Book Plunge: Unmasking the Jesus Myth

What do I think of Stephen Bedard’s book on Jesus mythicism? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

I want to thank Stephen Bedard for sending me his latest book on this topic. Bedard is one Christian who still wants to give time to Jesus mythicism and addressing it. I do as well, but it is becoming less common mainly because when we meet anyone who is a mythicist, we tend to see them as beyond reasonable discussion. The rules of historiography are changed to allow for this.

Bedard has put together a small book that you could read in a couple of hours on the topic so you can be familiar with it. He has put some of the most important information in there such as stories of the pagan gods that Jesus is said to be a copy of. He also points out that this is not a scholarly debate at all. Instead, it is a debate that is largely taking place on the internet. If you meet someone who says academics in the field don’t even know if Jesus existed, you have met someone who doesn’t know what they’re talking about.

Of course, at this, someone is going to say “Richard Carrier!” Yes. Bedard talks about him as well and Robert Price as lone exceptions to the rule of scholars in the field. Note that these are exceptions. They also do not teach at accredited universities. There’s a reason for that. Mythicism is just not taken seriously.

Still, since Carrier is mentioned, I do wish Bedard had spent more time talking about Carrier’s hypothesis about Jesus being a cosmic being who was supposedly crucified in outer space and that the accounts eventually became historicized. The dying and rising gods idea is still out there and still needs to be addressed, but this is an approach that a lot of people are not familiar with and can lead to some people being caught off guard.

In fact, this is the real ultimate problem with mythicism. It is not that the arguments are so powerful. It’s that they’re so bizarre. Many would have a hard time answering them for the same reason they’d have a hard time answering objections to the idea that we really landed on the moon. Moon landing conspiracy theorists have outlandish claims that a man on the street will not be familiar with and even if you read scholarly literature you will not be familiar with. Mythicists tend to take this strange ideas and run with them thinking they’re gold. When you listen to a mythicist talk, you will often hear unaccepted claim after unaccepted claim in a sort of shotgun approach. (I was there when Craig Evans debated Richard Carrier. I saw Carrier doing just this.)

Still, Bedard’s book is a good summary of the situation. If you have read extensively on this topic, you won’t really find anything new here, but if you aren’t familiar with it, then Bedard’s book can be a really good place to begin. While it is short, it is indeed filled with important information to help you counter the claims of mythicists.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Embarrassment of Mythicist Milwaukee

Exactly how embarrassing is Jesus Mythicism? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Yesterday on Facebook my friend Tyler Vela tagged me in a thread that was started by the group Mythicist Milwaukee (MM). Now if you’re not familiar with the term mythicist, a mythicist refers to someone who says that Jesus never existed. They’re not saying there was a Jesus but He never claimed to be divine or that He never rose from the dead. No. They’re out there saying that there never was a historical Jesus. The whole idea is a myth. Now how many scholars in NT and classics teaching at an accredited university hold to this position? None. It’s a joke in academic circles. You might as well tell a geology convention that the Earth is flat, but alas. MM is in the position of having to defend a ludicrous position and sadly marrying it to atheism.

You see, a few days ago I made this meme along the lines of Be like Bill:

BelikeBillHistoricalJesus

Now I’m not saying be like Bill in his atheism of course, but be like Bill in that you can at least recognize the evidence points to a historical Jesus. As it would be, just a few days later came the incident with Tyler Vela and normally, I wouldn’t bother, but I decided to respond. What happened? I wrote out a short response but one with substance to make my case as did Albert Mcilhenny who I have interviewed before on this topic. So we both make our responses and what happens?

Deleted! MM just didn’t want to deal with us and so they blocked us from commenting. Now perhaps some of you are thinking I’m being paranoid and making it up. No. I am not. I am not because they themselves said that’s what they did.

MMSmotestrolls

Of course, this didn’t stop them from putting up a link to the debate I had with Ken Humphreys that’s on YouTube and saying how they loved the comments section on this (After they had banned us!) Yes. Of course. In other words, we went on YouTube and saw that there are a bunch of people that agree with us and they are typing what we think as well.

well-isnt-that-special-300x211

To make the movement even more ludicrous, they also have a link up to a birther challenge for Jesus. Now of course, we could all understand wanting evidence for the historical Jesus, of which there is plenty, but what is not understood is making the standards so unreasonable that no one from ancient history hardly would pass the cut. That is exactly what has been done. You can see that challenge here.

So what are the criteria of their challenge?

A.) A contemporary 1st century person who has been proven to be historical, that lived between the years of 6 B.C.E. – 36 C.E., who was a first-hand eye-witness, who actually saw, met, spoke to, and knew jesus personally.

B.) Provide this person’s original and authentic: secular, non-christian, non-religious, unbiased, non-bible, non-gospel, and non-scripture writing, that is directly about jesus, with references/citations to prove that this person actually wrote the work in question. The writing has to be independently and Scientifically radiocarbon dated between the years of 6 B.C.E. – 53 C.E. Additional religious or christian writings that can’t be used: papyri, uncials, minuscules, lectionaries, didache, apocrypha, gnostic, catechism, and pseudepigrapha.

It’s a wonder why no one has done this. Well no, it isn’t. It’s because this would eliminate the existence of 99.99999% of people who existed in the ancient world and whose existence we have zero doubts about, and yet this is considered some way to do history. If the Jesus Birther Movement is so convinced, let them instead of just punting to Richard Carrier, present this to historians in a peer-reviewed process to see how well it will work.

At this some of you might be wondering about my statement about marrying this to their atheism. Alas, I am not making it up. I do not think atheism is a true position, but there are great thinkers who do come to that conclusion and that is a position held by many in the academy. Such is not the same with mythicism. So how does MM marry mythicism to their atheism? Look at the meme they shared with the challenge.

Jesusbirtherchallenge

Note the “claimed” atheists with the implication that an atheist could not believe in a historical Jesus. Well they certainly could and not only that, they certainly should. Why? Because while the existence of Jesus has religious overtones, it is not at its heart a religious question. It is a historical question. What that means can be religious, but if you look at history, then the case is that Jesus existed. An atheist could use most of the arguments I use against Jesus mythicism. It’s just so sad that MM will call someone’s atheism into question for not supporting mythicism.

To all of this I say if you are an atheist, okay. I disagree with you, but please have some sense enough to not be a mythicist. If someone thinks young-earth creationism (And I am not a YEC) is a crazy position, there are more ph.d.’s in related fields that hold to YEC than there are to mythicism. The reason is that is just where the evidence leads. Atheists that are mythicists are just serving to dumb down atheistic thinking and weaken their stance.

Ironically then, I consider people like Richard Carrier and MM to be gifts to the church. We should thank God every day that these people are doing what they’re doing to atheism. It can easily be argued that mythicism is a conspiracy theory for atheists. I could not sum this up better than what Bart Ehrman himself said.

Be an atheist if you wish, but do not add being foolish to it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Wrong Jesus

What do I think of Greg Monette’s book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Greg Monette is a good friend of mine who is doing his doctoral work under Craig Evans. He recently sent me his book “The Wrong Jesus” and wanted to see what I would think of it. I am pleased to say that this is a book I can indeed highly recommend for seekers and those learning to defend their faith.

Monette starts off with a piece on why it is that history matters. He talks about his own journey into doubt and how it was that the only way to get past it was to study the evidence. He gives the wise advice that there are no shortcuts in this field. I fully agree and that is something that must be stated in our society today that likes to think that everything is right at our fingertips which should include understanding. Data and facts can be present immediately to us. The understanding of that data is not.

He also deals early on with the idea that Jesus never even existed. While I think he did a fine job on this chapter, I was concerned that Richard Carrier was never mentioned. It is not because Carrier makes good arguments against Jesus’s existence. It is that Carrier is much better known to the laypeople I suspect than Robert Price, which I particularly notice when atheists regularly cite Carrier in response to any scholar whatsoever.

From here on, Monette deals with various questions such as the reliability of the New Testament texts, the question of if archaeology has helped us understand the Bible, if Jesus was a femininist, were the birth accounts based on legends, and were the Gospels written by eyewitnesses. Of course, there are others, but these are all important questions to be asked.

In fact, a major criticism that I would have is that in fact the book is not long enough. There were many areas I would have liked to have seen more expansion on. Sometimes it would seem like I’d get enough to just get someone’s feet wet and then it’d move on. Still, I understand the book could have been doubled in size had my desires been met. Fortunately, Monette does make up for this by having recommended reading at the end of every chapter.

Also at the end of every chapter there is a section that contains questions for discussion. I find this to be an important aspect to have in a book like this and I would be thrilled if the day came that people were reading The Wrong Jesus in church small groups more than reading books by, say, Rachel Held Evans or Joyce Meyer or others.

Monette also throws a lot of humor into the book which I consider a plus. An excellent example of this is his counter-theories to the resurrection where he plays out humorously why the opposing explanations for the resurrection just do not work. There is a good deal of sarcasm involved here which is always a bonus for me.

One aspect that is lacking in the book is that there is no index. It would be incredibly helpful to be able to look up something in the index for future reference if anyone comes back to the book for a second time, which I would encourage that they do.

In conclusion, Monette has given the church an excellent book that is well-written and engaging and can keep the reader’s interest. More importantly, it’s filled with excellent information that will prepare the reader to go out and fulfill the Great Commission.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Five Views on the Historical Jesus

What do I think of the five views? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Historical Jesus study is one of the most controversial fields today. Despite what many atheists today think, it’s not filled with conservative evangelical Christians. Oh sure, some are in there, but any one can be a historical Jesus scholar regardless of their worldview.

So what happens when you get five scholars from five different fields to come on? Everyone ends up critiquing everyone and that’s the great benefit of these counterpoint books. One gets to see multiple perspectives and how they interact.

The first view is Robert Price’s.

It’s hard to say that without snickering.

Why? Because Robert Price is one of few on the planet in the field who actually holds to the idea that Jesus never existed. His essay naturally fails to deliver as he does not interact with sources outside of the NT hardly, such as Tacitus, and he too quickly dismisses the passages in Josephus. Meanwhile, he wants to find a parallel for everything in the Gospels somewhere in the OT, and some of them particularly amusing. For instance, the healing of the paralytic in Mark 2 who was lowered through the roof is based on King Ahaziah being afflicted by falling from his roof and then the result of him lying in bed.

If you think I’m making that up, it’s on page 69. I am not.

Now of course there are some Old Testament parallels, but it should not surprise us the NT would be written in the language of the OT since these were people familiar with the OT and would be making allusions to it seeing Jesus as a fulfillment. This would in fact give honor to the person of Jesus.

The responses are just as hilarious, particularly James Dunn’s response. Dunn is absolutely stunned that someone like Price even exists. Interestingly, another scathing critique of Price’s essay comes from John Dominic Crossan.

Crossan’s essay is in fact where we’ll go next.

Crossan presents a Jesus who interacts much with the politics of his day and talks about God bringing His Kingdom. So far, so good. Yet for Crossan, Jesus had followed John the Baptist in a more apocalyptic message, but then toned it down when He saw John beheaded and decided to say the Kingdom was here in the sense that God was making His presence known. It was already here. From that point on, Jesus is a teacher of the love and grace of God.

It sounds well and good, but keep in mind Crossan has also said the crucifixion of Christ is as sure a fact as any in ancient history. As I read Crossan’s essay I kept wondering “How on Earth would this Jesus be crucified?” This Jesus might be at worst an annoyance, but He would not strike anyone as a political revolutionary. He would not be teaching a message that would be radical to the people of the time.

This Jesus then is not the one that I think could be the Jesus of the Gospels. He would not be someone who is stirring up controversy whatsoever. Pilate would not have considered him a threat. No one would have considered that He was in anyway thinking He was a Messiah or a King.

The next essay is by Luke Timothy Johnson. Johnson has a unique approach and it’s rather difficult to figure out. He wants us to study history, but he wants us to realize that history has limits. From what I gather, Johnson is more interested in us getting to know the person of Jesus by reading the Gospels as literary works. No harm there. That should be done.

My concern with this is that it gives the impression that it’s praising history from one viewpoint and going against it from another. If Johnson’s view is that studying the Gospels will not tell us everything about the historical Jesus, well who would disagree with that?

At the same time, I do think Johnson deserves the rightful praise for reminding us that whatever genre the Gospels are, and I hold that they are Greco-Roman bioi, that we should definitely read them as works of literature.

The next essay is James Dunn. Personally, I found this one the most helpful essay of all. Dunn presents a brief look at what he has in Jesus Remembered, a massive work of his on the historical Jesus. He invites the reader to look into the question of the oral tradition and reminds us that our society is different from theirs.

He also asks us to look at why things happened. Why did Jesus have such an impact on the disciples and this even before the events of Easter? What was it about Jesus that made the difference? These are the kinds of questions that need to be asked, especially when dealing with more fundamentalist types like Bart Ehrman.

Finally, we have an essay by Darrell Bock. Bock comes from the evangelical sphere so he’s also the only one to really talk about the resurrection. I found Bock’s essay interesting but in some places, lacking. Why when Pilate’s actions are mentioned is not the death of Sejanus mentioned that would highly affect Pilate’s response? Still, one will find a good presentation of a common evangelical view of Jesus in Bock’s essay.

Of course, a book like this cannot cover everything, but it will give the layman a good introduction to how historical Jesus study takes place. I highly recommend it.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

The Apostle’s Creed: I believe in Jesus

What is the case for the historical Jesus? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Since I’ve already looked at the words I believe, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel here. So let’s move on to the next line and notice that it says that I believe in Jesus.

At the bare minimum, let’s start with Jesus. What is the case that there was a historical Jesus?

Quite good actually.

You see, a lot of Christians don’t take the time to look for this evidence. A lot of atheists don’t either, or just disregard whatever evidence is presented because it doesn’t reach a bar that they arbitrarily set. Many don’t bother to take the time to see how the ancient world worked, to which I have some excellent resources on that here, here, and here.

Ancient historiography is not modern historiography. In our day and age, we have numerous recording devices and we all have access to ways to read and write for the most part. All of us communicate through the written word to some extent and we have added mediums the ancients didn’t such as television and the internet.

Also, ancients by and large had much better memories than we do. Why should we? We can make post-it notes and have our phones be our memories and save information on our computers. If you don’t have access to technology like that, chances are you’ll use your memory a lot more.

Let’s also keep in mind some realities which I’ve explained further in an article like this that would show that in the ancient world, Jesus wasn’t really worthy of mention. He never ran for office. He never went into battle. He never traveled as an adult outside of his country. He never wrote anything that lasted. To make matters worse, he was crucified as a Messiah claimant. You might say he did miracles, but so what? You think a historian in Rome is going to take seriously the claim that a supposed Messiah who was crucified did miracles? Nope.

So what do we have on the existence of Jesus?

Well right off, we have Paul’s letters. Now some will say these don’t say a lot about the historical Jesus. That’s right, but why should they? Paul is not attempting to write a biography. He’s wanting to deal with misunderstandings that have taken place. Yet there are times he does refer to the Jesus tradition.

In 1 Cor. 11, he has the Lord’s Supper.

In 1 Cor. 7, he has the Jesus tradition on divorce and marriage.

In 1 Cor. 15, we have the excellent creed that dates to within five years of the resurrection event that lists the appearances of Jesus.

In Romans 1, we have the testimony that Jesus was of the line of David.

In various places in the Pauline epistles, we have the statement of Jesus being crucified.

In 1 Thess. 4, it is believed we have some Jesus tradition in the fourth chapter concerning the resurrection.

In Galatians 1, we learn that Jesus had brothers, especially James.

Now some of you might be saying “And don’t we have in 1 Tim. that he was crucified under Pontius Pilate?” We do, but most skeptics will not accept 1 Timothy as an actual Pauline epistle. It is universally accepted that Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon are authentic however.

After this, we also have all four Gospels. These Gospels date to the first century. For most ancient figures, if we had four sources like this within a hundred year period, we would be absolutely thrilled! Yet strangely enough, that bar is changed when we come to Jesus. Of course, anyone wanting to know about how the Gospels can be trusted is invited to listen here.

So let’s go on to sources outside the Bible. A great work you can read on these sources is “Jesus Outside the New Testament” by Robert Van Voorst. Let’s start however with Josephus. The longer reference is here.

“Antiquities 18.3.3 Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ, and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians so named from him are not extinct at this day.”

This passage is known as the Testimonium Flavianum.

There is also no doubt that there are some interpolations in here, which means later scribes added some material. The question is, is the whole thing an interpolation?

The leading Josephus scholars say no. We do have here some authentic language that comes from Josephus with some parts added in.

Yet some basic truths we could learn from the passage is that Jesus was a Jewish rabbi who was seen as one who worked miracles. He claimed to be the Messiah but was crucified under Pilate. There was a belief that He rose from the dead and the Christians named after Him persist to this day.

The idea that Jesus never existed and Josephus never mentioned him is not popular among Josephus scholars. It is a wonder why it is that we should take seriously the claims of internet atheists over scholars in the field.

What about the second passage?

Antiquities 20.9.1 But the younger Ananus who, as we said, received the high priesthood, was of a bold disposition and exceptionally daring; he followed the party of the Sadducees, who are severe in judgment above all the Jews, as we have already shown. As therefore Ananus was of such a disposition, he thought he had now a good opportunity, as Festus was now dead, and Albinus was still on the road; so he assembled a council of judges, and brought before it the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, whose name was James, together with some others, and having accused them as law-breakers, he delivered them over to be stoned.

Well this is not considered to be an interpolation at all and the reference to Jesus here points back to an earlier reference. Without the earlier reference, this latter reference makes no sense. From here, we would also get the idea that Jesus does indeed have as his brother James, which is consistent with Paul.

Next is the Roman historian Tacitus. Tacitus wrote in his Annals in 15.44 that

“But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the Bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements Which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero From the infamy of being believed to have ordered the Conflagration, the fire of Rome. Hence to suppress the rumor, he Falsely charged with the guilt, and punished Christians, who were Hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was Put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign Of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time Broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief Originated, but through the city of Rome also, where all things Hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their Center and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first Made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an Immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of Firing the city, as of hatred against mankind.”

Interestingly, this is also the only place that he refers to Pontius Pilate.

Tacitus is seen as one of the greatest if not the greatest Roman historian. There is no reason to think that he uncritically shared a rumor and this is in fact something that a Christian would not write. It is not flattering to Christ at all. It refers to a mischievous superstition and indicates that it was something hideous and shameful.

Often reasons for rejecting this passage include that Tacitus gets the idea wrong about Tacitus. He was a prefect and not a procurator. Yet it’s just fine to think that Tacitus was using the title that was around in his day to refer to Jesus. There is also a possibility that there was a fluidity between the terms. To say that it is a hard and fast error is a huge burden for the skeptic.

Our next source is Seutonius.

“As the Jews were making constant disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from Rome.”

This could in fact be a reference to what is talked about in Acts 18 when some Christians were expelled from Rome as well. At that point in time, there would not be known to be much difference between Jews and Christians. Still, some are skeptical of this.

For instance, Raphael Lataster writes that Chrestus refers to “The Good.” I wrote to my friend Ron C. Fay, a Greek expert, on this regards, only to have him tell me that it’s a Latin term and does not mean “the good.” In fact, when I contacted other Greek experts, including my own father-in-law, Mike Licona, none of them thought such a thing was even plausible.

On a prima facie basis then, there is no reason to disregard this. The burden is on the part of the mythicist.

Next we have Lucian who did not care for the Christians at all. The first reference?

“It was then that he learned the wondrous lore of the Christians, by associating with their priests and scribes in Palestine. And—how else could it be?—in a trice he made them all look like children, for he was prophet, cult-leader, head of the synagogue, and everything, all by himself. He inter preted and explained some of their books and even composed many, and they revered him as a god, made use of him as a lawgiver, and set him down as a protector, next after that other, to be sure, whom they still worship, the man who was crucified in Palestine because he introduced this new cult into the world.”

What we could get from this is that Christians worshiped Jesus and that Lucian believed that they were gullible in doing so. This would also help indicate that Christianity was a shameful belief at the time. I take the reference to a synagogue to actually show some confusion on Lucian’s part in thinking that Christianity was a sect of Judaism, or else he is just referring to a gathering that he sees as an off-shoot of Judaism, which is correct insofar as it goes, and would meet at a synagogue then as that’s where Jews met. The other lawgiver in this case then could be Moses.

What about the second reference?

“The poor wretches have convinced themselves, first and foremost, that they are going to be immortal and live for all time, in consequence of which they despise death and even willingly give themselves into custody; most of them. Furthermore, their first lawgiver persuaded them that they are all brothers of one another after they have transgressed once, for all by denying the Greek gods and by worshiping that crucified sophist himself and living under his laws. Therefore they despise all things indiscriminately and consider them common property, receiving such doctrines traditionally without any definite evidence.”

Again, this is hardly a flattering statement to the Christians and not one that they would make up. They would not refer to Jesus as a crucified sophist and say that they accept claims without evidence. (So yes, this also means that the claims of Boghossian are nothing new.)

There’s also Pliny the Younger, who wrote about the behavior of Christians and said

“They affirmed, however, that the whole of their guilt, or their error, was, that they were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternate verse a hymn to Christ as to a god, and bound themselves to a solemn oath, not to any wicked deeds, but never to commit any fraud, theft, adultery, never to falsify their word, not to deny a trust when they should be called upon to deliver it up.”

Here we have indications that these people were willing to die for Christianity, which is why Pliny is supposed to arrest them. They are being tried as if guilty of a crime. Surely if they were convinced this was a myth, they would not be willing to do so. Therefore, early on, we have belief in Jesus as a deity. How did this happen entirely within a relatively short time with zero reality behind it?

Finally, we’ll look at Mara Bar-Serapion.

What did he say?

“What advantage did the Athenians gain from putting Socrates to death? Famine and plague came upon them as a judgment for their crime. What advantage did the men of Samos gain from burning Pythagoras? In a moment their land was covered with sand. What advantage did the Jews gain from executing their wise King? It was just after that their Kingdom was abolished. God justly avenged these three wise men: the Athenians died of hunger; the Samians were overwhelmed by the sea; the Jews, ruined and driven from their land, live in complete dispersion. But Socrates did not die for good; he lived on in the teaching of Plato. Pythagoras did not die for good; he lived on in the statue of Hera. Nor did the wise King die for good; He lived on in the teaching which He had given.”

Now some might say Jesus isn’t mentioned by name. Fair enough. But let’s see what we know about this person. He was a teacher of the Jews. He was said to be their king. He was said to be wise. After executing (Not just killing but executing which I take to refer to a capital offense) him their kingdom was taken away from them. This king lived on in the teaching he had given. (Note he does not say was resurrected as a Christian would.)

Okay. So someone wants to say it wasn’t Jesus.

Feel free to say who is a better candidate.

In light of all of this, and without strong evidence to the contrary, I find it no shock that NT scholarship doesn’t even debate this question any more. There are more certified scientists who hold to a young-earth than there are equivalent scholars in ancient and NT history that hold that Jesus never even existed.

“But the YEC position is totally bizarre!”

Yes. A number of skeptics might say that, but if you want to be consistent and consider Christ-mythicism as a serious position, then you should do the same with YEC. Note I say this in no way to insult YECs. I am not one, but I am happily married to one. (My own wife just doesn’t really care about the debate and even respects Hugh Ross far more than Ken Ham.)

For the Christian who says they hold to a historical Jesus, they are on the firm ground of NT scholarship. It is the internet atheist who has convinced himself he knows better.

He has not convinced those in scholarship of that.

There’s a reason for that.

And oh, if someone wants to say that this is just Christians saying this, two non-Christian scholars, Maurice Casey and Bart Ehrman, have also written against Christ-myth nonsense.

Again, there’s a reason it’s considered nonsense.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

How Not To Debate a Christian Apologist

Does Stenger need to be the teacher that teaches himself? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Victor Stenger is one of the new atheists who has written books such as “God: The Failed Hypothesis” and “The New Atheism: Taking A Stand For Science and Reason.” (No. That’s really the title. Please try to stop laughing.) Now he has written an article for the Huffington Post called “How to debate a Christian apologist.”

Mark Twain once said it’s better to be silent and have people think you’re a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt.

Stenger apparently doesn’t realize that that rule also applies to keyboards.

Towards the start, Stenger says

In the latest debates I have watched, as well as many others I have witnessed over the years, including several of my own, the Christians are almost always very smooth and well prepared. The reason is not that their arguments are so persuasive but that they generally have spent years in front of religion classes, lecture audiences, and church congregants, polishing the same old arguments.

And, after you have watched or participated in a number of these events, you find there very seldom is a new argument. All have all been refuted many times, but most in the audiences do not know that.

But then he says

During their opening statements and throughout the debate, apologists are likely to make arguments with which atheists may not be so well versed. So, when the time comes for rebuttals, atheists often cannot provide cogent responses, or any responses at all, and so lose debating points.

Wait. I thought we weren’t making any new arguments and all of them have been refuted. If all of these arguments are old-hat, how is it that there is no preparation for them? I would figure that this would be rather simple. So which is it Stenger?

Later he also says

An experienced debater will make note of every point his or her opponent makes and try to provide at least a one sentence response.

Which shows once again that Stenger is part of this culture of sound-bite atheism. This consists of these little sayings like “You’re an atheist with all others gods. I just go one God further,” or “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence,” or “The Gospels are anonymous and not by eyewitnesses.”

Of course, it would be nice to see the reasoning and evidences behind these claims, but the group promoting reason the most is often too busy with throwing out soundbites to actually practice the Gospel that they preach.

Stenger goes on to say

If you are a non-expert on any subject, you should not say anything about it beyond your competence. Your opponent may call you out on it. I have seen that happen.

And as we’ll see, Stenger, a physicist, does not follow his own advice. So yes, you’re about to see it happen.

Fortunately for me, I will not be going with the idea that I can speak on everything Stenger says. Many science questions will be left for scientists to answer. This is, after all, a mistake of the new atheists and sadly, many apologists. They think that they are experts on everything and for too many new atheists and internet atheists, they’re right by virtue of being an atheist. Since because of that they’re automatically rational, well then obviously their conclusion must be rational.

The first argument Stenger wants to deal with is the following:

God can be proved to exist by logic alone. For example, we have the ontological argument, which appears in many forms. It was first proposed by St. Anselm in the 11th century. He defines God as “a being than which no greater can be conceived.” If such a being only exists in the mind, then we could conceive of a greater being. But we cannot imagine a greater being than God, so God must exist in reality.

Stenger’s reply is at the start to say that this could be applied to a perfect pizza.

Now let me state something upfront. I do not think the ontological argument works. I do not use it. Yet at the same time, I realize the perfect pizza is a sophomoric response to it. After all, with a material object, one could always make it bigger and bigger. For Anselm, this greatness would apply to the transcendentals for God and would not apply to anything material.

Again, I don’t think the argument works, but it’s worth noting that someone like Plantinga who does think it works would take an argument from someone like Stenger and in fact, do the opposite of what Stenger does. He would polish up the argument and make it the best that he could, and then still proceed to show that it doesn’t work.

For Stenger, a sound bite without really thinking on the issue will work.

Next argument:

Science and religion are compatible as evidenced by the fact that many scientists are believers.

Stenger answers that:

They are actually a relatively small minority. Only 7 percent of the members of the National Academy of Sciences, the elite of American science, believe in a personal God. Believing scientists compartmentalize their brains, leaving their critical thinking skills at the lab when they go to church and leaving their Bibles at home when they go the lab. God is not a coherent part of the scientific model of any believing scientist.

Science and religion are fundamentally incompatible because of their contradictory views on the source of knowledge. Science assumes that only by observation can we learn about the world. Religion assumes that, in addition, we learn by revelations from God.

Rob Bowman has written an excellent article here and I will quote what he says regarding the National Academy of Sciences.

Assuming that’s true, how does one get into the NAS? Here’s what the National Academy of Sciences website says: “Because membership is achieved by election, there is no membership application process. Although many names are suggested informally, only Academy members may submit formal nominations.” In other words, it’s an exclusive club that decides who may even be considered for membership. According to a 2010 article in Scientific American, about 18,000 American citizens earn PhDs in the sciences or engineering every year. There are only about 2,200 members in the NAS, and no more than 84 new members are inducted each year. Even the geniuses in the NAS can figure out that its membership does not represent an adequately representative sampling of well-trained scientists.

If Bowman is correct, then Stenger is indeed taking a small small sample from an elite group who will make sure like-minded people get in. Now I have no problem with doing that if that’s what they want, but don’t take a small minority and act like that represents the majority.

Meanwhile, Stenger claims that they are compartmentalizing and leaving their critical thinking skills behind, but this is just an ad hominem. Could it be that when it comes to religion, Stenger is compartmentalizing and leaving his critical thinking skills at home? (In fact, I would contend that he is and it will not be an ad hominem because I intend to demonstrate it.)

Stenger also says we believe in contradictory sources of knowledge. No. We believe in complementary sources of knowledge. Christians do not disavow the idea that we learn information through the senses. In fact, this is the best way to learn about the world. If I want to teach someone Algebra, I don’t go to the Bible. I go to an Algebra textbook. If I want to teach them about the life of Jesus or the history of Israel or who God is, then the Bible is a fine place to go to.

I’m sure Stenger’s opinion however would be news to the numerous scientists out there who are Christians, including Francis Collins. Does it really require that Stenger has to smear every scientist out there who is a Christian in order to make his point? Apparently it does.

The next claim Stenger deals with?

Science was the result of Christianity, which introduced the use of rational thinking. Galileo, Newton, and other early scientists were Christians.

Stenger’s response?

Science was well on its way in ancient Greece and Rome. But the Catholic Church muffled science when it took over the Roman Empire in the 4th century, ushering in the 1,000-year period known as the Dark Ages. This ended with the Renaissance and the rise of the new science, when people could once again think and speak more freely. So it is ludicrous to argue that science was a product of Christianity.

While it is true that great Christian theologians, notably Augustine and Aquinas, applied rational thinking to their theology, they viewed science as a means to learn about God’s creation. They always insisted that revelation rules over observation. Galileo was the first true scientist of the modern age when he insisted that observation rule over revelation. That got him into trouble.

Of course Galileo and Newton were Christians. Their only other choice was to be burned at the stake. Atheism did not appear openly until the French Enlightenment a century later. That light was produced by the mind, not the flames engulfing a heretic.

Stenger is, sadly, uninformed on history. The Dark Ages is a great myth often thrown about today. Of course, Stenger gives no sources whatsoever. Obviously, he expects his readers to just take him by faith. Apparently, Stenger is wanting to sound just like the preachers he condemns then.

One of my favorite resources for dealing with this is the web site of Tim O’Neill that can be found here. I value this so much because Tim and I are ideologically opposed. He’s an atheist. Still, he’s honest with the data unlike many atheists today. I will quote a small part of the article.

It’s not hard to kick this nonsense to pieces, especially since the people presenting it know next to nothing about history and have simply picked this bullshit up from other websites and popular books and collapse as soon as you hit them with some hard evidence. I love to totally stump them by asking them to present me with the name of one – just one – scientist burned, persecuted or oppressed for their science in the Middle Ages. They always fail to come up with any. They usually try to crowbar Galileo back into the Middle Ages, which is amusing considering he was a contemporary of Descartes. When asked why they have failed to produce any such scientists given the Church was apparently so busily oppressing them, they often resort to claiming that the Evil Old Church did such a good job of oppression that everyone was too scared to practice science. By the time I produce a laundry list of Medieval scientists – like Albertus Magnus, Robert Grosseteste, Roger Bacon, John Peckham, Duns Scotus, Thomas Bradwardine, Walter Burley, William Heytesbury, Richard Swineshead, John Dumbleton, Richard of Wallingford, Nicholas Oresme, Jean Buridan and Nicholas of Cusa – and ask why these men were happily pursuing science in the Middle Ages without molestation from the Church, my opponents have usually run away to hide and scratch their heads in puzzlement at what just went wrong.

Also, people are free to listen to my interview with James Hannam, author of “God’s Philosophers” here. The book is all about science and scientific advancements in the Middle Ages.

For the claim that revelation always trumped observation, it would be nice if we had some sources here. Unfortunately, we don’t.

And as for scientists being burned at the stake, As Tim O’Neill shows above, it would be interesting to see one named. The ones that were burned at the stake were not burned for science, but for having views that were heretical. Now is that too many burnings? Yes. But let’s be clear what the crime was.

As for Galileo, Galileo was riding off of the work of Copernicus. Does Stenger really think Copernicus did no observation when he came up with heliocentrism? No. He based it on observation. The problem was the evidence was not in. Had Stenger been around in those days, he would just as likely have been one of those condemning Galileo for bad science. The evidence at the time DID point to geocentrism. Galileo’s strongest argument was the rise of the tides. It wasn’t a convincing one.

It also didn’t help that Galileo was not a theologian, but yet ended up speaking on theology. Furthermore, he wrote a little dialogue where the Pope was pictured as a simpleton. Galileo wanted immediate recognition of his views and that was the main problem. He had an ego. Still, he did not die a painful death at the hands of the church. He was allowed to do science for the rest of his life and the church paid his pension.

I am skipping the question on design since the design I hold to is the fifth way of Aquinas which Stenger doesn’t touch.

Next?

Many Christians believe in evolution.

Stenger’s answer?

Not really. Surveys indicate that what most believe in is God-guided evolution. That is not evolution as understood by science. That is intelligent design. There is no room for God in evolution.

Now readers of this blog know I don’t comment on if evolution happened or not, but what Stenger is doing here is question-begging. It is assuming that if evolution happened, only naturalistic processes were involved, but how could that be known? Could He demonstrate it? Has he interacted with any of the scientists who are Christians who hold to such a position?

The next several questions are about science. I will leave those to more scientifically minded people. The next one I can deal with is

How can there be objective morality without God?

Stenger answers saying

Socrates proposed what is called the Euthyphro dilemma: Either (a) God wills us to do what is good because certain acts are good, or (b) an act is good only because God wills it. If (a), then moral values are independent of God. If (b) then there is no morality because God can will whatever he wants. In this case, if he asks you to kill a baby, would you do it? If you answer, “That would be against God’s nature,” then you are adopting (a), admitting that there is an objective morality that does not depend on God. If that is the case, then atheists can be just as objectively moral as theists.

This is another one of those pet objections atheists like to toss out. Do any of them bother to notice that Aristotle in his Nicomachean Ethics actually defined what the good is? He did not refer to God’s nature. He referred to just goodness itself. Now did he provide a foundation for goodness? No. That is a problem with his system, but he did show that goodness can be known. That it can be known however does not explain how it is that this goodness exists.

Stenger has simply said theists can have a hard question to answer. Sure. They need to answer this. Yet Stenger has not given an argument for the existence of goodness itself. What is his ontological foundation for it? Does he believe that it just exists out there? How in a universe where matter is all there is?

Note also that it ends with saying that atheists can be just as objectively moral as theists. The argument from morality has never once argued that an atheist cannot be a moral person. It has argued that there is no ontological foundation for their morality.

Once again, Stenger demonstrates that he doesn’t understand the arguments he argues against.

Next question we’ll address?

What about all the millions of people murdered by atheists: Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot?

Hitler was not an atheist. The rest did not kill in the name of atheism while throughout history Christians, Muslims, Hindus, and others have killed millions in the name of their gods. Pope Innocent III alone was responsible for a million innocent deaths during the Fourth Crusade. Now, if there ever was a historical figure who was misnamed, it is Pope Innocent III.

It is certainly true that Hitler was not an atheist. The rest were, however, and I’m sure it brings great comfort to the families of those who were killed to show they didn’t kill in the name of atheism. In reality, their atheism has a direct connection with what they did. If there is no outside force to bring about Utopia on Earth and you are the highest power, you are in fact God, and you cannot tolerate any dissidents. Why did Stalin seek to destroy so many churches in Russia? Why are so many Christians being persecuted even today in China?

As for the Pope, it would again be good to see a source on this. Stenger is not a historian so why should I take his opinion seriously? One million innocents were killed. Who were these innocents? How did he get the numbers? How about we use a real source, such as a professor of medieval history when she’s asked how many people were killed in the Crusades? You can find that here.

Who do I trust then? A physicist who cites no sources or a professor of medieval history? Decisions, decisions….

But now we get to a really fun one!

There is convincing evidence that Jesus was a historical figure who performed miracles and rose from the dead.

Try not to laugh as you read the following answer of Stenger.

There is absolutely no evidence that the Jesus of the gospels even existed. He is only mentioned in the New Testament, which was written long after his death by people who did not know him. St. Paul says little that suggests a historical Jesus. He also did not know Jesus. His “evidence” for Jesus is just his own mystical visions. He said, “I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that the gospel I preach is not of human origin. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1: 11-12).

The fact that Jesus is not mentioned by any of the many Roman historians of the time, some living in Jerusalem and who wrote voluminously, proves beyond a reasonable doubt that the Jesus described in the gospels is largely of not totally a fictional character. However, secular scholars disagree on whether Jesus is a historical figure. Bart Ehrman thinks he did exist, as an apocalyptic preacher. Robert Price think’s he is not historical.

This is the compartmentalization that Stenger displays. When it comes to that which disagrees with him, he uses a completely different standard. Let’s note some figures.

Socrates was certainly an important person in his time. One of his contemporaries was Thucydides. How many times does Thucydides mention Socrates? None. Not once. In fact, Thucydides’s works are not named by anyone until Polybius which takes place 250 years later.

How about Hannibal, the great general who nearly conquered the Roman Empire? How many of his contemporaries talk about this important figure? I’ll give you a hint. The number who mention him is less than one.

These figures are not mentioned, yet a traveling rabbi seen as a fraud since he did “miracles” and was yet another “Messianic claimant”, yet never traveled as an adult outside of his country, a bizarre part of the world to the Romans, nor went into battle, nor ran for office, and above all died a death of crucifixion, the most shameful death of all, should have somehow been mentioned by all these guys in Rome. I have expounded on this in my piece “Jesus Is Not Worth Talking About.”

Now Stenger could be trying to get a way out by saying the Jesus of the Gospels never existed, but it’s quite clear he’s not wanting to go that route. He’s going with all-out mythicism. Keep in mind that you will not find a scholar in the field who teaches at an accredited university and has a piece defending the idea in a prestigious peer-reviewed journal anywhere. Professor Craig Evans in his appearance on my show talked about these kinds of people in the midst of our conversation.

Stenger will complain about a belief that goes against the National Academy of Sciences. Can he find the scholars at the Society of Biblical Literature who still think the existence of Jesus is debated today?

Stenger says Jesus is only mentioned in the NT which was written long after his death by people who did not know him.

No scholarly sources are cited whatsoever. There is no interaction whatsoever with a work like Bauckham’s “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.” Again, why should I take Stenger seriously on this topic or consider him an authority?

He also says Paul shows little interest. Paul is not writing to give a biography of Jesus but to correct problems in the churches. Yet in all of this, there are many places where scholars are convinced that there is a Jesus tradition. Also, we have numerous facts about him. We would know that Jesus was crucified and that he was buried and that his disciples claimed to see him again. We would know that he was of the lineage of David. We would also know that he instituted a Last Supper with His disciples. These are the essentials that we need.

He also claims Paul only knows about Jesus through visions. Absent is any interaction with someone like N.T. Wright on this. Paul’s own account in 1 Cor. 15 corresponds with those who thought they saw Jesus bodily. Paul knows about visions of Jesus after this event, but He considers himself the last to have seen the risen Christ as one out of time. It means these kinds of appearances should have stopped, but an exception was made for him. I recommend definitely a work like N.T. Wright’s “The Resurrection of the Son of God.”

Stenger also tells us about the voluminous writings of Roman Historians, some living in Jerusalem at the time.

It would be nice to know who these Roman historians would be, especially since most Romans would look down their nose at Jerusalem. The only one could possibly be Josephus, who was in fact a Jewish historian who came to live in Rome.

Stenger also presents this as a debate that secular scholars agree on citing Bart Ehrman vs. Robert Price. No. This is not a debate. Scholars treat the Christ-myth idea as a joke and most don’t even give it a footnote. Stenger just doesn’t know how history is done. For that, I recommend my interview with Paul Maier for someone who wants to learn how to do history properly.

The next question is about Josephus and Tacitus. Stenger answers that

Both were born after Jesus’s supposed crucifixion, so obviously they were not eyewitnesses and wrote long after the fact. Furthermore, the frequently quoted passage from Josephus: “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man,” is now recognized to be a much later forgery. Tacitus and Josephus, at best, were writing about a new death cult called Christianity, which certainly existed by that time.

If Stenger wants to demonstrate that an account being not by an eyewitness means it’s invalid, then what of the biographies of Alexander the Great written 400 years after the fact at least? What about the numerous biographies of Plutarch that he was not an eyewitness of? For more of a double-standard, I recommend my piece where I deal with Carrier’s arguments on the crossing of the Rubicon by Caesar

For the scholars who think Josephus is a total forgery, it would be nice to see them named. The most well-known ones in the field see it as a partial interpolation. Note also that there are TWO references to Jesus in Josephus. Stenger, great historian that he is, does not even touch the second one.

As for Tacitus, he is indeed writing about Christianity, but incidentally, he mentions Christ. He also mentions this other figure named Pontius Pilate. It’s worth pointing out that this is the ONLY TIME Tacitus mentions Pilate as well.

Well maybe Tacitus was going by hearsay?

Really? The same Tacitus who said this?

My object in mentioning and refuting this story is, by a conspicuous example, to put down hearsay, and to request that all those into whose hands my work shall come not to catch eagerly at wild and improbable rumours in preference to genuine history.
(Tacitus, Annals, IV.11)

There is a claim about Socrates having more evidence than Jesus for his existence. Stenger says that Socrates was written about by people who knew him. Again, no interaction with Bauckham whatsoever so I see no need to reinvent the wheel here.

As for Jesus’s moral teachings, Stenger says

More important, you can dig around and find many of Jesus’s pronouncements that are immoral by modern, objective standards. In Matthew 10:34-35 he says, “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace but a sword. For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law.” And in 10:37: “He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me.”

Yet this is not a moral teaching. Jesus is not teaching people to pick up swords and go through their families. He is saying that His message is divisive. The Kingdom of God has come in Him and family lines will be divided on that.

Stenger goes on to say

But what makes Jesus one of the most unpleasant characters in all of fiction, along with the Old Testament God Yahweh (quoting Richard Dawkins), is that he dooms everyone on Earth who does not worship him to an eternity in hell. The six million Jews who died in the holocaust just moved from one furnace to another.

Of course, the only source cited is a fellow atheist who is not a scholar in the field as well. Stenger gives no argument that Hell is unjust. If someone does not want to be in the presence of YHWH and rejects Him, YHWH will let Him have His way. This includes Stenger. If Stenger thinks YHWH is so horrible, why complain that He doesn’t spend eternity in His presence?

And for one furnace to another, this is a literalistic view of Hell few evangelicals hold. Of course, being a fundamentalist atheist, Stenger is a literalist.

With Near-Death experiences, Stenger says

How can you prove they where not just hallucinations, all in the head of the person claiming the experience? I can tell you how! All that has to happen is the subject returns with some knowledge that she could not have possibly known prior to the experience. For example, suppose she meets Jimmy Hoffa in heaven and he tells her where he is buried. When she reports that location, authorities go to the site and dig up a body that they identify as Hoffa by its DNA.

Nothing like this has ever happened in the thousands of religious experiences that have been reported over the centuries.

Stenger has obviously never done any reading on Near-Death experiences and noted how many people see events that take place while they were “dead.” Does Stenger interact with someone like Sabom on the topic? Not a bit.

The others are arguments that by and large, I would not use, so I will not address them.

Of course, there have been some replying on the Huffington Post page itself to correct Stenger. Their posts have been deleted and moderated to not show up. Apparently, this is the other way to debate a Christian apologist. Just silence them.

Hopefully, Stenger will one day realize that he should not speak outside of his field or else he will be called out on it. But alas, new atheists are really slow to learn. The Scripture is fulfilled in them with saying “Proclaiming themselves to be wise, they became fools.”

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Thoughts on Joseph Atwill

Did the Romans invent the Christians? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

There has been much talk lately about Joseph Atwill and his claim that Jesus was invented by the Romans. It’s still bizarre to think the Romans would create a religion that they would go out and persecute. Still, many are claiming that Atwill is a biblical scholar as even the press release about the announcement said.

Reality? He’s not.

Is that the opinion of someone like me, a Christian who believes strongly in the reliability of the NT? No. That’s even the opinion of a Christ myther himself like Richard Carrier. Unfortunately as Carrier points out, news of this has not reached Richard Dawkins. Carrier also adds that Robert Price and Acharya S. disagree with this idea. As Carrier says about these people like Atwill:

They make mythicism look ridiculous. So I have to waste time (oh by the gods, so much time) explaining how I am not arguing anything like their theories or using anything like their terrible methods, and unlike them I actually know what I am talking about, and have an actual Ph.D. in a relevant subject from a real university.

If those three, some of the biggest names in Christ-mythicism, say that your theory is bunk, it’s quite likely that it is.

Now it’s rare to find scholarly talk about an idea such as this. Why? Because by and large scholarship ignores crank theories like this. In fact, most people if they really thought they had something would want to take their idea to the scholars first. Larry Hurtado has said that

I haven’t heard of the guy before either (Joseph Atwill), largely because, well, he’s a nobody in the field of biblical studies. No PhD in the subject (or related subject), never held an academic post, never (so far as I can tell) published anything in any reputable journal that’s peer-reviewed, or in any reputable monograph series, or presented at any academic conference where competent people could assess his claims. Instead, per the flimflam drill, he directs his claims to the general public, knowing that they are unable to assess them, and so, by sheer novelty of the claim he hopes to attract a crowd, sales, and publicity. It’s a living, I guess (of sorts).

In saying why he doesn’t bother with it that much, Hurtado says that

It’s not necesssary to engage something so self-evidently unfounded and incompetent. If his press releases at all reflect his stance, it’s not worth the time. We scholars have enough to do engaging work that is by people with some competence. There isn’t time or value in dealing with nonsense. And Atwill and his ilk don’t really want scholarly engagement anyway. Again, let it go.

And when told Atwill would want scholarly engagement Hurtado says

No. He wouldn’t. Otherwise, he wouldn’t avoid the normal scholarly venues to test theories. These people know that they would be shredded by competent scholars.

And yet, it’s making a buzz. Fortunately, even some atheists like P.Z. Myers are condemning it. Myers does not hold back.

I think a few too many atheists are seeing “Scholar Says Jesus Was Fake” and are not thinking any more deeply than that. The whole idea is ridiculous.

If you’re one of the many atheists who gleefully forwarded this to me or credulously mentioned it on twitter…hello, there. I see you’ve already met the good friend of so many half-baked wackos in the world, Confirmation Bias.

That many atheists did in fact spread this immediately and treated it seriously shows that there is indeed a great deal of ignorance in the atheistic community. “Well what about your Christian community?!” I’ve been saying for years the church has failed to educate its members and their fear at something like this is a prime example of it. Our tendency to want to protect ourselves more than anything else keeps us from really isolating with these issues going on in the real world. As I told one skeptic recently, I condemn ignorance on all sides.

Here are some of my problems with the whole theory.

First off, it will HAVE to deal with all the counter-evidence. Can he deal with Tacitus? Can he deal with Josephus? (I know his theory claims to rely on Josephus, but will scholars of Josephus support it?) Can he deal with Mara Bar-Serapion? How about a question of the reliability of the NT? Can he deal with claims for that?

Second, what about the Pauline epistles. The earliest epistles come before Josephus wrote. These epistles also include a creed such as in 1 Cor. 15 that comes to within a few years at most of the resurrection event. Can Atwill’s theory deal with this?

Third, can he demonstrate that the gospels in the genre of Greco-Roman biographies would be able to be read in this way? This theory has been tried over and over by so many people and it has never ended well. Why give Atwill any credit?

Fourth, does he have any evidence from the Roman perspective? Does he have some ancient mention of Jesus that we have never found even though scholars have been looking through works of ancient society? What would this say for Christ mythers who say that there is no mention of Jesus? Why mention Jesus if Jesus was not being talked about?

Fifth, can his theory account for the dating of the NT? Would this not presuppose that the gospels were written after the writings of Josephus? Has he made a case for that? If Josephus based his account on the gospels, which he didn’t, then Atwill’s theory is in trouble. Atwill will require a late date. It would also require the writings of Josephus to also be in Jerusalem at the time already and being read, which will be problematic enough even if just Mark dates to before 70 A.D.

Now by all means, let Atwill present his evidence, but keep in mind he’s trying to bypass the scholarly community and go straight to the sensationalist route. That might be a more popular approach, but it’s not the proper approach to academic work of this nature. The reason one seeks to bypass the scholarly community is most likely because one cannot survive scrutiny under that community.

Check the sources always on claims like this. That so many atheists have passed this on shows that there is just as much blind faith and lack of biblical scholarship in the atheistic community as in the Christian community they rail against. That so many Christians get scared of something like this is an important demonstration of why the church needs a good education in basic apologetics.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Jesus Is Not Worth Talking About

Why should no one care to talk about Jesus? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Today, Jesus is a really popular guy. Everyone who is informed today in the world knows something about Jesus. Everyone has to come up with a response to him. Islam that came up after Christianity had to explain Jesus. Religions like Buddhism and Hinduism that existed prior to Christianity try to give a place to Jesus. Cult groups that rise up have to say something about Jesus.

In pop culture, he’s everywhere. Sure. We could talk about a movie like “The Passion of the Christ” but how many movies do we see where a hero dies and we see his arms outstretched and think “He’s supposed to mirror Christ.” How many times do we see the concept of one person sacrificing themselves for another and realize that we’re supposed to see Christ?

Discussion today still rages around this person. Philosophers and ethicists look at his life and discuss whether miracles are possible and what the great teaching of Jesus was. Ethically, most would say Jesus was ahead of his time. Even those who are not Christians like Jesus. Richard Dawkins even has support for the idea of “Atheists for Jesus.” Even those who don’t think Jesus was a historical figure often can point to several good teachings we’d like to see followed in the gospels.

When we see such a figure like Jesus, we have this idea that surely everyone must have been excited when he showed up on the scene! Surely everyone must have been paying attention to someone who claimed to be the Son of God and was working miracles!

But no. For the ancient world, Jesus was not worth talking about.

And that’s for very good reason.

Suppose today that somehow, Mormonism took over America. Then using America as its main tool of evangelism, the Mormon Church became the dominant world religion after that with everyone all over the world knowing about Joseph Smith.

Now suppose one historian says “I want to know all about the origins of Joseph Smith!” So off he goes to do some research and studies the accounts and says “Well, I see we have a notice of birth here, but that was for everyone. Nothing special about Joseph Smith.”

The historian looks and notices that few people outside the church really were interested in the life of Smith. If they wrote about him, they would write to condemn him if anything. Even nearly 200 years later, the ones who would write about him most were generally those following his tradition or those who were his critics wanting to stop his tradition.

Our historian could be puzzled. This man is known all over the world today after all. Why would no one make a big deal about his life?

The mistake many people make is the same with Jesus. They look at how He is today and assume that it must have been the same for those people back then. The truth is, it wasn’t. Jesus just really wasn’t worth talking about. In fact, what I tell people is that it doesn’t surprise me how few sources outside the NT mention Jesus. What surprises me is that any of them bother to do so.

Many skeptics make a big deal out of what is called the argument from silence. The principle one must keep in mind with silence is that where we would expect silence anyway, the argument from silence is weak.

There are some claims that we would not expect to see mentioned because they’re mundane. The fact that the president had breakfast this morning would not be worth mentioning in a future biography. Most people do that already. The fact that he is in a tight political situation with Syria would be worth mentioning.

Let’s suppose however that someone shows up centuries from now who is unaware of who the president is and they pick up a biography. They read it and find no mention of Michelle Obama anywhere in it. They could be justified in thinking that Obama wasn’t married. Why? Because an important aspect of any president we’ve had is who their first lady was. Note they could have justification, but they’d still be wrong.

When someone writes something claiming it is historical, they write it for two reasons. The first one is that they think that it is true and they want you to believe it. The second is they think that it is false and they still want you to believe it. One could write about a belief they wish to criticize, but they want you to know they think their criticism is true.

Also, we have to keep in mind that in the ancient world, much has been lost. We could say some of it has been destroyed by some groups, including the Christians, but we can also say much has been lost due to the ravages of time. For instance, we would love to have Thallus’s record of the darkness at the crucifixion. We don’t. Most likely because it has been lost over time. Furthermore, keep in mind how much would have been lost in Jerusalem where the most would have been said about Jesus! After its destruction, Josephus even said it looked like there had never been a city there.

Suppose there was an event that took place and 100% of the people noticed this event. Then suppose that 100% of the people recorded it. Already, this is extremely unlikely. 100% of the people who could write wouldn’t even mention the rule of Caesar due to writing about their own interests. Still, stay with the argument. Now suppose 15% of those writings have survived. What are the odds we will have a statement about that event happening today?

Answer: 15%.

This gets even more complicated when we realize that we live in a post-Gutenberg society. Today if something happens, it hits the written word before too long. Blogs can be written near instantly. Newspapers will have it all the next day. Facebook, Twitter, and other social media sites will have the news everywhere. It will show up on the major news networks as well and even with pictures in many of these places. Why? Because we have the means to do that today and it works well. If we see someone in our society who is incapable of reading, we find that person to be an anomaly. How can you make it without reading? Gutenberg made it so that books are more accessible to people and therefore made reading more of a necessity.

Now go back to the time of Jesus.

Let’s suppose in Judea about 10% of the population could read. Also, keep in mind that even if you could read, being able to write was a totally different skill. Furthermore, paper would not come about cheap. It was a costly process to make and ink was just as costly. Then, you also had to pay someone who could send your message to its recipients. In fact, the cost of writing one of Paul’s epistles if put by today’s standards could be around $2,500.

You can go this route if you want to, or you can go the route of oral tradition whereby you could have items memorized and in a society where memorization was prized. After all, if you could not make a note to yourself and read it later, you will make it by improving your memory over time. Furthermore, Jesus’s parables were often memorable and easy to learn. We can have a parallel today by seeing how easy it is to learn a song after hearing it a couple of times or to tell a joke after just one hearing.

In the oral tradition, the story would be told to a community and that community would pass it on and check itself regularly to make sure the facts were still the same. Minor details could change, but the gist of the story had to remain the same and checks and balances were in place to make sure it happened. In reality, this tradition was more valued than the written tradition because it had more checks and balances to it.

So you can write your message down which would cost thousands of dollars and be heard by few, or you could have the story spread orally.

It was no contest.

Hence, when we are told “Why didn’t anyone write this down for decades?” the response is “Why should they?” It was only when the apostles began to die off that they wanted to get their teaching down for the future generations as apostolic authority was very important. Until then, there wasn’t much need.

“Well why would no one else really want to mention the Son of God doing miracles?”

Question. How many of you have investigated Lourdes? How about perhaps Benny Hinn? How about any miracle claims? Now Lourdes I think has some credibility to it. I don’t attach any to Benny Hinn. Yet few of us have really bothered to really investigate miracle claims from any of these sources because they’re written off right at the start. If you have a worldview that says “Miracles can’t happen” then are you really wanting to take the time to investigate Lourdes or just write it off? In fact, those of us who have a worldview that says that miracles can happen rarely investigate Lourdes. We can be just as skeptical!

To the ancient world, someone doing miracles was viewed with great suspicion like a televangelist today and people sought to explain away miraculous claims. Just look at the way Lucian liked to expose a false prophet in his own time.

Do we really think someone sitting in Rome who is concerned about political and economic situations in the Roman Empire is going to want to go and investigate claims of someone like Jesus doing miracles in Judea based on what for him is just hearsay? No. He’s going to dismiss them just as much as you or I would.

Oh yes. Jesus is in Judea. Let’s talk about that. It was an important part of the world as trade routes went through there and it did connect three continents, but it was also a place of strange customs. The people held to what was then seen as a bizarre monotheistic viewpoint and where tolerated only because their belief was old. Judea did not produce great politicians or ethicists or philosophers. The only Jewish philosopher we have of the time, Philo, lived in Alexandria.

Why would anyone take a Jew from this area seriously?

Then of course, there’s the idea that Jesus was crucified. If anything says Jesus is not worth mentioning, it’s that he was crucified. There’s no point in listening after that point. Jesus was guilty of treason to Rome and was seen as guilty of blasphemy to YHWH. On both counts, he would not be mentioned by Jews or Greeks both. Crucified people were not worth talking about, except perhaps only to add further shame to them.

So what do we have of Jesus? He never really traveled in his adult life past Judea. He never held political office. He did not fight any major battles. He was said to perform these questionable practices called miracles. He was from a land that was just bizarre to people. His own hometown in there was a small place not worth talking about. He was crucified.

“But he was the Son of God!”

So He claimed, and yet people looking at that above paragraph that talks about Him would say “If He was the Son of God, you think He’d have avoided crucifixion and have done a bit more.” That claim wasn’t taken any more seriously than you take the claim of the man in the local insane asylum who claims to be the Son of God.

Who talks about Jesus the most? His students, and this is the same for most any great figure in ancient history who’s a teacher. Muslims talk about Muhammad the most. Buddhists talk about Buddha the most. Mormons talk about Joseph Smith the most. Jehovah’s Witnesses talk about Charles Russell the most.

We can look back today and realize Christianity did in fact become the dominant world religion, but no one would have seen that coming at the start. Until around the time of Constantine, it was seen as still something that could be shut down in fact. Even afterwards, Julian the Apostate tried to shut it down and restore paganism, which, of course, he failed at.

Today, we expect people to talk about Jesus. More people can read and write. We have more ways of distributing the written word and its much cheaper. We see the effect today that Jesus did in fact have on history. The Roman Empire was wrong and Jesus was right. Today, we must mention Him.

Back then it was not so, and it should not surprise us.

It is for reasons like this that the argument from silence so often used just doesn’t work. Where we expect to see such silence anyway, the argument is weak, and we can rightly expect that such silence would surround the life of Jesus of Nazareth.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: There Was No Jesus. There Is No God.

What do I think of this book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Raphael Lataster’s book is said to be a scholarly examination of the evidence for the existence of Jesus and God both, though most of the book does focus on the existence of Jesus. He starts off on the first page saying this:

Like many people, I just want to know if particular religious claims are true. And the truth is not a democracy, and certainly does not care about our feelings.

There will be no disagreement with a claim like this. Of course it doesn’t care about our feelings. If we find something is true, we should accept it as true and not let emotional reasons get in the way of accepting that truth.

One would hope that with a start like that, we would get a good look at the evidence, but while this book is many things, scholarly is not one of them. Aside from those already sold on Jesus Mythicism, it’s hard to imagine any NT scholar in the field being convinced by any argument in here. I found myself highlighting something on practically every page that was a great error.

To start off, let’s be clear that Lataster differentiates between the biblical Jesus and the historical Jesus. Yet is this not a problem at the start? What if it turns out that the biblical Jesus is in fact the historical Jesus?

Throughout the work, Lataster will make claims about how the gospels should not be trusted for having “supernatural” claims in them. Yet do we see an argument anywhere against miracles? No. I just did a quick search on the Kindle to verify what I was already sure of. Hume is not even mentioned one time. Sure. Hume’s argument has been dealt with time and time again, even by people who were his contemporaries, but you’d think there would at least be an attempt at an argument.

Let us keep in mind the rule of William James, not a Christian, made earlier.

a rule of thinking which would absolutely prevent me from acknowledging certain kinds of truth if those kinds of truth were really there, would be an irrational rule.

Suppose for the sake of argument that the historical Jesus did in fact do miracles and rise from the dead. If you come with a rule that says right at the start that miracles can never happen, then it follows that by your methodology you could never know the historical Jesus. Why not let the evidence decide if miracles can happen instead of beforehand saying “Miracles are highly improbable, therefore miracles cannot happen.”

As we move to the acknowledgments, we find part of the problem. There is appreciation given to Hector Avalos, Robert Price, and Richard Carrier. It is odd that in the book Lataster will talk about how often historicists will just cite each other and then be giving each other pats on the back.

Yet throughout the work, one will find Avalos, Price, Carrier, etc. quoted profusely. Want to see what Ben Witherington says? You won’t. Want to see a counter-argument from Gary Habermas and Mike Licona? You’ll be disappointed. Want to see the refutation of Richard Bauckham’s case that the gospels are eyewitness accounts? Bauckham’s name is not mentioned once. Want to note a reply to a scholar like N.T. Wright? The Bibliography fails to mention him. All we have is the sound of one-hand clapping.

A true scholarly work will interact with the best arguments on the other side.

On page 9, Lataster tells us that most biblical scholars are Christians. Considering that later on he considers himself and Bob Price Christians, despite being atheists, one wonders what kind of idea he’s talking about. In the sense of orthodox Christians, most are not Christians. Perhaps Lataster should go to an SBL meeting and see how many non-Christians he meets. On the same page, he also refers to secular scholarship as ‘real’ scholarship.

It’s nice to have that well-poisoning made so explicit isn’t it? One can’t help but wonder if Lataster has ever read any scholarship outside his circle. There are several Christian scholars who don’t hold to Inerrancy, for instance, but hold to essentials of the Christian faith.

He also then refers to John Dominic Crossan as a top scholar. Who gave this kind of judgment? We would love to know. This kind of terminology shows up regularly throughout the work. It’s just as wrong when evangelicals do it. Note that Lataster says he is a former fundamentalist Christian. Unfortunately, now he’s a fundamentalist atheist who just as uncritically accepts what non-Christian writers say as much as he did what Christian writers (If he read any) said in the past.

Also included as top scholars are Bart Ehrman, Robert Price, and Richard Carrier.

Of course these have done the hard work to reach their level, but who would refer to Price as a top scholar for instance? One would think a top scholar would be teaching at an accredited institution. Richard Carrier is popular in the world of internet atheists, but not so much beyond that. Beyond that, it’d be interesting to see if anyone knew his name.

On page 12, Lataster says that relying on scholarly opinions rather than the evidence is the fallacy of the appeal to authority. It’s a wonder that he says Carrier specializes in philosophy and yet Carrier apparently never showed Lataster what the appeal to authority is. If it is what he says it is, then Lataster is guilty for constantly appealing to Carrier, Price, and yes, *groan* Earl Doherty and Randel Helms.

The appeal to authority is fallacious when the person is not an authority in the related field. While Richard Dawkins is an authority on biology, he is not one on philosophy and history. While Mike Licona is an authority on history, he is not one on biology.

Note also that someone like Gary Habermas says in his talk on the minimal facts approach (Something Lataster never interacts with) that his argument is not “Scholars say, therefore it’s true.” It’s the point that if non-Christian scholars are willing to grant these claims about Jesus that they get no gain from, then there must be good reasons for accepting them.

On page 13, Lataster quotes Carrier to show that Craig Blomberg argues that one should approach a text with complete trust unless you have reason to doubt what they say. The citation for this is in Blomberg’s 1987 edition of the Historical Reliability of the Gospels on pages 240-254. One would think that for such a simple quote, one would only need one page, unless one is having the wool pulled over their eyes.

This news was quite a surprise to Blomberg when I mentioned it to him. Blomberg’s position is that one should give the text the benefit of the doubt unless one has reason to doubt. This is far from saying give the text complete trust.

On page 14, Lataster says we must hold ancient history up to modern standards. Professors of ancient history will be surprised to notice that Lataster then goes on to say “If that means historians can say nothing of the ancient world with certainty, then so be it!”

I really hope professors of ancient history become aware of this. It sounds like quite a move to say in order to have no real knowledge of Jesus, we’re going to throw out our knowledge of ancient history so that we can be certain of nothing in the field. Is that what it takes just to avoid belief in Jesus? I’m not even talking about belief in the Jesus who died and rose from the dead. I’m talking about just the existence of Jesus. Is that a worthwhile price to pay?

On page 15, Lataster says that “Possibly, therefore probably” is fallacious. I find this an amusing claim because Lataster will often make the same mistake himself throughout the book. For instance, why do we not have some works of ancient history, like some of Dio and Tacitus? Because Christians destroyed them since they didn’t talk about Jesus. Evidence of this? None whatsoever. But hey, it’s possible, therefore that’s probably what happened.

Of course, there’s also Bayes Theorem. I have strong reason to suspect that Lataster does not understand Bayes Theorem. I suspect instead that he’s simply going off of Carrier who I also suspect does not understand it, based on the interaction that Timothy McGrew of Western Michigan University has had. When I once asked McGrew for his credentials, I got the following:

I’ve been teaching epistemology and probability at the graduate level for nearly two decades. I’ve published work on applications of probability theory in major journals likeMind, The Monist, Analysis, Erkenntnis, and British Journal for the Philosophy of Science. I’ve given popular lectures on aspects of the subject for the Math department here, and Lydia and I presented work on the subject at the Formal Epistemology Workshop at Berkeley a few years back, and I’ve also given talks in this area at conferences at Notre Dame and in locations from Los Angeles to Leuven. I’ve published a paper (co-written with Lydia) on “The Credibility of Witnesses and Testimony to the Miraculous” in a book published by Oxford University Press, written (by invitation, but then peer reviewed) the article on “Evidence” for The Routledge Companion to Epistemology, and (also with Lydia, also by invitation, also then peer reviewed) the article on “The Argument from Miracles” in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. I was asked to write a new article on “Miracles” for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, one of the requests specifically being to discuss some of the issues arising from a probabilistic analysis of arguments for and against miracles. Two of my forthcoming articles in peer-reviewed journals deal with the application of probability theory to historical and theological arguments.

Hmmm. I wonder who I should trust on Bayes Theorem. McGrew has been teaching for two decades in probability. He’s been peer-reviewed numerous times. How about Carrier? What credentials could he show to demonstrate his expertise in the area?

Lataster regularly notes that the gospels are anonymous. This mistakenly assumes that because a name was not included on the document, that this means we cannot know who wrote it. There is no interaction with cases made that defend the traditional authorship of the gospels.

In fact, there is no methodology given for how one determines authorship. How does one know that Plutarch wrote Plutarch’s biographies? We could also ask about Tacitus. Well Tacitus’s writings have his name on them! Okay. The Pastoral Epistles have the names of Paul on them but that doesn’t mean scholars just stop and say “Well that settles it! Paul wrote them!” Are we to believe that if the gospels had the traditional names on them then that means Lataster would just roll over and accept them as being by those people? Not at all. The anonymous bit is just a smokescreen to say that because no name is explicitly on them, we cannot know who wrote them.

We eagerly await to see Lataster’s methodology for determining authorship of ancient documents. We also suspect that he does not have any.

On page 19, Lataster quotes Carrier saying “All we have are uncritical pre-Christian devotional or hagiographic texts filled with dubious claims written decades after the fact by authors who never tell us their methods or sources. Multiple Attestation can never gain traction on such a horrid body of evidence.”

To begin with, what scholars out there say the gospels are hagiographies? The leading majority now is saying biographies, but hagiographies as a genre did not exist at the time of Jesus. In fact, it is fallacious and unethical to have a later genre show up, like hagiographies, note some characteristics of them, then go to an earlier time when the genre was not around and say because this work also shares those characteristics, it is hagiography as well.

It is interesting to see Carrier say something like this also when he points to the reliability of Caesar crossing the Rubicon. This event occurred in 49 B.C. Who does Carrier appeal to? Let’s look at Carrier’s own words.

Fourth, we have the story of the “Rubicon Crossing” in almost every historian of the period, including the most prominent scholars of the age: Suetonius, Appian, Cassius Dio, Plutarch

Suetonius was born around A.D. 69 and lived on into the second century. Appian was born even later around 95 A.D. and lived about 70 years. Dio was born in the early part of the latter half of the second century and lived on into the third. Plutarch lived from about 45-120 A.D.

Question. How many of these people could have been eyewitnesses to the crossing of the Rubicon? None. How many of them wrote “Decades” after the event.” Answer: All. In fact, all of them wrote at least a century after the event. Carrier’s list does not include one contemporary historian.

By his own standards, we should not believe Caesar crossed the Rubicon.

Or could it be that Carrier presents this as a powerful argument when it is used on the gospels and ignores it for the rest of ancient history. Will Lataster be consistent then and reject this piece of ancient history? Note that while he does give four sources, multiple attestation cannot work. No eyewitnesses and the time span is too great!

Furthermore, yes. These are pro-Christian claims. What of it? If you want to know about any great teacher, their disciples are likely to be the ones to write the most about them. Do we learn about Socrates the most from people who are anti-Socrates?

Lataster can complain about bias, but is it not just as much bias to treat a source differently just because it’s in favor of a position? It would be a wonder to see what would happen if we tried that in our legal system!

Lataster goes on to refer to Stephen Law saying a religion could make embarrassing and untruthful claims and points to scientology as an example.

Really? To begin with, how much money is involved in scientology? Answer: Plenty! Try getting an auditing session! It will cost you a bundle! Second, this is a modern society as opposed to an agonistic society. What did the apostles have to gain for making up a lie? Answer: Persecutions, shaming, being cut off from YHWH, estrangement from family and society, and sometimes death. What did they have to gain? Nothing.

Lataster will repeatedly say the gospels are not by eyewitnesses. Unfortunately, he gives no arguments for this claim. Will you see any interaction going on with Richard Bauckham’s massive work of “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.”? Not at all. It’s doubtful Lataster even knows it exists. Will you see any interaction with any scholarship making a case that the gospels are eyewitnesses. No. All you get is the sound of one hand clapping.

Lataster also says a fictitious work could have the details one sees in the gospels, much like Harry Potter has many details about London. Indeed! And what genre is Harry Potter? We will get into this more later, but the gospels are more and more being seen as the genre of Greco-Roman biography and should be read in that light.

Also, Lataster often makes comments about biblical Inerrancy, every word of the Bible being true and divinely inspired, and literal interpretations. This is just a hang-up from Lataster’s fundamentalist days that he still uses to understand the Bible. Lataster is unaware that for most of us, if we were shown an error in the Bible, we’d have to change our view of Scripture some, but we would not pack up everything and go home. The Bible is not an all-or-nothing game. Neither is any other ancient document.

Lataster also says to use the gospels is circular reasoning. Not at all. It would be circular reasoning to say all the gospels say is true, therefore Jesus existed. The gospels are a source like other sources. Lataster has this rule that biblical claims can only be validated if they are backed by non-biblical sources. Do we see the same done with Josephus? Tacitus? Plutarch? Nope. Not at all.

On page 27, Lataster brings up genre again saying

There is still not complete agreement over what genre the Gospels belong to, an issue that is explored later on.

Complete agreement? No. Yet if Lataster is saying we should only accept claims where there is complete agreement, he’ll be waiting. Would it be fine with him if I pointed to YECs and said “Therefore, since there is not complete agreement, the issue of the age of the Earth is still to be debated in science.” Would he do the same if I pointed to those who are skeptical of evolution? Now I have no dog in that fight. I really don’t care about evolution. Yet I suspect that Lataster would be sure the Earth is old and evolution is a fact despite lack of complete agreement. He could just say “Well the secularists all agree.” Oh good. Then this gets us to his quote of Richard Carrier in this page. Carrier assesses the way scholars use sources and says in his description that they are

producing standard answers constantly repeated as “the consensus” when really it’s just everyone citing each other like robbing Peter to pay Paul.

I suspect a number of Christian scientists might say the same thing about secularists. In reality, scholars point to others to show they are not just tooting their own horn. It’s amusing also to see a claim like this in a book that relies heavily on quoting mythicists profusely. Physician! Heal thyself!

Note also Lataster’s disdain for believing Bible scholars who he says are “often seen as lay people with a few letters after their name by ‘real scholars.’ ”

We eagerly await to see who the people are who think N.T. Wright, Richard Bauckham, Larry Hurtado, and Ben Witherington are just lay people. Does anyone say the same about Craig Keener and Craig Evans? It’s no wonder that Lataster says scholars agree with him when he discounts at the start any scholars who disagree with him.

Lataster points out that Meier says that multiple attestation properly used would back miracle claims. At this point, I do think there is much inconsistency in much scholarship today, but Lataster says I would object if the claims were made by rival religions.

Why? I have no problem. If you can give me good evidence that someone from another religion did a miracle, well I’ll accept it! I have no rule that says “All miracles that are true must be miracles in the Christian religion.” If Lataster thinks there is a better case out there, let him bring it.

Lataster goes on to say that Ehrman in a debate with Michael Licona (Someone Lataster never interacts with in this book) that

Historians must try and determine the most probable explanations, while miracles by definition are the most improbable explanations. They are considered to be miracles because they overturn scientific laws.

Tim McGrew disagrees giving this definition.

A miracle (from the Latin mirari, to wonder), at a first and very rough approximation, is an event that is not explicable by natural causes alone.

Nothing said about probability whatsoever. If someone wants to object that I used a Christian like McGrew, then please realize that that definition can be found by anyone who checks the article on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy web site. If they have a problem, please let them contact the web site and express their discontent.

Lataster does not give an argument against miracles beyond overturning scientific laws. One has to wonder how stupid he thinks ancient people were. Ancient people knew what it took to make a baby. That’s why a virgin birth was a miracle. Ancient people knew that people don’t naturally walk on water. They knew bread does not naturally multiply instantly. They knew water does not naturally instantly turn into wine. They also knew that dead people stay dead, and these people quite likely saw dead people far more often than we do.

Is it really rational to say that because we are so much more advanced scientifically that we know better? They knew better too! That’s why they recognized these as miracles! No one said “Oh look. Jesus is walking on water. Well I guess that happens.”

Lataster goes on to cite Ehrman who says the best evidence would be accounts that are numerous, independent, contemporary, coherent, and fairly disinterested accounts.

To begin with, the gospels are independent. If one wants to say they used each other, okay. No problem. They also each used their own sources of information, hence the major differences between them. It’s amazing that the same skeptics who complain about the gospels copying each other complain about them contradicting each other. One would think if such copying was going on they’d get the story straighter.

Furthermore, you could discount any historical claim this way. Perhaps the story of Caesar crossing the Rubicon was all just copied from an original source. Any differences later on? They’re just fabrications. It’s all just one story being repeated by others.

As for disinterest, that sounds good to us, but not to an ancient. You needed to have someone who was interested in what they wrote about. In fact, today we all write about what we’re interested about. I, for instance, won’t write about what plays were made in a football game because I frankly don’t care about football. I will write about a controversy involving Tim Tebow and religion possibly because I do care about religion.

Lataster banks much on the argument from silence saying on page 37 that “There are no extra-Biblical references to Jesus that are contemporary and by eyewitnesses.”

What of it?

Seriously. What of it?

What Lataster needs to convince me of is why anyone writing at the time would really care to mention Jesus.

“Well Jesus was the Son of God going around Judea doing miracles!”

Has Lataster ever been to Lourdes to verify any miracle claims there? Doubtful, though those are miracle claims that are regularly taking place. Does he investigate the claims of Benny Hinn or numerous claims that show up on TBN or on Pat Robertson’s show?

If not, why does he think that historians in Rome would do the same with Jesus. Let’s consider some information about Jesus.

Jesus was not a political figure. He never held office at all. He did not travel internationally. He was living in a world that had beliefs that were considered deviant but were tolerated. To make matters worse, he was crucified, which meant that he died a traitor to Rome (And for a Jew, a blasphemer to YHWH). Why on Earth would someone want to write about this? They would have seen him as a crackpot who got what he deserved.

It will not work to say that today we know he was the basis for the largest religion of all. That was not known then. It does not amaze me that so few people outside the Bible mention Jesus. It amazes me that anyone does! What Lataster needs to learn is that where we would expect silence anyway, the argument from silence is weak.

Furthermore, much of ancient history has been lost over time. For something to have survived to this day, there must be three things happen.

First, it must be noticed.

Second, it must be recorded.

Third, that recording must last.

Let’s suppose that 100% of people notice an event in the past. Then 100% of authorities in the area say something about it. Then, 15% of those survive. What are the odds we will have a record of this event? If you said “15%” move to the head of the class.

And this is with everyone noticing and writing about it, improbable in itself! (Keep in mind only one contemporary mentions the eruption of Vesuvius and he doesn’t mention the towns being destroyed!

Also, keep in mind that in the ancient world, if you wanted to get word out about something, writing was not the best way to do it. Writing was in fact seen as less reliable than the oral tradition. Where most people could not read, the way to reach them was not to point to a book. It was to talk to them yourself. In our post-Gutenberg society, we think we should write everything down immediately. Writing was expensive, timely, difficult, and it was just a lot easier to use oral tradition. (Of course, there will be no interaction with scholars like Ken Bailey or Richard Bauckham on the reliability of oral tradition.)

Lataster also says that Avalos says that the texts that we have are from the medieval period allowing plenty of time for creative editing.

Of course there is time for editing. There was also time in between my starting this blog and the point that I’m at now to go murder my neighbors next door. Does that mean then that there’s a basis for thinking that I have done so? To say there is time for something to happen is not the same as to say there is reason to think that it did. Avalos would need to present some textual evidence to show that the texts have been tampered with. It will also need to be convincing to scholars of other sources in question, such as Tacitus and Josephus.

Lataster says that the earliest copies we have of the Bible are far removed from the originals. Far less removed however than any other ancient work. This is especially the case if Dan Wallace’s claim about a copy of Mark that’s possibly 1st century is in fact true. We can be sure that Lataster has never read anything on textual criticism beyond just Bart Ehrman.

Lataster also says that Socrates’s record is also not so good, but billions don’t proclaim his divinity. At this point, Lataster is guilty of, oh, what’s the word, oh yes, bias! Jesus is to be treated differently because he makes a different claim.

Remember boys and girls. Bias is wrong when Christians are at the wheel. It’s okay when secularists are.

Lataster tells us that Philo doesn’t mention Jesus. What of it? Why should he? Philo was not interested in mentioning Jesus. What about Seneca. Seneca writes much about crucifixion but does not mention Jesus. Why should he? Jesus died as a traitor to Rome. Why would Seneca care?

Lataster tells us that Seneca and other writers wrote about everything from bizarre ways to die, how they brushed their teeth, and how people went to the bathroom, but they did not mention Jesus and His miracles.

Nor did they mention Vesuvius interrupting save one. So what? Again, we are not given a reason why they should want to mention Jesus. He was a leader of a deviant movement that had strange beliefs that would surely die out quickly. Does Lataster think Jesus should be treated seriously because he claimed to be the Son of God? Will Lataster go to an insane asylum now and start treating people there who make the same claim just as seriously?

On page 43, we are told that the argument from silence single-handedly does considerable damage to claims about Jesus.

No it doesn’t. We expect silence anyway. As we have said, Lataster gives no reason whatsoever to think that people would want to treat the claims of Jesus seriously. In fact, we have every reason to think that they would not.

Lataster then writes about Paul saying Paul got his information through divine revelation. His basis for this is Galatians 1:11-12.

What Lataster does not mention is that Paul is comparing himself to Jeremiah describing his call to be a prophet. It is certain Paul had some knowledge of the gospel! He was persecuting the church after all! He would have to know something of what they believed to be persecuting them. Unfortunately, Lataster goes on to apply the same to 1 Cor. 15:3-4 adding in that the OT was Paul’s other source.

Lataster makes no mention of the fact that scholarship, including the Jesus Seminar, agrees that 1 Cor. 15 is an early Christian creed that highly pre-dates the epistle and the terminology of “What I received I passed on” is the language used of passing on oral tradition, of which Paul, a Pharisee, would know. This is amazing in light of the fact that Lataster says Paul specifically dismisses human sources. The Galatians claim is meant to show the gospel has divine origin. It it not meant to show that it is only transmitted through divine sources.

As for the Old Testament, this is meant to show that what happened was part of the eternal plan of God and was thus a fulfillment of the promises of the OT. It was not saying that Paul just sat down with the OT one day and came up with a new belief system.

Much of this comes from Doherty. It is not a shock that Lataster did not find scholars sharing this idea. They don’t. Consider the Hebrews passage used. Hebrews 8:4 speaks about Jesus and says “If He were on Earth.” The author regularly has spoken about Jesus’s earthly existence beforehand. There was no need to spell it out. What the author is saying is Jesus serves now at the heavenly sanctuary and thus not being on Earth, does not have to repeatedly offer sacrifices as the earthly priests do.

Even more amazing is the Philippians 2:5-11 text where we are told that the name Jesus was given to Jesus later. No. What it is is a message of vindication. Jesus would be the name everyone bows to because of what He did on the cross and in rising again. It is hard to imagine how any serious exegete could come to the bizarre interpretations that Lataster does.

Lataster also holds the Testimonium Flavium to be an interpolation entirely and thinks Eusebius was the culprit, especially since he says Eusebius is a well-known defender of pious fraud citing Eusebius’s claim in the church history that

Hence we shall not mention those who were shaken by the persecution, nor those who in everything pertaining to salvation were shipwrecked, and by their own will were sunk in the depths of the flood. But we shall introduce into this history in general only those events which may be usefull first to ourselves and afterwards to posterity.

Where is the fraud? Eusebius admits that some fell away by their own actions. He just says it is of no benefit to talk about them so he’s not going to do it. That’s not pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes. Lying about it would be saying “No one ever fell away so there’s no need to mention anything about that.” It is a way of shaming those who fail away and honoring those who stood faithful.

In speaking about Josephus’s other mention of Jesus, Lataster says “The Jesus mentioned need not necessarily be Jesus of Nazareth.” Lataster says there are several Jesus’s mentioned in Josephus and Jesus was a common name. While this is true, it is noteworthy that this Jesus is known as the brother of someone else, not a common methodology to use unless your brother was famous, and no description would indicate that Josephus is pointing to a prior reference, the one Lataster denies. Lataster thinks it’s more likely that it’s Jesus bar Damneus, mentioned later on in this same section. Why should we think that? No reason given.

Lataster also says we should be suspicious of Josephus due also to his references to Hercules. He gives page numbers, but unfortunately, he never looked them up.

One is in Against Apion in 1.18. What does it talk about? It talks about the building of the temple of Hercules. Another is in War of the Jews reference 2.16.4. It speaks about the Pillars of Hercules. The third mention is in the Antiquities in 1.15. How much of this relates to any Hercules is questionable, though it is not implausible to say there was a man named Hercules that had myths built up about him. The fact that two of these claims point to something no one would deny the existence of shows that Lataster did not bother to check the sources. (Indeed, this is not the first time I have seen such a claim. Some atheist site out there is no doubt propagating a myth that the faithful accept blindly.)

In fact, to make matters worse, Lataster tells us that by modern reckoning, Josephus was not that great a historian. It is a wonder this was allowed in what is supposed to be a Master’s thesis. If any school passed this, their credibility is called seriously into question. And why is Josephus questionable? Because he mentions miracles.

No bias here. None whatsoever.

Moving on to Tacitus, Lataster says it’s unlikely that a non-Christian would call Jesus “Christ.”

Why?

Beats me.

Christ became such a common way to speak about Jesus that it would not be a surprise to see that some people thought it was a name. (In fact, today, there are people who think Christ was Jesus’s last name, as if he was the son of Mary and Joseph Christ.) He also says Jesus is not specified.

Yes. Well he’s free to try to find another Jesus who was called Christ who was crucified under Pontius Pilate (Tacitus’s only reference to Pilate by the way) and who had a mischievous superstition (In Tacitus’s eyes) rise up about him that had reached all the way to Rome in Tacitus’s day and whose followers were persecuted by Nero.

Any takers for that Lataster?

Lataster also says many scholars dismiss this passage as Christian hearsay. Who are these scholars? We don’t know. They’re never named. He also says there is question over Tacitus’s reliability since he calls Pilate a procurator instead of a prefect. Interestingly, Lataster himself says Pilate could have been both! (And if that is the case, why say Tacitus was inaccurate?) Who are these scholars who think Tacitus is unreliable? If anything, he’s our most reliable Roman historian!

It’s also in fact entirely possible that Tacitus was using an anachronism since he was using the equivalent term his readers would understand. It would be like speaking about Constantinople in ancient history but using the name Istanbul.

Finally, we have the paranoia of Lataster kicking in as he says that most of book 5 and the beginning of book 6 is missing. Why is this? Because according to Robert Drews, it had to be pious fraud. Christians destroyed the text because it covered the relevant time period and made no mention of Jesus.

History gone amuck. You can make any claim you want to by pointing to theories. It’s amazing that someone who goes after Ehrman for using sources we don’t have will himself point to theories we have no evidence for when there’s any number of reasons a work would be lost over time. Lataster says the same about Cassius Dio not having information on the years 6 B.C. to 2 B.C.. Since there was no birth of Jesus, obviously the Christians destroyed them!

When it comes to Suetonius, we are told on page 65 that Chrestus is a Greek name meaning “The Good.”

I would like to see one source that says this! In fact, to make sure I wasn’t missing anything, I contacted others who are quite scholarly in Greek. One wrote back to say “No. It is a Latin term.” Lataster does not cite a Lexicon for this claim. His only source is Doherty.

On page 72, Lataster says there is no complete agreement over what genre the gospels actually fall into. Ironically, his citation for that is Richard Burridge’s “What Are The Gospels?” Had Lataster actually read that, he would know it is an argument that has changed the tide in convincing scholars that the gospels are indeed Greco-Roman biographies. Instead, he thinks it more likely that they fit the Mythic Hero Archetype. (Not noticing that such a claim has been applied to even Abraham Lincoln)

On page 75, Lataster tells us that NT scholar Jerome Neyrey says that John was structured to be persuasive in portraying Jesus as worthy of praise and the same applies to Matthew and Luke.

Well there’s your smoking gun right there! The gospels were written to be persuasive! We all know true historians never wrote works to be persuasive! Every single person who wrote a biography was writing to persuade the audience about the virtue of the person that they were writing about. It’s not a shock the gospels did the same thing! For Lataster, this calls into question their status as sober and objective historical biographies.

In fact, Lataster even suggests that maybe Luke’s source is also the same as what he thinks Paul’s source is, which is just divine revelation. Never mind Luke tells you his methodology. Luke must obviously be lying! He doesn’t fare much better with Mark saying it’s described as good news in the first verse rather than an accurate and objective historical account.

Lataster says that perhaps we should take all of Mark as allegory using the first parable in the gospel as an example while saying the version found in the Gospel of Thomas could be an older version.

Once again, there is a reason NT scholarship does not take this seriously….

Moving back to Paul, in 1 Cor. 15, Lataster says Paul does not mention any before-death appearances of Jesus. Why should he? His audience was questioning the possibility of resurrection and not questioning the existence of Jesus. Note also that Lataster tries to say a passage like this is from divine revelation because of the language of receiving tying it into the 1 Cor. 11 passage about what Paul says he received from the Lord.

Lataster is ignorant of the fact that a number of rabbis would speak about revelations they received from Sinai that were known to be part of the oral tradition that supposedly went back to Sinai. To say they were from Sinai then was to say they were the source, whether or not that claim was correct. To say Paul received the Lord’s Supper message from the Lord is to say that Jesus is the source, which makes sense since Jesus was the main figure at the Last Supper and spoke the words there. Paul does not say that in 1 Cor. 15 because he received no statement that finds its source in Jesus about the appearance of Jesus. Instead, the source is oral tradition as is practically universally agreed on in scholarship.

Lataster mentions several times where Paul could have cited Jesus but didn’t. The first is dietary laws in 1 Cor. 8. The issue is not dietary laws there but rather eating meat sold in the marketplace that was offered to pagan idols. This was never an issue Jesus dealt with.

What about celibacy in 1 Cor. 7? This was about the relationship between a believing spouse and an unbelieving spouse and what to do when a believer is abandoned by an unbeliever. Jesus did not recommend celibacy in the passage in Matthew 19 but said some were eunuchs for the Kingdom. Note that in the passage in 1 Cor. 7, Paul does in fact cite some of the Jesus tradition.

What about when discussing circumcision? Jesus said nothing on if circumcision would have been required for salvation. What difference would it make to say Jesus was circumcised? What about paying taxes. Paul is making a longer talk about the relation of Christians to government which as a whole Jesus did not address. Did Paul forget what the Romans did to Jesus? No. Paul is making a general statement. In general, it’s best to obey the authorities. What about Jews demanding miracles in 1 Cor. 1:22. What good would it do to say Jesus did miracles? He was crucified so the Jews would reject him. It would do no more good to say Jesus did miracles than it does to tell Lataster that Jesus did miracles.

Lataster also says that Paul believed Jesus was a spiritual being based on 1 Cor. 15. Absent is any looking at the work of Gundry and Licona in this regards. Absent is any mention that in 1 Cor. 2 the spiritual man judges all things, which does not mean the immaterial man. Are we to believe Paul thought Adam was immaterial since he refers to him as a living soul? Lataster along these lines also speculates letters of Paul we no longer have access to taught a cosmic Christ so the Christians disposed of them.

Yes. Orthodox Christians would have kept around the letters of someone who they deemed to be heretical and kept them in the NT. Lataster just has an intense paranoia with always assuming that if something is missing in ancient history, it must be the fault of the Christians! They must have destroyed all the references to Vesuvius interrupting as well!

Lataster also says since Paul referred to the twelve, he forgot about Judas dying.

Those who are into football often tell me about the Big Ten, a group that does not consist of Ten! Obviously every sports fan out there has forgotten this fact! We eagerly await Lataster’s contacting ESPN to get them to change their referencing of the group.

Lataster also questions the Galatians reference to the brother of Jesus citing Origen. Well good for Origen. Why should I think that he’s right? He also cites Hoffman saying that Since Paul is not interested in the historical Jesus, it’s unimaginable he would point to a biological relationship here.

Somehow, it seems quite imaginable to NT scholarship the world over. Incredulity is not an argument.

Lataster also says Clement of Alexandria had hints of Gnosticism saying “The Gnostic alone is holy and Pious.” Had Lataster done five minutes of research, he would have found that Clement is mocking the Gnostics saying they do not truly know. The Christians know and the Christians are the true gnostics then since they have real knowledge of the only real God. It is lazy research like this that calls into question Lataster’s methodology of study.

Of course, no work like this would be complete without the copycat theory going around. Jesus was just a copy of other mythical stories before him!

We are also told Philo spoke of a person named Jesus much like Jesus in a look at Zechariah 6:11-12. Most often, this is referring to “On The Confusion of Tongues.” I eagerly desire to see where this Jesus or Joshua is in this book. Doing a search through the book reveals no mention of Jesus or Joshua. Could someone please give a reference to this?

Thus far, I see no real arguments.

Moving on, we have Bayes Theorem, but I see no reason to think Lataster is competent in Bayes Theorem. As someone like Lydia or Tim McGrew would say, who are both skilled in this area, it goes beyond “Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence.” The prior probability has to always change based on evidence. Indeed, an agnostic like Earman lambastes Hume’s argument against miracles in “Hume’s Abject Failure” using Bayes Theorem saying that Hume’s argument would destroy science as well since it does away with marvels too. I will say nothing more about it at this point leaving it to authorities like the McGrews.

Now we move on to God’s existence. Lataster first wants to deal with a posteriori arguments which he says rely on empirical evidence, that is, science. Unfortuantely, while all that is scientific is empirical, not all that is empirical is scientific. Empirical simply means relying on sense experience. I do not need to use science to know that the world exists outside my mind, and indeed I cannot. In fact, if one goes to dictionary.com, this is what is found under empirical.

em·pir·i·cal [em-pir-i-kuhl]
adjective
1.
derived from or guided by experience or experiment.
2.
depending upon experience or observation alone, without using scientific method or theory, especially as in medicine.
3.
provable or verifiable by experience or experiment.

Lataster is just giving us a scientism. It is a wonder that science is said to admit its mistakes and correct itself while at the same time being the best methodology for truth. If it gets the truth so well, why does it have so many mistakes to admit?

Lataster says God denies moderns evidence of his existence since we are less superstitious and gullible. Absent is any interaction with Craig Keener’s “Miracles.” Has Lataster even bothered to research one miracle claim in that one? You know the answer to that one already. The problem is not lack of evidence but being unwilling to look at the evidence one has. Lataster’s claim throughout is that we need to see God come down Himself and speak to us in a dramatic way. (You know, the way he already did which Lataster would require have to have happen again and again regularly since no one should believe unless they personally experienced it.) Lataster has this idea that if God is real, God is supposed to serve him and make himself known or else Lataster has no obligation to believe. Perhaps it could just be that that is not the kind of belief that God wants.

Lataster also says historical arguments fail because history cannot prove miraculous claims. Evidence of this? None. Argument for it? None. It is just an assertion. Perhaps since Lataster at one point quotes Christopher Hitchens, I should do the same. “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

Note also that in speaking of arguments like the Cosmological argument, Lataster says that while many would call them a posteriori arguments since they rely on some sort of scientific evidence or concepts, he calls them a priori anyway. Why? None of the evidence is direct and exclusive.

And if you call the tail a leg, a dog has five legs then….

Philosophers around the world will also be amused to hear Lataster refer to their work as lazy. He says they only come about by thinking (Page 150) and not scientific evidence. No need to do actual work. In his words

These arguments are lazy, ambiguous, speculative, discriminatory, and often appeal to our ignorance (our not knowing something). Such arguments only make inferences. They prove nothing.

It would be amusing to see Lataster get pounded into the ground by someone like Edward Feser….

The main theistic arguments Lataster deals with are Craig’s, and even these dealings with them are ramshackle. Hardly a page if that much is dedicated to an argument. For instance, in looking at the moral argument, Lataster claims it’s circular. Most notably because Craig says it’s obvious that objective moral values exist. Some have disputed this of course, but Lataster does not. If so, what source does he give for morality? Answer. None.

It was hard to imagine doing even worse than Lataster did for Jesus, but somehow he did it for God.

Christians should hope, however, that books like those of Latester will keep coming out and become the bread and butter of the atheistic community. Such works will only further lower their intellectual standards. In the meantime, we’d best be building up ours all the more. Lataster’s work will help those who are already convinced, but only further cement them in their ignorance.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: The Jesus Legend

What do I think of Greg Boyd and Paul Eddy’s book. Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

I have often made the complaint about how weak our apologetic material is due to a lack of real scholarly interaction. Many popular writers avoid it. There have been writers in the past who have not taken this route such as Lee Strobel in interviewing numerous scholars, and J. Warner Wallace, who in the back of his book “Cold-Case Christianity” lists a number of scholarly works and authors to go to.

Fortunately, the Jesus Legend is not like that. I noticed on the back of the book that even Robert Price encourages people to read this book alongside of his. Unfortunately, I suspect most who read Price’s book will not take the time to read a work like this one.

The Jesus Legend is a work written to deal with many of the ideas out there that say Jesus is entirely mythical or that there was much baggage added on to a historical figure that came from pagan sources. You’ll find everyone from Robert Price to John Dominic Crossan dealt with here.

Boyd and Eddy are upfront about their bias at the start. They are Christians. They have no thought that any of us will come to the data entirely neutral. I agree with them. We all have our biases and presuppositions that we bring to any area of study.

The start of the work is about the methodology that will be used, which is absolutely essential. Too often claims are made with no idea given as to how those claims are reached. Boyd and Eddy give reasons why the assumption that miracles cannot happen and all happens on a naturalistic system should be called into question. They are not against someone being critical, but they are stating that those who are critical of miracles should just be just as critical of their skepticism of miracles to make sure it is well-grounded.

From there, the writers lay out the groundwork of first century Palestine. Again, this is a must. Jesus must fit into his historical context somehow. This also includes looking at the question of the relationship of Judaism to Hellenism. Would they be open to making up a Jesus and use pagan ideas to do so?

The next part deals with ancient history and Jesus. We are often told today that if Jesus was so important, surely some people would talk about him! In reality, we should be surprised anyone did. Jesus’s account would have been seen with skepticism and many a Messiah figure was walking around town supposedly doing miracles and such.

In fact, that he is mentioned by Tacitus and Josephus and others instead of all these other would-be Messiahs is incredible. It shows Jesus had the farthest reach, and why should this be the case? Could it be because there is more to the case for Jesus than for anyone else?

What about Paul? Paul wrote when there was a heavy background tradition orally sharing much about Jesus, yet there are allusions to the work of Jesus in Paul and facts about his life. In an oral community, these would have been recognized. (The authors want us to keep in mind we live in a post-Gutenberg culture so it’s difficult to understand how an oral culture would work.)

Speaking of the oral tradition, that’s our next stop. Boyd and Eddy give a rundown on how oral cultures work and what impact writing would have on them. Also, they ask the question concerning if the events in the gospels really happened, or were these the result of prophets in the early church having revelations about Jesus and getting them imposed on him for the gospels?

The final section deals with the use of the gospels as historical sources for Jesus. It starts with answering the question of genre. If the gospels are shown to be Greco-Roman biographies, and they are, then this increases their credibility. Next the authors evaluate the gospels as sources. Are they reliable? Can we give them general trustworthiness? Finally, they have a section completing their cumulative case. The end result is the Christ of orthodox Christianity is the same as the Christ of history. No other Christ better fits the picture.

I hope there will be more works coming out like The Jesus Legend. The only downside is that few people who read someone like Price will bother to pick up a work like this one. It is their loss when they refuse to do so. Christianity needs more material like this than it does soft apologetics that lacks in-depth scholarly research.

In Christ,
Nick Peters