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?

#24481  Postby Byron » May 08, 2012 9:18 pm

And now the general point: the MJ case has fatal objective flaws.

Chief among them is the oft-claim that it's unfairly suppressed or ignored by the academy. This'd have weight if a shred of evidence were ever produced to back it up. It isn't. Ever.

Carrier's made insinuations about tenured professors being pressured to avoid MJ and non-tenured academics fearing for post. But he offers zero proof. If MJ could point to journal-standard articles from qualified academics denied publication, I'd be the first to cry foul. But it can't. Instead we get claims that the academic methods are flawed. Argued for outside the academy. Academia's made self-critique into a goddamn industry. If there was a compelling case for a new methodology, why is it being made outside the academy?

It all looks, inescapably, like the MJ case can't take the heat of academic scrutiny. I'll maintain this conclusion until its most qualified advocates cut the excusemaking and pony up their research.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24482  Postby IgnorantiaNescia » May 08, 2012 9:19 pm

As for that claimed spectacular U-turn, it really is an anti-climax. Dr Hoffmann responds on his blog:

One very simple question please. Have you changed your mind about the historicity of Jesus? You clearly stated on “Point of Inquiry” in 2007 that you did not believe he was historical, but you now seem utterly dismissive of that position. Thanks for clearing this up.

It is a very simple question. I hope it will not offend you if I say there is not a simple answer. It depends entirely on what you mean by historical Jesus. If you mean the figure in the gospels in every particular, then I do not know many NT scholars of any repute who believe that. If you mean “Did Jesus exist?” as an historical postulate, my answer is yes, but with reservations. Bultmann falls into this camp–and I assume you know his arguments? If you ask, “Is Jesus a myth,” then my answer is, No. First because a myth is a specific literary genre that mythicists including most atheists usually get wrong. Second because it usually implies a deception which cannot be attributed to the sources or their transmission. Does this clear things up? I very much doubt it. If on the other hand you ask me whether I have changed my mind: that is simple. No. But in order to understand what this means, you would need to read a bit and not listen to a podcast from 2007–my views go back to works as early as 1984. And that requires a bit of effort and concentration. To help you out: I will tell you that I regard the question of historicity a real question. At this point, I regard the question to have been answered affirmatively: the preponderance of evidence sways in the direction of a historical Jesus. I have said so repeatedly. And finally it is a matter of evidence, not what I “think”or “believe.” Richard Carrier’s arguments have done nothing to convince me that there was no historical Jesus, and indeed, I find his entire methodology ignorant, intellectually flawed, and useless.


http://rjosephhoffmann.wordpress.com/20 ... mment-5541
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24483  Postby Byron » May 08, 2012 9:33 pm

Thanks for that IgnorantiaNescia.

The definition of a historical Jesus is an interesting question. How many points of similarity must there be between the gospels and the historical reality in order to say that Jesus existed?

Hoffmann appears to be working in that framework. This thread could be working within it if it wasn't fixated on MJ v. HJ.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24484  Postby archibald » May 08, 2012 10:28 pm

Byron wrote:

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.



Yes. I'd half forgotten your modus operandi. Best to have a personal mini-hegemony, I suppose, just in case the one in the outside world disappoints.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24485  Postby Byron » May 08, 2012 10:32 pm

archibald wrote:
Byron wrote:

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.

Yes. I'd half forgotten your modus operandi. Best to have a personal mini-hegemony, I suppose, just in case the one in the outside world disappoints.

Was there an answer to my points against MJ lurking there?

If so, please, illuminate. :cheers:
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24486  Postby archibald » May 08, 2012 10:36 pm

IgnorantiaNescia wrote:As for that claimed spectacular U-turn, it really is an anti-climax. Dr Hoffmann responds on his blog....



Except nobody said it was spectacular, did they?

Is this really the level of discussion? Every 'onside' contribution is applauded and every 'offside' contribution is underplayed and apologised for. One gets the impression that if Richard Dawkins started advocating HJ, he'd be lovingly adopted on the spot. :)
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24487  Postby archibald » May 08, 2012 10:37 pm

Byron wrote:
archibald wrote:
Byron wrote:

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.

Yes. I'd half forgotten your modus operandi. Best to have a personal mini-hegemony, I suppose, just in case the one in the outside world disappoints.

Was there an answer to my points against MJ lurking there?

If so, please, illuminate. :cheers:



Why? So you can declare it a 'non starter' or yourself as 'not playing' or 'bored' or 'not giving a gnat's fart'........yet again. :)

One can only handle so much of that carry on.

If you ever make a point of substance about HJ that doesn't have the word 'tenure' in it, let me know. Email me. I'll integrate it into my ology.

Byron wrote: How many points of similarity must there be between the gospels and the historical reality in order to say that Jesus existed?


What 'historical reality' do you have in mind, one wonders? Your route deserves a new descriptor. I suggest 'mobius strip thinking'.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24488  Postby Byron » May 08, 2012 11:17 pm

archibald wrote:One gets the impression that if Richard Dawkins started advocating HJ, he'd be lovingly adopted on the spot. :)

Erm, he does, or at least, did when he wrote The God Delusion. G.A. Wells gets a namecheck for his "serious, though not widely supported, historical case," [sic] before the Dawk concludes that "Jesus probably existed." (p.122)

I see the awkward, objective facts I highlighted about the MJ case get treated to a snark endrun. Surprise I do not feel.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24489  Postby archibald » May 08, 2012 11:24 pm

Byron wrote:
archibald wrote:One gets the impression that if Richard Dawkins started advocating HJ, he'd be lovingly adopted on the spot. :)

Erm, he does, or at least, did when he wrote The God Delusion. G.A. Wells gets a namecheck for his "serious, though not widely supported, historical case," [sic] before the Dawk concludes that "Jesus probably existed." (p.122)


Fair enough. G. A. Wells and R. Dawkins gain seal of approval in one fell swoop. Count the pigeon holes. Alert the HJ newspapers.

Do remind me, what's Wells' latest position? One more change of heart and he'll be eligible for free Membership to the Hoffman Club and the Allison Bad Patch society.

Byron wrote:I see the awkward, objective facts I highlighted about the MJ case get treated to a snark endrun. Surprise I do not feel.



Awkward. Objective. Facts. A veritable hat trick..... of near misses. Glad to see your SOH is intact, as ever. :cheers:
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24490  Postby Corky » May 08, 2012 11:43 pm

Whatever happened to all those thousands of Jews who supposedly believed all that Jesus nonsense? It's as if they vanished into thin air - since there aren't any in any history of that time period. It's as if the Jews never even heard of the god-man until after the Jewish wars. Did they all get killed defending Jerusalem in 66-70 AD? Yeah, that must have been it, they all got killed and that's why there weren't any Jews in a church founded by Jews.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24491  Postby proudfootz » May 08, 2012 11:50 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.


Not really a bad comparison at all, since for both figures what most of us 'know' about them is pure fantasy.

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!


And has been pointed out time and time again, this charge is often asserted but has not been able to be supported. Each historical figure must stand on its own two legs, and we won't 'lose' Boudicca if it turns out Jesus was invented any more than we have 'lost' anything of real historical value because Abraham and Moses have been consigned to the fiction pile.

What exactly do you mean by the 'myther version of Occam's Razor'? It sounds like you're building a straw man as I haven't seen anything but the standard Occam's Razor being employed. As I have helpfully pointed out for the math-challenged every HJ hypothesis will always has one more entity than any MJ hypothesis: namely Jesus. If Occam's razor means anything in this debate it works against the proposition of an 'historical Jesus'.

Sappho, for example one of my favourite poets, is mainly known through texts that date to 900 years after her death! Apparently found in the same rubbish dump that gave us the earliest gospels etc!


Unlike Sappho, Jesus wrote nothing (except those letters to Agbar :drunk: ). Do you see where having works written by the person might be stronger evidence of a person having existed?

This is why I'm ready to accept the existence of a Paul who wrote letters - somebody wrote them.

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.


Of course there's lots of interesting questions, but before asserting 'Harry Potter certainly existed and anyone who doubts is a crank' it behooves the scholar to investigate whether such claims are really tenable, wouldn't you agree?
"Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't." - Mark Twain
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24492  Postby proudfootz » May 08, 2012 11:58 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.


Thanks for the valuable link! :cheers:

It's instructive to see scholars actually engage on the issues instead of personalities.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24493  Postby proudfootz » May 09, 2012 12:15 am

tanya wrote:
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...

:)


Sorry if my sarcastic reply went over like a lead baloon. :oops:

Recent posts about how assuming the additional 'failed prophet Jesus' to the mountain of myth of 'Jesus Christ' is supposed to be more parsimonious than just taking the myth for what it appears to be, and not being forced to invent all kinds of special criteria to try and descry a real human behind the fanciful stories lead me to think it was an obvious absurdity to say 'assuming historicity is always more parsimonious' and could not possibly be taken seriously.

I also feel it is not in fact more parsimonious to assume there must be a human person behind every character who appears in myth. The euhemerist assumption is fine for a working hypothesis - what if there was a Moses, an Abraham, a Noah upon whose real biography some legend was attached? But people who engage in such speculation should be ready to admit the evidence for an 'historical Noah' is pretty thin when challenged, and not fly into a defensive rage.

I don't think the HJ crowd are ready to consider the case of their special historical figure on a par with any comparable figure like Heracles, they prefer linking Jesus to real historical persons in hopes that some of the reality will 'rub off' from Hannibal or Alexander onto their Jesus.

Perhaps in time that maturity will come.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24494  Postby proudfootz » May 09, 2012 12:30 am

IgnorantiaNescia wrote:
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.


I don't necessarily take Ehrman to be saying that. He seems to be simply admitting that the historicity of Jesus is assumed (as some HJers here say 'the question is settled') and they go on from there.

I think it's quite telling that Ehrman seems to have advanced quite far into his career before ever seriously considering the question as to whether the subject of his scholarly career even existed - and the prompting for such a study had to come from the lay audience outside 'the academy'!

I doubt Ehrman believes that he and his colleagues are 'too biased' - but I think what he and his colleagues write about the mythicist challenge tells a different tale. But Ehrman does seem to say in so many words that no 'serious' rebuttal to the mythicist challenge has come from 'the academy'.

So if Ehrman is aware of these alleged 'rebuttals' you refer to, Ehrman doesn't seem to think much of them. :coffee:
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24495  Postby proudfootz » May 09, 2012 12:47 am

archibald wrote:
IgnorantiaNescia wrote:As for that claimed spectacular U-turn, it really is an anti-climax. Dr Hoffmann responds on his blog....


Except nobody said it was spectacular, did they?

Is this really the level of discussion? Every 'onside' contribution is applauded and every 'offside' contribution is underplayed and apologised for. One gets the impression that if Richard Dawkins started advocating HJ, he'd be lovingly adopted on the spot. :)


Yes, it's rather like a football match and some of the hooligans are here to cheer on their own team, heckle the other team, and beat up on anyone wearing the wrong colors if they think can get away with it.

I think Ehrman erred in taking the low road on this - sure it gets a rousing cheer from the hooligans, but leaves the rest of us rather underwhelmed.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24496  Postby proudfootz » May 09, 2012 1:01 am

archibald wrote:
Byron wrote:I see the awkward, objective facts I highlighted about the MJ case get treated to a snark endrun. Surprise I do not feel.


Awkward. Objective. Facts. A veritable hat trick..... of near misses. Glad to see your SOH is intact, as ever. :cheers:


Awkward objective facts? The only 'fact' HJers on this board seem to prize is that most bible students seem to assume Jesus is real. This is the alleged 'consensus' - which, as Ehrman writes, is only an unexamined assumption in the bible study academy.

As for demonstrating that is anything more than presumption, the usual pathetic handful of ambiguous phrases from the gospels is trotted out - usually a few things St Paul jotted down between trips to the Third Heaven or experiencing mystical visions of the Risen Christ.

That anyone pretending to be a rational skeptic blithely accepts such nonsense? Certainly surprise covers the disconnect...
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24497  Postby Blood » May 09, 2012 2:34 am

Byron wrote::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.


Oh, I'm quaking.

So what's Allison's theory on why Jesus's disciples and their followers allowed the Jesus movement to so quickly be transformed into an anti-Jewish, Greek-dominated, quasi-mystery religion? He must have rock solid reasons to explain how that happened.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24498  Postby Blood » May 09, 2012 2:37 am

Byron wrote:And now the general point: the MJ case has fatal objective flaws.

Chief among them is the oft-claim that it's unfairly suppressed or ignored by the academy. This'd have weight if a shred of evidence were ever produced to back it up. It isn't. Ever.

Carrier's made insinuations about tenured professors being pressured to avoid MJ and non-tenured academics fearing for post. But he offers zero proof. If MJ could point to journal-standard articles from qualified academics denied publication, I'd be the first to cry foul. But it can't. Instead we get claims that the academic methods are flawed. Argued for outside the academy. Academia's made self-critique into a goddamn industry. If there was a compelling case for a new methodology, why is it being made outside the academy?

It all looks, inescapably, like the MJ case can't take the heat of academic scrutiny. I'll maintain this conclusion until its most qualified advocates cut the excusemaking and pony up their research.



It's pretty simple. You get kicked out of Jesus College if you suggest he's a myth. Then you're no longer qualified to be published.

Just give it time. A hundred years ago, you would have been kicked out if you'd suggested Moses was a myth.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24499  Postby Blood » May 09, 2012 2:41 am

Corky wrote:Whatever happened to all those thousands of Jews who supposedly believed all that Jesus nonsense? It's as if they vanished into thin air - since there aren't any in any history of that time period. It's as if the Jews never even heard of the god-man until after the Jewish wars. Did they all get killed defending Jerusalem in 66-70 AD? Yeah, that must have been it, they all got killed and that's why there weren't any Jews in a church founded by Jews.


I think that theory is actually taken pretty seriously by the Jesus guild.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24500  Postby Blood » May 09, 2012 2:53 am

proudfootz wrote:
I think it's quite telling that Ehrman seems to have advanced quite far into his career before ever seriously considering the question as to whether the subject of his scholarly career even existed - and the prompting for such a study had to come from the lay audience outside 'the academy'!


Indeed, Ehrman admits that he was in his mid-twenties before he realized that Mark's gospel could even have an error. And that was only when his professor pointed it out to him. (He didn't discover it on his own.)

Mind you, this was from one of the brighter young minds in scholarship.

This gives us an excellent snapshot of the Jesus Guild's field of vision and depth of imagination. If you're 25 and you still think that everything in the gospels is true, you may be able to write scholarly articles that please the Guild and people like Byron, but you may also experience disappointment when the tooth fairy doesn't make her appointed rounds.
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