CADRE Comments

A Rational Look at Christianity; Basing Reason in Truth

In this argument I will present three major sub points. The first deals with theoretical and methodological matters of historiography. The second with historical data, and the third unites the first two to show that the myther theory does not explain the historical data.

A. Historical methods

(1) The document, not the people, is the point.

One chief principle sorely lacking in the discussion with mythers, is that historians start from the sources we have rather than criticizing that which we don't have. Historians don't base their conclusions upon the documents we lack but upon those we possess. What do the documents we have tell us? Don't worry about what they don't tell us. (Chitneis p39 discussing internal and external evidence.[1]) The objection that we don't have anyone who knew Jesus personally writing about him (supposedly), is bunk. Start from what what the documents we do have tell us about him. Chitneis emphasizes internal and external aspects of the document. External is getting back to the original document itself: author, audience, why written. Internal aspects are inconsistency or consistency within the document. The practice of history is largely about evaluating documents.

(2) Supernatural content does not negate historic aspects.

Historians do not discount sources merely for supernatural contents. Even when they don't believe the supernatural details, they don't just deny everything the source says. For example, there is an account of a battle in Persia chiseled into a cliff side. It speaks of gods and demons fighting alongside men. But historians accept that there was a battle.

This overlaps with:

(3) What people believed tells us things, even if we don't believe it.

John Dominic Crossan
It was, however, that hypothesis taken not as a settled conclusion, but as a simple question that was behind the first pages of BofC when I mentioned Josephus and Tacitus. I do not think that either of them checked out Jewish or Roman archival materials about Jesus. I think they were expressing the general public knowledge that "everyone" had about this weird group called Christians and their weird founder called Christ. The existence, not just of Christian materials, but of those other non-Christian sources, is enough to convince me that we are dealing with an historical individual. Furthermore, in all the many ways that opponents criticized earliest Christianity, nobody ever suggested that it was all made up. That in general, is quite enough for me... My very general arguments are: (1) that existence is given in Christian, pagan, and Jewish sources; (2) it is never negated by even the most hostile critics of early Christianity (Jesus is a bastard and a fool but never a myth or a fiction!); (3) there are no historical parallels that I know of from that time and period that help me understand such a total creation. [2]
Crossan is hardly someone who simply defers to popular opinion when he's writing about Jesus and Christianity!

(4) Everyone is biased.

(5) The historicity of a single persona cannot be examined apart from the framework.

These two points are addressed for example by James F. McGrath, on his Patheos blog back in September 2014, after promoting an article by atheist Neil Carter (on his own Patheos blog), lamenting that Jesus Myth proponents were dismissing with a hand wave "a pretty thoroughly developed academic discipline" concluding in favor that Jesus existed.

During the comments of his own entry, McGrath posted a reply to an assertion about scholars deferring to popular opinion, and reposted his comment as its own article a few days later.
A commenter on the blog made the assertion that scholars are somehow deferring to popular opinion when it comes to the existence of Jesus. The suggestion is so ludicrous that I thought I had best address it, and am sharing it here as well. Here’s what I wrote:
The notion of being “unbiased” is naive. We all have biases, and what is great about the way scholarship works is that it provides methods and a community of experts who can limit the impact that individual biases can have.
I’ve never seen anyone use popular opinion as an argument in my field. Do you have a reference? What we have is an enormous body of scholarship, skeptically investigating the details asserted about Jesus in our earliest sources, in scholarly articles and monographs. The historicity of every single one has been challenged. The fact that the consensus remains that some details are probably historical is what you need to be looking at. The historicity of Jesus cannot be dealt with in the abstract, any more than evolution can be. It is a theoretical framework for making sense of a range of pieces of evidence in relation to one another. That is why mythicists and creationists tend to say both that “there is no evidence” and to think that showing that one particular piece of evidence is problematic means that the entire theoretical framework must be invalid. But that isn’t how scholarly investigation of the past works. The question must always be, what theoretical framework makes the best sense of all the evidence, or as much of it as possible. And of course, those who have not dedicated their lives to the study of that evidence are unlikely to make sound judgments about such matters.[3]



Now I present some historical data.

B. Big Web of Historicity

There are links between individuals that tie our knowledge back to Jesus. Examples include the John-Polycarp-Inrenaeus connection. John taught Polycarp, Polyarp taught Irenaeus, and he wrote about John teaching Polycarp. There are many such lines of links; they from a huge web because they are all interconnected.


(1) Peter and Paul => church of Rome => Clement [4]
Comparing their own time to Old Testament examples (taking a cue from the Pauline circle of the Epistle to the Hebrews), Clement of Rome speaks of Peter and Paul as "our generation." He speaks of their deaths as recent. Comparatively, so he probably wrote in about AD 95. We know the letter was written in a time of persecution so it may not have been advisable for Clement spell out a relationship with the Apostles. Even if he did not mean to imply that he knew them he clearly thought of them as historical and knew them to be real people in the city of his dwelling of his own time, and most probably tobe  people he did know. That connects Jesus to the historical world of flesh and blood. Peter knew Jesus.
(2) Philip the Apostle => 4 daughters => Papias  [5]
Polycrates tells us Philip the Apostle, who went to Hierapolis, had four daughters who prophesied and also kept church history and functioned as historians. They taught Papias a lot of church history. This is absolutely taken as fact by modern scholars who even think they have found his tomb. How is this guy an apostle without Jesus? Who made him one?  [6]
(3) John the Apostle => Polycarp, Papias, Ignatius => Irenaeus, Eusebius, fragments (see original argument)(Polycarp page Op cit)
(4) PMPN => Other Gospels => GosThomas, GosPeter (independent)[7]*
Pre Mark Passion Narrative is a term used to refer to a large swath of readings in various manuscripts that pre date the Gospel of Mark. Not all manuscripts that contain the PMPN are dealing with the passions, that's only the nickname for the group. Or we can just say Pre Mark Redaction. All four canonical gospels used it and Gospel of Peter. Others include Egerton 2 and Gospel of the Savior. The PMR and the PMPN is dated to mid first century. So Jesus is taken as historical by Christians as early as mid first century. That totally destroys Daugherty's time line. It fits into the web because we find about 34 lost Gospels and every of them takes Jesus as historical.
         *some such links in Bible left out because it's internal evidence beyond scope of this debate.
(5)  Truth tree
Historians place lot of credence in the fact that the testimony was passed on and they kept it straight. We know they did because the different links are all over the place and they are still saying the same things from the early days. Even if Polycarp did not know John someone did. The words of John about Jesus were passed on through the chain to form the web. A lot historians make this argument, Crossan for example (as in his quote at (A.))

Now I'm going to put the methods with the data and show the inadequacy of the myther theory.

C. Weakness of Jesus myth theory: It can't account for the web

The consensus is in favor of historicity, not because of bias (there is some bias but we are all biased), but because historicity explains the web of historicity as whole and provides for a theoretical framework. It's not ideological, it's theoretical and probabilistic.

In keeping with the theoretical orientation in sub point A, a good theory of historicity needs to account for all the data. The Jesus Myth theory can't.

(1) Early diverse trajectories of belief in Jesus as a flesh and blood man, make mythicism less probable.

Luke Timothy Johnson, The Real Jesus, San Francisco: Harper, 1996, p.121
"...Non narrative New Testament writings datable with some degree of probability before the year 70 testify to traditions circulating within the Christian movement concerning Jesus that correspond to important points within the Gospel narratives. Such traditions do not, by themselves, demonstrate historicity. But they demonstrate that memories about Jesus were in fairly wide circulation. This makes it less likely that the corresponding points within the Gospels were the invention of a single author. If that were the case then such invention would have to be early enough and authoritative enough to have been distributed and unchallenged across the diverse communities with which Paul dealt. Such an hypothesis of course would work against the premise that Paul's form of Christianity had little to do with those shaping the memory of Jesus." "As I have tried to show, the character of the Gospel narratives does not allow a fully satisfying reconstruction of Jesus ministry. Nevertheless certain fundamental points when taken together with confirming lines of convergence from outside testimony and non-narrative New Testament evidence, can be regarded as historical with a high degree of probability. Even the most critical historian can confidently assert that a Jew named Jesus worked as a teacher and wonder-worker in Palestine during the reign of Tiberius, was executed by crucifixion under the prefect Pontius Pilate, and continued to have followers after his death. These assertions are not mathematically or metaphysically certain, for certainty is not within the reach of history. But they enjoy a very high level of probability."[8][9]

(2) The Jesus Myth theory, by contrast, is ideological.
John Dominic Crossan

"If I understand what Earl Doherty is arguing, Neil, it is that Jesus of Nazareth never existed as an historical person, or, at least that historians, like myself, presume that he did and act on that fatally flawed presumption.

"I am not sure, as I said earlier, that one can persuade people that Jesus did exist as long as they are ready to explain the entire phenomenon of historical Jesus and earliest Christianity either as an evil trick or a holy parable. I had a friend in Ireland who did not believe that Americans had landed on the moon but that they had created the entire thing to bolster their cold-war image against the communists. I got nowhere with him. So I am not at all certain that I can prove that the historical Jesus existed against such an hypothesis and probably, to be honest, I am not even interested in trying."[10]

D. Summary

The mythers want us to believe that Jesus didn't exist but somehow everyone began to believe in this guy no one ever heard of just because he's talked about in Mark. In 18 years from AD 33 to 50 when the PMPN is written down they already believe in him so deeply they accept that he worked miracles. They compensate for that by extending him back in time taking advantage of a misconceived passage in the Dead Sea Scrolls. They are rearranging huge chunks of history to accommodate their ideology. They try to explain away the web by attributing it to a conspiracy of Eusebius. But we have a lot of material apart from Eusebius, the links are so profuse and so all-pervasive that they can't be explained by means of collusion without a major conspiracy. Historians just do not abide conspiracy theories of history.

Bottom line:
The web cannot be explained by the myth theory


[1]  K.N. Cheitnis, Research Methodology in History. New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors Ltd. 2006, 39.

[2] John Dominic Crossan QUESTION 62

The full review is at:
http://www.magi.com/~oblio/jesus/crossbr.htm.

(Note: link no longer valid. Accessed many years ago, sometime between 2004-2012.)

[3] J, "The historical consensus about Jesus," Exploring our MatrixSeptember 9, 2014 )


[4]1 Clement, chapter 5, in Peter Kirby, Early Christian Writings, online URL
http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/1clement-lightfoot.html


[5] Joseph Hinman, "Papias and the Four Daughters of Philip," Religious a priori
http://religiousapriorijesus-bible.blogspot.com/2010/05/philip.html



[6] Staff, interview with Francesco D’Andria, How I Discovered The tomb Of the Apostle Philip,:" ZENIT, The World Seen from Rome, (May 2, 2012)
https://zenit.org/articles/how-i-discovered-the-tomb-of-the-apostle-philip/
accessed 6'/21'/16
Archaeologist who discovered the tomb of Philip.
"Of Philip, he said: “He was one of the twelve Apostles and died in Hierapolis, as did two of his daughters who grew old in virginity … Another daughter of his … was buried in Ephesus.” He is saying that Polycrates documents it as the apostle Philip who went to Hireapolis.
“All scholars agree in considering that Polycrates’ information is absolutely reliable. The Letter, which dates back to about 190 after Christ, 100 years after Philip’s death, is a fundamental document for relations between the Latin and the Greek Church."

[7] Joseph Hinman,"Gospel Behind The Gospels." Religious a priori  on line resource URL:http://religiousapriorijesus-bible.blogspot.com/2010/05/gospel-behind-gospel-part-2.html accessed 6/21/16

[8]  Luke Timothy Johnson, The Real Jesus, San Francisco: Harper, 1996, 121

[9] Ibid

[10] Crosson, Op Cit

20 comments:

You reference the John-Polycarp-Inrenaeus connection. This is a tradition that has been handed down. What actual evidence exists of it being historical?

I love James McGrath's guilt by association fallacy:
That is why mythicists and creationists tend to say both that “there is no evidence” and to think that showing that one particular piece of evidence is problematic means that the entire theoretical framework must be invalid. But that isn’t how scholarly investigation of the past works.

The creationist dogmatically rejects a VAST body of solid physical evidence, while the mythicist would love to see something more than hearsay and old oral traditions eventually committed to writing. You can ridicule mythicists, but you can't accuse them of rejecting evidence that you can't produce.

Matt Cavanaugh said...
You reference the John-Polycarp-Inrenaeus connection. This is a tradition that has been handed down. What actual evidence exists of it being historical?

I linked to huage page full details. did you not see that?

The creationist dogmatically rejects a VAST body of solid physical evidence, while the mythicist would love to see something more than hearsay and old oral traditions eventually committed to writing. You can ridicule mythicists, but you can't accuse them of rejecting evidence that you can't produce.

I doubt if he is a creationist, he;s a fine scholar

I don't think he's a creationist or a mythicist.

Im was saying he doesn't think Dr. McGrath is fair in comparing mythicists with creationists, Joe.

Maybe not; McGrath is either highly ignorant about creationists and how they operate, or else isn't interested in fairly representing them even though he knows better -- regardless of the merits of their case(s), they definitely do not claim the entire theoretical framework must be invalid by showing that one particular piece of evidence is problematic. Neither do mythicists.

What McG was complaining about in more detail, though, is mythicists waving off "hearsay and old oral traditions" as being unfit for establishing a historical conclusion; and then, beyond reaching mere agnosticism, arguing for a positively mythical Jesus, that is a positive historical conclusion about what the first Christian communities believed about Jesus, from the same set of hearsay and old oral traditions. Either the net of data is sufficient to reach a reasonable and likely conclusion about what the first Christians (and their immediate successors) actually believed, or it is not.

Of course, not all mythicists wave off the net of data as useless for the purpose of reaching historical conclusions about what the first Christians actually, historically believed. But there's a marked tendency to denigrate the data when it seems to point to a historically existent Jesus about which the first Christians believed various things; and then to use the same data to positively infer that the first Christians believed in a merely mythical Christ instead.

JRP

I don't suppose I can speak for all mythicists, but the ones I've heard do not insist that Jesus positively did not exist. What they say is that the evidence is not sufficient to support the case that Jesus positively did exist. The two things are significantly different. I think most of then would agree that there is some probability that there could have been a guy that was the basis of the mythos. The difference between them and a mainstream historian is that they place that probability below 50%, while the mainstream places it at above 50%. In reality, there's very little that separates the two positions. They both look at the same evidence, unlike the creationist, who flatly rejects the evidence.

“Historians don't base their conclusions upon the documents we lack but upon those we possess.“

This isn’t always true. Suppose you find an article claiming that in 1957, an albino rhinoceros stampeded through the streets of London, killing 6 people. You wonder if this is true, so you go to the newspaper archives, but can’t find any corroborating reports from any of the London newspapers from 1957. This seems like good evidence that the event didn’t happen.

Im, but that wouldn't be mythicism per se. That would only be agnosticism about his existence, and the mythicists we run across promote positive theories about historical explanations for the data (the explanation being some version of a non-historical myth created and upgraded by the earliest generations of Christians.)

Admittedly, there isn't always a sharp distinction between historical agnosticism and mythicism; there's only half a step between the nearly total historical agnosticism of Burton Mack (to pull a name semi-randomly out of the sceptical pool) and the theories of mythical development he proposed in much detail to explain the data.

I think a good argument can be made, and (for various values of 'good') is routinely made by mythicists, that mythicists are only putting together the implications of all the sceptical historians generally who otherwise accept the truth of a little or some or even a lot of historical information about Jesus as a real person.

From that perspective, they'd have a genuine right and rational grounds to be puzzled about why their fellow sceptics aren't going the distance, too, in following out the implications.

JRP

Jason,

Yes, many have postulated alternative explanations for the existence of the stories of Jesus. If you think that it may be likely that he didn't exist due to the paucity of evidence, it stands to reason that there should be an alternative explanation. However, if you posit some such explanation, it doesn't imply that you are making a declaration that this is definitely what happened. You are saying that there is an explanation for what we observe, and this is a possibility.

And that's the difficulty. There could be several possible explanations, and there is no universal agreement as to which of them is correct, but there is one that has the greatest acceptance - the existing historical consensus that there PROBABLY was a historical figure to which these stories are attached. A few things to note here: 1) This is not a consensus (except among Christians) that Jesus was anything but an ordinary human who became a figure of legend. 2) The consensus seems to be losing ground as more modern scholars examine the evidence objectively.


Blogger Eric Sotnak said...
“Historians don't base their conclusions upon the documents we lack but upon those we possess.“

This isn’t always true. Suppose you find an article claiming that in 1957, an albino rhinoceros stampeded through the streets of London, killing 6 people. You wonder if this is true, so you go to the newspaper archives, but can’t find any corroborating reports from any of the London newspapers from 1957. This seems like good evidence that the event didn’t happen.

6/24/2016 08:45:00 AM Delete


not basing your view of history on it just yoru view of that claim.

A few things to note here: 1) This is not a consensus (except among Christians) that Jesus was anything but an ordinary human who became a figure of legend.

Fallacy Jesus existed weather he was son of God or not one has nothing to do with the other. Mythers play a game confusing the two questions. I could be an atheist and still be just as much for historicity of J of N.



2) The consensus seems to be losing ground as more modern scholars examine the evidence objectively.


that is total BS. you are basking that on Carrier adn he;;s not working as a scholar he;s a bleeding Evangelist. acaemic historians are still just as oppossed to mythisdicm as ever,

Matt Cavanaugh said...
You reference the John-Polycarp-Inrenaeus connection. This is a tradition that has been handed down. What actual evidence exists of it being historical?

6/23/2016 08:35:00 AM Delete

<< oit handed dow it;s viced by thestudent of Ploycarp

Joe-

My post in response to your first argument (about Jesus in the Talmud) is quite long, and I'm still not finished with it.
I had planned on doing just one post for each of your arguments, but there is too much to say, at least on Jesus in the Talmud.
Would you mind if I did a second post continuing my response to your argument from the Talmud?

I have not yet discussed one of the substantial quotes from the Talmud that you provided and discussed in detail. And I have not said anything specific about the "warrant" premise, the premise that spells out the principle that supports the inference from your factual premises to your conclusion.

Bradley Bowen

i am am answering Talmud post on Monday.

Fallacy Jesus existed weather he was son of God or not one has nothing to do with the other. Mythers play a game confusing the two questions. I could be an atheist and still be just as much for historicity of J of N.
- Joe, you got it all wrong. It's not the "mythers" who confuse the two questions. There are plenty of atheists who think that Jesus was probably a real person. I never said otherwise. It is only Christians who insist that he was not only a real person, but also son of God. Of course, that's not based on historical analysis, but faith alone. Furthermore, it is only their Christian faith that leads them to regard the evidence of his existence as being much more solid than it really is. As a Christian, you have to believe it, no matter what the evidence shows.

that is total BS. you are basking that on Carrier adn he;;s not working as a scholar he;s a bleeding Evangelist. acaemic historians are still just as oppossed to mythisdicm as ever,
- It's more than just Carrier.

Joe - Since you plan to answer my post on Jesus in the Talmud on Monday, I will try to complete the post ASAP.

Bradley Bowen

I agree with the Crossan quotation. If Jesus is/were a myth, then it surprising that none of the early critics of Christianity pointed this out.

Hi Jeff! Glad to hear from you again! {g}

I suppose a mythicist would say that the various non-Christian critics (both Jewish and pagan), like the Christians of their day, were fooled by the massive amount of historical verisimilitudes in the texts, and/or by the general web of personal references existing by that time (the web of history Joe was talking about, except of course they'd be perceiving it from within what was happening at the time whereas we see it afterward from the outside somewhat pieced together after the fact), into thinking that Jesus had started out as the historical person whom the texts and currently-living people were reminiscing about (reminiscing about people reminiscing, at two or three removes, of course, for the people in the 2nd century, eventually at three or four removes for the early 3rd). And so, these sceptics being too credulous about Christianity, just didn't and couldn't know any better, unlike mythicist analysts today about 1800 years later picking over the surviving textual remnants.

But that would at least mean that the (mistaken and/or fraudulent) ideas of historicity got started significantly and substantially early. As early as... well... as the canonical texts are generally though to have been written (broadly from 50s to 90s, perhaps back to the 40s for a text or two). Not written in the mid 2nd century.

JRP

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