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Skeptical response to Bart Ehrman's book in the historical Jesus

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  • Skeptical response to Bart Ehrman's book in the historical Jesus

    So I was surprised to find Bart Ehrman has actually written a book refuting the Jesus mythers.
    I decided to check what responses to it the internet skeptics had to it , since they often dismiss scholars who disagree with their claims as "lying for Jesus". They can't do that with Ehrman.
    I won't link any of the critcisms here, but I've pretty much lost hope for the internet skeptics.
    The fallacious reasoning and unreasonableness of these guys make my head hurt.

  • #2
    Originally posted by LaplacesDemon View Post
    So I was surprised to find Bart Ehrman has actually written a book refuting the Jesus mythers.
    I decided to check what responses to it the internet skeptics had to it , since they often dismiss scholars who disagree with their claims as "lying for Jesus". They can't do that with Ehrman.
    I won't link any of the critcisms here, but I've pretty much lost hope for the internet skeptics.
    The fallacious reasoning and unreasonableness of these guys make my head hurt.
    I am currently reading How Jesus Became God by Ehrman. Not exactly a book that Christian Apologists should recommend. Sure Jesus existed, but...

    NORM
    When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land. - Bishop Desmond Tutu

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by LaplacesDemon View Post
      The fallacious reasoning and unreasonableness of these guys make my head hurt.
      That's how some of us feel about people who think Ehrman presented a good argument.

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by LaplacesDemon View Post
        So I was surprised to find Bart Ehrman has actually written a book refuting the Jesus mythers.
        I decided to check what responses to it the internet skeptics had to it , since they often dismiss scholars who disagree with their claims as "lying for Jesus". They can't do that with Ehrman.
        I won't link any of the critcisms here, but I've pretty much lost hope for the internet skeptics.
        The fallacious reasoning and unreasonableness of these guys make my head hurt.
        IOW "I'm too lazy to know Ehrman disagreed with mythicists, and armchair internet mythicists exasperate me."

        Comment


        • #5
          Originally posted by Doug Shaver View Post
          That's how some of us feel about people who think Ehrman presented a good argument.
          So you're a myther?

          Comment


          • #6
            I prefer ahistoricist, but mythicist will do. When I hear myther, I hear intentional insult. Not that I can't take it, but I will infer something about your attitude until you correct me.

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Doug Shaver View Post
              I prefer ahistoricist, but mythicist will do. When I hear myther, I hear intentional insult. Not that I can't take it, but I will infer something about your attitude until you correct me.
              OK.
              Out of curiousity.
              Why do you believe in ahistoricity?
              When did you first come across the idea and who presented it?
              Why do you think the ahistoricists have not been able to get much scholarly support for their theories?

              Comment


              • #8
                Originally posted by LaplacesDemon View Post
                Why do you believe in ahistoricity?
                The answer to that question is really complicated. I cannot, within a post of reasonable length, present a decent summary of my reasons for thinking that Jesus of Nazareth probably never existed. I can, however, attempt to summarize the summary as follows.

                1. I'd like to emphasize for starters that I do not regard the issue as settled. I do not regard it as unreasonable for anyone to believe that Jesus did exist. I regard the evidence both for and against his existence as inconclusive -- and I do believe that there is evidence both ways.

                2. The evidence for his existence is not nearly as close to being conclusive as the conventional thinking imagines it to be. Every document attesting to his existence is susceptible to reasonable doubt as to its historical reliability.

                3. In particular, I think it reasonable to believe that the canonical gospels, which are the nearest thing we have to primary evidence, were not intended by their authors to be works of history or biography, but rather as works of fiction. I further believe that, regardless of their authors' intentions, they were probably not written, or at least did not exist in their present form, earlier than the second century.

                4. I do accept a first-century origin for that portion of the Pauline corpus that is generally regarded as authentic, but I also think it has been more substantially redacted than is generally believed. Even so, taken as a whole, it seems inconsistent to me with what would have been written by someone who believed that (a) Jesus had recently lived in Palestine, (b) his preaching was the foundation upon which the author's religion was built, (c) he was unjustly executed by Roman officials at the urging of Jewish priests, and (d) certain men whom the author names had been among Jesus' disciples. I see the same inconsistency in the canonical non-Pauline epistles and in all noncanonical Christian literature that seems likely to have been written before the later part of the second century.

                5. There is no cogent argument for the authenticity of any Josephan reference to Jesus of Nazareth. All other early non-Christian references to Jesus are void of any information that the writers would not have obtained just by hearing what second-century Christians had to say about the origins of their religion. They are therefore not evidence about Jesus but about the beliefs of some second-century Christians.

                Originally posted by LaplacesDemon View Post
                When did you first come across the idea and who presented it?
                I was in my late teens the first time I heard that some people questioned Jesus' historical existence. (I'm 68 now.) I was still a Christian at the time and so naturally I regarded it as a laughable notion. I became an atheist in my mid-20s, but the only way my thinking about Jesus changed was that I stopped believing he was the son of God. For the next 30-plus years I remained convinced that only crackpots could doubt his historical existence. I changed my mind in late 1999 after somebody suggested I have a look at Earl Doherty's website. I did not agree then with everything Doherty wrote, and I still don't, but I found enough of his argument to be cogent that our points of disagreement were irrelevant.

                Originally posted by LaplacesDemon View Post
                Why do you think the ahistoricists have not been able to get much scholarly support for their theories?
                There are several reasons, but I think the primary one is that, to put it in Kuhnian terms, the acceptance of Jesus' nonexistence involves a colossal paradigm shift, even for scholars with no religious commitments. There is no way that lots of people are going to change their minds about this anytime soon.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Doug Shaver View Post
                  I changed my mind in late 1999 after somebody suggested I have a look at Earl Doherty's website. I did not agree then with everything Doherty wrote, and I still don't, but I found enough of his argument to be cogent that our points of disagreement were irrelevant.
                  Richard Carrier is currently holding the Mythicist flag (now that G. A. Wells has relapsed), but he acknowledges that no one has come up with the cogent argument that he (Carrier) is in process of developing. Carrier grants that Earl Doherty has the best case out there currently establishing that Jesus was a myth. Just be sure to read Carrier forthcoming book to find finally a good proof that Our Lord never even existed!
                  There are several reasons {no academic has yet presented the Mythicist case}, but I think the primary one is that, to put it in Kuhnian terms, the acceptance of Jesus' nonexistence involves a colossal paradigm shift, even for scholars with no religious commitments. There is no way that lots of people are going to change their minds about this anytime soon.
                  And similarly for you, Doug, and for Vorkosigan who derides me as "the new Galileo!" it would require such
                  "a colossal paradigm shift, even for scholars with {or without}... religious commitments. There is no way that lots of people are going to change their minds about this anytime soon"
                  for anyone to accept my thesis that there are seven written eyewitness records contained within our four canonical gospels as sources. Yet no one yet has undertaken any substantive refutation of my theory whether here on (the crashed) Theology Web (wherein Robrecht merely chided my boldness), Freethought and Rationalism Discussion Board (where Jo shut down the whole Biblical Criticism sub-forum when things were not going well for her Atheist side), on Peter Kirby's EarlyChristianWritings.com, or on DebatingCristianity&Religion. {My ellipses--
                  Dale Adams}
                  Last edited by Adam; 05-11-2014, 03:02 AM.
                  Near the Peoples' Republic of Davis, south of the State of Jefferson (Suspended between Left and Right)

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Adam View Post
                    Yet no one yet has undertaken any substantive refutation of my theory
                    A theory without evidence needs no refutation. And. nothing becomes evidence just because you say, "This is evidence."

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Originally posted by Doug Shaver View Post
                      The answer to that question is really complicated. I cannot, within a post of reasonable length, present a decent summary of my reasons for thinking that Jesus of Nazareth probably never existed. I can, however, attempt to summarize the summary as follows.

                      1. I'd like to emphasize for starters that I do not regard the issue as settled. I do not regard it as unreasonable for anyone to believe that Jesus did exist. I regard the evidence both for and against his existence as inconclusive -- and I do believe that there is evidence both ways.

                      2. The evidence for his existence is not nearly as close to being conclusive as the conventional thinking imagines it to be. Every document attesting to his existence is susceptible to reasonable doubt as to its historical reliability.

                      3. In particular, I think it reasonable to believe that the canonical gospels, which are the nearest thing we have to primary evidence, were not intended by their authors to be works of history or biography, but rather as works of fiction. I further believe that, regardless of their authors' intentions, they were probably not written, or at least did not exist in their present form, earlier than the second century.

                      4. I do accept a first-century origin for that portion of the Pauline corpus that is generally regarded as authentic, but I also think it has been more substantially redacted than is generally believed. Even so, taken as a whole, it seems inconsistent to me with what would have been written by someone who believed that (a) Jesus had recently lived in Palestine, (b) his preaching was the foundation upon which the author's religion was built, (c) he was unjustly executed by Roman officials at the urging of Jewish priests, and (d) certain men whom the author names had been among Jesus' disciples. I see the same inconsistency in the canonical non-Pauline epistles and in all noncanonical Christian literature that seems likely to have been written before the later part of the second century.

                      5. There is no cogent argument for the authenticity of any Josephan reference to Jesus of Nazareth. All other early non-Christian references to Jesus are void of any information that the writers would not have obtained just by hearing what second-century Christians had to say about the origins of their religion. They are therefore not evidence about Jesus but about the beliefs of some second-century Christians.


                      I was in my late teens the first time I heard that some people questioned Jesus' historical existence. (I'm 68 now.) I was still a Christian at the time and so naturally I regarded it as a laughable notion. I became an atheist in my mid-20s, but the only way my thinking about Jesus changed was that I stopped believing he was the son of God. For the next 30-plus years I remained convinced that only crackpots could doubt his historical existence. I changed my mind in late 1999 after somebody suggested I have a look at Earl Doherty's website. I did not agree then with everything Doherty wrote, and I still don't, but I found enough of his argument to be cogent that our points of disagreement were irrelevant.


                      There are several reasons, but I think the primary one is that, to put it in Kuhnian terms, the acceptance of Jesus' nonexistence involves a colossal paradigm shift, even for scholars with no religious commitments. There is no way that lots of people are going to change their minds about this anytime soon.

                      This is very interesting, Doug.

                      I do think that a Jesus existed, but I am certain it is not the same person Christians worship today.

                      There was a time when I thought as you did - that there simply wasn't a person in history known as Jesus of Nazareth. However, the Gospels came from somewhere. To say that there is NO evidence for Jesus' existence is to totally ignore the entire Christian Testament.

                      I understand why you would think that Jesus was a product of fiction. But, if this is the case, it is a very poor fiction. We have NO stories of Jesus between his "increasingly" miraculous birth and the beginning of his public ministry. What writer would do that?

                      No, I think the real story is that there probably was a teacher / philosopher who was a student of Hillel who said and did some pretty radical things that got him in trouble with the Roman overlords. Was this person named Jesus? Maybe. Maybe not. But, the name Jesus has meaning that helps tell the religious story of the Christian version of Messiah.

                      I think that there were several stories floating around those first few years after this reformer was dispatched to a tree. I don't think there was a burial, I think they did to Jesus what they did to every criminal condemned to death - his body was left to wild animals to scavenge. Again, as a work of fiction, it makes no sense that the entire reason for crucifixion would be subverted by taking away the public humiliation and religious persecution of leaving the body to rot on the cross would attain by allowing some mysterious, rich dude bury him in his family tomb. I think that was a later addition Christians added as they developed the resurrection story. The resurrection story makes Jesus unique among the messiahs who preached during this time period. The resurrection story is what enabled the final separation from Judaism that the Hellenizers (Paul among them) were desperate to accomplish. This separation from Judaism is what made this new religion attractive to upper classes of Roman citizens.

                      At any rate, there is just too much information - and yet; an incomplete picture - about Jesus for him to be entirely a fictitious creation.

                      The story of Jesus, I think, is an elaborate game of Password that has evolved into its current incarnation over a very long period of time.

                      NORM
                      When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land. - Bishop Desmond Tutu

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        Originally posted by NormATive View Post
                        However, the Gospels came from somewhere.
                        Obviously.

                        Originally posted by NormATive View Post
                        To say that there is NO evidence for Jesus' existence is to totally ignore the entire Christian Testament.
                        Of course. That is why I have never said there is no evidence, and have occasionally rebutted skeptics who say there is none.

                        Originally posted by NormATive View Post
                        I understand why you would think that Jesus was a product of fiction. But, if this is the case, it is a very poor fiction. We have NO stories of Jesus between his "increasingly" miraculous birth and the beginning of his public ministry. What writer would do that?
                        A writer like Khalil Gibran. Have you ever read a book he wrote called The Prophet?

                        Originally posted by NormATive View Post
                        At any rate, there is just too much information - and yet; an incomplete picture - about Jesus for him to be entirely a fictitious creation.
                        Much of the information that you have extracted from the documentary evidence depends on a presupposition of his existence.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Doug Shaver View Post
                          A writer like Khalil Gibran. Have you ever read a book he wrote called The Prophet?
                          Yes, I have. It's wonderful poetry. I am most certainly on the same page as Gibran in terms of religion (minus the mysticism). I meant, what writer of fiction would go to the trouble of creating a character like Jesus and give us virtually no biographical information?

                          Originally posted by Doug Shaver View Post
                          Much of the information that you have extracted from the documentary evidence depends on a presupposition of his existence.
                          True. I think that Jesus of Nazareth is a real character in the minds of those who tell his tales. What does it matter if he existed in reality or not? The philosophy that bears his name is just as real.

                          NORM
                          When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land. - Bishop Desmond Tutu

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Doug Shaver View Post
                            1. I'd like to emphasize for starters that I do not regard the issue as settled. I do not regard it as unreasonable for anyone to believe that Jesus did exist. I regard the evidence both for and against his existence as inconclusive -- and I do believe that there is evidence both ways.
                            I would agree that the evidence for Jesus' existence is not strong, but I would also suggest that it is better than the case for the invention of an entirely mythical Christ, and furthermore, the plausibility of the existence of Jesus is entirely unremarkable.

                            Originally posted by Doug Shaver View Post
                            2. The evidence for his existence is not nearly as close to being conclusive as the conventional thinking imagines it to be. Every document attesting to his existence is susceptible to reasonable doubt as to its historical reliability.
                            Agreed.

                            Originally posted by Doug Shaver View Post
                            3. In particular, I think it reasonable to believe that the canonical gospels, which are the nearest thing we have to primary evidence, were not intended by their authors to be works of history or biography, but rather as works of fiction. I further believe that, regardless of their authors' intentions, they were probably not written, or at least did not exist in their present form, earlier than the second century.
                            I disagree. The gospels cannot be divorced from their broader literary context, and by way of comparison to contemporary Greek literature there is no precedent from which to conclude that they were intended as anything but "historical." I will agree that the type of history these texts convey is not close to any modern conventional understanding of "history", but it strains credulity to imagine that they were intended as works of fiction. Furthermore, there are enough semiticisms throughout the gospels to indicate that these were written by Jews; there is enough literary and generic overlap with Second Temple Jewish literature to confirm that these were produced within a Palestinian Jewish context. The "Jewishness" of much of the gospels also severely undermines the idea that these were intended as fiction, since Jewish "fiction" produced in the Second Temple period tended to be received as products of a sort of apocalyptically informed history.

                            Originally posted by Doug Shaver View Post
                            4. I do accept a first-century origin for that portion of the Pauline corpus that is generally regarded as authentic, but I also think it has been more substantially redacted than is generally believed. Even so, taken as a whole, it seems inconsistent to me with what would have been written by someone who believed that (a) Jesus had recently lived in Palestine, (b) his preaching was the foundation upon which the author's religion was built, (c) he was unjustly executed by Roman officials at the urging of Jewish priests, and (d) certain men whom the author names had been among Jesus' disciples. I see the same inconsistency in the canonical non-Pauline epistles and in all noncanonical Christian literature that seems likely to have been written before the later part of the second century.
                            I understand the scepticism, but my problem is with establishing a good model for the manufacture of a mythical Christ within the right historical and religious context. As mentioned in another post, Richard Carrier is currently leading the mythicist charge, and his argument was very thoroughly debunked by Thom Stark here, here, and here.

                            The common presentation in Carrier's and Doherty's view—as I understand it—holds to the idea of a dying, rising cosmic figure who was naturalised in the gospels, and Carrier depends upon one of the Dead Sea Scrolls texts, 11Q13, in an attempt to illustrate this concept from within a Second Temple Jewish milieu. It should be noted that this is a text he is unable to read; it is highly fragmentary; scholars disagree with regards to its contents and meaning; and his interpretation of it stands in a complete vacuum of scholarly support.

                            To that end, the problem with the questions raised regarding the existence of Jesus has little to do with interference from religious or historical biases, and actually much more to do with the incredulity that accompanies counter claims. Put most simply, it is most plausible to assert the existence of an ordinary man who spear headed an apocalyptic movement in the first cent. CE, who was executed, and around whom an elaborate legendary matrix developed. This is much more historically and socially palatable than the idea of a fictional figure at the heart of some quasi-Jewish mystery religion erupting from within Palestine.

                            Originally posted by Doug Shaver View Post
                            5. There is no cogent argument for the authenticity of any Josephan reference to Jesus of Nazareth. All other early non-Christian references to Jesus are void of any information that the writers would not have obtained just by hearing what second-century Christians had to say about the origins of their religion. They are therefore not evidence about Jesus but about the beliefs of some second-century Christians.
                            Agreed.

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by LaplacesDemon View Post
                              So I was surprised to find Bart Ehrman has actually written a book refuting the Jesus mythers.
                              I decided to check what responses to it the internet skeptics had to it , since they often dismiss scholars who disagree with their claims as "lying for Jesus". They can't do that with Ehrman.
                              I won't link any of the critcisms here, but I've pretty much lost hope for the internet skeptics.
                              The fallacious reasoning and unreasonableness of these guys make my head hurt.
                              Actually if you read more of Max's books you will find he does consider the NT and Christian Jesus Christ is to some extent a created Hellenized and Romanized 'myth' post destruction of the Temple. Like most historians, he supports that there was most likely a Jewish rebel Rabbi who preached in the time of the 1st century.It is generally accepted that a Jew called Jesus of Nazareth lived and preached in Jerusalem that he claimed to be the promised messiah and King of Jews. He was arrested and crucified under Roman Law for rebellion against Rome and claiming to be the 'King of Jews.' It is possible Jesus was a composite of a number of rebel Jews claiming messiahship as recorded by Josephus. The NT as well as the OT is considered a literary religious compilation set in history, and not a historical record in and of itself. This view would be the same as the scripture of Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam and Zoroastrian religions. As far as accuracy, ALL writings in that period of time are subject to healthy historical criticism. A good example is the writings of Josephus. There are numerous problems and historical discrepancies in his works. Academic historians rely on multiple sources, and archeological results to come up a history of the time.

                              The miraculous events and beliefs of religions are not considered true nor false. They are simple put in context of the history of religions. It would not be realistic to expect academic historians to accept the miraculous claims of religions in their scripture as factual.
                              Last edited by shunyadragon; 06-03-2014, 07:17 AM.
                              Glendower: I can call spirits from the vasty deep.
                              Hotspur: Why, so can I, or so can any man;
                              But will they come when you do call for them? Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part 1, Act III:

                              go with the flow the river knows . . .

                              Frank

                              I do not know, therefore everything is in pencil.

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