and the Library of Alexandria was still mostly unscathed, and were very, very interested in noting contemporary historical observations of Jesus found nothing, and in fact, wrote angrily about the various contemporary historians for not writing about Jesus. If historians only a few hundred years before could find nothing, I think its likely because there is nothing to be found.

  26. ChasCPeterson
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    (modern humans descended from a group of no fewer than 10,000 individuals)

    I think this is misleadingly off-point. Before the bottleneck to 10,000 (or 1,000 if other estimates are accepted) was an (unknown) larger total, but before that?
    Doesn’t everything we know about speciation make it likely that that large pre-bottleneck population was descended, ultimately, from a much, much smaller population?

    • Posted August 10, 2011 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      No?

    • truthspeaker
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

      I don’t know of anything in what we know about speciation that suggests that.

  27. Ian
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 11:35 am | Permalink

    Mainstream early church history is methodologically atheistic, and comes up with conclusions that do severe violence to the orthodox portrayal of Jesus as being in any way historically credible (regardless of its lack of credibility from any other angle).

    It is interesting how those folks view their faith, I think. Someone like James McGrath, who blogs at Exploring our Matrix, has explicitly said he is a Christian because his most significant spiritual experiences were in a Christian context. Others I’ve spoken to have a kind of philosophical approach: Jesus’s resurrection was somehow a spiritual rather than physical thing, Jesus was divine in a metaphorical sense, and so on.

    So I think that you can deny the Jesus of orthodox Christian creeds and still consider yourself a Christian.

    So I suspect, once again, that the reasons people give for their faith have virtually no connection with why they actually have that faith. When it comes to justifying your faith, everything is post-hoc.

    I suspect it is more likely that faith functions in useful ways for these people: in terms of their self-image, in terms of their community, honouring the memory of their parents, because they are skilled in and enjoy its ways of thinking.

    I wonder if something similar is at work in atheists. I can’t configure my brain to believe in a God. And I can find tons of good reasons not to. But which is the primal cause?

    • yesmyliege
      Posted August 11, 2011 at 8:30 am | Permalink

      I thought you sounded like McGrath’s Mini Me. Thanks for confirming. 🙂

  28. Bender
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 11:43 am | Permalink

    Do theologians have an explanation to the fact that in the tale god comes out as a liar, while the snake is completely honest? God never actually forbids Adam to eat the fruit, but he falsely warns him that doing so will cause his death: Gen 2.17 “But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.”

    The snake, on the other hand, only tells Eve three things that happen to be true:
    a) eating the fruit won’t cause their deaths.
    b) the fruit will give them knowledge of good and evil.
    c) god doesn’t want them to know about good and evil.

    So when christians claim that “god gave us free will”, that’s actually contrary to the tale. God doesn’t give humans free will, the snake does.

  29. Andy
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    I find it amusing to read that you have based your system of reality on what a scientist tells you. It wasn’t only the Roman Catholic church that believed the world was flat and that the sun revolved around the Earth. Scientists taught that as well. You are trying to draw people away from their beliefs using the same tactics they are using to ram their beliefs down your throats. Prove to them that you need 10,000 people for the current genetic code. That’s an estimate based on theoretical knowledge that nothing has changed in a people group that is believed to have evolved into what they are today. Your scientific basises are just as flimsy as their religous ones but you state them as fact, just like they do.

    Looking for Truth

    • truthspeaker
      Posted August 10, 2011 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

      “It wasn’t only the Roman Catholic church that believed the world was flat and that the sun revolved around the Earth. Scientists taught that as well.”

      Name one scientist who taught that the sun revolved around the earth. For that matter, I doubt you can find one Catholic authority who taught that the earth was flat. People have known the earth was a sphere since at least the 5th Century BC, probably longer.

  30. pittige maki
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

    ” For if you reject the Adam and Eve tale as literal truth, you reject two central tenets of Christianity: the Fall of Man and human specialness.” But the most important thing is that you then cut the bottom out of christianity, because without the sinfall God can’t have PROMISED a savior.

  31. JimV
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

    Just a note to say that, like Max, I was also badly underwhelmed by the “arguments” in Ben Goren’s tantrum against Ian in a previous post, which has continued into this one. (And included some long cut-and-pastes after our host said not to do that.) Max has given a better exposition of why than I could, but I also found the appeal to “The Courtier’s Reply” damning in its mendacity – the sort of thing fundamentalists who are trying to make the Cosmological Argument might say if I were to tell them that not every event that happens has a non-random cause and that they should read up on quantum mechanics.

    • Posted August 10, 2011 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

      Then perhaps you can answer the questions that neither Ian nor Max will deign to answer:

      Who was Jesus, and which specific three first- or second-century documents best support your position?

      Cheers,

      b&

      • JimV
        Posted August 12, 2011 at 7:43 pm | Permalink

        Johnny Appleseed was a real person about whom a lot of tall tales have sprung up. Mohammed I think was a real person also, and perhaps Buddha. George Washington existed but he never chopped down a Cherry Tree and refused to lie about it. Paul Bunyan I think was completely fictional, but who knows? I have no idea whether there was an actual Jesus upon whom the myths are based or not, and my comment had nothing to do with that. Your reply was a non sequitur, as were many of your replies to Ian and Max. Here in a little plainer language is what I said and meant: your style of argumentation, in this case, is that of a crank or crackpot who refuses to listen with understanding to what others are saying, and has a tantrum when someone questions their pet notions. You could actually be right, but if so you have contrived to make the better argument seem the worser.

        By the way, I fact-checked a comment you made further down the thread about an apologist claiming there was as much evidence for Jesus as for Julius Caesar. As I was not surprised to find, you have twisted the words and changed the meaning of what the apologist actually said. Nobody is arguing that there is as much historical evidence for Jesus as for Julius Caesar – at least not here or in the Adam and Eve post.

        I for one could not prove whether my own great-great-grandfather was an historical or a mythical figure (or part historical, part mythical), and his precise status in that regard, along with that of Jesus, seems of very small importance to me. But as my friend Mario, says, hey, believe whatever you gotta believe to get through the night.

        • Tulse
          Posted August 12, 2011 at 7:51 pm | Permalink

          I for one could not prove whether my own great-great-grandfather was an historical or a mythical figure

          I can guarantee your great-great-grandfather was real.

  32. Posted August 10, 2011 at 7:28 pm | Permalink

    And no one mentioned the Belly Button in the painting?

  33. Posted August 10, 2011 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

    It does only harm to those trying to promote reason and freethinking to embrace Jesus-mythicism, which no historian finds remotely plausible. I have spent a substantial amount of time discussing the views of this fringe viewpoint, which shares a relationship to mainstream historical study that is very similar to the relationship of creationism to mainstream biology, on my blog Exploring Our Matrix, the latest installment of which is an attempt to illustrate that if one uses the same strategies as mythicists use, you can deny the existence of Julius Caesar about as easily as they deny the existence of Jesus.

    I mention this because, as someone concerned for the promotion of mainstream science against pseudoscientific challenges to it, it does nothing but harm when those who support mainstream science show themselves gullible in other areas, or even use arguments in the domain of history that they would reject if used in the domain of science.

    And of course, I should add that I also care because I teach and do research on this subject. 🙂

    • Posted August 10, 2011 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

      an attempt to illustrate that if one uses the same strategies as mythicists use, you can deny the existence of Julius Caesar about as easily as they deny the existence of Jesus.

      Thanks for being so up-front that I don’t even have to click on your link to know you’re a crank.

      No, seriously.

      For Gaius Julius Caesar, for about as much as one or two mortgage payments, you can buy for yourself a coin minted during his lifetime with his likeness on it. We have countless other busts, statues, monuments, and inscriptions with his name or likeness, again dated to his lifetime. We have his own autobiography in which he detailed his military exploits; we have archaeological digs of the encampments he describes therein, with the digs confirming the details of Caesar’s account. We have letters he wrote to his colleagues and letters people wrote to him, often including both sides of the conversation. We have contemporary accounts of his reign. We have public works projects attributed to his order dated to the proper time.

      If you can offer even one such an example for Jesus, I’ll eat my shorts.

      And you think you’re the one promoting rationalism. What a joke.

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Posted August 10, 2011 at 7:53 pm | Permalink

        I take back that bit about a mortgage payment.

        No clue as to whether or not this is a scam, but here’s a link selling Caesar coins for $70 – $100.

        http://www.forumancientcoins.com/catalog/roman-and-greek-coins.asp?vpar=523&pos=0#The%20Imperators

        b&

      • PB
        Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

        McGrath comments about Jesus and Caesar stinks the cultural-relativism. While actually we should look each case on its own merit and not swipe a wide brush like that.

        Jesus’s historicity is closer to Paris of Troy rather than Caesar, maybe between Paris and Hanuman ? 😀

        (I won’t rigorously defend my hanuman comment – feel free to abuse ..)

    • yesmyliege
      Posted August 11, 2011 at 8:38 am | Permalink

      James McGrath:

      “It does only harm to those trying to promote reason and freethinking to embrace Jesus-mythicism, which no historian finds remotely plausible….”

      Anyone who would like to examine the tenuous relationship between James McGrath and “freethinking” “reason” and “historian” can find plenty to munch on here:

      http://vridar.wordpress.com/

  34. PB
    Posted August 10, 2011 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

    I think Biologos has found the foundation of future theology here:

    Although genetics convincingly shows that there was never a time when there were just two persons, the Bible itself may even provide hints of the existence of other people—

    Actually there are MANY other people beside Adam, Eve, Moses etc — it “explains” the genetic issue, but as importantly it gonna explain the other religions (buddhism, hinduism etc) as well – something that definitely around the corner for all xtians of today. Within next few years, all jebus-loving people will have to deal (respectfully!) with the hindus and buddhists – not only just those feisty abrahamic stocks.

    And this ‘pluralism theology’ or theoplurology .. will be the next (temporary) gap-closer. Might be good for few years.

    Biologos’ largest impact will be teaching of devious lawyerly tactics and strategies to the laymen (read: stupidos), and therefore prolong the lives of the confused..

  35. Posted August 10, 2011 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

    I agree with it “Cain and Abel, of course, were the sons of Adam and Eve, not just “others who were around at the time of Adam and Eve”.”

  36. Kharamatha
    Posted August 11, 2011 at 3:05 am | Permalink

    Swedish historian Dick Harrison argues that if Jesus were not historical, the people who were there would have said something when the Bible was published.

    He reminds audiences that a couple of hundred years is quite recent in a historical perspective, so there would still have been people who knew better.

    • Posted August 11, 2011 at 5:44 am | Permalink

      That’s a nice theory, but it doesn’t hold up on closer examination.

      Assume a ridiculously-long generational time of 20 years. Two centuries is ten generations. That is, somebody old enough to have remembered witnessing the events had they happened would have been a great-great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandfather by then. And, in the interim, the Romans conquered Judea, leaving Jerusalem and the Temple in rubble. This is also a time long before regular publication of newspapers and magazines, long before every town had a library, long before the CBS evening news with Walter Cronkite.

      It was also a time when uncritical acceptance of fantastic claims of miracles was more common than today; now, anything more miraculous than Jesus’s face on a piece of burnt toast is questioned; then, reports of people being cured of leprosy by having the demons cast out were par for the course. As Martyr went to great lengths to explain in the passages I quoted above, what was being claimed for Jesus was no different from what was already widely accepted for Perseus, Bellerophon, Ariadne, Hercules, Æsculapius, and countless more.

      Besides, people did know better. Pliny the Younger wrote letters to Trajan complaining about these lunatic whack-job Christians; his conclusion after torturing some of them was, “I could discover nothing more than depraved and excessive superstition.” Pliny is hardly alone in this assessment; all the early pagan sources share it. We even, as I again mentioned above, have Lucian describing exactly where Christians got a significant number of their “divine revelations”: the fraudster known as Peregrinus.

      Lastly…your theory still leaves us with Jesus absent from all the contemporary accounts. When all is said and done, in order to make a positive statement with confidence, one still needs positive evidence to support it. “I’m not surprised that nobody noticed anything” most emphatically does not rise to that level.

      I’ll close with a modern observation: there are still, today, any number of lunatic whack-job cults, some with substantial memberships, that make ludicrous, easily-falsifiable claims about recent events. It doesn’t seem to faze the membership….

      Cheers,

      b&

      • Kharamatha
        Posted August 12, 2011 at 6:39 am | Permalink

        Well, obviously. It put him at odds with several critics, whom he promptly dismissed as unworthy rubes.

        Though that romans mentioned christians is presented in support of his claims. See, glees he, christians, hence Jesus.

        I gather Harrison is a big deal in academia and a prolific book writer.

        (Newsmill.se contains part of the debate, if you care and can translate.)

        • Kharamatha
          Posted August 12, 2011 at 6:49 am | Permalink

          And you missed the point! You can’t use normal generational times in History! It’s History, so years are much shorter than normal. Or something.

          (Amusingly, Harrison’s lines can be applied just fine to clearly magical events in the Bible.)

    • truthspeaker
      Posted August 11, 2011 at 8:26 am | Permalink

      The Bible wasn’t published in its current form until the 4th Century AD. The “people who were there” were long dead.

      • Sajanas
        Posted August 11, 2011 at 8:42 am | Permalink

        And that’s not even considering the various different *Christian* ideas too. There were dozens of sects with very different notions of what the religion meant, with many different interpretations and texts.

        Not to mention that the New Testament has books that people at the time knew to be fakes, but got put in anyways.

        • Posted August 11, 2011 at 9:02 am | Permalink

          Indeed.

          Can you say, “Ophites”? Jesus as a snake god! Bet you didn’t see that one coming!

          Cheers,

          b&

    • Sajanas
      Posted August 11, 2011 at 8:40 am | Permalink

      Contemporary Pagans *did* object. At length, with pretty well reasoned arguments. The problem is that most of these accounts did not survive, except when quoted by some of the early Church fathers in their rebuttals. What I think is more likely to happen with further archaeology is not us finding more evidence of Jesus, but more examples of the diversity of early Christian thought (those non-Canon gospels are deeply weird), and examples of how Pagan intellectuals reacted to them.

  37. MadScientist
    Posted August 11, 2011 at 7:15 am | Permalink

    Aha – a human evolved from Rana overnight – so evolution is wrong!

  38. Duncan
    Posted August 15, 2011 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    It’s not really a crisis, no. I understand the logic of why Adam and Eve is a problem, in the first instance for literalists, but also in the second for Christians in general given the role which original sin plays in the story of what Jesus was supposed to be about, but realistically this a classic example of the sort of problem which believers are apt to overlook and say ‘well I’m sure it makes sense somehow’. No one will never give up their religion because of the empirical problems with the Adam and Eve story; I mean, you’re talking about a story in which a TALKING SNAKE plays a key role.

  39. Posted September 2, 2011 at 12:53 am | Permalink

    I’ve only just read that “former teacher at Calvin College” John Schneider was pressured to resign over this after 25 years at the college (and is now beginning a research fellowship at Notre Dame).

    My wife was remarking on a story on this issue in The Times this morning. She read out a quote from “a Creationist” along the lines of, if the story of Adam and Eve isn’t true we might as well throw away the Bible. Who’s that, says I. Ken Ham, she replies. Oh, him!

  40. rey
    Posted December 1, 2011 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    I’ve never believed the story of Adam and Eve eating the apple had any really relevance to religion. It always seemed like a cutesy little story. But Adam’s sin is his own and I never though Paul was right to use it as a basis for theology or to teach original sin. Even when I was an inerrantist (yikes!) I didn’t believe in it. How did I convince myself that the Bible was inerrant and yet believe Paul was wrong at the same time? Well, I posited he had been mistranslated and if I ever learned enough Greek to retranslate Romans, it would be clear that he didn’t teach this foolishness. Now I just admit he was a false apostle who smoked marijuana and had a hallucination. And the story of Adam and Eve’s apple eating is just a myth which is why it was always treated that way by Judaism and still is.

  41. Rayburne F.
    Posted October 6, 2012 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    It is disingenuous for Biologos to claim no evidence for Adam and Eve for several reasons. First, their conclusions are based on evolutionary assumptions. One cannot legitimately claim something to be proven without testing the assumptions behind that claim. To do otherwise amounts to circular reasoning and question begging, and a rejection of any alternative theory following from this is thus reduced to nothing more than a straw man argument. Second, the majority of data fit nicely into the straightforward biblical model, including a single starting couple a mere 6,000 years ago. While there are several unresolved issues with the biblical model as it relates to the data at hand, the same can be said about every evolutionary model, so one cannot conclude that the Bible has been invalidated by the available evidence. Albert Einstein is rumored to have opined, “A thousand experiments cannot prove me right. A single experiment can prove me wrong.” This is sound logic. Francis Collins and BioLogos would do well to heed his advice.


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  1. […] NPR: The veracity of Adam and Eve is a crisis for faith (whyevolutionistrue.wordpress.com) […]

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  4. […] as nebulous as patterns in clouds–interpreters always see what they need to see). As put by Jerry A. Coyne, “Theology is the art of making religious virtues out of scientific […]

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