Saturday, December 15, 2012

Did Jesus Exist? with Richard Carrier and me on Unbelievable?

Premier Christian Radio's Unbelievable? with Justin Brierly today featured a discussion about the historicity of Jesus with Richard Carrier and me. You can listen here:

Unbelievable? Did Jesus Exist?  Richard Carrier vs. Mark Goodacre
Richard Carrier is the world's foremost proponent of the "mythicist" view of Jesus - that he never actually existed as a historical person. He explains his theory that St. Paul only ever spoke of Jesus in the spiritual realm and that the Gospels are "extended parables". Mark Goodacre is NT professor at Duke University. He contends that Carrier's mythicist view is extrememly far fetched and the evidence for the historical Jesus is beyond reasonable doubt.

399 comments:

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Sili said...

"Richard Carrier is the world's foremost proponent of the "mythicist" view of Jesus"

Since when? Robert M. Price is far better known. (More nutty as well, of course.) Earl Doherty used to have a thorough case (and is pointed to by Carrier as such.) And of course D. M. Murdock is the most popular mythicist out there (and the nuttiest of them all.)

But I'm really excited to hear my two of my favourite bloggers talk about this subject.

Sili said...

I have to say that Carrier still comes across as rather annoying. He's not good at listening, and despite the host's attempt to make him quiet down, even he talks over you at times. He seems to calm down a bit in the last half hour, I guess.

You comport yourself very well.

I'm afraid I'm too biased by now, so I wasn't convinced by your refutations. Yet. I guess there's some point to the 'scandalon', but I can't put my finger on why I don't buy it.

I'm worried, though, that I find myself parroting Carrier's claims, when you bring up your arguments.

I need to get around to read Carrier's book(s), and see if he makes sense in writing. And if his book is less longwinded than his blogging. You certainly are a clearer and more entertaining writer than he is.

I hope you'll review his book when it comes out.

--o--

Something more concrete. Your brief discussion of Hebrews was interesting, since I recently read Alvar Ellegård's thesis that it's actually a pre-Christian document - Essene/Therapeutae-ic, I think.

Steven Carr said...

With all due respect, I was surprised that you appeared not to have prepared more carefully for this conversation.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, Sili, for your comments.

Thanks for the due respect, Steven!

Steven Carr said...

I found the argument from embarrassment particularly interesting.

Is there really no way any Christian could have found the idea of a crucified Messiah by searching the Old Testament?

After all, Christians claimed that their own Lord and Saviour had declared that the Scriptures foretold that the Messiah would suffer and die.

How embarrassing for them, as their own Lord and Saviour had claimed something that was patently false and was known to be false by everybody.

Ian Paul said...

I couldn't get the site to work, for some reason.

Steven, yes that is embarrassing, and this question was from the beginning an issue. You can see Paul wrestling with it in Romans 9-11: how come the Jews did not recognise the Jewish Messiah? and in what way was the thing God was doing in Jesus a continuation with what the God of Israel had previously done?

Mark Goodacre said...

Yes, I think you have been seduced by the early Christians' rhetoric a bit there, Steven. It's clear that the "crucified Christ" was something that people like Paul found tough to explain to his fellow Jews, e.g. 1 Cor. 1.23.

Mark Goodacre said...

Thanks, Ian. Try this direct link to the mp3: http://media.premier.org.uk/unbelievable/3a490190-78aa-4298-8620-e4843d70595c.mp3

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

It might be hard to find the specific notion of a crucified savior specifically in the Old Testament. But it would be extremely easy of course to find hundreds of examples of crucified/martyred heroes (even dying and resurrected gods and so forth, like Persephone),throughout ANE culture. Especially Greco-Roman culture was Stoically fond of dying heroes, like Socrates and so forth.

So if there was any Greco-Roman or Hellenistic influence around in the time of Jesus? If say Jerusalem was occupied by Rome and overseen by a Roman governor? Or if say the nominally Jewish leader of Jerusalem was a Roman collaborator like Herod? Or if say the OT was being commonly read, in the Seputagint, in Greek? Then....

And in fact, we can see strong hellenistic influence, and especially Jewish heroes dying to save their country, in semi-biblical sources like 2 Mac. 7.23-38.

For that matter? Jewish history, Josephus, records that allies of Archelaus (?)crucified 2 or 3 thousand Jews rebelling against the Roman eagle, c. 4 BC. No doubt many Jews rememberd this crucifixion of their sons, as sons of God, crucified for their country.

To say that it is hard to get a crucified savior from the OT is perhaps true in itself, but misleading; the place the influences were coming from was from the Greco-Roman culture that had taken over Jerusalem in 64 BC.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...
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Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

From Greco-Roman influence ... and local Jewish traditions as well.

Paul Regnier said...

The problem is BG, it's a mighty big leap from saying that a particular trope existed to making a plausible case that a cool mash up of these, rather than a historical Jesus, offer the best explanation for Christian origins. A mighty mighty big leap.

In the example above, why shouldn't we apply the same reasoning to Socrates and conclude that he's the mythical being projected into a bogus historical setting?

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

PR:

Well, I'd rather not get distracted by the Socratic argument. Though I would note parenthetically that in past years, many scholars questioned the full historicity of at least, Plato's account of Socrates. Especially since many thought we had no Platonic manuscripts that could be dated earlier than c. 1300 or so.

But let's look at all the other even more directly relevant examples: dozens of memes can be found in ANE and especially Platonistic Greco-Roman culture ... that can be found in the NT.

And all these different memes could come together very, very easily. If the original source of the NT was - as many mythicists propose - actually a single work or oral story, by perhaps a single author. Who envisioned it as extended, hellenistic parable or midrashic haggada, on the OT. One employing many different elements, memes from the culture; rather the way a novelist might assemble a typical composite fictional character, to illustrate various theological points.

Who in the Jewish community was capable of doing that? Philo loved allegories; and his school in Alexandria probably included some fairly accomplished writers, who could do allegories.

Philo was Jesus' highly hellenized and Platonistic, slightly older Jewish contemporary. And especially when Philo began to speak of a "Joshua" - or "Jesus," in Greek - as the new "logos," this in itself could have easily been the catalyst for the newly emerging semi-fictional, moralistic "biography"; or "gospel."

By the way? As a graduate-trained historian myself, I'd have to say that it is simply not the case that we would begin with the presumption of historicity in a case like "Jesus." When an real historian sees a character whose main work seems to consist in large, supernatural miracles, the first hypothesis that comes to an historian's mind, is that we are dealing with a figure that is not historical. As much as say, "legendary." Or even "myth"ical.

Those would be the technical terms. Though "fictional" or say "parabolic" might be generously applied too.

Steven Carr said...

IAN PAUL
You can see Paul wrestling with it in Romans 9-11: how come the Jews did not recognise the Jewish Messiah?

CARR
Paul has a very convincing explanation in Romans 10.

'And how can they believe in the one of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone preaching to them?'

This is a good point, well made by Paul

How could the Jews be expected to believe in Jesus until Christians had been sent to preach about him?

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

Steven & Ian:

Yes. Either Jesus was consistent with Jewish tradition, or he wasn't. If 1) he wasn't ... then was he really from the Jewish God? Maybe he was from the Greeks.

Or 2) if he WAS consistent with it ... then the Criterion of Embarrassment would suggest that he couldn't be authentic.

Why didn't the Jews recognize Jesus as their messiah, if he was really from the Jewish tradition? Why did they have to be told about him? Perhaps because they had never heard of him. And because he was not consistent with their tradition; not until hellenized Jews like Paul began to tell them, c. 55 AD. (Mentions of Paul meeting "James" and "Cephas" are sketchy, and do not show Paul learning from them necessarily; indeed Paul insists elsewhere that he got his gospel from no man, but from revelation from God).

At first, Mythicism seems to many to be so thin, and seems to have so many gaps; until you begin to fill them in.

Erlend said...

Bretton,

There are, as I see it, some need qualifications that must be placed alongside your musings.

The issue of ANE dying-rising gods/heros has been considered elsewhere, but ss for Stoics, they really weren't that fixated on a good death. Seneca even says they do not admire Socrates because of his death, but because of his contentment throughout life. Epictetus, for example, refers to Socrates' life around twenty times,yet mentions his death only a couple. They lauded Socrates' life, not his death. Also you might want to read Timothy Hills' "Ambitiosa Mors: Suicide and Self in Roman Thought and Literature", it will show you the incompatibility of the Gospel accounts of Jesus' sacrifice with Roman attitudes towards suicide.

"many scholars questioned the full historicity of at least, Plato's account of Socrates."

This is a side topic, but What scholars are you thinking of? We of course also have Xenophon, and references from comic writers to Socrates.

"Especially since many thought we had no Platonic manuscripts that could be dated earlier than c. 1300 or so."

I'd be surprised if many used this argument, at least to any length. Most of our manuscripts from antiquity date from round about then. There is nothing surprising or unusual about this.

"Philo loved allegories; and his school in Alexandria probably included some fairly accomplished writers, who could do allegories."

Philo didn't "love" allegories. He thought they had a place and argued with those who depended solely upon them-- he is not someone who have agreed with the enterprise you suppose Christianity could have started with (so read Maren Niehoff's recent "Jewish Exegesis and Homeric Scholarship in Alexandria"). Additionally, Philo did not have a school, at least not one that we have any knowledge, or hints about.

"especially when Philo began to speak of a "Joshua" - or "Jesus," in Greek - as the new "logos"

Philo does not, ever, call Jesus or Joshua as the new logos. Ever. I know Carrier claims this, but it does not exist- at least not in On The Confusion of Tongues.

Erlend said...

Bretton,

"Why didn't the Jews recognize Jesus as their messiah, if he was really from the Jewish tradition? Why did they have to be told about him? Perhaps because they had never heard of him. And because he was not consistent with their tradition; not until hellenized Jews like Paul began to tell them, c. 55 AD."

Bretton, there is some, well elementary problems with your argument. The reason that not all Jews accepted Jesus as their Messiah are voluminous. There was no such thing as "the Jews", they were a mix of competing sects and groups. There was no established idea of what a Messiah was meant to do, or who he was. Christianity though seems to have gone against a prevailing notion that the Messiah would be a political leader, i.e. that he would confront the Romans and liberate Israel. Furthermore, you really think all Jews would know and accept that Jesus is the Messiah? All the Jews in Egypt, Turkey, Spain. The Sadducees, Pharisees, Essenes... I don't know anyone who considers this question to be a serious one. Do you?

You then say "And because he was not consistent with their tradition; not until hellenized Jews like Paul began to tell them, c. 55 AD." Well if Paul made Jesus consistent with their tradition [which he didn't] why didn't all Hellenized Jews become Christians?

"Mythicism seems to many to be so thin, and seems to have so many gaps; until you begin to fill them in"

The holes in Mythicism are getting filled in, but to be honest they seemed to be getting patched up by ignorant speculation, which while, no doubt, cheered on by internet skeptics as building some grand theory that will supplant 99% of all reasoned scholarship on historical Jesus that has been produced for the past two hundred years, is really just paper thin illusion. Although we all wait for Carrier's reasoned work.

Steven Carr said...

ELEND
The reason that not all Jews accepted Jesus as their Messiah are voluminous.

CARR
Not the point.

We are talking about what Paul believed.

And in his mind, the reason why Jews did not (yet) accept Jesus as their Messiah was that they had never heard of him until Christians had been sent to preach about him.

You are undoubtedly correct that the real reason was something else.

Steven Carr said...
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TonyTheProf said...

There are problems with the assumption that if legendary material is present, the person is mythical. St Martin of Tours has a life written by Sulpicius Severus who knew him personally, and yet has mythic or miraculous elements that are problematic for the historian.

See Clare Stancliffe, St Martin and his hagiographer: History and miracle in Sulpicius Severus for a good study of the problems in disentangling history and legend.

The life of Martin is written shortly after his death, by someone who knew him, but contains very problematic legendary features. But the supernatural element doesn't mean we dismiss the historicity of Martin as a real person; it just means we have to sift the records about him carefully.

Paul D. said...

Dr. Goodacre made a curious point in the debate that I might have misunderstood.

I have a brief question, then, if Dr. Goodacre has a moment to spare.

What do you think the wrath that has come upon the Jews "at last" in 1 Th. 2.16 is? Surely the destruction of Jerusalem and the temple in 70 CE is the most likely candidate.

Nick said...

I'd like to know Carrier's reference where this text from Philo that spoke about Jesus is.

Nick said...

*subscribing also*

Paul D. said...

Nick: Carrier is referring to a passage in Philo's On the Confusion of Tongues in which Philo interprets a passage from Zechariah 6 about the high priest Jesus (Joshua) to be the firstborn of the Father of the Universe.

I'm not competent to judge how solid this connection is, but early Jewish/Christian interpretations of Zechariah are no doubt relevant to Christian ideas about the Messiah.

Nick said...

Then Carrier is quite dishonest since I believe he stated that it was about Jesus in the text, and yet I do not find Jesus or even Joshua mentioned there. I am quite skeptical of any of his claims of course.

Steven Carr said...

I see Nick refuses to believe that when Philo refers to this passage , he is referring to somebody called 'Jesus' or 'Joshua' and that Carrier is , I quote, 'dishonest' for claiming that a reference to the following passage is a reference to somebody called Jesus or Joshua.

Zechariah 6:11-12
And thou shalt take gold and silver: and shalt make crowns, and thou shalt set them on the head of Jesus the son of Josedec, the high priest. 12 And thou shalt speak to him, saying: Thus saith the Lord of hosts, saying: BEHOLD A MAN, THE ORIENT IS HIS NAME: and under him shall he spring up, a shall build a temple to the Lord.


It is amazing how desperate some people are to slander mythicists that they can actually call them dishonest for claiming that the name of 'Jesus' (or its equivalent) Joshua, appears in a passage that Philo referenced...

When it does!

Naturally, zero apology will be forthcoming from Nick, who will remain convinced that Carrier is 'dishonest', despite black-and-white proof that the passage that Philo referenced does indeed contain exactly what Carrier said it did.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

Erlend: Conventional apologetics being "voluminous" - or even corpulent - of course, does not recommend them. Especially in a forum like that of Dr. Goodacre, who is known for his careful minimalism.

So let's be short and to the point: of course I am aware of the current shibboleth that "The Jews" were not entirely of one mind; I mentioned "hellenized" Jews for example, as a distinct subgroup. Yet there is enough unity to speak of them as a distinct and diverse but roughly unified religion, it seems. To assert that Hellenized Judaism should have been universally accepted by all Hellenized Jews though, commits the very sin you are accusing me of: assuming total unity in all - in this case Hellenizef - jews. Though to be sure? Probably hellenized jews like clearly Paul and Philo, became the base of Christianity; which caught on in Greece and Rome more than Jerusalem, in historical point of fact.

The core novelty, from the conservative "Jewish"/OT perspective, of Christianity,was indeed a physically dead Messiah. But of course the Greeks liked dying heroes; at Thermopylae. And Romans loved it when soldiers have their lives for their God, the emperor. Thus living on in our legends, minds, as moral ideals.

Dr. Goodacre: and indeed in fact,the NT presenting so much apparent historical solidity in accounts of Jesus, is set up - only for the NT to (in one common reading) dramatically reject corporeality, the "flesh," the "world"; in favor of the spiritual. Which are rather Greek - Platonistic - ideas.

Philo - the very influential hellenized/Platonistic Jew - may have issued some reservations about turning all reality into a spiritual metaphor or allegory; but he himself often went very far down that road, too. Specifically in pronouncing the "Logos" - rather disembodied word, or "logic" of the universe - to be a good "priest."

Paul Regnier said...

BG – I’d suggest that tropes find their way into all sorts of stories, both historical and fictional. Identifying might *might* tell us something about how the tellers of those stories thought about their characters or wanted us to think about them, but at least as you’ve set your ideas out so far, I don’t see how they are necessarily relevant to questions of historicity.

Perhaps I lack your rigorous historical training, but it seems to me that there are plenty of figures who are reputed to have done all sorts of miraculous things who are still plainly historical (don’t tell me that the followers of the Bab didn’t pinch a miracle trope or two from the story of Jesus), and others whose stories contain hardly any supernatural elements (including those mythicist faves Tell, Hood, and Ludd) who are nonetheless fictional.

So the miracle worker excuse for reading the story of Jesus in a different way to other stories just looks like a double standard. You can’t just look at religious figures in this way, because there could be equally valid philosophical, moral, or political motivations for creating a parable that becomes mistakenly accepted as historical truth.

It might be fun to think about ways that a story *might* have been created, and who might have had the knowledge or the motivation to do it. But if you follow such reasoning consistently, almost any ancient figure or event could be read as a myth.

Perhaps I could send you the draft of the first chapter of my forthcoming book The Boudica Conspiracy?

Erlend said...
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Erlend said...

Steven,

That passage then, does not say the logos is Jesus. The name is not mentioned by Philo. Philo says, in fact he explicitly states, that the epithet that is talking about is “rising” ἀνατολή (or “east”):”Behold, a man whose name is the East!”. Gathercole's recent study on pre-existence will show you why ἀνατολή was so important to Philo’s interpretation and why his discussion revolves entirely around this. That it was Joshua that mentioned has no relevance to him- indeed, he never even mentions the name. It instead interests him that ἀνατολή was being used of a human being (and he does not claim, as you suggest, that Joshua is a celestial being, indeed the opposite: “A very novel appellation indeed, if you consider it as spoken of a man who is compounded of body and soul”). Then he ruminates on ἀνατολή being used for the logos. End of story. No Jesus there, not even by metonymy.

Erlend said...

Bretton,

I am not an apologist, and any scholar will have given the same response to your speculations. Have I said anything that is erroneous? You imply there was nothing to commend it, yet you haven't said why. Are you sure you aren't just trying to cast me as an apologist just to make a rather impolite response?

"To assert that Hellenized Judaism should have been universally accepted by all Hellenized Jews though, commits the very sin you are accusing me of"

That was intentional, I was trying to get you to see why your point fails...

"Probably hellenized jews like clearly Paul and Philo, became the base of Christianity; which caught on in Greece and Rome more than Jerusalem, in historical point of fact."

This has been discussed quite heavily for the past 150 years. Suffice to say I point you to the works of people such as Oskar Skarsaune and his "In the Shadow of the Temple: Jewish Influences on Early Christianity" and "Jewish Believers in Jesus: The Early Centuries".

You claim Rome and Greece are known to be bases of Hellenized Christianity, in fact that this is established. What resources you are thinking of that show this? Bernard Green's recent "Christianity In Ancient Rome: The First Three Centuries" will show you that the earliest groups of Christianity in Rome were Jews, who were not particularly Hellenized. Do you think other research, such as Trebilco's "The Early Christians In Ephesus From Paul To Ignatius" or other studies on Thessalonia or Corinth show that early Christianity's base was Hellenized? Or did you just pick Rome and Greece because they are the best known non-Jewish cultures in the ancient Mediterranean world?


"But of course the Greeks liked dying heroes; at Thermopylae. And Romans loved it when soldiers have their lives for their God, the emperor. Thus living on in our legends, minds, as moral ideals."

The Spartans' example was always, to my knowledge (I study this in my thesis actually), framed as an expression of their commitment to their ideology, the fact of that they died, though instrumental in allowing them to realize this, is not celebrated or concentrated upon, it is certainly not part of any Greek hagiography as you try to suggest. Again though if you read works such as Hill's book you will start to appreciate this- at least in a Roman context.

You say: "And Romans loved it when soldiers have their lives for their God, the emperor. Thus living on in our legends, minds, as moral ideals."

That is fascinating. What studies or sources talk about this? You see I researched and wrote a chapter on Roman exempla, of about 15,000 words, and I never came across any exemplas drawn from such instances. I was not aware of this. Any information you can give on where you gained this knowledge will be very useful. Thanks. Glad we can all learn from each other.

Steven Carr said...

ERLEND
That passage then, does not say the logos is Jesus. The name is not mentioned by Philo. Philo says, in fact he explicitly states, that the epithet that is talking about is “rising” ἀνατολή (or “east”):”Behold, a man whose name is the East!”....No Jesus there, not even by metonymy.

CARR
I can only recommend you to open a Bible, and read the passage Philo references.

Zechariah 6:11-12 states , as clearly as can be stated , that the name of this being is Jesus/Joshua, just as Richard Carrier stated.

Please, please, please open a Bible and have a look at the passage Philo is referring to.

There you will find that the name of this person is Jesus.

I promise you, just open a Bible and you will find that Philo is referring to somebody that the Scriptures called 'Jesus'.

I wouldn't make this up, because it is so easy to check who the name of this being is.

Erlend said...
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Erlend said...

Steven,

Yes I know that the title ἀνατολή that Philo finds so interesting was given to Joshua, but Philo does not find that interesting. He does not mention or rely on this, nor does his point even allude to the significance of the name Joshua-- hence I said "even by metonymy". He is concerned, soley with ἀνατολή. It is that which is interesting to him. This is standard Philo.

I like Carrier's work, and, well, actually thought he came across rather well in the Unbelievable show. He needs to be taken seriously (please don't take the fact that I flag up when other mythicists lose themselves in ignorant speculation as meaning that I'm an apologist). In fact in my University his book on Bayes Theorum is recommended in the Historical Jesus class. The first time, I believe, that Carrier will be included in a syllabus in a secular U.K. University. But this claim "Philo calls the logos Jesus" is ridiculous. Its absurd eisegesis, almost akin to Bible Code type join-the-dots.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

Erlend:

No need to split semantic hairs here; let's look for the common root between these "different" ideas. Rather than making exaggerated distinctions, as if that was the hallmark of perspicacity, let's look for larger patterns.

Greeks, the same as everyone, had heroic "martyrs." The idea of martyrdom, is that giving your life in battle, saves your country, often. And is a noble thing. We can wax sophistical on whether dying is good, per se or not. But 1) clearly it is instrumentally good. But then too 2) The martyr's death posed an ideal of heroic sacrifice, as well.

3) Related to this, in some proto-gnostic cultures, dying pe se might be considered good; in that it frees our alleged immaterial soul, from bonds to our allegedly corrupted flesh.

Jeusus' historicality or materiality therefore, might have been exaggerated by some Platonists, spiritualists ... in order to dramatize the importance of rejecting such a material life; in favor of the spiritual one, of course. Or in favor of attaining/exemplifying the ideal of heroic self-sacrifice. Indeed, Jesus specifically mentions biological families ... in order to leave them standing outside. And to assert that his spiritual companions are his real "family."

Could Jews have these rather Platonistic ideas? Jews living in Rome, would necessarily and almost inevitably be partially Hellenized or Romanized. If they had been in marked opposition to Rome and the emperor, if they had not paid the necessary obedience, they would have been seen as enemies of the empire. Failure to honor the Roman eagle in fact, in their Jerusalem temple, was the reason Rome's allies crucified thousands c. 6-4 BC.

Clearly you know some facts regarding this era; but you are not willing to consider some of the logical implications of some them. My examples: wouldn't jews in Rome necessarily HAVE to be "somewhat" hellenized or Romanized? As you yourself seem to indirectly admit. Then too, doesn't the very concept of "martyrdom" honor the self-sacrificial death?

Like Mr. Carr, I am also puzzled by your complete failure to support Carrier on Philo's reference to the priest "Joshua" - or "Jesus" in Greek.

You seem to want to split hairs, rather than see the larger patterns and interconnections of ideas.

Steven Carr said...

ERLEND
But this claim "Philo calls the logos Jesus" is ridiculous.

CARR
Where does Carrier claim 'Philo calls the logos Jesus'?

I quote Carrier's words, which are models of accurate scholarship, confining themselves precisely to the facts -

'Nor was the idea of a preexistent spiritual son of God a novel idea among the Jews anyway. Paul’s contemporary, Philo, interprets the messianic prophecy of Zechariah 6:11-12 in just such a way. In the Septuagint this says to place the crown of kingship upon “Jesus,” for “So says Jehovah the Ruler of All, ‘Behold the man named ‘Rises’, and he shall rise up from his place below and he shall build the House of the Lord’.” '

Still, at least you agree that the Bible really does call this being 'Jesus', exactly as Carrier wrote.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

Paul R.:

No double standard here: 1) I'm willing to note that some scholars, calling attention to the lateness of many ancient documents from c. 1300-1400, have questioned essentially ALL of them; including not only religious but also secular. Possibly most were at least edited late on.

2) Regarding "miracles," it's a matter of degree. If a given figure a)is overwhelmingly a "miracle" worker, and say b) is said to be a god, as his other chief attribute, with c) no real secular titles, then? At least THIS rational historian begins with the presumption of non-historicity. Others may believe in miracles, I suppose.

As a practical example of how general this might be though: do say "most" Historicans give say Zeus, the benefit of the presumption of historicity?

Consistent with this standard, we should not extend the presumption of Historicity to Jesus.

Or indeed, in the interest of critical thinking, we should not rely on any "presumptions" at all. But keep the question carefully open, for discussion.

Paul Regnier said...

"Where does Carrier claim 'Philo calls the logos Jesus'?"

Stephen, in the radio show I seem to remember Carrier saying words to this effect. It jarred a bit when he said it, though I might have misheard or Carrier might have just not been quite clear enough in his phrasing.

I thought Carrier came across quite well too, I don't think he was talking over anyone, it just seemed like lively discussion.

Steven Carr said...

Philo refers to a passage which clearly names the person referred to as Jesus.

I now find out that the new rule is that you are never referring to anybody called 'Jesus' , unless you always quote the name, no matter how obvious the reference is to your readers.

I guess then that Tacitus never refers to Jesus ever, as he never uses the name 'Jesus'.

And Suetonius never refers to Jesus ever, as he never uses the name 'Jesus'.

After all, those are the new rules....

And Paul Regnier is unable to give us an actual quote of Carrier saying that Philo called the being in Zecharaih 6:11 by the name that you do find there, when you read the passage Philo was quoting.

A reference that would have been obvious to any of Philo's readers, many of them being people who had read a Bible.

Paul Regnier said...

Stephen, Carrier says:

“We do have a reference to a pre-existent being named Jesus who was the first born son of God, who was the high priest of the celestial temple, just like the Hebrews explains, and was also called the logos, the word of God, and this is in Philo… Philo refers to this deity several times, this - deity's perhaps the wrong word, he's an archangel in Philo's vocabulary - who’s named Jesus.”

It starts from 47:45 on the radio broadcast.

Steven Carr said...

So still no quote by Regnier where Carrier says Philo called him Jesus.

But this being was named Jesus, just like Carrier claimed it was.

Just open a Bible , turn to the relevant page and see for yourself.

Paul Regnier said...
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Paul Regnier said...

BG -

1) Which scholars? What do they question? Do you agree with them or disagree?

2) It’s not a question of believing in miracles, it’s a question of remembering that the people who told stories about particular figures believed in miracles.

I don’t quite follow your reasons for presuming that figures are non-historical if they have claimed (or others claimed for them) divine status or the abilities to work miracles. No doubt some of these are non-historical, but as I’ve pointed out above, non-miraculous figures are also frequently invented. Doesn’t this put historians of religion under a burden of proof that you are not requiring of other historians?

Also my original point was that speculating about how figures (even religious ones) might have been invented as a mash-up of cultural tropes doesn’t in practice help us identify whether or not they actually existed.

I wonder how many religious leaders (particularly pre-modern ones) could actually pass your test for historicity, if your test seems to consist of little more than a joint the dots of ways they might just have been made up?

Steven Carr said...
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Paul Regnier said...

"So still no quote by Regnier where Carrier says Philo called him Jesus."


Stephen - did you read Carrier's words I posted above?


“We do have a reference to a pre-existent being named Jesus who was the first born son of God, who was the high priest of the celestial temple, just like the Hebrews explains, and was also called the logos, the word of God, and this is in Philo… Philo refers to this deity several times, this - deity's perhaps the wrong word, he's an archangel in Philo's vocabulary - who’s named Jesus.”

Nick said...

Yep. I'm still waiting to see this comment. Not a reference to a passage that mentions a Joshua. After all, Jesus was an incredibly common name.

Nick said...

Yes. He's referring to Joshua. Where does he call him the logos in that passage?

Erlend said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Erlend said...

Steven and Bretton

Twice now (Unbelievable, and in a lecture on youtube) Carrier has claimed that Philo calls the logos Jesus- he does not. Not once.

"I am also puzzled by your complete failure to support Carrier on Philo's reference to the priest "Joshua" - or "Jesus" in Greek...You seem to want to split hairs, rather than see the larger patterns and interconnections of ideas."

So you suggest that I do not get the point because of some quirk I have in comprehending facts, this blinds me to seeing that underneath everything Philo is tacitially referencing Joshua/Jesus, though never mentioning his name or being the slightest concerned with it, and pretending to be interested in an entirely different epithet. That if I squint my eyes, join the dots that a whole different picture comes into focus. Now so far three people, James McGrath, Larry Hurtado and myself have tried this and all reaching the same conclusion; that, Carrier's comments "Philo calls the logos Jesus" is fallacious, or as McGrath puts it "bogus". So all of us have this quirk/blindspot.
For McGrath see:http://www.patheos.com/blogs/exploringourmatrix/2012/09/problematizing-richard-carriers-treatment-of-the-historical-jesus.html)

Larry Hurtado, who had quickly noted this in a comment on his blog- so I hope he doesn't mind me quoting it, but it does get the point across well] said:

"Philo is clearly doing a catch-word thing, pearl-stringing passage with the word “east/rising” in them, and working them all up to say something about the Logos. But for the purposes of this discussion, the crucial point is that Philo gives no evidence here or elsewhere of a pre-Christian cult to a figure named “Jesus/Joshua”. OK."

I had said: "That passage then, does not say the logos is Jesus. The name is not mentioned by Philo. Philo says, in fact he explicitly states, that the epithet that is talking about is “rising” ἀνατολή (or “east”):”Behold, a man whose name is the East!”. Gathercole's recent study on pre-existence will show you why ἀνατολή was so important to Philo’s interpretation and why his discussion revolves entirely around this. That it was Joshua that mentioned has no relevance to him- indeed, he never even mentions the name. It instead interests him that ἀνατολή was being used of a human being (and he does not claim, as you suggest, that Joshua is a celestial being, indeed the opposite: “A very novel appellation indeed, if you consider it as spoken of a man who is compounded of body and soul”). Then he ruminates on ἀνατολή being used for the logos. End of story. No Jesus there, not even by metonymy."


Now all of us raise the same points, argued in different ways, that none of his supporters address, but they keep defending it by reiterating that we "just dont get it." Well perhaps we don't get it because there is nothing to get. You keep on urging us to see something that is not there, and as much as I am tired of the conversation of this point, I just can't bring myself to support a mirage.

Bretton

I concede that martydom is a pan-cultural concept. It is though not one that is given particular attention in Graeco-Roman world, at least not from the examples that you have raised, and for some reason you seem to keep believing was part of its culture. As a side note there was no word in Greek or Latin for the concept of matrydom, but that it had to borrowed from Christian idiom. Obviously that someone was strong enough in their convictions to be killed for their beliefs can be praised, but there is, as has often been pointed out, reasons to suppose that Christianity had to reason/deal with, not utilize the fact that its claimed Messiah was killed- and that he was executed by crucifixion Paul even says so quite clearly: it is a belief that alienates both Jewish and Greek people. We have probably reached the closing of this particular conversation, but thank you for the congenial tone in which you stated your point.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

In outline: how does Philo refer to Jesus, and Jesus as "Logos"?

1) Philo in On the Confusion of Tongues, XIV 62 ff., speaks of Zechariah and God. Who are in turn championing a new priest. One who is not only related to the light of the East/orient, but also includes at least two higher kinds of "soul." On that relates to the archetypal "patterns" of Plato.

2) A look at the referenced passage in Zechariah, uncovers that Zechariah is speaking of "Joshua" as a new sort of priest.

3) In the original Greek, "Joshua" is written "Jesus."

4) So indeed, Philo is referencing a new sort of priest, called "Jesus." (Writing in future tense, by the way; which gives this prophetic implications).

5) And as it turns out in the fuller context elsewhere and generally - since this "Jesus" is linked here to his references to Plato's archetypical patterns and to higher "soul" - Philo is ultimately speaking in effect, of a new priest, "Jesus," who is linked to the higher spirit ... or "Logos."

Some mythicists maintain that passages like this in Philo, soon inspired rumors of a new savior priest - named "Jesus." These basic rumors, some suggest, were subsequently embellished by oral rumors and other forms of cultural accretion ... to begin the legend of Jesus.

Mike Gantt said...

I'm fascinated by the fact that Carrier does not argue so much for mythicism as he does for agnosticism. That is, he's clear about saying that he can't prove the mythicist case - only that it seems more plausible to him than the historical case. His stated goal is to prove that neither side can be sure.

I'm surprised that more people aren't fascinated by this. When there's a big question on my mind, I want to hear from folks who think they have the answer. The fellow who invests all his energy in convincing me that no one has the answer to this question makes me wonder "why he doth protest so much." If I'm going to hear from him at all, I'd rather hear him on questions for which he thinks he does have the answer.

Similarly, a historian, it seem to me, is after history. He's not interested in what is not history. Thus a historian whose stated goal is to abolish history on a given subject seems more like an antihistorian than a historian, and more interested in ahistory than in history.

Very peculiar.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

Correcting some minor matters in my previous post:

Philo/Zechariah's "Joshua" - or in Greek "Jesus" - is not so much a priest as the associate of one (Zech. 6.13). He himself is crowned, and therefore is presumably some kind of king-like figure. Again, resembling our modern Jesus of God, as "king."

Strike "original" in reference to Philo's Greek.



Adrift said...

Mike,

Carrier tells why in his Testimonial on the Secular Web from 2001,

http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/testimonials/carrier.html

"In [a] lucky position, having struggled my way from poverty to a doctoral fellowship at an Ivy League university, I took action. With compassion for the welfare and enlightenment of the human race, I devote much of my free time to defeating lies, correcting errors, and informing the unknowing. For which I am condemned regularly...."

"So great is the threat of this superstition against individuals, against society, against knowledge, against general human happiness, that it would be immoral not to fight it."

"It was then that I realized, because of this threat and because of my own experience in not being able to find like-minded people to share thoughts with, I had to state my case and publish as much as I could to help others like me and to defeat the nonsense and lies that I saw being spread everywhere, and to answer the constant barrage of redundant questions I had faced ever since I allowed the Christian public to know I'm an atheist."

So... yeah... some weird hero complex there. I wonder if he hearing Wagner or a John Williams score in his head as he was typing that up.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

Carrier isn't alone in his criticism of things in religion: there are hundreds of warnings in the Bible itself, about bad and specifically as it says "false" things throughout religion; even in what is called Christianity. Even those who cry "Lord, Lord" to Jesus, and who think they are following "Christ," are many of them to discover they were following a "false Christ." Says the Bible. In the midst of hundreds of warnings about "false prophets," bad priests, false things in even the earliest Christian churches (Rev. 2.4, 2.14, 2.20,3.3; et passim).

In this case, it is useful to try to trace the origins of the popular notion of Christ; to see where it came from, and if it is true.

Carrier here, in the matter of Jesus/Joshua and Philo, actually simply reveals a longstanding if suppressed theory of the origins of what came to be known as Christianity; as a sort of Platonized Judaism. Positing its origins in part, in some writings by Philo.

This theory was long hinted at among many elite scholars. And the suspicion that Philo heavily influenced and even partially "created" what came to be known as Christianity, is the main if veiled reason that for at least a century or so, the writings of Philo have been among the five or six core readings assigned in Second Temple/early Christianity theology classes.

Sili said...

"When there's a big question on my mind, I want to hear from folks who think they have the answer. "

Really? You'd rather hear from people who *think* they have the answer?

Funny that. I'd prefer to know the truth. Even - or especially - if that truth is that we cannot know for sure. I'd rather have justified uncertainty than false certainty. As someone said: Follow those who seek the truth, but be wary of those who claim to have found it.

Erlend said...

Bretton. Again you really need to redress some of your points.

The influence of Philo on Christianity is quite well established and studied. Look at studies such as David Runia's "Philo in Early Christian Literature", or his "Philo and the Church Fathers", Clement of Alexandria and His Use of Philo in the "Stromateis": Van den Hoeck's "Clement of Alexandria and His Use of Philo in the Stromateis: An Early Christian Reshaping of a Jewish Model". Read Larry Hurtado's paper "Does Philo Help Explain Early Christianity?" http://www.era.lib.ed.ac.uk/handle/1842/2656 Read the section on Paul, it is utterly different from the theory you have presumed to adopt. Or look at Peter Borger's comments on how divergent Paul and Philo where in his "Philo of Alexandria: An Exegete for His Time"
Read Chadwicks' “St. Paul and Philo of Alexandria,” BJRL 48(1965-66), Ronald Williamson, “Philo and New Testament Christology,”
As for Paul see Malherbe's "Paul and the Popular Philosophers", O'Meara's "Neoplatonism & Christian Thought" or Anthony Merediths' "Christian Philosophy in the Early Church". It has been studied for over a hundred years.

About 50 years ago the conventional understanding was that John's logos was lifted from Philo's logos- a theory now heavily qualified. Look at Adolf von Harnack or members of the Tubigen School, or the works of scholars from a hundred years ago such as G. H. Gilbert, E. R. Goodenough, or Bultmann, all of whom argued that Christianity was Hellenized, and what became, until the view was shown to be largely wrong, the dominant scholarly view of Christian origins. As recently as 1979 Samduel published an article called "“Palestinian and Hellenistic Judaism and Christianity. The Question of the Comfortable Theory,"

It was not repressed, it was, in many quarters, the dominant hypothesis! Yet you don't seem to know this. You invent a scenario that allows you to (fallaciously) present skeptics as slowly overturning vested interests that until now scholars have had to remained whispered. I don't know what field your PhD was in, but please, stop mutilating and distorting this one.

Mike Gantt said...

Sili,

You expressed a preference against people who only "think they know the truth," because you'd "prefer to know the truth." And then, two sentences later, suggested you were "wary of those who claim to have found [truth]."

Are you so interested in having an argument that you decided to go ahead and have one with yourself?

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

Ehland:

Thanks for the (albeit one-sided) bibliography. In which you yourself admit that Philonic influence on Christianity was heavily documented ... albeit currently "qualified."

You repeat the now-comfortable shibboleth that of course, the emphasis on Philo, was prevailing 50 years ago, but has since been utterly demolished by more modern scholarship. And indeed, that is the prevailing opinion, in some circles.

One made much easier however, by some simple contingent facts. That 1) Classics departments in Universities began to disappear in huge numbers, from about 1940 on. While 2) by c. 1980, the "New Evangelization" and the "Religious Right" began to take over religion departments. As 3) the notion that Jesus "was not conscious of himself" as anything but a "good Jew"ish citizen, became the prevailing cliche. One 4) comfortably in line with apologetics and harmonization sermons, that assured us that the NT was wholly consistent with the OT God.

In effect, 5)in spite of their alleged objectivity, religion departments and seminaries have always been partially the adjuncts of the churches they are linked to. As Bultmann and others noted, the retention of the notion of the historicity of Jesus, and his continuity with the OT (with minimal intervening hellenization), was all too convenient for dozens of purely political reasons.

But today? Many of us are abandoning the "Childs"-like c.1980-2012 "Evangelical scholarship"; which was always an oxymoronic concept. (Evangelicalism being essentially concerned with "evangelizing," or propagandization, not scholarship). And we are now reviving and expanding earlier interest in re-linking Christianity to the broader Hellenistic and ANE picture.

Around 1980 or so the New Right decided to try to turn an old leftist complaint against the leftists themselves; the Religious Right began to claim in a very polemical and facile way, that agnotistic and rationalist/leftist scholarship was now itself, ironically, "outdated" and "oldfashioned." But that was always however, just a mere vrhetorical appeal to a popular attraction to being fashionable; an appeal to mere currency and fashionability.

Against your own seemingly comfortable assumptions, today, scholarship has just begun to turn back to seeing the larger ANE context of Early Christianity. As evidenced in part by the very recent revival of Mythicism. Following the OT work of say, Thom Thompson and others.

(And again, failing to see the links between Philo and Paul, by the way, is valorizing what I might call "distinction"; while failing to make out generic links and larger patterns. It is protecting a very small turf.)

Geoff Hudson said...

'Christianity' had its origin in the Jewish prophets. There were fundamental differences of belief between priests and prophets. The history of both is recorded in the writings attributed to Josephus where much is garbled. The Scrolls from the Judean desert tell us what the priests were like. I have no time for Carrier, Doherty and other mythicists, but they seem to make good targets for others to argue with.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

[Paul Reg: I don't want to ignore all your objections; but feel they are often not quite in the mainstream of the discussion. And I feel that many are answered by me ... if you carefully read my adjectives; the qualifications on my remarks.

For example: I noted in effect there is no double standard between miraculous secular and religious figures; it is a simple matter of "degree," of to what extent miracles dominate a given figure. Academic History is largely rational, and based largely on Science. If there are many allegations of supernatural activity, to the extent that they dominate the account, then? You are outside the realm of History].

Erlend said...

Bretton,

I dont understand the portrayal you give of my bibliography, or the state of the academic study of early Christian History.

As for Philo; you suggest my biography is one-sided. What studies are you thinking of to balance it? What studies argue that Philo heavily influenced, to the extent that he (or his colleagues) was perhaps was the starting point, for Christian teachings? I know of no study. The people I listed are the most prominent scholars of Philo and are not part of your fictious right-wing evangelical move. Please look up who David Runia, Peter Borger and Van den Hoeck are. Look up Philonica Studica (http://nd.edu/~philojud/), look at its members, look at its journal. Read the Philo Bibliography Project, now in three volumes, several hundred pages each, that go through pretty much all the scholarship on Philo from 1937-2006. Consider all the research into the convergence and divergence of Philonic-Pauline thought. But who are thinking o?. Please redress my unbalanced biography, only you will find hundreds of scholars opposing your position, and, well Carrier's future book, your illusory understanding of the field. Perhaps you are also thinking of some amateur skeptic websites? Who knows. You might be enthusiastic about it, but don't sully yourself or delude yourself by making these silly claims.

As for your 1980's-2012 theory. That has already been discussed in a thread you brought it up on )(http://larryhurtado.wordpress.com/2012/07/23/the-did-jesus-exist-controversy-and-its-precedents/)that you keep trying to present, but never explain why you think this and why it is so divergent from everyone else's experience; even though they have are employed in the field. It is ridiculous. If you think that since the 1980's-present that the faculties of say, St Andrews, Edinburgh, Durham, Oxford, Exeter, Kings College, Cambridge (etc...) have been run or heavily influenced by right wing evangelicals you are loopy. But, I don't think you make this point though because you have a familiarity with this topic, that you have attended conferences such as BNTS or SBL, that you are aware that Evangelical Societies for the study of the Bible have about 1/10 of the membership of secular ones [from what I can gather from a friend who recently attended ETS then SBL]. Its a rhetorical point. You don't mean it, it just allows you to make an argument. You have not reached it because you know this to be true, its just bluster.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

Ehrlund?

By the time of Jesus, then Plutarch at the latest, Romans knew how to make a failed, murdered person, into a god;to manipulate. To get people to accept failure as godly.[Possibly from: Plutarch, Life of Numa Pompilius. And Livy, 1.16, trans. A. de Selincourt, The Early History of Rome, 34-35) rel2243-04.fa03.fsu.ed]

There have always been many veiled hints throughout academe that something was not quite right in Christianity. They were veiled in part, from the days when heresy was a crime punishable by death by torture (till about 1776); and even later, when murmuring dissent against the prevailing religion was at least punishable by social - and "academic" - ostracism.

I am perfectly aware that PRIVATELY, many faculty members in religion are quite cynical. But in PRINT? Your cited authorities? Larry Hurtado for example, in print, is a famous conservative. While I suggest we have radically underestimated the degree to which religious bias has infected even non-confessional institutions.

To some extent, we still live in a world of believers; and churches remain major underpinnings for even "critical" programs (as potential employers; as gatekeepers; as financial backing). So that a position that settled on the minimal "Jesus is historically real," was found, as a useful compromise. As Bultmann apparently noted.

Rather than cite texts - which indeed were even deliberately, selfprotectively obscure - suppose we look at the issues. And find out what your own convictions might be.

1) Do you believe that the New Testament is an historical document, 2) and/or is based on a real person? Walking on water and all?

Or more exactly that 3) the NT is totally a product of the OT and the Jewish community proper, and no other culture or persons? (Thus overlooking the diversity even of the "Jewish" community itself? And minimizing specifically Hellenistic influence?).

And? What do you make of Earl Doherty's recent arguments?

Or say the recent, 2012 "Is This Not the Carpenter?" anthology edited by Dr. Thom. Thompson and Verenna?

Sili said...

"Are you so interested in having an argument that you decided to go ahead and have one with yourself?"

My apologies. I obviously need to be more exact in my usage, rather than employ two slightly different meaning of the word "truth". I assumed it way clear it operated on slightly different levels. My bad.

Unknown said...

I'm a nonbeliever, but I think that Paul's writings establish Jesus's historical existence beyond reasonable doubt.

If Paul had a vision of Jesus, preached on authority of that vision, and then met the leaders in Jerusalem, all of whom distrusted him, they could simply have told him "Ha ha. Joke's on you. There was no Jesus!" They obviously didn't tell him that. Ergo, Jesus was a real person. Paul would never have uttered another word about Jesus if this were the case. Instead, he was emboldened, and took Peter with him.

To imagine otherwise - that Paul knew Jesus never to have existed, is to imagine him perpetrating a huge fraud - and that he convinced even the Jerusalem Church to go along with him. "Sure, sure, let's call it 'Jesus', like this Paul says - that's the ticket!"

I can't read Paul's writings, with both their direct and indirect evidence, as anything but by one with a sincere belief in Jesus' existence.

If not Paul, then James and the others "invented" him, which seems even less likely.

Unknown said...

Sorry, the above post by "unknown" is by me, Ross. I thought my gmail sign-in would name me.

Erlend said...

bretton,

I think I have spent enough time making our points. I have no interest in clogging up Dr Goodacre's blog with a back-and-forth exchanges. We are, I think, generating more heat than light.

Suffice to raise one issue. I have argued that Philo is not a likely source to explain the origin of Christianity. I do so as someone whose is doing a doctorate (and arguing for) aspects of Hellenistic influence on early Christianity, including from Philo. But because I don't buy the theory that is outlined by mythicists I am apparently trying to mimimize the influence of Hellenism on Christianity. This is a naive assumption. The jump to place anyone who does not support a position that, currently, has no academic support, as being apologists or having a right-wing evangelical bias betrays the fact that you have no familiarity with this topic or field. The area of Philo's influence on Christianity has been studied extensively by scholars in thousands of articles, books and conferences. But they are evangelicals, or have been corrupted or silenced by the Church... Also, you have yet to provide studies that re-balance my list on Philo.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

Erlend:

It seems reasonable to me to suggest that a field formerly dominated utterly for 2,000 years, by explicitly "faith"-based and not rational-based pronouncements, still has some residual non-scholarly instincts, unconsciously. These instincts I once metaphorically characterized as "Evangelical"; but if the objection is raised that there are many non-Evans in scholarship, I note I am using this as metaphor or in effect, "conservative." And here I specify: with unconscious holdovers to "faith"-based thinking.

You want academic sources? The major Mythicist argument/reference lately is Early Doherty's c. 2012 argument, noted by "Ross": that Paul created Christianity. (From in turn I'd add, the very minimal Philonic material).

One common objection to Doherty is that Paul in the 50's, seems to be meeting a previously-established series of churches; which could only have been set up by a previous Jesus, and his followers.

But? More carefully read, the Paul of Acts and elsewhere(if you accept this Paul), seems to be meeting believers who are often purely pagans, or perhaps purely Jews; they have NOT heard about clearly Jesus, so that Paul has to tell them the very, very few, sketchy basics that he has.

Paul's own material on Jesus, Doherty notes, is VERY sketchy; and alleged meetings with allegedly or "reputed"ly previous "pillars" of the Church like "James the brother of Jesus," are late, mostly unspecified in content, and written in typically equivocal NT language.

So as my first new academic reference to the new Mythicism, opposing the tradition you present is Earl Doherty. Who in effect I add here, presents the first plausible suggestion as to how minimal Philonic /Platonistic or Greco-Romanistic ideas,could have indeed founded Christianity. Doherty emphasizes Paul's obviously "cosmic" Platonism.

To Earl Doherty, I personally add here that Paul's obvious "cosmic" Platonism is continuous with Philo's Platonism. Thus beginning to further firmly delineate a line of Greco-Roman ("Hellenistic") influence as the foundation of Christianity.

VinnyJH57 said...

Ross,

Or the leaders in Jerusalem tell Paul "Yes. Jesus is real, and we learned this in the exact same way you did. We had visions of him."

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

Vinny by the way is apparently a pretty good attorney. And his blog contains a good examination of what appears to me, to be Larry Hurtado's censorship style; Larry's suppression and censorship of opposing arguments, on Larry's own blog.

My experience with religious conservatives, with their talk shows and theologians, has shown me that their main method is to simply censor the opposition.

Vinny? It might be useful for you to include a cut-and-paste link here, to your blog, and your own cogent remarks on Doherty, etc..

Paul Regnier said...

"My experience with religious conservatives, with their talk shows and theologians, has shown me that their main method is to simply censor the opposition."

Whereas atheists and mythicists never censor anybody do they BG?

"Brettongarcia, I am keeping your comments in the spam bin until I see evidence that you have read and understood Brodie’s argument".
Neil Godfrey.

http://vridar.wordpress.com/2012/10/25/oral-tradition-in-nt-studies-is-unworkable/#comment-37329

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

"All have sinned." Thanks for noticing my banishment....

Paul Regnier said...

I'm sure God(frey) will forgive all in time BG ;-)

On a serious note, censorship and suppression are serious matters. I don't think that flinging such accusations about helps your credibility a great deal.

Mike Gantt said...

Erlend,

As you seem to be signing off on this post, let me say that I have appreciated your informative, tempered, and circumspect comments in interacting with BG.

The only fault I would ascribe to you is that you're taking too much credit when you imply that you and BG have collaboratively created more heat than light. I think that credit is due to him alone.

Erlend said...

Bretton,

You have a completely misunderstood how academic study of early Christianity works. You keep insisting that the study of early Christianity is effected by right wing evangelicals. It is not. You don't know this, you don't have any insight into this; you are just using speculation and a desire to keep arguing for mythicism. (It is the same with your attempts to find a G-R concept of martyrdom. Just speculate that Romans idealized their sacrificial soliders.) No matter how many people who are in the field tell you otherwise, you keep insisting that they are wrong. I see little difference between you and creationists who insist their self-published creationist author really is the genuine scholar, that all the faculties of science are corrupted by devotion to secularism that they can't speak the truth. But how about a few other examples. In the 1960's predecessor to the UCCF in the U.K. needed to find an evangelical scholar to head part of its organization. They could only find one. The concern at the lack of evangelicals in Theology faculties lead, in part, to the creation of Tyndale House. But no, apparently the study of early Christianity has always been under the sway of evangelicals, just no one knew it. The other example, my cousin did a Theology course n the 1990's in a well-known University, at the start of the course one lecturer said "by the end of this I doubt any of you will still be Christians, our job is to challenge everything you believe". But apparently this was during the height of the right-wing evangelical take over. I do wonder why you think so many Bible colleges [at least in the U.K.] have been made in the past few decades by evangelicals, rather than sending their members to Theology faculties. One ETS member had remarked that it would be great to have an (just one) evangelical in the faculties of Divinity in the Ivy Leavy Schools such as Harvard. But apparently, unknown to everyone, Harvard, Princeton (...) have been under the sway or corrupted by right-wing evangelicalism. Read the biographies of F. F. Bruce or George Eldon Ladd, who will show you the novelty of being an evangelical scholar in the academic study of Christianity a few decades ago. But there will probably be some atheist website that will make some illusory claims and you will jump on that and insist we are all wrong...

So, to oppose hundreds of scholarly articles, books and conferences, my list is unbalanced because I didn't note a self-published book by someone with an undergraduate degree. A book that is not noted in the Philo Bibliography. But that will be unbalanced too I presume, and a right-wing evangelical publication?

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

Erland:

Did you write your comment before I noted that I used "evangelical" as a metaphor?

Ben Schuldt said...

Good debate. I hope there are more like it in the future to further clarify the issues.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

Erlend:

No need to invoke the spectre of "conspiracy theories."

Better said, I'd suggest that there have always been intelligent theologians and scholars and clerics, who have partially disagreed with many of the tenets of everyday, corner-church religion. But many such persons do not want to offend others too much.

So how do they strike a balance between the popular and critical perspective? Many our more critical scholars are content to speak in a sort of elevated, polysemic "tongue." One that seems rather conventionally pious to the conventionally-minded; but that also offers more critical insights to those who can pick up the subtext.

Lots of people already understand parts of this complex style of writing; they know that the New Testament contains "parables" and "figures" of speech, or symbolic language. More specifically, many know that the Bible can be read 1) "literally," as promising physical miracles; or 2) "metaphorically"; as promising mental or "spiritual" things. So it Christ promises us "water," it might mean real, actual, literal water. Or "water" might just be a symbol for Jesus' saving ideas or spirit; which is like "water" to our soul.

This means in effect, that much of religious writing has several layers in it. But we should also note that the apparently pious and conventional surface of many scholarly works,often ALSO has a sort of subtext; like the Bible itself. Though this subtext is not always just "spiritual." But sometimes more "critical," say.

In fact, I'd suggest that if you re-read many classic scholarly texts, you will find them in effect being somewhat doubtful of the first picture of Christ that you thought they supported; the simpel views you often get in church, indeed.

Still, the surface of the text remains ... quite Fundamentalist looking, often. And many superifical readers will often take this side of the text as its only message. Thus reading most of current scholarship as ... fundamentalistic, or evangelist, etc..

So I am of course aware of a more complex, non-evangelical subtext in most academic writings to be sure. But? Unfortunately, note, the surface appearance has been extremely influential. Since scholars have maintained appearances, many simple readers have long believed their most simple beliefs to have been continually re-affirmed, even in scholarly works.

And so? To the degree that finally, if "beauty is as beauty does," so to speak, for all practical reasons our allegedly sophisticated authors have functioned as enablers for ... Fundamentalism. Or more specifically, the apparent support of Historical Jesus in fact caters to the simple perception that after all, in spite of all scholarly hesitations, "Jesus is real."

Scholars should realize that maintaining appearances, is a deadly compromise. With deadly results. Specifically,when you spend your life even superficially appearing to support something, finally the end is often that functionally speaking, you HAVE actually supported and encouraged it; since few picked up the subtext.

Ultimately, even merely giving the "appearance" of conventional piety, furthers the substance of it. More than fostering more critical values; which few readers will notice.

The whole situation reminds me of the ironic situation of some DEA agents and operations, in the midst of drug dealers: to get the confidence of drug dealers, undercover cops sometimes make so many deals, and commit so many crimes, that in the end, funtionally, they contributed more to crime, than to the law. Even if they bust a few individuals in the end.

Beware of what you pretend to be; it just might stick. Or have more influence than you do.

This is an ironic phenomenon which makes even most of our more critical scholars into, in all practical effect, Evangelicals, historicist fundamentalists. Whatever they may feel privately.

Wired For Sound said...

"It's clear that the "crucified Christ" was something that people like Paul found tough to explain to his fellow Jews, e.g. 1 Cor. 1.23."

This is an old, old apologetic, one that's only effective as long as you ignore everything else the Pauline writers say. The crucifixion/resurrection is the most important event in the history of the world to them; they are not "embarrassed" by such a monumental paradigm shift in human consciousness. The reason why it's a "stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Greeks" is NOT because they (the Paulinist writers) are "embarrassed." It is because, in their view, Jews and Greeks are too stubborn and blinded by their false teachers to understand Paul's stunning revelation of the secret meaning of the scriptures.

Nor, of course, should we suspect that the Pauline writers were writing for "fellow Jews," unless that means Judeans, i.e. converts to the Jewish religion.

Mark Goodacre said...

Wired for Sound: please use your real name on the blog -- and that goes for everyone else here too.

My comment is not apologetics but a summary of my critical assessment of the available evidence. You put the words "embarrassed" in quotation marks; can you point to where I have suggested that the early Christians were embarrassed by this? I am not aware of such a place, but if I find it, I would be glad to retract it.

VinnyJH57 said...

I accept that a crucified messiah was difficult to explain, but I don't see how that difficulty supports the case for historicity.

In 18th century America, Mormons had a very hard time selling most Protestants on the idea of previously unknown scriptures discovered and translated by an illiterate bumpkin from western New York state. That doesn't lead me to think that there was any factual basis for Joseph Smith's claims.

Bernard said...

Yes, Carrier is full of these so-called evidence which are many times not even existing evidence, or very dubious.

Carrier said: “We do have a reference to a pre-existent being named Jesus who was the first born son of God, who was the high priest of the celestial temple, just like the Hebrews explains, and was also called the logos, the word of God, and this is in Philo… Philo refers to this deity several times, this - deity's perhaps the wrong word, he's an archangel in Philo's vocabulary - who’s named Jesus.”

Philo, Confusion of tongues, XIV 62-63
I have also heard of one of the companions of Moses having uttered such a speech as this: "Behold, a man whose name is the East!" A very novel appellation indeed, if you consider it as spoken of a man who is compounded of body and soul; but if you look upon it as applied to that incorporeal being who in no respect differs from the divine image, you will then agree that the name of the east has been given to him with great felicity. For the Father of the universe has caused him to spring up as the eldest son, whom, in another passage, he calls the firstborn; and he who is thus born, imitating the ways of his father, has formed such and such species, looking to his archetypal patterns."

LXX Zechariah 6:11-12
"'Then, take the silver and gold to make a crown, and place it on JoShua's head (the son of JoZadek, the High Priest). And tell him that thus says Jehovah: {Look!} There's a male whose name is The Sprout, and he will grow from below, to rebuild the House of Jehovah."

How could Zechariah be considered a companion of Moses, who allegedly lived almost a millenium before the prophet?

And there is a lot of difference between "Behold, a man whose name is the East! ... to spring up" and "There's a male whose name is The Sprout, and he will grow from below" despite some similarity.

So I am not buying Philo was referring to Zechariah 6. Even if he did, I do not see any connection with that would-be new king Joshua/Jesus, the son of JoZadek, the High Priest and Philo's firstborn.

Carrier was also saying that Jesus is crucified in some lower heavenly realm in "Ascension of Isaiah" (AoI). This is not true, AoI does not say that. I wrote on that here http://historical-jesus.info/djp1.html

Carrier is also making hay about Adam buried in heaven in "Life of Adam". He is partly right on that, but that can be easily demonstrated to be the result of interpolations made not earlier that the 3rd century. My arguments are here:
http://historical-jesus.sosblogs.com/index.htm

Cordially, proudly banished from Vridar, Bernard

Mark Erickson said...

Erlend especially, but everyone else as well: the Wikipedia article on Philo is dreadful. Up until last week, it was almost completely copied or paraphrased from the Jewish Encyclopedia of 1906 (so not copyrighted). I'm trying to improve the article, but it's well outside my abilities to do it well. Please join me or pass the word that wiki editors are needed. Thanks.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

Bernard:

1) I'm reading Philo's "companions of Moses" as a metaphor. Probably used as an euphemism. Philo is probably referring obliquely to say, in effect, "ancient Jewish leaders." We shouldn't take "companions" literally.

2) Therefore, Philo's presentation holds up reasonably well. Though note for that matter, that Carrier's thesis would still hold, even if Philo's idea was absurd and even false; all that was necessary was that people believed it.

True or false, for this idea to start the rumors of a "Jesus," all that matters is that Philo's announcement of a new priest, a Logos or "word," Jesus, impressed others of his own time. Enough to cause them to be interested in Philo's "Jesus." And to begin speaking about him.

Even if that Jesus was a complete academic fiction, it would be effective; so long as people believed and had faith in it.

Mike Gantt said...

The hyper-skepticism inherent in Jesus mythicism must assume the hyper-gullibility of first-century believers in Christ.

Do mythicists not recognize the irony of their gullibility on this point?

Neil said...

Some mention has been made above of Philo's reference to what has been misleadingly translated as "the man of the EAST". The details of this -- and the translation of the name -- have been discussed in some detail at A Pre-Christian Heavenly Jesus.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

Mike:

1) I do think that a)people trained to ignore reasons, and just "have faith," would find almost anything credible. Let's not forget too, that the audience for much of early Christianity were b) illiterates, c) with a bronze- or iron-age view of life.

2) However, for that matter, I am not invoking simple popular credulity here. In fact I believe Philo was making a credible-enough case. One that almost anyone might have believed; even many of the intellectual elites of the time.

Philo was dealing with some extremely difficult ideas, that might perplex anyone; he was trying to make Judaism compatible with Greco-Roman Platonism, basically. These ideas were at the time complicated, and seemingly all too "new"; any many people balk at anything seeming new, in Religion. So, like the authors of the NT, Philo looked for an earlier model of innovation within Judaism, to justify innovation. Specifically Philo looked at some of the innovative priests and other Jewish leaders, as precedent for his own seeming innovative ideas. Philo settling for a moment on Joshua; or as his name is written in Greek, "Jesus."

"Joshua"/Jesus was a fairly good choice; Joshua was allowed by God to work some changes in religion. He was authorized to rebuild - and change in some ways in effect - the "temple" itself (Zech. 6.12).

Seeking earlier authorizations for innovation in Judaism, Paul and others would also later pick Melchizedek, among others. Both Paul and Philo were smart enough to make a convincing case.

My argument does not rest just on the gullibility of everyday folks therefore; I'm making no major appeal to popular gullibility. Both Philo and Paul were acccomplished rhetoricians and theologians. And they both came up with arguments that might convince almost anyone. Not too many people in his time or even in ours, have had the intellectual acumen to fully penetrate the intricacies of Plato's theories.

3) No doubt even educated people of the time found Philo and his "Jesus" rather convincing therefore. And those leaders who did not find it convincing, might have found it still useful; if this model, this Jesus, convinced Jews to change their religious ideas; and to "love their enemies." This notion would have been useful, if this model of change in the Temple, helped conservative Jews to accept the Greco-Roman occupiers of Jerusalem. With their different religious ideas. (Putting the Roman eagle on the Temple, for example. Or allowing Greeks in the temple; noted by Paul).

Mike Gantt said...

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D.,

Your first sentence is so at odds with the thinking that animates the New Testament documents that it hardly makes sense to take the balance of your comment seriously.

Both the writers and the readers of the NT docs were very conscious of, and particular about, the reasons that led them to belief. And their antagonists amply demonstrated that skepticism was every bit as much a force in the ancient world as it is in the modern one. The problem with the mythicist argument is not just that it is wrong - it is argument that is not even reasonable.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

"Faith" and Reason are often listed as exactly opposite attributes. By the dictionary; and by some theologians, often (if not all of them). Faith means following things on the say so of authorities; and not demanding proofs or reasons.

To the extent that early Christians were "faith"ful, they followed things merely on authoritative, clerical say-so. And they did not submit all Christian assertions - of giant miracles for example - to a really thorough-enough investigation.

To be sure, many Christians were not based ENTIRELY on faith; and began to ask questions. Yet to whatever precise extent that they remained "faith"ful, their reasoning was impaired.

Logically. Faith in many contexts, means following things on the say so of authority; and not asking for reasons. To the extent that anyone is "faith"ful then, he or she is logic-impaired. He or she is accepting things without a full search for logical or rational or scientific proofs.

Fortunately, not all Christians are completely faithful. But even a moderate degree of faith, even intermixed with some rationality, I suggest, is enough to effectively disable one's mind.

You can see the confused hybrid result that comes from water-and-oil admixture's of faith and reason, in apologetics sermons, and in theology. WHich at first, superficially, seem reasonable, but which finally rest deeper down, on raw assertion of absurdities.

Mike Gantt said...

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D.,

The interplay between faith and reason has been addressed and debated in many quarters. It doesn't make sense for me to rehearse those discussions with you here. I'll leave you to your view, only saying that the dichotomy you propose is foreign to the documents that comprise the New Testament.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

There have been many, many attempts to work out an interrelation or compromise between Faith and Reason; most of them have resulted only in the watering-down or disabling of Reason.

Philo's main work in fact, was an attempt at reconciling Jewish religion and - somewhat rational - Greco-Roman, Platonistic philosophy. Philo was a Hellenized Jew; and wanted to reconcile these two warring cultures. A conceptual peacemaking effort which was especially important in Roman-occupied Jerusalem.

Philo's efforts at this, I would say, were slightly better than average. Or enough to convince many. Though even Philo's Reason ("Logos"; which I note is the root of our "logic") was ultimately in service of, after all, a Religion, a faith. And to that extent, a very thoroughgoing rationalist would find Philo to be not entirely satisfactory.

But there is no doubt he was enormously influential. In fact many now suppose Philo was far, far, far more influential than many thought: many now see Philo as being the main voice behind the invention of "Jesus"; the son of God; the "Logos" or "Word." C. 10 AD.

We might have hoped to be sure, that Philo had been a little more rational, however. And had more fully argued a case for the "logos" as God. Or "Logic" as I like to translate it.

Though for that matter, if Jesus was son of the "Logos," or of the defining word or the logic of things, then after all, we might well ask for far more rigorous logic from the faithful.

There, Philo's work remains useful to this very day. Though his philosophical work, his characterization of God as "Logos," implies a rather different, far more rational Jesus, than the Jesus we typically meet in church.

But perhaps this Second "Appearance" (/"parousia") of Jesus - Jesus as Rationalist logician, one might almost say - was foretold and anticipated, to be sure, in the Bible itself. And in Philo. Apocalyptic or heaven-shattering, iconoclastic as it might seem on first sight.

Erlend said...

I second that Mike. Bretton has obviously never looked up what πιστις means or reflected upon its use in the New Testament.

VinnyJH57 said...

We know a lot about what 19th century American Protestants thought. We know that a lot of them found the idea of an expanded canon absurd and offensive, particularly a canon expanded by the fantastic claims of a semi-literate bumpkin from Palmyra, New York. It was a very tough sell. We know that the overwhelming majority of American Protestants rejected the teachings of the Mormons and continue to do so today. Nonetheless, we also know that there are some 14 million Mormons in the world today. We know that despite the lack of any credible evidence whatsoever, enough people believed Joseph Smith’s claims to sustain the growth of the movement.

I have no trouble believing that the overwhelming majority of 1st century Jews would have found the idea of a crucified Messiah absurd and offensive. So what? We know that enough of them accepted the idea to sustain the growth of Christianity. Why should we infer a historical basis for early Christian claims if we would not similarly infer a historical basis for the Mormons’ claims? We cannot conclude that no 1st century Jew could have invented the story of a crucified Messiah just because we think that most 1st century Jews wouldn’t have invented it.

Mythicism may well be wrong, but it certainly doesn’t depend on the hyper-gullibility of 1st century Jews and pagans. It posits no greater level of credulity than that demonstrated by religious believers throughout human history.

Ben Schuldt said...

Seems to me that Mike Gantt should keep his hypercredulity to himself given that he departs from mainstream scholarly consensus on how real the gospel presentation of Jesus is by 80-90% and mythicists only depart by like 10-20% in the other direction. I think Jesus said it best, "First remove the plank from your own eye, Mike..."

Mike Gantt said...

Ben Schuldt,

I find the New Testament texts credible. They provide me reasons to believe in Christ.

Erlend said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mike Gantt said...

VinnyJH57,

I don't deny that some people are gullible. Surely some are; otherwise, the Mormon and mythicist movements would have no adherents.

I only say that the sort of gullibility ascribed by mythicists to the first-century Jews who allegedly came to believe as historical a Jesus who was not presented to them as historical can only be called a hyper-gullibility.

VinnyJH57 said...

Believing something other than what is presented to you is the opposite of gullibility.

Erlend said...

Bretton,

Again, just to ask you a few things.

"These ideas were at the time complicated, and seemingly all too "new"; any many people balk at anything seeming new, in Religion"

You are aware that the interaction between Hellensim and Judaism had been going on for centuries by the time of Philo? He even says that he is working with older traditions of understanding Judaism. You way that you have phrased the above statement suggests you did not know this.

"In fact many now suppose Philo was far, far, far more influential than many thought"

Who are these many people? Why do no Philo scholars seem to know this?

"Philo's main work in fact, was an attempt at reconciling Jewish religion and - somewhat rational - Greco-Roman, Platonistic philosophy."

Really, so you don't think Philo was syncretic in his approach to philosophy?

"Though even Philo's Reason ("Logos"; which I note is the root of our "logic")"

Translating logos as logic is not appropriate. If you think because our word logic is derived from logos somehow verifies this- it doesn't. But, as with your attempt at understanding the N.T. concept of faith, I do wonder if all your experience with translating and understanding Greek is based around etymology.

"if Jesus was son of the "Logos," or of the defining word or the logic of things, then after all, we might well ask for far more rigorous logic from the faithful...implies a rather different, far more rational Jesus, than the Jesus we typically meet in church."

I recognize little of your comments above and the classical philosophical idea of the logos.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

Ehrlend:

Many recent scholars particularly, like Carrier, are now suggesting that Philo was even more influential than Philonic scholars once thought; that he may have in effect, invented "Jesus." By re-casting Joshua/Jesus, as Logos, or the word. And as a "new" "priest," or crowned king, a rebuilder of the Temple, a "son of" God and of Reason. As "Jesus."

If Philo was "syncretisitic," say, then that meant in effect he was "reconciling" things, cultures; like Judaism and Hellenism. Religion and Rationality. Such things are often "seemingly" new, as I noted, to many. Though you are right to note that some similar efforts had been underway for centuries. And were not as new as they "seemed." Were his efforts "syncretized"; meaning joining things irrationally? My PostModern and interdisciplinary training enables me to see linkages in many things people think are unrelated.

Religious scholars are quite conservative; and are shy about making such interdisciplinary connections between Philosophy's "Logos," and the Bible's "Word." But for those of us with expertise in several relevant scholarly areas, can see those linkages. Where others did not adequately note them.

By the way? I'm sure that many of your referenced sources probably did hint at times, at the Philonic origin thesis. It just remains too controversial to make explicit. Religion is a conservative field: it says accepted ideas of the past are the "word of God," and therefore it is loathe to see much that is new.

I've 1) read all of Plato, and was 2) a Philosophy minor in graduate school; and 3) I wrote my PhD dissertation in large part on language, semantics, lexicography. I am 4) particularly familiar with the word "Logos" especially; and offer my own reading of it here. THis is new; but think it through.

In the NT, normally it is probably used as a simple synonym for Jesus or God, and his defining orders, characterizations, or words; and is translated as the "word." But from its origins in Greek philosophy, it meant something more like, I suggest, the "defining characterization" - or logic of - a thing.

In the Bible this is assumed to refer to the orders, the commands, the words of God himself. But the word elsewhere in its origins, semantically connotes ideas best expressed by its English cogmate, "Logic."

And indeed, in many rational religions, this connection is made: God is Reason. So the two meanings overlap: Reason, Logic, is the nature of God.

The NT to be sure barely alludes to this philosophy. But that linkage is there, deep down. And religious Philosophers like Augustine and Aquinas, eager to link Reason to Religion, would make the link; referring to the essence of being a human person, of the soul, of the divine side of our nature, as a "rational soul."

"Come, let us reason together." "Always be prepared to give a reason for your faith."

Mike Gantt said...

VinnyJH57,

It is hard enough for me to follow Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D.'s verbal bridge to nowhere. Your suggestion that the earliest disciples converted a celestial Jesus into an earthly Jesus through their skepticism rather than their gullibility is more than I can process.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

Mike?

There are many, many examples from ancient times of abstract ideas, that came to be thought to be concrete, historical persons or gods, and no one objected.

For example? The abstract idea of "Love" came to be personified as a human-like god, Venus. The idea of "war" came to be "personified" (a key word), as "Mars."

Both were regarded as real, and historical, by many Greeks and Romans.

People turning abstract ideas. into historical individuals, is well known. (Carrier has his own word for it too). Mike: look up the word "personification." It's so well known, its a word in the dictionary.

Does that answer part of your objection?

Mike Gantt said...

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D.,

To personify is one thing, to historicize is quite another. Ancient Jews were not thrown for a loop when they saw wisdom personified in the Proverbs, but that's a far cry from saying that they invented narratives of an earthly life for this personification.

As Mark Goodacre pointed out in the podcast with Richard Carrier, the consensus dating of the undisputed Paulines puts them within 15-20 years of the initial resurrection announcement. To superimpose on these documents the mythicist perspective just isn't logically sustainable.

VinnyJH57 said...

I made no such suggestion Mike. I simply commented on what you described as "gullibility." You described people who believed something other than what they were told.

If you want to talk about how someone might historicize a celestial being, then I don't see that as either a question of gullibility or skepticism.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

CHRONOLOGY, TIMELINE for the Creation of an "Historical" Jesus by Philo, c. 10 AD.

Clearly the Greeks and Romans came to think of abstract ideas, as concrete persons, gods: Venus and Rome. And regarding specifically, the Jews? Some knew what an "allegory" or a purely literary personification was ... but likely many did not. When an abstract quality of god is given a name, a personification, it is quite possible many thought ot that literary figure, as a real one.

Then too? To the extent that Greeks and Romans especially often did this: in the time of Jesus, Jerusalem was occupied by Rome, and had a Roman governor. And Hellenizing influences on Judaism, would be expected to be particularly strong in this timeframe.

Is it chronologically impossible that an abstract idea could have come to be thought of as historical, in just 20 years? From c. 30 AD to 50 AD? Note the following:

1) Standard historiography tells us that memories 20 years old are unreliable.

2) And in effect, if Philo invented Jesus, that would likely be about 10 AD or so; which would be 40 years. Plenty of room for widespread confusion and inaccuracies and rumors to develop.

Then too, 3) Doherty argues that our earliest source, Paul, c. 50 AD, never really had a very concrete/historical idea of Christ. And we add that the sketchy meetings with the Jerusalem church does not "add much" if anything according to Paul himself.

And 4) furthermore, there is even more time to play with, if we say the first concrete-seeming gospels appear c. 60 AD; at least 50 years from a Philonic origin.

And 5) we don't even know for sure exactly what those earliest gospels looked like; they appear to be different from what we have today. They were edited in later years.

6) So then too, there was plenty of time even after their earliest versions, to redact them; and concretize, historicize them.

7) Then too, everyday people relate more to concrete images than abstract ideas; editors would be tempted, like Jesus himself, to illustrate things with concrete-seeming parables. Then too?

8) In 70 AD, great masses of evidence for or against Jesus would have been destroyed. When Jerusalem was burned to the ground.

So in short? There was plenty of time and opportunity between Philo, fl. 10 AD, and Paul, and the first gospels, and the later redactions, for an abstract idea to seem concrete; to be "historicised." Probably an inerval of 50 years or so at least; including an intervening moment when the vast majority of the major evidence on Jesus would have been burned, as well.

So that there would have been little historical evidence suriving, to contradict the invention of Jesus.

And more than enough time to invent him, and allege he was a living person.

Bernard said...

Dr. Bretton Garcia wrote:

"Bernard:
1) I'm reading Philo's "companions of Moses" as a metaphor. Probably used as an euphemism. Philo is probably referring obliquely to say, in effect, "ancient Jewish leaders." We shouldn't take "companions" literally."

Besides that bit, allegedly a quote from Zechariah 6, Philo quoted only one minor prophet, Hosea 14:9, twice. But Philo wrote the quote was from a prophet, not a companion of Moses.
Ref: the Works of Philo, translated by C.D.Yonge
pages 202 & 353
Noah's work as a planter XXXIII 138:
"... this oracle delivered by one of the prophets is consistent, "...""
On the change of names XXIV 139:
"And I know that this illustrious oracle was formely delivered from the mouth of a prophet. "...""

For the other prophets, Philo apparently quoted Isaiah 5 times and Jeremiah also 5 times.

I am going to research all these quotes, and see how they are introduced, and how close they are from the LXX & Hebrew versions.

But I do not see why Zechariah would be considered a companion of Moses, metaphor or not, more so when Hosea is called a prophet. Furthermore, Philo said he heard about the sayings. That implies this saying is not from written OT material, but rather from some oral "tradition".

Cordially, Bernard

gurugeorge said...

Totally fascinating subject and a great (albeit necessarily cursory) discussion in the podcast.

Mr Goodacre, several times you said in the podcast that you "can't get your head around it". I think this is very honest of you.

It's basically a gestalt switch. You're seeing the evidence as evidence for a Duck, Carrier is seeing it as evidence for a Rabbit, and is also claiming that it's more plausibly evidence for a Rabbit than it is for a Duck (though not by much - no certainty possible here, as he said).

I'm an interested amateur, raised a Roman Catholic, but now atheist. I believed in the historicist picture for a long time, but without too much examination. As soon as I examined the matter for myself, I found it relatively easy to see the supposed evidence for a Duck as equally, if not more plausibly, evidence for a Rabbit.

Please consider the possibility that you've been involved in looking at the evidence in a scholarly context one way for so long that it is genuinely hard for you to make the gestalt switch.

Perhaps if you consider it that way, as a gestalt switch, it might make it easier to "get your head around" :)

Or like one of those "Magic Eye" pictures - you squint, and shift around, and try to do various ... things ... with your eyes, then suddenly the 3-d image pops out.

You have to do something analogous here, you have to sort of mentally jiggle about in a loose way until the way you see the evidence suddenly switches.

Start with the fact that any concepts about "tradition" and "disciples" are something you are importing into the Paul texts. That's not to say, of course, that that may not be the right interpretation; just to say that it requires assumptions, imported from later tradition, that are not explicitly supported by the text in and of itself.

Nowhere, in the Paul texts, is there anything like "Cephas told me that Jesus had said". That kind of thing, as Carrier said, would immediately make the historicist position much more plausible. But that kind of thing is what's absent from Paul.

The "Pillars" are not spoken of as disciples. They are prior authorities on the Jesus figure, yes, but it is not explicit that they are personal disciples. That could just be later tradition.

In all of this, what's missing is that personal eyeballing of a human being. That's what would be required to make the historicist case plausible. Absent that, ALL WE HAVE EXPlICITLY in Paul are references to a hallucinated entity.

Earl Doherty said...

It’s always nice to see my name brought up in a positive fashion in a discussion like this, but Dr. Garcia’s rendition of my position did get one thing quite wrong. I have never maintained that Paul “invented Christianity.” There were indeed expressions of Christ belief prior to Paul which Paul built upon, as well as expressions that were entirely independent of any Pauline line of development, such as that represented in the epistle to the Hebrews.

Paul, I calculate, took a Christ/Savior line of thought he encountered, which had a focus on the Son and Savior as one who served as a heavenly paradigm whose death and exaltation guaranteed resurrection for his devotees (see the pre-Pauline christological hymns), but he laid much greater emphasis on that sacrifice as forgiving sin and uniting diverse peoples and freeing them from the Jewish Law. It is best to say that Paul “shaped” much of Christianity as we know it, especially its soteriological aspects, but did not invent the more primitive stages that preceded him.

Some of those stages involved a Son/Christ/Logos who did not undergo sacrifice, but saved by revealing God and serving as a channel to and from him. One could place Philo here, and even the Messiah in the Similitudes of Enoch, and the Odes of Solomon. Those stages also had a diversity of personalization (Philo’s Logos was more an emanative force rather than a distinct divine personage, and I would also place the Odes in much the same position) before we get to Paul’s fully realized hypostasis of the Son. I believe that 1 Corinthians 1&3 reveal that Apollos of Alexandria had such a non-sacrificial Son, which is why Paul argues for “Christ crucified” and why he is meeting people who find a crucified Messiah a folly and stumbling block. (Note that there was no stumbling block in sight in regard to turning a human man into a part of God.)

By the way, on Richard Carrier’s Logos as Jesus, I do feel he did stretch things a bit. One can make that link through rather indirect channels, but the difficulties compromise the specific connection he seemed to be trying to make. Which is not to say that he is not right in the general point that Philo’s Logos was a paternal grandparent to Paul’s Jesus.

Earl Doherty

Bernard said...

"By the way, on Richard Carrier’s Logos as Jesus, I do feel he did stretch things a bit. One can make that link through rather indirect channels, but the difficulties compromise the specific connection he seemed to be trying to make."

It's a sweet way to say that Carrier is wrong on that matter.

But which mythicist "evidence" is not stretched? or/and linked through rather indirect channels? or/and with difficulties compromising the specific connection?

The fact that Carrier uses that kind of evidence is telling of his methodology. And I do not think he applied the Bayes theorem on that one!

Cordially, Bernard

Bernard said...

To Dr. Bretton Garcia,
I just finished my checking of every occurrences of Philo quoting a prophetic writing (9 total).
Every time, he stated that was coming from a prophet or one of the prophets (but never from a companion of Moses!). I'll start to put the details of all that on my blog tomorrow.

Cordially, Bernard


Earl Doherty said...

BM: " '(Doherty)By the way, on Richard Carrier’s Logos as Jesus, I do feel he did stretch things a bit. One can make that link through rather indirect channels, but the difficulties compromise the specific connection he seemed to be trying to make."

It's a sweet way to say that Carrier is wrong on that matter."

I did not say that Carrier was wrong. What he seems to have done is make a deduction about what was in Philo's mind, something that would have been dependent on an (uncertain) implication in Zechariah. Perhaps Carrier was right, but the difficulties in demonstrating that compromise his claim. Perhaps he should have made the uncertainty clear.

Don't put words in my mouth, please.

Bernard said...

Obviously, I did not use my nuance detector. Sorry!

Cordially, Bernard

Mike Gantt said...

Earl Doherty,

If I were not familiar with Paul's letters, your theories might appear plausible. I can see how the confidence with which you state your case, heavily peppered as it is with varied citations presented as authoritative and relevant, could intimidate those who are more reasonable in their views but weaker in their convictions. In this regard, your approach and Richard Carrier's are quite similar.

Contrast, for example, Mark' soft-spoken reason on the podcast with Richard's energetic bombast. Naive listeners can be easily misled when faced with such a contrast.

The other tool you use to great effect is prolixity. It has long been axiomatic in direct mail marketing that longer copy is more effective in producing sales. That's why infomercials last 30 minutes instead of thirty seconds. Watch long enough and you're eventually going to buy something ridiculous.

You are obviously a very intelligent guy. I just wish you'd devote your time to a cause more constructive than the one you're pursuing. It should not be hard to find one that qualifies.

Earl Doherty said...

Hi Mike,

So in other words, my arguments, backed up with relevant citations, appear convincing, but it's all a deception, because they are put forward with energy and at considerable length so as to cover as much of the debate as possible. On top of that, I'm clearly intelligent. All of this makes me some kind of devious charlatan, apparently.

I have to say that this is really pathetic, Mike. I've got to come up with a label for this kind of defensive fallacy. James McGrath indulged in it as well, admitting that Neil Godfrey had a 'talent' for sounding convincing, as though he and other mythicists had to be engaging in a sleight-of-hand shell game.

To such depths are historicists forced to descend to counter the superior case of mythicists.

Earl Doherty

Mike Gantt said...

Earl,

Terms like "charlatan" and "sleight-of-hand shell game" are not at all what I have in mind. It's quite possible that you are completely sincere. Sincerity, however, does not make you reasonable or right - even if you mix the sincerity with large portions of confidence. Neither does the ability to belabor one's point make the point true.

The longest dissertation, if it is a good one, will have a succinct and compelling abstract. In practically all of my interactions with mythicists they seem only to want to talk about the dissertation and never want to give the abstract. That's like telling a non-fiction book publisher, "Don't ask me for a book proposal, man; just read my 800-page manuscript." But the inability to summarize arguments into pithy and compelling form is just the beginning of the mythicist pathology.

The biggest problem for you guys is that you're constantly breathing each other's exhaust. You keep patting each other on the back in cult-like fashion, and won't listen to circumspect scholars like Mark...or even skeptical ones like Bart.

At the heart of mythicism is something utterly anti-history: that is, the intent to prove that something did not happen. Historians, by contrast, don't want to know what didn't happen; rather, they want to know what did happen. If, as you say, Jesus was a myth who came to be historicized, then give us a plausible and compelling historical account of how this took place. Don't just keep throwing out "Well, no one can know any of this for sure" as Richard did on the podcast. When you stop trying to un-write history and start trying to write it, you might begin to get more of the scholarly respect that you seem so desperate to attain.








Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

Bernard:

Was Philo simply making an historical mistake, when he called Moses and Zechariah or others, "companions"? When they were separated by many years? Let's see.

Of course we know that strict Historiography says the method you are using - looking for similar usages; references to prophets by Philo - is a "special" method. One only used when adequate historical evidence is lacking. To examine the way that a given text speaks in a stipulated situation, often deals with too limited a set of data, too few examples, to come up with absolutely valid results.

So next: if we are to allow speculation based on very sketchy data? Consider what referents Philo might have had in mind, when Philo speaks coyly of the "companions of Moses." If Philo does not mean actual physical companions, or "prophets," we might ask if we can think of some other possible referent? Suppose we look at the larger data set.

Keep in mind that Philo was a quite urbane, very cosmopolitan, very modern Jew; one who was very concerned with branching away a bit from traditional Judaism, and adopting Greco-Roman (Platonistic) culture. When he spoke of the "companions of Moses" therefore, it is possible he was - in anticipation of the New Testament - already looking forward to distancing himself somewhat from the conservative OT tradition. And from - as Paul called is - Mosaic "law." And/or its (Pharisaic?) adherents.

Perhaps the referent was ... Moses and his extended historic followers; those who followed strict Mosaic law. Those who would continue to follow strict Judaism.

The "companions of Moses" might have been those conservative Jews who would resist what was to become the new off"shoot" religion. Who would resist the new and most progressive "branch" or spinoff of Judaism: Hellenized Judaism. Or in other words ... the conservative Jews who would resist ... what would come to be known as Christianity.

Thanks to your own data, and on more careful consideration of the broader data set therefore, I now read Philo's allusion to the "companions of Moses" more exactly: as an immediate precursor to say, Jesus' remarks on "Pharisees"; Paul's remarks on the Jews and on "law," and so forth.

These were all attempts to distinguish the new emerging ethos of Hellenized Judaism - and eventually Christianity - from its strictly Jewish roots. And its foundation in "Moses" and his historical "companions"; meaning those lumped in together with him. Under the umbrella of "Judaism."

Does this seem like a more plausible hypothesis to you? If it is true, then Philo was not being an "inaccurate historian" in placing Moses and Zechariah or others together as "companions; he was using the term metaphorically, not historically.

Finally? This also seems confirmed by looking more at another aspect of the broader picture and more data in fact. Among other things, it fits another thing we know about specifically Philo: he was one of the very great champions of speaking metaphorically, allegorically, "spiritually"; in in "parables" and so forth.

I would therefore urge you to consider the larger data sets or cultural contexts of Philo's remark: of 1)similar things said slightly later, by Paul; then 2) the preoccupations of Philo's larger methodology (his use of metaphors, etc.). And so forth.

In that larger picture, Philo makes more sense.

Hope this helps you on your quest.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

Mike:

Many mythicists might seem prolix, I suggest, for a simple reason: they are advancing new arguments, new ideas. Things not already well known. And like many new ideas, readers are unfamiliar with the reasoning behind them. And these ideas seem starling and unconventional; and inspire outrage and resistance.

For that reason, mythicsts need to explain at length; and advance much evidence.

Then too? Mythicism is new; our current efforts are in part, exploratory, and open to new discoveries. Curt summarizes and firm dogmas are therefore, not all that useful in this venue.

Mike Gantt said...

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D.,

What you're describing are the methods by which cults groom prospects.

Contrast this with the apostles in the New Testament who announced their message publicly and in bold strokes. Sure, there was plenty of supporting detail which they were happy to cover in due time. But none of this, "Hey, we've got the truth but it's so new you really can't appreciate it unless you really get involved with our material; give it enough study and you'll come to see what we're talking about." Mythicism seems blind to the resemblance it bears to Scientology, Jehovah's Witness, and other such groups.

Ben Schuldt said...

Wow, Mike can't find any cult think in the NT. That's impressive.

Mike Gantt said...

Ben Schuldt,

Indeed I don't. It was all quite public. Not done in a corner, as they say.

That's just the nature of preaching, as opposed to the group dynamics of indoctrination. If you can't effectively summarize your message, you can't preach it.

Ben Schuldt said...

Mike,

Interesting. I found some:

Credulity is a virtue?

Romans 8:24, 2 Corinthians 4:18, 2 Corinthians 5:7, Hebrews 11:1

Evidence is useless?

Luke 16:27-31

Asking for evidence is evil?

Mark 8:12, Matthew 12:39, Luke 11:29

Anything that disagrees with what we say is evil?

Galatians 1:8-9

Anything with our stamp of approval on it is true by definition?

1 John 4:1-3

You are either for us or against us with no shades of gray?

Mark 9:40, Matthew 12:30, Luke 9:50, Luke 11:23, John 3:18-21, John 18:37

Anything wrong is your fault?

Romans 9:20

Everyone secretly knows our core doctrines are true?

Romans 1:20

Miracles confirm our message, but false prophets can do those miracles, too?

Matthew 24:24, Mark 13:22

Good behavior is the hallmark of being correct about theological views?

Matthew 7:15-20

Ancient holy hearsay is the litmus test for reality claims?

Acts 17:11

Religious visions, intuitions, and other mysticism trump everything else?

1 John 2:27, 1 John 5: 6-12

Shun the intellectualism of the world?

1 Corinthians 1:20, 1 Corinthians 3:19, 2 Corinthians 1:12

Some powerful invisible enemy is at work behind the scenes trying to destroy your faith in our belief system?

2 Corinthians 2:11

Out-group rejects your beliefs not because you are mistaken, credulous, stupid, or ignorant, but because they hate good things?

John 15:19

Here's your get-out-of-making-sense free card?

1 Corinthians 2:14, Matthew 7:6

Story characters supposedly get amazing evidence and you don't?

John 20:29

Minimalist said...

That English Christian radio station sure has a masochistic streak allowing themselves to be beat up every week by scholars and skeptics. Today it's Ken Humphries' turn show them some more post-renaissance Enlightenment!

Mike Gantt said...

Ben Schuldt,

I see you subscribe to the Richard Carrier throw-as-much-dust-into-the-air-as-possible school of argumentation.

After all, the intent of the mythicists is not to get people to see something, but to make sure no one sees anything.

Ben Schuldt said...

Mike,

If Richard Dawkins said anything like what the NT does, I'm sure you'd wait patiently to hear about how there's a perfectly rational explanation for all of it. lulz

Mike Gantt said...

Ben Schuldt,

If Richard Dawkins lived the kind of devoted and selfless life we see lived by New Testament worthies, I would give due consideration to anything he wanted to say.

When a reasonable man gives up fame, fortune, and life itself for a cause to which he has become devoted, I want to know the cause.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

Mike?

When you don't understand something, that's not necessarily an argument against it.



Mike Gantt said...

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D.

When you don't understand something, that's not necessarily an argument against it.

Of course. But neither is it an argument for it - and it's the latter that is my point.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

And the former is mine.

Mike Gantt said...

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D.,

Well, if you think not being understood wins the day for you, I'll leave you with that view.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

When we've thrown a hundred arguments at you, and you haven't effectively addressed any of them? I'm going with the possibility that you just don't understand.

That wasn't "dust" just now for example; those were ten or twenty real points - that you did not address. But merely name-called.

Ben Schuldt said...

Bretton, Mike didn't address, he *confirmed*:

"Good behavior is the hallmark of being correct about theological views? Matthew 7:15-20"

Apparently Mike's cult think won't allow him to listen to anyone but monks as though individuals in something like that demographic are most likely correct about history, science, morality, metaphysics, etc. and anyone outside a demographic like that simply isn't worth listening to at all:

"Shun the intellectualism of the world? 1 Corinthians 1:20, 1 Corinthians 3:19, 2 Corinthians 1:12 "

Mike's such a great student of the NT's cult think, isn't he?

Mike Gantt said...

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D.,

Don't throw a hundred arguments at me. Just give me one cogent, succinct argument for mythicism. I'd be delighted to react to it.

(Alas, it was absent from the podcast. To point this out is not to name call. Recall also that when Earl suggested I had called him a "charlatan" I made clear to him that I had not.)

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

Why don't you just address the last examples - all of the same type - from Schuldt, to start with? This was in effect, an argument against Historicism (and implicitly, for Mythicism).

The argument in effect was that Historicists rely on cult-like thinking, aimed at disabling our critical faculties. This would be one reason their arguments have no force. I have made a similar argument above, too.

This is clearly a coherent and simple objection; would you address it? Rather than counterattacking and counteraccusations, just forthrightly address a few of the examples. If you fail to understand the question? Then you have failed to understand the question.

Ben Schuldt said...

Whoa there, dude! Identifying the the cult think of the NT is not an argument for or against mythicism. It's just an argument that strongly implies we shouldn't trust these jokers with anything important (like your salvation). And in the context of this thread, I was just pointing out Mike's hypocrisy. And in Mike's defense, there probably is a lot of lazy group think in the mythicist camp as Carrier regularly points out. I wouldn't trust Mike to point it out though since he's drowning in his own right before our eyes.

What Mike says he's looking for (when he puts down his tea leaves) will probably be on page one of Carrier's book since Carrier always gets right to the point in his scholarly writings and hammers out the big picture succinctly (see his contribution in The Empty Tomb for example). And then when Mike wants to know the details, he can read page 2 through the rest of it.

Mike Gantt said...

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D.,

You are failing to understand my point. To question historicism is not to make the case for mythicism...unless the case for mythicism is merely to undermine the historic case.

If mythicism is true, then there must be a thesis for how a mythological being came to be regarded as the historic figure depicted in the New Testament documents.

I have observed that mythicists are not so much interested in establishing mythicism as they are in undermining history's view that there was a Jesus. Thus you are not doing history; you are trying to undo it. If you wish to disprove me and make me look foolish then all you have to do is lay out the case for how a mythological Jesus came to be regarded as historical. It's one thing to say, "Well, it could have happened." Anything can happen. The question is, what did.

Mike Gantt said...

Ben Schuldt,

I agree that Richard gets to the point quicker than Earl...but that's not saying much.

As for my supposed hypocrisy, accusing and proving are two different things. I stand by all I've said.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

Mythicism of course, has two or three major tasks to prove it's case: 1) disproving opposing theories, like Historicism. And 2) proving Mythicism by positive argument. Both.

Here, for the while, we are concentrating on part 1. And so? I asked you to simply answer the present question. And not for the moment, to make "counteraccusations." But that is what you are doing.

It is clear you are not answering the question, Mike. And that is the problem; you never do.

Mike Gantt said...

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D.,

Your logic is flawed.

If you want to prove that Abraham Lincoln did not die by assassination in 1865, but rather of natural causes in 1864, all you have to do is establish the case that he died of natural causes in 1864. It is a waste of time to first disprove that he did not die of assassination in 1865.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

But rarely is uncovering history that simple. So we need at least a two-pronged approach.

I'm still waiting for you to answer the question Mike.

But then? You never do.

Mike Gantt said...

As I've demonstrated, a two-pronged approach is one prong too many.

That you want to camp on the first, and unnecessary one, implies that you don't really have the second.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

You continue to make counteraccusations, and to reject the question, rather than answer it.

And as usual, your reasons for rejecting them are wrong. If we KNOW that Lincoln died of natural causes, then there is no need to prove he did not die of assassination. But the problem with much of History, is that often we lack evidence. And must use a two-pronged approach therefore. Looking at what positive evidence we have ... and also what negative evidence, we have; which alternative theories we can reject.

Disproving alternative theories, has always been a major part of historical studies.

Which I know; I have at least one graduate degree in history. Do you have similar knowledge Mike? You do not seem to know some of the basics of Historiography.

Mike? Answer the question.

Mike Gantt said...

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D.,

I am not a credentialed historian. I'm just a fellow who has read the New Testament, and who has been equipped by God with an average amount of common sense.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

A "God given" common sense? Which makes you superior to all trained persons in all other fields? No need to know any History?

Let's look at your Lincoln example: if everything in life was as obvious as say, the fact that Lincoln was assassinated, then there would be no need for scholars at all, really. Things would be plain and clear; no need for further investigation.

The reason many of us got to Mythicism, though, was that the real, historical existence of Jesus was not even remotely as certain as the assassination of Lincoln.

Indeed, there is much evidence against Jesus: he promised us miracles, "all" and "whatever" we "ask"; all the works he did "and greater things than these." And yet when even very loyal followers try to get what he promised, they can't actually do it. Today, we don't see anyone whatsoever, walking on water today for instance. No matter how close they seem to Jesus. While other historical evidence is lacking too.

For that and other reasons - some shocking inadequacies in pro-Jesus arguments - many of us began to suspect that perhaps Jesus wasn't quite as sure as say, Lincoln. And we began to see need for historical investigation.

Addressing your present point: part of the need for such studies is often occasioned by observation of problems with existing opinions about this or that. In this case, by the observation, by many,that the historical solidity of Jesus was by no means sure. It was out of this, that the need for more study, was indicated.

Further? Since his existence is now somewhat in doubt, we need to look even deeper into his legend; to see if ANY of it holds up. And as less and less holds up? This indicates the need for alternative hypotheses.

Today to be sure, here is one problem: many people see no problems at all with simply assuming or asserting the existence of Jesus. And they - like you - therefore oppose investigation, as unnecessary. That is one reason why some time has to be spent, showing that the simple assumption of the historicity of Jesus, is not warranted by the evidence.

The problem therefore is that many people think some highly questionable things are solid; and see no need for further investigation. That is one reason why the negative side of all this - disproving assertions of historicity of Jesus - occupy a fairly large part of present efforts.

And so again: mind answering the question you have been evading for about 10 posts now? As it turns out, defending your position, your assumption, IS an intrinsic part of the process of historical investigation.


Mike Gantt said...

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D.,

Thanks for your candor. You are making clearer than ever that the motivation of mythicists at its root is religious.

The scholarly community is diverse enough to include a Bart Ehrman near one end of the spectrum and a Craig Evans near the other with a Mark Goodacre somewhere in between them. Yet mythicists can find no place in the scholarly community. Why not? Because, as you demonstrate, the mythicists are at heart not driven by scholarship or history but rather by their antipathy toward Jesus of Nazareth.

Earl Doherty said...

MG: If, as you say, Jesus was a myth who came to be historicized, then give us a plausible and compelling historical account of how this took place.

Which is precisely what I have done. The negative side of my case is far outweighed by the positive side. But when you simply parrot the tired old criticisms of mythicism (by people who usually know little of the material as well), ignorance of what you are condemning is natural.

I don’t seek to "unwrite" history. “History” is precisely what is in question here. Are you maintaining that no longstanding opinion about any given historical question was ever overturned? Ever proven wrong or at least dubious? Historians often arrive at what did happen through a process that includes debunking received opinion about what was previously thought to have happened.

MG: Contrast this with the apostles in the New Testament who announced their message publicly and in bold strokes."

The apostles announced their message in bold strokes? Mike, what have you been smoking while reading the first-century epistles? Where are the bold strokes about Jesus of Nazareth, his teachings, his miracles, the time and place of his death and rising, any historical details of his life and death, his very identity on earth? Where is there even a hint of incarnation in the writings of most second century apologists who give a detailed account of their religion to various emperors without even using the name Jesus or Christ, never incarnate their Son/Logos on earth, don’t give him a death or atoning sacrifice? What? You didn’t know that? Clearly you missed that chapter in my books.

MG: If mythicism is true, then there must be a thesis for how a mythological being came to be regarded as the historic figure depicted in the New Testament documents.

Indeed, there must. And indeed there is. Once again I point you to The Jesus Puzzle and Jesus: Neither God Nor Man. (And I daresay there have been others.) That’s not to say that the case has axiomatically to be considered won (I won’t fall into the trap you choose to wallow in.) But until you actually address the case you want to claim doesn’t exist, you’re just blowing a lot of hot air.

MG: If you want to prove that Abraham Lincoln did not die by assassination in 1865, but rather of natural causes in 1864, all you have to do is establish the case that he died of natural causes in 1864. It is a waste of time to first disprove that he did not die of assassination in 1865.

Theoretically correct. But if Lincoln’s death in 1864 would not enjoy laboratory proof (what in history does?), and if it were mindlessly opposed by all historians who had vested and confessional interests in maintaining his assassination in 1865, then you need that second prong. (Of course, your analogy is not really suitable. We all know that Lincoln did not die in 1864; it is about as certain as anything can be in history. This analogy is actually a case of begging the question.)

MG: I'm just a fellow who has read the New Testament, and who has been equipped by God with an average amount of common sense.

The implications of this statement (and the question-begging circularity of it) are plain. And this from a fellow who accuses mythicists of doing religion and having ‘religious’ biases? I fail to see how BG’s post merits this: “You are making clearer than ever that the motivation of mythicists at its root is religious.” What precisely is religious about an historical methodology framed within the scientific method, or its equivalent in the field of historical research? Of course, you yourself are making clearer than ever that debate with the type of historicist like yourself is pointless.

Of course, there is no debate going on here, and we all recognize it. It is a desperate adherence to blind faith and a futile attempt to dislodge the holder from it, or even to get him to properly defend his own view. There may be a certain entertainment value to it, but that is fast running out.

Earl Doherty

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

Earl is quite cautious on such things, and will speak for himself, cautiously and guardedly. But Doherty and I, I feel in effect, are now exploring, more fully working out - for possibly the first time - a possible link between Doherty and Carrier; or between Philo, and then Paul. As the origin of Christianity.

I'm tracing the possibility of Carrier's Philo, c. 10 AD, as catylist (if not "invention") for "Jesus" - as immediate predecessor to Doherty's Paul, the first written source on "Jesus," c. 53 AD.

The signs of a very, very early, sketchy "Jesus" in Philo are slight, but significant. Philo quoted the Bible, regarding a "Branch"; scholars note more or less the biblical word-for-word source. It's from Zechariah (6?). And his reference to a new kind of priest and Logos/"word," in Joshua; or in Greek, "Jesus."

This Jesus of Philo, is very, very close to the familiar "Jesus" of the NT: he is "son of God" or of the Logos or the "Word," and so forth. And rebuilder of the temple. All that was enough I am suggesting, to start rumors of a Jesus. Rumors later historicized and filled out by cultural accretion.

By the way? "Branch" is a common biblical term, used usually for your biological family, and/or your "branch of" Judaism. Jesus is said to have come, as foretold, from the "branch of Jesse," etc..(Isa. 11.1, etc.). The church likewise has many "branches."

The signs are faint. But we may be looking at the very faint but real moment just before the Christian Big Bang, in effect; the tiny catayst that started the snowball rolling.

Paul Regnier said...

my arguments, backed up with relevant citations

Hi Earl,

I wish you and other mythicists would stop with this “my book has footnotes therefore it’s proper history” nonsense.

One of the features of modern forms of pseudo-history is that it apes the conventions of mainstream history writing, including the use of citations – see e.g. See Robert Angrove’s essay Holocaust Denial and Professional History Writing ‘all articles published by the Journal of Historical Review [a non peer-reviewed HD journal] rely upon footnotes and bibliographical citations to define the subject matter as credible and its authors as historians.’

If I were to write a book claiming (against a clear scholarly consensus) that there was no historical Boudica, how many citations would I need to convince you, Earl Doherty, that my work was a valid contribution to history rather that a load of nonsense with footnotes?

I'm clearly intelligent
No-one is doubting your intelligence, it’s just irrelevant to establishing how far you are likely to be correct about the historicity of Jesus. I don’t think for a second that I’m half as smart as, say, Enoch Powell (a professor of Ancient Greek at 25). Now, I think that William Shakespeare wrote the plays attributed to him and Powell disagreed. How far would you say that our relitavie IQs determine the truth or falsity of our beliefs in that case?

By the way BG, before you say anything, no, I’m not saying that “mythicists are as bad as Holocaust deniers”

Mike Gantt said...

Earl,

I read your comment twice, searching in vain for an encapsulation of your theory of how a mythological Jesus came to result in the New Testament documents (particularly the undisputed Paulines). The closest thing I could find were plugs for your books. If you do not have a thesis which can hold water, how can any book you have constructed from it hold water?

No wonder scholars (even unbelieving ones) do not think you are one of them. If you can't convince them that you're on to something, how will you ever convince a simple believer in Christ like me?

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

Mike and Paul? Some of us have been pestered by you for about a year of so; we know you.

1)If we give you a short answer, you'll say you don't understand it; its too short; not enough proofs.

2) If we give you a longer answer, you'll say you don't understand it; too long-winded.

3) Some of us have given you short, medium, and long answers. And you've only objected mostly by ad hominem arguments; never to the substance. In your mind (Mikes?) we are sinners; that's why we don't get it.

Clearly therefore you a) just don't understand, and are not going to understand. Or b) don't want to understand. And c) are just pretending you want to understand. Most likely you are not listening; you only want to "throw dust"; run interference. To raise irrelevant and distracting objections.

You are not arguing in good faith, Mike. You are not listening at all to the objections to you. Again: what about those last 10 or twenty objections? You still haven't answered them.

Paul? One of the foundations of pseudo-history might be silly footnotes; but Earl has lots of good ones. In any case, listen to the arguments. Do they seem undramatic to you? Note that Earl is (aside from occasional outbursts) a cautious, circumspect scholar; he doesn't want to say more than the usual ambiguities of History allow professionals to say. As I've explained to YOU both, a dozen times.

If only hisoricists were as circumspect as Doherty (usually is). Normally Historicists seem quite as dogmatic as ... our local ministers, say. Assuring us that "Jesus is real." Historicists here sounding curiously like standard Church dogmatists, and evangelicals.

Neither of you is really addressing the argument in technical or factual terms; but most ad hominem, in moralistic terms. Perhaps you don't see factual support - because you are not looking for the nuances of facts. Don't be surprised if henceforth therefore, you are again simply ignored by me, and others. As having nothing useful to say in a scholarly context.

Steven Carr said...

I see Regnier is going with his favourite meme of comparing mythicists to Holocaust deniers.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

The lowest and most common level of internet rhetoric: call your opponents "Nazis."

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

Earl Doherty:

At first links between Philo and Jesus might seem remote to many. However, 1) they begin to firm up, as you read more and more of Philo. While 2) ancients were in the habit themselves, of stretching a point, in order to justify themselves; Paul's "legalisms" and strained OT/NT harmonizations, are notorious. So any tenuousness does not suggest the connection was not made, long ago. Such things were very, very commonly done.

As a matter of fact, I'd suggest that Philo himself was working overtime to connect Judaism to Greco-Romanisms, as many scholars suggest. ("Syncretizing" them, our local specialist suggested above). In effect he was looking for an early model of Judaism, that would allow innovation; a "new" "son" of God, who was authorized to change/rebuild the "temple." And specifically next, a new idea of God that would at last link Judaism to the other great civilization of the time: the Greco-Roman one.

Philo chose Joshua/Jesus as his precedent, his OT authorization. But for another corroborating example in the NT itself, look at Paul stretching and straining to adapt "Melchizedek." As Paul's similar attempt at a justification for a new kind of priest or religious leader, within otherwise conservative Judaism.

Such efforts were perhaps in fact, INITIALLY tenuous and strained; but that was true, from the moment of their inception. Nevertheless, they can be historical. As we now know vividly in the case of Paul's strained OT/NT harmonizations, such "legalistic" and strained "allegorical" "harmonizing" and "apologetics" efforts, strained as they were, nevertheless, historically existed. And convinced many.

Any tenuousness in these links therefore, is not an argument against their historical existence and influence.

Mike Gantt said...

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...
The lowest and most common level of internet rhetoric: call your opponents "Nazis."


Lower than that is accusing someone of doing so when they didn't. Paul was even explicit about how he did not want to be misunderstood.

C'mon, Bret. Let's be above that.

Mike Gantt said...

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D.,

Please re-state the ten questions you want me to answer. If I answer them, will you then encourage Earl to answer the one question I have asked of him?

To re-state my question for Earl: How did a mythological Jesus come result in the New Testament documents (particularly the undisputed letters of Paul)? Please give the answer in 250 words or less (That's a single page of double-spaced type.)

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

Mike? Read more carefully. I mentioned this phenonmenon; I did not accuse Paul of it.

You're just not reading carefully enough yet.

Mike Gantt said...

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D.

When then prompted you to "mention this phenomenon?"

Paul Regnier said...

Regnier: By the way BG, before you say anything, no, I’m not saying that “mythicists are as bad as Holocaust deniers”

BG: The lowest and most common level of internet rhetoric: call your opponents "Nazis."

I have plainly said nothing of the sort. Please stop throwing around silly accusations. Incidentally, as I’ve pointed out to you before, even describing all holocaust deniers as “Nazis” is inaccurate, since Holocaust Denial has drawn support from within varied ideologies.

BG, I live in hope that one day you will show me evidence that you know something about something.

Stephen - Nope. My point is that Earl seems to think that his use of the conventions of mainstream history serve to identify his work as scholarly. He’s wrong in this, because pseudo-scholarly movements (such as Holocaust Denial which we can all agree are nonsense) also ape such conventions. I’m obviously not trying to claim the reverse: that because Earl and HDers both use the conventions of historical writing that therefore they are both producing pseudo-history. The argument doesn’t work backwards and I’m not trying to make it.

If you’re uncomfortable with the HD thing (and I’m sure we can all agree that it would be to compare mythicism with as wide a spectrum of pseudo-scholarship as possible), I’d be happy to provide other examples of pseudo-historical movements or writers who adopt scholarly conventions if you like?

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

Mike:

I think Earl might feel it's too early in investigations, to committ himself to a single simple narrative.

But I'm not so shy. What's the sequence of events? In this case, I'm emphasizing the possible origin of the 1) first seed of the legend of "Jesus" in Philo's "Jesus." Possibly next, 2) others, looking for a new Hellenistic model of a priest, heard or read these hints of a Joshua as sufficient Jewish/OT authorization, for "new" ideas and the Greek "logos."

That small crystal seeded the cloud just enough. 3) From this kind of very small start, others added dozens, hundreds of other traditions. Traditions of crucified Jewish sons (from the 2,000 or more crucified by Archelaus?), 4)-100)and HUNDREDS of other legends and bits of semi-historical rumors about potentially salvational heroes and prophets and leaders (like the Tetrarches and other relatives especially. Then Paul picked it up, in bare outline. While next the gospels added even more; more thoroughly "historicizing" it.

Given the receptive cultural climate, the intellectual and practical need for a reconciliation of Judaic and Hellenistic thought, given the desperate search for such a reconciling figure (especially in Roman-occupied Jerusalem), this single faint push would have been all it took to ... start the snowball rolling.

Steven Carr said...

Regnier continues his campaign of slander , not arguments.


And why not? Apparently that is all he has.

His proof that Jesus exists is that Doherty puts footnotes in his books.

I can only ask Regnier to listen to the conversation between Mark and Richard again, take note of the tone Mark used, and aim for that sort of civility.

Paul Regnier said...

His proof that Jesus exists is that Doherty puts footnotes in his books.

Really? I don't remember saying that. Are you sure you're not setting up a straw man Stephen? Perhaps you could provide a quote from anything I've written above or elsewhere to remind me of those words I don't remember using?

Or if not, perhaps you could show how such a position is the logical conclusion of words of I've actually used?

Steven Carr said...

I beg Paul's pardon.

Apparently, the fact that Doherty puts footnotes in his books has nothing whatever to do with whether or not Jesus existed.

So why the hell is Regnier going on about it?

And not actually producing any arguments for Jesus existence?

Paul Regnier said...

Apparently, the fact that Doherty puts footnotes in his books has nothing whatever to do with whether or not Jesus existed.

No, the fact that Doherty puts footnotes in his books has nothing whatever to do with whether Doherty's views deserve to be taken seriously. That was my point.

Perhaps, you could tell me whether you agree or disagree with my point? This would seem to be a more civil way of progressing the discussion than setting up such obvious straw men.

And not actually producing any arguments for Jesus existence?

A bit of a non-sequitur, as nobody on this thread has asked me to do any such thing. Perhaps you could respond to the point I’ve actually made first?

VinnyJH57 said...

No, the fact that Doherty puts footnotes in his books has nothing whatever to do with whether Doherty's views deserve to be taken seriously. That was my point.

C'mon Paul. Surely it has something to with it. Footnotes may not be sufficient, but they are necessary.

Ben Schuldt said...

Mike,

Why would anyone answer you when you've already told us you will not listen? No mythicist I know of has given up every worldly investment to purely devote themselves to the cause of mythicism. I'm sure there are some liberal Christians who might be willing to do that, but why would secular historians have to be under such constraints?

And why would we try to make historical arguments to you when you think in such cultish black and white categories where there simply has to be someone in the bunch that "knows" exactly what happened? Real history is about carefully weighing the pros and cons of closely competing hypothesises and coming away with only relative degrees of confidence about the final conclusion. Are you willing to accept that or not?

If you don't acknowledge these things (at the expense of your Christian cult think, since these tropes of yours are lifted right from that list I gave you) then we can be certain you are A: Not really listening and B: Filing things in completely the wrong place to the extent you do listen. Who wants to play that game?

Ben Schuldt said...

Setting those things aside, it is reasonable to want the "elevator speech" version of mythicism's origin story for Christianity. So here goes:

There were many Jewish sects struggling to figure out how to sort the promises of Judaism in their current situation. We don't actually know what most of them really thought, but from what we do know there was quite a bit of diversity. Accompanying this, in Roman and pagan thought in general, the Jews were influenced by many of those ideas as well. Most Jews it seemed were expecting a militarized messiah to triumphantly take back what was theirs. But as time drags on and this doesn't happen, this leaves the door open for Jews to innovate a spiritual version of the same thing. So through prayer, fasting, and tea leaf reading their scriptures at least some Jews came up with a cosmic messiah, a celestial temple, and a whole scheme of things that wouldn't require any evidence on this earth apart from the encultured arbitrary visions of at least some of their influential adherents. In the earliest, most credible evidence we have of Christianity we find the apostle Paul who only demonstrates this very dubious epistemology and gives no clear evidence of anything else. The handful of verses that could lend to historicity actually make equal or more sense when you recognize what kinds of things were culturally popular between Jewish/pagan syncretisms (such as that a celestial being bizarrely could have a nationality despite not actually being a member of the species). By the time we get to the gospel layer of the Christian evidence, we find things in Mark where Jesus seems to give us the coded indicator about who can understand his parables and that the entire gospel is an extended parable illustrating the spiritual truths of their movement and that only adherents are going to have it explained to them (fitting well with what we know of mystery religions of the time). One thing leads to another, since there is diversity and ignorance of original intent even in the formulative stages of Christianity, and at least some Christians decide the story told in Mark is validating as real history and start formulating their own versions of it in Matthew, Luke, and John to suit their own needs and further justify their own competing opinions (over and against other Christian sects with vastly different ideas). And so we find that Christianity started out as a relevatory Jewish cult that historicizes its messiah urban legend style and moves on to bigger and better things since it happens to be selling what happens to be working in its cultural context.

Ben Schuldt said...

Egad! That was 421 words! So sorry! Just skip every other word and interpolate charitably, Mike. lol

Mike Gantt said...

Ben Schuldt,

You seem to be assuming that because I have reached a conclusion contrary to yours that I must not have listened to you.

Ben Schuldt said...

No, I was assuming that you meant what you said when you identified the kinds of people that you listen to. My bad. Maybe you should say other stuff.

Mike Gantt said...

Ben Schuldt,

Thanks for the synopsis. Don't worry about exceeding the word count. I'll be glad to read it and consider it. Thanks.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

Ben:

Thanks! Looks good.

With a few more words, you could probably have footnoted it: worked Philo into that by name; and confirmed that the "cosmic" idea is verified by Earl Doherty.

Mike Gantt said...

Ben Schuldt,

If there are two of my fellow citizens who want to persuade me about a political question before the country, and one of them is a combat veteran (that is, he has put his life at risk defending me and my neighbors) while the other is not, then, all other things being equal, I owe it to the vet to listen first to him. That doesn't means I will listen only to him, or necessarily agree with him - just that he has earned my respect and I will not withhold it

Roo said...

Yep, just look at the language used by Doherty against Mike Gantt:
“parrot the tired old criticisms,” “know little of the material,” “ignorance,” “what have you been smoking,” “you missed that chapter in my books”, “the trap you choose to wallow in,” “case of begging the question,” “you’re just blowing a lot of hot air,” “desperate adherence to blind faith,”, “futile attempt,”
Doherty might have thrown in “demented,... high on some kind of suds,”

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

Keep in mind that many of Mike's criticisms are not regarding substance, but one's Character. Which is normally off limits in polite academic conversation.

"Impugning motives" is considered a no-no, in academe. In academe we normally assume goodwill; we are just looking at the presentation of facts, only.

Though some of us will eventually respond in kind, after repeated attacks.

Mike Gantt said...

Ben Schuldt,

Again, I appreciate your giving the elevator speech that mythicists are generally so reticent to give. In so doing, however, you demonstrate why they'd rather focus on attacking history than improving it with a version of their own.

You motor through your first four sentences without mishap, but the wheels come off in sentences five through seven. After that, there's nowhere to go.

I'll mention, as briefly as possible, what's wrong with sentences five through seven:

5) It's not logically coherent to say that because some Jews "expected a militarized messiah to triumphantly take back what was theirs" that they were motivated to invent one that didn't.

6) The portrayal of Jews who believed in Jesus as motivated by "encultured arbitrary visions" without any other evidence is completely at odds with the New Testament's obsession with fulfillment of Israel's ancient Scriptures.

7) The assertion that the undisputed letters of Paul present a celestial Jesus unmoored to history or the Hebrew Scriptures is problematic at best. Paul was consumed by the story of a descendant of David, born of a woman, born under the Law, who was crucified, and subsequently raised from the dead - all things impossible for a purely celestial being in a celestial realm.

I'm not saying that your elevator speech is hopeless. But if you want to make it more compelling, I've shown you where to start. In the meantime, however, I commend you once again for being game where your fellow mythicists are far more timid.

Mike Gantt said...

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D.,

I agree with you that it's not appropriate to attribute motives to others falsely or gratuitously. On the other hand, a person whose behavior is inconsistent with his stated motives should not complain if someone else calls attention to it.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

#5:

Normally academic debaters out of politeness, don't impugn character flaws to each other; but we DO occasionally find them in historic persons. So let's look at # 5.

No doubt Ben will do a good job on this on his own. But roughly, this is a standard position in religious studies: we believe that originally, OT Jewish promises of a "kingdom" meant a real, material, physical kingdom on earth. But when Jesus seemed to promise a kingdom, but was then physically killed? Fans suffered confusion. So?

They - the authors of the New Testament - decided that Jesus must have meant say, a "kingdom" of "hope" in our imagination or "spirit," say. Thus Platonising the old "materialistic Judaism," as it was subsequently characterized. In this way, believers get to hold on to 1) the old kingdom promises, and 2) a dead Jesus too; both.

The criticism of this process, of the people that "spiritualized" and "metaphoricalized" the OT (like Paul? John?), would be that this word-twisting was not entirely honest. It was not true to the original, very material promises, in the Old Testament.

It betrayed God, that is to say. By playing semantic games with his words.

Mike Gantt said...

Bret,

Your "improvement" of Ben's fifth sentence does him no good as it presumes a Jesus crucified on earth.

Earl Doherty said...

Paul Regnier: “I wish you and other mythicists would stop with this “my book has footnotes therefore it’s proper history” nonsense. One of the features of modern forms of pseudo-history is that it apes the conventions of mainstream history writing.”

Good grief. You guys are able and willing to twist anything. “…my arguments, backed up with relevant citations…” is completely neutral. If I didn’t back up my statements with cited support, I’d be dumped on for being a rank amateur. And you are doing the same thing as Mike and many others. Instead of following the conventions of mainstream history writing, I, because I am doing “pseudo-history” in your knee-jerk a priori mindset, I’m simply “aping the conventions”. This not only demonstrates the abysmal nature of historicist ‘argument’ against mythicism, it shows that its users do not even recognize that they are simply adopting ad hominem tactics because they have nothing else. Mike Gantt, and now yourself, do not offer any substantive counter-argument against my case and so you descend to the gutter.

(And yes, Roo, like the talking parrot that you have been on all the sites we frequent, you can seize on my vocabulary here, which pales in comparison to your own. How I express myself in cases like this is quite natural in view of the despicable tactics indulged in by the likes of Mike and Paul, and yourself. What, you expect I’m going to maintain a Miss Manners attitude? Get used to it.)

Mike Gantt: “I read your comment twice, searching in vain for an encapsulation of your theory of how a mythological Jesus came to result in the New Testament documents (particularly the undisputed Paulines). The closest thing I could find were plugs for your books. If you do not have a thesis which can hold water, how can any book you have constructed from it hold water?”

What, you expected me within 4,096 characters to give you even an encapsulation of my theory? And if you think that the (or my) mythicist theory can be covered in 250 words or less, you are really displaying your ignorance. Besides, you maintained that I had not presented a case. I simply pointed out that I did so in my books, which you clearly haven’t read. Like most of you, you dump on mythicism and mythicists without knowing anything about it. Certainly, you don’t know enough to make even the simplest counter-argument against it, but rely on closed-minded dismissal and ad hominem attacks. For three months I made a detailed rebuttal on Vridar to your golden-boy Bart Ehrman’s abysmal case in favor of an historical Jesus. Did you tune in to any of it? Did you learn anything about the mythicist position and the failings of Ehrman’s defense? Clearly not, to either question.

I agree with Bretton, who put it all beautifully. You guys are not debating in good faith. Of course, that’s not your intention. You treat boards and blogs like this as your personal church hall. Shout down the non-believer, throw rotten tomatoes at him. Behind your wall of faith you are immune to criticism, you revel in your dishonorable tactics. I don’t expect anything less on sites like this. Then why am I here? Call it the occasional impulse for slumming, and a faint hope, never realized, that someone, somehow, on a board like this will actually engage with mythicist arguments in a reasonable way, with something even remotely resembling neutral scholarship. In a recent exchange on the Vridar blog, Mark Goodacre had some things to say in response to Neil Godfrey’s posting and my comments on it. Mark was never less than calm, civil, and professional in his remarks, and never personal—unlike his peanut galley here—but he, too, refused or was unable to attempt an engagement with the arguments I presented.

What goes on here is simply the self-indulgent choir preaching to itself. And if a singer shows up with a discordant note to your heavenly harmony, you think that getting beaten with your music-stands proves anything.

Mike Gantt said...

Earl,

As someone who, like you, seeks to persuade others to embrace views they do not currently hold, I appreciate the need to be able to explain one's position at length. However, I also recognize the need to encapsulate one's arguments in order to give someone sufficient reason to spend time with the longer versions.

That you cannot summarize your argument should be an indication to you that it is flawed in one or more important ways. No Ph.D. candidate could get approval for a dissertation for which he was not willing to first submit the thesis upon which it would be based. Nonfiction book publishers typically use book proposals (which include a synopsis of the book) for making decisions about whether or not to publish a given book.

Beyond all tis, your insistence that your ideas can only be discussed and understood in your own lair is borderline creepy.

I actually tried to read some of your responses to Bart's book on Neil's blog, but frankly you wade through minutia, and at such a glacial pace, that I just do not have the time or patience to stick it out until you get to the main point. I don't think you convince people so much as you just wear them down with an unending flow of verbiage.

That you call the lot of your critics a choir is a perception you ought to reconsider. I regard Bart as doing almost as much mischief to the cause of Christ as you. I'm pretty sure Paul Regnier is either agnostic or atheist. Perhaps the reason such a wide variety of people find fault with your ideology has more to do with your ideology than your critics.

Earl Doherty said...

Mike, you didn't ask me to present even an encapsulation of my case. You simply said that I had never presented a case, and I pointed out that you were obviously wrong.

Whether I would do so now is another question. Just because something cannot be properly summarized in 250 words does not make it invalid. That's nonsense. There would be so much left unsaid and unsupported that you would have endless opportunity to jump on it. And I know you would do so and claim that it automatically discredited my case.

What you label "minutiae" reflects the detail and abundance of explanation that is needed to present a new paradigm that must also cope with the old one.

It is your prerogative to simply ignore the case I've presented in my books, minutiae and all, but don't then claim the right to declare that such cases don't exist and that mythicism has in no way been demonstrated. If your attention span is not sufficient (many others' are) to get you through a mythicist case in all its necessary detail, don't come onto a blog like this and declare that it is self-evident that mythicism is nothing but hogwash. That's not scholarship. It's not even normal human communication. It's mindless apologetics.

This is a complex field. Your simplistic approach to a question which has been raised for two centuries, championed by many scholars and researchers, is simply a cop-out. You are being far more arrogant and naive (the two regularly go together) than any mythicist ever was.

You are not a "critic." Nor is Paul Regnier. A critic is one who familiarizes himself with the topic or publication he presumes to criticize (not just a 250 word Cliff Notes version). A critic is one who presents his own counter-case. A critic is not one who stands outside a theater and declares a movie garbage because he doesn't like its theme.

You also confuse the difference between a brief summary meant to persuade a reader or publisher that the subject is sufficiently interesting to investigate further, and one supposedly meant to provide sufficient material for a "critic" like yourself to be able to simply dismiss it. No publisher decides to publish a book on the basis of a summary. Of course I could supply you with 250 words. But what would it accomplish? And with stripes like you have shown, why would I want to waste time discussing it with a person who has shown himself to be utterly closed-minded, confessionally driven, and capable of resorting to ad hominem when he has nothing else?

Do you blame me for not wanting to waste my time on such a 'critic'? I have given ample demonstration over the years that I don't shrink from taking on anyone who has something even remotively scholarly and substantive to say in opposition to me (even when it's coupled with the ad hominem stuff). I deal with critiques all the time, as witness my response to Bart Ehrman and endless grapplings with Gakusei Don.

By the way, do you consider Bart Ehrman's book in all its repetitive and shallow detail to be "minutiae"? (Even historicists groaned at its abysmal quality.) Did you fail to get through it yourself? It wouldn't surprise me if you did, since you already know without a doubt that Jesus existed, so why would you bother? Anyway, you dismiss Ehrman too on the grounds that his view of an HJ is simply "mischief" to your Christ faith. The same motive would lead you to not bother with reading through any of my books. But that of course doesn't stop you from pontificating against them. But then, like the Pontiff, you apparently consider yourself infallible.

Another groaner is your accusation of "ideology." Don't like a writer's case? Dismiss it and avoid the trouble of a scholarly response by labelling it determined by ideology (which Ehrman did and just about every other mainstream scholarly critic of mythicism has recourse to).

My time wasted on you has just about run out.

Mike Gantt said...

Earl,

I don't want to limit you to 250 words. Take 500, or even 1,000 if you need to. Just summarize your theory of historicity of mythicism. Put your case on the table in digestible form, if you dare.

Your most recent response to me was 675 words. If you had devoted those 675 words to your summary, you would have done so much more for your case than all your caterwauling about how mythicists are being picked on by everyone else.

And, by the way, you and Bret ought to quickly shed the indignation about your motives being impugned as the hypocrisy of it is breathtaking. A central theme of mythicists is that impure motives keep the scholarly community wedded to the historicity of Jesus - implying that the reason they don't agree with you is that they're unprincipled. So spare us the lectures.

P.S. I did read all of Bart's Did Jesus Exist? As for you, I'm not criticizing your writing style. I'm saying it's a symptom of something more fundamentally wrong with your thinking on the subject. To sum it up: you spend more words trying to destroy the accepted case than on trying to establish a better case. That's telling.

Paul Regnier's point about similarity with other denial movements is quite salient.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

Mike:

I guess in light of Earl's thesis, in an effort to be totally consistent, I'd suggest that the individual variation on # 5 would now be - depending on how homogenous you want it, or which direction you want to emphasize - that "the Jewish people had hoped for a concrete messiah with concrete accomplishments. When they didn't get one? They made up one; with an imaginary life and death, and invisible /spiritual accomplishments." The emperor's new clothes.

Thank you for the only substantive criticism, one that actually deals with a point, that I have heard from you in months. It is not so hard to answer, however.

Most of the time you go 1) ad hominem; or 2) offer raw subjective value judgements as if they had any professional value; "it's too long." etc..

Earl: as far as I know, Mike does not have a dissertation, or even a graduate degree, in anything; though he likes to refer authortiatively to them. As if he knows all about how to write one.

If I were Earl, I'd stay on line as much as you like; but just talk to those who seem to have some factual knowledge about what you are talking about.

Mike? Do you have any graduate degrees? Do you have any relevant education here? Above you seemed to suggest that you do not. Your expertise seems to be in discovering and exploiting insecurities, and then launching ad hominem attacks and raw value judgements, without addressing many substantive points.

That's nothing to be proud of. Though i recognize some corporate survival mechanisms, I've never admired them.

Mike Gantt said...

Bret,

I have a B.Sci. in Business Administration from the University of South Carolina (1972), a M. Div. from Covenant Theological Seminary (1986), and a D. Min. from Fuller Theological Seminary (1992) for which I had to write a dissertation.

However, I rely on none of these degrees for what I know about Jesus or what I discuss on this blog or my own. Rather I read the Bible and ask God to help me understand it. The work of scholars helps me to understand the Bible's constituent parts in their respective historical contexts. In other words, I look to scholars to help me understand what the Bible says (especially since it was written in languages and times other than my own), but I look only to God to help me understand what it means. Thus my only qualification is being an adult with an average portion of common sense.

If someone with my limited qualifications can see the holes in mythicist thinking, how much more trained scholars can. And if you can't convey your point to uncredentialed John Doe like me, how will you ever convince credentialed scholars?



Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

Earl Doherty:

D. Min? Doctor of Ministry? Mike would be trained primarily in apologetics and sermons and dogma.

Earl? You do extremely well when you are strictly professional. Calmly make your case. And eschew polemics with Mike.

Probably the best reponse to Mike is to never respond to him. And don't worry at all about whatever points he thinks or claims he is scoring.

So far, you're doing great. Stick to what you know; continue to outline it with care and circumspection. Address only substantive,factual, fact-based arguments; not emotional arguments and accusations.



Ben Schuldt said...

Mike,

5. "It's not logically coherent to say that because some Jews "expected a militarized messiah to triumphantly take back what was theirs" that they were motivated to invent one that didn't."

I'd said, "this leaves the door open for Jews to innovate a spiritual version of the same thing" which is a mile high sociological claim that isn't meant to say exactly how this was accomplished since many possible mechanisms exist and our direct evidence is lacking. It is not meant to be taken as a literal statement of intentionality on the part of a single Jew that sits down and says to himself, "Well this isn't working, let's make something up!" Religious people have what they interpret as prophetic dreams, they conjure visions through prayer and fasting, and various other accidents of psychology happen that when placed in an interpretive context become motivational "evidence" for certain demographics of people. And of course, sometimes there is pious fraud as well. I don't claim to know what in particular happened. The point is, you have a cultural stew of competing religious ideas and someone strikes on one that ends up being successful at capturing the hearts and minds of others in the culture. Happens all the time.

6. "The portrayal of Jews who believed in Jesus as motivated by "encultured arbitrary visions" without any other evidence is completely at odds with the New Testament's obsession with fulfillment of Israel's ancient Scriptures."

Well true. I meant it was their only "new" evidence as far as religious epistemology goes. Pretty sure I paid tribute to the tea leaf reading of the scriptures part of their "evidence."

7. "The assertion that the undisputed letters of Paul present a celestial Jesus unmoored to history or the Hebrew Scriptures is problematic at best. Paul was consumed by the story of a descendant of David, born of a woman, born under the Law, who was crucified, and subsequently raised from the dead - all things impossible for a purely celestial being in a celestial realm."

Right, but if it was popular in pagan culture for their demigods to have nationalities (since that establishes a sense of identity and solidarity even if it doesn't really make any logistical sense) and have weird celestial passion events play out not on earth then we have an alternative lens to look at those kinds of passages with. If you are going to say, "but that doesn't make sense!" well take that up with ancient religious people who apparently thought it did. Modern mainstream Christians believe in a Jesus who was tempted by Satan to sin even though Jesus is supposed to be a god who cannot sin (Satan might as well waste his breath tempting me to shoot lasers out of my eyeballs). Makes no sense whatsoever, but that doesn't stop Christianity in its tracks does it?

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

How concrete and real, was Paul's Jesus? A common calumny levied against Earl Doherty's "cosmic" Jesus asserts that even Paul's sketchy outline of Jesus, is quite concrete.

1) It is said by Paul that Jesus was "born of a woman"; but many Greek and other pagan gods or demi-gods, were born of women who were impregnated by gods etc..

2) Then too, if Jesus was imply made up, you could say whatever you wanted about him. And make him seem as concrete as you want.

Since the time of Plato, c. 300 BC, Greco-Roman writers knew how to make rather physical-seeming characters. While prescisely in the time of "Jesus," they began to create essentially fictional novels (with only alleged historical foundations; see Vridar's summary on early Greek novels).

3) And? Greco-Roman ideas were all around in the time that the Jesus legend appeared; Jerusalem was taken over by Rome in 64 BC. In the time of "Jesus," Jerusalem was occupied by Roman troops, and had a Roman governor, Pontius Pilate.

Paul in Luke/Acts in fact, alleges that Paul was a Roman citizen, as well as a Jew.

4) Paul's links to Platonism, and the stress on Gods and ideal forms in the sky, are well known in scholarship.

5) To suggest therefore that Jesus was made up out of thin "air" ("pneuma," translated spirit), out of "cloud"s in the heavens, would be oddly consistent with the text itself.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

How material, physical, historical, non-cosmic, does Jesus seem even in the Bible itself? It is often said that Jesus comes from the Holy "spirit." But how substantial, physical, is spirit?

Consider spirituality especially. The words for "spirit" in the Bible - like "pneuma"; the root of our "pneumatic" and "pneumonia" - more exactly meant "air" or "wind." While curiously, the Bible itself contains constant warnings about religions that deliver mere hot "air," "wind"; especially the "East wind." In part refering to empty speeches, "empty" promises, false prophesies or hot air. And to "false spirits."

So how physical, reliable - historical - is Jesus for Paul, etc.?

Consider this: the physicality of Jesus is invoked often, only to reject its importance, in much of Paul's and other Christian theology: the physical "flesh" is often of no importance; it is the spirit that is what Jesus is about. We should not be greedy to feed our "body"; but should develop our "spirit" to live on in a spiritual "Heaven," as the Bible has been popularly thought to say. One day we cast of the physical body as a mere "husk"; to become a "spiritual body" says Paul. While Paul adds that one day we are to meet in the "clouds," and so forth.

To the extent that say "Heaven" and "spirit"uality are referenced in Paul etc., the reference is to non-earthly - and therefore "cosmic" - things.

It seems oddly perverse theologically therefore, for critics of Doherty to assert that Paul is adamantly insisting on the physicality, historicality, materiality of Jesus; when so much of the text is "spiritual," heavenly, and de-emphasizes materiality.

Indeed, the text often de-emphasizes it to the point that one wonders whether the text ever had any respect at all for material reality; and whether it therefore felt justified in simply making up material "facts."

The text itself at times in fact, seems to self-deconstructively suggest and warn that much of religion is mere "air" or "wind." And that things which once seem "solid," will one day "melt into air."

And for that matter? "The heavens will vanish like smoke" (Isa. 51.6, 34.4. 2 Peter 3.7-12; Rev. 21).

How much confidence therefore is the text itself really asking, in the physical/historical Jesus?

Or even in the spiritual one in Heaven?

Possibly the Bible itself warns, it was all cosmic; or mere "wind."

Mike Gantt said...

Ben,

Your emendations consist in suggesting things that were possible. To accept the mythicists' revised view of history, we must see something plausible - better yet, probable. You are a long way from either threshold.

Mike Gantt said...

Bret,

Your comments can be so flighty at times that it's hard to know whether you actually intend to be taken seriously or are merely trying to be playfully provocative.

In any case, I often cannot perceive enough coherence in them to respond, and that is certainly the case in your most recent comment.

I therefore refer to you my interaction with Ben, who, by contrast, seems to make his comments seriously, substantively, and coherently.

I don't mean to suggest that you are not a serious person with coherent thoughts on substantive issues. It's just that your comments don't always reflect this, which makes it difficult to respond to them in those cases.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

The Question: when Jews were killed by enemies, or when say Jerusalem was occupied by Romans, and no physical Jewish "kingdom" was in evidence, what did believers think? Why didn't they just deduce their religion was a failure?

Answers: 1) Many did. 2) Others suggested philosophically that this physical life was an illusion anyway; so dying to leave it, is a victory ("to die is gain," said Paul).

Another related, common answer of the time: 3) make Martyrs out of your failed heroes. If your heroes die trying to realize the promise of a kingdom, if no kingdom shows up, that's OK: now your hero is a "martyr." Dying it is asserted here, is not a defeat; it is a moral victory. A hero has stood up and died for his beliefs; thus dramatizing, publicising those beliefs ... and causing others to think about them. So ironically, his death is not defeat; but victory.

Many Jewish sons (2,000?) had been recently crucified by Archelaus; the grieving memory of "sons of the Lord" who died, crucified, martyred, was still vivid. "Jesus" was about the 6th most popular male name of the day; and Philo had talked up a "Jesus," the new kind of hero priest or moral leader, a "son of God," linked to the "Logos" or the "word."

And then? Simple popular confusion, conflation of different "Jesus"es (and "lords"), got the whole snowball rolling. We had our dead, crucified composite hero, martyr; Jesus. Whose death was alleged to be a moral, spiritual victory. Even though the Old Testament promises of a physical, material kingdom, were not fulfilled by him.

Roo said...

What is this “Greco-Roman (Platonistic) culture”?

Critic GakuseiDon rejects Doherty's "World of Myth" as his invention, irrelevant to the practices and beliefs of ancient Greek religion. See
http://www.freeratio.org/showthread.php?t=320326&page=4
with a full selection of the relevant texts of Doherty.
He also has a Jan. 2011 four-part review of Doherty’s last book:
http://members.optusnet.com.au/gakuseidon/JNGNM_Review1.html

There was no "World of Myth" in the ancient Greeks' Weltanschauung — a concept likely borrowed from the title of a high-school primer by David A. Leeming (1992). Doherty's first book describes a celestial sublunar sphere where the mythical gods were supposed to act out their stories and lollygag for eternity, as "a Platonic higher world (even if just above the earth)", assumed to originate from the very idiosyncratic Plutarch.

But Gilbert Murray, in "Five Stages of Greek Religion" (1951) and Walter Burkert, in "Greek Religion: Archaic and Classical" (1985) warn that the musings of one specific writer, casually expressed in a few lines, can in no way reflect the multitudes of ancient Greeks, whose beliefs were never dogmatic, but flexible, open to variation, according to their city, social status, literacy, knowledge, and period in history.

The "World of Myth" concept, also dismissed out of hand by G.A. Wells as a spurious concoction, seems to be an invention contrived by an autodidact who pounced on the phrase of David A. Leeming to claim he is bringing "new" ideas to the field. Hence, Doherty's rough proletarian language against a critic like GakuseiDon, who kept pointing out how vacuous and artificial this concept was.

Ehrman had also pointed out the wildly hypothetical character of this idea:

"In the first edition of Doherty's book, he claimed that it was in this higher realm that the key divine events of the mysteries transpired; it was there, for example, that Attis had been castrated, that Osiris had been dismembered, and that Mithras had slain the bull.
In his second edition he admits that in fact we do not know if that is true and that we do not have any reflections on such things by any of the cult devotees themselves since we don't have a single writing from any of the adherents of the ancient mystery cults.
Yet he still insists that philosophers under the influence of Plato-such as Plutarch, whom we have met-certainly interpreted things this way." ("Did Jesus Exist?" p. 253)

Then Doherty, to correct his thesis, started invoking "a failure of nuance", now limiting the "World of Myth" concept to the devotees of mystery cults. This "failure of nuance" is a phrase most likely borrowed from Gilbert Murray's Ch.4 title, "A Failure of Nerve", in his famous book "Five Stages of Greek Religion". A comical lampoon for future critics. "Hey, look, another failure of nuance by Doherty!" No wonder, Doherty is a free-wheeling tale-spinner, an amateur floating adrift in a vast universe of ancient culture where he has no qualified expertise, but where he grabs a few lines as guideposts for his modern construction

GakuseiDon, a student of ancient pagan mythology, planned to demonstrate with scholarly quotations that even in Doherty's last book, the "World of Myth" did not fit mental images of the ancient Greeks, as ascertained from their writings, inscriptions and art.
.
GakuseiDon got so violently lambasted by Doherty (who compared him to a Hamas terrorist, and later invoked Hitler versus Churchill to justify his demonization of an honest critic) that the sensitive Japanese-Australian withdrew, licking his wounds. A street-fight with proletarian Doherty is a royal waste of time. You’ll end up drowned in his typical “flow of a collapsed reservoir”, or by a “juggernaut that has overswept its banks”.

gurugeorge said...

Mike Gantt:-

"At the heart of mythicism is something utterly anti-history: that is, the intent to prove that something did not happen."

This is totally wrong. The heart of mythicism is the intent to find out the positive of what actually happened (or more strictly, what we can confidently say must have happened given the evidence).

It just so happens to be a corollary of that positive truth, that, if true, it necessarily blocks the historicist theory from being true.

We have evidence. One interpretation of that evidence is the traditional view (the "Duck" in a Duck-Rabbit figure), another possible interpretation is the the mythicist view (the "Rabbit"). And in fact the mythicist interpretation is actually somewhat better, overall.

Historicists have pretty much lost the battle to try and brand mythicism as impossible or improbable. It is a contender, by any reasonable understanding of the evidence.

The next move for historicists must be to investigate the claims in more detail - do afresh what they think others have already done in the past (but actually they haven't).

Mike Gantt said...

Ben,

It just sounds like a potpourri of speculations to me.

The path you outline from possibility to plausibility seems to be paved more with wishful thinking than with logic.

It is clear from the undisputed Paulines that faith in a resurrected Christ began in the early 30's CE quite apart from Paul and in Judea - that geographic realm of Jewry which housed the temple and that was home to the Jews most resistant to syncretism.

Mike Gantt said...

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D.,

Your most recent speculation that the Roman occupation of Jerusalem would lead to disillusionment and then innovation of religious ideas seems ignorant of the advanced state of the Christ movement in 70 CE.

Mike Gantt said...

gurugeorge,

I have invited Earl Doherty and others to explain just what mythicists believe actually happened. None but Ben Shuldt has been game enough to try, but the vacuity of mythicist case was all it revealed. Perhaps you'd care to take a stab at it.

Again, don't just tell us what you think could have happened, or even what you think happened, but rather how and when you think it happened that a myth became history.

Ben Schuldt said...

Mike,

All you are saying is that you give zero weight to the category of explanation being offered even though you engage in none of it specifically, which isn't all that helpful. What have you said that would lead someone else to think so little of it like you do? Half the NT is from a guy that never even met a historical Jesus by anyone's account and who tells us about his visions and tea leaf scripture reading as his primary source of religion and somehow the Jesus as a historical figure doesn't take even a slight hit in your book when evaluating the competing explanations?

I never said Christianity didn't start before Paul and Paul of all people was willing to disown deeply rooted Jewish practices in favor of his new revelations in order to be more appealing to Gentiles. Being an orthodox Jew is in the eye of that believer after all since I'll bet many if not most of the competing Jewish sects believed they were being the truest to their scripture. Being culturally influenced is not necessarily a very self-aware process any more than modern Christians are able to recognize just how much modern culture distances them from their ideological ancestors.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

Mike:

1) I wasn't referring to 70 AD; I was referring to 64 BC ff.; from the date Pompey and Rome took over Jerusalem. And then subsequent events. 130+ years of occupational history, before your 70 AD. Many legends borrowed from this period. Many of them negative regarding Jewish traditions and even "God".

Then too you don't think some were discouraged by the death of Jesus c. 30 AD? Read your Bible

In any case? You see unaware of Lamentations-like Jewish traditions of some disillusionment; especially 64 BC to 30 AD; that caused Herod and other Jews to just change sides.

Mike? Mike? Ever wonder why people just stop talking to you? In a "ministry" doctorate, you were obviously educated just in the positive 1/4 of the picture.


2) There are NO "undisputed Paulines." Moreover, a close look suggests Paul was meeting unspecified "believers" - who might have been just Jews. Paul over and over has to repeat the basics of Christianity - as if no one knew them, before him. Luke/Acts pictures Paul meeting mostly pagans only. No earlier churches, no earlier knowledge of Jesus. Even meeting those in Jerusalem "added nothing" to that.

3) Likely Doherty was using "World of Myth" not entirely as a reference to that book, but using the title as a metaphor; for precisely, a Greek enviornment full of myths. Fundamentalists, evangelicals, never get the metaphors. And in a sense, all ministers are evangelicals, perceiving only the the "Great Commission." Never reading James 3:

"Let not many of you become teachers, my brethren, for you know that we who teach will be judged with greater strictness. For we all make many mistakes."

4) Look up "Neoplantonism."

Mike? Mike? "A little education is a dangerous thing."

On the basis of such claims, we should accept your summary authoritarian judgements?

maryhelena said...

Ben, in reply to Mike Ganatt:

“All you are saying is that you give zero weight to the category of explanation being offered even though you engage in none of it specifically, which isn't all that helpful. What have you said that would lead someone else to think so little of it like you do?”

Maybe stop for a bit here. Perhaps it’s not explanation that the JC historicists are seeking but some reasoning, some logic, some plausibility, for the proposition put forward by some ahistoricists/mythicists that the gospel JC is a historicizing of a Pauline cosmic JC.

Ben, bottom line here for the JC historicists is not how you, Carrier or Doherty, are able to provide alternative readings, explanations, of Pauline philosophy/theology. Interpretations are anyone’s game - a Sunday morning game for some doorstep preachers. The bottom line is that the proposition upon which your position rests - that the gospel JC is a historicizing of a Pauline cosmic type JC - is deemed to be untenable. If your proposition is itself questionable - your argumentation, your explanations, to support it is of little interest. Why expect the JC historicists to go to step 2 when they dispute the validity of step 1? Ergo - debate gets sidelined to trading negative vibes.

If you, or any other ahistoricist/mythicists who support the historicizing of the Pauline cosmic JC into the gospel JC figure, want the JC historicists to consider your proposition- then, it’s that proposition that has to be argued. Argued not by throwing interpretations of Pauline philosophy/theology around - but by reason, logic and plausibility. Ben, it’s one thing to argue that the probability of the gospel JC being ahistorical is pretty high - it’s a far different ball game - far removed from arguments of probability - to establish plausibility for your proposition dealing with a historicizing of that Pauline cosmic JC into the gospel JC figure. That idea, for the JC historicists, is just not plausible. Now, the ahistoricists/mythicists who uphold this proposition, can bang their heads all day in frustration - but what they need to do is leave their ‘oranges’ at home and approach the JC historicists with what they want - ‘apples’. The JC historicists want arguments based on reality, upon history - not arguments based upon speculation on the Pauline writings.

It’s not good enough for the ahistoricist/mythicist argument to turn one mystical idea, Pauline JC, into another mystical idea; a historicized gospel JC that, supposedly, pulled the wool over the eyes of those early Jewish Christians. i.e. they believed the gospel JC story had no relevance for Jewish history. It was all just a means to an end – an aid to understanding the Pauline cosmic JC. Pauline technicality made user friendly via an easier to understand mythical story set in real time.

If some mythicists have understood mythicism to mean the gospel JC story is completely devoid of any historical relevance, that the gospel story is completely and utterly a historicizing of a Pauline cosmic JC figure – then they will lose out as far as their theories finding some relevance in the HJ/MJ debate and the search for early christian origins. In other words; debates over the HJ/MJ question will be deadlocked, check-mated, in their opening move - and it’s just downhill from there - as this present exchange is demonstrating.

Yes, Ben, the JC historicists don’t have a historical leg to stand on - but those ahistoricist/mythicists who propose a historicizing of a Pauline cosmic JC into the gospel JC figure - don’t have one either...

Mike Gantt said...

Ben,

Your mere citation of various 1st-century Greco-Roman myths which have some aspect similar to aspects of the New Testament story of Christ does not amount to an explanation of how devout 1st-century Jews came to assimilate them into the narrative of an individual they then decided to consider historical. If you're going to tell someone how a cake is baked, you don't just announce the ingredients - you have to explain the process by which they become a cake.

As for your dismissal of the undisputed Paulines, you have given no competing explanation with which to compare them. You've simply suggested possibilities without any explanatory framework. That's probably sufficient for atheists who want desperately for mythicism to be true, but not for people who want to weigh alternatives and choose wisely.

The undisputed letters of Paul were written to individuals and groups spread across the Mediterranean world. It's obvious from them that the letters' authors and recipients held to various common views derived originally from a Judean context not many years prior. Paul was not writing an open letter to 21st-century skeptics. He was writing to contemporaries about contemporary issues. If you want people to take mythicism seriously you have to have an explanation as to the people referenced in these documents came to regard Jesus as historical if he wasn't, because reading the letters makes clear that these people regarded Jesus as historical.

And to question Jesus' historicity on the basis of Paul's testimony because Paul did not know Jesus before the crucifixion is like questioning the historicity of a murder victim because the homicide detective working the case did not know the victim before the crime occurred.

And the use of pejoratives like "tea leaf scripture reading" is faux argumentation. Insulting someone's intelligence does not constitute proof that the person's intelligence deserves to be insulted.

Ben, you possess a courage lacking in the mythicist brotherhood...but they are misleading you. Keep seeking and you will find.

maryhelena said...

Ben: A comment on a point you made in another post:

Ben:”....if it was popular in pagan culture for their demigods to have nationalities (since that establishes a sense of identity and solidarity even if it doesn't really make any logistical sense).... then we have an alternative lens to look at those kinds of passages with. Makes no sense whatsoever, but that doesn't stop Christianity in its tracks does it?”

Nationality, flesh and blood, physical reality, historical reality, have no relevance for a philosophy focused on spirituality, on the non-material. But they do have relevance for Jewish culture, then, and now.

That Pauline philosophy/theology, a philosophy with a focus on neither Jew nor Greek, should uphold a national identity in connection with its JC figure, speaks volumes that Pauline philosophy is not entirely theological/spiritual speculation. Paul’s heights of intellectual philosophizing never removed his feet from terra-firma - from physical and historical realities. Pauline philosophy reaches for the stars - but it does not give up on the Jerusalem ‘below’. Paul, whoever he was, and however much he might have been influenced by Gnostic type ideas - would not let go of his hold on physical reality.

And neither should we if we want to make sense of the world in which we live - and the world that produced the NT.

Dr. Bretton Garcia, Ph.D. said...

God Mike, how patronizing. But then your God, in you, is the "Father" right?

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