Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Idiot America

PZ Myers posted something about a new book, Idiot America, and I'm reposting it with my own comments:

"The rise of Idiot America, though, is essentially a war on expertise. It's not so much antimodernism or the distrust of the intellectual elites that Richard Hofstader teased out of the national DNA, although both of these things are part of it. The rise of Idiot America today reflects — for profit, mainly, but also and more cynically, for political advantage and in the pursuit of power — the breakdown of the consensus that the pursuit of knowledge is a good. It also represents the ascendancy of the notion that the people we should trust the least are the people who know the best what they're talking about. In the new media age, everybody is a historian, or a scientist, or a preacher, or a sage. And if everyone is an expert, then nobody is, and the worst thing you can be in a society where everybody is an expert is, well, an actual expert.

This is how Idiot America engages itself. It decides, en masse, with a million keystrokes and clicks of the remote control, that because there are two sides to every question, they both must be right, or at least not wrong. And the words of an obscure biologist carry no more weight on the subject of biology than do the thunderations of some turkeyneck preacher out of Christ's Own Parking Structure in DeLand, Florida. Less weight, in fact, because our scientist is an "expert" and therefore, an "elitist." Nobody buys his books. Nobody puts him on cable. He's brilliant, surely, but no different from the rest of us, poor fool."

I must say this is long overdue. I have run into many a creationist fool who thinks she knows more about the age of the earth than the consensus of geologists who have studied it their entire lives. We all know the creationist fools who are sure that they have the theory of evolution all figured out, and can't see why biologists who have studied this their entire lives just don't see the simple truth they do. Of course, many of them realize how absurd this is and so they cover by saying that these folks keep quiet because they'll be thrown out of academia if they dare to disagree, or they simply uphold these things because they want to have the freedom to sin without fear of hellfire.

I, and many other atheists, have no right to be smug: In the past I have thought that perhaps the scholarly community was wrong about the existence of Jesus. Or at least, that New Testament scholars were overblowing the case for an historical Jesus. I now realize what a mistake I made. Rest assured that this did not come out of the blue, for the past several weeks I have been thinking and have made up my mind that it is probable that Jesus really was. I have two primary pieces of evidence for this:

1. Galatians 1:19, in which Paul claims to have met James, the brother of the Lord. This was written about 20 years after Jesus died. The plainest reading of the text would suggest this was a flesh and blood brother of Jesus (not to mention the fact that a James is named as a blood brother of Jesus in the gospels). So Paul must have, at very minimum, thought that he was conversing with a brother of Jesus, and by implication he thought Jesus was real. Furthermore, it is hard to see how Paul's letters would have been accepted by the Christian community if they did not also believe that Jesus was real. Now why would these folks, just twenty years after Jesus supposedly lived, think he was an earthly person? The best explanation is that he was.

2. If you read the end of the gospel of Matthew, you will notice that Matthew tells of a report amongst the Jews that the disciples stole Jesus' body, to which Matthew replies that the guards were paid to say this. Let's think about this for a minute: If the gospels are symbolic fiction, as mythicists believe, wouldn't Matthew have reacted to this rumor amongst the Jews by saying that the empty tomb was not literal, but only a symbolic expression meant to convey some spiritual truth? I suppose a mythicist could argue that the story of the Jews' rumor and its reply all have some symbolic meaning. That's fine. But the burden of proof is on them to show that this interpretation is correct, since the plainest, simplest reading of the text does not indicate any such thing. The best explanation is that the gospels were not (completely) symbolic myths, and that there was a real person who inspired the gospel stories.

What about the arguments for Jesus mythicism? Well, the primary piece of evidence cited in favor of mythicism is that Paul said almost nothing about the historical Jesus, and that the very few passages in his writing which appear to refer to a historical Jesus can also be interpreted as having some symbolic meaning. I think the fact that Paul says little about Jesus as an actual person means nothing, because Paul tells us that he recieved his info on Jesus not from men, but from visions and reading OT scripture. A person relying on sources like these wouldn't say much about the gospel Jesus, whether he existed or not.

The other argument commonly used in favor of mythicism is the fact that there are no references to Jesus outside of the New Testament. While this may disprove a miracle-working Jesus, it does not disprove a poor, apocalyptic prophet named Jesus (who was an ordinary man) who gave rise to the gospel stories.


Jon said...

Your point on Galatians is fair. I don't agree on Matthew. I happen to think Matthew thought Jesus was historical. He doesn't recognize that Mark is writing what he (Mark) knows is fiction. He takes Mark as history and re-writes him to suit his own ends. Matthew believes in a literal empty tomb. What is he basing this on though? Looks to me like a re-write of Mark. But Mark is symbolic, not historical.

Robert Morane said...

There's a difference between scientists and religious experts.

Scientists want to know how the world works. However it works, it's fine with them - all they care about is how it actually works.

Religious experts have a commitment to their faith, and so they are unlikely to accept a conclusion that casts doubt on their faith.

So a Christian scholar is not likely to accept that Jesus did not exist, for that would mean that his faith is wrong.

So while doubting experts in general in not wise, doubting religious experts in general is.

AIGBusted said...

Hey Robert,

Keep in mind that most biblical scholars have come to conclusions that most fundies would think atheistic. James McGrath admitted that the birth narratives of Jesus are fictional, for example.

Steven Carr said...

I think the fact that Paul says little about Jesus as an actual person means nothing, because Paul tells us that he recieved his info on Jesus not from men, but from visions and reading OT scripture.

Yes, in Galatians 1 , he says he didn't get things from a man, he got them from Jesus.

And in Romans 16, he says Jesus had been revealed through scripture.

Steven Carr said...

I think the fact that Paul says little about Jesus as an actual person means nothing...

Presumably because Christians did not ask Paul questions about the historical Jesus, as they knew he could not answer any questions about an historical Jesus, what with him being a leader in the church.

And Paul could write whole books of theology without ever once quoting what Jesus had said or done as relevant.

Romans 3
What advantage, then, is there in being a Jew, or what value is there in circumcision? Much in every way! First of all, they have been entrusted with the very words of God.

Paul says Jews have as their first advantage, been entrusted with the words of God - ie the Hebrew Scriptures.

You or I might think that having Jesus being God made Flesh and appearing in Jerusalem and preaching to Jews would also be an advantage.

But Paul is really rather blase about the benefits to Jews of having his Lord and Saviour that he worshipped appearing in their midst just a few years previously.

Hey, the Jews had the Book of Obadiah. What advantage would they have got by having Jesus among them, raising people from the dead....

Steven Carr said...

While this may disprove a miracle-working Jesus, it does not disprove a poor, apocalyptic prophet named Jesus (who was an ordinary man) who gave rise to the gospel stories.

And the character of Sherlock Holmes was based on a real person.

Without that real person, the Sherlock Holmes stories would never have been written.

So Sherlock Holmes existed, as the real person gave rise to the stories.

Jesus was probably as real as Sherlock Holmes, who can be proved to have existed, as the character of Sherlock Holmes was based on a real person.

Liz said...

Part 2

I was not brought up as a Christian; I was brought up by two agnostic/atheist academics who never attended any religious institution, for whom reading continually was as natural as breathing. Reading became as natural as breathing for myself and my brother as well. So the knee-jerk argument that anyone crediting the plausibility of historic references to Jesus must be brainwashed by religion is baloney. Not only is it baloney as applied to me; it’s baloney as applied to 99.9% of the extremely skeptical colleagues and friends of my parents whom I got to know — and know well — when growing up.

The reason why so many rigorous NON-DENOMINATIONAL scholars and academics with degrees and professional training in this field — professional scholars like April DeConick — continue to be so leery of these fanciful mythicist notions is because they so often do require a flagrant disregard of the principle of Occam’s Razor. Not only are we supposed to assume a series of coincidences in order to shrug off Chapter XX of the Josephus Antiquities; that is compounded by a similarly twisted skein of reasoning that we must evidently apply to Galatians — at the same time! Both texts(!!!!!!!!!) just happen to have been coincidentally distorted vis-a-vis the way they’re read today. How convenient is that?

The dishonest methods of many of the mythicists suggest in addition a proselytizing mindset rather than a research one. This really isn’t just a matter of whether or not some ancient eccentric did or didn’t exist. It’s a very basic misinformation campaign on how to read history. My atheist father happened to be a pretty d**n rigorous history professor, and I don’t mind saying that this whole discussion is turning pretty personal for me, as a result.

To be even blunter about this, one chief concern I have about this Jesus mythicist program is the way their dishonest methods might really take off, if they're not checked right now, and bleed over into successful denialist agendas aimed at other crucial hinges in history like the Armenian genocide, the Trail of Tears, the Nazi holocaust, the McCarthy era, the Flight 93 heroes, Stalin's gulags, the Guantanamo gulag, the Allende assassination, ante-bellum slavery, the Salem witch trials, the Rwanda genocide, Srebenica, the Spanish Inquisition, and on and on. It's no joke. Whether or not you accept the Christian creed, the way the Roman Empire treated not only Jesus but many of his colleagues and his posthumous followers for over a century is simply shameful. And it's creepy to me the way people even now are still trying to "forget" the Armenian genocide. While I'm happy that Obama was forthright enough in his latest trip abroad in decrying anyone who denies the Nazi holocaust, his not holding Turkey's feet to the fire on the Armenians is uncomfortably convenient, IMO.

Reading the downright lying assertions by various mythicists -- [paraphrases]"Paul never refers to Jesus as a human being who lived and died"(!), "there are many suspicions voiced on Antiquities 20 by accredited scholars in academe"(!), "all Jesus's sayings uniformly have precedents in prior philosophies and creeds"(!) -- I can easily imagine the same Big-Lie tactics used against the evidence for the Trail of Tears, the McCarthy era, the Guantanamo gulag and so on.........."Oh, historians exaggerate, show me where there are actual contemporary reports or accounts of even one entire Japanese-American family being summarily swept up without due process; why everyone knows the [so-and-so] account was just faked and there's no reference to that text until many years after the war was all over" or "Anne Frank was a fictional character, obviously, and it shouldn't surprise us that she's passed off as having died in a camp so no one can question her" or "the Spanish Inquisition was hardly as cruel as anti-Catholics like to make out; it's just a conspiracy to put everything that's Roman Catholic in a bad light". Do remarks like these seem ridiculous? Yes. But that hardly changes how dangerous they are.

Liz said...

Part 4

To illustrate once and for all some of the chief aspects in mythicists' methods that trouble me so, I'm going to provide here another posting that I submitted, goodness knows when(!), to another board. I was just starting my journey to real impatience with some of the mythicists at the time, but I wasn't yet where I am now. The discussion centered around an on-line extract of some of G.A.Wells, in response to a Holding piece against Wells's argument. I frankly find many of Holding's arguments dubious as well, so I found some of what Wells says rather cogent. What the appraisal of Wells's piece did for me, though, was help clarify, in my own mind, just why I'm troubled so by so much of the type of reasoning I see among the mythicists. I realize that Wells isn't really a true mythicist, but it strikes me that he buys into some of their methods.

The article in question is at:


Here's what I wrote at the time --

[POST] People who've cited Wells as another all-out mythicist -- and I include myself, unfortunately -- are simply wrong. If mythicists think to cite Wells as a way of showing that there is yet one more researcher out there who shares their views on historicity, they are sadly mistaken. This article makes it quite clear that Wells has concluded that there was definitely a real Galilean preacher who was called Jesus, who said the things credited to him in Q, and who lived in the first half of the 1st century c.e. At the same time, where most secular historians assume that this Jesus's purported Birth and Resurrection constitute ad hoc tales not associated with the real history of the Galilean preacher, Wells simply extends that to the actual execution as well, the crucifixion as an ad hoc tale as well.

Wells makes this argument in the first half of the article and points, among other things, to the absence of anything to do with the Christ figure in Q. (OTOH, the name Jesus does appear 12 times [I made a count] in the Q passages, at least two of those being in a passage like Luke 9:57-60, where there is no mention of anything supernatural or miraculous. And this does not contradict Wells's contention, since he accepts the historicity of Jesus the Galilean preacher anyway.) He also points to the presence of the "Christ" term in numerous New Testament letters, not just Paul's, reminding the reader that many of these -- again, not just Paul's -- are presumed to be earlier than the Gospels.

I have to say that up to a point (outlined below) Wells's case seems fairly persuasive that the Christ is one figure -- a supernatural entity envisioned purely by Paul -- and Jesus quite another -- a real Galilean preacher who lived during the first half of the 1st century c.e. In fact, the texts he describes in the article's first half, texts reflecting one figure or the other, appear consistent with his theory. He uses logic up to that point and seems ready to retain that logic for the article's second half. Throughout, his main focus is on Holding's argument against all his theories, and he seeks to show, by constantly referencing Holding, that his reasoning is far sounder than Holding's. Up to a point, it is. And one is prepared to expect him to maintain the disciplined logic that typifies his argument in the first half.

But he doesn't. And when he drops that logic, he loses credibility and this reader's trust and his case collapses like a house of cards, IMO.

Liz said...

Part 5

The final section starts responsibly enough. Towards the end of the second half, after going through the most important secular non-Scriptural references to Jesus, and after showing their relative lateness and their essential "second-tier status", so to speak (possibly using hearsay from Christians), he finally addresses the two passages in Josephus's Antiquities from the 90s in the 1st century c.e. He spends quite some time on Antiquities 18, the T.F. passage, which has seemed, to scholars of various persuasions, somewhat corrupted, via Josephus's use of Christian terms and assertions. To those like myself who are fairly familiar with (and suspicious of) the odd Christian-like assertions here, and also familiar with the second-earliest text of this passage, which appears in an Arabic quote by someone else from the 10th century where none of the Christian glossing seems present (Eusebius's 4th-century citation is the earliest), Wells adds nothing new. But Wells is useful in that he assembles all the arguments against the authenticity of the fuller version extant in all the actual Antiquities mss., a manuscript tradition that only starts in the 11th century.

So far, so good. But after using up eleven paragraphs on Antiquities 18, he only spends one paragraph on Antiquities 20, the Josephan reference to James as the brother of Jesus, called Christ! In that one paragraph, he writes:

"The shorter passage in the Antiquities that mentions Jesus consists of a reference to James "the brother of Jesus, him called Christ". Holding recognizes that some scholars regard the phrase as interpolated, for reasons which I have given in JL, pp. 52-55. Certainly, the use of the term 'Christ' (Messiah) without explanation in both passages is not to be expected of Josephus who takes considerable care not to call anyone Christ or Messiah, as the term had overtones of revolution and independence, of which, as a lackey of the Roman royal house, he strongly disapproved. Also, it is not true that the phrase 'him called so-and-so' is either invariably dismissive in Josephus' usage (so that it would mean 'so-called', 'alleged' and so could not here be from a Christian hand), nor that 'him called Christ' is an unchristian usage an interpolator would have avoided. (On the contrary, the phrase occurs, as a designation of Jesus, both in the NT and in Justin Martyr's Apology, 1, 30.)"

That's all. No acknowledgement that this account of James cannot come from Scripture, since it's different in substantive detail from anything about James we see in the canon. How likely then that this account ever came from believers? No discussion either of the target of the general outrage that Josephus describes in his paragraph 20, an outrage aimed at one Ananus for exceeding his authority. The focus of this paragraph is Ananus, not James, who remains incidental to Josephus's story here.

No discussion either of the most salient aspect in the written documentation for this sentence: the fact that written references to this sentence, complete with "Jesus, him called Christ", are extant almost immediately upon Josephus's writing it, whereas with Antiquities 18 -- reflecting a pattern that Wells does not hesitate to underscore -- we have no reference until Eusebius's first as late as the 4th century, after which many centuries pass before we even get a second. Wells spends time on that curious pattern for Antiq. 18, but totally covers up the contrasting pattern for Antiq. 20. Here is where he loses credibility in my eyes. His integrity as a historian, all the careful reasoning that he displays in the first half -- all this seems abandoned in this perfunctory, dishonest and evasive paragraph on Antiq. 20.

Liz said...

Part 6

Finally, we have a truly evasive tactic in Wells's airy reference to "some scholars" feeling that this too is interpolated -- without explaining why "some" feel it's interpolated, as if the mere suspicion were good enough to put it under a cloud! Well, he does explain in detail why Antiq. 18 could have interpolations or could be interpolated wholesale; so why not provide the same detail for Antiq. 20? His merely saying that Josephus was unlikely to have ever used the term "Christ" does not deal in any disciplined way with this particular use of the term "Christ" in this particular passage! More evasion.

In any case, there are a fair number of Jesus figures throughout Josephus. Specifying which Jesus Josephus is writing of by merely citing the term that distinguishes him in the public's mind is not endorsing that term! What's he supposed to have done? Leave the reader hanging without specifying which Jesus at all? Furthermore, the use of the turn of phrase, "some scholars", intimates a fair number of real scholars, when there are only the tiniest handful of dabblers out there, many of them amateurs. That may not be mendacious of Wells, but it is misleading. [/POST]

-- That's what I wrote.

Someone at that other board responded to what I'd written on Wells by asking which "canon" I was referring to, suggesting that the believers' "canon" of the '90s in the 1st century c.e. might have included a thing or two on James that Josephus was merely parroting. A fair question, but it still falls afoul of Occam's Razor in a way similar to the manner in which a number of other mythicist arguments do, and I pointed that out in my response --

[POST] Too convenient. You're violating Occam's Razor to suppose that there was a lost Scriptural text that just happened to address an alternate fate for James. What we have is a continuous non-variant flow of text that is attested to with no variants in Josephus's own time, in a number of contemporary citations, describing an uprising against Ananus in which this James figures tangentially. Furthermore, the kinds of writings that appear to have slipped between the cracks in the canonical process are texts like Thomas, etc., in which doctrinal aspects are directly involved, suggesting that texts that were "lost" were texts that really violated the steadily hardening doctrines of the 3rd and 4th centuries. Nothing doctrinal is involved in the person James. And even those texts that are both in Scripture and outside it but presented as faith works (like letters from Clement or Gospels like Thomas) simply don't bother with James or Jesus's siblings in general. I understand what you're saying, but it remains a very forced argument. [/POST]

-- That was my response.

Finally, someone else thought that I was somehow applying Occam's Razor to this reading of Josephus 20 as a way of showing "proof" that the familiar reading of the passage is right and the mythicist reading is wrong. He took exception to this, since, as he stressed, Occam's Razor is strictly a rule of thumb for ascertaining the preferable, not the proved. Somehow, he had thought I intended to apply Occam's Razor in order to establish "proof" rather than relative likelihood. But I had plainly intended the latter only. Once again, you see, here was someone (effectively) conflating evidence and proof as one and the same.

Liz said...

Part 7

I wrote back:

[POST] Very well, then: To establish an arbitrary premise that there is this hypothetical lost "faith text" that describes a different fate for James than we have in known Scripture is tantamount to making this "explanation less preferable to those other theories that contain" fewer "premises", thus going against the principle of Occam's Razor. And the degree to which this notion is less preferable to others is exacerbated by shaky speculation that (another hypothesis here!) this hypothetical lost "faith text" is the basis of a paragraph in Antiquities that (unlike the one in Antiq. 18) just happens to run seamlessly with everything before and after it! Such a convoluted theory is hardly preferable to the more straightforward reading of this passage as simply a unified account by Josephus of events that he knew of in the same way that he knew of most of the other events narrated in his chronicle: his personal spadework.

I certainly didn't intend -- and if the implication seems otherwise, that's unintentionally misleading on my part -- to present the application of Occam's Razor in this case as a way of proving anything absolute when it comes to "the correct" reading of this passage. I was speaking strictly to preferability only, not to proof. There is no "proved" way of reading anything in the ancient world.

After all, there is no lack of evidence for an historical Jesus. There is a lack of proof, such as we might see in something like the most carefully researched Times article on some current-day headline, say, that vexes those who doubt there is a historical Jesus. This distinction between evidence and proof is rarely addressed. By necessity, historians of the ancient world can deal only in evidence, never in proof. Extending that further, in cases like the present one of this ancient chronicle by Josephus, proof on any one reading of a given passage is likewise not out there either. In fact, in all studies of all documents related to the ancient world, proof is never an option, only likelihood and and preferability. That's the nature of this beast. Whether we are assessing one sentence in one contemporary chronicle of that distant period, or assessing an entire biography back then, the same thing applies: ancient documents yield only evidence pointing to relative likelihoods and preferabilities; they never yield proof.

Consequently, when I apply something like Occam's Razor, in this kind of ancient context, to show the ridiculousness of some far-fetched notion, I am always dealing strictly in relative likelihoods and preferabilities only, never in disproof and/or proof. The latter is not an option. You can take this as a given: evidence and preferabilities and likelihoods are the sum total of what any historian of the ancient world can tell you. If we allow only proof to determine history, then history would have to start strictly with the Renaissance and no earlier! [/POST]

That concludes the third post. Thanks for your attention for what I realize is a pretty candid overview.


Steven Carr said...

To be even blunter about this, one chief concern I have about this Jesus mythicist program is the way their dishonest methods might really take off, if they're not checked right now, and bleed over into successful denialist agendas aimed at other crucial hinges in history like the Armenian genocide, the Trail of Tears, the Nazi holocaust, the McCarthy era, the Flight 93 heroes, Stalin's gulags, the Guantanamo gulag, the Allende assassination, ante-bellum slavery, the Salem witch trials, the Rwanda genocide, Srebenica, the Spanish Inquisition, and on and on.

This is vile.

What we have is a continuous non-variant flow of text that is attested to with no variants in Josephus's own time, in a number of contemporary citations, describing an uprising against Ananus in which this James figures tangentially.

And these are lies.

They are not 'attested to with no variants in Josephus's own time', 'in a number of contemporary citations'

Hegesippus does not quote this sentence word-for-word and does not claim Josephus ever wrote that James had been the brother of Jesus called the Christ.

Vile hate speech and lies.

Surely historicists can do better.

And I see there is no attempt whatever to address the questions raised about Paul's writings.

Liz said...

[once again, from Stone; not Liz, my better -- calmer -- half]

And some view certain mythicist remarks as hate speech. Pot and kettle? Wake up, folks! This mythicist agenda provides deadly tools of prevarication and elaborate lies through sheer repetition that can be sharpened and used in 101 different ways to cover up any number of atrocities that ought never be forgotten but may be. Somebody better start collecting eyewitness accounts of Guantanamo/Abu Ghraib now. Put them all in a carefully sourced book before denialists can pounce.

Don't let any Big Lie go unchallenged. Ever. It was the Big Lie that FDR's banking laws were unneeded that precipitated the laissez-faire time bomb in the '80s leading to the big crash of '08. History DOES repeat itself if not safeguarded vigilantly. Don't let tools of the Big Lie in the mythicist arsenal become sharpened weapons for every whitewash of every atrocity in history. In the age of the Web, any trickster can communicate with everyone and get away with anything; the time to challenge Big-Lie methods is right now. Not through censorship, but through backbone. Talk back. Don't be cowed by a sneer.

I surprise myself by how increasingly alarmed I now feel at the mythicist agenda. As a skeptic and not a traditional believer, I have viewed the theory as unlikely but still possible. Where I surprise myself today is the degree to which the more I read mythicist tracts, the more unexpected is my response. Maybe I half thought that further reading might intrigue me more with a possibility that even Jesus the ordinary man, let alone the Son-of-God-Cosmic-Savior-Miracle-Worker-Resurrectionist, was also pure fiction. Usually, in-depth reading of a distinct point of view, especially from a neutral perspective, only gains one a better understanding of a given point of view. Well, it certainly did for me here...but not in a direction of more sympathy! -- Yes, it afforded a better understanding of the arguments; that's for sure. But at the same time, having started out neutral, a better understanding of the arguments only generated an unexpected feeling of being thoroughly creeped out!

The problem's not a lack of evidence for an historical Jesus. It's a lack of 21st-century-type proof. This distinction between evidence and proof is rarely addressed. Now, 21st-century-type proof simply isn't out there; professional scholars in ancient history understand that. Compounding the problem is the anachronistic way many mythicists read even the most straightforward secular documents.

Antiquities 20 is a typical example. One reason why mythicists look askance at the Ananus paragraph is because they don't see how somewhat discursive writing style comes with the territory in these old writings.

On the one hand, it's true many mythicists assume one simply can't imagine Josephus using the term "Christ" under any circumstances. And on the other, a frequent reason given by mythicists why we should look askance at this reference is the odd word order. But the word order in "the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ [tou legomenou Christou], whose name was James" is characteristic of Josephus:

Wars 2.21.1
a man of Gischala, the son of Levi, whose name was Johnâ;

Ant. 5.8.1
but he had also one that was spurious, by his concubine Drumah, whose
name was Abimelech;

Ant. 11.5.1
Now about this time a son of Jeshua, whose name was Joacim, was the
high priest.

This is a good example of why one should be steeped in the writing style before plunging in with both feet. The main remaining argument against Antiq. 20 is the notion of another sibling pair called James/Jesus, where this Jesus too is called "Annointed". This combination of hypotheticals, going against the Occam Razor principle, and of sheer coincidence boggles the mind!

There's also my own impatience operating here; I freely admit that. I find the general evasiveness that marks the mythicist take drives me up the wall.


Steven Carr said...

Still not even an attempt at answering mythicist points about Paul.

All we have are claims that Josephus would have called Jesus 'the Christ', using words found in Matthew 1:16.

However, Luke/Acts never claims Jesus had a brother called James, deliberately erasing Mark's mention of this brother.

If James really was a brother of Jesus, why does Luke/Acts airbrush this out of Christian history?

The Epistle of James and the Epistle of Jude also lack any idea that there was a brother of Jesus called James.

The story in Josephus makes no sense if James was a Christian.

The authorities just could have deposed the High Priest because he upset the population so much by having one of the blaspheming Christians killed, who were claiming that a man was God.

This was the ultimate blasphemy to Jews, who apparently allowed such a sect to be in Jerusalem for decades before killing its leader James.

This killing of a blasphemer *could* have upset the Jews so much that the High Priest could have been deposed.

And then the Jews *could* have made Jesus, son of Damnaeus , High Priest as compensation for the fact that the James who was killed just happened to have a brother called Jesus.

A different Jesus, of course, but if a brother of one Jesus is killed, then justice would demand that the brother of a different Jesus is put into his place.

And then the authors of Luke/Acts,James, Jude would all try to whitewash from church records all mention of this James ever having seen Jesus, let alone having been a brother of Jesus.

Yes, that must be what must have happened.

After all, if Josephus includes a bit of Matthew 1:16 in his text, this is no more suspicious than if Muslims spent centuries copying pagan texts and we found a bit of the Koran in them.

Only a denialist would even think of wondering if an interpolation had happened.

It would be just denialism to suggest an interpolation had happened if Muslims copied a pagan texts for 1000 years and a bit of the Koran appeared in one of them....

Liz said...

[once again, from Stone; not Liz, my better -- calmer -- half]

Let's see. Mr. Carr evidently puts more value in Luke/Acts than in the earlier Mark! -- Hey, I thought none of these texts were real history, what happened?

In the case of the letters, he argues from absence, the sure mark of an amateur.

He does the classic mythicist prevarication by pretending that the Josephus account in Antiquities 20 involves outrage over the person executed rather than obvious outrage over a High Priest exceeding his authority.

As for the turn of phrase, "tou legomenou Christou", it's used in all sorts of contexts, venerational and otherwise, and its presence in Antiq. 20 does not prove any textual dependency whatsoever.

Had enough yet?


Steven Carr said...

Still no response as to why Paul thought the advantage of the Jews was that they had been entrusted with Scriptures.

And not that Jesus had been raising their dead, or that they had witnessed amazing miracles just
a few years earlier.

He does the classic mythicist prevarication by pretending that the Josephus account in Antiquities 20 involves outrage over the person executed rather than obvious outrage over a High Priest exceeding his authority.

I see. So Josephus had to identify exactly the person executed because the passage wasn't about outrage over the person executed.

I already said that the Jews would *not* have been outraged by a blaspheming idolator being killed, so it seems historicists have no answers except vile hate speech, lies, silence and misrepresentation.

Why does Luke/Acts whitewash any mention of any James having ever seen Jesus, if this James really had been the brother of Jesus?

Answers please, rather than abuse, name calling and a determination to make the historicist case look weak by refusing to address the text.

Liz said...

The very fact that Josephus couples James "along with some others" proves that James is not central to the story; Ananus's exceeding his authority is.