Historical Jesus

Abrahamic religion, you know, the one with the cross...

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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24461  Postby proudfootz » May 08, 2012 1:33 pm

Blood wrote:
IgnorantiaNescia wrote:You are correct to say that massive scholarly imcompetence or a massive scholarly conspiracy is entirely irrelevant to the historicity of Jesus, but this is about the parsimony of Mythicism. Like other pseudo-academic* theories, it needs to address why the experts are so wrong.


Because they're Bible students interested in propagating religious doctrine, not seriously investigating history.


Apparently Ehrman says the so-called 'Jesus experts' never investigated whether the object of their study was an historical person or a fictive one:

"First, I realized when doing my research for the book that since New Testament scholars have never taken mythicists seriously, they have never seen a need to argue against their views, which means that even though experts in the study of the historical Jesus (and Christian origins, and classics, and ancient history, etc etc.) have known in the back of their minds all sorts of powerful reasons for simply assuming that Jesus existed, no one had ever tried to prove it.

Odd as it may seem, no scholar of the New Testament has ever thought to put together a sustained argument that Jesus must have lived. To my knowledge, I was the first to try it...."

So we have to ask - are not these 'Jesus experts' on a par with astrologers and unicorn specialists who've never even thought to question the foundational basis of their house of cards discipline? :think:

The link:

http://ehrmanblog.org/did-jesus-exist-as-part-one/
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24462  Postby archibald » May 08, 2012 2:19 pm

proudfootz wrote:.......which means that even though experts in the study of the historical Jesus (and Christian origins, and classics, and ancient history, etc etc.) have known in the back of their minds all sorts of powerful reasons for simply assuming that Jesus existed, no one had ever tried to prove it.


I suspect the phrase 'powerful reasons for simply assuming' says it all.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24463  Postby proudfootz » May 08, 2012 2:26 pm

archibald wrote:
proudfootz wrote:.......which means that even though experts in the study of the historical Jesus (and Christian origins, and classics, and ancient history, etc etc.) have known in the back of their minds all sorts of powerful reasons for simply assuming that Jesus existed, no one had ever tried to prove it.


I suspect the phrase 'powerful reasons for simply assuming' says it all.


Yes, like children who assume Santa Claus exists because that's what they were told can consider themselves 'Santa experts' without ever realizing there's no basis in fact for their 'knowledge'...
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Re: Can We Reasonably Infer An 'Historical Jesus'?

#24464  Postby archibald » May 08, 2012 3:04 pm

IgnorantiaNescia wrote:
proudfootz wrote:

Thompson is a biblical scholar who's written a book relevant to the topic we're here to discuss. :coffee:


Good. My point about him is that he is as an amateur on the life of Jesus - and as a result not much of an 'authority' on it at all.

Though I readily admit he is much more relevant than Tom Verenna.


Yes, Tom Verenna. Can't say he inspires confidence.

As for Thompson, from what I can gather, his main contribution to the debate is his attempt to show that a lot of the stories about Jesus may be variations on earlier themes in the OT, which, in his view (I believe) often involved non-historic characters to populate such stories. He is described (at wiki I think) as taking the view that the NT is similarly literary by nature rather than historical.

I'm not saying I'm swayed by that. I wouldn't say it sounds especially persuasive of itself, but then I haven't read either of the books, the one mentioned earlier or the one reviewed here:

http://www.robertmprice.mindvendor.com/ ... h_myth.htm

Regarding the idea of 'authority', I guess I don't give it the weight that you do. Certainly, in the arts, if one is not an expert, one can miss things, but equally, if one is an expert, one can end up appearing as if one has stared at the books so long that one has become entranced, and one can end up appearing to lose sight of the wider picture (that of the inherent weakness of the evidence). For example, one can end up saying that the evidence for Jesus is at least on a par with that for Alexander the Great. If one is truly entranced, one can say that the evidence for Jesus is better than for Alexander because we can work out what the former actually thought!

To my knowledge, NT scholar E. P. Sanders has said both these things. :)

Colour me suspicious of only entertaining what NT scholars say.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24465  Postby archibald » May 08, 2012 3:22 pm

http://www.sciecom.org/ojs/index.php/sc ... e/1078/863

An interesting article from Alvar Ellegard in 2008. Yes, yes, I know. He was 'only' a linguist. :)

Following the article there are few measured responses from notable Scandinavian scholars and historians.

For example, Rolf Torstendahl (Professor of history at Uppsala University) says:

'...the historian in this case, as in so many others, will say neither "The evidence is that he lived there and then" nor "The evidence is that he did not live there and then". The logical possibility of the existence of Jesus (at the religiously assumed place and time) cannot be denied, but the evidence seems to be too weak to give such a statement a minimum probability'

and, in conclusion:

'It has always been difficult for people to accept that historians have to leave some questions open. We cannot decide (with rational arguments) on everything we would like to know something about, and this is very true of history. The thick web of myth which is naturally connected with religion makes it difficult to sift historical arguments from mythical. Only when it is urgent for the solution of other problems the historian cannot avoid the effort to weigh imponderabilia in favour of one or the other hypothesis. It is difficult to see that this is needed for questions about founders of religions.

Worth comparing with what E. P. Sanders said (see above) IMO, and with what Bart Ehrman said about powerful reasons for assuming.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24466  Postby Ian Tattum » May 08, 2012 4:47 pm

proudfootz wrote:
archibald wrote:
proudfootz wrote:.......which means that even though experts in the study of the historical Jesus (and Christian origins, and classics, and ancient history, etc etc.) have known in the back of their minds all sorts of powerful reasons for simply assuming that Jesus existed, no one had ever tried to prove it.


I suspect the phrase 'powerful reasons for simply assuming' says it all.


Yes, like children who assume Santa Claus exists because that's what they were told can consider themselves 'Santa experts' without ever realizing there's no basis in fact for their 'knowledge'...

Nothing like Santa Claus at all. This is one of those puerile comparisons that convinces me that disinterested objectivity is not a fundamental motive of many skeptics! The point Ehrmann seems to be making is a much fairer point, that all those who study ancient history tend to be optimistic about evidence that the more hard headed might wish to question more radically.As has been pointed out time after time here, if you were to apply the myther's version of Occam's razor to most of the evidence we have for personalities of the ancient world, they would not make the cut, because most of it is to be found in texts copied over centuries by monks!Sappho, for example one of my favourite poets, is manily known through texts that date to 900 years after her death!Aparently found in the same rubbish dump that gave us the earliest gospels etc!
Those of us drawn to study a subject often are predisposed to care about it, which means that asking more interesting questions than 'Is there unquestionable evidence that he or she existed?' tends to get the better of us.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24467  Postby IgnorantiaNescia » May 08, 2012 4:52 pm

archibald wrote:
IgnorantiaNescia wrote:It is about that phrase, yes. The point is that Carrier suggests a meaning for that word without bringing any evidence along. The only thing Carrier has shown on a charitable reading is that it is possible that it could mean fictive kinship, but he has not shown it is likely. He needs to do word research before suggesting such readings, otherwise we could all invent new meanings for difficult portions.


It does appear that Carrier's comparitive lack of knowledge let him down in that exchange. He is clearly not as expert in the matter as the person he is discussing with. He also strikes me as slightly unwilling to admit that.

But what I am more interested in is whether the lexicographical analysis does or can in fact lead to anything conclusive. This is not clear to me and I don't even need cito's level of skepticism to say that. It seems quite clear to me that 'brother/brothers of the lord' can easily mean something in Paul which 'X/X and Y the brother/brothers of Z' doesn't mean in wider literature of the time.


I'll readily admit there's the possibility we will miss meanings, especially if the surviving corpus of a language is small or if the meaning is extremely specific. However, what other sound method is there to determine the meaning of words in ancient texts except lexicographic research? If the usage is extremely divergent then there's a very good reason to suppose a diferent reason, but this formula ("X brother of Y") is rather common.

Anyway, my main issue is that Carrier made this claim without the necessary evidence. I think that is the reverse order of open-minded research.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24468  Postby tanya » May 08, 2012 4:59 pm

proudfootz wrote:Obviously it's more 'parsimonious' to assume Heracles really existed...


Thanks for your reply. I have two problems with your answer:

a. I don't understand why it should be more "parsimonious" to assume that Heracles, son of Zeus, or Jesus, son of YHWH, actually existed....Is it more "parsimonious" to assume that Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox lived? What is there about obviously mythical characters in works of fiction, that makes their existence more parsimonious? I simply cannot fathom the logic....

b. What I sought to elicit, from stein, or any of the other members of the forum, was an explanation of why they systematically ignored Heracles, in discussing rationale for an historic Jesus. In particular, how do we account for the fact that both Josephus, and Philo of Alexandria, describe Heracles in glowing terms, as if he had been a genuinely living son of Zeus, as was commonly believed and practiced in the "middle east" and Roman empire, two millenia ago.

I cannot accept that it is "more parsimonious" to acknowledge that a son of Zeus, Hercules genuinely existed, though, I freely acknowledge that huge temples were erected in Hercules' honor, at enormous cost, and a very prestigious city constructed de novo in the outskirts of Pompeii, named in his honor, obviously not something that can be written about Jesus, nor ignored from the perspective of one seeking to learn about the origins of christianity.....

I remain convinced that it would be useful, for those seeking to identify what can reasonably be inferred about a human Jesus to address the other Greek fairy tale: the story of Hercules, son of another deity. Alternatively, I would profit from someone explaining why analysis of Hercules' existence, is irrelevant to a study of the historicity of Jesus. What is there, about one character in a Greek fairy tale, that warrants elevating his status from fictional to historical, but not the other one, given that both characters perform supernatural, magic tricks, both represent progeny of famous deities, and both had serious followings, preserving their respective legends for more than a thousand years...

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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24469  Postby Ian Tattum » May 08, 2012 5:06 pm

archibald wrote:http://www.sciecom.org/ojs/index.php/scandia/article/viewFile/1078/863

An interesting article from Alvar Ellegard in 2008. Yes, yes, I know. He was 'only' a linguist. :)

Following the article there are few measured responses from notable Scandinavian scholars and historians.

For example, Rolf Torstendahl (Professor of history at Uppsala University) says:

'...the historian in this case, as in so many others, will say neither "The evidence is that he lived there and then" nor "The evidence is that he did not live there and then". The logical possibility of the existence of Jesus (at the religiously assumed place and time) cannot be denied, but the evidence seems to be too weak to give such a statement a minimum probability'

and, in conclusion:

'It has always been difficult for people to accept that historians have to leave some questions open. We cannot decide (with rational arguments) on everything we would like to know something about, and this is very true of history. The thick web of myth which is naturally connected with religion makes it difficult to sift historical arguments from mythical. Only when it is urgent for the solution of other problems the historian cannot avoid the effort to weigh imponderabilia in favour of one or the other hypothesis. It is difficult to see that this is needed for questions about founders of religions.

Worth comparing with what E. P. Sanders said (see above) IMO, and with what Bart Ehrman said about powerful reasons for assuming.

Ah the Scandinavians! Old Testament study is littered with the corpses of fashionable theories from the land of the myth! I think I see what he is getting at, but he does seem to be one of those scholars whose interest in the past transcends the old stables of what happened, why and to whom. To place the origin of religions into its own category seems to me to go too far. For example ponder the differing challenges of reconstructing the histories of Moses, Zoroaster,Plotinus, St Francis of Assissi and Ron L Hubbard.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24470  Postby IgnorantiaNescia » May 08, 2012 5:09 pm

proudfootz wrote:
Blood wrote:
IgnorantiaNescia wrote:You are correct to say that massive scholarly imcompetence or a massive scholarly conspiracy is entirely irrelevant to the historicity of Jesus, but this is about the parsimony of Mythicism. Like other pseudo-academic* theories, it needs to address why the experts are so wrong.


Because they're Bible students interested in propagating religious doctrine, not seriously investigating history.


Apparently Ehrman says the so-called 'Jesus experts' never investigated whether the object of their study was an historical person or a fictive one:

"First, I realized when doing my research for the book that since New Testament scholars have never taken mythicists seriously, they have never seen a need to argue against their views, which means that even though experts in the study of the historical Jesus (and Christian origins, and classics, and ancient history, etc etc.) have known in the back of their minds all sorts of powerful reasons for simply assuming that Jesus existed, no one had ever tried to prove it.

Odd as it may seem, no scholar of the New Testament has ever thought to put together a sustained argument that Jesus must have lived. To my knowledge, I was the first to try it...."

So we have to ask - are not these 'Jesus experts' on a par with astrologers and unicorn specialists who've never even thought to question the foundational basis of their house of cards discipline? :think:

The link:

http://ehrmanblog.org/did-jesus-exist-as-part-one/


I am afraid you are reading more into Ehrman than he has said. NT scholars and ancient historians have long been aware of the academic theory of Jesus Mythicism and know the reason for rejecting it, but few since Albert Schweitzer have spend much words debunking it by writing several pages and putting it to print. With sustained Ehrman probably means something like "full-length" since he must have been aware of Van Voort's discussion of it in Jesus Outside the New Testament. In any case, there have been earlier rebuttals by scholars of Mythicism.

So in anycase, he is not saying is that all scholars are simply too biased or collectively conspiring against Mythicism.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24471  Postby IgnorantiaNescia » May 08, 2012 5:11 pm

stevencarrwork wrote:
IgnorantiaNescia wrote:It is about that phrase, yes. The point is that Carrier suggests a meaning for that word without bringing any evidence along.


Brother Ignorantia is right, hallelujah! Praise the Lord!

Paul regards every Christian as a brother of Jesus.

Luke/Acts , the only even halfway attempt at a history of the church, goes out of its way to disconnect any idea anybody may have had that James the church leader was a brother of Jesus.

Of course, 'brother of the Lord' is prima facie evidence of a historical Jesus.

But that is all it is. Just as pictures of the Maitreya are prima facie evidence that the Maitreya exists.

But Benjamin Creme invented the Maitreya.

If one religion can start with a totally invented person (and produce photographs of him), it is simply naive for Brother Ignorantia to claim that one phrase settles the matter.

Especially as Brother Ehrman has written that he cannot give 'some assurance' that we have the original text of Galatians. Who knows? It might possibly be an interpolation. Ehrman's whole schtick is that these texts were changed so often, that we just don't have the manuscripts to say what the original texts said. He is probably writing another book to say that even as we speak.


And where did I claim one phrase settled the matter?
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24472  Postby Byron » May 08, 2012 7:28 pm

archibald wrote:It does appear that Carrier's comparitive lack of knowledge let him down in that exchange. He is clearly not as expert in the matter as the person he is discussing with. He also strikes me as slightly unwilling to admit that.

It also gives a neat example of the benefits of peer review. If Carrier had been operating through normal academic channels, freshman errors would've been caught at an early stage, in private, and corrected. Carrier would've reworked his hypotheses and produced much stronger work (which we know he's capable of).

Heck, I doubt it'd even have reached that stage. Carrier could've talked it over unofficially with some colleagues in the languages faculty, been set right, and sent back to the drawing board.

Carrier's claimed before that no academic journal would publish an article advocating a myth Jesus, as 1) Carrier couldn't manage it in 10,000 words or less, and 2) it'd be sabotaged by journal editors with tons of bogus questions. Granting that for the sake of argument (Carrier's produced no evidence of it happening), there's nothing stopping Carrier publishing an article on "the Lord's brother" being a metaphor. Ehrman managed to argue and have published that Simon Peter and Cephas were two different people: but then, he also got the claim dissected by Dale Allison and has now changed his mind.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24473  Postby willhud9 » May 08, 2012 7:30 pm

Dale Allison is a Christian and is obviously biased Byron. His critique of Ehrman's published work is not academic. ;)
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24474  Postby Byron » May 08, 2012 8:07 pm

:D

The gods of irony have no end of fun, 'cause probably the best historical case against Christian orthodoxy is Allison's 1999 book Millenarian Prophet, where Allison constructs an exhaustively-researched framework of an archetypal apocalyptic preacher, and fits Jesus of Nazareth into it with perfection. Everything claimed as a unique proof of Jesus' divine status -- his charismatic preaching, his self-claims, his movement surviving his own death, his disciples passing from despair to hope and evangelizing -- is shown to be downright common in the millenarian framework. Tremble, ye apologists, and despair.

Interestingly, Allison seems uncomfortable with his own conclusions. (Usually a mark of good scholarship.) Millenarian Prophet finished up with a brief, bleak epilogue subtitled "sometimes dreaming is wiser than waking," in which Allison undergoes full-on existential despair. A few years later in The Historical Christ and the Theological Jesus he suggested that Millenarian Prophet may have been colored by Allison going through a bad patch, and then we got a historical case for an empty tomb -- cause unanswered -- in '05's Resurrecting Jesus. Alongside an essay establishing beyond any reasonable doubt that the historic Jesus was a hellfire preacher. Allison gets a touch divided over this stuff. ;)

All that done within the academic hegemony, by a believing Christian, no less. It's almost as if, why, it's almost as if there is no Christian hegemony.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24475  Postby Sityl » May 08, 2012 8:25 pm

Ian Tattum wrote:
proudfootz wrote:
archibald wrote:
proudfootz wrote:.......which means that even though experts in the study of the historical Jesus (and Christian origins, and classics, and ancient history, etc etc.) have known in the back of their minds all sorts of powerful reasons for simply assuming that Jesus existed, no one had ever tried to prove it.


I suspect the phrase 'powerful reasons for simply assuming' says it all.


Yes, like children who assume Santa Claus exists because that's what they were told can consider themselves 'Santa experts' without ever realizing there's no basis in fact for their 'knowledge'...

Nothing like Santa Claus at all. This is one of those puerile comparisons that convinces me that disinterested objectivity is not a fundamental motive of many skeptics! The point Ehrmann seems to be making is a much fairer point, that all those who study ancient history tend to be optimistic about evidence that the more hard headed might wish to question more radically.As has been pointed out time after time here, if you were to apply the myther's version of Occam's razor to most of the evidence we have for personalities of the ancient world, they would not make the cut, because most of it is to be found in texts copied over centuries by monks!Sappho, for example one of my favourite poets, is manily known through texts that date to 900 years after her death!Aparently found in the same rubbish dump that gave us the earliest gospels etc!
Those of us drawn to study a subject often are predisposed to care about it, which means that asking more interesting questions than 'Is there unquestionable evidence that he or she existed?' tends to get the better of us.


The reddened part seems to suggest that there is qualitative differences between the santa clause comparison and what Ehrmann is saying, but your explanation seems to show only quantitative differences. Have I missed something?
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24476  Postby archibald » May 08, 2012 8:39 pm

IgnorantiaNescia wrote:

I'll readily admit there's the possibility we will miss meanings, especially if the surviving corpus of a language is small or if the meaning is extremely specific. However, what other sound method is there to determine the meaning of words in ancient texts except lexicographic research? If the usage is extremely divergent then there's a very good reason to suppose a diferent reason, but this formula ("X brother of Y") is rather common.


Sure. I agree. There is perhaps no better method. And method is better than no method. And thorough method is best of all. But there are the general questions of (a) whether there is enough raw material in the sample and (b) how much 'this fits a formula' can be taken to mean 'is probably same as general formula'. I am still puzzled. What makes us think 'Paul' uses the phrase the way it is used outside Paul and/or outside Christianity? Paul seems, arguably, to have his own 'internal' language, to a large extent.

By the way, I think there is more than just a possibility of missing something. I think that Sander's comparison with Alexander and Ehrman's unwarranted degree of certainty are de facto examples of missing something. That was my point.

IgnorantiaNescia wrote:Anyway, my main issue is that Carrier made this claim without the necessary evidence. I think that is the reverse order of open-minded research.



Sure. Carrier has his shortcomings. Ehrman has his shortcomings. And? :)
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24477  Postby archibald » May 08, 2012 8:49 pm

Ian Tattum wrote:
.... I think I see what he is getting at, but he does seem to be one of those scholars whose interest in the past transcends the old stables of what happened, why and to whom. To place the origin of religions into its own category seems to me to go too far. For example ponder the differing challenges of reconstructing the histories of Moses, Zoroaster,Plotinus, St Francis of Assissi and Ron L Hubbard.



In relation to Ellegard maybe. I take it you were referring to him.

As for Torstendahl, he sounds to me like he's got the right approach. :)
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24478  Postby archibald » May 08, 2012 8:57 pm

Byron wrote:

The gods of irony have no end of fun.....


I might have said something very similar, with only a few amendments:

Interestingly, Allison seems uncomfortable with his own conclusions. (Usually a mark of good scholarship.) [i]Millenarian Prophet finished up with a brief, bleak epilogue subtitled "sometimes dreaming is wiser than waking," in which Allison undergoes full-on existential despair. A few years later in The Historical Christ and the Theological Jesus he suggested that Millenarian Prophet may have been colored by Allison going through a bad clear patch, and then we got a historical case for an empty tomb -- cause unanswered -- in '05's Resurrecting Jesus. Alongside an essay establishing beyond any reasonable doubt a sort of u-turn, that the historic Jesus was a hellfire preacher. Allison gets a touch divided over this stuff. ;) [/i]

He and Hoffman should start a club. :)
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24479  Postby Ian Tattum » May 08, 2012 8:59 pm

archibald wrote:
Ian Tattum wrote:
.... I think I see what he is getting at, but he does seem to be one of those scholars whose interest in the past transcends the old stables of what happened, why and to whom. To place the origin of religions into its own category seems to me to go too far. For example ponder the differing challenges of reconstructing the histories of Moses, Zoroaster,Plotinus, St Francis of Assissi and Ron L Hubbard.



In relation to Ellegard maybe. I take it you were referring to him.

As for Torstendahl, he sounds to me like he's got the right approach. :)

I read too fast, and didnt notice the interpolation :doh: :)
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24480  Postby Byron » May 08, 2012 9:09 pm

archibald wrote:
Byron wrote:

The gods of irony have no end of fun.....


I might have said something very similar, with only a few amendments:

Interestingly, Allison seems uncomfortable with his own conclusions. (Usually a mark of good scholarship.) [i]Millenarian Prophet finished up with a brief, bleak epilogue subtitled "sometimes dreaming is wiser than waking," in which Allison undergoes full-on existential despair. A few years later in The Historical Christ and the Theological Jesus he suggested that Millenarian Prophet may have been colored by Allison going through a bad clear patch, and then we got a historical case for an empty tomb -- cause unanswered -- in '05's Resurrecting Jesus. Alongside an essay establishing beyond any reasonable doubt a sort of u-turn, that the historic Jesus was a hellfire preacher. Allison gets a touch divided over this stuff. ;) [/i]

He and Hoffman should start a club. :)

Ummm ... yeah, 'cept Allison doesn't contradict himself. Nothing to say that God has to be good. See, got its own page. Besides, his theological argument runs something like "Jesus was wrong about Gehenna, and the endtime, and pretty much everything, but still embodies God in some strange sense." Allison's a brilliant historian and a poor theologian. Luckily for this eternal thread, his theology's by the by.

I continue to give less than a gnat's fart about Hoffman's supposed u-turn, as it has exactly fuck all to do with the merits of the HJ case.
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