SCIENCE tells us what Jesus looked like!

Here’s a headline and subheadline from yesterday’s AOL News.  You can immediately spot two things wrong with it:

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 6.49.34 AM

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Seriously? That’s a news headline? First of all, it presupposes that a historical Jesus really existed, with the implication that it’s the Jesus who did the stuff described in the Bible. Well, based on the lack of evidence, I’m not prepared to admit that there really was a person who served as a model for Bible Jesus. But a more obvious problem is that any forensic reconstruction of a person’s face demands that we have his or her remains, and of course that’s not the case for Jesus Person. After all, if we had Jesus’s skull, which is what we need to reconstruct the face, we’d have stronger evidence that Jesus really existed.

For example, you probably remember that the remains of King Richard III were found under a car park in Leicester in 2013, identified by DNA analysis, and then his facial features painstakingly reconstructed from the skull (the last link also gives an idea of what Richard sounded like, based on his letters).  Here’s his skull, an early painting, and then the reconstruction based on his remains:


Reconstruction based on skull:


Here’s a fascinating video showing how it was done:

Now, what about Jesus? Without a skull, what could they discern what he looked like? Well, they did something dumb, but it’s the best a believer can do. Christianity Today reports excitedly:

With this in mind, the research team acquired three well-preserved skulls from Jerusalem in Israel, where Jesus lived and preached.

Medical artist Richard Neave from The University of Manchester in England then took charge of evaluating the skulls. Using special computer programmes, his team was able to re-create the muscles and skins overlaying the skulls.

The skulls, however, did not provide two key pieces of information about Jesus’ appearance: his hair and his skin colour. To be able to determine these, the researchers analysed drawings found in various archaeological sites in Israel.

The research team ultimately concluded that Jesus had dark eyes, and was bearded following Jewish tradition.

As regards the length of Jesus’ hair, the researchers deviated from the common belief that Christ had long, straight hair. Instead, they assumed that Jesus Christ had short hair with tight curls, based on their analysis of the Holy Bible. [JAC: I don’t think the Holy Bible tells us anything about how Jesus’s hair looked!]

Well that’s certainly convincing, isn’t it? The chance that Jesus, if he really existed, looked like an amalgam of three random skulls dug up in Jerusalem (dates not given), is about nil. Nevertheless, they produced the image given below, which links to the AOL video (click on screenshot:

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What Jesus looked like!!!

Now who does that remind you of? I’ll let readers guess. Not only did they reconstruct the adult Jesus, but they also managed to reconstruct the 12-year-old Jesus, the one who confounded the temple Rabbis and went about his father’s work. To do that, they used the image from the bogus Shroud of Turin and then computer enhanced it. Here he is:

Screen Shot 2015-12-15 at 7.18.06 AM

Adolescent Jesus!!

I am SO convinced! But that’s going to cause a lot of consternation for Christians who were brought up thinking that Jesus looked Aryan, like this:


I mean, who would ever have thought that Jesus looked like a Jew from Palestine?

I’m not surprised that The Christian Post would claim that this dubious methodology can give us any idea of what Jesus looked like, but what disturbs me is how credible they (and AOL) are about thinking they have any meaningful result. The Christian Post argues that we have actually gained some information from this analysis (my emphasis in following):

For Christians, what Jesus Christ may have looked like has been a mystery. The New Testament of the Holy Bible does not provide any detailed description of Jesus Christ, nor have any drawings of Him been discovered. As a result, Christ has been depicted in various appearances by people from different times and cultures.

Fortunately, science may have found a way for Christians to finally find an answer to the age-old question of how Jesus Christ looks like.

Of course, for them it’s a given that a Jesus-person actually existed, so half the problem is solved right there. Then assume that he was, as the New Testament tells us, a Middle Eastern Jew (of course the Bible gives no description of Jesus), and you’re 3/4 of the way there. The rest is commentary—or rather, credulousness.

h/t: Jonathan S.


  1. Posted December 15, 2015 at 8:48 am | Permalink

    I can’t wait to see how many people try to use this as evidence that he existed (as described in the Bible).

    • Karl Heinz
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:51 am | Permalink

      One doesn’t need evidence when one has faith.

      /sarcasm off

      I don’t much care how the faithful thinks Jesus looked. I DO care when they get self-righteous, militant, and oh-so-ever-certain about it, which unfortunately seems to be happening more and more lately.

      Blond-haired, blue-eyed, Rock Star Jesus does look like a pretty righteous dude, though.

      • James Walker
        Posted December 15, 2015 at 10:09 am | Permalink

        One doesn’t need evidence when one has faith …

        … unless that evidence supports your beliefs, and then it’s front-page news.

  2. Robert bray
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    ‘. . . how Jesus Christ looked like.’

    Jesus Christ, get an editor!

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 8:54 pm | Permalink

      Worse, it actually reads, “how Jesus Christ looks like.”

      I’ll bet it was originally in the past tense till someone protested, “but he’s not dead!”

      Well, now that we know how he looked like, I hope they’ll work on what he looked.

  3. Matt G
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Jesus was a Neanderthal?? Now THAT is some archeology I can get behind!

    • colnago80
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:24 am | Permalink

      The depiction in the first image looks nothing like a Neanderthal. For one thing, it lacks the heavy brow ridges.

      However, given the appearance of Arab Jews today, it is, perhaps, not so far off from what the itinerant preacher known as Yeshua ben Yusef of Nazareth, if he existed, might have looked like. He certainly didn’t look anything like the 3rd image. And the 2nd image, purporting to show him at age 12 is even worse as it could be the image of a 12 year old girl.

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

      I thought there was something primitive-looking about that first pic too, Matt. Doesn’t help that it kind of has that “Doh!” expression.

      • Posted December 16, 2015 at 6:25 am | Permalink

        Yes, I’d rather perceive this portrait as a reconstruction of the rebel Baraba, or of the thief who was cricified together with Jesus and was unhappy to spend his last hours next to a man he considered a quack.

        • Posted December 16, 2015 at 7:57 am | Permalink

          Jesus answered him, “Truly I tell you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

          And Barabas answered, “You really do always look on the bright side of life, don’t you?”

          The latter verse isn’t found in most Bibles because the translators spilled coffee on the originals.

  4. Malgorzata
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    Just for the record: if the skulls were from the time of Jesus (real or imaginary person) he cannot resemble any Jew from “Palewstine”. The place was not called that. First in 2nd century, after crushing Shimon Bar Kokhba revolt (132 CE) Romans renamed Judea “Palestina” to erase its Jewishness.

  5. Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:04 am | Permalink

    I remember seeing something decades ago suggesting something similar: that you can use anthropologic evidence to get an idea of what Jesus looked like ( I think the gospels are probably based mostly on a single person)
    I forgot the details but I remember concluding the Jesus probably looked at lot like Jackie Mason.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 10:48 am | Permalink

      I also remember a skull reconstruction from decades ago. It was what the average man of the place and time would have looked like, and was also done by the Brits.

      I remember he had black/dark brown curly hair, dark brown skin, and brown eyes. I’m pretty sure that one was clean-shaven though.

      I guess the reality of what Jesus would have looked like if he was real didn’t catch on at the time. Like their scripture, Christians prefer a sanitized version. Reality isn’t important when you have faith.

      I’m completely fascinated by the whole Richard III business though. I really enjoyed seeing that again.

      • Posted December 16, 2015 at 6:28 am | Permalink

        As far as I know, facial hair is often put on reconstructed faces of males to reduce the work needed on the lower face. I’ve heard that someone put beard and nice moustache on an ancient skull… and only when it was too late, learned that the pelvis of the individual was preserved, and was female.

    • JohnnieCanuck
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 1:19 am | Permalink

      I recognise the reconstructed image of Jesus.

      This is not recent news. It is from a 2001 BBC One Television programme called Son of God. The reconstruction was done By Richard Neave from the University of Manchester.

      • Diane G.
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 1:25 am | Permalink

        This is Jesus. You can resurrect him anytime.

        • Posted December 16, 2015 at 1:47 am | Permalink


        • Matt G
          Posted December 16, 2015 at 5:33 am | Permalink

          Heck, you can SNACK on him anytime at a church near you!

          • JohnnieCanuck
            Posted December 16, 2015 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

            Just don’t try to kidnap him by taking him home with you in your pocket.

            Fussing and flapping and flying feathers and death threats can be the result when the priests and parishioners catch on.

  6. daniel bertini
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:07 am | Permalink

    What next?! What bilbo baggins really looked like!! How dumb is that!!

    • Randy Schenck
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:41 am | Permalink

      No, I think next is to determine what kind of tools he used. He was a carpenter right? So was he into craftman, stanley, irwin ? What great commercial value it would be for the tool company.

      • dan bertini
        Posted December 15, 2015 at 11:59 am | Permalink

        I prefer Milwaukee!! I doubt they were around back then!! May be Stanley was but creationists might disagree.

    • Posted December 16, 2015 at 6:29 am | Permalink

      I’m afraid, there aren’t enough H. floresiensis skulls for this.

  7. eric
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:09 am | Permalink

    Well the ‘dark eye’ thing is probably a decent educated guess. AIUI even today, the global frequency of blue eyes is less than 10% (though much higher in Europe and the US), and that’s with modern global travel and its associated genetic mixing. 2000 years ago in the Mideast? Brown eyes is definitely the bet-on favorite.

    • rickflick
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      I would assume dark hair would be most common in the gene pool as well. So probably more like Jackie Mason than Anita Ekberg.

      • eric
        Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:34 am | Permalink

        My in-house forensic analysis of Jesus’ remains also tells me he was right-handed.

        Amazing, isn’t it?

        • Matt G
          Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:45 am | Permalink

          Yes, but he batted right- and left-handed with equal facility.

        • Posted December 15, 2015 at 10:13 am | Permalink

          Well, you can’t argue with science!

      • Desnes Diev
        Posted December 15, 2015 at 11:34 am | Permalink

        Don’t you think that with white hair and beard he would offer a convincing picture of Santa CLaus?

        • rickflick
          Posted December 15, 2015 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

          But, we all know Santa is fiction.

      • DiscoveredJoys
        Posted December 15, 2015 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

        Prolly dark hair with bleached tips ‘cos of the halo…

        • rickflick
          Posted December 15, 2015 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

          That explains a lot. They didn’t have Frisbee or golden plate-ware back then after all.

  8. wejuli
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    Isaiah 53:2-3: “He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by mankind, a man of suffering, and familiar with pain. Like one from whom people hide their faces; he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.”

    In my bible days we took that to mean he was ugly and unattractive.

    • colnago80
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:32 am | Permalink

      This is in the Hebrew Bible and is a prophecy as to what the Jewish Messiah would look like. It is not an actual first person description of the actual Yeshua ben Yusef, if he existed.

      • Stephen
        Posted December 15, 2015 at 10:43 am | Permalink

        No Isaiah 53 is NOT a prophecy of the Messiah. The so-called “Suffering Servant” passages of which I53 is but a single example were interpreted by Jewish commentators as referring to the people of Israel. The Messiah was a triumphalist political leader modeled after King David not one who would be defeated and put to death. It was Christians who reinterpreted the “SS’ passages to refer to Jesus who obviously didn’t fit the profile of the expected Messiah.

    • jeremyp
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      That verse is clearly not talking about Jesus: Jesus cannot be described as having been rejected by mankind.

      I don’t think he was familiar with pain. As far as I know, according to the gospels*, he was only tortured once in his life, right at the end.

      * assuming they are not fiction, which is a very big assumption.

      • Matt G
        Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:56 am | Permalink

        According to Handel, he was despised, rejected, a man of sorrow, acquainted with grief.

        • Posted December 15, 2015 at 11:30 pm | Permalink

          Handel’s verse was taken from Isaiah 53.

          • Matt G
            Posted December 16, 2015 at 6:23 am | Permalink

            Isaiah says it in a short sentence or two. Handel drags it out to 10-15 minutes.

  9. gordon hill
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:21 am | Permalink

    Comic relief. Even if we know who his parents were and had pictures of his brothers and sisters… we would have no idea… still it is a evidence of creativity.

    • Kevin
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 10:52 am | Permalink

      Blind study. Someone needs to take the parents of several thousand kids and without knowing what the kids looked like, simulate what they looked like. I wonder how close they would come to the actually kids.

      Likewise, take a small village in Africa that does not have many ties to the outside world. Using only the parents, simulate what the kids will look like. I seriously doubt they will have much success.

      • Gordon Hill
        Posted December 15, 2015 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

        Right. For a small sample… look at the children of any couple…

  10. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    … if we had Jesus’s skull, which is what we need to reconstruct the face, we’d have stronger evidence that Jesus really existed.

    As well as proof positive He didn’t bodily ascend into heaven.

    • Posted December 16, 2015 at 6:32 am | Permalink

      If I understand correctly the subtext of these books, Heaven has been unaccessible to anyone in a human body ever since Adam and Eve were told to move out and find jobs.

  11. ToddP
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    They should be able to easily identify Jesus in those archaeological drawings. He’s the one with the American flag and guns.

  12. Dominic
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:27 am | Permalink

    The Aryan Jesus has strabismus!

    • Posted December 15, 2015 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

      That is why, no matter where you are, “Jesus is watching you!”

  13. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    I think it reasonable to reconstruct how ‘Jesus’ might have looked, assuming he ever existed. But they do not seem able to find words like ‘might’,or ‘may’, or ‘possibly’.

    • gluonspring
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 12:43 pm | Permalink

      It’s certainly reasonable to say, “Hey, get a clue, it’s exceedingly unlikely that any real Jesus looks like your Jesus postcard… Any real Jesus was more likely to look like a random middle eastern cab driver on a bad hair day..”

      I think the “reconstruction” they do is a service to a lot of Christians if it injects even that tiny amount of reality into their religion.

  14. Dominic
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:33 am | Permalink

    …Which reminds me we are in yuletide silly season –

  15. Dominic
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:41 am | Permalink

    A web meme – rehashed ‘zombie’ story that does not attribute a source? OK this is a bit more like it


  16. Frank Bath
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:43 am | Permalink

    Does anyone know where Mohammed’s skull might be?

    • reginaldselkirk
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:50 am | Permalink

      Burial places of founders of world religions

      Interesting article. I had never heard of Ahmadiyya, for example.
      The Ahmadiyya movement in Islam claims that the tomb of Jesus is in Srinagar Kashmir. The founder of the Ahmadiyya movement, Mirza Ghulam Ahmad claimed that Jesus lived until the age of 120 years and is buried there.

      • Posted December 15, 2015 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

        Other stories put Jesus in Glastonbury, England. And probably the Mormons think he’s somewhere in Missouri??

        If you took all the bits of wood sold as “genuine fragments of the cross” and assembled them into an actual cross, it would be hundred of feet high. So Jesus was a really BIG dude.

        Whatever. It’s all just a racket.

        • rickflick
          Posted December 15, 2015 at 7:05 pm | Permalink

          There must be enough wood there for a huge cross AND a huge racket.

    • Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:54 am | Permalink

      Muhammad is buried in the Al-Masjid an-Nabawi (“Mosque of the Prophet”) in the city of Medina in Saudi Arabia. But I do not think they wil let you take his skull. It is not allowed in Islam to make any pictures of Mohammed.

      • Matt G
        Posted December 15, 2015 at 10:08 am | Permalink

        Does this mean we can do a 3D virtual reconstruction as long as we don’t render an image of it? It would just be 1’s and 0’s, after all.

      • Dominic
        Posted December 15, 2015 at 10:36 am | Permalink

        We aren’t, so we can! But he probably looked a bit like Jesus…

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted December 15, 2015 at 10:59 am | Permalink

        There’s no more historical proof for Muhammad than there is for Jesus. Not being able to question Islam, the Qur’an etc. means everyone assumes he was real.

        There’s actually no archaeological evidence whatsoever that Mecca itself even existed at the time Muhammad was supposed to be alive. It was nowhere near the trading routes of the time, and there was no trading hub in the region.

  17. kieran
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    No halo, the historical documentary the life of Brian clearly show holy aura!

  18. reginaldselkirk
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    That reminds me of Monkey Jesus

  19. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    The “research team” did its reconstruction from three well-preserved skulls found in Jerusalem. So “Generic Jesus,” then? Fitting, I suppose, given the possibility that the Jesus of the Gospels is an amalgam of several First Century Galilean apocalyptic preachers.

    • reginaldselkirk
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:51 am | Permalink

      That is suspect methodology, considering that half of Jesus’ DNA came from outside the region (literally out of this world.).

      • Matt G
        Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:59 am | Permalink

        I would very much like to know the sequence of his Y chromosome.

        • Ken Kukec
          Posted December 15, 2015 at 10:17 am | Permalink

          What’re the odds it spells out, in UCAG code, “This is my Son with whom I am well pleased”?

          • eric
            Posted December 15, 2015 at 10:26 am | Permalink

            Or “Property of Xerg, galactic copyright #51706-A. If pet is found unattended, please return to the Blarg galaxy.”

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 10:05 am | Permalink

      Following Reginald Selkirk’s lead, I’d have thought that using 3 skulls from the period and from the home region of Nazareth, not from Jerusalem. But the whole project is so profoundly flawed from the start that it’s hardly worth the wombats.

    • Dominic
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      I put a link in comment 15 that you should look at – this is an old story revived for some reason. The internet constantly does this…

  20. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:56 am | Permalink

    I remember that image. Amazing that they haven’t made a better attempt in the intermediate 13 years:

    “From science and computers, a new face of Jesus

    By Jeordan Legon

    Thursday, December 26, 2002 Posted: 9:45 AM EST (1445 GMT)

    • Interview: Mike Fillon, writer of “The Real Face of Jesus”

    (CNN) — The Jesus pictured on the cover of this month’s Popular Mechanics has a broad peasant’s face, dark olive skin, short curly hair and a prominent nose. He would have stood 5-foot-1-inch tall and weighed 110 pounds, if the magazine is to be believed.

    This representation is quite different from the typical lithe, long-haired, light-skinned and delicate-featured depiction of the man Christians consider the son of God.

    Israeli and British forensic anthropologists and computer programmers got together to create the face featured in the 1.2-million circulation magazine, which occasionally veers from its usual coverage of motors and tools to cover the merger of science and religion. …

    “There is no way that we are saying this is the skull of Jesus,” Popular Mechanic’s Mike Fillon told CNN. “Christians believe … that Jesus’ entire body was resurrected, so there would never be any bones or skull or DNA evidence of Jesus. Plus, his ministry was very, very short. So it would be hard to find a lot of evidence.”

    Instead the article focuses on describing the painstaking effort of imagining the face and how science and theology both played a part in the process.

    Despite the concerns about accuracy, Alison Galloway, a professor of anthropology at the University of California in Santa Cruz, told Popular Mechanics that: “This is probably a lot closer to the truth than the work of many great masters.””

    [ ]

    So what is up with the sourcing in journals today? I had to do an image search to test my memory. :-/

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 10:04 am | Permalink

      Also, see Dominic’s comment!

      • Dominic
        Posted December 15, 2015 at 10:41 am | Permalink

        I call these stories ‘web zombies’ as they never die. It is the same with various internet lies – I always like to check sources as much as possible. Maybe that is why I like working in a library – I am a pedant!

    • Barney
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 2:52 pm | Permalink

      It must be great to write one article in 2002 for Popular Mechanics, then get is republished in the same magazine 12 years later, and then a year later in Esquire. I guess you have to be careful not to write anything that fixes a date. Your work then gets picked up by hundreds of news sites as if it’s new. And none seem to notice it’s old, or have anyone working for them who remembers this image has been around for years (thus showing they don’t actually care, they just see a handy Christmas filler story).

      I think it’s fitting that this all came from a 2001 TV documentary that first aired on April 1st.

      At least the reconstruction artist, Richard Neave, appears to be still alive (born in 1936, according to Wikipedia, so it was by no means guaranteed in the 14 years since he did the work). I bet none of them checked he was.

      • Torbjörn Larsson
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 6:15 am | Permalink

        Wow. Thanks!

  21. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 10:07 am | Permalink

    … they assumed that Jesus Christ had short hair with tight curls …

    Wonder if the kids at shul teased Jesus with a First Century Nazarene version of “the Dozens”:

    Yo’ hair is nappy
    Who’s yo’ pappy?

  22. Posted December 15, 2015 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    I’ve seen that Jesus “reconstruction” before. Quite some time ago. It’s ridiculous. It’s entirely intended to be click-bait. Candy for the Christers.

    “For Christians, what Jesus Christ may have looked like has been a mystery.”

    BS. I’d wager a significant sum that most xians are sure of what Jesus looked like, gently wavy golden hair and all. I would also guess that, cognitive dissonance being the name of their game, that they would take this “reconstruction” as some kind of proof of Jesus’ existence while still imagining that Aryan Jesus will greet them at the Pearly Gates.

    • Benjamin Branham
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 10:26 am | Permalink


  23. Jacques Hausser
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 10:13 am | Permalink

    This remember me that in Honfleur, Normandy, France, it is a little “Alphonse Allais museum” where you can admire such things like the skull of Voltaire when a child (in french: le crâne de Voltaire enfant).
    Alphonse Allais, the great inventor of the cup with the handle on the left side for lefthandled persons, would have liked this reconstitution of Jesus.

  24. Beau Quilter
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Even among historical biblical scholars who happen to be atheist, the vast majority take it for granted that there was a real apocalyptic rabbi (Jesus) who was the basis for the gospel tales (minus the miracles, of course). It’s the most obvious explanation for the writings that exist. The letters of Paul (the undisputed ones) in particular seem to be talking about a man that actually lived and the people that knew him – not some sort of celestial character.

    Besides the only fairly legitimate scholar with a peer-reviewed alternative theory to explain Paul’s references to Jesus is Richard Carrier, who recently said on his blog that you (Jerry Coyne), Peter Boghossian, and Richard Dawkins. “act like white privilege is awesome, pontificate infallibly like the Pope, and don’t understand any of the things they complain about.” He adds later that “Coyne is not very bright”.

    I think Carrier is full of it.

    • Stephen
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 10:54 am | Permalink

      Agreed. Folks outside the field have little idea how fringe and non-seriously Jesus mythicism is viewed by actual historians. These folks view mythicists the same way evolutionists view creationists which is somewhat ironic.

      I can report however that according to Bart Ehrman over at his blog he has agreed to debate Robert Price in the spring.

      • reginaldselkirk
        Posted December 15, 2015 at 11:15 am | Permalink

        Does Ehrman intend to actually debate the evidence, or just call names and question his academic legitimacy?

        • Stephen
          Posted December 15, 2015 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

          Ehrman has always debated the evidence. He likes Robert Price and says he thinks the debate will be a lot of fun. It’s Richard Carrier he thinks is an asshole.

      • Posted December 15, 2015 at 11:49 am | Permalink

        But what are the *arguments*? I don’t see any, myself:

        is useful – even if the mythicist viewpoint is not convincing to you.

    • Cindy
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      Carrier has a large ego.

    • Posted December 15, 2015 at 11:45 am | Permalink

      I just flittered over to Carrier’s page. In that particular post, he strikes me as using Jerry for his clickbait and seems to derive pleasure from thinking he (Carrier) is smarter than Jerry. It’s a narcissistic display and a cheap and sad tactic.

      • Diane G.
        Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:10 pm | Permalink

        Just another whine for attention. I suspect it infuriates Carrier that Jerry ignores him.

    • Paul S
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 11:49 am | Permalink

      If you discount the miracles, you’re no longer talking about biblical Jesus. At that point all you have is a guy with followers wandering around possibly named Jesus or maybe Fred, so sure you can say he was historical.

      • Beau Quilter
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

        Well, the non-miracle working Jesus is as worth studying as any other historical religious/philosophical figure. Much of what we know about Socrates and Buddha is also diluted with legend.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

      The letters of Paul (the undisputed ones) in particular seem to be talking about a man that actually lived …

      You mean the real resurrected man that appeared to Paul in a vision, along with a voice from the sky, after he was struck blind on the Road to Damascus — that real man?

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 15, 2015 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

        ‘Cause nothing says truth-claim credibility like a conversion experience involving blind visions of the dead and disembodied voices from the sky — especially from a guy for whom nearly half the Epistles attributed to him in the New Testament were written by somebody else.

        • Beau Quilter
          Posted December 16, 2015 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

          If what you were describing were the actual mythicist position, you might have a point. But Carrier and other mythicists don’t argue that Paul invented an earthly Jesus and that we must question his credibility. Mythicists explain Paul’s references to Jesus by saying that Paul believed in Jesus who preached, died, and was buried on a mystical heavenly plain – and that the “earthly” Jesus was invented later. It’s a bizarre interpretation of Pauline writing.

      • Beau Quilter
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

        No, the real man, who had a brother named James and a large number of followers who Paul had met and spoken to. That real man. Benny Hinn’s “miracles” are a complete fantasy. Unfortunately, Benny Hinn, the man, exists.

        • reasonshark
          Posted December 16, 2015 at 4:42 pm | Permalink

          OK. How do you know he had a brother called James? How do you know the people Paul spoke to were actual witnesses, and not e.g. the crowd of hallucinators mentioned after Cephas et al in one of his letters? You’re not telling me you and the rest of the historians unquestioningly believe the word of a man whose authority over other believers comes from claiming to have met the Son of God in a vision? Did con men, liars, religious nuts, and gulls so rare in the first century a.d. that the idea of them is unanimously unlikely?

          • Beau Quilter
            Posted December 16, 2015 at 11:34 pm | Permalink

            How do we “know” anything we read from ancient sources are true. Most ancient writers would be considered “religious nuts” by today’s standards. I’m quite prepared to believe that Paul was a “religious nut”. That doesn’t make him a liar. How do you “know” he’s a liar?

            Yes, I know that you can come up with better historical sources than Paul. Roman historians with impressive resources begin to cite historical references just a few centuries later. But that doesn’t mean that historians dismiss all other written sources as worthless or as lies.

            Early Christian writings developed among a highly religious community in highly religious age, in which myths and legendary embellishments were easily believed, and, of course, miracle stories grew in these communities as they did in many others. Historians who study these communities and their writings often attempt to separate the fact from the fiction.

            But fiction is not the default. Miracle legends grew around Paul and many other early Christian “saints”, but it’s clear that most of these people existed, though their miracles did not. The mythicist notion that Jesus did not exist (while Paul did) requires evidence. In the case of Jesus, the most parsimonious explanation is that the legends grew around an actual rabbi.

    • reasonshark
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

      The most obvious explanation for the writings is that someone back then was either gullibly obsessed with a wizard character or expecting a lot of other people to be. The closest to a reliable witness – who isn’t even a witness – is Paul, and he and his allies proudly reveal that they daydreamed Jesus, and were so impressed by this daydream that they jumped straight into apocalyptic preaching and moralising. The second closest is the handful of off-hand comments made only in the following century, by historians who either have been tampered with since or had remarked on Christ as an unsourced parenthesis to some larger one-paragraph point about those nuisance Christians at the time. That makes one hallucination and one set of posthumous could’nt-give-a-craps.

      The level of confidence in Jesus’ real existence is disproportionate to the level of evidence for it.

      • Beau Quilter
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

        There were lot’s of “Jesus”‘s in the ancient world, religious figures with followings, influence and miracle claims. Hell, there are plenty of preachers with large followings and fake miracle claims today! Historians don’t question the “existence” of Apollodorus of Tyana, though everybody questions his miracles – and we have even less writing about him than about Jesus, especially in the same century that he lived.

        It is mythicism that has virtually no evidence. Have you read mythicist theory? They don’t say that Paul “invented” an earthly Jesus – they say that Paul believed in Jesus as some sort of mystical heavenly figure. And that when Paul speaks of Jesus death and burial, he thinks of it as a mystical heavenly death and burial. Mythicism is a bizarre interpretation of Pauline writing with no evidence.

        • reasonshark
          Posted December 16, 2015 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

          The fact that there were multiple people called Jesus at the time does not mean this particular Jesus was one of them. There were plenty of people during World War II called John, but that doesn’t constitute positive evidence for the existence of John Frum of the Cargo Cults. People rightfully acknowledge that the origin of that myth is obscure. Also, John Smith managed to invent a new religious movement with just an unseen angel and some unseen tablets, so why couldn’t Paul et al have got the ball rolling with a vision of a figure no one had actually met? As for Apollodorus (Appolonius?), I’ve already made my point below.

          I don’t subscribe to any particular mythicist theory, but then I don’t need to. It’s sufficient for me to point out that, in Paul’s writings, there’s barely anything that can be ascribed to Jesus once you strip away all the fantasy elements. Combined with his insistence on only ever encountering this figure through visions or second-hand talk of people who in turn are only ever reported to have visions, and I don’t think it’s incredible to suggest there was no real-world Jesus to spark the myths. After all, he was hardly needed.

          I actually think the whole thing is inconclusive given the limited evidence, which is why it seems extremely inappropriate to speak as if Jesus’ existence were unquestionable.

          • Beau Quilter
            Posted December 16, 2015 at 3:50 pm | Permalink

            I’m not sure the point that you’re making about multiple people called Jesus. When I referred to “lots” of ‘Jesus’s in the ancient world, I meant lots ancient historical people around whom legends have grown – not lot’s of people with the name “Jesus”. Sorry. I thought that was clear from the context.

            If you don’t “count” the writings about the man (legendary or not), you could doubt the existence of almost anyone in ancient history. The existence of an actually itinerant rabbi named Jesus preaching some of the messages attributed to the gospels may not be “conclusive” in the sense of “provable”, but it’s the best explanation for the writing that exists.

            Joseph Smith and Mormonism is a useful analogy to show that religions can be invented and grow in a very short time; but I don’t think it’s a good analogy for Jesus historicity. Joseph Smith was inventing angels and ancient people, not men who lived alongside him. On the other hand, there are plenty of miracle legends surrounding Joseph Smith, but nobody doubts that Joseph Smith existed.

            • reasonshark
              Posted December 16, 2015 at 4:30 pm | Permalink

              My point about multiple Jesus’ is the same either way: there were plenty of Johns during World War II, but this doesn’t lend more than basic plausibility to the idea that John Frum was a real figure. Before you overinterpret that, it means that you need specific reasons to think this particular individual had an existence independent of the reports. Which leads to my second point:

              If you don’t “count” the writings about the man (legendary or not),

              Ah, but therein lies the rub. What is not legendary about the Son of God being born of a woman, being crucified, and appearing in a vision to people, while mainly being used to promote the message that God will end the world one day, so you’d better be on your best behaviour when he comes?

              This isn’t some independently verifiable character who was sometimes mythologized and other times recorded with unremarkable historical accounts. Literally none of the writings about him in the first and second centuries can speak of the man in any detail without myriads of obvious absurdities and conflicts of detail. The earliest putative writings aren’t written by someone with access to Roman historical documents, as say Tacitus would have been able to procure, but by someone whose claim to fame is a mystical vision.

              You’ve compared Jesus to Apollonius, but at least Apollonius has some putative documents penned by himself. Jesus has the second-hand writings of johnny-come-latelys who were quite prepared to believe so many mythical things already. If it’s most plausible that a story this crazy was loosely based on real life events, it can’t be by a wide margin.

              Also, you’re taking the analogy of John Smith way too literally. John Smith got people to fervently believe in the existence of gold tablets and their recorded history without any evidence that either ever existed. Paul was talking about a Son of God who appeared to him in a vision, and he’s the earliest writer on the figure. In light of this credulity of religious followers, we should be less confident in suggesting that the Jesus story is best explained by a real-world analogue that got it started.

              Again, my position is that it’s strictly inconclusive. What I disagree with is not the idea that a Jesus existed is implausible. What I disagree with is the disproportionate confidence that leads to people dismissing outright the alternative hypothesis, especially when the evidence is so insubstantial.

              • Beau Quilter
                Posted December 16, 2015 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

                As far as Apollonius goes, “putative” is the key word. There are “putative” letters by Apollonius and there are “putative” sermons and sayings by Jesus. But the writings about both are by “johnny-come-latelys” who believe lots of mythological things. And they are not that late – they are within a century. Even purely mythological characters, like Odin or Zeus, are products of centuries of storytelling. When you look past the miracle stories about Jesus, you are not left with nothing – you are left with an itinerant rabbi who walked around small towns, fished in boats, preached in synagogues, mixed with poor communities rather than royalty, and voiced apocalyptic messages not unlike other messianic contemporaries. The non-miraculous part of Jesus life is not the sort of thing one would make up out of whole cloth.

                I’m not saying the existence of any ancient historical character is “provable”. Only that a historical figure is a much more likely basis for the early Christian writings than a completely mythological person.

              • reasonshark
                Posted December 16, 2015 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

                That “putativeness” issue is exactly my point, but I don’t think you grasp the implications. Both are shaky, both contain much nonsense, and both are non-contemporaneous, which lends itself well at best to memory bias and distortion, as we know from modern psychology. But as I said, even Apollonius has a plausible contemporary document attributed to him. Jesus doesn’t even have a temporary document.

                Your logic with the mundane details in a mythical story is simply fallacious. It’s one thing to expect independent evidence that’s more credible than the mythologizing. It’s quite another to look for that evidence in the mythologizing texts themselves. As Ben Goren put the analogy, Harry Potter must be credible because it mentions Charing Cross Station and a boy going to a boarding school, and this is not the sort of thing one would make up out of whole cloth. Is this where the huge leap that puts realism on a more credible level than mythologizing comes from?

                This is precisely the sort of overconfident assertion that I’m talking about. Why is it not the sort of thing one would make up out of whole cloth, especially if you’re already convinced that the real Son of God has appeared to you in a vision? Is it really that unthinkable that a religious nut, obsessed with what the man he met in the pub told him, would circulate or even “helpfully adjust” a miraculous story with basic everyday details? It’s not unheard of for wild stories to grow rapidly in spite of a lack of evidence: again, the Cargo Cults and Mormonism provide a couple of recent examples.

                There’s a world of difference between plausibility and likelihood. Your points still haven’t crossed from the former to the latter.

    • pali
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

      When you get rid of the miracles, which there are no evidence of, when you get rid of the tens of thousands of followers, which there are no evidence of, when you get rid of the political stunts like throwing people out of temples, which there are no evidence of… exactly how Jesus is this real Jesus that is posited?

      Say, a thousand years from now, there is a cult of Elvis (considering how many already refuse to accept that he’s dead, this isn’t that absurd a comparison). This cult believes in an Elvis who was a painter, had blonde hair, had very few fans, hated to dance and wasn’t big into music. Exactly how correct are we to say that this cult’s figure is actually Elvis, rather than a mythical creation, when all of the details are wrong? If we believed George Washington was a black slave who earned his freedom helping the British fight against the American Revolution, are we actually believing in the REAL George Washington, or are we believing in a myth, even though there was an important guy with the same name at the time?

      A mythical character can very, very easily be based on a real person – but that doesn’t stop the mythical character from being myth.

      • Ralph
        Posted December 15, 2015 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

        Exactly. Ben has made this point several times on here, I recall. A “historical figure” has to have some notable defining properties. To say claim that there is a “real historical figure”, defined as somebody with a common name who did nothing remarkable? That’s an empty statement, it’s unfalsifiable.

        • Beau Quilter
          Posted December 16, 2015 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

          Who was Socrates and what did he do? Was he actually an influential philosopher who said important things, or simply a figure through whom Plato could invent dialogues and Aristophanes could invent comedy?

          Who was Gautama Buddha? How do we separate the man from the stories told about him?

          Is it worthless to consider figures from the ancient world whose lives are heavily filtered through legend and agenda? Because Jesus isn’t the only such figure. Not by a long shot.

          • Ralph
            Posted December 16, 2015 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

            Ok, this is my question – and its a real question – I’m not just trying to be argumentative here, you obviously know far more about the scholarship than I do.

            “Socrates” has some clearly defined unique and remarkable properties – i.e. his philosophical ideas, as expounded by Plato et al. A person with these strikingly original ideas and beliefs may or may not have really existed more-or-less as described by Plato – but either way, that’s a fairly well-defined proposition that is (in principle) falsifiable.

            As for “Jesus”, you said above:
            “There were lot’s of “Jesus”‘s in the ancient world, religious figures with followings, influence and miracle claims. Hell, there are plenty of preachers with large followings and fake miracle claims today!”

            That being so, I hope you’d agree, if “Jesus” has no other significant defining properties than being such a preacher, then the claim that he is a real historical figure is unfalsifiable – it’s essentially meaningless.

            The question, then – what exactly is the falsifiable proposition? What are the unique and remarkable defining characteristics of the claimed real historical figure? No miracles; but are other characteristics or specific non-miraculous exploits as described in the bible attributed to this person?

            • reasonshark
              Posted December 16, 2015 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

              If we go by the Pauline epistles, which are the earliest documents according to the scholars, then Jesus’ particular, no-nonsense biography is, as far as I can make out:

              1. Born of a woman.

              2. Had a last meal which later justified the communion.

              3. Was betrayed by Jews.

              4. Was crucified.

              5. Cephas, James, 500 followers, and eventually Paul himself – according to Paul’s writings – had visions at different times that propelled their religious conversion.

              I did consider “passed on apocalyptic message”, but as far as I know, Paul et al’s instructions came from his visions, not the man himself, so it shouldn’t really count.

              • Beau Quilter
                Posted December 16, 2015 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

                Figuring out which ancient writings “count” and which don’t isn’t really reflective of any sort of historical methodology. Historians try to parse fact from legend in all ancient writings. And virtually all ancient writers were more or less religious and agenda driven.

              • reasonshark
                Posted December 16, 2015 at 4:58 pm | Permalink

                My point in picking Paul is that he’s the closest thing to a credibly close-enough “witness” to be considered the first call for checking historical accuracy, since his writings are based on hearsay, revelation, and second-hand accounts from only a decade or two after the alleged crucifixion date. If Paul is the main starting point and earliest record of Jesus’ life story, he’s a conspicuously vague and unhelpful one.

                And virtually all ancient writers were more or less religious and agenda driven.

                Nowhere near to the same degree; that’s like saying virtually all writers are inaccurate. Yes, but there’s making a minor error that a few experts could pick up, and then there’s loading your writing with obvious nonsense a layman could call out.

                At one end, you’ve got Tacitus, whose writings suggest more scrupulous attention to detail and are at least mundanely plausible in context. At the other, you’ve got Paul and the Gospels, who are remarkably credulous to the slightest miracle or mythical detail on page after page, interspliced with varying and pontificating moralism.

            • Beau Quilter
              Posted December 16, 2015 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

              It’s a good question, and you’ve actually touched on a very important historical point about Socrates. Socrates historians debate how much (if any) of the material in the Socratic dialogues actually reflect the teachings of Socrates and how much actually reflects the agenda of Plato. The same distinction is made between the words in the gospels attributed to Jesus and the agendas of the gospel writers.

              • Ralph
                Posted December 16, 2015 at 4:37 pm | Permalink

                Well, yes, that was my entire point. “Socrates” means something. It entails our understanding of his ideas. Perhaps not all of them, but there must at least be some resemblance. If it turns out that all of the notable “Socratic” philosophy was devised by Plato and only attributed to Socrates as a rhetorical device, then Socrates was not a real historical figure. And it would not change matters to show that some unremarkable fellow existed who carried that name but bore no resemblance whatsoever to Plato’s portrayal.

                Likewise, if all of the notable properties of “Jesus” were inventions, then it does not make any sense to claim that Jesus existed as a historical figure.

                “Jesus” has to mean something other than a name. If there’s a claim that a real historical Jesus existed, then that person must be proven to retain at least SOME of the remarkable characteristics of the person described in the bible. Otherwise the goalposts have simply been moved to an unfalsifiable position.

              • rickflick
                Posted December 16, 2015 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

                You could say that the name Socrates stand for (means) the set of ideas that are attributed to him. Since he is not considered divine by scholars, it his the set of beliefs that are of interest and value to us today. The identity of Socrates is of only academic interest.
                With Jesus, you could say he stands for a set of ideas and supernatural events and relationships. The alleged divinity of Jesus means he is seen not just as the ideas but as the being who manifested the supernatural events. His identity then becomes important for believers.

          • reasonshark
            Posted December 16, 2015 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

            Worthless? No. But there’s a reason police are wary about relying on tampered or weak evidence, and if history is given the same skeptical scrutiny as any other science, we shouldn’t be surprised if some claims aren’t as “unquestionable” as they once seemed.

      • Beau Quilter
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 1:47 pm | Permalink

        You are not actually describing the mythicist position. Most historians believe that there are many legendary elements in the life of Jesus. There are also many legendary elements in the life of Socrates, Alexander, Buddha, Julius Caesar, Romulus, and most ancient figures.

        But this is not the mythicist position. Carrier has a convoluted theory that Pauline writing (and other early Christian writings) refer to some sort of mystical version of Jesus who preached, died, and was buried on heavenly plain. It’s a strange interpretation of Paul with little precedent in religious beliefs of the time and virtually no evidence.

        • reasonshark
          Posted December 16, 2015 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

          You’re confusing a version of the Christ myth theory with the general hypothesis. Wikipedia puts it simply as:

          “The Christ myth theory (also known as the Jesus myth theory, Jesus mythicism or simply mythicism) is the hypothesis that Jesus of Nazareth never existed; or if he did, that he had virtually nothing to do with the founding of Christianity and the accounts in the gospels.”

          I think pali fits this description fine, as his Elvis example fits the second clause. Whether or not he agrees with Carrier’s particular case is a separate issue.

          • Beau Quilter
            Posted December 16, 2015 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

            It’s true that Carrier’s mythicism doesn’t represent all Christ myth theory; it is simply the only version of Christ myth theory that has been subjected to any degree of academic peer review whatsoever.

            • reasonshark
              Posted December 16, 2015 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

              This academic peer review has allowed such arguments as the argument from embarrassment to pass muster. Excuse me if I remain skeptical that the reviewing process has been adequately tested.

              Your own arguments have been generally fine for a level of plausibility in the real figure idea, but a 100% consensus for the idea strikes me as fishy regardless. Even climate change, a far more precise science, has only garnered about 97% consensus, and the level of evidence for that is a mountain by comparison.

              • Beau Quilter
                Posted December 16, 2015 at 5:18 pm | Permalink

                I am an atheist, so I don’t have a theistic dog in this race. I just find it fishy that so many atheists with little to no historical training are so eager to be “skeptical” of the academic consensus on this particular subject. There are a number of atheist biblical scholars. And yet only one peer-reviewed academic theory on mythicism. In this post, we’ve only touched on the barest outlines of historical scholarship on the 1st century origins of Christianity.

              • reasonshark
                Posted December 16, 2015 at 5:40 pm | Permalink

                I am an atheist, so I don’t have a theistic dog in this race.

                I didn’t say you did. But if the quality of their arguments includes such arguments as the one you presented me earlier – the “credible details mixed with mythologized nonsense” argument – then skepticism of the mismatch between strength of argument and strength of confidence is warranted. Appeals to authority only go so far.

              • Beau Quilter
                Posted December 16, 2015 at 11:45 pm | Permalink

                reasonshark, I’m going to have to discontinue this conversation. I’m not sure why, but most of your responses to me are not followed by a “reply” link. If I cannot respond to your comments directly, it’s impossible to have a useful give and take.

        • Pali
          Posted December 16, 2015 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

          Having read none of Carrier’s work beyond a few blog posts, I know little of it and don’t particularly care to discuss it. MY position is that the “historical” Jesus posited by the historians you refer to is a completely empty character, one we know absolutely nothing about once the biblical nonsense is stripped away. This is emphatically NOT the case for, say, Julius Caesar, where while elements of his story have been made legend, we DO know that he conquered much of Gaul, that he ruled Rome for a short time, and various other details of his life that are confirmed by contemporary sources. Alexander may not have been borne of a goddess, but again, we have enough real details of his life from contemporaries that we can point to a specific individual and say he did crush the Persian Empire.

          Socrates may or may not have been real, but the truth is, his “realness” doesn’t really matter. Whether the ideas attributed to him are Plato’s inventions or not, they exist and their merits can be appreciated independently. This is not the case for religious figures like Jesus, for whom the existence or lack thereof is profoundly important to the beliefs of billions today because these beliefs are based on what Jesus supposedly DID, not the philosophical questions he put forward. If Socrates came to wrong conclusions, cool, we can examine the logic, where it went wrong, learn from it… but that is as far as it goes. But if Jesus wasn’t born of a virgin, didn’t perform miracles, wasn’t crucified and didn’t come back from the dead, then Christianity is WRONG and the life-defining beliefs of billions are destroyed.

          And historians are not helping this issue when they say they think there was a Jesus. When the historian says that, what they really mean is “we think, based on textual analysis and comparison with other mythical figures of the time, there is reason to think it likely that the biblical character of Jesus was based at least in part on the life of one of many wandering apocalyptic preachers of the time.” But what most people, and particularly Christians, hear is just “historians think Jesus was real!” No. They don’t. The Biblical Jesus is pure myth.

          • Beau Quilter
            Posted December 16, 2015 at 5:30 pm | Permalink

            You may not care to discuss Carrier’s work, but you probably would be discussing the topic at all without it. There are few actual historians who are proponents of this idea, and only one – Carrier – who has even bothered to write about it in peer review.

            This idea that historical figures are “invented” as mythologies within a generation of the time they lived is rarely suggested by historians and requires evidence of it’s own, not just a “lack” of evidence.

            You are revealing your real bias in the way you differentiate Socrates and Jesus. Yes. Billions of people worship Jesus. And you would clearly like to “destroy” that belief system. But that fact does not improve your evidence for mythicism in any rational way; it is only a statement of why you might be biased in favor of it.

            • reasonshark
              Posted December 16, 2015 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

              This idea that historical figures are “invented” as mythologies within a generation of the time they lived is rarely suggested by historians and requires evidence of it’s own, not just a “lack” of evidence.

              Well, we “lack” evidence that John Smith fabricated his own idiosyncratic history, his golden tablets, and his encounter with an angel, and got Mormonism going pretty quickly. Perhaps we could assume that the most plausible account of this is that Smith found some ordinary tablets and made a myth out of them? Cargo Cult and Scientology are other contemporary examples of nonsense – recently invented – being elevated to full-blown religions with canons within a lifetime. And as I’ve pointed out, Paul – the closest thing to a contemporaneous chronicler – got his details from a vision and from possibly-vision-met worshippers, but not by actually meeting the Jesus in the flesh.

              Pali can answer for himself, but it is no skin off my atheist nose if Jesus had a real-world analogue. That’s merely a distinction between 95% bullshit and 99% bullshit, so all a Christian follower has to gain from the debate is a deluded apocalyptic nutball with cultish leanings and shoddy philosophies attached to him.

              No, what bothers me is the disconnect between the confidence in the realist assertion over the mythicist one, despite the former consistently being propped up by surprisingly weak argumentation. Why this is the case is an interesting but strictly parenthetical issue, so no suggesting I’m accusing atheist scholars of conspiring with Christian apologists, if you please.

              • Beau Quilter
                Posted December 16, 2015 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

                Reasonshark, why do you assume there is a historical Paul? We know some his letters are bogus; why not all of them? With all the ridiculous miracle stories that were written about him, shouldn’t that shake our confidence that Paul existed at all?

                Your assumption that Paul existed is propped up by surprisingly weak argumentation.

            • Pali
              Posted December 16, 2015 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

              Please do not make assumptions about me or where my ideas are coming from. I’ve had doubts about the existence of an actual Jesus for far longer than I’ve been visiting atheist sites online, which are the only places I’ve ever found discuss of Carrier’s work. I am also posting from work during breaks, so my time for proof-reading is limited – the moment after I posted I wished I could edit “destroyed” to “without basis” and remove the aggressive connotation that you apparently picked up on. Also, I don’t know how to do italics here, so using all caps for emphasis is done instead – it’s not supposed to be yelling.

              I do not claim wholesale invention as Carrier apparently does, or as I believe is regular commenter Ben Goren’s position. I am claiming that the Biblical Jesus (BJ) character is defined by many attributes, and nearly all of the attributes unique to BJ have nothing to do with any identified individual in history. Therefore I think it fallacious to claim that we have evidence of an historical Jesus, when this historical person could have been any of dozens or hundreds of similar preachers. This is not the case with the legendary character of Julius Caesar – we can tie the legends to a specific historical person who did specific things.

              Yes, the difference between Socrates and Jesus here is purely in the consequences. We have no way to know whether or not he was made up by Plato, just as we have no way to know whether or how much BJ was made up by early Christians. The lack of any contemporary mention of him leads me to think that more falls under made up than not, particularly given how spectacular many of the things he supposedly did were. I also think that the further BJ gets from the actions of any particular person or persons, the less accurate it is to claim that they are in any real way the same person. Still-Alive Elvis is not Elvis, but he’s pretty close. Still-Alive blonde painter who hates dancing Elvis is so far removed from the actual person that it makes little sense to me to claim that he is still based on the actual person.

              • Beau Quilter
                Posted December 16, 2015 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

                Thanks for the clarifications and I’m sorry if I mischaracterized you.

              • pali
                Posted December 17, 2015 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

                No worries. You’ve been managing a lot of conversations at once here. 🙂

  25. Benjamin Branham
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 10:25 am | Permalink

    I don’t see how any “scientific” information could actually be consisted relevant. If we find a skull then he obviously didn’t rise bodily after his death. If he was conceived of a virgin than he wouldn’t necessarily be any more similar to Mary that any gestational surrogate born child is to their surrogate mother.

    I think the reason a lot of anthropologists say a historical jesus likely existed is because there were SO MANY people claiming to be prophets. Appolonius of Tyana seems to be the go to example of just how similar some of them were to the alleged Jesus Person.

    • Beau Quilter
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 10:34 am | Permalink

      And no one really questions whether there was a “real” Appolonius of Tyana. Its just the miracles that are bogus.

      • reasonshark
        Posted December 15, 2015 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

        Really? Considering how apocryphal and ambiguous the evidence is, it doesn’t strike me as obviously ridiculous to suggest he might not have really existed. The most compelling evidence of his existence is a collection of letters credited to him, though some of these are of dubious title, and there’s a fragment of On Sacrifices that probably was written by him. Philostratus was writing over a century after the man’s death, though at least he claims to have had access to documents and memoirs in-between his transparent mythologizing.

        Relatively speaking, that’s a considerable step up from the evidence for Jesus’ existence, though, which was full of increasing amounts of mythologized fantasy from Paul onwards, and consisted of nothing that could claim to be contemporary or direct.

        • Beau Quilter
          Posted December 16, 2015 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

          Well, if your only argument is that it is not “obviously ridiculous to suggest” that Jesus or Appolonius might not have existed, then I’m not really inclined to argue with you. Most historians find this unlikely, though.

          • reasonshark
            Posted December 16, 2015 at 5:03 pm | Permalink

            Actually, my argument has included the shaky basis behind the “evidence” invoked in the realist position, the lack of sufficiently independent sources to separate a real figure from the myth, the questioning of the idea that the most parsimonious explanation is realism – and certainly the idea that this entails unanimous agreement – and the general point of the uncertainty of much of historical evidence because of the inconclusive nature of said events.

            I won’t accuse you of strawmanning, but I hope your future comments contain more good faith than was demonstrated here.

            • Beau Quilter
              Posted December 16, 2015 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

              The lack of independent sources? What’s an independent source?

              How have I “straw-manned” you?

              • reasonshark
                Posted December 16, 2015 at 5:45 pm | Permalink

                Independent source? Pali gave a good example with Julius Caesar earlier. And your straw-manning comes from claiming my “only argument is that it is not “obviously ridiculous to suggest” that Jesus or Appolonius might not have existed”. Well, no, that’s not my only argument. I have also pointed out where your arguments in favour of raising realism over mythicism don’t work. For a recent example, I’ve pointed out that your argument from credible details mixed with the mythology does not entail treating “it’s a true account mixed with mythology” as automatically more likely than “it’s a myth”, and not much more likely.

            • Beau Quilter
              Posted December 16, 2015 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

              Incidentally, if you’d like to see an excellent example of strawmanning, take a look at Richard Carrier’s recent blog post strawmanning Jerry Coyne:


              • reasonshark
                Posted December 16, 2015 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

                Always your obsession with Richard Carrier. In that case, let me nip this flower in the bud: I don’t care what an asshole and a moron Carrier is. My point is unrelated to whatever particular idiocies and attacks he’s publishing. And I’m no more convinced by your ad hominem here than I was by your repeated appeals to authority elsewhere.

            • Beau Quilter
              Posted December 16, 2015 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

              I’m replying again here because we have run out of “reply” prompts below.

              I apologize if I have mischaracterized you with that “only”.

              My “arguments” on a blog post are not going to resolve anything, of course. I will only add that historical scholarship on early Christianity is not focused soley on the Christian gospels, but also in the study of other Jewish messianic and apocalyptic cults of the first century. It is also in this context that a cult derived from an apocalyptic rabbi with preserved sayings, seems more historically likely than a cult derived from a completely made-up character. I’m no historical expert, but I have not seen any good reasons to doubt the weight of scholarly opinion on plausibility of mythicism.

            • Beau Quilter
              Posted December 16, 2015 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

              On the topic of independent sources, I can certainly see how a Roman Emperor would have more sources than an itinerant rabbi, but that doesn’t explain how the sources are independent. I would assume that by “independent” you can only mean “non-Christian” sources?

              • reasonshark
                Posted December 16, 2015 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

                The usual suspects are Tacitus, Suetonius, Josephus, and other noted (and relatively credible) Roman historians, yes, though none of them are contemporaneous. My emphasis on independence does lead to “non-Christian” sources, admittedly, though since “Christian” sources lead off with an avid pontificator whose experience with Jesus was via revelation and meeting co-believers who also relied on revelation, I hope it’s obvious my insistence doesn’t come from religious prejudice, but from a call for a credible witness to the stand.

            • Beau Quilter
              Posted December 16, 2015 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

              Speaking of commenting in good faith, I think it’s pretty obvious that I offered up the Carrier article as an undeniable example of “strawmanning”, not as an “ad hominem” to undercut his mythicism. However, even if I had used this article as evidence against his mythicism, it would not be an example of an ad hominem. Pointing out the flaws in someone’s style of argumentation is completely relevant when discussing the efficacy of his arguments. If I had brought up his drunkenness or laziness, that would be an ad hominem.

              I would add that the only mythicism arguments I’ve seen presented here are “lack of evidence” arguments with a fallacious assumption that mythicism is the logical default. But mythicism, like historicism, also requires evidence.

            • Beau Quilter
              Posted December 16, 2015 at 7:24 pm | Permalink

              Again, I am replying where I can, since I don’t always find a “reply” link beneath your comments.

              When you explain why the Christian sources are not “independent” sources, you discuss the mystical experiences of Paul. But it is still not clear how this qualifies Paul’s letters as not “independent”. What are the Pauline epistles not “independent” of?

              If you disqualify any writing that includes a belief in the supernatural, you would have to disqualify Josephus and other ancient historians as well. As an atheist, I don’t have any problem believing Paul’s mystical experiences are sincere. I’ve known many self-deluded religious believers who, even today, sincerely believe that they have been possessed by the holy spirit and witness to miracles. We humans are extremely prone to such delusions. But doubting his spiritual delusions is not the same thing as doubting that Paul traveled to a variety of churches, wrote to specific members, persecuted early Christians, met the brother of Jesus, or met other men such as Peter, who knew Jesus when we was alive.

              The mythicist position – that Paul, or multiple people with whom he was connected, invented a nonexistent apocalyptic rabbi with followers, and that all the sayings of Jesus found in a variety of Christian writings were also entirely invented – this position is very specific and requires it’s own evidence.

    • reginaldselkirk
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 11:16 am | Permalink

      If he was conceived of a virgin than he wouldn’t necessarily be any more similar to Mary that any gestational surrogate born child is to their surrogate mother.

      That would depend on whether Mary’s DNA was used, or whether only the paternal chromosomes were miraculous.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted December 15, 2015 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

        Seeing as how Jesus is described as “fully man” as well as fully Lord, I always figured Mary for giving up an ovum to Gabriel during the “Annunciation” (mythologically speaking, of course).

        • Diane G.
          Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

          Yeah, but how can the Trinity be all the same guy if they have different chromosomes?

  26. Merilee
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 10:34 am | Permalink


  27. DrBrydon
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Somehow I don’t see the new face of Jesus taking places of prominence in people’s homes, appearing on the sides of vans, or being tattooed on anyone.

  28. Steve Pollard
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    Check out Neave’s entry in Wikipedia:
    This states that such a facial reconstruction, based on one of three ancient skulls from Israel, was carried out as part of the BBC programme Son of God in 2001. (See the Wikipedia entry on Son of God for more info). The assertion that this is what JC looked like was criticised at the time.

    Unless Neave has recently done the exercise all over again, this would seem to be the source of the story.

  29. Stephen
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 10:56 am | Permalink

    Anything beyond Hippie Jesus in a bathrobe is making real progress in my opinion.

  30. murali
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    I vote we do the same for Zoroaster, Homer, Romulus, Remus, Buddha, Mohammed, Achilles, Odysseus, Rama, Sita, …

    We could also do it for Lincoln, Churchill, Hitler, Stalin, Gandhi, Thatcher, Reagan, etc. to see how close we get. We are not allowed to use any direct evidence. Just a few skulls from the same period.

  31. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Technically, these days the term “Aryan” has been abandoned by academia in favor of “Indo-European”.

    Still, the perrenial whitish Jesus has grated on me since at least my high school years.

  32. Posted December 15, 2015 at 11:20 am | Permalink

    Hilariously stupid!

  33. Ralph
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 11:34 am | Permalink

    Does nobody else see Oliver Reed?

    • reginaldselkirk
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

      No. Perhaps I might if I knew who Oliver Reed is.

    • Randy Schenck
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 1:32 pm | Permalink

      Pretty close I’d say, but Reed was the better actor.

    • barn owl
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      ROFL! Oliver Reed, perennial bad boy and partying mate of Keith Moon. Binge-drinking Jesus on a year-long pub crawl.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

      Wow, Oliver Reed posing for his Nick Nolte-style mug shot is more like it with that picture.

      Poor Oliver, so fair in his youth, is lookin’ like 16 miles of bad road there.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 6:57 pm | Permalink


      Can Oliver Reed see anybody else?


      • Mike
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 10:03 am | Permalink

        Yeah right ! but the “reproduction” is a better guess than the handsome Aryan looking one.

    • Mike
      Posted December 16, 2015 at 10:04 am | Permalink

      Always thought there was a “jesusy” air about Olly

  34. Posted December 15, 2015 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    In my view this (even ignoring the mythicist evidence, which in my view is convincing) is not more than someone I know who used to say that Jesus looked like Yassir Arafat.

  35. Nick
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

    I read the source of the headline as “LOL News”. Seems to fit.

  36. Ken Kukec
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    That picture of Aryan Jesus is missing its “sacred heart”. That portrait and a cheap print of Leonardo’s “Last Supper” were fixtures in Catholic homes when I was a kid. As to the latter, I always puzzled over why all the dudes were sitting on the same side of the table.

  37. Posted December 15, 2015 at 5:09 pm | Permalink

    This story wasn’t just on AOL, it was all over place. I browsed through some of the public FB posts about it and there were people arguing that this doesn’t help us, because when Jesus returns again the authorities will be afraid of him and throw him in jail. Many other people won’t admit he is Lord and shun him anyway.

    Now, how in the world would a believer confirm a guy is Jesus when he comes back? Would he do parlor tricks again? Walk on water? Make things disappear. Maybe David Copperfield is Jesus?

  38. Newish Gnu
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    He looks just like his father, of course. No, not Joseph. The other one.

  39. infinitieimprobabili
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 6:55 pm | Permalink

    I *like* that. Big J looks like a slightly baffled cave man. Would you buy a used car from this guy? (Supposing he could find the keys…)

    O’course they’re wrong. We *know* what Jesus looked like. He looked like the patterns on burnt toast and tortillos and dogs’ butts and mould stains…


  40. Peter A.
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

    “Of course, for them it’s a given that a Jesus-person actually existed…”

    Are there any reasons to doubt that he did? It is generally acknowledged by historians that, during the first century of the Christian era, there were many self-styled prophets and messiahs preaching about end times eschatology. Even Gamaliel in the book of Acts in the New Testament mentions it. I don’t know of any historians of that era who have openly stated they don’t believe that someone like Jesus ever existed, but if you can think of one then please, name him or her (not someone like Karen Armstrong though; I mean serious historians, not cranks).

    • Ralph
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

      But the point has been made numerous times by Ben and others… if you strip away all the extraordinary facts about the biblical Jesus, you are left with an empty statement: that there existed somebody with a common name who did nothing of significance.

      It’s of no more value than saying “there was a historical figure called Steve who lived in Wolverhampton in the 1950’s and worked at a pub”. Statistically, that’s certain to be true. But if somebody with a common name and unremarkable characteristics did nothing of significance, in what sense is he a “historical figure” at all?

      Unless you can attach either an unusual name or some remarkable identifying exploits, then any claim of historicity is empty of content – it’s Not Even Wrong.

      • Posted December 15, 2015 at 7:40 pm | Permalink

        So what you’re saying is: there were probably lots of “historical” Jesuses.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted December 16, 2015 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

          (Is that Jesuses or Jesi? Never mind)

          Technically yes. I expect there’s a ‘historical’ Batman too. (It would be surprising if, amid the collection of unfortunate names, there wasn’t one misguided mother who bestowed that embarrassing name on her unfortunate brat).


      • Posted December 16, 2015 at 7:12 am | Permalink

        I suppose there was a historical person (minus the miracles and the divine half-karyotype), because complex stories were given in 2 of the Gospels about how he was born in Bethleem but grew up in Nazareth. The catch is, there was a prophecy that the Messiah would be born in Bethleem. I suppose that the historical “Jesus” was from Nazareth and everyone around knew this inconvenient truth. If he was wholly invented, it would be most logical to simply portray him as a resident of Bethleem.

        • reasonshark
          Posted December 16, 2015 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

          Not at all. Aphrodite in Greek myth is given two separate origin stories – born from Ouranos’ genitals, and born from Zeus and one of his many cohorts – which some Greek writers later massaged. Not to mention the myriad fans who think like pretzels to reconcile two conflicting canonical accounts and inconsistencies in their favourite movie or literary franchises. And I’m pretty sure Aphrodite and movies are entirely fictional.

          The argument from embarrassment is simply embarrassing. I marvel that any historian takes it seriously.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted December 16, 2015 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

            And in terms of modern myths – which is to say SF and fantasy TV series – it is quite amusing how the eagle-eyed fans spot any inconsistency in the plot and then go to elaborate lengths to explain it away (rather than the real reason, which is that the writers of the episode either didn’t know, forgot, or just didn’t care about the contradiction). As you noted.

            The delightful term ‘retcon’ applies when the writers (or fans) try to paper over the cracks. (‘Retroactive continuity’). This is a bit different from Richard Nixon’s press secretary’s favourite phrase, ‘last weeks statement is inoperative’.

            I don’t know if there are any retcons in the Bible, but I wouldn’t be surprised.


          • Posted December 16, 2015 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

            I didn’t say that “any historian takes it seriously”. I said it was my opinion, and I am no historian.
            Talking about Greek myth, Aphrodite is indeed entirely fictional. However, the Trojan Wars are today considered historical. Nevertheless, they were thought to be fictional for a very long time. By the argument from ignorance.
            Until recently, we had a “prophetess” named Baba Vanga (has a page in English Wikipedia). The supernational abilities ascribed to her by her fans far exceed those ascribed to Jesus. Nevertheless, she did exist.

            • Posted December 16, 2015 at 4:15 pm | Permalink

              “Supernatural”, of course. Sorry!

            • reasonshark
              Posted December 16, 2015 at 5:13 pm | Permalink

              I didn’t say that “any historian takes it seriously”.

              Actually, the argument from embarrassment has a serious pedigree in the field. It’s weak either way.

              My point is: how do you determine whether a particular mythical event had a real-world analogue or was invented? How do we distinguish a mythical Trojan War from a real one? The sad fact in some cases is that you simply don’t have enough evidence to conclude either way: for instance, it will probably never be fully settled whether King Arthur or Robin Hood were based on particular individuals. This is precisely why I find the unanimous and confident voting in favour of a real Jesus to be suspect; because it seems out of proportion to the level of evidence for it.

      • Posted December 16, 2015 at 11:55 am | Permalink

        Actually, while that’s part of the story, there’s more. Paul seems to repeatedly say that all his Jesus ever was was a divine figure doing his stuff in the heavens (with a bit below the moon). This seems to be the case for at least the first 50-100 years of the movement more generally. Worse (for the usual viewpoint) still, Hebrews *explicitly* states that Jesus had not been on earth, and so on. I haven’t read Carrier’s book yet (though heard him debate a professor of NT who agrees that the Gospels, for example, are fiction) but E. Doherty’s big tome is good for those who know something of the history of Greek philosophy.

        I also regard the fragments of the non-canonical gospels to also suggest in this direction – and simply a perusal of a History of Western Civilization text. The one I used (and still have) in class makes use of *Acts*, which is fiction (even under mainstream scholarship). This is *appalling*. The situation is really not at all comparable to that of evolutionary biology. IMO, the scholarship of early Christianity is only now returning to the (then revolutionary) scholarship of the German critics of the 19th century. (Feuerbach, Bauer, etc.)

      • Peter A.
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

        Well Ralph, my challenge still stands. Are there any historians of the period who really do believe what you do about this Jesus character? If so, name them.

        “…did nothing of significance…” – So I guess ushering in an entirely new age, one from which we still to this day count the years (Anno Domini), who introduced a set of guidelines that have had a greater impact upon history than practically any other, the creation of an entirely new way of seeing the world and which, at this time in our history, approximately 2 thousand million people accept – that’s ‘nothing of significance’, is it? I guess you must have the Lawrence Krauss version of ‘nothing’ here.

        • Peter A.
          Posted December 16, 2015 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

          “…in mind here…” I mean.

    • rickflick
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

      I’ve read that objective historians who are not Christian apologists cannot find any account of Christ written during his lifetime. All early accounts chronologically follow the new testament writers who got it second hand or from no hand at all decades later. It is very surprising that none of the historians well known to be recording events knew of Christ given his supposed significance and visibility as a rebel against the establishment. It is very consistent with Christ being a complete fabrication or an assemblage of several obscure tall tales cobbled together, with a lot of confabulation to promote a fledgling movement.

      • Peter A.
        Posted December 16, 2015 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

        “I’ve read that objective historians who are not Christian apologists cannot find any account of Christ written during his lifetime.” – Rickflick

        There are a number of possible reasons why this might be the case. Contemporary accounts may have been written, but may not for various reasons (ex. deliberate destruction, the passage of time on the materials upon which these accounts were written – paper doesn’t last very long) they may not have survived. The Library of Alexandria was torched at least three times in its history, so we have lost a hell of a lot from that time period. The old cliche that ‘absence of evidence is not evidence of absence’ should always be kept in mind when one is dealing with events that happened 2,000 years ago.

        By the way, who are these ‘objective historians’ of whom you speak? Could you give me just one? I would be willing to bet they are not objective at all, but I will give you the chance to demonstrate otherwise. 🙂

        • rickflick
          Posted December 16, 2015 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

          Here’s an article or two that talk about the controversy. Note that there is unlikely to be “proof” one way or the other. But, it’s important to keep in mind that when Christians say they follow Christ, they are really following a notion that could be fictional (Certainly rational people don’t give his divinity much credence). It does not say much for their intellectual integrity, for they speak and act as though it is a fact that the Jesus of the bible did exist.

          • Peter A.
            Posted December 16, 2015 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

            ‘Godless Geeks’?! With a name like that, I’m not getting my hopes up. I WILL check it out, but…

            Okay, here goes.

          • Peter A.
            Posted December 16, 2015 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

            “Any historian living or writing after that time could not have seen the events with his own eyes — possibly could not have even known any witnesses personally. Any historian writing decades or centuries after the events could only write of those things which he had heard others say. In other words, he would be writing hearsay — secondhand accounts of what Christ’s followers said about him.

            Certainly, this cannot be considered as reliable information. The followers of any cult leader certainly would exaggerate the character of the man they follow. As you shall see, whatever the authenticity of the documents turns out to be, none of the historians in question were contemporaries of Christ.” – from ‘Godless Geeks’

            So I guess that unless one speaks to an actual survivor of, for example, World War 2, one will not get anything of value from the person that one is speaking to, even if they themselves are an expert on the subject. That, to me, appears to be the claim that is being made in the first paragraph there. So documentation, and other evidence – like thousands of followers who claim to have been influenced by the teachings of this, apparently non-existent, religious leader – counts for absolutely nothing. The effect that the teachings of this person had on, for example, the formulation of subsequent laws passed, are irrelevant too. Riiight. Okay.

            “The followers of any cult leader…” – This is NOT an unbiased source! The presumptuousness of that statement is truly embarrassing, because the bias of the writer is so blatantly obvious!

            • Posted December 16, 2015 at 8:48 pm | Permalink

              WWII is an event that is well documented. Christianity is your WWII. A claim about Peter Peckerwood who fought in Guam and resurrected his friends while commanding a storm to wash over Japanese ships is Jesus.

              We have solid evidence for WWII. We have solid evidence for Christianity. We don’t have solid evidence for the miraculous feats of Peter Peckerwood or Jesus. We do have solid evidence that guys named Peter fought in WWII and that apocalyptic rabbis named Yeshua roamed around 2000 years ago. Both of these are the results of a simple statistical likelihood based on names. Whether there was a specific Peter Peckerwood or Yeshua tied to these claims is a very different matter. Both require evidence about a specific individual. You stated before that all the other evidence for Jesus may have been lost. Well, I can say the same for Peter Peckerwood. The logical possibility of evidence being lost isn’t much of an argument for a specific historical figure, but it’s a great argument to say that somewhere a person existed who is no longer documented. It’s no different than the odds of an individual hitting the lottery versus someone hitting the lottery.

            • rickflick
              Posted December 16, 2015 at 10:09 pm | Permalink

              In the first century Jesus was certainly a cult leader. A cult is a religious or social group with socially deviant or novel beliefs and practices. Christs teachings and social circle were considered deviant and novel by everyone, including probably Jesus himself (if he existed). Even many of his modern followers consider him famously revolutionary, which puts him securely into the deviant and novel categories. Certainly the Romans did.

          • Peter A.
            Posted December 16, 2015 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

            I got 149,000 results for one of the names that appear in that article – Dr. Alexander Campbell

            They really should have provided links within that article to the relevant sources.

      • aljones909
        Posted December 17, 2015 at 5:28 am | Permalink

        The majority of non religious, secular scholars do seem to accept a historical Jesus. Professor Phil Davies gives a good overview here:

        and this is his conclusion:
        “Am I inclined to accept that Jesus existed? Yes, I am. But I am unable to say with any conviction what he may have said and done, or what his words and deeds might tell us about who or what he thought he was. Even what his followers thought about him is highly coloured with hindsight, embellishment, rationalization and reflection.”

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted December 17, 2015 at 5:58 am | Permalink

          In the light of all that uncertainty, whether Jesus was an actual person, or a myth, or just one of a number of preachers some of whom may have been named Jesus, doesn’t really have very much significance.


          • rickflick
            Posted December 17, 2015 at 8:25 am | Permalink

            There is a fuzzy area between names and identity. In the case of non-divine historical figures it makes very little difference what actions are attributed to which name. It is the actions which count – as in the Socrates example. We appreciate Socratic dialogue whether it’s called that or something else, like Platonic dialogue.
            But for the divine, I think one would expect a little more of a direct identity. Especially if the creator of the universe is telling us about it. If Jesus lived and was divine you’d think his existence wouldn’t be a question of conjecture. If he was not divine, it becomes a simple historical tid-bit of much less importance.

  41. Posted December 15, 2015 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

    Is there a resemblance to Saddam Hussein?

  42. Roan Ridgeway
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

    The reconstruction is interesting to the extent that it gives us an idea of what contemporary countryman tended look like.

    I would think the smaller the gene pool, the less diversity in facial features.

    If DNA was extractable from a skull fragment, hair color and texture as well as eye color from the three skulls would have eliminated guesswork regarding the individuals whose skulls were used.

    If the facial reconstruction had been presented as an indication of what the folks in the vicinity looked like 2,000 years ago, I would have no quarrel but to claim that the rendering “is probably (the) most accurate image of Jesus Christ’s real face” is downright dishonest. It has yet to be established that there was a real face.

    • rickflick
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

      Well the purpose of publishing the idea that this is a real likeness of a real human being who is the Christ is to please readers who are Christian and who start with the assumption of existence.
      We can expect many to cut out this ‘real’ image and paste it onto their alters covering up the north European version. For them this should enhance the illusion of existence.

  43. Dermot C
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 7:31 pm | Permalink

    Well, science does tell us one thing about Jesus: his probable height. 5 feet 0 to 5 feet 2. And isn’t there the story somewhere in the NT about the little shop-owner who couldn’t see JC in the centre of crowd? (Reference forgotten). So the Son of God was just a leetle man, maybe a Ken Dodd in the midst of all the diddymen, an OZ munchkin, an extra in Terry Gilliam’s ‘Brazil’. In short, Jesus the apocalypticist was nasty, brutish and short. x

    • Diane G.
      Posted December 15, 2015 at 9:21 pm | Permalink


  44. Shwell Thanksh
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

    Based on my analysis of the bible, I assume Jesus Person had bruised thumbnails, since he was reputed to be a carpenter.

  45. Wayne Tyson
    Posted December 15, 2015 at 11:49 pm | Permalink

    I believe Jesus was black.

  46. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted December 16, 2015 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    Another ‘reconstruction’, from 2005.

    It’s surprising how little the ‘Artists’s statement*’ has dated in the last 10 years.

    (*It starts ‘I have had it with the fucking Christians’ which is always a promising start : )


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