Jesus Mythers and YECs

Why compare the two? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Let’s start things out with being clear. My wife is a YEC and my ministry partner is a YEC. Nothing I say here is to insult them. However, a YEC friend did message me and say that sometimes when I am engaging with mythicists, I tend to bring up YECs as a comparison point. He thought this was a way of insulting YECs. It’s a good concern to have and I wanted to address it.

I refer to mythicism as a conspiracy theory for atheists. It is a joke in the academy, even among atheists there, at least in New Testament and historical Jesus scholarship, and yet mythicists cling to it and consistently cite Richard Carrier as their prophet. No matter who you cite, Carrier is the answer.

However, Carrier would also admit his position is definitely in the minority here. Most atheists have no idea. I have heard them tell me point blank that scholars don’t even know if Jesus existed. Not only is that false, most of them know a lot of things about the historical Jesus.

But here’s something else most mythicists would have in common. Most of them are atheists. Most of them can’t stand fundamentalist Christians. Most of them especially can’t stand YECs. YECs are to them those big anti-science people who not only deny evolution, but deny simple facts of cosmology. Please keep in mind I am not speaking from my position as I am not a scientist. I am speaking from how I see mythicists seeing YECs.

So if I want to shame a mythicist, and I do, I compare them to being like what they really can’t stand. Their position is quite similar. Oh wait. There are some differences. Let’s look at them.

The big one is God. Many YECs can also make a good case for the resurrection and the reliability of Scripture and the existence of God. Now if you think your book is inerrant and infallible and that you have a message from God that tells you that the Earth is young, it makes sense to believe the Earth is young. I don’t hold to that interpretation, but I at least understand it. Mythicists have no such source unless they want to count Richard Carrier

Also, there are more PhDs in the field who are YECs than there are in the field who are mythicists. If we play the numbers game then, mythicism is in a worse case than YEC is in the academy. If we go beyond YECs and include all who question evolution, then the number greatly increases.

James McGrath at Exploring Our Matrix has a great quote that illustrates this.

So if a mythicist wants to be consistent, then they need to avoid mocking YECs because if YECs are seen as a joke because of their position among the educated, then mythicists should be in a worse camp as the numbers are lower for them across the board. If not, then we get into a thing of parodying Ricky Gervais. “Everyone else’s conspiracy theory is false, but not yours. Yours is true.”

Nothing here said then is meant to mock YECs, but it is meant to go after mythicists. If mythicists can’t stand YECs, then the worst thing they would want is to be compared to them. The goal is to embarrass mythicism, which doesn’t take much, and not YECs.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

A Response To Jim Staley On Halloween

Is Halloween an unholy day? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Kudos first off to Michael Brown. I managed to get in touch with him about the Halloween meme. Which one am I talking about? The one I have written about here and here. Dr. Brown thanked me for the information and has said if they cannot find a source for the quote, they will not put up the image next year. I have to say I think such intellectual humility is quite gladdening. Dr. Brown is someone I have much more respect for as a result.

However, someone else in the comments asked me to watch this video instead. This one is Jim Staley. I have encountered Staley’s work before when some old friends from church were trying to convince me Christmas and Easter was pagan. These are claims I am used to. Why?

When you deal with the Jesus mythicist crowd, paganism rears its head. After all, pagans have virgin births and turning water into wine and feasts with eating the body of the deity and resurrections and all the other stuff. Naturally, the Christians ripped off the pagans and put it together and attached it to a man named Jesus who never even existed.

When you hear those claims and see how bogus they are after doing basic research, after awhile, you start to question a lot of the claims of things coming from pagans. Not only that, but when you see claims that are common knowledge, such as Columbus sailing to prove the Earth was round or that the Middle Ages were the dark ages and you see those are nonsense, you start questioning so-called common knowledge. It is more often common ignorance.

So now I have reached the point that if you want to convince me of this stuff, you had better have some really good evidence of it.

Jim Staley does not. Most of the time he gets up with a powerpoint that has a paragraph on there that looks really nice, but there are no citations given. There are no sources cited. Things that you would think by Staley’s speaking all historians agree with are not agreed with.

Some of this is an anti-Catholicism. He mainly references traditions of praying to the saints and connects that with Halloween and communicating with the dead. Now I as a Protestant could even say I disagree with praying to the saints and with purgatory and all these other things. I would ask my friends who are Catholics and Orthodox to please put this stuff to the side for now as best as possible.

Staley still doesn’t have a case either way. Kids who dress up as a power ranger for Halloween are not trying to talk to someone who’s dead anyway. Kids are not going out and engaging in rituals to try to bend demonic powers to their will. They are just going to get candy.

So what are some of the problems Staley has? For one, he says Saturnalia was extended to twelve days, which goes with the twelve days of Christmas. Hardly. Saturnalia at most from what I understand lasted seven days and not on the 25th at all. As expected, Staley gives no source for his claim.

Staley, of course, believes that Easter and Christmas are pagan holidays. He does say he explains those in other videos and works and if he doesn’t want to reinvent the wheel in a Halloween lecture, that’s fine. I, in turn, will point people to references by my ministry partner on this. The Christmas one is here and the Easter one is here. Videos on Christmas can be found here and one on Easter is here.

He tells a story of a Kenyan man who visits and gets scared saying that all of this material comes from his culture and that the treats are involved with a witch doctor and preventing curses. For one thing, I could find nothing like that and this is just anecdotal evidence at best. From what I could find, Kenyans celebrate Halloween like we do.

Second, I could have sworn Staley was saying this stuff comes from the Celts and others. Now he jumps over to Kenya? What’s going on with this?

Third, supposing they do celebrate it in Kenya this way. So what? Perhaps some people celebrate weddings by having huge orgies take place. Does that mean we cannot celebrate a wedding here? Kids going door to door for candy are not trying to make a deal with a witch doctor to avoid a curse. They are eating candy.

Naturally, he switches for a bit to speak about Christmas trees and goes to Jeremiah 10. Obviously, Jeremiah was addressing an issue that wasn’t going on in ancient Israel, but was rather going to be going on in Europe around the sixteenth century. I have written about this here.

He also has a picture of Egyptians with a tree. Of course, it makes sense that 16th century Europeans would go and find obscure pictures of what Egyptians did and take their practices from that. Trees have always been pictures of life and things to beautify. Evergreens are just easier because they stay green all year round.

He asks if we can see Jesus giving out candy on Halloween. This comes with added claims to it such as Jesus celebrating a day that belonged to satan and that the people took and tried to redecorate and claim for Jesus. That part is begging the question about what Halloween is, but can I see Jesus giving out candy on Halloween? Yes. I can actually see Him going out to the kids and giving them candy directly if anything.

A brief note here also. Luther didn’t nail the theses in 1511. He nailed them in 1517.

Staley also is one who insists we go back to the Old Testament feasts. You can’t help but wonder if he ever heard of this guy named Paul. The old covenant was not made for all people for all time. It was made for the people of Israel and as the writer of Hebrews says referencing Jeremiah, it had disappeared.

Staley will also regularly say that this day did not originally belong to God. Not at all! Satan can’t create a single day. All days belong to God. If a pagan took a day for his own purposes, that doesn’t mean we can’t take it back for the purposes of God. The calendar belongs to Him after all.

So why do I care about this so much?

First off, facts matter. We can’t rewrite history to make it something else. Christians especially need to be discerning with what they take in. When someone says something just ask “Why should I believe that?” The people that made Zeitgeist sound just as authoritative as Jim Staley.

Second, this kind of information as I implied does give more credibility to Jesus mythicists and makes it more likely that some Christians will go down that route. After all, will it be “Well we stole this and this from the pagans, but not this and this.” If you want your children to be more prone to abandoning Christianity, keep following people like Staley.

Finally, this puts a burden of legalism on several Christians. The overwhelming majority of people on Halloween are dressing up in fun costumes and just going door to door for candy. You give them a picture of a God who is ready to judge them for anything like that. Been there. Done that. God the T-shirt.

For another perspective on this, I recommend this article written from the perspective of a Christian in the Orthodox tradition.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Atheist Incredulity

Are many atheists really people of reason? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Normally if you encounter an atheist, the reigning battle cry is that of evidence. I’m not at all denouncing that request. That’s a fine request to make. What I am skeptical about is the fact that evidence is really wanted.

My problem with this is that there is many times a double-standard. Consider some statements that you can see. Richard Dawkins was interviewed by Peter Boghossian and said he had become convinced that most anything that could be seen as done by God could also be done by aliens so when asked what would convince him God exists, the answer is now nothing.

Boghossian doesn’t fare much better. In his book A Manual for Creating Atheists, he says that if he went outside and all the stars at night spelled out “I am God. Believe in me”, well, that might be suggestive. Of course, we could all be experiencing a mass delusion.

Or consider this golden piece from Jerry Coyne.

“The following (and admittedly contorted) scenario would give me tentative evidence for Christianity. Suppose that a bright light appeared in the heavens, and, supported by winged angels, a being clad in a white robe and sandals descended onto my campus from the sky, accompanied by a pack of apostles bearing the names given in the Bible. Loud heavenly music, with the blaring of trumpets, is heard everywhere. The robed being, who identifies himself as Jesus, repairs to the nearby university hospital and instantly heals many severely afflicted people, including amputees. After a while Jesus and his minions, supported by angels ascend back into the sky with another chorus of music. The heavens swiftly darken, there are flashes of lightning and peals of thunder, and in an instant the sky is clear.

If this were all witnessed by others and documented by video, and if the healings were unexplainable but supported by testimony from multiple doctors, and if all the apparitions and events conformed to Christian theology—then I’d have to start thinking seriously about the truth of Christianity.” Faith vs. Fact p. 118-119

Note that he says that this is contorted and tentative. This could just begin to suggest something. Note also that these requests are for an experience. That means that you can present all the objective evidence you want and it doesn’t matter. If you talked about your experience, it would be invalid, and yet experience is all that will convince them. Thus, unless you can command God, which you cannot, you will not convince them.

Now let’s see how they handle other situations.

Remember a few years ago when this manuscript was found claiming that Jesus had a wife? Did we know who wrote it? No. Did we know when? What we had was a few centuries after the event. Did we have any context? No. None of this stopped atheists everywhere from proclaiming that a cover-up had taken place and the truth was now out there.

Now go to the Gospels and what do we get? “They’re anonymous!” even though we have better sources on who wrote them than we did on this other finding. They’re decades later, even though that’s not much in the ancient world and it beats centuries later. We also have the entire works themselves. I haven’t even got to the positive evidence for the Gospels. At this point, there’s a double-standard going on.

A few days ago I saw someone share in a group a story that was first published years ago. It was about Joseph Atwill and his book Caesar’s Messiah. For those who don’t know, this is the guy that even Richard Carrier calls a crank with his hypothesis that Christianity was invented by the Romans to control the poor and so Jesus never existed. This atheist who shared it was so happy a Bible scholar was finally showing the truth.

Except that not even atheist Bible scholars took Atwill seriously. These are the same atheists that will commit ritual suicide before they dare read anything by a Christian scholar, but when someone they don’t even know agrees with them, he’s a scholar. For many atheists, it seems like the reasoning goes like this.

Does the claim make Christianity look bad or argue that it is false?
Then the claim is entirely true!
Does the claim defend Christianity or leave it looking good or at least neutral?
Then the claim is entirely false!

No research is needed.

Jesus mythicism is a fine example of this. The people who decry creationists for going against the reigning opinion of biologists and other scientists will happily embrace this fringe movement and base all their hope on Richard Carrier. If anything, when I see atheists argue like this, it really convinces me they don’t know what they’re talking about.

Memes are one of the biggest culprits in this area. Atheists will often post memes meant to be one-liners or something close to show Christianity is nonsense. Normally, these are laden with hideously bad argumentation and a lack of understanding of the claims of Christianity. Memes can be fine illustrations if you have been establishing a point, but please don’t make them the centerpiece of your argument.

Please note I am not saying we Christians can never be just as bad on our own end. What I am claiming is that the party of evidence drops the idea of evidence when it suits them. I know a number of atheists that are not like this, but there are too many that are and if atheists want to be taken seriously, they should try to silence those that are like this. I think of Tim O’Neill who runs the website, History for Atheists, who is doing great work in this regard as an atheist.

And also, I don’t really try to persuade these people that Christianity is true. They’re not really listening. My debate is for the audience who is watching.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Christian Delusion Chapter 10

What do I think of Robert Price’s chapter? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

This chapter in John What’s-his-name’s book is by Robert Price. I find it interesting to know that Loftus has no problem tying himself in with Jesus mythicists. At any rate, this is largely a chapter written in reply to Boyd and Eddy’s The Jesus Legend.

That is a wonderful book, but I find a problem with a chapter like this. I am not going to go and read the book again, which I read at the library, just to know about Price’s response. Those who have not read the book will find themselves disappointed. It’s much the same with Avalos responding to Copan and Carrier to Stark. Why not present your argument on its own?

So a few points to touch on. Price asks “If someone says he saw Uncle Mel alive again after his cremation, will you believe him?” Well if you mean just seen, why not? Many people do experience individual grief hallucinations of their loved ones. I have a great aunt who has seen her dead husband at least one time. If the only claim we had with Jesus was one or two people saw him alive after He had died, it would be nothing. That is not what we have.

Now Price goes on to say what if you were introduced to Uncle Mel. You would be skeptical. Of course, Price leaves out that you could do some fact checking. You could take a picture and ask people if this is really him. You could ask Mel some things that only he would know. Can you be skeptical? Yes. I am saying that my worldview does not require me to rule it out.

Even if it was true, how is that a problem for a Christian? We believe God can raise someone from the dead. If you’re a naturalist of some sort, then this is not an option so of course, it is presented as a ridiculous option. This is what I call presuppositional atheism. “No one would believe this claim and we know this claim is nonsense because of atheism, therefore no one should believe this other claim like it in Christianity.”

He also says Boyd and Eddy will not go further beyond miracle claims to read Christian theology into a claim. If it happened, to say it was a revelation of God in say, raising Jesus from the dead, that would require faith. Price says this mockingly, but it’s absolutely right. History could show you Jesus died on a cross. It cannot demonstrate alone Jesus did it to die for the sins of the world and that grants forgiveness.

In the same way, being convinced Jesus rose from the dead is not the same as being convinced one must trust Him as savior and Lord. Look at someone like Pinchas Lapides, a Jewish scholar who was convinced Jesus was resurrected, but He did not become a Christian. The trust in what that act means does require faith.

Price also has something about how modern academia tends to discount third world experiences since those people are superstitious, while Boyd and Eddy go on to argue that they weren’t all as credulous as we make them out to be. They are exactly right in this. When people say we know that dead people don’t rise or that virgins don’t give birth (And I do affirm the virgin birth), we are not saying anything they did not know.

It is ridiculous to say we know better because of modern science. Ancient people buried their dead and they had laws about adultery and paternity because they knew dead people stay dead and it takes sex to make a baby. These aren’t exactly grand discoveries of modern science. It’s not as if people were having sex for thousands of years and then modern science came along and said, “Whoa! This is actually where babies come from!”

Price also asks about 2nd-3rd century synagogues with zodiac signs. Not knowing for sure when these were occupied, we could just as easily say that these were after the attack on Jerusalem and were desecrated by the Romans. Price doesn’t supply any information about these synagogues so it’s hard to tell.

Price also asks if the followers of Lubavitcher Rebbe who was a Jew who was said to have risen from the dead and was the Messiah would have really borrowed from the Christians. Why not? If they want to say their figure is the Messiah, they need to top the reigning Messiah figure.

Price also says the crown jewel of oral tradition, Kenneth Bailey, was trumped by Theodore Weeden. Unfortunately for Price, I dealt with this in my review of Ehrman’s Jesus Before the Gospels.

Well yes, Weeden did critique Bailey. In turn, James Dunn critiqued Weeden. Dunn is no slouch in the area. He has a Ph.D. and D.D. from Cambridge and wrote the book Jesus Remembered. (A book cited only once in the bibliography) Dunn’s critique is awfully biting showing the numerous flaws in Weeden’s critique even saying on page 60 that “So, when he sets up a KB story in contrast to or even opposition to the ‘uncorrupted original account’ of the event being narrated, TW is operating in cloud cuckoo land at considerable remove from the realities which KB narrates.” It’s a shame Ehrman did not avail himself of this. For this reason, I think Bailey’s model still suffices and is an excellent example.

I conclude that I still hold Boyd and Eddy in great regard. There are a number of things that I actually do like about Price. His approach to the historical Jesus is not one of them.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Evidence Considered Chapter 27

Did Jesus exist? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

We return to the work of Glenton Jelbert with his book Evidence Considered. We are done with the science section, but he still has some more things to say about science. I choose to forego commenting on those. I have said enough and again, science is not my main area. We’re getting into the stuff I do enjoy, the history.

Let’s start with the really good news. This chapter is on if Jesus existed and looks at the work of Paul Maier. Good news here is also that Jelbert is not a mythicist. He does agree that Jesus existed.

So that’s the end of the review of this chapter. Right? We can all go home. Jelbert and I agree. Let’s move on to 28.

Not quite. There are a few arguments on the way I find problematic. There are also ways of doing the research I question.

Maier argues that the real debate is not did Jesus exist, but who was He? Jelbert says to say He was God is an extraordinary claim and requires unassailable evidence. If that is not given, it is rational to assume it is not true until otherwise shown. The problems are many with this.

For one thing, extraordinary claims are subjective. I consider atheism an extraordinary claim. Could I go to Jelbert and then say, “Unless you present unassailable evidence of atheism, then theism is true?” I could, but that would not be a valid argument at all.

Keep in mind I am not saying that Jesus is the Son of God in the Christian sense is a mundane claim. It is not. It is a serious claim that needs evidence, but it needs sufficient evidence to be believed. Without a standard as to what counts as extraordinary, then too often it becomes “That which is extraordinary to an atheist.” Many a creationist would say life from non-life is an extraordinary claim and until it can be shown how that happened we are all justified in believing in creationism.

Jelbert also says the atheist position says that other religions present equally unconvincing evidence would be agreed by Christians, but it isn’t. We think Christianity does have the unique evidence of history. We would give a religion like Judaism much more credibility since it’s essential to us. This also doesn’t answer the evidence for Christianity, which I am sure we will get into in these chapters.

Jelbert does say that Paul is silent on many biographical events in the life of Jesus. Of course, he is. He’s not writing a biography. He’s writing to deal with situational events that knowledge of the life of Jesus, which would be background knowledge for his audience, would not help. The Corinthian church has to deal with meat offered to idols. How does saying Jesus performed miracles help answer the questions?

Jelbert is also willing to concede the Gospels may be attempts to historically write the life of Jesus. He presents us with a version of the telephone game. There is no looking at how stories are told in ancient societies. Such could be found in a work like The Lost World of Scripture. The stories would be told in groups. A few would be gatekeepers of knowledge as it were to make sure the story was told accurately. There could be variation on minor details, but the whole thrust of the message had to get through.

Two events in Matthew are worth mentioning. The first is the slaughter of the infants. There is no outside mention of this in Josephus or anywhere else. Josephus would likely be the only one to record this, but we have no reason to think Josephus is exhaustive in everything that Herod did. Second, this would be a minor event. At most, about a dozen children would die. This would be par for the course for Herod. It’s also strange that the Bible seems to be the only work I know of that if something doesn’t show up outside of it, it must be seen as suspect.

The second is the prophecy that Jesus would be called a Nazarene. Jelbert says no such prophecy exist. My answer is that this is the only time Matthew speaks about a fulfillment of the prophets, plural. I think he’s saying the general message of prophecy is that the Messiah would grow up in a humble and shameful state.

There’s also nothing he says about a census as in Luke. Jelbert presents nothing on the other side that acts as positive evidence. I point the reader to the interview I did with Ben Witherington especially.

Jelbert also asks if both birth narratives could be cobbled together to form a unit. He doesn’t see how with any integrity. Let’s stop there. The problem is this is the same kind of thinking he accuses IDists of. “Could this organism come about through purely naturalistic processes? I don’t see how.”

Second, he says the only reason you would do this is because you think the Bible is the Word of God which presupposes God exists. Not necessarily. Now suppose I do think Jesus rose from the dead on other grounds and I think the Bible is the Word of God and I have good arguments for God’s existence. Is it reasonable to think there’s an explanation even if I don’t know one? Yes. Just like it’s reasonable for the atheist to think there’s a way life came from non-life even if it is not known now.

But besides that, couldn’t some people want to resolve these accounts because they want to try to figure out what happened and if a way exists, go with it? That is the nature of historical investigation. We can look at differing accounts and try to reconcile them.

I could just as easily turn this on Jelbert too. Why doesn’t he want to investigate to see if the accounts can be reconciled? Because he is an atheist and he doesn’t want the Bible to be the Word of God and for Jesus to have risen from the dead. Is that true? I can’t say. Could it be plausible to some? Yep. This is why pointing to motives is really kind of pointless.

In the end, Jelbert and I agree on the conclusion, which is refreshing. He does say this doesn’t give evidence for God, which is true, but this is also a cumulative case. It’s hard to have Christianity if Jesus never existed after all.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Deeper Waters Podcast 9/22/2018: Tim O’Neill

What’s coming up? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Atheists often pride themselves on being people of reason. They only believe something based on evidence and they’re not gullible enough to buy into myths. Unfortunately, gullibility is part of human nature and one doesn’t get a free pass because they’re an atheist. Atheists many times do fall for myths and two of the greatest ones they fall for are the ideas that Jesus never even existed and that the so-called Dark Ages was a science stopper.

Sadly, a lot of atheists have a tendency to do what many Christians also sadly do, and that’s to not inform themselves of arguments on the other side. If that is the case, how can we convince them that these are great myths? Perhaps we could do it by having one of their own speak to them.

Thankfully, one atheist is on a mission to do just that. One atheist is out there standing tall against the wave of bad history coming from internet atheists and saying that while he agrees with them on the question of God and the resurrection of Jesus, they are wrong here and they need to acknowledge that. He has gone so far with this that he has created a website of history for atheists. In a Deeper Waters first, I’m hosting this atheist on my show this Saturday. His name is Tim O’Neill.

So who is he?

I am an atheist, sceptic and rationalist who is a subscribing member of the Atheist Foundation of Australia and a former state president of the Australian Skeptics. I have contributed to many atheism and scepticism fora over the years and have a posting record as a rationalist that goes back to at least 1992. I have a Bachelors Degree with Honours in English and History and a research Masters Degree from the University of Tasmania, with a specialisation in historicist analysis of medieval literature.

As a rationalist, I believe strongly that people should do all they can to put emotion, wishful thinking and ideology aside when examining any subject and that they should acquaint themselves as thoroughly as possible with the relevant scholarship and take account of any consensus of experts in any field before taking a position. Which is why I began this blog in October 2015. After over ten years of seeing supposed “rationalists”, most of them with no background in or even knowledge of history, using patent pseudo history as the basis for arguments against and attacks on religion, I felt someone needed to start correcting the popular misconceptions about history which are rife among many vocal atheist activists. I also felt there needed to be some push-back by a fellow unbeliever against several fringe theories and hopelessly outdated ideas which have no credibility among professional scholars and specialists, but which seem to be accepted almost without question by many or even most anti-theistic atheists. “History for Atheists” has grown out of these convictions. In the years since I began this blog I have won a number of fans and supporters, but also gained a few detractors and hecklers. That’s the nature of the rough and tumble of the internet. If this is your first visit here I would ask you to try to put assumptions, a priori positions, and emotional preferences to one side and look objectively at the evidence and arguments I present. If we preach objectivity and dispassionate, well-informed rational analysis to others, we need to be prepared to practice these things ourselves. And remember that it’s usually only by discovering we have been mistaken about something that we can learn something new.

I hope you’ll be listening as we hear an atheist come on and talk about what his fellow atheists are getting wrong in history. Tim and I differ on several things after all, but we are united in this and I have turned to his site many times as a reference for atheists. Please also consider going on iTunes and leaving a positive review of the Deeper Waters Podcast.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Atheist Manifesto Part 3

What does Onfray have to say about Christianity? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

It’s clear we have no reason to be surprised by Onfray at this point. It is said that the ignorance in the atheist community has got to the point not where I am surprised, but where I expect it. I am most often surprised when I meet the atheist who does know what he’s talking about. He is sadly the exception.

Onfray is not one who knows what he’s talking about. He starts with the statement of course that Jesus never existed. Yeah. We all saw this one coming. No contemporary documentation and no archaeological proof. Somehow, the Pauline epistles and the Gospels within a generation and in the time of eyewitnesses don’t really count. Were we to go with this rule, we would rule out figures like Hannibal, for instance, from the historical record.

But what about Josephus and Tacitus and others? Intellectual forgeries! A monk copying them saw there was no mention of his story and so he decided to put one in without any shame whatsoever. Therefore, Onfray says “Nothing of what remains can be trusted.” One wonders if Onfray is ready to throw out all history copied down by Christians just to uphold his mythicism.

Keep this in mind because in the very next section Onfray tells us about a number of madmen at the time. Judas the Galilean, Theudas, Judas’s sons Jacob and Simon, and Menahem. Then he tells us about the Jewish war in the 70’s.

Little problem here.

What would be his source? Well, we have one source for Messiah claimants other than Jesus. Just one.

Josephus.

You know, that guy whose writings can’t be trusted.

Onfray points as well to Bible contradictions and improbabilities. Naturally, there’s no bothering to look at any commentaries on the topic to see what they have to say. Nah! Too much of a hassle! Again, the problem is that Onfray also has no bibliography so there’s no way of knowing where he gets his bogus information from.

Onfray does say the crucifixion is improbable since the crime Jesus did would involve stoning. Not only that, Pontius Pilate would not likely bother to get involved with someone like Jesus. This is all shown to be nonsense when one realizes that it was the Passover time and Jesus had done two remarkable events, namely the Triumphant Entry and the cleansing of the temple, and stoning would not be enough as the Jews wanted to make a mockery out of Him and shame Him so they would have Him stoned. Pilate would get involved because you don’t want a would-be king rising up at the time of Passover when the city has a huge population of faithful Jews.

He also says the burial account is unlikely. After all, no cleansing is mentioned, but does it really need to be spelled out? The main point is the tomb. Onfray also says the name Arimathea means “After death.” Odd. Carrier has said it means “Best disciple town.” Can these guys get their story straight?

From here Onfray turns to Paul. Paul is a raving hysteric forcing his neuroses on the world. Onfray goes to the thorn in the flesh and how everything has been suggested for this. Then he says, except sexual problems. No doubt, he has not done any real reading on this. When I saw him going there, my first thought was he would say something about Paul secretly wrestling against homosexual temptation, which I hear all too often.

He also says one sign of Paul having a deep-seated pathology is that he fails to acknowledge it. Well, this is interesting then. I surmise that Onfray has a deep emotional wound that causes him to have an intense hatred of anything Christian whatsoever and the best way to deal with his neuroses is to force them on the rest of the world by writing a book like this and getting everyone to agree with him. My great evidence of this is that nowhere in this book does Onfray acnkowledge any deep-seated pathologies!

From there we go on to Constantine waging war on pagans and such. That part I really have no interest in and want to leave for those familiar with church history more than I am. For now, I will just say I am suspicious entirely of his history based on what I’ve seen thus far.

We will continue another time.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: Atheist Manifesto Part 1

What do I think of Michel Onfray’s book published by Arcade Publishing? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Ever since the new atheists, atheism has been going downhill. It looks like each time someone has to write to try to come up with something even more ridiculous than the last guy. On the internet, one deals with the internet atheist, a special breed of atheist that seems to believe anything provided it argues against Christianity. For those who call themselves, free-thinkers, they all seem to think alike. Well free-thinker, you get what you pay for.

Popular also among internet atheists is the meme. Now I enjoy a meme as a humorous illustration of an argument, but sometimes they are meant to convey something so profound, and it kind of is. It’s profoundly dumb. Such is the case when I saw shared a meme quoting a book that has to be one of the most ridiculous quotes I have ever read.

Yes. I find this hilarious as a man who makes it a point to use reason everyday and tries to be as sound in my thinking as possible and a lover of the mind sitting among books aplenty. I am a great lover of freedom and as for a hatred of sexuality, women, and pleasure, well, I am a happily married man so go ahead and draw out your own conclusions.

I could go through the meme more and more but you get the idea. Onfray is someone who has not really interacted with great Christian thinkers. I got his book and sadly, the quote is indeed very real. As I started going through it, I figured I’d check the bibliography to see what works he cited.

Problem there.

He has none.

Oh he will mention books throughout his own book, but he won’t give page numbers or anything like that. He will make claims just floating in the air. The vast majority of them are completely bogus. The book really reads as if it’s a childish rant.

So let’s look some at part 1. We’re going to start near the end because if everything was documented, the response would be as long as the book itself. I’d like to highlight a few areas.

Let’s go to page 50.

Onfray says we would not consider locking someone up who has a brain tumor, which is no more of a choice than a pedophilic fixation. One can dispute that pedophilia is a fixation that one has no choice over, but let’s suppose for the sake of argument that it is. If I know someone who has a brain tumor and that brain tumor causes them to act violently toward people around them, then yes, I think they need to be locked up in some way.

In the same sense, someone who is a pedophile and is going to actively be a threat to small children needs to be dealt with in a way that he won’t harm people around them. It is amazing that Onfray treats this as if it is something just as innocuous as a brain tumor. Perhaps he should speak to many of the people who have been damaged by pedophiles. (And we can expect he will make no remark about Catholics either!)

On 52-53, Onfray speaks about the ignorance of many Christians. While this is true, it says nothing about the truth of Christianity. He says believers will listen to Saint Paul but have never heard of Gregory of Nazianze. Well, strike one here. He says they set up the infant creche, but they know nothing of the founding quarrels of Arianism or the council on iconophila. Strike Two. He talks about communion, but papal infallability is unheard of. Strike three. I do know about these, so what then?

Onfray goes on to get worse. He says that believers attend Christmas mass but don’t know that the church picked this date to coincide with the winter solstice and Sol Invictus. No source is given for this claim. The winter solstice would have never fallen on December 25th anyway. He also says death by stoning was the standard punishment for what Jesus was charged with. Stoning, however, was not really to be done by the Jewish populace at the time and crucifixion was done to shame the person more. Jesus was meant to be a public example.

He then says you can talk to a Christian about the neglect of the work of taking care of the poor. The Christian will ask about liberation theology. Not this one. This one will accept that the church is not perfect and will point to ways we need to improve but will still show that Christians are giving more to the poor and doing more charity work. I have no wish to endorse liberation theology.

He goes on to say that Paul decries the pleasures of the flesh and despises women. Onfray thinks you will hear that mystical ecstasy is a higher pleasure. No. Here you will be told what passages you have in mind and then let’s discuss them.

He then says that if you mention the massacre of indians you will be told about Bartolome de Las Casas. Again, not here. I will ask for your historical sources and if the Christians are in the wrong, that’s something horrible and we need to own up to it, but it doesn’t change that Jesus rose from the dead. It’s a shame that Onfray did not go out and dialogue with real Christians or look at real Christian writings on the topic.

On page 60, we get much of what is predicted. He has earlier said in the book that there is no evidence Jesus existed and now we can know when he was forged with certainty. You have to wonder what’s with all these people thinking like this? Creationists are often mocked for going against the overwhelming consensus in science, and perhaps rightly so, but atheists definitely go against it.

By the way, he also talks some about the tree of knowledge in the book. The idea is apparently that Christians hate knowledge and the great sin was getting knowledge. No. The sin was the knowledge of good and evil in which what is really meant was trying to usurp divine wisdom. It was trying to rule on one’s own what they had really been given to rule. It was a defiance.

When we return, we will look at what he has to say about monotheisms.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

Book Plunge: In Defense of the Gospels

What do I think of John Stewart’s book published by Intelligent Faith Press? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

John Stewart is a lawyer who works with Ratio Christi and has written a book on defending the Gospels. Stewart goes through several questions very thoroughly and point by point. He also introduces you to many methodologies and explains why he accepts the answers that he accepts.

He starts off with asking when the Gospels were written. He establishes reasons for His dates but points out that often even on the worst case scenario of a date, the date could still be within the lifetime of the eyewitnesses. He points out that this is important and compares this to other works of history as well.

Stewart goes on to use similar methodologies on other questions such as if the Gospels are anonymous or if they’ve been changed or if they’re biased. Many of the objections dealt with are the ones that most people will encounter when they engage with internet atheists. If you are often involved or know someone who is involved with those debates and wants an extra resource, this would be a good one.

The work is also short and easy to understand without using technical language. It can be read in a short time and would be ideal for college students on campuses. No doubt, this is because of years that Stewart has spent with Ratio Christi.

There’s also a brief section on Jesus Mythicism in one of the chapters. This will be helpful for those who regularly encounter this crazy idea that seems to keep popping up its head. While the material there is basic, it is enough to help you out with the average mythicist.

I also like the argument dealing with the question of if the Gospels are anonymous. This is a common one that shows up on the internet, but it is one I do not see professional scholars dealing with, mainly because most scholars don’t use “The Gospels are anonymous” as a reason to think that they are automatically untrustworthy. Stewart rightly points out that it does help us if we can have good reasons to name an eyewitness behind a Gospel, but it is not a necessity to know if the Gospel is reliable or not.

If there were some criticisms I would give, the first one is that the book does need an editor. There would occasionally be seen typos that were distracting. One in particular was to hear about how to respond to Bark Ehrman. This is a slip of the keyboard of course, but it can damage one’s reputation.

I also would have liked to have seen a lot more specifics on ideas that have been overturned in the past 100 years about the Gospels due to archaeology. Mythicism was addressed, but that has never been a reigning theory among scholars. There have been very few isolated individuals who have held that position, although the number today could be greater due to the rise of the internet and the fast spread of false information.

Still, there is much to commend in Stewart’s book. It is a good opening defense one can have in the case of the Gospels and the author does make sure to focus there. He does have a short section on the Pauline epistles, but that is not what the book is about so he does rightly stick with the Gospels. I recommend this one for your college student, especially one who wants to better defend the Gospels.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

 

Yes. Mythicism Is Still A Joke

Should Mythicism be treated as a serious idea? Let’s plunge into the Deeper Waters and find out.

Over at New Testament scholar Larry Hurtado’s blog, for some reason, Dr. Hurtado began writing about mythicism. I was curious to see what was said because NT scholars rarely say anything about mythicism for the same reason geologists would rarely say anything about Flat Earthers. The idea is simply considered a joke.

There’s good and bad sides to this. The good is that NT scholars do have much more important things to do than to get involved in internet squabbles. One can understand them not wanting to take their time to deal with an idea that they do not think should be taken seriously, and they’re right. The bad is that sadly, people are uninformed and they do take it seriously. This is the kind of idea that spreads on college campuses and on the internet among people who don’t know how to do history.

Naturally, posting like this soon reaches the ears of prominent internet blogger Richard Carrier, the rare person who has a Ph.D. in a relevant field and holds to mythicism. Carrier takes the time to say that he wasn’t going to engage one day because it was his birthday recently and there were orgies to be had. Others had responded, but it was time for him to take on Hurtado.

“Surely you’re joking! You wouldn’t write a serious piece interacting with a highly established NT scholar and talk about having orgies would you?”

Well, Richard Carrier would.

Carrier also showed up on Hurtado’s blog, to which Hurtado didn’t even blink at it, but simply pointed out that his reading was highly off. That was last night and I have seen nothing new today about it and Hurtado has said that he has much more important interests to deal with. Who can blame him?

As I said, the theory of mythicism is popular on the internet, but I think Hurtado could be right in that this is a last hurrah for mythicism, at least for now. While Carrier is the best the mythicist case has, it’s not really saying much. Others in the field, both Christian and non-Christian, are looking and aren’t really impressed. The only people that seem to be impressed are those who are already mythicists and atheists who want to hear what they already think.

Such it is with conspiracy theorists. You can see conservative and liberal Facebook pages that will show claims that are easily shown to be false, but many people on each side want to believe what they already believe. Mythicism is just that. It’s a conspiracy theory for atheists. The evidence can sound convincing and persuasive if you don’t understand history, but once you do, the whole thing falls and we all see that the emperor has no clothes.

An interesting twist is that mythicism can be to history what solipsism is to philosophy. It’s usually thought that when you get to solipsism in your philosophy, you’ve made a mistake somewhere. Mythicism can show us how history should be done by showing us how bad history is done. Perhaps this will further refine our criteria of history which I don’t doubt will put Jesus in an even better light historically. After all, death could not defeat Him 2,000 years ago. There is no reason to think the historical method will today.

There have been stories of soldiers of Japan who were unaware that the war had ended decades earlier. So it is that we have many mythicists fighting a battle today unaware that the war is already over and that the historicity of Jesus is solid bedrock. Hopefully, more will see before too long that the battle is already done, but my concern is that there will still be eternal casualties with those who do not know realize the facade that they’ve been sold.

In Christ,
Nick Peters