CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

After entering a google search, I ran across a post on Debunking Christianity on Josephus. The author -- Harry McCall -- titled his post “Why Josephus’ So-called Testimonium Flavianum Must be Rejected.” The sum total of the post, however, was a few snippets from a leading Josephan scholar, Louis Feldman, about problems with the authenticity of the Testimonium. Those familiar with my writings will know that I have a lengthy article online defending the partial authenticity of the Testimonium. (JP Holding was also nice enough to invite me to revise the article to defend both Josephan references to Jesus in his book, Shattering the Christ Myth).

In the comments of Harry McCall's DB post, John Loftus directed McCall to my online article, stating, “before you posted this I was persuaded by most of what Christopher Price wrote about Josephus' passage here. Would you care to comment?.” In response, McCall said my article was “filled with false claims and mis-statements out of context!” He also accused me of “fabricating” facts, being "deceitful," and misrepresenting the views of Profs. L. Feldman, J.D. Crossan, Robert Funk, E.P. Sanders, and Paula Fredrikson.

It is disappointing to be accused of making false statements by someone making false statements about my work. It is also humorous to be "challenged" to answer questions no one let me know were being asked. Neither McCall or Loftus or anyone from DB informed me I was being called out, challenged, or accused of deceit. What is amusing is that before I even drafted a responsive comment at DB, other posters had proven McCall wrong on almost every assertion he made against my article. Nevertheless, despite being proved wrong by others commentors and my own comment (which requested an apology), McCall has not apologized or withdrawn his attacks.

What follows are McCall’s comments (in bold) and my responses.

Price states Feldmen as saying “According to leading Josephus scholar Louis H. Feldman, the authenticity of this passage "has been almost universally acknowledged" by scholars. (Feldman, "Josephus," Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol. 3, pages 990-91).”

In fact, the Testimonium Flavianum is not what Feldman is talking about here! So lets quote the Anchor Bible in context: “Moreover, the fact that Josephus refers to Jesus in his reference to James the brother of “the aforementioned Christ” (Ant 20.9.1 / 200) - a passage the authenticity of which has been almost universally acknowledge- indicates that Jesus had been mention previously.”


McCall claims I am misrepresenting Prof. Feldman despite the fact that McCall and I agree that Prof. Feldman was not referring to the Testimonium here but to Josephus’ reference to James, the brother of Jesus. I have never claimed that Prof. Feldman said the Testimonium (which is the first reference in Antiquities) was universally acknowledged as authentic. I said that Feldman claimed the second reference, to James, was so acknowledged:

It is not the purpose of this article to address the arguments of the few commentators - mostly Jesus Mythologists - who doubt the authenticity of the second reference. According to leading Josephus scholar Louis H. Feldman, the authenticity of this passage "has been almost universally acknowledged" by scholars. (Feldman, "Josephus," Anchor Bible Dictionary, Vol. 3, pages 990-91). Instead, this article focuses on arguments regarding the partial authenticity of the TF.

I was pointing out that my article was going to focus on the Testimonium rather than the second reference (to James and Jesus) because the second reference is much less disputed. It appears that McCall’s claim of deceitfulness is projection. Or sloppiness. Or ignorance. Perhaps McCall does not know that the Testimonium is the first reference to Jesus in Antiquities and that the reference to James and Jesus is the second. In any event, the claim against me is false because it rests on McCall’s misrepresentation about what I claimed in my article.

And again Price claims, “In his book Josephus and Modern Scholarship, Professor Feldman reports that between 1937 to 1980, of 52 scholars reviewing the subject, 39 found portions of the TF to be authentic.” I have this book in my personal library and if Mr. Price would provide a page number, I sure its another proof text out of context.

A common theme throughout McCall’s post and comments is his claim to have this or that book by Feldman or some other scholar, or to have attended this or that lecture by a scholar. It has become clear that he is not getting his time or money’s worth because he seems to be generally ignorant of their contents. In any event, Peter Kirby directed me to Feldman's assessment of Josephan scholarship and he reports the same numbers in his reading of Feldman here.

Because P. Kirby was an atheist at the time, I doubt that he can be accused of distorting Prof. Feldman to promote Christianity. In any event, if McCall can be bothered to actually read his shelved Feldman book, he should check out pages 704-707, where Feldman goes through his scholarly assessment of the Josephan field scholar by scholar.

Mr. Price is arguing like Louis Feldmen believes the Testimonium Flavianum is authentic and only needs to convince other of the same. This is a total perversion of what Dr. Feldman believes!

Mr. Feldman was the Solomon-Tenenbaum Lecturer in 1997 at the University of South Carolina and his topic was "Jesus in Josephus: Focus on the Testamonium Flavianum". I have the audio tape of the lecture and if anyone thinks that is what Mr. Price says is correct about Dr. Feldman, I would be happy to make a copy of the tape for you.


In fact, I do claim that Prof. Feldman believes partial authenticity is likely. And so does he, as other commentors noted in response to McCall’s post. Probably the most easy to find reference by Prof. Feldman concluding the likely partial authenticity of the Testimonium is from his Loeb Classic Library series of Josephus:

The most probable view seems to be that our text represents substantially what Josephus wrote, but that some alterations have been made by a Christian interpolator.

Louis H. Feldman: Editor, Josephus, Jewish Antiquities Books XVIII- XIX, of The Loeb Classic Library, page 49.

This is not contradicted by the selective parsing of McCall's opening post. Prof. Feldman routinely discusses arguments both for and against the Testimonium’s authenticity. Indeed, in my article I refer to Prof. Feldman’s arguments on both sides of the issue. McCall quoted some of Prof. Feldman’s analysis of the against arguments but none in favor of partial authenticity. In any event, I have backed up my assertion that Prof. Feldman favors partial authenticity and McCall has no counter conclusion by Prof. Feldman against. Simply quoting Prof. Feldman when he is describing one side of the argument and ignoring him when he describes the other side -- as McCall does -- is not persuasive.

Mr. Price again states: “Notably, the consensus for partial authenticity is held by scholars from diverse perspectives. Liberal commentators such as Robert Funk, J. Dominic Crossan, and A.N. Wilson, accept a substantial part of the TF as originally Josephan. So do Jewish scholars, such as Geza Vermes, Louis H. Feldman, and Paul Winter and secular scholars such as E.P. Sanders and Paula Fredrikson.”

I have personally sat in lectures with Robert Funk and John Crossan and Prices is again fabricating his facts!! Mr. Price would do well to review the late Robert Funk’s “Honest to Jesus”.


McCall disputes my claim that Profs. Crossan and Funk accept the partial authenticity of the Testimonium, citing lectures and one of Funk's books (though without any page or chapter reference). Perhaps McCall is confused, as many skeptics are, about the difference between authenticity and partial authenticity. I do not claim that Crossan and Funk accept full authenticity. I do not accept full authenticity. They favor partial authenticity and I was explicit about that in my article.

Profs. Crossan and Funk are not Jesus Myther fanatics, so I am not sure why McCall finds it so hard to believe that they would accept the likelihood of partial authenticity. Nor does McCall cite anything by Crossan or Funk that disputes my assertion. In any event, here are my supporting cites:

In J.D. Crossan's Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, he -- like J.P. Meier -- notes likely Christian interpolations in italics and accepts the rest of the Testimonium as authentic. He then states, "Without them, Josephus' account is carefully and deliberately neutral. He does not want, apparently, to be embroiled in any controversy about this Jesus. . . . So he was cautiously impartial and some later Christian editor delicately Christianized his account, but only to the extent that it was at least plausible and credible for the Jewish Josephus to have written it." Page 162.

Robert Funk writes in The Acts of Jesus, that Jesus' death at the hands of Pilate is "all but certain, because attested also by Josephus and Tacitus, two ancient historians, that: -There was a person named Jesus, who was executed by the authorities during the preference of Pontius Pilate (26-26 C.E.)." Page 133. He also cites Josephus in other parts of the book as evidence for historical events in Jesus' life.

But what about Honest to Jesus, which McCall claims disproves my representation about Funk favoring partial authenticity? In Honest to Jesus,Prof. Funk accepts most of the Testimonium as authentic, identifying the later Christian insertions in italics. Page 222 (1997 publ.). Funk then writes that "According to Josephus, Jesus was known as a sage who performed unusual deeds. he had a considerable following among both Judeans and Greeks. Those followers continued in their devotion to him after his death and formed a movement that took its name from him, a movement that was still in existence in Josephus' date late in the first century. While providing only a paucity of details, Josephus confirms the principal features otherwise attested of the historical Jesus." Ibid.

Although I do not know what McCall thinks he heard at those lectures, or thinks he read in Honest to Jesus, I am very skeptical that he heard or saw Crossan and Funk reject the Testimonium in its entirety.

I have read the autobiographical de-conversion story by Geza Vermas who retuned to Judaism from being a Roman Catholic priest and I know that the independent scholar the late Paul Winter had more in common with Judaism then Christianity.

I am not sure what to do with McCall’s references to Profs. Vermes and Winters. I said they were Jewish scholars who favored partial authenticity. Apparently McCall accepts that they accept partial authenticity and are Jewish. It looks like he wants to show that he knows something about these two scholars that I have already said.

It is odd how skeptics often do this; in effect name dropping scholars as if they are plutonium that no Christian has ever read or understood. At least when it comes to the Testimonium, this Christian was better informed about these scholars' views than the skeptic.

I would challenge Mr. Price to quote me text and page number where either E.P. Sanders or Paula Fredrikson state the Testimonium Flavianum as authentic! I have a number of their books on my book shelf.

It would have been nice, as a courtesy or to avoid looking like he is chest thumping, to have notified me of this "challenge." I might have run across the “challenge” sooner if I had been singled out in the opening post, but to bury it in the comments is a dubious way of issuing a challenge -- assuming McCall really wanted a response. In any event:

Regarding E.P. Sanders, check page 50 of The Historical Figure of Jesus: "It is highly likely that Josephus included Jesus in his account of the period. Josephus discussed John the Baptist and other prophetic figures, such as Theudas and the Egyptian. Further, the passage on Jesus is not adjacent to Josephus' account of John the Baptist, which is probably where a Christian scribe would have put it had he invented the whole paragraph. Thus, the author of the only surviving history of Palestinian Judaism in the first century thought that Jesus was important enough to merit a paragraph, no more, no less."

Regarding Paula Fredrikson, check her Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews. "Scholars have debated the historical merits of this passage, some (few, now) maintaining that the whole is authentic, others (another minority), that the whole is a Christian interpolation, that is a passage written into the manuscript by a later Christian scribe. Most scholars currently incline to see the passage as basically authentic, with a few later insertions by a Christian scribe. The passage rendered below follows the editorial judgments and English translation of John Meier . . . I give the Christian insertions in italics, the Josephan substratum in roman. . . ." Page 249.

Unlike Dr. Louis Feldman, who is a life long Josephian scholar, Christopher Price has no more use for Josephus than Strabo except as a tool to prove and promote Christianity.

I show much more respect for Prof. Feldman and Josephus than McCall, who is a better choice of comparison than the scholar himself. I note that Prof. Feldman makes arguments for and against authenticity, and accurately state his conclusion that he favors the likelihood of partial authenticity. It is McCall who uses Prof. Feldman as a bludgeon to serve his own ideological interests. Again, we either have projection or sloppiness operating on Debunking Christianity here.

End the final analysis, the objectivity or Dr. Feldman and the deceitful subjectively of Mr. Price speak for themselves!

Funny how McCall judged the analysis over before getting a response to his challenges. Of course it does not appear he really expected a response. In any event, I have refuted the accusation that I was deceitful. I never questioned Prof. Feldman’s objectivity. McCall, on the other hand, has made false accusations about my article and my character that he should retract.

Perhaps the greatest lament I have about this whole affair is that the Debunking Christianity members tout what accomplished Christians they were and how they left the faith after objectively examining their faith or following the path of reason instead of faith. Too often in their disputes, on ground of their own choosing, they seem incompetent in judging the facts and hopelessly biased in their presentation of the material. How sad to throw your faith away on your own incompetent assessment of the relevant facts.

58 comments:

My my my, how very embarrassing this is for McCall. Like I said before, Debunking Christianity is a joke.

A forum for emotionally charged diatribe, and oh yeah, occasionally they throw out one or two scholars names to make it sound like they know what they're talking about.

The evidence is there, the majority of NT and Josephean scholars accept the testimonium as partially authentic, while the overwhelming majority accept the James passage as authentic. This is simply insdisputable.

In light of this, something mythers cannot allow go go unanswered, most just argue the experts are simply mistaken here. Sure, they might like their material on "communities" associated with the Gospels development, or their theories regarding "Q", but when it comes to Josephus, "they're just wrong on this one."

Either that or they argue that these scholars are driven by a "herd mentality" that makes them forget logical argumnets and just blindly agree with each other.

Whatever you think, this critique is just plain pathetic.

Thank you for a well written response. In a world that is satisfied with quick answers from wikipedia or a google search, its a shame that people will find sites like the one you refer to here. That is simply poor scholarship on so many levels, and common of all types of fundamentalism where you only truly follow certain scholars that agree with your presuppositions (i.e. Carrier or Bob Price), and then mine other scholars for quotes that may loosely support what you are saying.

I agree that it is very doubtful that Funk and Crossan have changed their views on the authenticity of most of the Testimonium. But who can argue with "Well they might have printed that in their book, but I heard them say this..." Without any evidence to the contrary of what has been written by these scholars one could call this hearsay.

What a joke, and its a shame that people consider this stuff to be "quality" research.

FYI I have argued Jesus was a real historical figure here. Just scroll down on the left side.

People at DC do not all agree with each other on some issues, not unlike how people here do not agree with each other on every issue. I was being polite with Harry McCall with my question, but I disagreed with him. He's a big boy and I expect him to fend for himself on this issue, just like the people here fend for themselves on some issues.

And there is no way you could possibly expect me or anyone else to tell you about something we write, just like you never told me you wrote this particular blog entry about us.

BTW I know Frank Zindler is considered as much of a scholar as you are on the opposite side of the fence, but he sent me his book "The Jesus the Jews Never Knew." It contains the strongest argument I've seen against the authenticity of the Testimonium. Have you seen it? He may be right or he may be wrong, I have no bet on this race. One thing he offers is a picture of the oldest manuscript of the Testimonium and it's clear that the text looks like it was added!

You have to admit though, that Christians did this to themselves. There is widespread evidence of interpolations in ancient manuscripts and down right forgeries (the most famous is the Donation of Constantine).

Isn't it too bad that while you make a good argument on this issue that your faith rests upon a probability, in this case, that you are right about the Testimonium. You have to be right about so many arguments, starting with whether or not Jesus existed all the way down to being right that he was God in the flesh and will return to reward the saints by taking away their free will and punish the damned by making them retain it?

Tell me this, what would the odds have to be that Jesus was returning for you to sell everything you have and give to the poor and wait for him on a mountain? Would you do it if the odds were 80%? And yet each one of your historical conclusions has to be right for you to commit your whole life to what you believe. How many of these historical conclusions are essential to what you believe? Let's say there are, oh, 10 of them (trinity, Bible, atonement, incarnation, resurrection, protestantism, evangelicalism, etc). And let's say each conclusion has the probability of say, 75% (being generous). Well then, by the principle of dwindling probabilities the probability that you are right about them all is 4 percent (just multiply .75 times itself ten times).

Oops, I think the odds are about 8%. I flew through the calculations a minute ago.

And one last thing. Let's say, for the sake of argument, that all of the skeptics who have voted on my poll about whether Jesus existed are just ignorant and you are more informed and right on this issue. There are a lot of ignorant people out there and even illiterates. Ignorant and illiterate people are usually to be found in the lower social classes in any society.

Didn't Jesus come for the lower classes of people, the poor, the downtrodden, the ones humbled by their status? How will God reach them if they lack understanding? Some of them do not even have the critical thinking skills to understand a mildly complex argument. So they can only believe what people they know and trust tell them, much like parishoners in many churches who simply believe the priests and preachers of their churches because they too don't know any differently. Does one have to study the things you have studied in order to have the right reasons to believe? Or is it merely by luck that ignorant parishoners just happen to find themselves in the right church? And if they got lucky where was the luck for the others who "fell into the hands" of people who belived differently based on what you'd call "substandard research"? Is believing in the truth dependent on a correct historical analysis? If so, why? If not, then why should God care what any of us believe so long as we are good to people. The ancient barbaric thought police has come and long gone. Surely God would care more about goodness than belief if he's a reasonable God, which I assume you believe. If not, why not, given the nature of these kinds of things.

I can understand why John Loftus would want to change the subject. One of his off-topic comments was:

"How many of these historical conclusions are essential to what you believe? Let's say there are, oh, 10 of them (trinity, Bible, atonement, incarnation, resurrection, protestantism, evangelicalism, etc). And let's say each conclusion has the probability of say, 75% (being generous). Well then, by the principle of dwindling probabilities the probability that you are right about them all is 4 percent (just multiply .75 times itself ten times)."

He's already been answered on this issue. The post I just linked to was written by Steve Hays shortly after John Loftus used his dwindling probabilities argument in the thread here. In addition to the thread started by Steve Hays, see my comments in the second thread linked above.

Jason, I never mentioned Plantinga. Regardless, Bayesian background factors do affect how we view all of the probabilites, yes. But if we were to isolate each issue on its own merits the probabilites are what I say they are. You say we cannot isolate each issue apart from these background factors and I admit this is very difficult to do, but it is a good goal nonetheless.

How, for instance, do background factors influence us when looking at the evidence of the Testimonium? Should they? Why? The question is whether it's authentic. Why would an objective investigator assume a conclusion on this particular issue because he believed Jesus existed? What relevance does that have on this particular question? How does that background belief factor into this particular issue? If it does, then someone is not trying to be objective with the evidence, which should be the goal even if it's an elusive one.

And there is no way you could possibly expect me or anyone else to tell you about something we write, just like you never told me you wrote this particular blog entry about us.

I half expected a crass comparison like this but thought you above it. In fact, I left a lengthy response to McCall in much this same form on your blog in response to McCall's post. I’ve checked for responses and had not seen any and if I run across some I will update this post. Also, I linked to McCall’s post and told people I had left a lengthy response there so they could see for themselves what McCall wrote and any response he makes to me.

In other words, McCall has been fully appraised of my response whereas no one bothered to let me know about McCall’s “challenge” to me, much less his repeated accusations of deceit and fabrication.

Have you seen it? He may be right or he may be wrong, I have no bet on this race. One thing he offers is a picture of the oldest manuscript of the Testimonium and it's clear that the text looks like it was added!

The best opp I’ve read to the Testimonium was that of Peter Kirby. Last we spoke on the issue, Kirby said he was reevaluating his analysis and I do not know how he has changed his position, if at all.

At first I was inclined to order Zindler’s book on you say so, but then I read that part about the manuscript. Since we have earlier Christian writings that predate our earliest manuscript of Josephus by several hundred years, I am very skeptical about the significance of this.

You have to admit though, that Christians did this to themselves. There is widespread evidence of interpolations in ancient manuscripts and down right forgeries (the most famous is the Donation of Constantine).

I don’t blame every Christian for the actions of some. Just like I don’t blame every atheist for the actions of Stalin and Mao.

Isn't it too bad that while you make a good argument on this issue that your faith rests upon a probability, in this case, that you are right about the Testimonium.

My faith hardly rests on the Testimonium. If it was proven completely fake tomorrow my faith would be untouched. Even if my faith simply rested on a compilation of historical arguments -- which it does not -- whether Josephus referred to Jesus or not is not even close to a determinative question.

Loftus, you are deviating far from the topic of the post. I am considering deleting some of your posts above and will definitely delete any further posts that are more hype for you or your book than a discussion of the main issues of this post.

John Loftus wrote:

"Jason, I never mentioned Plantinga."

And the material I linked is relevant to your argument anyway.

You write:

"Bayesian background factors do affect how we view all of the probabilites, yes. But if we were to isolate each issue on its own merits the probabilites are what I say they are. You say we cannot isolate each issue apart from these background factors and I admit this is very difficult to do, but it is a good goal nonetheless."

Did you read the material by Richard Swinburne and Timothy and Lydia McGrew and my material that I referenced? We don't just discuss "Bayesian background factors". And your argument above doesn't "isolate each issue on its own merits". As we explained to you at Triablogue last year, and as Richard Swinburne and Timothy and Lydia McGrew explain, it's incorrect to multiply probabilities in the manner you did earlier in this thread. And, as I explained to you last year, the reasoning you're using would have even worse results for your own belief system if we applied the same sort of numbers. If we shouldn't follow a series of 80% probabilities because of dwindling probabilities, then it would make even less sense to follow a series of 20% possibilities. You and your fellow staff members at Debunking Christianity frequently use arguments involving a series of historical probabilities. And there are enough probabilities in your belief systems to arrive at a low percentage by multiplying all of those probabilities, as you did above with Christianity. If you're willing to live in accordance with your historical conclusions (about your own life, about American history, about the history of Israel, etc.), then why shouldn't Christians live in accordance with theirs?

You write:

"The question is whether it's authentic. Why would an objective investigator assume a conclusion on this particular issue because he believed Jesus existed?"

Who said that he's assuming the authenticity of the Josephus passage "because he believed Jesus existed"? I didn't. Chris Price didn't.

Layman wrote:

"At first I was inclined to order Zindler’s book on you say so, but then I read that part about the manuscript. Since we have earlier Christian writings that predate our earliest manuscript of Josephus by several hundred years, I am very skeptical about the significance of this."

I had the same thought within seconds of reading John Loftus' comments. Why didn't he think of the problematic nature of Zindler's argument before repeating it? Maybe Zindler makes a significantly different argument than what John suggests above, but John's description of the argument is problematic.

I think Zindler's analysis would be of interest to you.

It's so much fun coming here.

You wouln't believe me if I said the sun came up today based on my testimony alone.

Loftus,

In fact, I pointed out a potential problem with the one piece of Zindler's analysis you bothered to provide. If you have something to say about that, please do so. Otherwise, you are just -- again -- whining. Next up, a comment about lawyers! Can't be too far away. :)

People at DC do not all agree with each other on some issues, not unlike how people here do not agree with each other on every issue.

I respect that.

You have to admit though, that Christians did this to themselves. There is widespread evidence of interpolations in ancient manuscripts and down right forgeries (the most famous is the Donation of Constantine).

Yup, sometimes well-meaning people do really dumb things. But that doesn't mean that because there is some interpolation that there is no truth behind and beneath.

Tell me this, what would the odds have to be that Jesus was returning for you to sell everything you have and give to the poor and wait for him on a mountain?

Well, it is my estimation that the odds that Jesus is returning are 1-1 am I'm still not living on the mountain, your question is apparently flawed.

How many of these historical conclusions are essential to what you believe? Let's say there are, oh, 10 of them (trinity, Bible, atonement, incarnation, resurrection, protestantism, evangelicalism, etc). And let's say each conclusion has the probability of say, 75% (being generous). Well then, by the principle of dwindling probabilities the probability that you are right about them all is 4 percent (just multiply .75 times itself ten times).

As long as we're "let's say"-ing, let's just say that the odds are 99% of each of the ten being true. That mean that the odds are a mere 90% of all of them being true (multiplying 99% ten times)? Hey, that's pretty darn good. I'll go with that.

Just saying ....

Didn't Jesus come for the lower classes of people, the poor, the downtrodden, the ones humbled by their status? How will God reach them if they lack understanding?

Well, according to Acts they did understand and turned to him by the thousands in the earliest years of the church.

Some of them do not even have the critical thinking skills to understand a mildly complex argument. *** Does one have to study the things you have studied in order to have the right reasons to believe?

To quote Peter Kreeft, "God said 'take and eat,' not 'take and understand.'" One does not have to understand every aspect of theology to understand the work of the cross.

You wouln't believe me if I said the sun came up today based on my testimony alone.

And if you said the sun didn't come up today, we should believe that on your testimony alone?

Obviously, you are saying that we are not respecting what you say. Well, you suggested the other day that you may have poisoned any possible relationship with anyone here, and you may have been right. I have to admit that I am very skeptical of everything that you say because of our past interactions.

You earlier stated, "You have to admit though, that Christians did this to themselves." In this case, I believe you have earned our skepticism towards your views. It is possible to recover the respect you are suggesting you should have, but it will take time.

Layman,

Zindler's nonsense has been answered by JP Holding at the bottom of the page here:

http://www.opposingviews.com/counters/in-response-to-these-arguments

Even trying to get away with asserting that there are manuscripts that do not contain the testimonium. Which, of course, is a lie. Go figure.

This comment has been removed by the author.

Thanks BK for writing. I enjoy a respectful disagreement.

I know it doesn't mean much but as a skeptic I am defending the historicity of the founder of the Jesus cult against what appears to be an overwhelming number of skeptics who think otherwise.

For easy access the link to the Holding - Loftus - Zindler debate can be found here.

Imaging that, I'm on Holding's side!? (My arguments are under his on the left side).

I'm sure you won't appreciate my perspective about Jesus but you've got to see that I defend what I believe to be true no matter what other people believe. I do not take party lines just because they are the party lines.

Cheers.

The passage is peppered with statments and phrases that are obviously Christian. The use of the phrase "on the third day" to describe the resurrection is practically a signature that says "by a christian." The Phrases such as "if it be lawful to call him a man, for the he was the Messiah," are clear evidence of Christian tampering.This phrasing seems to have some similarity with Luke, thus leading to a major argument that the forger barrowed his phrasology from the Gospel of Luke.

See bottom of page one for proof that this paraell with Luke is actually strong evidence against forgery, not for it.


C.The suppossedly awkward position of passage.

Critics claim that the passage seems to be a digression into the life of Christ and doesn't flow from the larger context of the work.

II.Answers:

A.On Eusebuis' Credibility.

1)Other MS testify to credibility.

It is crucial to note that we have other readings that have the same core information about Jesus but lack the same emminadations, because this proves that Eusbius didn't make up the core information about Jesus. It also proves that previous readings existed which lacked the emmindations but which did not lack the mention of Jesus. That builds the probability that Jospehus really did mention Jesus. That probality is very high.

In other words, since we know of other Ms with different emmendations, we know that there is no real reason to pretend that Eusebius made up the passage. The passage was known in Eusebius' form: J.B. Lightfoot, Eusebius of Caesarea, (article. pp.308-348), Dictionary of Christian Biography: Literature, Sects and Doctrines, ed. by William Smith and Henry Wace, Volume II (EABA-HERMOCRATES). This excerpt pp.324-5.

This treatment may be regarded as too great a sacrifice to edification. It may discredit his conception of history; but it leaves no imputation on his honesty. Nor again can the special charges against his honour as a narrator be sustained. There is no ground whatever for the surmise that Eusebius forged or interpolated the passage from Josephus relating to our Lord quoted in H. E. i 11, though Heinichen (iii. p. 623 sq., Melet. ii.) is disposed to entertain the charge. Inasmuch as this passage is contained in all our extant MSS, and there is sufficient evidence that other interpolations (though not this) were introduced into the text of Josephus long before his time (see Orig. c. Cels. i. 47, Delarue’s note), no suspicion can justly. attach to Eusebius himself. Another interpolation in the Jewish historian, which he quotes elsewhere (ii. 23), was certainly known to Origen (l. c.). Doubtless also the omission of the owl in the account of Herod Agrippa’s death (H. E. ii. 10) was already in some texts of Josephus (Ant. xix. 8, 2).


Lightfoot was, of course, one of the true greats of chruch historiography and Biblical scholarship.

Steve Mason discusses the two references to Jesus in Josephus' writings in his book "Josephus and the New Testament":

alternate versions (Agapius, Pseudo-Hegesipus, Michael the Syrian):

"Finally, the existence of alternative versions of the testimonium has encouraged many scholars to think that Josephus must have written something close to what we find in them, which was later edited by Christian hands. if the laudatory version in Eusebius and our text of Josephus were the free creation of Christian scribes, who then created the more restrained versions found in Jerome, Agapius, and Michael?" (page 172)

And:
"Nevertheless, since most of those who know the evidence agree that he said something about Jesus, one is probably entitled to cite him as independent evidence that Jesus actually lived, if such evidence were needed. (page 174 ff).

Prof. Louis Feldmann, in his book Josephus and Modern Scholarship, noted that between 1937 to 1980, of 52 scholars reviewing the subject, 39 found portions of the Testimonium Flavianum to be authentic - 10 scholars regarded the Testimonium Flavianum as entirely or mostly genuine, 20 accept it with some interpolations, 9 with several interpolations, and 13 regard it as being totally an interpolation. (See Christopher Price, A Thorough Review of the Testimonium Flavianum; Peter Kirby, Testimonium Flavianum)

So, according Feldman, the vast majority of scholars (75 %) favor partial authenticity of the Testimonium. Some scholars who accepts that Josephus wrote something about Jesus: Lane Fox, Michael Grant, Crossan, Borg, Meier, Tabor, Thiessen, Frederiksen, Flusser, Charlesworth, Paul Winter, Feldman, Mason...

Finally, many commentators who regards TF as entirely interpolation, do accept smaller passage (eg. Per Bilde, Hans Colzelmann).

(Mason, Feldman, Colzelmann quotes contributed by researcher Nehemias CADRE blog 8/18/2008 02:16:00 PM)


a) Jerome's Reading.

St. Jerome quoted from the TF as saying "he was believed to bethe Messiah," rather than "he was the Messiah." This has led many scholars to believe that Jerome knew of another, perhaps older version of the TF that read differently and lacked the "tweeked" parts of the passage.

b)The Arabic Text.

A Jewish scholar named Sholmo Poines foudn an Arabic Text that reads differently then does the recieved version of the TF.

Josephus'Testimony to Jesus
James D. Tabor
(Testimonium Flavianum) Josephus, Antiquities 18. 63-64

Tabor: "Professor Shlomo Pines found a different version of Josephus testimony in an Arabic version of the tenth century. It has obviously not been interpolated in the same way as the Christian version circulating in the West:"

"At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon their loyalty to him. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive. Accordingly they believed that he was the Messiah, concerning whom the Prophets have recounted wonders."


c) Syriac text.

Alice Whealy, Berkely Cal.

The TF controversy from antiquity to present

In the second major twentieth century controversy over the authenticity of the Testimonium Flavianum, the erudite Near Eastern studies scholar, Shlomo Pines, tried to argue that the paraphrase of the Testimonium that appears in a Christian Arabic chronicle dating from the tenth century might be more authentic than the textus receptus Testimonium. 21 Reaction to Pines' thesis was mixed, but the most important piece of evidence that Pines' scholarship on Christian Semitic sources brought to light was not the Arabic paraphrase of the Testimonium that he proposed was more authentic than the textus receptus, but the literal Syriac translation of the Testimonium that is quoted in a twelfth century chronicle compiled by the Syrian Patriarch of Antioch (1166-1199). 22 It is this version of the Testimonium, not the Arabic paraphrase of it, that has the greatest likelihood of being, at least in some ways, more authentic than the textus receptus Testimonium because, as noted earlier, this version of the text agrees with Jerome's Latin version of the text in the same crucial regard. The medieval Syriac Testimonium that Pines uncovered is very strong evidence for what many scholars had argued since birth of the controversy over the text in the Renaissance, namely that Jerome did not alter the Testimonium Flavianum to read "he was believed to be the Christ" but rather that he in fact knew the original version of the Testimonium, which he probably found in Eusebius' Historia Ecclesiastica , which read "he was believed to be the Christ" rather than "he was the Christ."


(2) No Textaul evidence

No textual evidence supports the charge that Origin or Eusbius made up the passage.

a) All copies we have contain the quote.

If it had been forged we should have some copies that don't contian it.

New Advent Encyplopidia:

"all codices or manuscripts of Josephus's work contain the text in question; to maintain the spuriousness of the text, we must suppose that all the copies of Josephus were in the hands of Christians, and were changed in the same way."



b) Passage known prior to Eusebius

Nor is it ture that our first indication of the existence of the Passage begins with Eusebuis:

Again, the same conclusion follows from the fact that Origen knew a Josephan text about Jesus, but was not acquainted with our present reading; for, according to the great Alexandrian doctor, Josephus did not believe that Jesus was the Messias ("In Matth.", xiii, 55; "Contra Cels.", I, 47).



c)Silence of Early writters is explianed

Second, it is true that neither Tertullian nor St. Justin makes use of Josephus's passage concerning Jesus; but this silence is probably due to the contempt with which the contemporary Jews regarded Josephus, and to the relatively little authority he had among the Roman readers. Writers of the age of Tertullian and Justin could appeal to living witnesses of the Apostolic tradition. (Ibid)

Mr. Loftus,

For what it’s worth, I thought your third perspective was very helpful. Of course, I completely disagree with your analysis on what the historical evidence tells us about Jesus. But that’s why I loved it! I love anything to do with ancient Greco-Roman and ANE historical discussions!

These are the issues that are being discussed amongst scholars of antiquity. Who was Jesus? Not: Did Jesus live?

Of course, any body that even has remedial training in history would have no problem declaring on the basis of the evidence that Jesus lived.

Inspiring discussions like the ones you got going will help people see the fallacious reasoning that mythers utilize on a daily basis. So I will say thank you for that Mr. Loftus.

btw
As for that overwhelming number of skeptics who think otherwise, amongst uneducated Neo-Nazis the Holocaust Hoax enjoys rampant support. Several tenured prof in American universities endorse it as well. As with the Neo-Nazis with regard to the Holocaust, 99% of these skeptics have just the most basic understanding of the issues surrounding the study of the Historical Jesus.

History is a great tool for learning, but like all tools, it can be viciously abused in the wrong hands.

So again, thanks for adding to the rational, reasonable side of this debate!

God Bless

Addendum!

I just realized as I went to shut down my computer that I gave a backhand compliment to Neo-Nazis there:

"amongst uneducated Neo-Nazis the Holocaust Hoax enjoys rampant support."

Of course, there is no such thing as an "educated Neo-Nazi".

I apologize. :)

I know it doesn't mean much but as a skeptic I am defending the historicity of the founder of the Jesus cult against what appears to be an overwhelming number of skeptics who think otherwise.

I don't know of any "Jesus cult", but I sure am happy that you are not putting in with the Jesus Mythers. At least that's one small place we can agree. :)

I'm sure you won't appreciate my perspective about Jesus but you've got to see that I defend what I believe to be true no matter what other people believe. I do not take party lines just because they are the party lines.

Good for you. And as you can probably tell, neither do any of us.

Derek,

ROFLOL! Very good.

DMN said...These are the issues that are being discussed amongst scholars of antiquity. Who was Jesus? Not: Did Jesus live?

Thanks for your kind thoughts on my perspective in the debate. I agree. I think it's the nature of historical studies that if we're not careful we can be skeptical of much of the past. If mythicists were historians with this same skepticism then their books would not contain very many pages.

On the flip side the dominant view of Jesus since the time of Albert Schweitzer and recently defended by Dale Allison (whom I'm conversed with via email about these things) is that Jesus is best viewed within Judaism as an eschatological end times prophet. Conservative Christians have nearly all taken aim at the picture of Jesus being a wise sage (ala Marcus Borg, Dom Crossan) and found that picture wanting), but few seem to take on the dominant one which I think explains quite a lot.

That's a good question John,
I think on the surface many don't take issue with the apocalyptic prophet view because it does line up with many of the conservative Christian beliefs. In fact, many conservative Christian scholars (Tom Wright, Scot McKnight, Craig Evans come quickly to mind) see Jesus much in the apocalyptic prophet mold.

As for that overwhelming number of skeptics who think otherwise, amongst uneducated Neo-Nazis the Holocaust Hoax enjoys rampant support. Several tenured prof in American universities endorse it as well. As with the Neo-Nazis with regard to the Holocaust, 99% of these skeptics have just the most basic understanding of the issues surrounding the study of the Historical Jesus.


I once shut up a Neo-Nazi in a college history class I was teaching as a TA, with a one-liner:

NN: (raises hand, asks to ask a question) "Isn't it true that history is just written by the winners to vilify the losers, like the Holocaust?"

Me: History is written by the winners. Dmaned idiotic lies are written by the losers. Which one are you pushing?

Mr. Loftus,

I agree with you and Ranger. Again, I would disagree that "end time’s prophet", though a good description of a large part of Jesus' work and ministry, is an exhaustive description of who he was. But again, that’s where the debate lies. It a good one too!

Mr. Hinman,

Ha hahahahahahahaha…..ha! Totally! My first day in a college history class, I had one guy who, when introducing himself to our class, informed us that he didn’t believe the Civil War happened, and that it would be his personal project in the following year to demonstrate why. I remember he did a huge 15 min presentation at the end of the year that was brutal to sit through without throwing something at him. Our prof gave him a B+ for “thinking critically about history”!

And we wonder why people are so stupid sometimes.

ROTFLOL! Civil war didnt' happen! So my grandmother's father was wounded while a camping trip at a place called Shiloh? Yea, a bunch of boys from the south decided to go camping at this Shiloh place and some boys form the north just happened to be there and shot at them, but it wasn't war, it was a camping trip.

I told that Nazi guy there's a prof down the hall who survived a concentration camp, why don't you go explain to her how her folks were just on a camping trip.

He had other things to do.

Chris, your criticisms of Harry may be valid, but I think this comment is misguided.

How sad to throw your faith away on your own incompetent assessment of the relevant facts.

Everybody makes judgments based upon their own assessment of the facts, whether their assessment is incompetent or not. Honest people do the best they can, and sometimes they make errors and are mislead, but they have no choice but to choose based upon their own assessments.

Roman Catholics argue as you do. Why leave Rome based upon your own private judgment? We don't privately judge because we have an infallible guide that leads us. We don't rely on our own incompetent assessments. Yeah, but you must use your own incompetent mind to decide who it is that will be making judgments on your behalf. There is no way to avoid private judgment.

Chris, your criticisms of Harry may be valid, but I think this comment is misguided.

I am curious. Do you think them valid or not? Have I missed something or failed to back up some reference McCall critiqued?

Everybody makes judgments based upon their own assessment of the facts, whether their assessment is incompetent or not.

Okay.

Honest people do the best they can, and sometimes they make errors and are mislead, but they have no choice but to choose based upon their own assessments.

I did not express sadness that McCall made a choice based on his own assessment. I was sad that he did so based on an "incompetent" assessment of the facts. Big difference.

Roman Catholics argue as you do. Why leave Rome based upon your own private judgment? We don't privately judge because we have an infallible guide that leads us. We don't rely on our own incompetent assessments.

Which Roman Catholics argue this? In what context? When did I mention an infallible guide? How does that relate in any way to my point?

If a Roman Catholic knew of a friend who left the Catholic faith based on an incompetent inquiry, then yeah, I suspect they would think that a sad thing. I would too.

Yeah, but you must use your own incompetent mind to decide who it is that will be making judgments on your behalf. There is no way to avoid private judgment.

Interesting that a skeptic claims that the mind as inherently incompetent. Perhaps we have a semantic difference over the meaning of that term. You seem to equate incompetent with fallible. That was not, however, my meaning nor I think the reasonable understanding of the term "incompetent."

McCall was not just fallible -- as we all are -- he made mistakes he could have and should have avoided. He waded into a pool that was over his head and did not take the time to do his research. Nor did he fairly read my article before misrepresenting its contents. Surely you are not defending McCall's rush to a mistaken judgment that he could easily have corrected had he taken the tame to make a competent assessment of the facts? Had he actually represented my article in good faith and read those books he claims are on his shelf then the whole sorry affair could have been avoided. That is the incompetence at issue here and it was not fated to be or inherent in human reasoning.

In the larger scheme, what I lament are those ex-Christian skeptics who claim they left the faith after studying it so hard they learned "the truth" when they in fact did not undertake a competent review of the relevant facts. In many cases it is obvious their research was incomplete or mistaken. McCall is the present Exhibit A for that kind of issue.

Thanks for posting this,

I also wrote a post on this subject:

http://explanationblog.wordpress.com/2009/01/06/josephus-and-jesus-who-was-called-christ-refuting-acharya-s/

This could be a misunderstanding, Chris. Let me skip down in your response because the rest may be irrelevant if we're misunderstanding each other.

If a Roman Catholic knew of a friend who left the Catholic faith based on an incompetent inquiry, then yeah, I suspect they would think that a sad thing. I would too.

That's not my problem with your statement. Had you said the following:

"How sad to throw your faith away due to an incompetent assessment of the relevant facts."

then this is a statement I would agree with. But instead you write:

"How sad to throw your faith away on your own incompetent assessment of the relevant facts."

I took this to be similar to the Roman Catholic criticism. You are using your mind. Your mind is imperfect and prone to error. Don't trust your mind. Place your trust in the very old and wise statements from the church. I'm saying I have no choice but to rely on my own assessments, whether they are incompetent or not. Based upon your further clarification between incompetent and infallible I'm guessing you would not disagree with what I'm saying and I would not disagree with what you are saying. You are basically saying it's sad for anybody to change views based upon incompetence. That I agree with.

In the larger scheme, what I lament are those ex-Christian skeptics who claim they left the faith after studying it so hard they learned "the truth" when they in fact did not undertake a competent review of the relevant facts. In many cases it is obvious their research was incomplete or mistaken. McCall is the present Exhibit A for that kind of issue.

I seriously doubt McCall left the faith because of an error regarding Josephus. I wonder if you likewise lament people converting to Christianity when they likewise have not competently reviewed the relevant facts. Suppose a person becomes Christian because they are convinced by some young earth creationist arguments, or suppose they are experiencing a rough patch in their lives and they turn to Jesus, as opposed to properly evaluating the facts. Do you have a problem with that, or is it just a one way street?

I took this to be similar to the Roman Catholic criticism. You are using your mind. Your mind is imperfect and prone to error. Don't trust your mind. Place your trust in the very old and wise statements from the church. I'm saying I have no choice but to rely on my own assessments, whether they are incompetent or not. Based upon your further clarification between incompetent and infallible I'm guessing you would not disagree with what I'm saying and I would not disagree with what you are saying. You are basically saying it's sad for anybody to change views based upon incompetence. That I agree with.

I think the "own" slipped into my statement because of the supposed emphasis of the skeptic on shedding old ways imposed upon them and setting out on their own intellectual path.

Obviously, as a Christian, I think someone losing their Christian faith is a sad thing. I think it lamentable, even more sad, when they do so based on an incompetent inquiry. So yeah, I think you've gotten down more to my meaning.

I used "incompetent" intentionally. I made no appeal to an infallible guide. I was not equating human fallibility with incompetence.

I seriously doubt McCall left the faith because of an error regarding Josephus.

Of course. I doubt he even looked into Josephus before deconverting. Which is why I was speaking more broadly. It is undisputed how DB presents itself as a club of formerly informed Christians now dedicated -- and driven by -- their rationalist inquiry into Christianity.

I wonder if you likewise lament people converting to Christianity when they likewise have not competently reviewed the relevant facts. Suppose a person becomes Christian because they are convinced by some young earth creationist arguments, or suppose they are experiencing a rough patch in their lives and they turn to Jesus, as opposed to properly evaluating the facts. Do you have a problem with that, or is it just a one way street?

Apples and oranges.

First, the Christian faith -- in my view -- is a good thing. Atheism -- in my view -- is a bad thing. So there is not the same underlying sadness at issue.

Second, I'd say that the majority of people who become Christians do not do so based on the kinds of arguments with with DB devotes itself. Nor does Christianity postulate that that such an inquiry is the best or exclusive means by which people come to know Christianity is true. There is the inner working of the Holy Spirit that draws people to Christian faith.

God has been drawing people to Himself for thousands of years, including periods in which humanity had little or no access to the kinds of evidences we tend to hash around here -- especially the historical and scientific understandings. Thus God would not be doing a very good job if he conditioned true faith on access to what most people didn't have. I happen to also think that historical and scientific evidences can lead people to an understanding of God, but much still depends on the heart and spirit of the person.

To the extent people have converted to Christianity based on poor arguments, I hope that their faith and relationship with God will bridge the correction of those mistake beliefs -- which I think is a laudable goal that the Church should not shrink from.

Mr. Hinman,

"Civil war didnt' happen! So my grandmother's father was wounded while a camping trip at a place called Shiloh? Yea, a bunch of boys from the south decided to go camping at this Shiloh place and some boys form the north just happened to be there and shot at them, but it wasn't war, it was a camping trip."

Well obviously your family helped create the whole conspiracy. Besides, you have no eyewitness testimony as any that you provide could have been concocted years after the fact. :)

You’re not a member of an ancient sect of people dedicated to keeping the Civil War hoax secret protected are you? If so, I'll ask you now to please not send any albino southerners to kill me. I'll keep quiet from now on..... :)

Such a candid admission, Chris. Throwing away your skepticism based upon an incompetent assessment of the relevant facts is good. Throwing away your faith based upon an incompetent assessment of the relevant facts is very sad.

This might suggest that whether the assessment is competent or incompetent is irrelevant. This just boils down to the fact that deconversion is bad and conversion is good. The talk of incompetence is mere distraction.

Not to beat a dead horse with analogies, because I'm sure you get the point, but it immediately reminds me of that great propaganda word "terrorism." When we kill civilians intentionally (Horishima, Dresdin, Iraqi sanctions, etc) that's freedom fighting. When Muslims kill civilians intentionally, that's terrorism. Terrorism is when they do it. When we do it, it's not terrorism. When they kill it's bad. When we kill it's fine.

Jon,

And I thought we were going to have a decent exchange of ideas. Then you have to throw it all away by putting words in my mouth, ignoring the crux of the point, and putting me in the supposed position of defending atomizing and fire bombing cities.

And surely you are not surprised that I as a Christian am happy when people come into a relationship with Christ and sad when they choose atheism. This is hardly a candid admission. I would think it the most obvious point in the world given that this is a Christian Apologetics site.

Throwing away your skepticism based upon an incompetent assessment of the relevant facts is good.

I am skeptical that all Christian converts are, in effect, "throwing away" their "skepticism." Indeed, becoming a Christian may actually increase their skepticism all told.

But for those purported "skeptics," yes, it is good if they can respond to the Holy Spirit's working in their hearts. I suspect that in many cases this will and has been accompanied by rationalist inquiry. At least so claims some atheists I have read about or know who converted to Christianity, such as Lee Strobel, Josh McDowell, and our own J. Hinman. I did not deconvert but I was was definitely challenged and my own investigation of the facts -- historical and scientific -- steered me back into Christianity.

The beauty of it, IMO, is that God is just as capable of using science or history to help bring people to faith in Him as he is to bring people to Him who lack access to cutting edge history or science.

Throwing away your faith based upon an incompetent assessment of the relevant facts is very sad.

Yes. This is especially true when the person doing the throwing away has purportedly put his trust into rationalistic skepticism but then bungles that rationalism so badly that their decision was based on incompetent analysis of the fact.

This might suggest that whether the assessment is competent or incompetent is irrelevant. This just boils down to the fact that deconversion is bad and conversion is good. The talk of incompetence is mere distraction.

I suppose it might but it should not. I actually do think becoming a Christian is good and becoming a non-Christian is bad. But that was not precisely what I was lamenting, though it adds to the lament. Surely you can understand that I can both be sad that someone has left the faith and be sad or sadder b/c they did so based on an incompetence assessment of the facts. This is also all the sadder, perhaps pathetic, when they believe they are pursuing pure reason and evidence when they have bungled their analysis of the evidence.

I obviously admit that I am sad when a Christian leaves the faith and that I find it even sadder when they do so based on incompetent analysis when their purported justification for leaving is rationalistic analysis. The latter sadness is that to which I was referring and is not excluded by the former.

Not to beat a dead horse with analogies, because I'm sure you get the point, but it immediately reminds me of that great propaganda word "terrorism." When we kill civilians intentionally (Horishima, Dresdin, Iraqi sanctions, etc) that's freedom fighting. When Muslims kill civilians intentionally, that's terrorism. Terrorism is when they do it. When we do it, it's not terrorism. When they kill it's bad. When we kill it's fine.

What does this have to do with anything we have discussed? I have to justify dropping atom bombs and the mass bombing of civilians in order to justify my comment about finding it sad that people who claim to base their decisions on rationalistic inquiry have made life altering decisions based on an incompetent exercise of that purported inquiry?

Talking about stacking the deck. The analogy is ridiculous.

Well obviously your family helped create the whole conspiracy. Besides, you have no eyewitness testimony as any that you provide could have been concocted years after the fact. :)


ahahahahahaah worse, I have no contemporary writer writing the year the conflict was happening.

You’re not a member of an ancient sect of people dedicated to keeping the Civil War hoax secret protected are you? If so, I'll ask you now to please not send any albino southerners to kill me. I'll keep quiet from now on..... :)


Yes, my family invented the civil war. It' a little known fact we are actually the ruling family the Republic of Texas.

It's a such a little known fact, I'm the only one who knows it.

And I thought we were going to have a decent exchange of ideas. Then you have to throw it all away by putting words in my mouth, ignoring the crux of the point, and putting me in the supposed position of defending atomizing and fire bombing cities.

Defending atomizing and fire bombing cities? I can’t believe you are really this bad at recognizing the point. I’ve read some of your other material, Chris. I think you’re a smart enough guy. I can’t believe you really need to have this explained to you. Do you?

I’m not asking you to defend the atomic bomb. Heck, I’ll defend it if you like. I think it was the right thing to do given the circumstances. My point is simple. Incompetence is OK when Christians do it, but bad when skeptics do it. Killing is terrorism when Muslims do it and freedom fighting when Americans do it. It’s just an analogy. And it’s not ridiculous. It’s a perfect parallel.

And surely you are not surprised that I as a Christian am happy when people come into a relationship with Christ and sad when they choose atheism. This is hardly a candid admission.

That’s not the admission I’m talking about. I’m talking about the concession that incompetence is fine when going to Christianity, but not fine when leaving. It’s just an outright admission of special pleading. Normally Christians don’t so readily admit to engaging in fallacies.

Yes. This is especially true when the person doing the throwing away has purportedly put his trust into rationalistic skepticism but then bungles that rationalism so badly that their decision was based on incompetent analysis of the fact.

But if a skeptic became committed to rationalism, bungled the rationalism and became a Christian, that would be just great.

Surely you can understand that I can both be sad that someone has left the faith and be sad or sadder b/c they did so based on an incompetence assessment of the facts. This is also all the sadder, perhaps pathetic, when they believe they are pursuing pure reason and evidence when they have bungled their analysis of the evidence.

I can understand, sure. I just find it interesting that you are critical of skeptics for behaving one way, but if a Christian behaves exactly the same way you aren’t critical.

I’m not surprised that you behave this way, because I understand how Christian apologists operate. One standard for them, another for their opponents.

Defending atomizing and fire bombing cities? I can’t believe you are really this bad at recognizing the point. I’ve read some of your other material, Chris. I think you’re a smart enough guy. I can’t believe you really need to have this explained to you. Do you?

Not really. I do not think any amount of explaining will make the analogy any more apt.

I’m not asking you to defend the atomic bomb. Heck, I’ll defend it if you like. I think it was the right thing to do given the circumstances. My point is simple. Incompetence is OK when Christians do it, but bad when skeptics do it. Killing is terrorism when Muslims do it and freedom fighting when Americans do it. It’s just an analogy. And it’s not ridiculous. It’s a perfect parallel.

Except I did not say that incompetence is “okay” for Christians.

You have chosen an explosive, loaded, highly negative term to use as an analogy when I used no similar or analogous term in my post. I did not say all skeptics are incompetent. I said that it is sad when incompetence in studies leads someone who supposedly prizes such studies to leave their faith.

That’s not the admission I’m talking about. I’m talking about the concession that incompetence is fine when going to Christianity, but not fine when leaving. It’s just an outright admission of special pleading. Normally Christians don’t so readily admit to engaging in fallacies.

Except that is not what I said. I said it may not be sad when a Christian comes to the right decision through incompetence. In other words, it is not a sad thing if something negative (incompetence) results in something good (coming to faith). I also said we should work to remedy the bad (by education), but its much sadder when a bad thing (incompetence) leads to a bad result (atheism).

But if a skeptic became committed to rationalism, bungled the rationalism and became a Christian, that would be just great.

That does not make bungling a good thing. It just happened to lead to a good result.

I can understand, sure. I just find it interesting that you are critical of skeptics for behaving one way, but if a Christian behaves exactly the same way you aren’t critical.

I was critical of McCall because he acted shamefully and erroneously in attacking my character. Something which you notably cannot bring your self to condemn even when I specifically asked for your opinion.

Talk about your double standards, you apparently think it okay for a fellow skeptic to misrepresent and make baseless accusations of dishonesty and deceit against a Christian but obsess about what makes me sad.

I’m not surprised that you behave this way, because I understand how Christian apologists operate. One standard for them, another for their opponents.

And apparently skeptics operate by ignoring the outrageous acts of their own while picking on minor perceived problems in defenses against those outrageous acts? Boy Jesus had it right, “Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother's eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?”

In any event, I realize that not all skeptics act that way -- though it is interesting none of the ones who frequent this blog or DC have responded to McCall. You might have a point if I had similarly misrepresented McCall but I did not.

Talk about your double standards, you apparently think it okay for a fellow skeptic to misrepresent and make baseless accusations of dishonesty and deceit against a Christian

Can you quote me where I said it's OK for skeptics to misrepresent and make baseless accusations against Christianity?

I'd have to say Jon, I like how you argue! Good job.

Can you quote me where I said it's OK for skeptics to misrepresent and make baseless accusations against Christianity?

Can you answer my question about whether you thought McCall mistaken in his attacks on me? Which is, after all, the subject of this post and about which I have directly asked for your opinion.

No, I do not claim that I could quote you nor did indicate that my assessment was based on a "candid admission" by you. I was clearly making an inference based on 1) your failure to offer an opinion on the subject of this post which is McCall's attack on my Josephus article (and my character), 2) your failure to offer an opinion or any response whatsoever after my directly asking you for it, and 3) your hyper sensitivity to what makes me sad while ignoring the crux of this post and my question about your opinion about the crux of this post.

This was clear from the context of my statement, including the use of "apparently" which is hardly a word I would have used had you left me a quote to that effect. You also selectively parsed, leaving out the lead in, "I was critical of McCall because he acted shamefully and erroneously in attacking my character. Something which you notably cannot bring your self to condemn even when I specifically asked for your opinion."

And is this your version of a debate or a discussion? Ignore 90% of what is said and questions asked of you and latch on to one statement or word with a dubious representation of its meaning?

You have had a while now to digest McCall's comment and my response. Can you venture an opinion about whether my criticisms of this particular McCall post is "valid"?

Notice, Chris, that I started by saying that your criticisms may be valid. You followed that by asking if I thought they were valid or not. But I already said they may be valid. This means I don't know if they are valid or not. I am reserving judgment until Harry offers a defense. I have to take you at your word with regards to these citations, and if you've failed to represent Harry fairly I expect him to show that. If he doesn't, ultimately I would conclude that you are right.

You seem to have a problem with drawing inferences that are not contained in what I write. Using an analogy about terrorism is equivalent to asking you to defend firebombing cities. If I fail to answer a question this means I think it's fine for skeptics to misrepresent Christianity. I seem to run into this with Christian apologists. They take liberties which permit them to interpret my statements in the most uncharitable and incoherent manner. Typed discussion is sometimes difficult. We must make efforts to understand each other before assuming an interpretation that is objectionable and running with it.

Jon,

Saying that my criticisms "may" be valid does not necessarily entail that you are "reserving judgment until Harry offers a defense." It is especially bewildering for you to assert that this was your meaning and it should have been obvious when you ignored my explicit questions about whether you believed the criticism's were valid. Perhaps if you really wanted to keep to keep a meaningful discussion rolling you could have . . . oh, . . . I don't know, answered the question I asked?

If you are at all interested in actually getting to the bottom of that issue raised by the opening post then please use Google book search to check my references. Or check the original thread started by McCall in which other commentors have already proved him wrong on most of these points and McCall backs off in his own wimpy way.

It is also odd, perhaps hypocritical, how you criticize me about making assumptions one way but then respond that I should have assumed the other way.

Further, your sniping now seems inconsistent with your approach to most of this discussion. Remember that you began this discussion by assuming a rather implausible notion about what I meant in spite of the language I had used. It took a few posts to straighten you out. Then you raised the fire bombing/atomizing analogy, which is obviously loaded and not conducive to promoting a serious exchange of ideas. You also took the leap to assuming that I think incompetence is good for Christians but bad for skeptics, which is not something I said but you assumed and construed your assumption as a "candid admission" on my part. Now that you've dropped that canard we are obsessing over whether I can produce a quote for something I indicated was an inference on my part based on your behavior and responses. Perhaps if you had said, "You know what, that is not what I meant, here is what I think about that question you asked but I have so far refused to answer..." then we could have put the matter behind us and proceeded to discuss something interesting.

So please forgive me if I make another inferred conclusion. You really have little interest in discussing anything of value but just cannot bring yourself to bow out of the discussion. Or perhaps you find it easier to provoke these kinds of pointless side discussions and convince yourself you've uncovered some sort of pattern of apologetic behavior that reinforces your preconceptions and ideological beliefs. The great irony is that this all is spawned by a very real, easily verifiable, terrible performance by an anti-apologist skeptic who you can't bring yourself to check or criticize.

Being Peter Kirby, I can offer a unique perspective on quoting my work as confirming J.P. Holding's representation of Feldman's "discernable statistics" (in that phrase of Holding's that I still remember off-hand). Although I did have access to the entire Feldman article, I didn't attempt to make my own division of the opinions surveyed and count them. Right or wrong, in every article in which I posted any numbers based on Feldman, I based those numbers on J.P. Holding's tabulation. I apologize that this gave the impression of independent confirmation of those counts (and apologize to J.P. Holding in particular for not properly crediting him).

Peter,

You might be interested to know that Habermas and Licona followed up with Louis Feldman in attempt to get a revised estimate:

In a personal e-mail to one of the authors (Nov. 26, 2001), Feldman admitted that his list for the period 1937 to 1980 is incomplete and that much on Josephus has appeared since 1980. Asked to make a rough assessment of where contemporary scholarship stands on the authenticity of the Testimonium as a while, he responded, "My guess is that the ratio of those who in some manner accept the Testimonium would be at least 3 to 1. I would not be surprised if it would be as much as 5 to 1."

Gary Habermas and Michael Liconi, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, pages 268-269, n. 42.

Since the Testimonium Flavianum post was written Nov. 29, ‘08 and not with Price’s webpage in mind (I only commented on it as an after thought in response to a question by John Loftus), I will post a new topic here at DC focusing on Christopher Price’s Josephus Testimonium web page and his subjective and misleading use of scholars and scholarship. I hope to have this out in two weeks.

Harry,

I already see some movement on your part. No longer was I "deceitful" and "fabricating" facts. Now I am "subjective" and "misleading." Unflattering accusations, to be sure, but you are giving yourself a lot more wiggle room.

You are of course free to write about the full scope of my article or any subpart you find convenient, but my immediate concern was your "challenge" that I back up my representations of certain scholars, as I have done.

The dispute is not over partial authenticity. I don't mind when underinformed skeptics disagree with me on that. I do mind when they accuse me of deceit and making up facts, especially when they claim that I misrepresent several scholars in one of my pieces. So please focus, at the least, on the "challenge" you issued.

This means you will prove that Louis Feldman, Robert Funk, J.D. Crossan, E.P. Sanders, and Paula Fredrikson have not favored partial authenticity of the Testimonium?

The most probable view seems to be that our text represents substantially what Josephus wrote, but that some alterations have been made by a Christian interpolator.

Louis H. Feldman: Editor, Josephus, Jewish Antiquities Books XVIII- XIX, of The Loeb Classic Library, page 49.

Without them, Josephus' account is carefully and deliberately neutral. He does not want, apparently, to be embroiled in any controversy about this Jesus. . . . So he was cautiously impartial and some later Christian editor delicately Christianized his account, but only to the extent that it was at least plausible and credible for the Jewish Josephus to have written it.

J.D. Crossan, Jesus: A Revolutionary Biography, page 162.

Jesus' death at the hands of Pilate is "all but certain, because attested also by Josephus and Tacitus, two ancient historians, that: -There was a person named Jesus, who was executed by the authorities during the preference of Pontius Pilate (26-26 C.E.).

Robert Funk, The Acts of Jesus, page 133.

According to Josephus, Jesus was known as a sage who performed unusual deeds. he had a considerable following among both Judeans and Greeks. Those followers continued in their devotion to him after his death and formed a movement that took its name from him, a movement that was still in existence in Josephus' date late in the first century. While providing only a paucity of details, Josephus confirms the principal features otherwise attested of the historical Jesus.

R. Funk, Honest to Jesus, page 222.

It is highly likely that Josephus included Jesus in his account of the period. Josephus discussed John the Baptist and other prophetic figures, such as Theudas and the Egyptian. Further, the passage on Jesus is not adjacent to Josephus' account of John the Baptist, which is probably where a Christian scribe would have put it had he invented the whole paragraph. Thus, the author of the only surviving history of Palestinian Judaism in the first century thought that Jesus was important enough to merit a paragraph, no more, no less.

E.P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus, page 50.

Scholars have debated the historical merits of this passage, some (few, now) maintaining that the whole is authentic, others (another minority), that the whole is a Christian interpolation, that is a passage written into the manuscript by a later Christian scribe. Most scholars currently incline to see the passage as basically authentic, with a few later insertions by a Christian scribe. The passage rendered below follows the editorial judgments and English translation of John Meier . . . I give the Christian insertions in italics, the Josephan substratum in roman. . . .

Paula Fredrikson, Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, page 249.

You will also prove that Louis Feldman did not report that the majority of studies of the Testimonium have favored authenticity of some sort?

You will then prove that I claimed that Feldman stated the Tetsimonium -- not the second reference to James as I claim was stated -- "has been almost universally acknowledged"?

Please keep in mind that if you drop these accusations and admit that these scholars have made the statements that they have indeed made, then you will have conceded -- by silence if nothing else -- that you have misrepresented and fabricated facts about the opinions of these scholars far beyond anything I suspect you will find from me in the future.

And take your time. No hurry on these things.

Layman: Don’t jump to conclusions as you did in your Josephus website study.

Lets be objective here. misleading adj, 1. Tending to mislead; deceptive. (The American Heritage Dictionary)

Stay tuned; it's coming!

I gave you the check list of scholars and supporting attestations. Have at it. But at least address "it."

Layman,

Good to see Harry put in his two cents. Too bad he can't give you credit where due. But then, that's what happens when you have to figure out a way to defend the indfensible.

{Taken from a comment on DC}

My next major post will be on Christopher Price’s essay in the Bede’ Library on his study of Josephus’ Testimonium Flavianum and how he constructed a study drawn from facts and authors with the end goal to tell the reader what to think apologetcally.

When I finish my critic of Price’s study, I’ll welcome comments by anyone who would like to compare how we both employed our facts and logic to arrive at two entirely different conclusions as to truth of the Testimonium Flavianum.

And to be fair to Mr. Price this time; I will notify him when I post my critic of his essay here at DC.

So McCall is not going to defend his specific claims against me that I fabricated facts and misrepresented the positions of leading scholars?

In any event, if you want to respond to my most up-to-date writing on Josephus and Jesus, you should pick up a copy of Shattering the Christ Myth. Chapter 1 is a revised article on Josephus that addresses the Testimonium and the James/Jesus reference.

It is available at Amazon, of course.

Sorry about the delay in by citric of Chris Price’s study on the Testimonium Flavianum (Ant. XVIII. 63 - 4) .

I have been discussions with this pericope with Steve Mason (via emails) and he has given me some great references in the way of books (now on order).

Until I get all my information organized for a clear rebuttal, my critic of Price’s Bede study on the Testimonium will remain front and center though delayed.

Since you are still looking up information, how come you are so certain that you will disagree with me?

And I take it you are not going to defend your mistaken attacks, listed above, on me? Rather you are going to gloss over that and hide behind a new post?

Since you are still looking up information, how come you are so certain that you will disagree with me?

Harry: Since I have a new (up to date quote from Feldman) and asked Steve mason to consider this I light of Meire.

McCall to Mason: “Without hard facts as to exactly which parts are Christian interpolations, it appears to me that Prof. Meier’s editing and reconstruction is purely subjective.  That is, he simply removed any early Christian creedal confessions (Messiah / Resurrection / Wondrous deeds) and then claims the remaining Testimonium is convincingly authentic!” (His answer will be discussed in my post)

Latest up date from Louis Feldman: McCall to Mason: “I’ve noticed a shift in Dr. Feldman’s thinking as seen in the below statement in a lecture.”

Louis Feldman:
“It's very interesting that there is one other account which, if it is authentic, does deal with the crucifixion. And that is by the Jewish historian Josephus. The question is whether Josephus really wrote it. And I've written about that, and I've come to the conclusion that he couldn't have written it…”


And I take it you are not going to defend your mistaken attacks, listed above, on me? Rather you are going to gloss over that and hide behind a new post?

Price: In summary, Josephus confirms the accuracy of the Canonical Gospels (and Acts) in the following recollections: “Jesus was the founder of Christianity,”

Compare to this Louis Feldman: You know, Jesus was not the founder of Christianity.

Feldman on whether the New Testament can be trusted:

“Secondly, how could you depend upon the Gospels when after all, the Gospels were not composed in Galilee where Jesus came from. They were not composed in Jerusalem where Jesus died. They were not composed in Aramaic, the language that Jesus spoke, but in Greek. They were written by people who never knew Jesus in person. None of them knew Jesus in person. One of them, Luke, was not a Jew, incidentally. And the Gospels were written at least forty years after the death of Jesus. Now, coming from such sources, would evidence be admitted in a court today, let alone be ready to convict somebody?”

So, as a lawyer, how would you answer Feldman?

Harry: As to your claims that my statements I made:

“I have personally sat in lectures with Robert Funk and John Crossan and Prices is again fabricating his facts!! Mr. Price would do well to review the late Robert Funk’s “Honest to Jesus”.

I have read the autobiographical de-conversion story by Geza Vermas who retuned to Judaism from being a Roman Catholic priest and I know that the independent scholar the late Paul Winter had more in common with Judaism then Christianity.

I would challenge Mr. Price to quote me text and page number where either E.P. Sanders or Paula Fredrikson state the Testimonium Flavianum as authentic! I have a number of their books on my book shelf.

The words here are “as authentic”, that is the Testimonium.

I will stand by my facts that you have well over stated your case to prove a point! For this you just have to wait for in my post.

Layman,

You might want to check out my newest post over at DC (2-28-'09).

Louis Feldman on the Historical Jesus and the Truthfulness of the Gospels

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