A reader defends the truth of Jesus’s existence

Reader “Fletch” had a comment on the post I wrote yesterday, “To uniquely protect Islam against mockery, Sydney newspaper suggests that Muslims be considered members of a race rather than a religion.” As you may recall, I criticized the Sydney Morning Herald‘s op-ed calling for Muslims to be included among special ethno-religious groups that, considered “races,” are covered by “hate speech” laws in Australia. (Religions in general are not.) I also claimed that Muslims are not a race by anybody’s construal of the term, and this proposal was just a way to uniquely insulate Islam from criticism.

I also claimed (with a bit of hyperbole), that no religion deserves respect, but qualified that by saying that we shouldn’t respect those faiths (nearly all of them) whose truth claims are untestable or wrong and their god-derived moral codes questionable. I do have more respect for, say, Quakers, than I do for the more theistic faiths. Quakerism, however, is almost the same as secular humanism.

But I did make this comment:

Catholicism and Islam are no more deserving of respect than are Scientology or Christian Science. Why is the claim that someone was nailed to the cross, killed, revived, and now is the sole vehicle for eternal salvation in Heaven any more deserving of respect than the claim that the overlord Xenu stashed people in volcanoes and then blew them up, releasing body thetans that now afflict us? Or that disease is merely an instantiation of misguided thinking, and can be cured by prayer. None of the bases of these faiths—their fact claims—survive the merest scrutiny, and none of their behavior claims, including assertions about the afterlife or the efficacy of prayer, are credible to someone not brought up in the asylum. In fact, severe ridicule of doctrine (not “adherents”) is the appropriate response to most religions; or, if you’re not into mockery, calm analysis and rejection of their claims.

Well, Fletch didn’t like that, and tried to post the following. I decided to put it above the fold and get readers’ comments, so I could email the whole lot to him. (I suspect his email address is bogus, but I’ll try). To wit:

I agree and disagree with this column. I agree that Islam is not, and should not be considered, a race; however, I disagree with your assertion that “None of the bases of these faiths—their fact claims—survive the merest scrutiny”. Christianity actually does survive this scrutiny. You just throw off this flip statement because you haven’t really studied it. Look at people like Lee Strobel – the former award-winning legal editor of the Chicago Tribune. He looked into Jesus and Christianity from the point of a reporter after his wife’s conversion. What he found so convinced him, that he became a Christian.

Or look at J. Warner Wallace, a former homicide detective who worked on cold-cases for 15 years. He approached the death of Jesus like a cold case and the gospels as eyewitness accounts, and he also came to the conclusion that, yes, what the Gospel accounts say are reliable. He also became a Christian as a result.

As C.S Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien said, the Bible is a myth, but that it is also true. That is the difference between Christianity and your overlord Xenu. As Lewis puts it –

“Myth in general is … at its best, a real though unfocused gleam of divine truth falling on human imagination. The heart of Christianity is a myth which is also a fact. The old myth of the Dying God, without ceasing to be myth, comes down from the heaven of legend and imagination to the earth of history. It happens — at a particular date, in a particular place, followed by definable historical consequences. We pass from a Balder or an Osiris, dying nobody knows when or where, to a historical Person crucified (it is all in order) under Pontius Pilate. By becoming fact it does not cease to be myth: that is the miracle”.

As most of us know, there’s no extra-Biblical evidence for the existence of someone who either was a divine Jesus (apparently Fletch’s belief) or even a secular preacher on whom the Biblical Jesus was modeled. The rest is commentary.

I didn’t know about Lee Strobel, who apparently wrote five books on apologetics, including The Case for Christ and The Case for The Real Jesus, but I simply can’t be bothered to read every such book that the goddies throw in my face. However, I found a pretty fair review of The Case for Christ by Jeffery J. Lowder on the Secular Web. Lowder, after a non-“strident” but critical review, concludes this:

Case for Christ is a creative, well-written contribution to Christian apologetics. Moreover, Strobel is to be commended for summarizing the work of so many leading apologists for Evangelical Christianity in such a compact and easy-to-read format. Yet Strobel did not interview any critics of Evangelical apologetics. He sometimes refutes at great length objections not made by the critics (e.g., the claim that Jesus was mentally insane); more often, he doesn’t address objections the critics do make (e.g., the complete inauthenticity of the Testimonium Flavianium, the failure of Jews to produce the body is inconclusive evidence for the empty tomb, etc.) Perhaps this will be a welcome feature to people who already believe Christianity but have no idea why they believe it. For those of us who are primarily interested in thetruth, however, we want to hear both sides of the story.

I’m sure there’s at least one reader who has read Strobel’s books, and if you have weigh in below.  If Strobel was a true journalist, and was convinced by the evidence, it’s odd that—as Lowder notes—he doesn’t even deal with the objections to the “real Jesus” story. If you’re weaving an evidence-based tale, it’s always best, as we scientists know, to take up possible objections to your case before others do!

As for J. Warner Wallace, author of Cold-Case Christianity and now adjunct professor of apologetics at Biola University, his book appears to be based purely on whether Scripture seems reliable to a detective (see here for his case). Apparently it does. But if the case for Christianity (or rather the divinity of Jesus) is best made by Wallace and Strobel, yet refuted by many others, including the Biblical scholars Bart Ehrman and Richard Carrier, then one should hardly commit one’s life to the doctrine.

I wonder what Fletch would think of The Case for Muhammad, which seems much stronger than The Case for Christ?

Anyway, if you want Fletch to read your comments, put them below, and in a day or so I’ll direct him to all of this.




  1. Posted August 23, 2016 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    Lee Strobel … looked into Jesus and Christianity from the point of a reporter … What he found so convinced him, that he became a Christian.

    No he didn’t, he merely *claimed* that that was the case. He was a Christian writing apologetics; it’s just that it sounds so much better if one spins the line “I was an atheist too until the evidence convinced me”.

    [I just wrote a blog post on this rhetorical device.]

    J. Warner Wallace, a former homicide detective who worked on cold-cases for 15 years. He approached the death of Jesus like a cold case and the gospels as eyewitness accounts, …

    Then it’s rather a pity that the gospels aren’t eyewitness accounts and don’t even claim to be, and were probably written more than 50 years after the supposed events by anonymous authors who had never met the supposed Jesus, and indeed had likely never met anyone who claimed to have met the supposed Jesus.

    • Todd J Morgan
      Posted August 23, 2016 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      It’s possible I’m wrong, but John is supposed to be an eye-witness account. At least it’s claimed to be.

      • Posted August 23, 2016 at 10:04 am | Permalink

        Christians will *claim* that the gospels are eye-witness accounts, but they have little evidence of this.

        “John” was likely the last of the gospels to be written, and we’d only be guessing who “John” was. The equally anonymous author “Luke” tells us that he himself is not an eyewitness, and “John” seems to have been written later.

        The bit at the end of “John”, which identifies the author of “John” with a disciple of Jesus is generally reckoned to be a later addition by an unknown person. Note that no part of “John” actually claims to be an eye-witness account from first-hand knowledge.

        • Heather Hastie
          Posted August 23, 2016 at 12:55 pm | Permalink

          I think ‘John’ might be the first of the gospels written, date wise. ‘Matthew’ and ‘Luke’ are both copies of that with both added and different details, then ‘Mark’. All give different accounts of, for example, who was there to discover the opened tomb of Jesus.

          There are other gospels which the Vatican decided not to include when they put the ‘Bible’ together. For whatever reason, they decided Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John would be the only ones believers were required to accept as the truth to be Christians. There are multiple differences between then, which are easy enough to Google.

          • Posted August 23, 2016 at 1:03 pm | Permalink

            What’s your rationale? This is precisely the reverse of the standard chronology, with Mark first, Luke and Matthew second, and finally John.

            In particular, the so-called Marcan priority makes a lot of sense because, first, because they copied a lot of material, sometimes verbatim – they must have got that material from somewhere to agree so closely; and, second, because when they differ from Mark, they’re generally more elaborate, more miraculous, less historically credible. It makes rather more sense to think that they added post-resurrection appearances than that ‘Mark’ for some reason decided to delete it.

            As for the Vatican deciding on gospels…the “Vatican” didn’t exist at the time the canon emerged. Although there were various gospels floating around, the four canonical ones were winners in terms of sheer popularity long before the famous church councils, and part of the reason is that they seem to be older than almost all of the survivings apocryphal writings (possibly excepting the [sayings] Gospel of Thomas). Problematic as the canonical gospels are in terms of teasing out historical hints, the various apocryphal gospels are almost certainly much worse.

            • Heather Hastie
              Posted August 23, 2016 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

              I f**ked up completely with my comment. In my defence it was 5.45am here when I wrote it and I was still half asleep. Sorry. I’m not sure how I did it, but I got Mark and John mixed up.

              I shouldn’t have used ‘Vatican” to describe the Church of the time either.

          • Don McCrady
            Posted August 23, 2016 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

            There are good reasons to think that John was written after the canonical gospels. It is the most theologically advanced of them all. We don’t hear about the imminent arrival of the Kingdom of God like we do in the other three. That’s most likely because enough time had passed since the “imminent” predictions of the first three that the author of John was forced to re-interpret the predictions and make up a new idea about the Kingdom of God being in heaven above rather than down on earth.

            • Posted August 24, 2016 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

              It’s interesting that “theologically advanced” correlates so well with “good at evading making any predictions”.

      • Reginald Selkirk
        Posted August 23, 2016 at 10:33 am | Permalink

        It’s possible I’m wrong, but John is supposed to be an eye-witness account. At least it’s claimed to be.

        I wonder if this is traceable to Revelations (Rev 1, esp. Rev 1:2). It always amazes me when religious people who defend the NT do not even know that most NT scholars are nearly certain that Revelation and the Gospel of John were not written by they same author.

      • Torbjörn Larsson
        Posted August 23, 2016 at 10:55 am | Permalink

        Considering the “Gospels” date 4 centuries after the presumed fact, as best historians can tell. that is a real feat!

        • Todd J Morgan
          Posted August 23, 2016 at 11:11 am | Permalink

          I don’t think that’s true. Maybe youre thinking of the oldest copies? Last I read, most scholars agree most of the new testament was written between 60 and 100.

          • Posted August 23, 2016 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

            That’s not really true these days. For example the “Acts Seminar” (mainstream scholars) recently put Luke/Acts in the 2nd century, about CE 110 to 140 or so.

          • Jim Jones
            Posted August 29, 2016 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

            There’s no evidence putting any gospel before 135 CE. The only ‘evidence’ for an earlier date is the claim that a scrap of one “looks like how my granny wrote” (sarcasm), i.e. it looks maybe like some document that might date to 50 or 70 CE. But as anyone knows, that all depends on the age of the writer.

            As for the age mentioned, we don’t have copies that date earlier than about 400 CE. We sure have no originals.

        • Posted August 23, 2016 at 12:14 pm | Permalink

          Considering that a scrap of the gospel of ‘John’ has been found which seems to date to the early 2nd century (P52), it seems very clear that they are nowhere near that late.

          • Posted August 23, 2016 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

            That dating in purely on handwriting analysis, which is one of the less reliable ways of dating a manuscript. A fair date range would be circa 125 CE to 280 CE. Of course Christians always quote that as “circa 125”.

            • Posted August 23, 2016 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

              Even the LEAST generous estimate in your range still puts it at 250 years after the events rather than 400 as was asserted above, and a 1st century date is still perfectly credible. Additionally, this is the oldest surviving scrap of copy, not necessarily an original – indeed, why should we expect it to be? So, presumably, the original version of gJohn is older than P52.

              And, of course, there are various writings from church fathers that quote the gospels long before the 4th or 5th century – indeed, even from the 2nd century, before the gospels were even named and associated with their traditional authors.

            • jeremy pereira
              Posted August 24, 2016 at 8:55 am | Permalink

              Actually, the date of P52 is usually quoted as between 125 and 200 based on handwriting.

              It doesn’t really matter though because other writers were already quoting the gospels by the middle of the second century. I see no reason not to accept the general range of 65 to around 110 for them.

              Even on 65 for Mark, we are still talking 30 years after the alleged events and we still don’t know who wrote the gospels and we still don’t know who the contemporary sources were.

          • Jim Jones
            Posted August 29, 2016 at 7:15 pm | Permalink

            It’s possible the scrap was from something which was copied into the gospel. That means the scrap doesn’t support an early gospel.


        • rickflick
          Posted August 23, 2016 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

          Today Hemant Mehta (The Friendly Atheist) posted an article relating to the dates of the bible:

          Exploring the Gap Between When the Gospels Were Written and the Oldest Copies We Have


      • jeremy pereira
        Posted August 24, 2016 at 7:25 am | Permalink

        It’s claimed to be by Christians and Robin Lane Fox. His argument is that the crucifixion story is a bit more credible in John than the other gospels and therefore it is possible that John was – or had access to – an eye witness.

        It is possible that there are some remnants of eye witness accounts in there somewhere but impossible to tell.

    • John Taylor
      Posted August 23, 2016 at 10:10 am | Permalink

      I read Strobel’s, The Case for a Creator, and was not impressed. If I remember correctly Strobel claims he was an atheists, like all other atheists, for the guilt free sex, drugs and rock and roll.

      If you look at the cast of characters he interviews for his books you can easily see that you aren’t getting a balanced point of view.

      It is interesting that he bothered with a book on the evidence for God when he had already shown in a previous book that Jesus is God.

      A young earth creationist at work lent me his copy to read, then after I read it, admitted he hadn’t even read the whole thing. I wasn’t impressed. These books aren’t worth anyone’s time to read. They have little discussion point sections after each chapter to facilitate discussion by church groups. They are very different from any investigative journalism that I have ever read.

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted August 23, 2016 at 10:48 am | Permalink

        I know many atheists and have yet to meet a single one that is in it for the sex and drugs. So that claim really has the whiff of being a made up caricature. Otoh, I can see how such a claim would pass muster with theists, since it fits right into their prejudices.

        • Torbjörn Larsson
          Posted August 23, 2016 at 10:57 am | Permalink

          Yet the google statistics for pornography correlates with the more fundamental religious parts of US…

          They have literary no shame.

        • Walt Jones
          Posted August 23, 2016 at 11:48 am | Permalink

          I’m in it for the wine, women, and song.

          • Mark Sturtevant
            Posted August 23, 2016 at 2:27 pm | Permalink

            Good wine, intelligent companionship, and an eclectic range of music for me. But I don’t consciously seek to connect atheism to these things.

          • grasshopper
            Posted August 23, 2016 at 6:17 pm | Permalink

            And Liberal Christians are into their faith for the wine, women and Spong.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted August 23, 2016 at 6:33 pm | Permalink

            Same thing, just from a slightly earlier epoch 😉


          • phil
            Posted August 23, 2016 at 9:23 pm | Permalink

            Wine, women, and song, but only in port, while at sea it was rum, bum, and concertina.

            “A rose … be any other name
            Would smell the same”

        • Simon
          Posted August 23, 2016 at 3:08 pm | Permalink

          Have a friend who manages to drag me off to his Xtian mens’ camp every now and then. At one such camp I was cornered by a gent earnestly telling me how he too had been an atheist who hated god and was seduced by drugs and an assortment of immorsl ways. He did seem really convinced that his pitch contained an accurate representation of a typical atheist and would strike a chord.

          Explaining that one doesn’t believe that there is any god to hate just leads to pleas to let Jesus into your heart. They don’t seem to grasp that their subjective emotional experiences are evidence of nothing other than the existence of emotions. To them, having a ‘revelatory’ emotional meltdown will surely lead one to Jebus.

      • gravelinspector-Aidan
        Posted August 23, 2016 at 2:22 pm | Permalink

        If I remember correctly Strobel claims he was an atheists, like all other atheists, for the guilt free sex, drugs and rock and roll.

        Rolling in the aisle, helpless with mirth.
        Sometimes the acronym needs spelling out.

        • Jim Jones
          Posted August 29, 2016 at 7:33 pm | Permalink

          So like Reefer Madness. So much BS from someone who tried none of those things.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted August 23, 2016 at 4:07 pm | Permalink

        I’m a nonbeliever due to the lack of evidence.

        The guilt-free sex & drugs & Rock ‘n’ Roll, that’s been pure serendipity.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted August 23, 2016 at 6:35 pm | Permalink

          Me too!

          (Though I must admit the sex drugs and rock’n’roll is often more an aspiration than an achievement 😉


      • Posted August 23, 2016 at 8:51 pm | Permalink

        I’m not in it for the drugs.

    • John Conoboy
      Posted August 23, 2016 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      One of the findings in the last few years in studies of criminal cases is that eyewitness accounts are not very reliable. This has led to many innocent people going to jail. Over time eyewitness memories can be changed. People fill in details that were not in their original accounts. Identification of the “suspect” can be changed by the actions of the police and others in how they present suspects in line-ups or photo line-ups. Prejudice can, of course, cause a witness to misidentify someone as the perpetrator and once they do, their memory becomes changed to fit the misperception. So imagine how eyewitness accounts of so-called miracles and such could change with time, especially among people who are not skeptical.

      • Torbjörn Larsson
        Posted August 23, 2016 at 11:10 am | Permalink

        The root problem is that there are no validated ‘eyewitness accounts’ for any of the myth. None of the myth figures are historical persons, except Saul* – who notably didn’t witness anything.

        * And there was actually a Judah kingdom, and a – very small – judean group held at ransom in Babylon. So those one or two [!] parts reflect an underlying history.

        Else the myth is obfuscated, sometimes reversing the order of kings, describing what didn’t happen as evidenced by archaeology, et cetera.

      • Draken
        Posted August 23, 2016 at 11:44 am | Permalink

        I must also call bollocks on the idea that a modern-day cold case forensic has anything authoritative to say on Jesus’ existence.

        A modern detective would dig up all remaining forensic evidence, police reports and witness statements and try to re-interview any surviving witnesses. Even then, cold case departments investigating cases up to 20 years old, have a success rate in the order of 20%. This is most definitely not Waking the dead.

        J. Warner Wallace would conclude from Harry Potter that Voldemort exists and is, indeed, former Hogwarts student Tom Marvolo Riddle.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted August 23, 2016 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

          I was going to suggest that, if Mr Detective wants to investigate something quite conclusive, internally consistent and irrefutable in its logic, he focusses his attention on (say) any Holmes book by Arthur Conan Doyle. Conclusive proof that Holmes and Moriarty existed!

          (Orders of magnitude more credible than the Bible, anyway).


      • Posted August 23, 2016 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

        I too was surprised a “cold case investigator” would claim to be a Christian because they read the “eye witness accounts
        of the gospels, for several reasons. As others have mentioned, a) it’s known that they aren’t accounts by eye witnesses, and b) in any case, eye witness accounts are known to be so unreliable that if I were ever on a jury, I’d ignore any that were presented, and pay attention to the physical evidence. Finally, how carefully do you suppose he read the gospels. They have two mutually incompatible accounts of Jesus’s birth (which Christians meld into one somehow), for starters. For a long time it has surprised me that no one seems to have noticed any of the events Christians claim to have been the greatest in history.

        • Wayne Robinson
          Posted August 23, 2016 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

          Actually Matthew and Luke don’t have different accounts of the nativity scene (although Christians often merge them). Luke has Mary and Joseph going from Nazareth to Bethlehem for an empire wide census no one else knows about, finds lodging in a stable, gives birth to Jesus and have the shepherds visit them, then return to Nazareth.

          Matthew has Joseph, Mary and Jesus living in Bethlehem, in a house, the wise men seeing and following a star, visiting Herod on the way, and then finally finding their way to Bethlehem, after which they return home. Herod in the meantime orders the death of all males under the age of 2 in Bethlehem and surroundings. An angel warns Joseph so they flee to Egypt returning after Herod’s death to Nazareth, apparently for some reason worried Herod’s son would be still watching for them in Bethlehem.

          So they can be reconciled if you assume that Mary and Joseph so enjoyed their stay in Bethlehem so much that they decided to move there.

          • jeremy pereira
            Posted August 24, 2016 at 7:40 am | Permalink

            I disagree. The two accounts cannot be reconciled. The time lines don’t work unless you have M&J going to Bethlehem then moving back to Nazareth… [Luke’s account]

            …then moving back to Bethlehem, then moving to Egypt, then moving to Nazareth [Matthew’s account].

            That is, I suppose, possible, except that the events of the first paragraph necessarily happened at least 10 years after the events of the second paragraph.

            When you examine the stories further, Luke’s census must be garbage – the idea of moving to the place of your ancestors would completely negate the point of the census especially as Joseph alleged travelled from a client kingdom (Galilee) not under direct control of Rome to Judea, a directly controlled Roman territory.

            Pretty much every sentence in Matthew’s story seems to come from OT prophecy which suggests he wove a (fictional) narrative around what he thought were Messianic prophecies.

            • Jim Jones
              Posted August 29, 2016 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

              Add Dr Who and a reliable TARDIS and it all works fine! ;P

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted August 23, 2016 at 6:48 pm | Permalink

          “eye witness accounts are known to be so unreliable that if I were ever on a jury, I’d ignore any that were presented, and pay attention to the physical evidence.”

          Me too. In particular, I’d ignore any eyewitness ‘identification’ unless the accused was personally known to the witness before the incident.


    • eric
      Posted August 23, 2016 at 7:57 pm | Permalink

      Yeah, I haven’t read Wallace but I really doubt any detective would consider my personal testimony as definitive if I said “Abraham Lincoln ate at my family’s restaurant.” Let alone if I claimed Abe worked miracles. A 100-150 year lag should (and, outside of religious apologetics, does) create a high bar for believing extraordinary personal testimony.

      • frednotfaith2
        Posted August 23, 2016 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

        And an even higher bar is set if, say, I claimed that in 1943 Superman saved me after Darth Vader turned me into a newt (I got better). And afterwards we had lunch at a cafe on Mars with Captain America, Charlie Brown, Little Orphan Annie, Franklin Delano Roosevelt and George Washington.

        • pali
          Posted August 23, 2016 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

          That would probably make a pretty fun Marvel movie. 😉

      • Posted August 24, 2016 at 11:22 am | Permalink

        I remember hearing that there are *too* many places in the Eastern US that claim “George Washington Slept Here”. And that’s from not even 300 years ago!

    • bobkillian
      Posted August 24, 2016 at 11:14 am | Permalink

      I highly recommend Robert M Price’s book “The Case Against theCase for Christ.”

      He eviscerates Strobel’s book, with scientific historical precision.

      Annnnnd … it’s hilarious.

  2. Posted August 23, 2016 at 9:46 am | Permalink

    Well, quoting Lee Strobel is a desperation move.

    I’ve read The Case for Christ — after being told by an online interlocutor that it was great evidence for the historicity of the Jesus stories.

    It’s really, really bad. No one with any sense would credit the methods and the “evidence” provided in that book.

    Look at people like Lee Strobel – the former award-winning legal editor of the Chicago Tribune. He looked into Jesus and Christianity from the point of a reporter after his wife’s conversion.

    Nonsense. If Strobel was a reporter at one time, he definitely dropped his reporter’s skeptical attitude for this book. Absolute naive credulity for anything any of the sources provides.

    I’ll just link to my review on Amazon.

    • Randall Schenck
      Posted August 23, 2016 at 9:54 am | Permalink

      That is one great review. Amazing

    • Historian
      Posted August 23, 2016 at 10:09 am | Permalink

      Thanks for providing such a detailed analysis. Strobel is making an historical claim and like a good reviewer you have pointed out all his errors. Strobel’s claims seem to be on the level of holocaust deniers and those who argue that slavery had nothing to do with the coming of the Civil War.

    • Don McCrady
      Posted August 23, 2016 at 10:57 am | Permalink

      I also read Case for Christ and was highly unimpressed. It was page after page of bad arguments against straw man positions that completely ignored the ample counter-arguments against them.

    • Draken
      Posted August 23, 2016 at 11:50 am | Permalink

      Goodness, jblilie, I’ve seen book burnings that are less destructive than that review!

    • Posted August 23, 2016 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

      That is an excellent thread after the review as well. You just never know where a lively discussion will turn up.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted August 23, 2016 at 1:28 pm | Permalink

      Excellent review! I found the thread after it most informative as well.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted August 23, 2016 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

      Woah! JBlilie, in the Amazon foyer, with the lead pipe!
      (Do you have the game “Cluedo” in your country?)
      Good takedown – you spent far more time on that than it seems to be worth.
      Pliny the Younger got dragged out and quoted on several occasions. His public career covered both duties in Rome and several spellsin in the provinces of Syria (~ modern inland Syria) and Bythnia (~ modern Black Sea coast of Turkey). If his encounters with early Christians are counted as evidence for an early spread of Christianity, then the location of these meetings is important. Two of his tours of duty are in the “Middle East”, and most of the rest of the time in the most cosmopolitan city of the Empire. Which are much the places where a cult which originated in the “Middle East” would be expected to b found.
      Finding an early second century Christian in Transalpine Gaul or Lusitania would be rather more informative about the spread of the religion.

    • eric
      Posted August 23, 2016 at 8:05 pm | Permalink

      Me too. I’ve read Strobel, Lewis, and Tolkein (but not Wallace).

      1. Strobel was just awful, IMO a classic case of someone ‘preaching to the converted’ – i.e., he writes his books for a Christian audience, to let them feel good about their beliefs, not to convince nonbelievers.

      2. Lewis defended faith by taking some pretty severe liberties with it. For example, in The Great Divorce he gets around the theological unfairness of Protestantism’s sola fides requirement for salvation by claiming that pepole get to know the truth after they die, and then get to choose whether to believe or not. Non-believer response: well yeah, that would solve the problem. Too bad it’s also not Christian theology.

      3. Tolkein’s concept of ‘truthful myth’ is, IMO, not a reference to the factual truth of Jesus’ resurrection or Christianity’s other key miracle claims. So they don’t support the claim that the theology is factually true.

    • Geoff Howe
      Posted August 25, 2016 at 1:09 am | Permalink

      The Case for Christ is an example of an argument that is so bad, that it actually proves the opposite of it’s intended point. I could say a lot about it, but probably the single worst bit was him acknowledging that there was no contemporary records, and that nothing was written down until 15-20 years after the death of Jesus. That’s just a damning indictment, and it only becomes worse in the context of all the other problems.

      Second, his claims to objective journalism are shattered when you find out that the “Counter-arguments” section of the book… is about the counter-arguments to the counter-arguments. He interviews another Christian to talk shit about Bart Ehrman and others. He interviews something like 13 people, and doesn’t speak with a single non-Christian.

      It actually gets a little bit worse on top of that. On a whim, I checked online for the denominations of the interviewees. In every single case where I could find a denomination, it was some kind of Protestant. As far as I can tell, not only did he not interview a single non-Christian, he didn’t interview a single non-Protestant. Even the Mary-worshipping Idolaters were too controversial for him.

  3. Barry Lyons
    Posted August 23, 2016 at 9:49 am | Permalink


    The real issue is not so much the claim that Jesus existed (he may have, but I doubt it) but the veracity of the extra-ordinary claim (deliberate hyphen for emphasis) that Jesus came back to life after being murdered. There’s no evidence for this claim (hint: the Bible is not evidence). On top of that, there’s the passage about the tombs opening and dead people walking out of their graves. Never mind (for now) the lack of strong evidence outside of the Bible for Jesus’s existence. The better question is this: Where is the evidence (again, outside of the Bible) for all the OTHER alive-again corpses? I can answer that: there isn’t any.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted August 23, 2016 at 11:20 am | Permalink

      Whereas the historical origins of the Jesus story very nicely fits one way to produce a myth. It begins as a tale claiming to recount events from approximately a generation ago, and this was at a time when people did not travel far, nor did they live long, and news was not always written down (except by the Romans, and note they record nothing of it).
      If it claimed to be from a time when most people were around to remember, then the spread of the story as a true account could be countered by honest skepticism since it would not jive with actual memories. Our direct observations and experiences are important means to identify true versus false claims, and note that this story originated in a way that gets around peoples’ ability to see through that b/c it was, at its origin, conveniently long ago and far far away.

      It is rather like how urban legends work. Although those are contemporary stories, they slip past our method of identifying baloney since we cannot refute them from direct experience. They generally start with ‘I knew a guy who knew a guy…’.

      • frednotfaith2
        Posted August 23, 2016 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

        Also, it’s my understanding that crucifixion was a specifically Roman punishment for convicted rebels against the empire and that the executed were left on the crosses until their bodies were so rotted and consumed by scavengers that they fell off, however long that would have taken. So if Jesus did exist and had been crucified, his body would not have been placed in a tomb at all, and holes in his hands and feet and a spear wound on his belly would have been the least of his deformities if he came back from his bad weekend. Oh, and actually there would have been no holes in his palms because nailing convicts that way to the cross was very inefficient as a means to hold them up on the cross.

  4. Kevin
    Posted August 23, 2016 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Books are tangential to the history of Jesus. We have millions, if not billions, of observations made by people for millennia and we cannot ignore the statistically relevant expectation that many authentic, empirical findings should have already been found. But none have been found, only hoped for with an arbitrary correlation to the story of Jesus.

    The empirical cohesion of Jesus is empty. I can postulate that Jesus exists, but there is no supporting evidence. I can postulate that an electron or genes or asteroids or opera or even Pokemon exist and we’ve all got independently verifiable, cohesive reasons why we should believe in the existence of these things. Jesus has none of this. His story is very different from fact, it is consistent with a myth.

  5. Posted August 23, 2016 at 9:58 am | Permalink

    Fletch’s evidence for Christ is… other “smart” people claiming to have looked at the “evidence”. Well, guess what, there are “smart” people that say there is no evidence, and that the evidence that is claimed is spurious at best. Maybe Fletch should look at the actual (lack of) evidence and judge for himself rather than taking the word of “smart” people, then maybe he’ll come to understand the fallacy of appealing to authority, especially false authority. I didn’t buy Michael Jordan’s shoes, and Fletch shouldn’t buy C.S. Lewis’s Jesus.

  6. Somite
    Posted August 23, 2016 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    Here is a nice succinct presentation on why Jesus was most likely made up.

    My personal favorite is that our only sources are papyrus fragments written in Greek, from Egypt, from ~100 CE, while many Jewish documents from the time and place of Jesus exist.

    Ten beautiful lies about Jesus by David Fitzgerald.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted August 23, 2016 at 1:22 pm | Permalink

      I believe I am in the live audience of this presentation. David F and I are good buds in spite of our being on opposite sides of the existent Jesus question.

    • frednotfaith2
      Posted August 23, 2016 at 2:51 pm | Permalink

      Great lecture, thanks for posting!

  7. colnago80
    Posted August 23, 2016 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    It is my information that the earliest of the books of the Christian Bible was written at least 30 years after the supposed execution of Yeshua ben Yusef of Nazareth. As others have stated in the comments, there is no evidence that any of the authors had ever met him or heard him sermonize. It’s all based on hearsay information.

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted August 23, 2016 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      I understand it is still the scholarly consensus that some of the epistles attributed to “Paul” are a bit earlier, possibly within 20 years of Jesus’s supposed execution.

      But none of these refer to the life, ministry or teaching of anyone called “Jesus of Nazareth”. They talk about a character called Jesus Christ (“Anointed Saviour”) in terms that suggest that character existed only in the “spiritual” world. This is basically Earl Doherty’s thesis: that Jesus was originally conceived of in wholly spiritual terms, and that the Gospels were not even hearsay, but were made up decades after the event to bolster the claims of the Roman Church. See http://www.jesuspuzzle.humanists.net/home.htm

      • Torbjörn Larsson
        Posted August 23, 2016 at 11:16 am | Permalink

        The authentic “Letters” does not name the “messianic” figure Saul (“Paul”) hallucinated on his travel to Damascus. There are a few inserted ones that lays the groundwork for the later fabrications … (“Acts”, “Gospels”). Those start to literary flesh out the supposedly evidenced “messianic” myth.

        [I got this from digging out the history in Wikipedia, so YMMV.]

        • Steve Pollard
          Posted August 23, 2016 at 3:02 pm | Permalink

          Indeed. The “authentic” letters never reference JofN. “Paul’s” inspiration throughout the epistles is the word of God, transmitted through the holy spirit. He never refers to the ministry, preaching, doctrine or indeed life of an earthly Jesus at all.

          So much of the literature of the various manifestations of the original “Christian” sects have been lost or suppressed. But there is enough left to cast terminal doubt on the one version that has been allowed to dominate religious culture to this day.

          • derekw
            Posted August 23, 2016 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

            Umm Paul clearly refers to Jesus in 1 Cor 15:3-8 reciting an early Christian creed (origin 5-1 0 years post crucifixion) ‘For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance[a]: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that he appeared to Cephas,[b] and then to the Twelve. 6 After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers and sisters at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some have fallen asleep. 7 Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles, 8 and last of all he appeared to me also, as to one abnormally born.’

            • Steve Pollard
              Posted August 23, 2016 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

              Even if you accept 1 Cor: 3-8 as a credal statement (and many sceptics think it is a much later interpolation), that does not turn it into evidence. None of what “Paul” says need refer to a corporeal JC at all. All of it is consistent with a fully spiritual JC.

            • jimroberts
              Posted August 24, 2016 at 5:57 am | Permalink

              The parts you quote do not mention Jesus, but only Christ. If it says somewhere in Paul that the name of the Christ is/was Jesus, you would have done better to cite that.

            • Posted August 24, 2016 at 11:25 am | Permalink

              That’s a reference to Christ Jesus (or Jesus the Christ), not to a JofN. Read elsewhere about what Paul says about how he and the others saw CJ/JC: visions.

  8. Jacob
    Posted August 23, 2016 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    I like how his defense of “Christianity actually does survive this scrutiny” boils down to “lots of people have been convinced of it!”

    That doesn’t seem like evidence for Christianity. It is evidence that there exists credulous people.

  9. Posted August 23, 2016 at 10:33 am | Permalink

    After reading Francis Collins’ new book Waterfalls are for Real, I was instantly convinced that Christianity is true. Who was I to doubt the water knowledge of such a learned and esteemed scientist?

    Nevermind that Saul/Paul didn’t know any of the details of Jesus’ purported life, or that the Gospels were written starting in 70 CE, by people outside of Palestine. That was just the Devil trying to trick us!

    If people would just allow their heart strings to be plucked (if God hasn’t already hardened them, that is), they would see that Tripartate + Trilemma = Trinity. God bless!

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted August 23, 2016 at 10:45 am | Permalink

      I immediately thought of Francis Collins, author of The Language of God. Collins appealed to some really low quality apologetics in that one, including at least one reference to Strobel. Collins also passes on arguments that are probably second-hand, in that he repeats poor-quality arguments that are clearly mistaken or frequently cited out of context (i.e. Einstein, F.F. Bruce)

  10. Posted August 23, 2016 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Strobel is a gullible sycophant. The Strobel Prize starts with motivation bias and ends in self-congratulatory reassertion. Informal fallacies and their acolytes.

  11. Posted August 23, 2016 at 10:34 am | Permalink

    Strobel was a respected reporter, and also an alcoholic. His wife converted to Christianity and converted him, and the conversion helped him get sober. So he constructed an argument to convince himself that his new beliefs were not irrational, and found a new career. Christians love to give his books to their skeptical friends, none of whom have ever been converted.

    This is the typical path of conversion to a new religion. People convert for social reasons and then construct a rationalization for their new beliefs.

  12. GBJames
    Posted August 23, 2016 at 10:40 am | Permalink


    Which is as much as I can bring myself to say about nonsense apologetics.

  13. BobTerrace
    Posted August 23, 2016 at 10:40 am | Permalink

    Fleas for Jesus. Amusing.

  14. Ken Pidcock
    Posted August 23, 2016 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    I read one of Strobel’s books. I don’t remember which one. I do remember being disappointed to learn that the person who gave it to me was impressed by it.

    • Richard
      Posted August 23, 2016 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

      I once saw a post whose author recommended that the person with whom he was arguing should look at the writings of a certain Dr Kent Hovind, a very learned man! Really? Dr Dino? I almost fell out on my chair laughing.

  15. WT
    Posted August 23, 2016 at 10:51 am | Permalink

    I read a couple of Strobel’s books in my freshman year of college, as I was falling away from religion. At that point, it probably helped briefly prop up my eroding faith. (This is arguably the entire point of apologetics.) Of course, turning to apologetics to prop up faith is a bit like plugging holes in a crumbling dam with your fingers — it might buy you a little time, but not much.

    I re-read the books after graduating a few years later. By then, I was basically an atheist, though probably not yet comfortable admitting it to myself or others. I recall finding Strobel’s books on re-read to be laughably bad. jblilie’s Amazon review @2 seems pretty on-point, if you’re curious. I also recall feeling a bit ashamed, realizing the amount of rationalization I must have engaged in to have found these books even slightly convincing a few years prior.

    It’s been 10-15 years, so my memory of the books and my reactions at the time could be mistaken. I’m also pretty sure I still have them boxed up somewhere in my apartment. Maybe I’ll dig them out and given them a quick skim for a laugh after work tonight.

    • jimroberts
      Posted August 23, 2016 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

      Back when, I read some books by C. S. Lewis to prop up my declining faith. Their effect was the opposite.

      • Richard
        Posted August 23, 2016 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

        I read ‘Out Of The Silent Planet’ when I was about ten, and thought it was a good SF yarn (still do, actually – much better than the rest of the trilogy) – the religious overtones went completely over my head!

        • eric
          Posted August 23, 2016 at 8:09 pm | Permalink

          Oh Goodness that’s an awful series. Frankly, his nonfiction theology is better. Screwtape Letters is better too.

          • Richard
            Posted August 23, 2016 at 11:43 pm | Permalink

            As I recall (not having read them for forty years), ‘Voyage Yo Venus was turgid and ‘That Hideous Strength’ was dire. But OOTSP was a reasonable yarn: Oxford don gets kidnapped and taken to Mars, escapes, meets some interesting alien species, and makes dangerous return trip to Earth. What’s not to like about that?

            (That’s “To”, not “Yo”, but my tablet won’t let me correct it!)

        • Posted August 29, 2016 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

          Me too, exactly that. I was about 12 when I read them.

  16. Torbjörn Larsson
    Posted August 23, 2016 at 10:53 am | Permalink

    Christianity actually does survive this scrutiny. You just throw off this flip statement because you haven’t really studied it.

    There is likely a minority of people who have studied the question of religious myth, so how could it be a “flip statement”? Ironically for anyone reading Fletch claim, it is the usual flip claim of religionists who haven’t studied the criticism.

    As for religious myth, there is no prior reason to believe it is anything else.

    Indeed, this specific doesn’t correlate with archaeological and historical fact, including its own description of its history. The first historical evidence of it is the Dead Sea Scrolls, which shows an unfinished myth package ~ 2,300 years ago. It is – in the wake of the upheaval the Hellenistic Conquest – a mixture of greek, egyptian and semitic (phoenician) myth, showing a splintering of sects.

    200 years later the second historical evidence comes from the existence of Herod, who built churches for the many sects. And of course we have the first jewish historian Josephus another 200 years later, describing jews as one sect among four surviving. There appears a lot of “messianic” proposals in the congealing myth package, but notably no description of christians.

    In between, ~ 2,000 years ago, there appears another historical evidenced person, Saul. He has a jewish schooling, and writes about his first commercial expedition after in his “Letters” of the later assembled myth package. There Saul seems to have a stroke – temporarily blind for 3 days – perhaps from the stress. In any case he fantasizes about an unnamed “messianic” figure.

    Christin and jewish sects are documented from now on, they troubled Alexandria for one.

    As dated by text analysis, hundred years or 2-3 generations later a disciple pens remaining myth “Letters”, goes on to write “Acts” where the “messianic” myth gets more detailed, and finally writes parts of one of the “Gospels” where the final myth is doled out in one of totally four different variants. This myth is postdated to Saul’s hallucination.

    The first modern version of the myth package, with many texts thrown out to support the winning christian sect, is finished some 200 years after that, ~ 1,600 years ago. That is by the way some 200 years before the main stream jewish and muhammedanist sects more or less finalized myth versions surfaces in history. The religion evolves and splits in some 1,000 years, which seems reasonably long.

    TL;DR: These three kin myths are crock. We know if from their nature, their documented history, and – to be *really, really* certain – their absence of any and all veracity.

    • jimroberts
      Posted August 23, 2016 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

      There Saul seems to have a stroke – temporarily blind for 3 days – perhaps from the stress.

      We only have that from Acts, a work of historical fiction written decades after Saul/Paul’s life. Paul’s own writings don’t mention this.

  17. Posted August 23, 2016 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    “Christianity actually does survive this scrutiny.”


    I read that book, long ago. It’s tripe.

  18. Posted August 23, 2016 at 11:13 am | Permalink

    I haven’t read Strobel, but I have read Lewis’s “Mere Christianity”, and thought it was drivel – to me, the book only makes sense to someone who already believes that the Jesus Myth was real, and I was surprised to hear that this was the book that convinced Francis Collins to convert to Christianity (which was the reason I read it – to confront, as Briggs suggested, “the best and the strongest of their arguments”). Instead, I agree with Dawkins when he says Lewis “should have known better”.

    As for the veracity of the New Testament, those have long been called into question via the two / four document hypothesis and questions about who wrote the Johannine works (to say nothing of Saul/Paul). I’m not an expert, but my understanding is that most current scholarship points to those original sources as being from the end of the 1st century CE, far too late for “unfiltered” eyewitness accounts (that is to say, accounts that haven’t been altered by intermediaries).

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted August 23, 2016 at 3:19 pm | Permalink

      I am also far from an expert, but this chimes with my understanding too. The gospels are literary creations, not history in any sense of the word. Mark is often said to be from the 70s because of its references to the destruction of the Temple; but it has been argued to post-date the war of the 90s or even the Bar-Kochba rebellion of the 120s. The other gospels (yes, including John) all draw on Mark.

      Whatever: there is no evidence that the NT is based on anything except myth, OT prophecy, midrash reinterpretation of older texts, and wishful thinking.

    • Posted August 29, 2016 at 2:53 pm | Permalink

      I read Mere Christianity (again on challenge from some online interlocutor).

      I also found it drivel and could only read about 1/3 of it.

  19. Don McCrady
    Posted August 23, 2016 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    I’m probably one of the few non-mythicist atheists on this site. I generally take Bart Ehrman’s position on the historicity of Jesus, which in summary is that he was a historical figure, who came from Nazareth, who probably preached the imminent coming of the Kingdom of God, after having been a disciple of John the Baptist (another real historical person), who somehow got on the wrong side of the Romans, and was crucified for it. And yes, everything beyond that is not historically reliable (i.e., a myth).

    Nobody doubts that Paul existed and is the legitimate author of at least 6 of the Pauline epistles. Among those authentic letters is the one to Galatians, wherein he describes meeting with Peter and James, both of whom claimed to know Jesus. This is as close to “eyewitness” as one can get either in the Bible or in ancient history.

    There are also reasons to believe a historical Jesus existed because the evidence “goes against the grain” of any agenda that someone would make up. An example of this is Jesus hometown of Nazareth. The Messiah was supposed to come from Bethlehem, and so we have Luke and Matthew penning two discrepant accounts of how Jesus of Nazareth came to Bethlehem. In Matthew, Jesus’ parents are actually from Bethlehem, Jesus was born in Bethlehem, and only fled to Egypt and eventually to Nazareth because of Herod. In Luke, Jesus’ parents were from Nazareth and only came to Bethlehem for the (fictional) census. If a Christian author was trying to make up Jesus out of whole cloth, there’s no reasons he would have mentioned Nazareth, which at best was an unimportant settlement, of no consequence whatsoever to the agenda and narrative of the Christian message.

    As for extra-biblical references, Josephus does mention Jesus in a highly corrupted passage; however, these corrupted elements (such as the claim that he was the messiah) are readily identified and when removed they do amount to extra-biblical confirmation of a historical person. Most scholars also agree that Josephus’ reference to James the brother of Jesus is not corrupted, nor is his reference to John the Baptist.

    None of this amounts to anything more than there was an ordinary dude named Jesus running around Palestine sometime in the 1st century.

    I do recommend Bart Erhman’s book on the subject, Did Jesus Exist?

    • Steve
      Posted August 23, 2016 at 11:54 am | Permalink

      Yes, “Did Jesus Exist” was a good read. Ehrman remains rational in his arguments for the existence of Jesus, by treating him as an “ordinary dude”, like many other preachers of his time, and dismissing all the religious hyperbole.
      Ehrman is also a great speaker, if you have th time to google and listen.

      • eric
        Posted August 23, 2016 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

        I’m an accepter of the ‘ordinary dude’ hypothesis. I also think the ‘amalgam of several ordinary dudes’ is a pretty reasonable possibility. When you’ve got entire sects of ascetic doomsday-preaching Jews running around, many of them probably killed by the Romans for trivial offenses just because justice was pretty rough and ready back then, and on top of that you’ve got miracle-working traveling con artists also being a dime a dozen at that time, the amalgam theory looks pretty good. Conflate two, three stories, with hyperbole added as they are retold, and voila.

      • phil
        Posted August 24, 2016 at 1:07 am | Permalink

        I have to disagree, Ehrman’s book is not that great. It seemed to me that he thought the gospels were independent sources, after he had explained that they clearly have some commonality. Furthermore nearly everyone I have read or listened to (until now) seems to think DJE was a poor piece of work. The book contains no index either.

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted August 23, 2016 at 1:21 pm | Permalink

      If a Christian author was trying to make up Jesus out of whole cloth, there’s no reasons he would have mentioned Nazareth…

      1) That might apply if a single author was inventing Jesus in a vacuum. But what if he was instead trying to skew a growing body of mythology towards his preferred version?

      2) Or, what if he thought there was an OT prophesy concerning Nazareth (Matt 2:23), and his invocation of Nazareth in his version was an attempt to claim fulfillment of that prophesy? (hat tip Thomas Paine). Working against this is the repeated use of “Jesus of Nazareth” even in Mark, before this alleged prophesy was invoked.

    • JonLynnHarvey
      Posted August 23, 2016 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

      Christopher Hitchens makes the same Nazareth/Bethlehem argument.

    • Posted August 23, 2016 at 1:34 pm | Permalink

      > “Nobody doubts that Paul existed …

      Well some people do. Some also identify him with other figures such as Simon of Samaria or Marcion of Sinope.

      > “Among those authentic letters is the one to Galatians, wherein he describes meeting with Peter and James, both of whom claimed to know Jesus. “

      No, he doesn’t say that either claimed to have met Jesus. He does refer to one as “Brother of the Lord”, but Christians were also using the word “brother” for fellow Christian.

      > “If a Christian author was trying to make up Jesus out of whole cloth, there’s no reasons he would have mentioned Nazareth, “

      OK, but suppose that Mark had written about “Jesus the Nazarene”, which he did (where Nazarene indicates a religious sect), and that had got corrupted into “of Nazareth”, and then Matthew and Luke had to work with that existing and known material, and then work Bethlehem into it somehow.

      > “Josephus does mention Jesus in a highly corrupted passage; however, these corrupted elements (such as the claim that he was the messiah) are readily identified and when removed they do amount to extra-biblical confirmation of a historical person.”

      On what basis do you assert that there *is* an uncorrupted basis to this passage, as opposed to the whole thing being an interpolation?

      Have a look at the sentences immediately before and after this passage; it fits far better if the whole thing is excised.

      • Posted August 23, 2016 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

        But what’s the deal with the Nazarene sect? As far as I can tell, they were called Nazarenes because they (claimed that they) followed Jesus of Nazareth, not the other way around; so the village still came first.

        • Posted August 23, 2016 at 1:56 pm | Permalink

          I don’t really know what “Nazarene” would have meant at that time, but the earliest gospel, “Mark”, calls Jesus “the Nazarene” most of the time (not “of Nazareth”) and indeed it gives the impression that Jesus’s home town was actually Capernaum.

          So, “the Nazarene” seems to be the earliest usage, later adapted into “of Nazareth”.

          [This, by the way, is a different issue from the much-later 4th-century sect of Christians who adopted the “Nazarene” title.]

          • frednotfaith2
            Posted August 23, 2016 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

            From what I’ve read there was no place called Nazareth anywhere prior to the late 3rd century CE and that it was most likely named after the Nazarene sect referenced in early Christian texts. The earliest non-biblical references to the town date from the early 300s.

        • Posted August 23, 2016 at 7:14 pm | Permalink

          The greek in Mark “ναζαρηνoς” (Nazōraios), simply cannot be derived from a place name. Someone from Nazareth would have been called a “Nazarethnon”.

          Jesus is instead a nazarite, the keeper of a religious vow, himself a form of sacrifice, of which several appear in the OT. The root word also has gnostic connotations.

          Only after the exegetical gospel of Mark began to be wrongly interpreted as an historical account, was the label ‘nazarite’ crudely kludged into a home town.

          • Posted August 24, 2016 at 12:38 am | Permalink

            The greek in Mark “ναζαρηνoς” (Nazōraios), simply cannot be derived from a place name. Someone from Nazareth would have been called a “Nazarethnon”.

            But “ναζαρηνoς” doesn’t transliterate to “Nazōraios”. Surely it has to be something more like “Nazarēnos”. (How do you get from “ν” to “i”?) I don’t know Greek, so I don’t know about grammar and etymology; but having no other information available, given this strange transliteration, I wonder if you do, either?

            Jesus is instead a nazarite, the keeper of a religious vow, himself a form of sacrifice, of which several appear in the OT.

            But “Nazarene” and “Nazarite” are not the same; I recognise that the Greek might be the same, but it’s not clear to me that it’s necessarily true, so it’s hardly evidence on its own. Moreover, Jesus did not seem to follow the nazirite vows, as he was known to drink wine. If they had made up a fictional nazirite, wouldn’t you expect that character to behave like a nazirite?

            • Posted August 24, 2016 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

              Both Nazoraios and Nazarenos appear in Mark. (My Greek is surely worse than yours.) Neither, however, derive from ‘of Nazareth’. It can’t be a place name, so it has to be something else.

              Behind the greek is the hebrew N-Z-R. This is traceable to ‘nazarite’.

              I don’t expect the author of the exegesis that is Mark to really bother with getting anything factually right. Jesus’ bodily sacrifice is like that of a nazarite. The N-Z-R root also relates to secret knowledge, etc.

              I am surely doing a poor job of relating the hypotheses of Salm, McKenna, IIRC Doherty, and others. If you want to propose an alternate explanation, I’m eager to hear it.

              • Posted August 26, 2016 at 5:21 pm | Permalink

                I asked someone who actually knows ancient Greek, who had this to say:

                Their “simply cannot” is massively overstating the case. We have several variants of the placename reported in the gospels, with further variations in the manuscripts: “Nazareth”, “Nazaret”, “Nazara”, “Nazarat” and “Nazarath”. Similarly, we have two variants on the adjectival form of the place name: “Nazarenos” and “Nazoraois”. So to claim that the latter “simply cannot” be derived from the place name is ridiculous – the variants of both the place name and its adjective show that we can’t make any definitive statement about what can or can’t be derived. The variants seem to derive from the name being pronounced different ways by different people, with perhaps a local Galilean pronunciation and a different one for those from elsewhere. This could be like the way the place name “Launceston” can be pronounced “LAWN-ceston”, “LON-ceston” or “LONS-‘ton”, depending on who is speaking.

                Most of those who claim that Nazoraois must mean “Nazarite” rather than “one from Nazareth” depend on the fact that derivation from the Hebrew or Aramaic tsade into Greek would usually result in a sigma rather than a zeta. But we have examples of tsade->zeta elsewhere. In Judges 8 the name of the Midianite king Zalmunna has his name transliterated with a sigma in the LXX, but with a zeta in Josephus. Ditto for the place name Zoar in Genesis 13:10 and the cliff called Bozez in 1Samuel 14:4. Just to further illustrate the lack of total consistency on this point – in Genesis 22.21 we have Uz and Buz; the LXX uses a zeta and Josephus uses a zeta in one and a sigma in the other.

                So the name could come out with a zeta because there simply was no consistency. Whatever the reason, these other variants make any blanket declaration on how the word “should” be transliterated patently false. It varied.

    • Posted August 23, 2016 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

      I have largely been “ninja’d” by other commenters in the time it took me to write this, but to echo some points made above…

      — For the record, yes, some people do doubt the existence of Paul. It would help if we had some indication of how his letters were preserved and collated. As it is, as I understand it, they even don’t appear in history before Marcion delivered them to Rome in the middle of the second century. It’s entirely possible that Marcion wrote them! At any rate, Paul’s letters don’t help prove that there was a real person behind the Jesus stories anyway – they describe him as some kind of spirit that can only be “heard” through hallucinations and inspired reading of Scripture, and he only “appeared” after he had died and resurrected. As for Peter and James “knowing Jesus”, I’m not sure where Paul says that. James is “a brother of the Lord”, i.e., a baptized Christian. At any rate, Paul is quite clear that the only way to get Jesus’ message is the way he did – psychically, if you will – and that on no account did he rely on anything related to him by any eyewitness (just see Galatians chapter 1…).

      — Nazareth turns out to be a made-up place name, applied to the present settlement many decades after the “lifetime” of Jesus. Josephus, the Old Testament, the Mishnah, and Roman sources, all “contemporary” with the putative Jesus, never mention it. In the gospel of Mark, which is the source material from which all the later gospels was derived, Jesus is characterized as a “Nazarene”, that is, a member of a minor Jewish sect by that name. It was necessary for the developing Catholic Church to re-interpret that as “a guy from a town called Nazareth” because those Nazarenes had distinctly un-Catholic leanings. Matthew, Luke, and John all use this later meaning. The name seems to have been applied to the present town in the fourth century.

      — The “Testimonium Flavianum” in Josephus’ Antiquities of the Jews is seen by all but the most intransigent apologists as a complete fabrication. Just to mention two bits of evidence – it is completely out of keeping with the context in which it appears, and no Christian writer seems to have noticed it before the fourth century. That strongly suggests that that was about the time it was inserted (all extant copies of Antiquities of the Jews are, of course, much later than that, so we can’t actually check whether the Testimoniam appeared in Josephus’ original work).

      These last two points are, of course, not evidence that Jesus wasn’t a real person, they just point to the fact that people seemed to be willing to produce fake evidence to that effect when the real thing wasn’t available.

      — Bart Ehrman’s Did Jesus Exist was anxiously and hopefully awaited by all the prominent mythicists, and all were very disappointed. They (we) were hoping that a scholar of his reputation would present the best possible case for the historical Jesus, but it turned out to be a mess of logical fallacies and shoddy scholarship. You really should read the review by Richard Carrier.

      It is probably no accident that very few contemporary religious studies scholars are promoting the “Christ myth” theory. Most of them are, you know, religious, and might be just a little bit biased. But even the unbiased ones may be gainfully employed by institutions that wouldn’t, um, encourage work in this area. Like, their big donors might withdraw their support. It is telling that the most prominent Christ mythicist scholars, including Richard Carrier, Robert Price, and David Fitzgerald, are not employed at universities. But just like “citizen scientists” do good work in discovering new species and comets, “citizen historians” are getting the word out about Christian origins: Jesus is in trouble!

      • Steve Pollard
        Posted August 23, 2016 at 3:34 pm | Permalink

        Very well said. To your sources I would add Earl Doherty (again): http://www.jesuspuzzle.humanists.net/home.htm; and Rene Salm: http://www.mythicistpapers.com/

        For ongoing discussion about Jesus mythology and its implications, try: http://vridar.org/

        And if you want a bit of a laugh, there is always Kenneth Humphries: http://www.jesusneverexisted.com/

      • Posted August 23, 2016 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

        R.M. Price could be rightly called ‘prominent’. He is the author of numerous books and has in fact held a university teaching position.

        OTOH, Carrier is a self-employed, itinerant lecturer, with two books published by a tiny press not affiliated with any university. Fitzgerald has no credentials to speak of. His one book, ‘Nailed’, was self-published via a vanity press.

        I find it odd that you ignore academics such as Robert Eisenman, Markus Vinzent, and Hermann Detering, not to mention the Dutch Radicals and German mythicists of the 18th & 19th centuries.

    • Posted August 23, 2016 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

      I am of the same opinion.

  20. eheffa
    Posted August 23, 2016 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    Not much time to reply here but the only accounts of the supposed wonder-working Son of God, the Canonical Gospels, are certainly not ‘Eyewitness’ accounts. The earliest writings, those of “Paul” seem completely ignorant as to any details of an Earthly Jesus personality and focus instead on a Celestial Sky-god Jesus.

    The Gospel of Mark, the first account placing Jesus Christ in an earthly setting has all the hallmarks of a midrashic parable (reworking “Old Testament” scriptures into a contemporary setting). It was likely written no earlier than the waning years of the first century.

    The Author of Matthew almost certainly had a copy of Mark on his lap as he plagiarized entire sections word for word while amending and cleaning up the story to fit his theology. Luke, writing a little after Matthew had a copy of Mark and Matthew as well as some of Josephus’ work to copy, tidy up and embellish the story further. Writer John probably had access to all these materials and a yet more theologically driven edits to make… he was likley writing sometime early to mid second century.

    When are these vital source documents i.e. the Gospels first referenced by the Church Fathers? Not until ~ 180 CE. Pretty surprising given their vital place in the string of documentation.

    Why are there no other contemporary reports of this oh so famous rabble rousing miracle worker from Galilee? Maybe because the Jesus of the Gospels is a literary creation. In any case, he Jesus story is clearly a fabrication. (Pure BS in modern parlance.)

    Lee Strobel is an apologist hack with no interest in the truth of the question. Anyone who completes their inquiry into this question by referencing Strobel isn’t interested in the truth of the matter either.


  21. Posted August 23, 2016 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    Not subscribing — too much to get done today.

    Fletch, if you read this…I’ll see your Strobel and raise you Richard Carrier’s On the Historicity of Jesus. And I’d urge you to take it seriously, for he presents a Bayesian framework for objectively considering the question.

    You might disagree with how he comes up with the probabilities for each tiny piece of the puzzle he examines — and that’s a good thing. You can then take your own probabilities and plug them into the equation — the math is simple enough you can almost do it in your head — and come up with your own answer.

    And the point of the matter isn’t even so much Richard’s conclusion (not a chance in Hell that Jesus was a real figure from history), but that the exercise forces you to examine the evidence and your perspective on it. When considering anything, there’s going to be evidence supportive of and contradictory with any conclusion — even if you do a laboratory measurement of gravity, there’s going to be measurement errors, for example. Bayes’s Theorem is a dispassionate way of adding up all the pros and cons in a very informative manner.

    So, in the case of gravity, Bayes tells us that it’s much more likely that your reflexes with the stopwatch aren’t as good as you thought they were than that the strength of gravity jiggles around. In the case of Jesus, you can decide for yourself if it’s more likely that so-and-so have different stories about an event because they’re bad reporters or because they made it up.

    …and, when you do, and add everything together…

    …you’re pretty much forced to the conclusion that Jesus is an ancient Jewish demigod first mentioned half a millennia before the time of the Caesars in the Old Testament (Zechariah, for example) as the architect and High Priest of YHWH’s celestial temple, the Prince of Peace, crowned / christened / anointed with many crowns, the Rising, and so on. At the time of his purported ministry, Philo didn’t notice said ministry but did equate the ancient Jesus with Philo’s own theological masterpiece, the incorporation of the greek Logos (the “Word” of John 1:1) into Judaism. Paul, writing a generation after the events, never sets Jesus in recent events…but he does describe him in language indistinguishable from what Philo used for the Logos. After the Roman conquest of Judea in 70 CE, Mark wrote a palindromic Homeric epic with an invented biography for the ancient demigod…and everybody after Mark either repeats or refutes him.

    Gotta run…apologies for any typos / thinkos / whatever, and, again, I’m not hanging around — just hit-and-run today….



    • Posted August 23, 2016 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      Just one question — what do you mean by “palindromic”?

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted August 23, 2016 at 1:14 pm | Permalink

      come up with your own answer.

      Somebody raised an order for a cart load of unseasoned brushwood, some oil, and a box of matches. Anyone know which heretic is going to get roasted? I don’t want to have to take this stuff back to the Witch-burner General.
      [Marketplace voice] Heretic-burning kit! Get your heretic-burning kit here!

    • Posted August 23, 2016 at 7:54 pm | Permalink

      Bayes is not suited for a question like ‘did a one-off figure exist?’

      But even among those who are fond of using Bayes with Jesus, Carrier’s methodology has been roundly criticized.

      Also, Bayes is GIGO, and Carrier’s ‘priors’, etc., are pure garbage.

    • Posted August 23, 2016 at 8:12 pm | Permalink

      Beyes is only useful if you know what priors to feed into it. There are no priors for a one-off event.

      Carrier has claimed his calculations are accurate to 7 decimal places. It’s cargo-cult maths.

      • Posted August 24, 2016 at 1:53 am | Permalink

        Carrier has claimed his calculations are accurate to 7 decimal places.

        Really? Where?

        I’m not particularly a Carrier fan, these days, but on Bayes he’s actually pretty sensible.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted August 24, 2016 at 1:59 am | Permalink

          I’m a bit sceptical. Not of the accuracy of Carrier’s calculations (I’ll concede him the benefit of the doubt on that) but as to whether physical reality is ever that precise.

          As the old tagline goes –
          My calculations are correct; reality is often inaccurate.


        • Posted August 24, 2016 at 9:47 am | Permalink

          What’s the appropriate level of precision when your data set totals 14?

  22. Mark R.
    Posted August 23, 2016 at 11:50 am | Permalink

    What I disrespect most in people like Fletch is no comment so far written will convince him/her that all his faith is based on myth and the books he cites rank no higher than superficial apologetics.

    Growing up in a Christian household, I can remember countless anecdotal accounts that “proved” God’s existence or the power of Jesus. One of the most prevalent anecdotes were people who claimed to have been Satanists who converted to Christianity. Or the alcoholic/drug addict who converted because they saw the light. Seems like Fletch is caught in this trap too. Anecdotes are not reliable and prove nothing.

    • Posted August 23, 2016 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

      All they prove is that Christianity works for some people in crisis. (The same must be true for other religions and some new-age fads.) A psychological need can be satisfied by something that is far from the truth. Like the characters of the Wizard of Oz who felt cured and happy after receiving bogus remedies. To me, it looks like some sophisticated variation of the placebo effect.

  23. Jeff Lewis
    Posted August 23, 2016 at 12:04 pm | Permalink

    A late friend of mine who was a very outspoken atheist had someone give him a copy of Strobel’s The Case for Christ along with Josh McDowell’s More Than a Carpenter. He loaned them to me to read and let him know what I thought. I started with More Than a Carpenter. It was horrible (see my review). At that point, I didn’t have the stomach for another apologetics book right away, and haven’t gotten around to it since, other than skimming the first chapter and not being very impressed.

  24. Posted August 23, 2016 at 12:11 pm | Permalink

    I read The Case for Christ by Strobel, and wish I hadn’t. It was given to me by someone attempting to lure me towards Christianity, and I felt more and more embarrassed for them with every page.

    It’s just one chapter after another of Strobel asking himself a softball question, and then going to a supposed “expert” (i.e., a theologian) and asking them. This is an abbreviated, but not exaggerated, example:

    Strobel: Mr. Theologian, I wonder if the Bible is reliable. What do you say?

    Theologian: Well, of course it is!

    Strobel: But what about those pesky atheists?

    Theologian: Well, obviously they’re wrong! After all, the Bible says so.

    Strobel: Gee, that’s a pretty good argument. Next question…!

    It goes on like that for 300 pages.

    • gravelinspector-Aidan
      Posted August 23, 2016 at 1:07 pm | Permalink

      It goes on like that for 300 pages.

      Isn’t there a historical (or fictional) author who described writing pornography as “you can write this for hours on end, provided you can abandon your mind to it”?
      Brian Griffin, probably. Woof, woof!

  25. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted August 23, 2016 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    (I suspect his email address is bogus, but I’ll try).

    Someone who has signed up more recently than I did may remember better, but a “confirmation email” is sent to a purported address when you’re setting up an account, and without the code in that email, the account isn’t verified. “Red flag”, and no persistent identity.
    I can think of at least one way of gaming that, but I won’t detail that. But the address that was used to sign up with would have to be valid, at the time of that confirmation email.
    Anyway, let’s see if there is any meat to this argument. More meat than in my cheese sandwich, at least.

  26. Hempenstein
    Posted August 23, 2016 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    You just throw off this flip statement because you haven’t really studied it.

    Clearly no inkling of who he’s speaking to.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted August 24, 2016 at 5:54 am | Permalink

      That was my first thought.

  27. Craw
    Posted August 23, 2016 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

    “I wonder what Fletch would think of The Case for Muhammad, which seems much stronger than The Case for Christ?”

    This is not at all clear. For one thing, purported biographies date from much later after the claimed life than do the gospels.

    There is copious research on this. A place to start is ibn Warraq’s book on the subject.

  28. gravelinspector-Aidan
    Posted August 23, 2016 at 1:04 pm | Permalink

    Or look at J. Warner Wallace, a former homicide detective who worked on cold-cases for 15 years. He approached the death of Jesus like a cold case and the gospels as eyewitness accounts,

    A HOMICIDE detective (that in itself says something) who actually uses the second most unreliable form of evidence – the eyewitness statement. The only evidence that is worse is the uncorroborated confession.
    Oh I do so hope that this detective lived and worked in a country with no need for dedicated homicide detectives, and whose jurisprudence errors can be corrected after the event. But somehow, I suspect that’s not the case.

    As C.S Lewis and J.R.R Tolkien said,

    Odd – he then quotes CS Lewis, but not his fellow Inkling. Possibly Fletch couldn’t find anything useful in Tolkein’s works. Now it’s been a long time since I read Tolkein’s “On Fairy Stories“, but I can’t remember much treatment of the historical status of the Bible in that. (Needless to say, there’s no point considering his fictional works in this context. And I doubt his work on the OED would be terribly illuminating either.)

    [PCCE] If you’re weaving an evidence-based tale, it’s always best, as we scientists know, to take up possible objections to your case before others do!

    You’d hope a detective or specialist in legal matters would know that too. After all, you’re going to be up against an opposing lawyer with access to the same evidence as you, but a vital (literally) interest in finding every hole in your argument and ripping your case to shreds.

    then one should hardly commit one’s life to the doctrine.

    Aren’t apologists (and detectives) more interested in committing other people’s lives to their arguments than committing their own lives?

    I wonder what Fletch would think of The Case for Muhammad, which seems much stronger than The Case for Christ?

    Well, it’s 700 years closer in time, and moderate amounts of near-contemporary accounts (more nearly contemporary than the Judeo-Christian accounts of Jesus anyway) ; I’m willing to accept that Mohammed was a historical person.
    Of course, anyone’s historicity (or not) says precisely nothing about whether he was a prophet (sense: liar and fraud, e.g. Joe ‘Mormon’ Smith), a prophet (sense: raging schizophrenic. I was on the phone to a friend in that state a couple of days ago ; he’s gone back into the wards for an increase in his Haloperidol, or some other medication. He recognises “talking to god” as a bad sign. When he gets more in contact with reality we may try to market his new religion), or a prophet (person talked to by genuine supernatural entities masquerading as burning ants, water turned to wine, or swarming bushes).

  29. Kevin
    Posted August 23, 2016 at 1:37 pm | Permalink

    So the Supreme Being, God, sends his Son to earth and people, two thousand years later, have to write books trying to justify that he actually existed?

    Is the irony of this lost on all Christians?

    I think that’s why they call Yahweh the God of the Iron Age, not the Scientific Age.

    • Todd J Morgan
      Posted August 23, 2016 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      Well, During Moses’ exodus, it only took the Jews 40 years or so to forget that God saved them from Egypt.

      • eric
        Posted August 23, 2016 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

        Much much less; he was appearing as a pillar of fire/smoke on a daily basis to lead them through the desert.

        So, either that story is false, or divine hidden-ness is a callous and entirely unnecessary choice.

      • Ken Kukec
        Posted August 24, 2016 at 7:26 am | Permalink

        Well, seeing as how there isn’t a shred of extra-biblical evidence to remind them that the Jews had ever been in Egypt, or had ever made a 40-year trek through the desert, who could blame them for forgetting?

  30. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted August 23, 2016 at 1:40 pm | Permalink

    The only Christian apologist I’ve paid a lot of attention to is C.S. Lewis, largely because I find his fiction quite engaging, and his scholarship on medieval and Renaissance literature is terrific (and his writing style is gentler and humbler than many other apologists).

    While Lewis’ arguments are often interesting, they have lacunae and don’t seal the deal. A nice rebuttal to them is John Beverslius’ book “C.S. Lewis and the Search for Rational Religion”. (https://www.amazon.com/Search-Rational-Religion-Revised-Updated/dp/1591025311)

    The disparity and contradictions between the Gospels are enough to show they are not entirely reliable. The differences between the birth-stories (why were J’s parents in Nazareth, the different genealogies of J’s ancestry), the differences between the trial & crucifixion narratives (was Jesus calm cool and collected during this as Luke relates, or experiencing deep anguish as he seems to in Mark??), the differences between the resurrection narratives (did Jesus first appear in Galilee or Jerusalem?). Furthermore, the differences can be accounted for by the differing theological agendas of each of the authors.

    There is also the flat-out contradictions between Paul’s autobiographical statements and the probably doctored “Acts of the Apostles” re Paul’s relationship to the Jerusalem church.

    An interesting pair of books to read is “Gospel Fictions” by Randall Helms (https://www.amazon.com/Gospel-Fictions-Randel-Helms/dp/0879755725/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1471977548&sr=1-1&keywords=Randall+Helms) (focused on the disparities between the Gospels) and “Gospel Truth” by Russell Shorto (https://www.amazon.com/Gospel-Truth-Trail-Historical-Jesus-ebook/dp/B008Y7P6BE/ref=asap_bc?ie=UTF8), the latter focused on the history of the quest for what the real Jesus might have been like.

    • phil
      Posted August 24, 2016 at 1:34 am | Permalink

      Try this quick quiz…


      • HaggisForBrains
        Posted August 24, 2016 at 6:02 am | Permalink

        I got 0 out of 20, without even trying…

      • JonLynnHarvey
        Posted August 24, 2016 at 12:20 pm | Permalink

        A rather sly “trick” quiz.

  31. HNcroatia
    Posted August 23, 2016 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    The idea/argument that Jesus (a historical Jesus) never existed is not a very good argument. ‘We have more evidence for Jesus than we have for almost anyone else’.

    Did Alexander The Great ever exist? Did Plato ever exist? Did Socrates ever exist…? Do you think that are ‘funny’/silly questions? Well, they are no more ‘funny’ than the question if Jesus existed.

    None of this what I have said is not an evidence, I have not offered any evidence for Jesus yet, but I think that sometimes perhaps ‘argument from authority (which is a logical fallacy)’ is better than a real argument/evidence. Since B. Ehrman was already mentioned in the article and in the same sentence as R. Carrier, perhaps this video will help more than any written argument:

    51:15 – 53:42 (I recommend to watch whole video)

    “There is a lot of evidence, there is so much evidence that… This is not even an issue for scholars of antiquity… There is no scholar in any college or university in the western world, who teaches classics , ancient history, new testament, early Christianity, any related field who doubts that Jesus existed…”

    • Posted August 23, 2016 at 2:08 pm | Permalink

      The notion that there’s more evidence for Jesus than for Alexander the Great is, to put it mildly, ridiculous. Matthew Ferguson explains this a bit: https://adversusapologetica.wordpress.com/2013/08/24/another-case-of-apologetic-dishonesty-in-lee-strobels-the-case-for-christ/

      I strongly doubt that Ehrman would agree that Jesus is a more historically certain figure than Alexander. Believing that Jesus did exist does not necessitate thinking that an obscure peasant preacher is better attested than a famous conqueror.

      At least it’s better than the other sometimes-mentioned claim, still more ridiculous, that Jesus is better attested than Julius Caesar (who left behind contemporary accounts, his own writings, statuary, numismatic evidence, inscriptions, and on and on).

      • HNcroatia
        Posted August 23, 2016 at 2:47 pm | Permalink

        Already 2 comments which go against me. So I’ll try to be short. I have not read the whole article because I’m not so sure that he is using honest data. First of all, tell me where have I said that we have more evidence for A. The Great than we have for Jesus? And please tell me which of the sources which a person in the article quotes have survived? He ‘quotes’ 5 people, which of those 5 early sources has survived?

        • HNcroatia
          Posted August 23, 2016 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

          Mistake: First of all, tell me where have I said that we have more evidence for A. The Great than we have for Jesus?

          EDIT: First of all, tell me where have I said that we have more evidence for Jesus than we have for A. The Great?

        • Posted August 23, 2016 at 5:02 pm | Permalink

          Where you said it—by implication, when you listed Alexander the Great as one of the people whose ahistoricity is, you claim, no more ridiculous than the ahistoricity of Jesus. Again in another comment where, again, you claim that we have “more evidence for a historical Jesus than we have for almost anyone else from his time” and then go on about Alexander.

          The thing about the sources for Alexander is this: It’s true that the earliest sources did not survive to our time. But they did survive for some centuries, and are extensively cited by later authors on Alexander. How did those later authors know about Alexander? By reading the contemporary biographies. So the ancient biographies of Alexander are effectively secondary sources, which had access to high quality primary sources.

          What about Jesus? Well, no one wrote anything about him in his lifetime. His first ‘biographies’ are the gospels, written 35+ years after he was killed. What were they based on? We don’t know. Mostly oral tradition, presumably, and perhaps some written sources like Q (but we don’t know how early Q was).

          So although the surviving writings about Alexander are much farther from him in time than the surviving writings about Jesus, the fact that contemporary accounts existed because they provide a clear mechanism whereby later writers could easily know what actually happened. In the case of Jesus, there’s no telling how much the gospel authors actually knew—they never met him, only one of them even claims to have met anyone who met him. Thus, there’s considerable doubt about what kind of primary sources the gospel authors had to work from. Apparently hearsay offset by 40–60 years.

          • HNcroatia
            Posted August 23, 2016 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

            [example of my 1. comment] Does Moon exist? Is earth 4.5 billion years old? Did holocaust happend?

            Obviously denieng any of these things is not very reasonable, but that does not mean all of them are supported by the same amount of evidence. We have more evidence that the moon exists than that earth is 4.5 billion years old. And the same goes for Socrates, Plato, A. the great comment. But never mind since I think that we have more evidence for Jesus than for A. the great. I just don’t want when someone’s saying something what I did not say (I’m sure you did not have bad intentions and probably you understood what I meant differently)

            The article(at least first part of the article which you gave me) does not mention that the first written records which we have for ATG [A. The Great] are written about 350-400 years after ATG died. I am wondering what would you say if that would be the case for Jesus.

            I want to watch one debate, and instead of watching debate, I have debate if Jesus ever existed. Let me ask you this question, is there anything what would change your mind and if yes, what would change your mind? Give me specific evidence which would change your mind.

            I have once spent a time ‘debating person’ who denies holocaust, so… If there is nothing what would change your mind, you don’t have to answer this question, because I don’t see the point in wasting my and your time.

            • Posted August 23, 2016 at 5:44 pm | Permalink

              The article(at least first part of the article which you gave me) does not mention that the first written records which we have for ATG [A. The Great] are written about 350-400 years after ATG died.

              I addressed this point at some length in another part of this comment thread.

              I want to watch one debate, and instead of watching debate, I have debate if Jesus ever existed. Let me ask you this question, is there anything what would change your mind and if yes, what would change your mind?

              What would change my mind? What would convince me that Jesus never existed? Let me think… If the mythicists could substantiate the claim that Nazareth was made up, that would certainly help. Convincing arguments to rebut the arguments from the criterion of dissimilarity with respect to Nazareth and John the Baptist. Most of all, if someone could give me a reason to think that a historical basis for the Jesus myth is a priori improbable, that would certainly make me think that the evidence we have is woefully inadequate.

              But why on Earth do you now want to know how to convince me that Jesus was purely mythical?

              • HNcroatia
                Posted August 23, 2016 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

                I’m not sure if I follow you, it seems to me that either you are trolling, or perhaps (which is always more plausible) A. Nothing would change your mind and you are ashamed to admit or B. You thought there was no good reason for Jesus, but now you think differently and you are ashamed to admit that you changed your mind.

                Whatever is the answer, I don’t care. Have fun.

              • Posted August 23, 2016 at 6:04 pm | Permalink

                The correct answer is C: You misread my earlier comments and you’re blaming me for it.

                I said that you are greatly exaggerating the evidence for Jesus and that it’s entirely untrue that he is better attested by evidence than figures like Alexander the Great, the Roman emperors, and so on.

                What I did not say, though you seem to think that I did, is that I therefore conclude that Jesus did not exist. I do not, and I said so earlier in the other subthread (“I think that everyone mentioned above probably did exist”). The fact that there’s less evidence for Jesus only means that we can be less confident that he existed (and much less certain of what happened in his life) – not that we can be confident that he didn’t.

                Personally, I find the claim that Jesus is better attested than [insert famous person here] annoying precisely because it encourages mythicism: when people use obvious exaggerations to support historicity, it’s very tempting to think that the whole argument is built on sand.

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

      There is no scholar in any college or university in the western world, who teaches classics, ancient history, new testament, early Christianity, any related field who doubts that Jesus existed…”

      Wow. Ehrman really needs to take those blinders off. Also, what he said isn’t true. There are certainly professors of religious studies who doubt the historicity of Jesus — Hector Avalos at Iowa State comes to mind. Richard Carrier is keeping a list.

      • HNcroatia
        Posted August 23, 2016 at 2:50 pm | Permalink

        Can you please give me a reference where Hector Avalos denies that Jesus ever existed?

        And can you please tell me on which university/college is R. Carrier professor?

        • Posted August 23, 2016 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

          I recall that in his book Bad Jesus, in the introduction, Avalos said that he was agnostic about the historicity of a corporeal Jesus. I can’t seem to lay my hands on my copy right now — I probably lent it to someone (a bad habit of mine…).

          As far as I know, Richard Carrier is not employed by a university — he writes books and articles, blogs, speaks in public, and conducts on-line courses. He holds a Ph.D. from Columbia University in ancient history.

          • HNcroatia
            Posted August 23, 2016 at 3:45 pm | Permalink

            I have not read his book so I don’t know on what quote exactly you mean, and yes R. Carrier does not teach at any college.

            I will not defend the claim that there is no professor who doubts that Jesus existed, but basically I just wanted to say that Carrier cannot go on that list because at the moment, he is not an professor at college, and I have never seen a quote from Avalos in which he denies that Jesus existed.

            The point is, almost everyone believes that Jesus existed as Ehrman himself said in the video, and he is certainly not a friend of Christianity, quite the contrary, he is probably ‘the greatest enemy of Christianity’ from the side of history.

            As far as I understand history, Christ myth “theory” is even worse than young earth “theory” and I really don’t see why some atheists still believe in this idea. Actually, I have 2 hypotesis why someone would believe that, but I will not go into them now.

            I really don’t care what people believe, or at least I try not to care, but as Ehrman alone says in the video, the evidence does not support the view that Jesus never existed, and I don’t know why would anyone use this argument when it can be ‘quite easily refuted’.

            • frednotfaith2
              Posted August 23, 2016 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

              Young Earth Creationists hold their beliefs in spite of massive evidence from many fields of science that verify Earth is several billion years older than they believe. Jesus Christ mythicists base their lack of belief that jesus ever existed on the fact that there is no evidence whatsoever to prove that such a person actually existed and mounting evidence that he most likely did not exist. Quite a big difference, IMO.

              • HNcroatia
                Posted August 23, 2016 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

                “Young Earth Creationists hold their beliefs in spite of massive evidence…”

                Yes, exactly, and the same goes for the ‘mythicists’ . Again, we have more evidence for Jesus than we have for almost anyone else. I will repeat that, we have more evidence for a historical Jesus than we have for almost anyone else from his time. For example, If I am not mistaken, the first (survived) written records we have where is first time mentioned Alexander the Great were about 300+ years after his death, 300+ years after he died. I will repeat this again, the first written records which we have about Alexander the Great were written 300+ years after his death. Why don’t you question if he existed?

                You all have to remember that 2000 years ago, they did not had phones, computers, videos, etc. I have to repeat this many times so that mythicists will understand, we have more evidence for Jesus than almost for anyone else.

              • Posted August 23, 2016 at 5:06 pm | Permalink

                I will repeat that, we have more evidence for a historical Jesus than we have for almost anyone else from his time.

                Such as…who, exactly? It’s trivially true of the great majority of the world’s population, since we don’t have a list of names of, say, all the citizens of the Roman empire, or all the publicans in Judea, or every fisherman in Galilee. But while it’s true, I fail to see the significance.

                It’s trivially false of important persons whose historicity is not in doubt, like Julius Caesar and the emperors Caesar Augustus and Tiberius (all of whom I’ve seen apologists claim are less well attested, but…well, bunk).

                It’s arguable, and probably false, of some other people, like Socrates, but there’s nothing terribly controversial about debating the historicity of Socrates.

                I think that everyone mentioned above probably did exist, but this exaggeration of the weight of evidence is rather silly.

              • Posted August 24, 2016 at 11:20 am | Permalink

                Again, we have more evidence for Jesus than we have for almost anyone else.

                Oh, what nonsense. For about as much as you spend on a month’s rent or mortgage, you can buy, for your very own private collection, a coin with any of the Caesar’s portraits minted as legal tender during said Caesar’s reign — including the Augustus who was Emperor at the alleged time of Jesus’s birth and his successor, Tiberius, whose reign continued until after Jesus’s alleged death, Resurrection, and Ascension.

                For Julius especially, we have his lengthy autobiographical account of his conquest of Gaul, which has been independently verified with modern archaeological investigations. We have correspondence between him and his contemporaries, including, in some cases, both sides of the conversation. We have monuments and roads and more — including a political map (in which the Rubicon river is a prominent feature) that wouldn’t have existed without him.

                That’s just a smattering of the contemporary and personal and eyewitness pieces of evidence. When you get to the secondary stuff, we have historians writing about him from the time his blood was still wet on the Senate floor up through today. The modern Julius is mostly known to the general public through Shakespeare’s plays, which aren’t accurate in detail but paint a remarkably recognizable portrait.

                For Jesus…we have, quite literally, zero primary or even near-primary sources. We don’t even have a clue about his physical appearance, fer Chrissakes! Did he loom over the crowd at the Sermon on the Mount, or did his humble stature make those in the back stand on tiptoe to see him? Actual eyewitness accounts are unthinkingly full of such detail — and we’ve not even a vague hint at pretending at anything like that, even in the sources that we otherwise pretend are legitimate.

                In reality, Jesus is an ancient Jewish demigod, dating back at least half a millennium before the time of the Caesars, and mentioned in the Hebrew Gospels — especially Zechariah. Then, he was the High Priest and architect of YHWH’s celestial temple. He was the Prince of Peace, Crowned (anointed / christened) with many crowns, called “The Rising,” and so on. Philo, writing at the time of Jesus’s alleged ministry (but completely oblivious to its existence), explicitly equated the ancient Jesus with his crowning theological achievement, the integration of the Hellenistic Logos into Judaism. Paul, writing at least a generation later and who explicitly never met Jesus in the flesh and who made plain everybody’s experience with Jesus was spiritual, not corporeal…Paul wrote of Jesus in language that Philo himself might have used. Finally, sometime at least after the Roman conquest of Judea in 70 CE and perhaps as late as the second century, “Mark” wrote a palindromic Homeric epic fabricating an earthly biography for Jesus set in the far-enough-but-not-too-far past, and everybody after either copied or refuted Mark.

                How on Earth anybody can take that and twist it into the reality of the catechism is utterly beyond me — save, of course, for just how lucrative the Jesus scam has been over the course of millennia.




              • eheffa
                Posted August 24, 2016 at 12:32 pm | Permalink

                What a great summary Ben!

                Doherty’s contention that the Jesus of the NT started out as a Celestial Christ (Philo / Paul Christ figure) and was later brought to earth by the author of Mark’s clever Midrash makes a lot of sense. Your summary encapsulates this progression very well.

                IMO, all the evidence points to this Celestial – Earthly hypothesis very well. There is no need for some Ehrman-style obscure no-name rabbi to make sense of the problem.


              • Matthew
                Posted August 23, 2016 at 4:58 pm | Permalink


                Would you care to provide one, just one, example of evidence that Jesus existed?

              • HNcroatia
                Posted August 23, 2016 at 5:16 pm | Permalink


                For some reason I cannot reply on your message so I will reply here.

                The question is: “HNcroatia,

                Would you care to provide one, just one, example of evidence that Jesus existed?”

                Sure. I will provide you with one evidence since you asked only for one. In article Jerry said: “As most of us know, there’s no extra-Biblical evidence …a secular preacher on whom the Biblical Jesus was modeled”

                Well, that is not correct. Here is one extra-Biblical reference to Jesus, from Tacitus.

                “Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular.” – Tacitus, Annals, book 15, chapter 44

              • matthew
                Posted August 23, 2016 at 5:57 pm | Permalink

                Ah Tacitus,

                So, a man writing in 112 CE about what Christians believed is now evidence of…what exactly? Other that early Christians believed what they believed?

            • Posted August 23, 2016 at 5:38 pm | Permalink

              This is regards to your comment lower in the thread where the “reply” option is missing.

              On Tacitus: “No one in the second century ever quoted this passage of Tacitus. In fact, it appears almost word-for-word in the fourth-century writings of Sulpicius Severus, where it is mixed with other obvious myths. Citing Tacitus, therefore, is highly suspect and adds virtually nothing to the evidence for a historical Jesus.”

              Quote from Dan Barker’s excellent article @ FFRF [https://ffrf.org/outreach/item/18412-debunking-the-historical-jesus]

        • Posted August 23, 2016 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

          Richard Carrier has never held a teaching or research position at any university. He ekes out a living giving speeches for atheist groups and the occasional conference.

          Carrier had been a featured speaker of the Student Secular Alliance, but was dismissed due to multiple complaints that he was propositioning college students for sex at these appearances(which Carrier admits he was doing). He now’s limited to the infrequent local atheists’ meet-up at a pub.

          • phil
            Posted August 24, 2016 at 1:54 am | Permalink

            I wonder why people don’t mention Raphael Lataster: “Raphael Lataster lectures at the University of Sydney (Studies in Religion) and teaches about religion at various institutions.”

            He has also written two books, “there was no Jesus, there is no God” and “Jesus Did Not Exist: A Debate Among Atheists”.

            • Posted August 24, 2016 at 10:03 am | Permalink

              Lataster is a doctoral candidate — he “lectures & teaches” if you count being a TA.

              Those books were published via vanity press, the second in conjunction with Carrier.

              Carrier, Lataster, & Fitzgerald form a mutual admiration society. It’s reasonably to assume that the grad student Lataster, and the non-academic Fitzgerald, were the ‘peer reviewers’ Carrier himself selected for his books.

              In contrast to these hacks, scholarly inquiry into the historicity of Jesus has been conducted going on two hundred years now. I wonder why people don’t mention Baur.

              • Posted August 24, 2016 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

                How about Thomas Brodie?

              • Posted August 24, 2016 at 5:41 pm | Permalink

                Brodie’s an interesting character. Showed convincingly how much of the gospels are midrash on the OT. Kept his faith by becoming a a neo-gnostic of sorts.

    • Paul S
      Posted August 23, 2016 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

      The problem with Ehrman and the other Jesus as a historical Jesus faction is that they aren’t really arguing for a historical Jesus.
      What they do is dismiss the defining qualities of biblical Jesus e.g. miracles and divinity on one hand, and on the other, claim that because there might have been a guy called Jesus wandering around in the 1st century he must be the Jesus of the bible.

      Ergo, the bible is true because the bible is true.

      • Paul S
        Posted August 23, 2016 at 7:11 pm | Permalink

        Jesus as a historical figure faction….

        My kingdom for a preview/edit button.

      • Posted August 23, 2016 at 8:03 pm | Permalink

        Ergo, the bible is true because the bible is true.

        If there’s some logic between your first two paragraphs and your conclusion I’m not seeing it.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted August 23, 2016 at 9:08 pm | Permalink

      “Did Alexander The Great ever exist?” I suppose that’s just possibly a valid question, if a little bit silly. But it only highlights the difference between the substantial evidence for Alexander and the minimal evidence for Jesus. Alexander conquered much of the then-known world. His actions had massive consequences at the time. He directly and immediately changed the course of history.
      Jesus, on the other hand, in terms of immediate consequences, did two-tenths of five-eights of fuck-all. (That’s a fancy way of saying ‘nothing detectable’). Any impact Jesus had on the world centuries later are solely a result of the Jesus legend, quite irrespective of whether Jesus ever existed.

      I expect there probably was some preacher called Jesus around that time, Jesus being, like, a very common name. Whether he ever did or said any of the things attributed to the Christian Jesus is debatable and really pretty irrelevant in historical terms.


  32. J. Quinton
    Posted August 23, 2016 at 2:15 pm | Permalink

    Lee Strobel is a hack investigative reporter.


    The first rule of investigation is to not trust anonymous third person stories written like a third grader containing highly implausible events! If Strobel had actually done his homework and followed up on his “sources” he would have found that the earliest person in the entire body of Christian literature to say e.g., “according to Luke” was a Christian writing in the late 2nd century. As you move closer to the 1st century, they start losing their authoritative status by either calling them memoirs or just quoting sections without attribution.

    And then you’d find that there’s a reason they started gaining authoritative stature: they were weaponized in that manner to combat heresies. The more intrepid sleuth would then discover that the appellation “according to” is an odd construct in Greek; certainly one not used in Ancient Greek to imply that it was written by the person in question.

    (re: third grader: the first gospel written – Mark – if you read it in Greek literally every “sentence” starts with “and” or “immediately”. It gets pretty amusing when you first notice the “and… and… and… and… and… and… and… and… immediately… and… and… and… and… and… and… and… immediately…”)

    I actually have investigated Christianity pretty in depth; I found it wanting. The Case for Christ has a good rebuttal: a book called The Case Against The Case for Christ by Robert M. Price.

  33. Ken Kukec
    Posted August 23, 2016 at 3:10 pm | Permalink

    “… J. Warner Wallace, a former homicide detective who worked on cold-cases for 15 years. He approached the death of Jesus like a cold case and the gospels as eyewitness accounts …”

    There’s not a cop on a cold-case squad anywhere who’d recommend prosecuting a case based on evidence consisting of nothing more than compound hearsay, from anonymous sources, reported decades after the crime, claiming supernatural causation.

    Imagine a cop’s reaction if, after discovering the half-century-old remains of a suspected victim of foul play (which is much more than the Christian apologists have to start with), the cop then receives anonymous letters bearing the names of long dead individuals claiming that the writer heard from somebody who heard from somebody else (who also probably also heard it from somebody else) that the victim was killed by a voodoo hex. That’s the evidentiary value of the gospels, Fletch’s supposed “eyewitness accounts.”

  34. cornbread_r2
    Posted August 23, 2016 at 3:17 pm | Permalink

    Prominent mythicist Earl Doherty wrote a good book-length response to Strobel with “Challenging the Verdict”.



    Bible scholar and mythicist-leaning Robert Price did as well.


    Follow the link below for a chapter by chapter video refutation of Wallace’s “Cold Case Christianity”. (hoping this doesn’t embed)


  35. Chukar
    Posted August 23, 2016 at 3:26 pm | Permalink

    Hi Fletch: Good luck with the many above comments; some aren’t too friendly.

    At one time I too greatly loved the writings of C.S. Lewis. I am no longer a Christian nor theist, but I do think Lewis was a fine and moving writer.

    A minor point, but important to me: I came to the conclusion that his “liar, lunatic or lord” argument, while nicely balanced and – for several years – persuasive to me – was incomplete. It was not exhaustive, as it omitted, at the least, “wrong.”

    I am not in the camp that holds that no such person as Jesus (Yeshua) existed. I think Yeshua probably existed and he was either wrong, or was significantly misunderstood by his followers and misreported by those who wrote about him. One can be a mystic with extremely convincing experiences of the presence of god, and still be wrong. The brain produces unusual cognitive states, including the mystical state AND the state of “certainty.” Combine the two, and you have certainty that your mystical experience is absolutely true.

    There are people who are dead certain they’ve been abducted by space aliens. Is their certainty any less warranted than Yeshua’s certainty of his mystical experience of “the father”? Or your experience of the presence of Jesus? For me, that answer – out of a sense of fairness – was “no,” and since I was certain such abductee experiences were not simply “lies” or “lunacy” but misinterpretations of uncommon brain-states such as hypnogogic sleep, I could not hold my conviction of mystical experience to be of higher value. I had to consider the possibility I was wrong, and I eventually concluded I was in error.

    Again, good luck.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted August 24, 2016 at 1:12 am | Permalink

      With his “liar, lunatic or lord,” Sobel pretermitted the most-likely explanation: legend. Whether the Jesus of the Gospels was based on an actual, flesh-and-blood apocalyptic Levantine preacher (or several of them) or was fashioned from whole cloth, the stories bear the earmarks of accreted legend.

  36. Posted August 23, 2016 at 4:53 pm | Permalink

    The question might be how to distinguish any supernatural belief system from another? Certainly not on the basis of evidence, because if there was physical evidence then it wouldn’t be supernatural. By supernatural I mean is not of the physical cosmos. ‘Supernatural’ implies ‘duality’, that magical state of stuff that floats around somewhere beyond the realms of matter and energy. The mistake is to delve into the internal logic of such systems – they may appear to hold together somewhat, but all fail in the first instance. And you don’t need to go further than that.

    When folks I know relate supernatural events (usually miracles) to me I (if in a mischievous mood) reply with “describe the physical mechanism by which this event occurred”.

    • phil
      Posted August 24, 2016 at 2:09 am | Permalink

      I don’t think ignorance of the physical mechanisms is always a good indicator of anything, apart from ignorance. How does the GPS work, in detail? Does that mean your satnav is supernatural, and a figment of your imagination? Do you still trust it.

      Also, I think people who do believe in the supernatural would not accept your definition. Quite clearly many supernaturalists believe that the supernatural has real effects on the physical world. If prayer really worked it would have a measurable effect.

  37. docbill1351
    Posted August 23, 2016 at 5:07 pm | Permalink

    Well, now you’ve gone and done it! Typing “L33 $trobel” is like saying “Beetlejuice” three times. A flaming creationist, L33 invades discussion threads posting the same tired arguments, read that “creationist assertions,” over and over again. I’m sure he’ll show up here any moment now!

    Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

  38. Roger
    Posted August 23, 2016 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

    Fletch seems very naive. There is always the nagging feeling that “naive” people like Fletch are faking it at least a little.

  39. Posted August 23, 2016 at 6:08 pm | Permalink

    Richard Carrier now is widely considered a joke in the field. His cargo-cult mimicry of Bayesian analysis adds nothing to the debate, while his tendentious interpretations of MSS have been thoroughly refuted, his ignorance of both sources & the work of others, exposed — all by fellow mythicists.

    Carrier long ago made himself persona non grata with his caustic, belligerant demeanor and propensity to label as ‘insane’ anyone who disagrees with him. He’s gone completely off the rails, however, with his fetishistic obsession with “peer review” as vindication of his views, though his books have not actually been subjected to impartial, anonymous review.

    • cornbread_r2
      Posted August 23, 2016 at 6:47 pm | Permalink

      Can you cite any of these fellow mythicists who’ve refuted/exposed Carrier? TIA

        • phil
          Posted August 24, 2016 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

          That’s not enough to suggest that Carrier has been demolished (yeah, I know that isn’t what you wrote, but it might be what you were trying to imply).

          Detering is taking issue with something Carrier wrote about Paul, and not directly relevant IMO to Carrier’s work on the existence of Jesus.

          Godfrey is “questioning Carrier and the conventional wisdom on messianic expectations” which is only one point among many many more that Carrier presents to support his thesis.

          To be frank I gave little weight to Carrier’s use of Bayes’ Theorem, but I was impressed by the extent and variety of evidence he presents for his argument, much of which seems to be accepted by others in the field including Ehrman.

          Furthermore, while I agree that Carrier’s style in his blog posts is extreme and over the top, it is not evident in “On the Historicity of Jesus” or “Proving History”.

          • Posted August 25, 2016 at 10:41 am | Permalink

            Carrier wading in and pontificating about Paul — crassly disparaging in the process the credentials of a Pauline expert like Detering — when he himself is grossly ignorant of the subject, is indicative of Carrier’s immense hubris. This is someone, remember, who believed his background in philosophy allowed him to reconcile quantum mechanics with relativistic gravity, something lesser minds (i.e., every physicist ever) had failed to do for 80 years. Recall, too, Carrier’s arrogant (though drolly ironic) boast that his books “end all rational debate.”

            Detering noted numerous basic blunders on Carrier’s part, and rightly asked: if he can’t be relied on to get commonly-known facts straight, why should we trust him on the arcane?

            Among Godfrey’s many criticisms of Carrier’s methodology and conclusions, is the highlighting of Carrier’s propensity to cite as support of his arguments, sources that in fact directly contradict his arguments! One is left wondering whether Carrier thus intends to deceive his readers, or whether he is just cognitively incapable of comprehending what he reads.

            These sorts of things make Carrier wholly unreliable as a researcher, and make reading his books & essays a waste of time when a vast wealth of alternate material — of far higher scholarship, by authors of much greater qualifications and ability — exists.

  40. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted August 23, 2016 at 6:25 pm | Permalink

    “As for J. Warner Wallace, author of Cold-Case Christianity and now adjunct professor of apologetics at Biola University, his book appears to be based purely on whether Scripture seems reliable to a detective (see here for his case). Apparently it does.”

    This is surely frightening news for anyone suspected of a crime. Just hope like hell you have a good defence lawyer!


  41. Shwell Thanksh
    Posted August 23, 2016 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

    (Lee Strobel) …looked into Jesus and Christianity from the point of a reporter after his wife’s conversion.

    Did he interview at least three first-person sources to confirm the alleged facts of the story, like they teach reporters to do in journalism school?

    If not, it seems more accurate to say that he was writing as an amateur historian, instead of a professional journalist.

  42. Shwell Thanksh
    Posted August 23, 2016 at 8:07 pm | Permalink

    (Lee Strobel) looked into Jesus and Christianity from the point of a reporter after his wife’s conversion.

    Did he interview at least three first-person sources to confirm the alleged facts of the story, like they teach reporters to do in journalism school?

    If not, it seems more accurate to say that he was writing as an amateur historian, instead of a professional journalist.

    Posted August 23, 2016 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

    Crusty old scholar Robert M. Price demolishes Strobel in this video Ol’ Bob is a hoot explaining Bible history–well worth the time to listen to an entertaining academic

  44. Posted August 23, 2016 at 11:14 pm | Permalink

    Tell Fletch to email me: charadams@me.com.

    As an atheist & scientist who also went to divinity school and refused ordination after three years of theology classes and chaplaincy, I’m uniquely perspected.

    Fletch: Jesus isn’t special.

  45. phil
    Posted August 24, 2016 at 2:43 am | Permalink

    I thought “Ehrman and Brodie on Whether Jesus Existed: A Cautionary Tale about the State of Biblical Scholarship” by Tom Dykstra was an illuminating review on the historicity of Jesus debate.

    Googling the title will bring it up, and comment on the piece.

    • eheffa
      Posted August 24, 2016 at 7:38 am | Permalink

      Hi phil,

      If this question interests you, you will find Ralph Lataster’s book: “Jesus Did Not Exist: A Debate Among Atheists” to be a very good counterpoint to Ehrman & Brodie’s arguments. Lataster does a good job of dismantling their thesis which essentially relies on imaginary sources to prop up the Historical Jesus.

      Richard Carrier has done a good job of demonstrating how unlikely an historical Jesus could be. Unlike Carrier though, Lataster has a more sober and measured tone in his analysis. (He’s also a fully tenured professor for those who feel that’s an important qualification to speak to the issue….)


      • Posted August 24, 2016 at 10:22 am | Permalink

        Has Rafael successfully defended his dissertation?

        Lataster’s application of Bayes, while perhaps more mathematically informed that Carrier’s, still falls prey to GIGO.

        In any case, Bayes is ill-suited to this line of inquiry, as evidenced by Swinburne and others’ ability to use it to ‘prove’ the existence of God. Bayes is a fad (primarily among internet atheists) and detracts — not only from the extensive & impressive work of scholars of the past and today — but also from the groundbreaking work of informed, well-read non-scholars like Lena Einhorn and René Salm.

      • phil
        Posted August 24, 2016 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

        I read “There was no Jesus, there is no God” but couldn’t get “Jesus Did Not Exist”.

        I don’t think he is a professor, he seems to be still studying towards his PhD. Mind you “professor” has different meanings in different places. In Oz a professor is an appointed position, a rank like “general manager”, and is usually reserved for the leader of a group or perhaps an outstanding researcher.

        We also have positions like “lecturer” and “senior lecturer”, and as I understand it the latter is probably the closest equivalent of what is termed “professor” in the US.

        Furthermore I think these days tenure is something reserved for only the most senior appointments.

        Having written all that, I concur with “those who feel that’s an important qualification to speak to the issue”, and your points about Lataster more generally.

  46. Mike
    Posted August 24, 2016 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    In his “Antiquities of the Jews” by the first century Historian Josephus, he mentions a Jesus ,but only in passing as a brother of James who was stoned to Death. But if the Man was “raising the dead and turning water into wine and making the blind see and making a Feast for 5000 people out of a few loaves and fishes” I think he would have got more than a passing mention.

  47. Flint
    Posted August 24, 2016 at 2:03 pm | Permalink

    The argument from silence, while never conclusive, is highly suggestive. IF the Jesus of the gospels had lived and done what the gospels said of him, then (1) the number of accounts of these events, seen by thousands of people, would surely have been nonzero; and (2) Those accounts would surely have been carefully preserved by the Jewish sect that eventually became the Christian church.

    And yet scholars agree that many of Paul’s letters were carefully NOT preserved (and most of the mentions of those letters were also not preserved). There were to major histories written of the region, one (by Dio) covering the time of the alleged birth of Jesus, and another by a Roman historian) covering the time of the alleged death of Jesus. This latter history is 26 volumes.

    And while both of these histories have been carefully preserved, the 4-year period during which Christ could have been born has been carefully excised from the first history. All of volume 6 and most of volume 7 of the other history, covering the period of Jesus missionary work and death, are also carefully missing.

    What’s obvious, to me anyway, is that these are the very documents that would have been MOST valuable to the church if they’d corroborated the gospels in any way, and most threatening if they did not. The bottom line is, ALL extra-biblical, indirect, or other corroboration of the gospel tales have vanished. It’s not surprising, then, that the gospels are not written as history, and name neither authors nor sources.

    Once the political faction within the early church that we know today had become ascendant, all competing versions got disappeared. Even external nonChristian histories vanished.

  48. CJColucci
    Posted August 24, 2016 at 2:40 pm | Permalink

    I take it to be common ground here that nobody by the name of Jesus wandered around 1st-century Palestine performing actual miracles, including raising others, and himself, from the dead. The question is whether there was Some Guy with a name sort of like Jesus who wandered around preaching in 1st century Palestine and around whom a bunch of stories accreted. Some people don’t find that question interesting, and that’s OK. But for those who do find it interesting, what can be said?
    The evidence for the existence of Some Guy is pretty thin, but not non-existent. If Some Guy who was just a non-wonder-working itinerant preacher existed, however, how much evidence of his (His?) existence could one reasonably expect? Not much. So we have to go back some and try to figure out how likely or not the existence of someone like Some Guy was. The ancient near east was simply lousy with wandering preachers, some pretty well attested. It was not at all uncommon for stories to develop around them that they were the offspring of a deity and a virgin, like just about anyone who was anyone in those days, or performed miracles — up to and including resurrections from the dead — all of which is surely false, but fits certain literary or mythic patterns, as one would expect made-up stories to do. So the correspondence between the false stories attributed to Some Guy and common literary or mythical tropes tell us nothing one way or the other about the likelihood of the existence of a more mundane Some Guy.
    I come out that there is nothing inherently implausible about there having been Some Guy, that there is about as much evidence for his existence as one could reasonably expect, and that if Some Guy existed, it was damn near inevitable that a bunch of nonsense would grow up about him in a predictable and common form. And it is indisputable that the stories — nonsense and all — exist. It seems to me that the simplest explanation for the existence of the stories is the existence of Some Guy. Not the wonder-working Son of God, just Some Guy.

    • GBJames
      Posted August 24, 2016 at 2:59 pm | Permalink

      The amazing thing is how much grief has been generated over centuries while people argue about what Some Guy wants them to do.

    • Posted August 24, 2016 at 3:15 pm | Permalink

      The earliest mentions of that Some Guy date back half a millennium before the time of the Caesars when Some Guy was the architect and High Priest of YHWH’s celestial temple. You can read about him yourself in Zechariah and elsewhere in an anthology you might have on your shelf, towards the back of the “Old Testament” section.

      So we’re left with either Some Guy being the real Wandering Jew, born at the dawn of time and still walking around to this day…or, if you want to keep it vaguely “natural,” some guy convincing the local believers in the ancient Some Guy that he was Some Guy this time really in the flesh.

      And even that last one falls flat. David Koresh was a real person who claimed to be the Second Coming of Some Guy…so that somehow demonstrates that Some Guy really is really real?

      Oh — and let’s not forget the earliest officially canonical source for today’s Cult of Some Guy. Paul went to great pains to indicate the otherworldly eternal celestial Platonic nature of Some Guy. And if the official spokespeople want you to believe that Some Guy couldn’t possibly have been…well…some guy, what on Earth could drive you to think that their delusions have any basis in reality?

      Let’s not forget: the first, foremost, primary, and only “legitimate” reason to believe anything at all about Some Guy is faith. Would you invest in the stock market on faith? Would you buy an used car on faith? Would you buy Arizona oceanfront property on faith?

      If not, what makes you think that the foundation of faith upon which Some Guy is built is any more real than the ramparts?



    • Flint
      Posted August 24, 2016 at 3:16 pm | Permalink

      According to my reading, there were probably dozens of prophets and preachers wandering around the vicinity at the time – and Jesus was a very common name.

      But the gospels and the NT grew out of the letters of Paul, and Paul never once mentions an actual human Jesus, and in fact insists in two places that NONE of his information came from any living person – it all came from the OT and related scriptures, plus Paul’s personal visions.

      There is a high probability that the letters of Paul that the church elected not to preserve are those where he was most explicit in saying that Jesus was ENTIRELY celestial, and was never on earth at all. The whole pattern of missing documents, redactions, forgeries and alterations are consistent with the “historical Jesus” faction winning power, and rewriting history in support of their theology in true Winston Smith fashion.

      • Posted August 25, 2016 at 11:37 am | Permalink

        And since Hebrews, which says that Jesus was never on Earth quite specifically, is so hard to read (Platonism everywhere) that slipped through. Also because people are used to reading fragments and stuff out of context – it predates Christianity in the midrash tradition, no? – people may have often missed it for those reasons as well.

  49. keith cook +/-
    Posted August 24, 2016 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    Must be some sort of record, investigating a cold case centuries old.
    For the son of god he didn’t leave much but a book, written by ghostwriters no less, so much for the son of god.
    Just a little underwhelming don’t you think for someone who was placed here by the creator of the universe.
    Anyway, there are lots of peer reviewed science and books and papers of facts as to the true nature of life here on earth. Evolution is true and a second hand account of fairy tales just does not cut it anymore, we are trying to grow with facts around here if you hadn’t noticed Fletch.
    Read something that is real.

  50. MWH
    Posted August 25, 2016 at 3:54 pm | Permalink

    “All you have to do is say, “What is your evidence?”, and the theist is stymied, or at least will disgorge a torrent of theobabble that won’t fool anyone who’s savvy or not already in the asylum.”

    It seems to me that you think you are more intelligent and more educated than all people who are Christians. Why do we have to insult anyone’s intelligence?

    If you believe God is too abominable to be worshiped, you don’t need to act as if your atheism depends on the evidence about his existence. Savvy Christians recognize that active denial of God’s existence does not come without despising what God stands for.

    • Posted August 25, 2016 at 4:56 pm | Permalink

      If you believe God is too abominable to be worshiped

      Which god?

      Shiva, the destroyer? Muhammad the child rapist? Loki the trickster? YHWH the jealous genocide? Quetzalcoatl who demands human sacrifice for his own resurrection?

      You’d agree with me that all those gods are too abominable and imaginary to deserve worship, right?

      So which god would you have us believe is really real such that it deserves either active denial or worship?




      • MWH
        Posted August 25, 2016 at 4:59 pm | Permalink

        A modern sense of human rights is surprisingly modern. And the center for its development is in places with historically a strong Christian heritage. It did not come from China, India, or the the Muslim world.

        If you think egalitarianism violates the teachings of Christ, go on ahead. But I hypothesize that a fading away of Christianity will end with reversion toward pre-Christian ways — the opposite of “whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant”.

        “They will say, ‘Where is this “coming” he promised? Ever since our ancestors died, everything goes on as it has since the beginning of creation.’ “

        • Posted August 25, 2016 at 5:23 pm | Permalink

          If you think egalitarianism violates the teachings of Christ, go on ahead.

          You mean the Jesus Christ of the Christian New Testament?

          The one that ordered all Christians to slaughter all non-Christians in Luke 19? The one that repeatedly proclaimed he came not to bring peace but a sword? That condemns to infinite torture all who love their families more than he, and who promised to rip families asunder? The one who also promised infinite torture to all men who look admiringly on a woman and fail to immediately gouge out their own eyes and chop off their own hands? Who ordered slaves to remain faithful to their masters? Whose whole story is about how he’s laid the foundation for a global war which he himself will lead, after which he’ll infinitely torture all who failed to bow their knee to him?

          That’s your idea of an exemplar of egalitarian human rights?

          Oh — wait. I know. Not that Jesus, but the entirely other one of the nursery rhyme which says something about how he loves you because it says so in the Bible — and now let’s draw pictures of the kittens that his dad drowned before the invention of the rainbow! Not sure that’s much of an improvement, but at least the horror in that Jesus isn’t quite so naked….




          • MWH
            Posted August 25, 2016 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

            Christ and his Disciples never waged jihad. They never started an insurrection. You have Christ confused with Mohammed.

            Even though the Bible does not condemn all slavery, God destroys the selfish foundation that gives rise to slavery:

            “Masters, do the same to them, and stop your threatening, knowing that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and that there is no partiality with him.”

            As for Luke 19:27, Israel was still under a theocracy at this point. The Law of Moses is no longer in effect, as per Acts 15.

            • Posted August 25, 2016 at 7:02 pm | Permalink

              “the Bible does not condemn all slavery”

              Unh?! The bible doesn’t condemn *any* slavery. If it did you would have led with that, not generous yet vague generalizations of philanthropic intent. When god intended something as a command either in the OT or the New, it involved declarative statements.
              “Thou shalt not kill”
              “Thou shalt not covet thy neighbors ass”
              And so on. Where are *those* verses about slavery I wonder?

              “Israel was still under a
              theocracy at this point.”

              I assume you refer to Jews as a people not a nation or empire like the Romans.
              Here a logical principle you might be familiar with: “A contradiction is of necessity a lie.” I direct your attention to Col 2:14 and Rom 3:31.
              You pick. Both can’t be true.

              • Posted August 25, 2016 at 7:07 pm | Permalink

                By the bye, the word “law” occurs 223 times in the New Testament. That’s a lot of banging on about something not in effect any longer.

              • MWH
                Posted August 25, 2016 at 7:50 pm | Permalink

                When Christ fulfilled the Law of Moses, he fulfilled its purpose. The New Covenant goes back to basics. Acts 15 denies the binding nature of circumcision, along with the previous covenant it stood for.

                ” ‘Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. / For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished. … ‘ ”
                — Matthew 5:17–18

                “Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed. / So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. / Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.”
                — Galatians 3:23–25

                “Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.”
                — Romans 13:8

              • Posted August 25, 2016 at 8:15 pm | Permalink

                As an old sophisticated theologian, I could quote chapters of scripture buttressing my position until Jerry cried uncle. 🙂 I made two salient points you didn’t address.
                1) Where is the “thou shalt not own people as property” verse in the bible?
                2) *contradictions* in the bible underscore the unreliability of the overall text. If I can’t take some of it seriously then all of it is suspect. I note you didn’t explain the opposition of the two verses I mentioned who were written by the same author if memory serves me correctly.

              • MWH
                Posted August 25, 2016 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

                I did address those two verses, though indirectly. I now address them directly:

                “Where, then, is boasting? It is excluded. Because of what law? The law that requires works? No, because of the law that requires faith. / For we maintain that a person is justified by faith apart from the works of the law. / … / since there is only one God, who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through that same faith. / Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.”
                — Romans 3:27–31

                The Law of Moses required circumcision. The New Covenant does not. Unbinding one part of the Law of Moses requires unbinding the entire Old Covenant.

                “When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, / having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross.
                — Colossians 2:13–14

                These passages say the same exact thing — denying the binding nature of the Law of Moses for the New Covenant.

              • MWH
                Posted August 25, 2016 at 8:47 pm | Permalink

                As for slavery, the Bible condemns a certain kind — the kind based on kidnapping:

                “… as knowing this, that law is not made for a righteous man, but for the lawless and unruly, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for murderers of fathers and murderers of mothers, for manslayers, / for fornicators, for abusers of themselves with men, for menstealers, for liars, for false swearers, and if there be any other thing contrary to the sound doctrine; …”
                — 1 Timothy 1:9–10

                Going back to the Law of Moses:

                “And he that stealeth a man, and selleth him, or if he be found in his hand, he shall surely be put to death.”
                — Exodus 21:16

                The only permissible slavery is a form of employment by contract. But those who know what is best for them will abolish this, too.

              • bobkillian
                Posted August 25, 2016 at 9:19 pm | Permalink

                Slavery (of some kind or two) was okay in biblical times.

                No form of slavery is acceptable today.

                Why? God changed her mind.

              • GBJames
                Posted August 25, 2016 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

                Oh, Jesus. Bible quotes. I’m convinced.

          • MWH
            Posted August 25, 2016 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

            P.S. The Disciples were victims of violence, not its perpetrators. So Christ brought a sword in that sense.

            • Posted August 25, 2016 at 8:50 pm | Permalink

              I think there may be a software constraint on the number of replies in WP, I’m left without a reply button on the thread. Just as well. I don’t want to wear out my welcome here.
              Still no command against slavery in your answer….
              I’ll leave you with the last word on the other, although I and many other theologians disagree with your position.

              • infiniteimprobabilit
                Posted August 25, 2016 at 8:57 pm | Permalink

                Yes there is a software constraint, the workaround is to hit the last ‘Reply’ button upthread and then head your reply ‘@[name]’ or quote a bit, just to make it clear who you’re replying to.


              • MWH
                Posted August 25, 2016 at 9:16 pm | Permalink

                Just to be clear, I split my reply in two.

              • Posted August 29, 2016 at 8:25 am | Permalink

                “Yes there is a software constraint”

                Thanks! I missed the notification of reply, better late than never, I guess.

                I think I read somewhere, [roolz?] or in one of Jerry’s comments about not quoting scripture ad nauseum. I had to let it go because it would have got out of hand quickly. 🙂 Choose your battles and all. I may end up making a post of it on my blog if I can work up the enthusiasm.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted August 25, 2016 at 7:19 pm | Permalink

      “Savvy Christians recognize that active denial of God’s existence does not come without despising what God stands for.”

      That begs the question of what God stands for.

      Fatwas? Inquisitions? Witch trials? Crusades? Stupid Sabbath customs?

      Yes we despise those things.

      We* don’t despise those many Christians (and those of other faiths) who have chosen to cherry-pick the good bits of their religion to justify doing good works. We may think they are applying Sturgeon’s Law to their religion and just choosing the 5% that isn’t shit, but only a very nit-picky atheist would claim that invalidates any good they do.

      * generalising wildly

    • Posted August 25, 2016 at 7:59 pm | Permalink

      I can’t speak for all atheists, but I’m pretty sure it’s difficult to despise what doesn’t exist. For example, I don’t despise leprechauns, but I am pretty sure they don’t exist, based on the complete lack of any evidence that there are leprechauns. Same for gods — all several hundred thousand of them that people have claimed to like.

    • Jim Jones
      Posted August 29, 2016 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

      ‘God’ doesn’t bother me. His followers, however, are dangerous lunatics.

      What religion did in 2014: http://i.imgur.com/J9OKc1l.jpg

%d bloggers like this: