The mythicist conference in Milwaukee

I spoke yesterday of a possible debate between Robert Price and Bart Ehrman about the historicity of Jesus. One or two readers gave the details in comments, but I thought I’d put it above the fold if you’re anywhere near Milwaukee. The details of the “Mythinformation Conference” (subtitle: “Is Faith Rooted in Fiction”) are here, and I’ve put the schedule for the one-day meeting below. It’s on OCTOBER 21 of this year and will held at Turner Hall in Milwaukee. Tickets will run you $60 (only $30 if you buy them now; add an unconscionable $100 or $75, respectively if you want to go to the “afterparty”,), but it’ll be worth it to see Price and Ehrman go head to head on whether there was a real Jesus Man. There are other good speakers, too!

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If you want something to discuss, you can address reader Lou Jost’s claim that the Biblical evidence for Jesus as a historical person is sufficiently strong that the burden of proof is actually on the mythicists to show that he didn’t exist. But how are you going to do that? It all comes down to a subjective judgment on how much you believe the Bible as a source of historical information—at least on Jesus.

163 Comments

  1. Craw
    Posted April 18, 2016 at 9:11 am | Permalink

    I think Jost is right. Does anyone here deny Socrates existed? Yet the evidence for Jesus is as good.

    It’s just wrong to assert, as some have done, that the only evidence we have for JC’s existence is the four canonical gospels. We have Paul’s letters, we have *other* gospels, we have notices in non-Christian sources (later admittedly). Most importantly we have the sudden emergence of the cult. Around year 25 there is no evidence at all, none, of a Jesus cult. By 50 there is abundant evidence of a Jesus cult. Is it really so odd that a cult should have a leader?

    Do you have any positive evidence he did not exist? Any writing from the period alleging he’s a myth say, or any census lacking his name? Of course not. (Hard to see such evidence surviving.) But in the absence of positive evidence on your side, and the presence of positive evidence on the other…

    Occam suggests there was some guy who lead a cult about whom legends accreted. I think the burden usually falls on those who deny Friar Occam his due.

    • Posted April 18, 2016 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      … we have for JC’s existence is the four canonical gospels.

      Three of them derivative from “Mark”, and all of them much later. So only one piece of non-contemporaneous evidence.

      We have Paul’s letters, …

      Hmm, evidence of Jesus-as-a-deity, yes, but not such good evidence for a historical Jesus.

      we have *other* gospels, …

      Many of these are so different and weird that they are actually good evidence *against* the historical Jesus. For example the account of Jesus’s death and resurrection in the “Vision of Isaiah”.

      … we have notices in non-Christian sources (later admittedly).

      None of them independent of, say, “Mark”.

      Around year 25 there is no evidence at all, none, of a Jesus cult.

      There is evidence of very similar ideas in the writings of Philo of Alexandria.

      By 50 there is abundant evidence of a Jesus cult.

      Is there really? I guess that if one can securely date Paul’s letter to that time, then ok, but can you do that? The “traditional” dates for Paul’s letters are set by the “traditional” timeline for Jesus. But, Paul’s letters could date from the time of Marcion as far as we know.

      Anyhow, I’m not sure we have evidence for a “sudden” start of the cult. The evidence from that time is sparse, and the first piece of sparse evidence will (ipso facto) look “sudden”.

    • Paul S
      Posted April 18, 2016 at 9:51 am | Permalink

      You’re evidence for jesus is that there isn’t a census without his name seems a bit backward.
      Since you are the one claiming he exists, you need to provide some evidence that he did exist. A good starting pint would be any contemporaneous writings of his deeds if not of him personally.
      Earthquakes, rending of veils and dead people coming back to life? You’d think someone somewhere would have said, Holy crap, uncle Ahmed is walking around and he’s been dead for years! But nope, nothing, nobody noticed anything he did, ever.

      • Posted April 18, 2016 at 10:38 am | Permalink

        Paul – I definitely vote for a good starting pint!! 🙂

      • Posted April 18, 2016 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

        Paul S, you are mixing up a secular claim for the existence of a cult leader with the non-secular claim that Jesus was a god. It’s like saying Joseph Smith didn’t exist because the story of his deciphering golden tablets is ridiculous.

        • Posted April 18, 2016 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

          No.

          The historicist claim is as absurd as declaring that there must be a “real” (for some definition of the term) Moroni because we’ve got Smith’s detailed biography plus all those signed eyewitness testimonies at the beginning of the Book of Moron.

          …or that Dianetics is evidence of an historical Xenu, that Bob Kane demonstrates the historicity of Bruce Wayne, and so on.

          Cheers,

          b&

          >

          • Posted April 18, 2016 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

            How many times do I have to say that secular historicists aren’t making supernatural claims, Ben? They are claiming only that Jesus was a real person, and that Paul met some of his actual followers, probably including Jesus’ brother.

            • Posted April 18, 2016 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

              …yet you’re ignoring the fact that Jesus at the time was already a centuries-ancient Jewish demigod, that Paul made explicit that he experienced Jesus in the same non-corporeal manner as these followers you’re so enamored with, and that Paul’s Jesus is theologically indistinguishable from Philo’s Logos (which Philo himself explicitly equated with the ancient demigod).

              Indeed, your entire “historical” claim for Jesus rests on the “fact” that he had a brother. So are you equally confident that the brothers Romulus and Remus are historical?

              b&

              >

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

                Ben, there is no first-person account (or indeed even a third-hand account) of someone meeting Romulus, and the story Of R and R is itself extraordinary and improbable.

                In contrast there is an allegedly first-person account of someone (Paul) meeting James. No extraordinary claims are made about James. In any other context, the null hypothesis would have been that the letter writer probably was not making this up.

                The historicist’s claim does not rest just on this, though. See above comments by many people.

                But I don’t claim that we have proof. I just claim that there is some evidence for the completely unremarkable and highly probable claim that the Jesus cult was started by a real person named Jesus.

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

                In contrast there is an allegedly first-person account of someone (Paul) meeting James. No extraordinary claims are made about James.

                Lou, in this allegedly-first-person account of Paul meeting James that you’re so fond of citing…did you fail to notice that Paul makes explicit that the Christ in question is the very archetype of the human spirit, and that James experienced Christ in the exact same spiritual non-corporeal way that Paul did?

                Again, you’re calling Paul a liar about the overwhelming majority of what he wrote about in this passage, save for the fact that James was a Brother of the Lord from Heaven who is heavenly

                By what rationale have you thus twisted Paul’s description of James to mean the opposite of what the text states?

                b&

                >

            • Paul S
              Posted April 18, 2016 at 1:33 pm | Permalink

              Lou,
              If you discount supernatural Jesus, you’re no longer talking about Jesus of the bible. Once you’re at that point, you can just as easily claim Christianity is based on a guy named Bob who wandered around kicking rocks and talking to himself.
              No miracles, no zombies, no one ever met him, no on ever noticed him, it’s like he never existed.
              I think we’re all agreed that the jesus described in the bible didn’t exist, so why invent some convoluted mess to explain something that wasn’t.
              Few religions are based on real people save the Romans and N. Koreans, so why the need for Jesus to be real?

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 1:52 pm | Permalink

                …plus, the overwhelming majority of real people who were deified were emperors. Even in modern times, it’s Emperor Haile Selassie, Emperor Akihito, and the North Korean leaders who’re functionally emperors. And, of course, in antiquity, we have the Caesars and Pharaohs.

                The non-emperor mere mortals who get deified are almost always claimed to be (re-)incarnations of other deities. David Koresh was the Second Coming of Jesus; the Dalai Lama is somebody-or-other.

                Indeed, about the only example I can think of that runs counter to that is Sun Myung Moon.

                Overwhelmingly, the central figures of almost all religions are clearly fictional. Nobody (outside of cultists) considers Zeus, Quetzalcoatl, Thor, Krishna, Xenu, Mithra, Moroni, or any of the others historical. The default position for the gods at the hearts of the various religions is rightly mythical. For Jesus to be an exception, especially considering his centuries-before-the-Caesars ancient history…well, it’d be astoundingly miraculous, to the point of validating the central claims of Christianity.

                Cheers,

                b&

                >

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 2:07 pm | Permalink

                Paul S, I think most cults are indeed founded by real people. Some of these have become big religions.

                I’m fine with saying that Jesus the miracle-worker never existed. But there is evidence (not proof) that the cult had a founder named Jesus almost contemporaneous with Paul, and that Paul met some of this person’s original followers. The myths attributed to this guy don’t affect the likelihood of his existence. Credulous beliefs about the miraculous powers of certain Indian gurus today do not imply that those gurus don’t exist.

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 2:11 pm | Permalink

                Paul S, I think most cults are indeed founded by real people.

                ORLY?

                So…which cults have been founded by unreal people?

                b&

                >

              • Paul S
                Posted April 18, 2016 at 2:28 pm | Permalink

                Sure they’re founded by real people, they have to be. That doesn’t mean they’re based on real people much less setting yourself up as the miracle performing central character.
                What makes more sense, Jesus telling people he can walk on water but only once, or Paul saying he heard about a guy who can walk on water, but he’s dead now.

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 2:37 pm | Permalink

                “So…which cults have been founded by unreal people?”

                Some cults don’t need founders. Especially cults centered around worship of natural sites or animals.

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

                Some cults don’t need founders. Especially cults centered around worship of natural sites or animals.

                Got any specifics? Or are you just handwaving at stuff so ancient or poorly documented that the origins have been lost to history?

                b&

                >

              • Paul S
                Posted April 18, 2016 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

                Hein, quelle?
                Um……might not know who, but I’m pretty sure somebody(s) had to.

    • eric
      Posted April 18, 2016 at 10:04 am | Permalink

      Its also possible that there were many such apocalyptic preachers running around, and the “myth” part consists of stitching their stories together to make them about one person.

      The wedding at Cana story is a good example incident. Evidently turning water to wine was such a common con game that the NT authors had to add that in Jesus’ case, the wine was really good and it came in many large jugs just so Jesus’ tale wouldn’t look like one of the standard cons (adding dye by sleight-of-hand, or using a second set of pipes under a fountain to pipe in wine).

      Like Lou’s point about Bethlehem, the authors seem to have been “stuck with” an oral story about a person that ran this con. In terms of making a myth nobody would add that sort of story, it would be like adding spoon-bending to a ‘convincing’ miracle worker claim today; it would actually detract from the veracity of the claim. But they couldn’t get rid of it because everyone knew it at the time of the writing. So they had to defend it and try and turn it into a legitimate miracle instead.

      There is the gospel of Thomas

      AIUI scholars locate the gnostic writings later, after 100 AD. And they don’t think the stories were intended by their authors to be taken literally. Sort of like John’s Revelation, (AIUI today’s best scholars think) they are largely symbolic; intended to communicate theology, yes, but largely via parable and metaphor.

      • Posted April 18, 2016 at 11:09 am | Permalink

        AIUI scholars don’t think the [gnostic] stories were intended by their authors to be taken literally. … they are largely symbolic; intended to communicate theology, yes, but largely via parable and metaphor.

        True, and why not consider the same regarding the canonical gospels?

        Is the only reason that to most scholars (who, in this field, are of course Christians) that is unthinkable?

        Afterall, one of the earliest gospels was that by the gnostic heretic Marcion.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted April 18, 2016 at 10:50 am | Permalink

      ? I always assumed Socrates was an invention of Plato, the mythic, in order to pawn off his ideas. That his invention isn’t a large religion doesn’t change much, in fact he could have gotten the pattern of invented mythical founders from them.

      What historical evidence do we have for “Socrates” existence? None.

      What historical evidence do we have for “Jesus” existence? None.

      The “Socrates”/”Jesus” believers have to work hard to change any of that. Meanwhile the null hypothesis makes short shrift of their speculations.

      This isn’t rocket science.

      • Torbjörn Larsson
        Posted April 18, 2016 at 10:52 am | Permalink

        And oh yes, as you mentioned it, the same goes for “Paul”. I checked his historical legitimacy, and there is none. But such a construct would present an archetype for early christianists. So I have added him to the “not shown to exist, likely never did” set.

      • eric
        Posted April 18, 2016 at 11:08 am | Permalink

        Aristophanes wrote The Clouds when Plato was 5. So unless Plato fabricated Socrates when he was learning to crawl, nope.

        You’d also think that someone in Athens would’ve called shenanigans on Aristophanes if he had been making up a prominent fictional philosopher citizen and claiming he was real.

        Of course, this sort of contemporaneous reference by a prominent Athenian playwright is pretty much exactly the sort of thing mythicists point out is missing in the case of Jesus.

      • Posted April 18, 2016 at 11:14 am | Permalink

        As others have pointed out, the historicity of Jesus has little to do with the myriad problems of Christian religiosity in world. The 27 books of the NT, the 13 books of the Apocrypha, the Didache, and the many additional ‘gospels’ were all written with a theological purpose that seems to have originated with the idea of a Jewish Messiah. Fact or fiction doesn’t matter to most adherents. There are billions of people who have existed for which there is no historical record. No problem because none of those people have had such a world-wide impact. I believe that it is a very small percentage of Christians who would give up their religion based on the argument that there is no independent corroboration that Jesus existed.

      • Posted April 18, 2016 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

        If you really think the non-existence of people like Socrates should be the null hypothesis, I think you will not do well in practical life. A null hypothesis should take into account prior probabilities in order to be useful.

      • Posted April 18, 2016 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

        Socrates is independently and contemporaneously attested, by Xenophon and, in a way, by Aristophanes.

        We also don’t have the “antievidence” like we do for Jesus.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted April 18, 2016 at 12:22 pm | Permalink

      In spite of being inclined to the historicist position, I don’t quite buy the Socrates parallel. The sources for Jesus appear to be coming through a greater distorting prism than the sources for Socrates.

      • rickflick
        Posted April 18, 2016 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

        “I don’t quite buy the Socrates parallel.”
        I see it as entirely irrelevant. There are undoubtedly many figures in ancient history who may or may not have lived. How does that contribute in any way to the specific case of Jesus? Nobody that I can imagine cares, really, whether Socrates existed. His existence is only a curiosity for historians to wonder about. If evidence suddenly emerged that confirmed Socrates as either real or fictional, nothing would change. The writings would still be read. If evidence suddenly emerged that Jesus definitely did not exist, many people would change their minds about the writings and their significance.

        • JonLynnHarvey
          Posted April 18, 2016 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

          The similarity is basically this.

          Socrates is like Jesus in that there are four contradictory sources for his life, Plato, Aristophanes, Aristotle, and Xenophon, and no surviving writings by S himself.

          But the difference is there are several reasons to believe that the sources for Socrates are at least somewhat more reliable.

          • rickflick
            Posted April 18, 2016 at 8:24 pm | Permalink

            I can see the similarity and that’s interesting. I’m still not seeing any relevance. Why is it sometimes brought up by historicists to buttress their case? If we decide Socrates was real based on those authors, does that add or subtract anything from whether of not Jesus was real? It depends solely on the quality of the evidence not whether there are some probably real figures in history.

            • JonLynnHarvey
              Posted April 19, 2016 at 2:16 am | Permalink

              Some Historicists tend to argue that since classics scholars see no reason to doubt the existence of Socrates, there is no reason per se to doubt the existence of Jesus.

              In spite of my sympathy for the historicist position, I regard this argument as false. Some of the docs on Socrates are probably by eye witnesses, first hand. We have good reason to believe all 4 of the New Testament gospels are at best second hand.

              • Posted April 19, 2016 at 11:16 am | Permalink

                Rickflik, please note that no historicist commenting here has made that “argument from Socrates”. It came up because a mythicist above (Torbjorn) made a mythicist claim about Socrates.

              • rickflick
                Posted April 19, 2016 at 11:58 am | Permalink

                Noted. I’m not accusing anyone in particular.
                I seem to remember it coming up in past threads where I was bothered by it. I’ve just never seen it’s relevance. It seems like a fallacy. Perhaps something along the lines of “false parallel”, if that’s a real fallacy.
                The other point I made was that the importance of a real Jesus is highly significant for Christians while the reality of Socrates is not particularly significant for anybody (except maybe Socrates himself).

              • Posted April 19, 2016 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

                Agreed, it’s a silly argument, in either direction.

          • Posted April 19, 2016 at 11:28 am | Permalink

            Worse for Jesus, since we have the counter-details by Paul and the author of Hebrews about what the guy supposedly was. The Socratic parallel would be if someone at roughly the time of Aristotle was the first source about Socrates, and said again and again that Socrates lived in the heavens and performed his sacrifice in that context, and moreover, that the other Socratics (now lost) *agreed* with that revelation.

    • DrBydon
      Posted April 18, 2016 at 1:39 pm | Permalink

      I disagree. I think that the evidence for the historical existence of Socrates is much stronger than that for Jesus. Socrates is mentioned in the writings of multiple contemporaries (many of whom also appear in Plato’s dialogues), and who are themselves known to be historical figures. Likewise his two major publicists (Plato and Xenophon) are known to have known him personally. The internal coherence of this evidence is strong. On the other hand there are no contemporary references to Jesus, the authors of the gospels are unknown, and the evidence of the gospels is contradictory. Add to that that many of the acts attributed to Jesus are fantastic, which makes the overall narratives untrustworthy. I am not saying Jesus did not exist (you can’t prove a negative in History), but unless you are predisposed to want him to exist, the evidence is poor.

  2. Craw
    Posted April 18, 2016 at 9:19 am | Permalink

    “t all comes down to a subjective judgment on how much you believe the Bible as a source of historical information—at least on Jesus.”

    Some points here.
    In this context there is no applicable “the”.
    The contents of “the” bible were canonicalized centuries later. There is not ONE source. There are multiple sources. Paul seems largely independent of the gospels. There are at least 4 sources behind the gospelss (Mark, Q, M, L; M and L are not short form for the gospels). There is the gospel of Thomas. Multiple apparently *independent* sources. (How many *independent* sources have we for Socrates?)

    And as I noted it is not just the documents that matter. It is the existence and sudden emergence of the cult.

    Thirdly it is not just a matter of ‘belief’ but standards. You really just cannot pick and choose that cavalierly I think.

    • Posted April 18, 2016 at 9:52 am | Permalink

      There are at least 4 sources behind the gospelss (Mark, Q, M, L; M and L are not short form for the gospels).

      Sorry, but that is pure conjecture, invented by apologists to make their story work.

      How about this:

      “Mark” wrote his gospel, not from sources, but as a theological allegory (or rather, the OT, and Homer, and other things as sources, but no historical Jesus).

      “Matthew” then embellished “Mark”, changing it and adding stuff made up for theological reasons.

      “Luke” then took “Mark” and “Matthew” and embellished further, again making stuff up for theological reasons.

      “John” then did the same, putting his own spin on the earlier three.

      That scenario gives *zero* sources behind the gospels. Can anyone refute that scenario? Well no, actually, they can’t.

      But, to the believer, the idea that any of the four just made stuff up is anathema. For them it is an axiom of faith that anything in any of those gospels *had* to have had a source, a source that linked back to a historical Jesus.

      So, whenever any of the four gospels say anything not in the others they say “look, there is another source!”, and since it’s not in the other gospels, they then claim it is an *independent* source!

      So they label these Q, M, L, etc. But really, they have *zero* evidence for these “sources”, they are hypothesized purely because the apologists can’t face the “they made stuff up” alternative.

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted April 18, 2016 at 12:21 pm | Permalink

        Say what you like about the theory, it certainly was not developed for apologetic reasons, though it may have been subsequently used by apologists.

        It’s an attempt to account for the strata or layers of divergent traditions in the synoptic Gospels, essentially the odd combination of similarities and differences across 3 of the Gospels of both content and linguistic style.

        • Posted April 18, 2016 at 12:45 pm | Permalink

          Say what you like about the theory, it certainly was not developed for apologetic reasons …

          How did those developing the theory exclude the alternative that Matthew, Luke and John simply made stuff up, embellishing Mark for theological reasons?

          The only reason they point to “sources” is because they don’t want to consider the made-it-up alternative.

          • JonLynnHarvey
            Posted April 18, 2016 at 2:18 pm | Permalink

            The multiple source hypothesis doesn’t logically exclude the possibility that the sources made stuff up.

            The same basic methodology was used to determine that the classical 5 books are Moses are stitched together from multiple sources by 4 authors now dubbed the Yahwistic author, the Priestly author, the Elohist author, and the Deutoronomist author, but we are quite sure at this point that none of this is true!!! Indeed this kind of work was done on the Tanakh BEFORE being applied to the New Testament, and in turn, these methodologies had ALREADY been developed in the analysis of Greek sources (especially the writings attributed to Homer especially The Iliad.)

            It’s not really that different from the methods scholars use to determine which sections of Henry VIII are by Shakespeare and which are not.

            The first three Gospels have a lot of shared material but when they differ it is ALWAYS Matthew or Luke which is the odd man out NEVER Mark. This indicates Mtt and Lk borrowed from Mrk. At the same time, Matt and Luke have shared material not in Mark, ALL of which is sayings, NONE of which is stories, and in this case the sayings are always verbatim identical, not even the slightest paraphrasing. Hence the hypothesis of a Q source (Q for Quelle which is German for sayings) used by these two, etc.

            Speculation, but informed speculation. Guesses, but educated ones.

            • Posted April 18, 2016 at 2:32 pm | Permalink

              This indicates Mtt and Lk borrowed from Mrk. At the same time, Matt and Luke have shared material not in Mark, ALL of which is sayings, NONE of which is stories, and in this case the sayings are always verbatim identical, not even the slightest paraphrasing. Hence the hypothesis of a Q source …

              Sure, but why not “hence the hypothesis that, when adding to Mark, Matthew made up some sayings, which Luke then retained”?

              That’s the point, the attribution is *always* to “sources”, not even considering the possibility that any or all of Mark, Matthew and Luke might have made stuff up.

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 2:45 pm | Permalink

                Let’s also not lose sight of the historicist claim.

                Specifically, that “Q” was important enough for Matthew and Luke to quote, but not important enough for them or anybody else to identify or preserve…and yet it also somehow constitutes evidence for Jesus’s historicity.

                That it would even occur to historicists to mention “Q” in this context demonstrates just how amazingly weak the historicist claim is. Had we even a rumor of a citation of a fragment of contemporary correspondence…well, would that not have been the most holy relic in all of Christianity?

                Contrary to popular misconception, absence of evidence is evidence of absence — especially when presence of evidence is expected. If you have a cat living in your house with you, you expect to find cat hair in the dust bunnies. If you don’t, and especially if you have no other evidence of a cat, you need to seriously question the original proposition.

                b&

                >

              • JonLynnHarvey
                Posted April 18, 2016 at 2:46 pm | Permalink

                The possibility that SOME has been made up by Matthew and Luke HAS been considered. The two birth narratives in Matt and Luke are acknowledged to be entirely original to them.

                If excluding that is what you mean that the attribution is always to sources, then you are mistaken.

              • JonLynnHarvey
                Posted April 18, 2016 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

                In reply to Ben G,

                people take quite seriously the claim that there are multiple sources behind the works of Homer, although no clear record of these earlier sources is extant.

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 2:58 pm | Permalink

                people take quite seriously the claim that there are multiple sources behind the works of Homer, although no clear record of these earlier sources is extant.

                Sure.

                But nobody then makes the leap of using the presumption of older material as constituting evidence of an historical Odysseus.

                b&

                >

              • eric
                Posted April 18, 2016 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

                Ben Goren: Specifically, that “Q” was important enough for Matthew and Luke to quote, but not important enough for them or anybody else to identify or preserve…and yet it also somehow constitutes evidence for Jesus’s historicity.

                That’s not hard to understand, even today people regurgitate famous quotes with no citation and without caring about the original source material. Everything from the sublime “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself” to the trivial “where’s the beef.” Q could’ve been a set of Jesus quotes that, like those and many other phrases, people commonly traded and used without ever thinking about questions such as attribution or whomever first wrote them down.

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 3:18 pm | Permalink

                Q could’ve been a set of Jesus quotes that, like those and many other phrases, people commonly traded and used without ever thinking about questions such as attribution or whomever first wrote them down.

                …and from there you conclude that they were actually said by a real flesh-and-blood historical Jesus, and, as such, constitute evidence that Jesus actually walked the Earth?

                b&

                >

              • JonLynnHarvey
                Posted April 18, 2016 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

                Ben G,

                Ehrman argues from a cumulative weight and convergence of several different arguments.

                His case does not rest solely or mainly on the multiple-source theory, although he does argue that the linguistic evidence that these Greek gospels in part used Aramaic sources is one of several points in historicity’s favor.

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

                Ehrman…is truly pathetic on this. He takes a fragment of a quote from a foreign language and reconstructs the entire Passion narrative from it. Using the same logic, I could claim that Bilbo really did carry the Ring of Power to Mount Doom.

                b&

                >

              • JonLynnHarvey
                Posted April 19, 2016 at 2:36 am | Permalink

                I’ve read several of Ehrman’s books, and no he really doesn’t do that.

              • JonLynnHarvey
                Posted April 19, 2016 at 2:58 am | Permalink

                Indeed, Ehrman does pretty much the exact opposite of what you say he does. All his efforts to reconstruct the life of Jesus rely on comparison of two versions of the same story, looking at what religious perspective each author was coming from and then “triangulating” from them to a plausible version of what might have really happened. Consistently, if there is only one attestation to an incident, Ehrman is likely to dismiss at as fabrication.

                As such, your statement “He takes a fragment of a quote from a foreign language and reconstructs the entire Passion narrative from it.” is quite a caricature of Ehrman.

                I acknowledge there is a figure names Joshua which is the Hebrew version of Jesus in Zechariah, but allow me to note that it was Frodo Baggins, not Bilbo, who in Tolkien’s fictional epic took the Ring of Power to Mount Doom.

              • Posted April 19, 2016 at 11:21 am | Permalink

                Ben, regarding your argument that the Jesus story is full of elements from earlier mythologies, even Carrier rightly points out (about the similar claim that Jesus’s story incorporates pagan myths):
                “This does not equate to concluding that Jesus was a fictional person; rather, even if he was historical, the attribution to him of the properties of pagan deities had to come from somewhere, and cultural diffusion is the obvious source.”
                http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/667

              • Posted April 19, 2016 at 11:34 am | Permalink

                If an historical person has one “tall tale” tacked on to the biography, such as George Washington and the Cherry Tree, we don’t conclude that the person was fictional.

                But the inverse also holds. Just because there are powerfully large lumberjacks doesn’t mean that Paul Bunyan was an historical figure.

                In the latter case, you can tally up everything you know about the figure, and then cross off everything that’s fictional. If you have nothin significant remaining, you would rightly conclude that the character is fictional.

                And so it is with Jesus. Check for yourself:

                http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/0126.htm

                Just using Justin Martyr alone, how much of Jesus is left after you cross off everything the Christians took from the Pagans?

                Cheers,

                b&

                >

            • Posted April 19, 2016 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

              Setting aside for the moment Paul’s apparent reference to meeting Jesus’ brother James (who may also be mentioned in Josephus), in other parts of his letters Paul seems to treat the pre-resurrection Jesus as an earthly human, writing that Jesus descends from the seed of David, “born of woman under the Law”, and eating a meal with followers. The parts you emphasize seem to me to refer to the post-resurrection Jesus (whom we all agree was not a physical person).

    • Scott Draper
      Posted April 18, 2016 at 10:08 am | Permalink

      ” There are multiple sources. Paul seems largely independent of the gospels. ”

      None of them being eyewitness testimony.

      • ChrisH
        Posted April 18, 2016 at 11:31 am | Permalink

        Very much so, which combined with the Paul only meeting JC in a vision doesn’t leave us with a lot!

        For me the whole question about Jesus’s existence is kind of moot: if there was someone of that name who lived & died at this time we can still be pretty sure that all reports of him have mythical elements, we’re just not sure to what extent.

        FWIW I tend towards mythicism. It’s an interesting discussion but irrelevant to the whole “son of god” claim.

        • Scott Draper
          Posted April 18, 2016 at 11:37 am | Permalink

          Agreed.

        • Posted April 18, 2016 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

          Agree entirely that if historicists are right, it is irrelevant theologically. Of course if it could be proven that no followers of Jesus actually met him physically, that would disprove Christianity. Hence the attraction of the problem for us. But as we all know, we have to be particularly careful when arguing in favor of something we’d really like to be true.

    • reginaldselkirk
      Posted April 18, 2016 at 10:31 am | Permalink

      And as I noted it is not just the documents that matter. It is the existence and sudden emergence of the cult.

      Proof positive that the angel Moroni and Xenu exist!

      • GBJames
        Posted April 18, 2016 at 10:41 am | Permalink

        To say nothing of John Frum!

      • Posted April 18, 2016 at 12:31 pm | Permalink

        But it IS proof positive that L Ron Hubbard and Joseph Smith existed.

        • Posted April 18, 2016 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

          And that’s the heart of your problem. You’re comparing Jesus with Smith and Hubbard, whereas the actual parallel is with Moroni and Xenu.

          b&

          >

          • Posted April 18, 2016 at 12:37 pm | Permalink

            Agreed, not a good analogy. But secular historicists are also not arguing for anything like Moroni or Xenu, just an ordinary charismatic preacher.

            • Posted April 18, 2016 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

              So, we’re agreed that, if somebody suggested that there might have been an “ordinary WWII bomber pilot” who was the historical Xenu, or an “ordinary file clerk” who was the historical Moroni, said person would be incoherent.

              Now, in what sense can it be any less incoherent to propose that there was an “ordinary charismatic preacher” who was the historical born-of-a-Virgin walked-on-water Ascended-to-Heaven Jesus?

              b&

              >

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

                I don’t agree it is incoherent. As others have mentioned above, there is a spectrum of possibilities. And mythological elements added later to the Jesus story do not reduce the probability that the cult had a real human founder named Jesus.

                Paul appears to claim that he met Jesus’ brother. And in a passage of Josephus that is genuine (not the Testaminium F.), he mentions a James whose brother was Jesus (though I’ve learned through the comments in the last post that the dates don’t match up exactly).

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 1:26 pm | Permalink

                You know, I think it’s time to cut down your insistence that Paul’s mention of James is an indication of historicity.

                Here’s the passage you keep banging on.

                1 Corinthians 15:3 For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures;

                4 And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:

                5 And that he was seen of Cephas, then of the twelve:

                6 After that, he was seen of above five hundred brethren at once; of whom the greater part remain unto this present, but some are fallen asleep.

                7 After that, he was seen of James; then of all the apostles.

                8 And last of all he was seen of me also, as of one born out of due time.

                This should be case closed. Paul saw Jesus the same way that James did. You agree that Paul never physically met Jesus, and here Paul is making most explicit that Paul met Jesus the exact same way that James did.

                But wait! There’s more!

                This isn’t Jesus appearing to James and then Paul, but Christ appearing to James and then Paul.

                A bit later in that chapter, we get stuff like this:

                45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.

                46 Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.

                47 The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven.

                That’s pure Philo. Adam was the Platonic archetype of the body and the Logos was the Platonic archetype of the soul. Oh, and by-the-way, there’s even more explicit text telling you that Paul’s Jesus “was made a quickening spirit.”

                Really, how much more do you need?

                b&

                >

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

                Ben, that is not the passage I “keep banging on”.

                The passage about James relevant to the debate on historicity is this:

                “Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas and remained with him fifteen days. But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother…and when James and Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given to me, they gave the right hand of fellowship to Barnabas and me, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised.”

                (Galatians 1:18ff)

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 2:23 pm | Permalink

                So, by what means have you concluded that Paul was lying when he wrote in Corinthians that he and James had the same spiritual relationship with Christ? Or that the rest of that chapter, in which Christ is the Platonic archetype of the soul, is to be dismissed?

                Or maybe you think that Paul somehow thought he was chatting up the brother of the Lord from heaven, the last Adam, the quickening spirit which was not natural but spiritual…?

                b&

                >

              • reginaldselkirk
                Posted April 18, 2016 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

                Lou Jost: “And mythological elements added later to the Jesus story do not reduce the probability that the cult had a real human founder named Jesus.

                What is your evidence that the mythological elements were “added later”? And later than what? It is clear to me that most of the biological elements of the Jesus story are complete fabrications, “added later” to claim fulfillment of alleged “prophecies” (mostly OT passages taken out of context). The author of Matthew is responsible for many of these, which are not as numerous in Mark. Examples: the tie to Bethlehem as a place of birth, the childhood in Egypt.

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

                Ben: “So, by what means have you concluded that Paul was lying when he wrote in Corinthians that he and James had the same spiritual relationship with Christ?”

                You keep distorting that passage. Look at what Corinthians 15:3-6 really says. It is specifically about James’ and Paul’s experience of the POST-resurrection Jesus. That in itself is important; Paul includes his vision of Jesus in the same list of experiences as the other “witnesses” of the resurrected Jesus. This destroys the Christian argument for a bodily resurrection, which is a later mythical element added by some of the gospels. But it doesn’t have any implications about James’ relationship to Jesus before these resurrection visions.

                Elsewhere Paul contrasts the physical body with the spiritual body which will be resurrected.

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

                Lou, are you reading what you’re writing?

                Because now you’re arguing that Paul and James shared a vision of a post-resurrected Christ and that Paul equates this same Christ as the Lord (aka “James’s Brother”) from heaven, not from Earth…but this is evidence that Jesus din’t bodily resurrect and instead faked his own death? And I suppose it’s this same fake-death Jesus whom Paul met on the road to Damascus?

                I…really, I’m at a loss.

                b&

                >

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

                Ben, I also am at a loss. You say “..this is evidence that Jesus din’t bodily resurrect and instead faked his own death?”

                I claimed that both James and Paul had visions of Jesus after he died. Yes, this is evidence against the Christian claim that Paul’s “witnesses” passage implies a bodily resurrection.

                But where did I say anything about Jesus faking his own death?

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 4:31 pm | Permalink

                Maybe you should spell it out from the beginning.

                Now it reads like you’re claiming that Paul had visions of Christ, and James had visions of Christ…but Paul’s report that James hallucinated Christ in the same way that Paul hallucinated Christ is somehow evidence that James’s hallucinations were of a real person.

                Huh…?

                Do you also consider the thousands of visions of Our Lady of Fátima as evidence of an historical Mary? If not, why not? You’re basing your historical Jesus on a mere two “eyewitness” hallucinations, whereas Fátima had thousands. Shouldn’t that carry more weight?

                b&

                >

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 4:55 pm | Permalink

                “Now it reads like you’re claiming that Paul had visions of Christ, and James had visions of Christ…but Paul’s report that James hallucinated Christ in the same way that Paul hallucinated Christ is somehow evidence that James’s hallucinations were of a real person.” (Ben)

                What??? You had said “Paul met Jesus the exact same way that James did.”

                I pointed out that this is not correct. Your passage from Paul only talked about James’ and Paul’s post-resurrection encounters with Jesus (both encounters were apparently the same: non-physical visions).

                Paul doesn’t say that this was how James first met Jesus, only that this was James’ post-resurrection experience of Jesus.

                That was my only point. Your last two comments invent such crazy straw men that I will stop here. We are obviously not communicating, and we are also surely both past our Roolz limits here.

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 5:05 pm | Permalink

                So, we agree that we’ve got a description of James having a post-resurrection, presumably non-corporeal experience with Jesus. But, best I know, this is the one-and-only account of James’s actual experience with Jesus; all the others describe him as an early apostle and “Brother of the Lord.”

                So where are you getting your information that James had any experience of any nature with a flesh-and-blood Jesus, or that James thought of Jesus as a flesh-and-blood figure, or that Paul thought of James being the sibling-brother of a flesh-and-blood Jesus?

                Because if it’s just “Christian tradition”…shouldn’t this chapter alone be more than enough to demonstrate that the earliest Christian in the modern tradition considered Jesus to be the Christ whom was the spiritual archetype of the human soul? I mean, that’s the whole point of this chapter: Paul had his personal non-corporeal experience of the Christ, and it’s the Christ who was the firstfruits of the soul just as Adam was the firstfruits of the body — and James is just cited as one of a cast of literally thousands of supporting characters for this argument.

                If James thought of Jesus as a flesh-and-blood sibling, don’t you think Paul would either not mention him at all or explicitly refute such a position, rather than, as he does, call upon him as an example supporting his Platonic / Logos characterization of Jesus?

                Cheers,

                b&

                >

              • reasonshark
                Posted April 18, 2016 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

                It doesn’t seem to me that hard to understand what Lou Jost is saying. 1 Corinthians 15 details the visions after Jesus’ death. That doesn’t mean it was the first time Cephas/Peter ever encountered the raving apocalyptic loony. Any believer desperate enough to think the raving madman was really the prophesied Son of God could just as easily fool themselves into believing he hadn’t really died, hence the hallucinatory visions and the whole material-spiritual theologizing about him being the Second Adam.

                Besides, there are earthy references a couple or so times. Paul mentions Jesus was made of a woman under the law in Galatians 4, and there’s mention of his burial in 1 Corinthians 15. He’s also said to be incarnate in Philippians 2:

                “2:5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

                2:6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:

                2:7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:

                2:8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

                That doesn’t mean it was the first time Cephas/Peter ever encountered the raving apocalyptic loony.

                …and the mentions of these corporeal encounters are…where…?

                whole material-spiritual theologizing about him being the Second Adam.

                Erm…you do know, do you not, that Philo wrote volumes about the Logos being exactly that? So…what, exactly? The Christians independently theologized this inspired by encounters with a man whom they believed really was the human incarnation of the antithesis of the flesh?

                2:5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:

                2:6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God

                It never ceases to amaze me how people can quote Paul explicitly declaring the Christ to be an heavenly figure in order to support claims that he walked the Earth.

                b&

                >

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

                ” all the other [passages] describe him as an early apostle and “Brother of the Lord.”

                So where are you getting your information that James had any experience of any nature with a flesh-and-blood Jesus…”

                You answered your own question. Paul seems to refer to kinship in that phrase; space gods don’t have kin. Paul pointedly does not refer to the other people in that paragraph as “Brothers of the Lord”.

                You know very well that I don’t rely on Christian tradition for this, but on the text itself, yet you go off yet again on that straw man in your last comment. That’s enough.

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

                Paul seems to refer to kinship in that phrase; space gods don’t have kin.

                Then Romulus and Remus really are historical figures, as are Artemis and Apollo.

                And what of the five hundred brethren who saw Christ all at once in verse 6? Or the Corinthian recipients of the letter, brethren all, in verses 50 and 58?

                Why this one brother to establish historicity, and not these hundreds, if not thousands, more?

                b&

                >

              • reasonshark
                Posted April 18, 2016 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

                “…and the mentions of these corporeal encounters are…where…?”

                Most people would consider it implied in Paul’s claim that James was “the Lord’s brother”.

                “The Christians independently…”

                You have a recurring issue with finding one uncharitable interpretation of someone else’s argument and acting like it’s the only possible interpretation. These are the same people, I might note, who wrote a series of gospels cannibalizing each other’s story beats down to the line. Perhaps they just liked the ideas they found elsewhere and cobbled them together to make a plausible-sounding narrative. Perhaps the emphasis on the spiritual over the material is just something 99 religions out of 100 do anyway. Perhaps humans are unimaginative enough to keep rediscovering – or subconsciously absorbing – the same story beats when it comes to religion. Heck, perhaps Logos and the Jesus legend originated from the same story traditions.

                When the issue is about whether the Jesus myths can trace their origins to a real preacher or were total delusion and fiction from the start, you’re going to end up discarding the deluded believers’ mythologizing elements anyway, so it’s no skin off a historicist nose if Paul lifted the Logos wholesale and grafted it onto his pet religion. The point, before you swoop in with a hasty “Aha!”, is that

                “It never ceases to amaze me how people can quote Paul explicitly declaring the Christ to be an heavenly figure in order to support claims that he walked the Earth.”

                You did read the list of examples either side of that bit, especially the followup which casts doubt on the easy claim that Jesus was nothing but spirit, spirit, spirit, didn’t you? It can’t be difficult to appreciate how someone can be a real flesh-and-blood being AND later mythologized into a deity or demigod? The Second Adam stuff makes as much sense if interpreted as Christ’s death turning the earthy, sinful fall back into the heavenly, spiritual rise, especially given the references to Jesus’ mother, brother, being incarnate, and “killed by Jews” (in a passage explicitly mentioning other prophets Jews have supposedly betrayed).

                It’s one thing to say Paul’s earthy Jesus is noticeably understated. It’s quite another to insist it’s impossible he meant any such thing. You’re overstating your case.

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

                When the issue is about whether the Jesus myths can trace their origins to a real preacher or were total delusion and fiction from the start, you’re going to end up discarding the deluded believers’ mythologizing elements anyway, so it’s no skin off a historicist nose if Paul lifted the Logos wholesale and grafted it onto his pet religion.

                The point is…subtract Philo from Paul and you’re left with basically nothing, especially of any detail and specificity, save the Eucharist. But we know from Justin Martyr that the Eucharist came from the cult of Mithra, so what, exactly, is it that you think is historical about Paul’s Jesus…?

                b&

                >

              • reasonshark
                Posted April 18, 2016 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

                Darn, knew I forgot something.

                “The point, before you swoop in with a hasty “Aha!”, is that” there’s a difference between saying the historicist position is proven in the texts and saying it’s plausible. At times, you seem unable to tell the difference.

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

                “Why this one brother to establish historicity, and not these hundreds, if not thousands, more?”

                Darn, you keep coming up with these things. In the list of those witnesses, he includes himself, who only saw visions. It is fair to conclude that the others also saw only visions.

                Paul states the brother thing very matter-of-factly. Read the passage above that I gave you. It is not even important to him, and there’s no obvious reason why he should lie about it. In fact he had some motive to hide it, since he wants to appear on a par with the Jerusalem “pillars” and is reluctant to give any them special status.

                And some later church traditions, especially Catholic, are quite uncomfortable with that passage.

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 6:43 pm | Permalink

                Darn, you keep coming up with these things. In the list of those witnesses, he includes himself, who only saw visions. It is fair to conclude that the others also saw only visions.

                And, yet, in this Corinthians passage, James is not referred to as “Brother of the Lord,” and you yourself just agreed that all the people mentioned “saw only visions.”

                So, here we have countless brethren, and the only thing they have in common is that they only ever hallucinated about the Christ. Elsewhere Paul makes other mention of this the-singular-of-“brethren”-is Brother of the Lord, and that’s enough for you to conclude that James is the only one of those hundreds of brethren who actually was the flesh-and-blood sibling of Jesus who also hallucinated the Christ in addition to having grown up changing his baby brother’s diapers.

                Again: what is it about this one brother that makes you think he shared a mother with an historical Jesus, but all the other brethren here, there, and everywhere were just having visions?

                It can’t be the “Brother” epithet, because you’ve just dismissed it repeatedly and emphatically with respect to Corinthians. So what’s left? You’ve got a DNA analysis from some relic somewhere?

                b&

                >

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 6:59 pm | Permalink

                Oops, I see I’ve misread you this time. You are no longer writing about the visions straw man of the previous comment, but noting that Paul uses “brethren of the Lord” often as “followers of the Lord”. I’ve discussed that objection before. I am very open to a real expert giving better info on Paul’s use of that phrase, but in the section under discussion, he only applies it to James, not to the other Christians, and it reads as though it is a kinship identifier.

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

                What light would you possibly expect an “expert” to shed on this?

                The text in 1 Corinthians 15 is crystal clear. Lots of brethren, including those to whom the letter is addressed. James is explicitly identified, but not labeled a brother. Everybody experienced the Christ the same way as Paul — with that being the whole point to the first half of the exercise. Paul is establishing his bona fides, saying, “Look! I’m as real a Christian as any because I experienced Christ the same way as everybody else!”

                What more do you want?

                b&

                >

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

                I wrote my last comment while you were writing yours. The difference is that in the paragraph that specifies “James, the brother of the Lord”, he is the only one singled out that way, as if it meant kinship.

              • Posted April 19, 2016 at 11:08 am | Permalink

                So, in one particular instance, Paul calls James a brother of the Lord, but doesn’t call anybody else such. And in this instance, he uses the title for almost everybody except James.

                And from this, you’ve interpreted some sort of Kremlinology…and one that ignores everything else Paul is writing, particular in 1 Corinthians 15. Specifically, that everybody experienced the Christ spiritually and that the Christ was the master plan of the spirit. Our bodies were made in the image of Adam, but our souls were made in the image of Christ, who was not of the Earth but of Heaven.

                So, again. Why do you see significance in Paul calling James a brother in the other passage, but in him not calling James a brother in this passage especially when he calls everybody else a brother here?

                b&

                >

  3. Craw
    Posted April 18, 2016 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    “it all comes down to a subjective judgment on how much you believe the Bible as a source of historical information—at least on Jesus.”

    Some points here.
    In this context there is no applicable “the”.
    The contents of “the” bible were canonicalized centuries later. There is not ONE source. There are multiple sources. Paul seems largely independent of the gospels. There are at least 4 sources behind the gospelss (Mark, Q, M, L; M and L are not short form for the gospels). There is the gospel of Thomas. Multiple apparently *independent* sources. (How many *independent* sources have we for Socrates?)

    And as I noted it is not just the documents that matter. It is the existence and sudden emergence of the cult.

    Thirdly it is not just a matter of ‘belief’ but standards. You really just cannot pick and choose that cavalierly I think.

    • Posted April 18, 2016 at 9:26 am | Permalink

      Three successive comments, one a duplicate. You will now desist until your total comments constitute no more than 10-15% of the discussion, as per the Roolz.

  4. GBJames
    Posted April 18, 2016 at 9:26 am | Permalink

    I’m a Milwaukee boy but I’m not sure I’ll spend money (and a day of my remaining life) worrying about whether a fictional character is based on a real person or not.

  5. John Harshman
    Posted April 18, 2016 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    1. I’m mildly curious as to how mythicists deal with Josephus.

    2. Is there evidence for the historicity of John the Baptist? How does it compare with that for Jesus?

    • Posted April 18, 2016 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      1. I’m mildly curious as to how mythicists deal with Josephus.

      Re the Testimonium Flavianum they suggest it is a later interpolation, possibly by Eusebius.

      If one reads the paragraphs of Josephus immediately before and after the TF, it fits much better without that passage there at all.

    • reginaldselkirk
      Posted April 18, 2016 at 10:35 am | Permalink

      1. I’m mildly curious as to how mythicists deal with Josephus.

      The first thing I do is note his birth date – 37 CE, several years after the alleged death of the alleged Jesus H. Christ. There is no way that Josephus could have met Jesus. Even if you accepted without question the mentions of Jesus in his writings as genuine, they are necessarily indirect; and therefore constitute existence of an early Christian church, but certainly not evidence of a historical Jesus.

      Beyond that, one of the instances is believed to be an interpolation by a Christian scribe, and another may be a confusion with another person.

    • reginaldselkirk
      Posted April 18, 2016 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      2. Is there evidence for the historicity of John the Baptist? How does it compare with that for Jesus?

      Someone claims to have found his bones. In fact, more than one person makes that claim.

      “The six small bones are far from the only relics purporting to belong to him.
      Four locations, from a mosque in Damascus, Syria, to a museum in Munich, Germany, claim to have his head, while the Topkapi Museum in Istanbul, Turkey, has a relic alleged to be his right arm.”

      Four copies of his head. It’s a miracle!

    • maryhelena
      Posted April 18, 2016 at 10:57 am | Permalink

      How do mythicists deal with Josephus? Different answers from different mythicists…

      My answer: Josephus is as able as any gospel writer to write stories. Thus, before one takes the written word as fact one has to provide historical evidence. That being the case, it becomes obvious that much of what Josephus wrote is open to serious questioning.

      There is no historical evidence for John the Baptist – Josephus notwithstanding….likewise, there is no historical evidence for the James and Jesus story in Josephus. There is no historical evidence for Judas the Galilean. There is no historical evidence for Jesus ben Ananias. There is no historcal evidence for the Josephus figure of the Egyptian.

      So – as with the gospel Jesus – one can assume these Josephan figures were historical – but one cannot provide evidence for thinking so…

      Why did Josephus write stories? That is the ninety nine dollar question…perhaps the answer might be for the same reason the gospel writers told stories – political allegory in the context of Roman occupation.

      To write Josephus off as though he cannot be trusted (well he did write tall stories..) would be to ditch a major research avenue for early christian origins.

  6. Mark Reaume
    Posted April 18, 2016 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    I wonder how many people will go to the conference thinking they will learn how to lose weight.

    My Thin Formation Conference

  7. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted April 18, 2016 at 10:49 am | Permalink

    I was interested in the mention that there is a question about whether Socrates existed. I had never heard of this contention before, but I have now learned that it is a common tool to invoke comparisons about whether Jesus existed.
    Based on this, it appears that the existence of Socrates is not certain, but that the evidence that he really did exist is at least better than the evidence for a historical Jesus. The main point being that there were historical accounts of him when he was around.

    • Torbjörn Larsson
      Posted April 18, 2016 at 11:11 am | Permalink

      Thanks! As I commented above, I thought Socrates was an invention of Plato. I was aware of the two playwriters use, but that only strengthened my assumption that he was a mythical construct from earlier generations. It isn’t the usual historical reference of descriptions, to say the least.

      I did not know however that there was an “apparently unanimous consensus of professional historians”. They seem to play too lose with their standards of historical evidence. Which is, I take it, the satisfying test of several independent contemporary sources, even if only later copies or references to them exist.

      Like in the case of the “Jesus” persona.

      So there isn’t any historical evidence in the form that I have been given to think is necessary. I’m not sure I have to accept the professional consensus. Why do they change their requirements as they go? Odd.

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted April 18, 2016 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

        Even if he did exist, Socrates became a character in later stories. So one can see how that would make him seem fictional.

      • Posted April 18, 2016 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

        All the humanities seem often to play too lose with their standards of evidence.

  8. George
    Posted April 18, 2016 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Could Jesus be both historic and mythic?

    By a historic Jesus, I mean an apocalyptic preacher (at least one, maybe more) named Yeshuah from the Galilee who was executed by the Romans and was part of the inspiration for the Jesus movement within Judaism which eventually morphed into Christianity. I think the existence of such a preacher, without the connection to Christianity, is highly likely. I get the impression that apocalyptic preachers were common back then. I think this clip from the “Life of Brian” accurately describes what was going on:

    Yeshuah was a common Judean name. Romans executed anyone who stepped out of line. So the issue is how much of the Jesus movement is traceable to such a person – somewhere between 0 and 100%. I think the Jesus movement may have been largely mythic but it could have been overlaid on a real historical person.

    • George
      Posted April 18, 2016 at 11:19 am | Permalink

      Sorry for breaking da Roolz. Did not mean to embed that video.

    • Posted April 18, 2016 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      George – to me, this seems the most likely scenario; you comments, not the video 🙂

    • Paul S
      Posted April 18, 2016 at 11:36 am | Permalink

      Since you’ve reduced the biblical Jebus to some guy who may or may not have been called Yeshuah living around 2000 years ago, why bother adding an execution or any other event?
      Take away the miracles and you’re claim becomes; some people made up some stories about a guy who lived around 2000 years ago.
      Somehow I don’t think xtians will accept this as the basis for their belief.

      • George
        Posted April 18, 2016 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

        I am not trying to get xians to accept anything. To them, historic Jesus is the biblical Jesus. The mythicist debate is among non-believers. And what the debate boils down to is a historic Jesus along the lines I have described versus a completely mythical Jesus. I think it makes absolutely no difference what kind of Jesus existed other than informing what was going on in that part of the Mediterranean world over 2,000 years ago.

        What I find striking is that it is presented as an either or proposition – not really allowing for a combination of the two.

        • eric
          Posted April 18, 2016 at 3:29 pm | Permalink

          There are combinations; I mentioned one above (i.e., Jesus could be a stitching-together of stories about multiple people)

          I don’t think the mythicists are forcing an either/or debate or trying to close down consideration of other possibilities. They just think their hypothesis is the best supported of all the possibilities put on the table.

    • Charlie
      Posted April 18, 2016 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      I’ve been wondering whether the lack of secular documentation of Jesus could be down to the fact that there were lots of apocalyptic preachers at the time. If they were common enough, it would be easy to imagine commentators overlooking yet another one, this one named Jesus who for some reason became the nucleus of a major religion.

      But, *were* there lots of apocalyptic preachers?

      I’m in favor of there being an actual historical Jesus simply because it seems easier to imagine a real person being a nucleation site of a major religion. I’m perfectly happy, however, to accept that essentially everything that has been passed down to us about Jesus is mythical.

      • Posted April 18, 2016 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

        “But *were* there lots of apocalyptic preachers?”

        Richard Carrier says Yes:
        http://infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/kooks.html

        • ChrisH
          Posted April 19, 2016 at 5:28 am | Permalink

          I’m pretty sure that there have been apocalyptic preachers for as long as there’s been preaching. There’s been a roaring trade in them since at least pre-Christian Roman times as they tend to crop up pretty regularly in contemporary histories.

    • Posted April 18, 2016 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

      George, that’s my take as well.

  9. Posted April 18, 2016 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    By a historic Jesus, I mean an apocalyptic preacher (at least one, maybe more)

    What kind of sense does it make to suggest that the “real” Jesus could have been multiple people?

    By that metric, Harry Potter is a “real” person. After all, there’s more than one English boy named, “Harry.”

    Besides which, Jesus is an ancient Jewish demigod; see his appearance in Zechariah, written centuries before the Caesars. I don’t think you’d for a moment take seriously a proposition that a modern street preacher claiming to be Jesus really is the real Jesus…so why should it make any sense that any street preacher anywhere in history deserves that title more than any other?

    Cheers,

    b&

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted April 18, 2016 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      What is meant here is that the Jesus of the Gospels is a fictional composite of two real people just as the character.

      For example, The character Henry Hurt in the movie “Apollo 13” is a composite of more than one NASA personnel. “Black Hawk Down” is based on real events but several of the characters in it are composites. The single lawyer played by Edward Norton in “The People vs. Larry Flynt” is a composite of multiple real lawyers.

      The Biblical New Testament figure of Jesus is at the very least a composite of the quite disparate Suffering Servant of Isaiah and the Messianic figure in Zechariah that you name.
      But it’s sort of but not quite the “same” character, but rather very similar, just as Julie Andrews Maria von Trapp is a very similar character to her Mary Poppins, but they aren’t quite the same.

      Most rabbis and even secular Jews would be surprised to learn that Jesus is the same character as the Messiah in Zechariah.

      • Posted April 18, 2016 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

        What is meant here is that the Jesus of the Gospels is a fictional composite of two real people just as the character.

        But that makes no sense on so many levels.

        First, there’s no real person in the Gospels. Every single Gospel story is soaked in the miraculously divine. Even the more mundane ones about foot washing and the like are first and foremost about some sort of theology with only a thin pastiche of the mundane to set it in context…and, even then, we’re supposed to know Jesus because he was the guy who washed somebody’s feet?

        Second…really? Jesus was an amalgam of two real people plus the ancient Jewish demigod plus all the Pagan demigods Justin Martyr obsessed over, and the perfectly-unevidenced-“fact” you’re claiming that there were two (why exactly two? and both named, “Jesus”?) real people who contributed nothing whatsoever to what’s made it to modernity somehow make Jesus an historical figure?

        Most rabbis and even secular Jews would be surprised to learn that Jesus is the same character as the Messiah in Zechariah.

        Then they’ve not read the passage.

        The name is the same. The theological function is the same, the epithets are the same, and so on.

        If you came across a passage about a divine figure named, “Jesus,” who was the architect of YHWH’s true church, its high priest, the Rising, anointed with many crowns, the Prince of Peace, and so on, would it really not occur to you that this is the same Jesus as the Christians worship?

        Sure, it’s an older, more primitive version of the god. But that’s exactly the point.

        Really, what it comes down to is no different from somebody claiming that the whistling character in Steamboat Willie isn’t the “real” Mickey Mouse because he looks more rat-like than the costumed character wandering around Disneyland.

        b&

        >

        • JonLynnHarvey
          Posted April 18, 2016 at 2:44 pm | Permalink

          I did not limit the number to two and the name Jesus does not appear anywhere in Zechariah, only titles like Prince of Peace.

          (And Matthew shoehorns some of the Jesus story into Biblical prophecy in very artificial ways.)

          Where one wants to draw the line about saying there was A historical Jesus if there some historical kernel is I suppose a bit subjective.

          Suppose hypothetically that the sayings in the hypothetical Q source used by Matthew and Mark represent the real sayings of an itinerant preacher wandering around Galilee who was baptized by John the Baptist, and all else is embellishment.
          Near the end of his career, semi-mythicist George Wells took that as a real possibility.

          Many of the sayings and parables in Matthew and Mark do not draw attention to Jesus person and could have been preached by any rabbi of the time.

          • Posted April 18, 2016 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

            the name Jesus does not appear anywhere in Zechariah

            <ahem />

            Zechariah 6:11 Then take silver and gold, and make crowns, and set them upon the head of Joshua the son of Josedech, the high priest;

            12 And speak unto him, saying, Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, saying, Behold the man whose name is The Branch; and he shall grow up out of his place, and he shall build the temple of the Lord:

            13 Even he shall build the temple of the Lord; and he shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule upon his throne; and he shall be a priest upon his throne: and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.

            14 And the crowns shall be to Helem, and to Tobijah, and to Jedaiah, and to Hen the son of Zephaniah, for a memorial in the temple of the Lord.

            15 And they that are far off shall come and build in the temple of the Lord, and ye shall know that the Lord of hosts hath sent me unto you. And this shall come to pass, if ye will diligently obey the voice of the Lord your God.

            [emphasis added]

            …you were saying…?

            Cheers,

            b&

            >

            • JonLynnHarvey
              Posted April 18, 2016 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

              I sit corrected.

            • JonLynnHarvey
              Posted April 18, 2016 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

              but “son of Jos…the high priest” isn’t very encouraging.

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

                Jozadak is, literally, “whom YHWH has made just.” See Ezra and Haggai for other references to both, with Jesus again as the architect of YHWH’s temple and the source of joy and triumph.

                Cheers,

                b&

                >

          • maryhelena
            Posted April 18, 2016 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

            JonLynnHarvey: ‘Suppose hypothetically that the sayings in the hypothetical Q source used by Matthew and Mark represent the real sayings of an itinerant preacher wandering around Galilee who was baptized by John the Baptist, and all else is embellishment.
            Near the end of his career, semi-mythicist George Wells took that as a real possibility.’
            ——————–

            Nice to see mention of George Wells!

            Yes, Wells has a fusing of his itinerant Galilean preacher figure with the Pauline christ figure. In other words, Wells holds on to an earthly component to the gospel Jesus story. Wells maintains that it is not all mythical….

            Interestingly, Wells maintains that his itinerant preacher figure was not crucified….

            George Wells: Can We Trust the New Testament: ‘This Galilean Jesus was not crucified and was not believed to have been resurrected
            after his death. The dying and rising Christ—devoid of time and place-of the early epistles is quite different figure and must
            have a different origin.’

            The point here is not that Wells is correct with his Galilean preacher from Q – the point is that Wells reconsidered his position that the gospel story was not all mythical.

            Wells, to my thinking, is correct that the NT has two Jesus stories. The gospel Jesus figure and the Pauline celestial christ figure. While at times these two Jesus figures seem to overlap, to reflect each other, their separate identities need to be maintained if our aim is to search for early christian origins.

            Pauline theology/philosophy does not cancel out earthly, historical reality. The Jerusalem above does not negate the Jerusalem below. Two stories, two contexts. Morphing one into the other re Carrier results in loss of context and thus sends one on a magic carpet ride with Paul..

            Bottom line – Carrier’s mythicist theory is not the only game in town…One can learn from George Wells!

            • maryhelena
              Posted April 18, 2016 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

              correction……the point is that Wells reconsidered his position that the gospel story was all mythical.

            • Posted April 18, 2016 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

              Wells, to my thinking, is correct that the NT has two Jesus stories. The gospel Jesus figure and the Pauline celestial christ figure. While at times these two Jesus figures seem to overlap, to reflect each other, their separate identities need to be maintained if our aim is to search for early christian origins.

              Pauline theology/philosophy does not cancel out earthly, historical reality. The Jerusalem above does not negate the Jerusalem below. Two stories, two contexts.

              I would agree that the Jesus “Mark” invented for the oldest Gospel (to which all later Gospel traditions trace their roots) was quite a different figure from Paul’s Jesus. Indeed, Paul’s Jesus is indistinguishable from Philo’s Logos. However…

              Morphing one into the other re Carrier results in loss of context and thus sends one on a magic carpet ride with Paul.

              …that is not at all what Richard does. He also observes that Paul’s Jesus is Philo’s Logos and that Mark invented an entirely new biography for Jesus.

              But where you’re going off the rails is by assuming that Mark’s biography of Jesus is somehow grounded in reality — something that even the oldest of Christian apologists, writing about the same time as the Gospel authors, admitted.

              Go through Mark’s Gospel and identify all the major biographical points in Jesus’s life. You’ll find Justin Martyr equated them all with one or another Pagan “Sons of Jupiter,” as he contemptuously called them. Perseus was born of a virgin, Aesculapius raised the dead, Bellerophon Ascended — even Mithras had a Last Supper.

              It beggars belief that a real flesh-and-blood human could have taken on the identity of an ancient Jewish demigod whom contemporary philosophers were equating with the eternal celestial Platonic archetype of the human soul, that the oldest extant author of the modern cult of said demigod could have failed to have mentioned the earthly tenure of said human, that said human could have lived a life so closely paralleling those of so many Pagan demigods, and that nobody bothered to write down such an amazing biography until half a century (or more) later after the Roman destruction of Jerusalem.

              Yes, Paul’s Jesus and Mark’s Jesus are two different theological figures. But how you can get from such an obvious fact to such an utterly bizarre conclusion that they both trace their roots to the same flesh-and-blood mortal is beyond me….

              Cheers,

              b&

              >

              • maryhelena
                Posted April 18, 2016 at 5:00 pm | Permalink

                Ben: Yes, Paul’s Jesus and Mark’s Jesus are two different theological figures. But how you can get from such an obvious fact to such an utterly bizarre conclusion that they both trace their roots to the same flesh-and-blood mortal is beyond me….
                ————-

                MH: And just where did I say, or infer, the ”utterly bizarre conclusion, that you attribute to me?

                Ben: ‘But where you’re going off the rails is by assuming that Mark’s biography of Jesus is somehow grounded in reality..’

                MH: So now I’m ‘going off the rails’?

                Mark tells a story about a Jesus figure crucified under Pilate. That story is not reality; not history. That story *reflects* history. Whether that history is, as Wells proposed, history of crucified Jews under Alexander Jannaeus, or as I see it as a reflection of the Roman execution of the last King and High Priest of the Jews, Antigonus.

                Mark wrote an allegory, a political allegory. To interpret that allegory, to find meaning in it, to understand it, requires that Jewish history be considered. Nothing is achieved by simply stating the gospel crucifixion story is ahistorical, that it’s a literary construct with no other purpose than to be a biography for Mark’s Jesus figure.

                The Jesus historicists are not going to be fobbed off by theories unrelated to reality. They want *apples* and the Carrier mythicists are offering *oranges*. That the historicists are wrong regarding a historical Jesus is one thing – but that they seek to uphold reality, to uphold a historical core to the gospel story, is something else altogether. And that is something the Carrier mythicists have to acknowledge – as did George Wells.

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

                That story *reflects* history.

                Okay, then.

                Give us one single example of a story — any story from any tradition in any context — which in no way whatsoever can possibly be said to “reflect history.”

                Even the most fantastic stories in the literature “reflect history.” Alice in Wonderland has all sorts of political satire in it, including some of the most famous poems. Harry Potter has scenes in very recognizable modern London. People have rolled stones up hills only to see them roll back down again, as was Sisyphus’s dilemma; and others have had their organs pecked out by birds, as was Prometheus’s fate. Even science fiction stories set in the far future…Hadleman’s Forever War was an allegory of the Vietnam War, and much of the original Star Trek was an allegory of the Cold War and contemporary racial relations in the United States.

                Are we now to consider all those stories and figures somehow “historical”?

                At some point, if the term is to have any meaning, one must conclude that “historicity” must denote a preponderance of actual fact. Sure, maybe Washington didn’t have an unfortunate childhood encounter with a cherry tree and an axe, but that doesn’t make him fictional. Similarly, the fact that there really are powerfully large lumberjacks does not make Paul Bunyan an historical figure.

                The position you’re taking here is dangerously close to the one about a mind so open that brains fall out. Don’t be so generous with your definition of historicity that even Peter Pan becomes historical.

                Cheers,

                b&

                >

              • maryhelena
                Posted April 18, 2016 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

                Ben: ‘….mind so open that brains fall out..’

                Glad to note that you find that a story can reflect history….the question then becomes – what history is the gospel story reflecting?

                Just as Jewish history is considered when endeavoring to understand the Dead Sea Scrolls – for instance, as Greg Doudna has been doing – so, likewise, the gospel story. Allegory can have a political core as easily as it can have a theological or philosophical or moral meaning. As even Carrier has admitted ‘political fiction’ suits the gospels well.

              • Posted April 18, 2016 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

                Glad to note that you find that a story can reflect history….the question then becomes – what history is the gospel story reflecting?

                Your question is incoherent.

                As I noted, Star Trek “reflected” the “history” of the Cold War between the US and the Soviet Union as well as racial tensions in the US. But, while anybody would, in a literary context, be quick to identify the commonality of those themes…only the insane or profoundly confused consider Star Trek to be even remotely “historical” or for, say, Captain Kirk to have any sense of “historicity” in any sense.

                If all you’re arguing for is that the first- and second-century documents collected in anthology form in the Christian Bible are products of their times…well so freakin’ what? Water is wet.

                But that’s not the case you’re putting forth; rather, you’re claiming that, because they were products of their times, we must assume that they’re meaningful histories of actual identifiable people and events — which is every bit as much of a non-sequitur as claiming the same of Star Trek.

                And note: there are people who, by all appearances, take Star Trek as seriously as Christians do the Bible. As in, Trekkies who will sincerely tell you that it’s all really real, or at least significantly enough real as any other historical document.

                Cheers,

                b&

                >

              • maryhelena
                Posted April 19, 2016 at 3:04 am | Permalink

                Ben: ‘Your question is incoherent.’
                —–

                Well then let me spell it out for you.

                You wrote: ‘Even the most fantastic stories in the literature “reflect history.”

                I then asked you – ‘what history is the gospel story reflecting?’

                Clear now?

                And just to be crystal clear: The gospel story is not reflecting Pilate, Herod etc. The gospel story is mentioning these figure – figures with a historical existence. (the Pilate Stone and Herodian coins.)

                Reflection will be found in symbolism. For instance: paper money is backed up by gold or silver held in bank vaults. Or take that gospel story about the demons (Legion) sent into the pigs – interpreted to represent the Roman army! Symbolism is big business – even today.

                Methinks, Ben, your on the wrong foot if you seek to either deny political, historical, reflection within the gospel story – or seek to deny it any relevance to that story.

              • Posted April 19, 2016 at 11:20 am | Permalink

                So never mind “reflection” and what-not.

                The question isn’t whether or not there’s any literary thematic “reflections” of ideas that parallel an interpretative imagery of something that traces its roots back to whatever. Because every story ever told “reflects” something.

                The question is whether or not Jesus was an actual historical flesh-and-blood man, with a biography at least roughly recognizable from the New Testament texts, who was born during the reign of Augustus and who was crucified during the reign of Tiberius.

                It’s not whether or not there were later writers who had sociopolitical axes to grind with ancient administrations. It’s not whether or not somebody once remembered a line said in a play by so-and-so and stole it for a later poem. It’s not even whether or not there were crazy people by the hundreds lining the street and mumbling into their beards.

                It’s whether or not the central figure of Christianity is somebody who actually walked the Earth and lived a life basically like the one in the New Testament.

                Cheers,

                b&

                >

              • maryhelena
                Posted April 19, 2016 at 11:45 am | Permalink

                Ben: ‘It’s whether or not the central figure of Christianity is somebody who actually walked the Earth and lived a life basically like the one in the New Testament.’
                —————-
                And the answer to that is of course a big NO….

                However, that answer is not the end of the matter – it is only the very first step toward an inquiry into early christian origins.

                Consequently, I’m not interesting in bashing anyone over the head re how they interpret a particular scriptural verse. The historicist vs ahistoricist debate is not going to be settled in that manner. The historicists make a historical claim – and it is only history that can either support that claim or deny it. History does not support that claim – but again, that is not the end of the matter. It needs to be demonstrated that history is able to deny that claim by demonstrating an alternative historical scenario to the historicists scenario.

                That should be the goal of the ahistoricists/mythicists. Street preacher/doorstep preacher tactics of scriptural bashing, ‘my interpretation is better than your interpretation’, is, in the bigger scheme of things – child’s play. That approach has been going on since the early days of christianity – and got nowhere – it’s futile. Christianity is, as the saying goes, the mother of heretics. Different interpretations are the ‘spirit’ of Christianity. Yep, good in their own way – but not good for a search for early christian origins. For that a consideration of Jewish history is a fundamental requirement.

                So, Ben, on with the scriptural bashing – I’ll just get myself a nice cup of rooibos and watch the show continue it’s never-ending runaround 😉

              • Posted April 19, 2016 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

                And the answer to that is of course a big NO….

                However, that answer is not the end of the matter – it is only the very first step toward an inquiry into early christian origins.

                In that case, you truly do yourself a disservice by being so antagonistic towards Richard Carrier, for that’s exactly the focus of his research.

                And he traces out the arc of the development of Christianity very clearly and thoroughly. Centuries before the Caesars, Jesus was a celestial Jewish demigod with his biggest appearance in Zechariah. Philo developed the Logos from Hellenism, and tied Jesus to the Logos. Paul’s Jesus is Philo’s, though it’s not clear if Paul got his Jesus directly or indirectly from Philo. Paul (or his sources) added some minor bits here and there, such as the Eucharist, but not much. There’s not an awful lot of extra-Biblical material after Paul and before the Gospels, but Richard analyzes them and finds continuing evolution of the figure, including in directions that nobody else went with. Then a radical shift comes with “Mark,” whose Gospel is a formal palindromic Homeric epic, an invented biography that weaves together universally-known Pagan and Jewish story elements. Little of Paul’s Christ can be found in Mark’s Jesus. Pretty much everything after Mark is some sort of a response to Mark, either an embellishment or a perceived correction of error or something like that. Luke is notable in the inclusion of new material in Acts, and John is notable in bringing back an emphasis on Pauline theology at the same time as even more over-the-top story elements are introduced. The various heresies are all doing the same basic thing but in potentially radical alternate directions.

                If that’s not a good several first steps towards an inquiry into early Christian origins, I don’t know what it is you’re hoping to find.

                One more thing: you do understand, do you not, that everybody’s independent? That there’s no one single overarching force that drove the development of early Christianity, and that, for example, Paul and Mark had radically different goals and aims in what they wrote? That just because you might find this-or-that “reflection” in the one doesn’t mean you’ll necessarily find its equivalent anywhere else?

                Cheers,

                b&

                >

              • maryhelena
                Posted April 19, 2016 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

                Ben: ‘In that case, you truly do yourself a disservice by being so antagonistic towards Richard Carrier, for that’s exactly the focus of his research.’
                ———–
                Carrier is away with the fairies 😉

                Thomas Brodie is streets ahead of Carrier – way ahead…

  10. Craw
    Posted April 18, 2016 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    A response to several responses.

    “Its also possible that there were many such apocalyptic preachers running around, and the “myth” part consists of stitching their stories together to make them about one person.”
    Absolutely. Did none of them exist? That seems to be the mythicist position, logically. There is no more evidence for any of these possible putative Jesi than the Nazarene one.
    So, seriously, did none exist? Becasue if at least one of them did the mythicist claim presented here is wrong.

    About Josephus and his two notices. “one of the instances is believed to be an interpolation by a Christian scribe, and another may be a confusion with another person.”
    One certainly is, but it’s not in all manuscripts. There is a notice of some cult leadet Jesus. Other cult leaders Jesi are real, just not the one from Nazareth?

    On Josephus: “There is no historical evidence for John the Baptist – Josephus notwithstanding…” No historical evidence aside from Josephus you mean. Josephus IS historical evidence.

    “Could Jesus be both historic and mythic?” Yes. This is what mythicists must deny.

    On multiple sources. “None of them being eyewitness testimony.” Indeed. Illiterates leave few documents. But the same can be said for many figures whose historicity is not challenged. Ancient records are spotty.
    And as for Paul he is a contemporaneous witness to the existence of the cult. He persecuted it.

    Paul S: “You’re evidence for jesus is that there isn’t a census without his name seems a bit backward.” It’s not my evidence for his existence. This is a bizarre misreading of what I wrote.

    Paul S on zombies: “You’d think someone somewhere would have said, Holy crap, uncle Ahmed is walking around and he’s been dead for years! But nope, nothing, nobody noticed anything he did, ever.”
    This would be a telling point if I were arguing these legends were true. I am not, and your straw man would scare crows at a thousand yards.

    About my claim there is no evidence of a Jesus cult in 25: “There is evidence of very similar ideas in the writings of Philo of Alexandria.” Ideas are not cults, and Alexandria is not Jerusalem. I mean real people holding real meetings telling stories and eventually producing texts, such as Mark.

    Passim: the sources are decades late. Indeed, and this is a good point. To which I have several replies
    1. your claim is true, the sources are late and tendentious
    2. this does somewhat undercut the the claim of historicity. But most evidence we have from the distant past is patchy and indirect. Much of it is tendentious. We are not talking proof here, much less accuracy in detail. We are arguing preponderance of evidence.
    3. I wonder if mythicists would retract if we did find a gospel, full of miracles, securely dateable to year 33. My guess is not so I see this argument as nugatory.

    A word on Q and Mark. Few scholars reject Q, and those who do tend to be Christians. I think Price accepts Q.

    Paul S again: “Take away the miracles and you’re claim becomes; some people made up some stories about a guy who lived around 2000 years ago.
    Somehow I don’t think xtians will accept this as the basis for their belief.” Yes that is m’y claim and I do not care what Christian accept.

    Apparently the debate will be streamed live for $10.

    I am answering no more comments, since I a restricted in my ability to reply.

    • Posted April 18, 2016 at 12:33 pm | Permalink

      Did none of them [apocalyptic preachers] exist? That seems to be the mythicist position, logically.

      No, the mythicist position is that the earliest Christians (e.g. Paul) thought of Jesus as a divine being in heaven, who appeared in visions, not as a recently lived person.

      But the same can be said for many figures whose historicity is not challenged.

      True, but the historicity of many ancient figures goes unchallenged because it does not matter because little rides on it.

      And as for Paul he is a contemporaneous witness to the existence of the cult. He persecuted it.

      We only have Paul’s saying that he persecuted the cult. He could have been exaggerating for effect (cf. the many apologists who say “I also was an atheist until …”).

      Second, saying Paul was contemporaneous doesn’t to early Christianity doesn’t mean much unless you can securely date Paul’s letters.

      A word on Q and Mark. Few scholars reject Q, …

      That’s not really an argument, given how the field is steeped in traditional assumptions. Q is pure hypothesis. Some scholars are reevaluating the case for it (e.g. Mark Goodacre) and find no real evidence for it.

      • Posted April 18, 2016 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

        Second, saying Paul was contemporaneous doesn’t to early Christianity doesn’t mean much unless you can securely date Paul’s letters.

        It’s worse than that. Much worse.

        We all know that Paul never physically met Jesus. But Paul also makes it clear that he knew Jesus the exact same way that everybody else knew Jesus.

        b&

        >

        • Posted April 19, 2016 at 11:32 am | Permalink

          That’s wrong, Paul is referring there to knowledge of the post-resurrection Jesus. It’s also worth noting that this takes place on earth, not in outer space, and that Paul mentions Jesus’ death and burial in the same passage. A neutral person reading of the passages you quote above on this would naturally assume that the death and burial also took place on the earthly plane.

          • Posted April 19, 2016 at 11:44 am | Permalink

            Lou, you can’t possibly have actually read the text. I defy you to take away from these verses that the Christ could even hypothetically have been a man just deceased.

            1 Corinthians 39 All flesh is not the same flesh: but there is one kind of flesh of men, another flesh of beasts, another of fishes, and another of birds.

            40 There are also celestial bodies, and bodies terrestrial: but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.

            41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars: for one star differeth from another star in glory.

            42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption:

            43 It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power:

            44 It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.

            45 And so it is written, The first man Adam was made a living soul; the last Adam was made a quickening spirit.

            46 Howbeit that was not first which is spiritual, but that which is natural; and afterward that which is spiritual.

            47 The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven.

            48 As is the earthy, such are they also that are earthy: and as is the heavenly, such are they also that are heavenly.

            49 And as we have borne the image of the earthy, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly.

            See that bit I bolded? In case you had any question, that’s the same “Lord” whom you would have us believe shared a mother with James.

            Here you are describing this very passage as, effectively, an eulogy…and you expect us to believe that Paul would forget to mention Jesus’s own brother and instead not even mention Jesus but talk about the Lord who is a quickening spirit which is not natural but spiritual and not of the earth but from Heaven?

            How much more explicit could Paul possibly get?

            Here’s another challenge. Pretend for a moment that Paul thought of Christ Jesus as the spiritual archetype from Heaven explicitly distinct from anything human and terrestrial. How would you expect him to write about that? How could it possibly differ rom what Paul actually wrote?

            b&

            >

            • Posted April 19, 2016 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

              Taking your second challenge, if Paul thought Jesus were a celestial being, I would not expect him to write that Jesus was of the seed of David, or that he was born of woman under the Law [ie an earthly Jew]. But he did write that, and other things similar to that, as mentioned by reasonshark in comments here.

              In context, the passage you quote seems to me to be contrasting pre- and post-resurrection life. Remember Paul and the other early Christians thought they would also come back from dead. Your Line 44 is pretty clear about that:
              “It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.”

              This is how he thinks of resurrection. Including Jesus’. (Many secular scholars use these passages to argue against the idea that Paul believed in a bodily resurrection of Jesus.)

              • Posted April 19, 2016 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

                In context, the passage you quote seems to me to be contrasting pre- and post-resurrection life.

                Lou, you seem to be suggesting that Paul knew something of Jesus before the Resurrection. If so…you’re the first person I’ve ever known to even hint at such a suggestion. Even Christians with only a casual knowledge of the Bible will be quick to tell you that Paul doesn’t enter the scene until well after the Passion and Resurrection and Ascension.

                What makes you think that Paul even had any clue who Jesus was before the Resurrection? Or, for that matter, what evidence do you have that Paul thought that the Resurrection had occurred recently in time or nearby in space?

                And if Paul’s entire experience is not of Jesus the man but the Resurrected Christ…why are you attempting to draw a distinction which clearly doesn’t exist?

                b&

                >

              • Posted April 19, 2016 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

                Why am I saying that Paul makes the distinction? Because that’s what Paul says, that’s why.

                You’re assuming what you want to prove (ie Jesus was not a physically real person), but suppose for a moment you were just a regular person reading Paul. He seems to say he met Jesus’ brother, and he met the apostles who were the original followers of Jesus. He says he persecuted followers of Jesus (and if Jesus was a real person, some of those people may even have known him). He had lots of contact with Christian beliefs.

                Since he knew and persecuted the original followers of Jesus, he had more than enough info to say something about what Christians believed, and apparently they believed Jesus was a real person, “born of a woman under the Law”, seed of David, etc. It is not for me to say where he got this info. It is enough to point out that this is what he wrote.

              • Posted April 20, 2016 at 10:33 am | Permalink

                Lou, again. Paul’s entire experience of the Christ was of the Risen Christ. His awareness of Christianity begins well after everything had happened — whether one takes an historicist position that it had happened a decade or three earlier in the same part of the world or the mythicist position that it happened in an unspecified location ruled over by the unidentified archons of an unknown age.

                I think we’ve already beaten this “brother” bit to death, what with the hundreds of brethren in 1 Corinthians 15. Apparently, the historicist position is that “brother” (of the Lord! not of Jesus!) only means a literal fraternal relationship when the brother in question is named, “James.”

                Now you’re declaring that, because Jesus had a mother, that also makes him a real figure. So…Perseus, born not only of a mother but of a virgin mother…he was a real flesh-and-blood historical figure, too?

                And of royal descent…well, again, so was Perseus. And countless others. Are they all real flesh-and-blood historical figures?

                Bruce Wayne watched his own parents murdered. Is he a real flesh-and-blood historical figure?

                Even if you wish to claim that the terms you’re referring to have mundane meanings, all your work is still ahead of you. And that’s because, as you yourself have repeatedly admitted, most of what Paul was writing was of, in your words, “post-Resurrection Jesus.” Or the creature that today’s youth refers to as, “Zombie Jesus.” If it’s already accepted that Paul’s Jesus was, first and foremost, a figure that “survived” death in whatever form…the leap from that to a real figure who died before becoming an imaginary figure returned from the grave…well, I’d hope that that’s the sort of extraordinary claim that requires evidence just a wee bit more extraordinary than that the character has a fictional mother (presumed to be Mary though it’s hugely significant that Paul never identifies her nor the pre-birth condition of her hymen) and a fictional ancestor (David).

                b&

                >

              • Posted April 20, 2016 at 1:44 pm | Permalink

                Ben, you are once again imagining that I’m making extraordinary claims about Jesus, even though you’ve been told over and over again that this is not the case. You are a very difficult person to have a dialogue with. I’ll answer down below after lunch.

              • Posted April 20, 2016 at 2:01 pm | Permalink

                Lou, it’s hard for anything about Jesus to not be extraordinary.

                Everything in the New Testament is extraordinary…which means that claims that he was somehow ordinary — those claims themselves become extraordinary. After all, I think we’re agreed that Paul was writing at all times in the full knowledge of the Risen Christ, so a claim that he wrote of a pre-Risen Christ ordinary man Jesus stripped of all post-Resurrection understanding…that’s a most extraordinary claim right there.

                Indeed, it’d be like somebody writing about Superman, mentioning Clark Kent as an alter ego, and failing to note that Kent was a regular schlub in some way. The obvious conclusion is either that the writer knew that Kent was just a cover act for the reality of Superman, or that the two were entirely separate entities and the author didn’t know of the disguise. Either way, it’s not evidence for a schlub…in the first case, the schlub clearly isn’t actually a schlub and the whole thing is a fantasy; in the latter case, there’s no connection between the two in the author’s mind, so there’s no basis for the reader to connect them, either.

                Cheers,

                b&

                >

      • Posted April 19, 2016 at 11:45 am | Permalink

        Also – early Christians are not in dispute. Earthly sort-of founder is.

    • Gregory Kusnick
      Posted April 18, 2016 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

      Becasue if at least one of them did the mythicist claim presented here is wrong.

      Is it your position, then, that if at least one lumberjack exists, there must be a historical Paul Bunyan?

    • eric
      Posted April 18, 2016 at 3:41 pm | Permalink

      Absolutely. Did none of them exist? That seems to be the mythicist position, logically.

      I don’t consider myself one, but I think you’re mischaracterizing the mythicist position. I think they would say that lots of wandering preachers probably existed, but the stories of Jesus in the New Testament were not based on the life and events of one (or more) of them. Instead, the NT stories were based on already-circulating older stories about a messiah. IOW there was never some individual person whose life got embellished, instead Jesus is sort of like the Roman god Jupiter being a retelling of Zeus.

      • Posted April 18, 2016 at 3:53 pm | Permalink

        Jesus is sort of like the Roman god Jupiter being a retelling of Zeus.

        A better example would be Orpheus, who was a more-earthly incarnation of Dionysus. Indeed, Orpheus and Jesus are cut from the same cloth, just set in different geographies — Orpheus in Thrace and Jesus in Judea. As are so many other Mediterranean demigods of the Classical era.

        Cheers,

        b&

        >

  11. Posted April 18, 2016 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    As genuine historians hold no truck with the god-man, Jesus of Nazareth Nowhere then we can be safely assured the character reflected in the gospels is nothing but a narrative construct.

    If the claim is that there must have been an historical figure this god man was based upon then who was it?

    Josephus mentions a number of Jesus’s … maybe one of these?

    But the onus lies with those who would marry the two characters to provide the evidence of divinity first before we even look for an historical Jesus.
    And as secular historians do not believe in the god-man version what’s left?

    Most scholars in the relevant biblical fields have accepted that Moses is a work of fiction and nobody (other than extreme fundamentalists) has a major tantrum and derisively calls these people mythicists or ‘fringe’ or crackpot.
    In fact , if anyone in Old Testament studies is the ‘crackpot’ it is likely people such as biblical innerantist Kenneth Kitchen and his ilk who believe Moses was really real and the Exodus really did happen.

    Therefore, why the heck is someone like Ehrman holding back and hedging his bets regarding the character Jesus of wherever?

    Maybe he can’t let go of his Christian upbringing or maybe his publisher has warned he’ll be in big es aitch one T if he comes out and states what I suspect he really believes.

    I hope Robert Price chews him up for breakfast.

  12. George
    Posted April 18, 2016 at 12:36 pm | Permalink

    Richard Carrier has done the best presentation of the mythicist case. You can read his book, “On the Historicity of Jesus.” Ehrman has refused to debate him. Carrier’s version of his dispute with Ehrman is here:
    http://freethoughtblogs.com/carrier/archives/1794

    Here is Ehrman’s response:
    http://ehrmanblog.org/fuller-reply-to-richard-carrier/

    Carrier’s website is:
    http://www.richardcarrier.info/

    Carrier has many videos out there presenting his case for mythicism. This is the first.

    Robert Price, Richard Carrier and David Fitzgerald discuss myrhicism here.

  13. Kevin
    Posted April 18, 2016 at 7:32 pm | Permalink

    Probability of Jesus existing (like above):

    0 to 1

    Probability that Jesus knew what an electron was:

    0

    Second probability is more practical way to convince people to leave religion.

  14. Blair
    Posted April 19, 2016 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    After reading Carrier’s blog posts on his mythicist position, I read the New Testament from end to end, and came away with the feeling that there is positive evidence against a historical Jesus. The lack of any mention of Jesus doing or saying anything in Paul’s writing makes no sense, especially since he spent an awful lot of time quoting the old Testiment and was trying to convince his churches about theological points. The fact that he did not cite the words or deeds of Jesus is strong evidence that they did not exist at the time he was writing. Further much of the Gospel writing read to me as parables – that is, stories written to make a particular moral point, not to convey what actually happened. The only positive evidence that I have seen for a historical Jesus is the mention that James is his brother. I think that is fairly weak evidence compared to Jesus’ stark absence from Paul’s writing.

    • Posted April 20, 2016 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      Blair wrote, “Further much of the Gospel writing read to me as parables – that is, stories written to make a particular moral point.”

      I’ve always been struck that three people I know with Jewish educations in the Reform, Conservative and Orthodox communities *all* told me that the NT reads like midrash.

      And I got this anecdote before I was a mythicist.

      (Some with Jewish education I’ve spoken to disagree with this assessment, of course, but still …)

      Anecdotes aren’t good evidence, but can suggest a line of research … which I think Carrier and Doherty have initiated.

  15. Posted April 20, 2016 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    This continues a discussion with Ben under Comment 10.

    “Paul’s entire experience of the Christ was of the Risen Christ. His awareness of Christianity begins well after everything had happened”

    Yes of course, though he also interacted personally with some of the original apostles, and with the first wave of Christian converts, whom he persecuted. These are potential sources of background info about what they believed.

    So when Paul says that Jesus had a mother and was born under the Law, this is evidence that the early Christians thought Jesus was a physical person in Judea.

    “Apparently, the historicist position is that “brother” (of the Lord! not of Jesus!) only means a literal fraternal relationship when the brother in question is named, “James.””

    No, historicists recognize that “brother” can be used both ways, as a kinship indicator and as an indicator of membership in a close-knit group, much as in English. Paul clearly uses it in the latter sense when he refers to the 500. He seems to use it in the kinship sense when he first mentions James (of whom there were several in the early church), because in that paragraph he applies it ONLY to James, not to Peter. Furthermore, Josephus also mentions a James who was a Jesus’ brother, in a passage we’ve discussed before. I know there are alternative mythicist interpretations of both passages, and I am trying to learn more about them. But most thoughtful mythicists that I have read recognize that these lines are not so easily dismissed as you claim.

    “Now you’re declaring that, because Jesus had a mother, that also makes him a real figure.”

    No, I am claiming that if Paul says Jesus was born of a woman as a Jew from a particular line, then Paul probably believed that Jesus was a physical person. Your claim that Paul believed Jesus was always a spaceman seems wrong to me. Paul believed Jesus was a spaceman AFTER Jesus died as a human on this earth. That seems pretty clear even in the parts of Paul that you quote above.

    “If it’s already accepted that Paul’s Jesus was, first and foremost, a figure that “survived” death in whatever form…”

    Paul’s visions of Jesus need no supernatural explanation, and none is claimed by me or any other secular historicist. For Paul, though, the voice in his head was the post-resurrection Jesus himself. This could be why Paul does not dwell on the historical Jesus. He thinks he is communicating directly with his lord; he has no need to ask others what Jesus meant. His belief in a direct hotline could be why he thinks he has nothing to learn from the apostles.

    • Posted April 20, 2016 at 3:09 pm | Permalink

      Lou, you write:

      So when Paul says that Jesus had a mother and was born under the Law, this is evidence that the early Christians thought Jesus was a physical person in Judea.

      However, I strongly suspect you would take great issue with the following parallel:

      So when Homer says that Zeus had a mother (Rhea) in Crete, this is evidence that the Pagans thought Zeus was a physical person in the Mediterranean

      Your justification for deciding that “brother” in the case of James is biological is equally specious.

      because in that paragraph he applies it ONLY to James, not to Peter.

      So, if I am introduced to the Pope by a monk and write of the encounter, would you conclude that the monk must be my brother and the Pope my father?

      Besides which, how could Jesus’s brother have gone forgotten by the time of the Gospels but the rest of his family gone unmentioned by Paul — despite the larger-than-life role that Jesus’s mother plays in all of that?

      Paul believed Jesus was a spaceman AFTER Jesus died as a human on this earth.

      So, since Hercules performed all his Labors on Earth and not in space, that makes Hercules historical, too?

      His belief in a direct hotline could be why he thinks he has nothing to learn from the apostles.

      Lou, this sentence right here demonstrates most emphatically that, even were there an historical Jesus, Paul cannot possibly be used as evidence in support of such a claim. At absolute most, you could construct an argument for how Paul’s epistles are consistent with an historical Jesus…but Paul’s Christ is entirely untethered from such a figure. As you yourself write, Paul’s Christ has nothing whatsoever to do with a real figure.

      That leaves you as an historicist with a truly insurmountable problem.

      For the earliest source identifiable with modern Christianity, Jesus is — again, as you yourself just noted — entirely untethered from history. Even if you wish to propose a flesh-and-blood precedent, any and all links between that human and Paul’s Christ from which Christianity is derived had already been fully and irreparably severed.

      I think even you would agree that Christianity, especially Pauline Christianity, begins with the Resurrected Christ. Even if a mere mortal had died, it is of no consequence; it is the god that rose from the dead that is the central figure of Christianity. Anybody could have died; it is of no consequence whom. But only the Christ could have Risen.

      And if Jesus could have been anybody, he truly was nobody.

      Nor is this any sort of a perversion of meaning! It’s straightforward Christian theology, and exactly the point of everything Paul wrote about. If Christ be not risen, all is hopeless and so on. The dead are born again in the Risen Christ. Salvation is with the Risen Christ. It is the Risen Lord of Heaven whose soul was the plan for the human spirit, as opposed to Adam whose body was the plan for ours. The actual Adam analogue (if any) who was Crucified…meaningless; it is the spirit, entirely the spirit, and nothing but the spirit that matters.

      Cheers,

      b&

      >

  16. Posted April 20, 2016 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

    “Even if a mere mortal had died, it is of no consequence; it is the god that rose from the dead that is the central figure of Christianity.”

    Maybe this is one reason for our endless arguments. You are concerned about philosophical or theological or apologetic issues, and I am just talking about the evidence for and against a bare point of history. Did the apostles know a real Jesus who they then mythified? That’s all. I think a fair reading of Paul suggests that there was a real Jesus whose followers Paul met and sometimes persecuted. This has no larger implication.

    By the way, you said “How could Jesus’s brother have gone forgotten by the time of the Gospels?”

    How much have you studied this stuff? Mark and Matthew mention James as one of Jesus’ brothers (Matt 13:55, Mark 6:3). So do many early Christian writers, and also the non-Christian Josephus. There are problems with the independence of these sources, but it is wrong to say James the brother of Jesus is forgotten in the gospels.

    • Posted April 20, 2016 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

      PS I am sure we agree that the gospels are too late to have much historic value. I only bring them up here because you used them.

    • Posted April 20, 2016 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

      You are concerned about philosophical or theological or apologetic issues, and I am just talking about the evidence for and against a bare point of history.

      But, don’t you see?

      Paul himself is only concerned with the philosophy and theology and apology, and perfectly uninterested in any “bare point of history.” Even if your “bare point of history” walked the Earth, it made absolutely no impression on Paul. Your strongest evidence is Paul’s inconsistent use of an ambiguous title, followed by an offhand reference to an anonymous mother, followed by a claim of a fictional royal ancestor.

      And this from the man who authored more of the New Testament than anybody else! (Granted, with the caveat that “Paul” was also a favorite pseudonym and a number of such works are included.)

      Did the apostles know a real Jesus who they then mythified?

      If they did, Paul either didn’t know or didn’t care. All he cared about was the myth. Again, for Paul, Christianity began with the Resurrection…and, again again, for everybody else, Christianity began with Paul. It’s a choke point, not unlike a black hole; whatever information might have gone into the Pauline Singularity was erased by Paul himself.

      …except, of course, for the minor little detail that, while Christianity itself might trace its roots through Paul, Paul himself is basically indistinguishable from Philo, and Philo was quite clear in tying his own Logos to the Jesus of Zechariah centuries earlier. Any historicist argument is going to have to conclude that a mere mortal convinced everybody that he was the human incarnation of the Logos — and, even then, nothing thus temporarily added by such an human remained after the passage through Paul.

      Mark and Matthew mention James as one of Jesus’ brothers (Matt 13:55, Mark 6:3). So do many early Christian writers, and also the non-Christian Josephus.

      I could have phrased that better. In Paul, James is one of the movers and shakers of the early Church. The rest of Jesus’s family is perfectly unknown to Jesus. In the Gospels, James is a minor character, a nobody, but Mary (and, to a lesser extent, Joseph) is one of the biggest supporting roles. James shrank to irrelevance whilst Mary sprung from nothing and leapt to the Heavens.

      Cheers,

      b&

      >

      • Posted April 20, 2016 at 8:37 pm | Permalink

        In your last paragraph you say “James shrank to irrelevance” in the gospels, in contrast to Paul’s making him a kingpin in the early church. That’s because the gospels aren’t about the history of the early church. Acts and later parts, which are about the early church, give James a prominent role, though there are several James and it is often not clear which one is meant.

        • Posted April 20, 2016 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

          In your last paragraph you say “James shrank to irrelevance” in the gospels, in contrast to Paul’s making him a kingpin in the early church. That’s because the gospels aren’t about the history of the early church.

          And doesn’t that itself seem more than a bit odd?

          Jesus’s own brother was a bigwig in his church after the Resurrection, but didn’t feature at all in Jesus’s story during his life? Where was James during Jesus’s life? What was he doing?

          b&

          >

        • Posted April 20, 2016 at 9:41 pm | Permalink

          Actually those gospels imply the family was embarrassed by Jesus’ preaching. Which is itself interesting.

        • Posted April 21, 2016 at 11:18 am | Permalink

          I’ve said my piece, but remember that James is (like Jesus) an Anglicization several removed from a very common name – IIRC, it is *Jacob* (or Yakov, if you want to be pedantic.)

  17. Posted April 20, 2016 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

    “Even if your “bare point of history” walked the Earth, it made absolutely no impression on Paul.”

    I can sort of agree with you there, so this is a good place to stop. My point is only that there probably was someone who walked the earth and had followers who made up stuff about him that eventually became Christianity as we know it. No big deal.


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