Sunday, January 24, 2021

Myther's Jesus Challenge

Ben Goren in a guest on Why Evolution is True, presents what he takes to be a big challenge to Jesus' historicity.
Somewhere along the line, I started challenging apologists to offer a coherent apologia, a theory of Jesus that was both self-consistent and supported by evidence. In all the years since then, I cannot recall even one single person, Christian, atheist, or other, who argues for an historical Jesus who has ever taken me up on this challenge, despite repeatedly offering it and even begging people to take a whack at it.[1]
It is ludicrous to say there is no theory of Jesus that is self consistent and supported by evidence. Nothing better to do right now so I'll play. Goren
Start with a clear, concise, unambiguous definition of who Jesus was. Do the Gospels offer a good biography of him? Was he some random schmuck of a crazy street preacher whom nobody would even thought to have noticed? Was he a rebel commando, as I’ve even heard some argue?

Jesus of Nazareth (4BC-30AD) was a first century religious teacher and prophet in the Hebrew faith. His followers developed an understanding of him that vastly increased their view of him and he became the founder of one of the great world religions: Christiaity. Unfortunately we don't have much information about his private life. We know well his teachings and the major events surrounding his crucifiction. I am making a historical statement not discussing my personal faith about him.

Here we see one of the fallacies of Jesus mythers nonsense. They think if you don't have absolute knowledge of someone then you have no historicity. That is nonsense. We don't have to know all about someone to know that they existed. Historians accept historicity of someone who is mentioned by separate sources that are themselves historical or if a public attestation is made.Pilot was thought to be fictional until historians found a couple of mentions of his name.[2]     
UNTIL 1961, there was no concrete archaeological evidence that Pontius Pilate, the fifth governor of Judaea, ever existed. There were accounts of him, of course, not least the accounts in the Gospels. But the records of his administration had disappeared completely: no papyri, no rolls, no tablets, no (authentic) letters to Rome. The Roman ruins that remained in Israel seemed to have nothing to do with him. Even his aqueduct - a project that got him into plenty of trouble at the time - appeared to have crumbled away. In the summer of 1961, however, Italian archaeologists found a piece of limestone, 82cm wide by 68cm high, in the ruins of a sports stadium in Caesarea, beside the sea. The stadium had not been there in Pilate's time; he had yelled at his gladiators in another place. But the stone bore his name, and much else besides.[3]

    Despite his biblical fame, little is known about Pilate. Only a small number of historical accounts and artifacts that date close to his lifetime survive today.[4] "He appears to have belonged to the well-attested Pontii family of Samnite origin, but nothing is known for certain about his life before he became governor of Judaea, nor of the circumstances that led to his appointment to the governorship."[5] Yet historians do not doubt his existence. My only point is we do not have to have that much to know someone was historical.    Goren
Offer positive evidence reliably dated to within a century or so of whenever you think Jesus lived that directly supports your position. Don’t merely cite evidence that doesn’t contradict it; if, for example, you were to claim that Jesus was a rebel commando, you’d have to find a source that explicitly says so.

    Papias  Papias was Bishop of Hierapolis (in Phrygia, sort mid southwestern Turkey). We don't know his exact dates, some have him being born as early as AD 70 (the fall of the temple) and dying as late 155.[1] His writings  mostly date to around 130.[2] He died in Smyrna (mid way down Western coast of Turkey).    
I shall not hesitate to set down for you along with my interpretations all things which I learned from the elders with care and recorded with care, being well assured of their truth. For unlike most men, I took pleasure not in those that have much to say but in those that preach the truth, not in those that record strange precepts but in those who record such precepts as were given to the faith by the Lord and are derived from truth itself. Besides if ever any man came who had been a follower of the elders, I would inquire about the sayings of the elders; what Andrew said, or Peter or Philip or Thomas, or James, or John or Matthew, or any other of the Lord's disciples; and what Aristion says, and John the Elder, who are disciples of the Lord. For I did not consider that i got so much from the content of books as from the utterances of living and abiding voices[6]

    According to Iranaeus Polycarp, Bishop of Smyrna (Martyred in AD 155?) knew the Apostle John. This doesn't seem likely and has been denounced by the great Church historian B.H. Streeter  and others. The date of Ploycarp's Martyrdom is fixed by W.A. Waddington. The tradition recorded in the Martyrdom of Polycarp says that he was 86 years old when he went to his glory as a martyr. This would place his birth in the year 69 AD.      
I can even describe the place where the blessed Polycarp used to sit and discourse-his going out, too, and his coming in-his general mode of life and personal appearance, together with the discourses which he delivered to the people; also how he would speak of his familiar intercourse with John, and with the rest of those who had seen the Lord; and how he would call their words to remembrance. Whatsoever things he had heard from them respecting the Lord, both with regard to His miracles and His teaching, Polycarp having thus received [information] from the eyewitnesses of the Word of life, would recount them all in harmony with the Scriptures.[7]

this puts the chain of historicity: we have the writings of Irenaeus, Irenaus knew Polycarp,who knew John, who knew Jesus. The same with Papius. Irenaeas Knew Papas who knew John who knew Jesus,

Two more more witnesses come to us by way of the Talmud:

   (1) The passage in Avodah zavah 16a [8]

    (2) Jesus is clearly discussed in the Talmud and is taken to be a flesh and blood man in history. The Talmud was also self censored The Babylonian Talmud, as the distinguished author of the Talmudic history, Michael L. Rodkinson tells us:

Thus the study of the Talmud flourished after the destruction of the Temple, although beset with great difficulties and desperate struggles. All his days, R. Johanan b. Zakkai was obliged to dispute with Sadducees and Bathueians and, no doubt, with the Messiahists also; for although these last were Pharisees, they differed in many points from the teaching of the Talmud after their master, Jesus, had broken with the Pharisees...[9]
    That is from a modern source but it is documenting a first century source,.

    There are archaeological evidence of Jesus' life that does not fit the pre cocieved grid Goren asked us to work on."Italian excavators working in Capernaum may have actually uncovered the remnants of the humble house of Peter that Jesus called home while in Capernaum. (This house of Peter was one of the first Biblical archaeology discoveries reported in BAR more than 25 years ago.)" [10]  

Goren"Ancient sources being what they are, there’s an overwhelming chance that the evidence you choose to support your theory will also contain significant elements that do not support it. Take a moment to reconcile this fact in a plausible manner."

    He is jst begging the question.    Goren 
What criteria do you use to pick and choose?
There will be lots of other significant pieces of evidence that contradict your hypothetical Jesus. Even literalist Christians have the Apocrypha to contend with, and most everybody else is comfortable observing widespread self-contradiction merely within the New Testament itself. Offer a reasonable standard by which evidence that contradicts your own position may be dismissed, and apply it to an example or two.
}    There are few contradictions. There are some since human effort is involved. They are not major they don't impinge upon belief.

Take at least a moment to explain how Jesus could have gone completely unnoticed by all contemporary writers (especially those of the Dead Sea Scrolls, Philo, Pliny the Elder, and the various Roman Satirists) yet is described in the New Testament as an otherworldly larger-than-life divine figure who was spectacularly publicly active throughout the region.
That is both obvious and clear: he  never went to Rome. Rome was the center of the world. Palestine was of no intellectual interest.  Jesus lived in hicksville, no one cared what went on there. That would be like asking how it is that no one has heard of a poet in West Texas. Gee how is it no one has heard of this guy he lives in Amarillo Texas!

Last, as validation, demonstrate your methods reliable by applying them to other well-known examples from history. For example, compare and contrast another historical figure with an ahistorical figure using your standards.
    I did that above with Pilot. The Jesus mythers have invented their own qasi historical criteria they then pretend these  are important to  historians while they are not.

Sources and notes

     [1]Ben Goren, "On the historicity of Jesus.The Jesus Challenge" why Evolition is True, blog, (September 5, 2014) [accssed jan 24,2021] 

   [2]Ann Wroe, "Historical Notes:Pontius Pilate a name set in stone," Independent. 23 Oct 2011[accessed jan 24,2021]

      [3]Owan Jarus, "Who Was Pontias Pilate?" Live Science, (March 25, 2019)[accessed jan 24,2021]

     [4]"Pontias Pilate" Wikipedia"[accessed jan 24,2021]

   [5]Daniel R.Schwartz, "Pontius Pilate". In Freedman, David Noel; Herion, Gary A.; Graf, David F.; Pleins, John David; Beck, Astrid B. (eds.). The Anchor Bible Dictionary. 5. New York: Doubleday.1992 pp. 395–401.

   [6]Henry Bettonson,ed Documents of the Christian Church,  Oxford:Oxford University press 1963, 27

   [7]J.L. Hinman,ed, Polhcar on connectionm, Religious A priroi website (2007)

l    On Christian Classic Ethereal Library, ANFO 1 Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr. Fragements form the lost writings of Irenaeus.

  [8]Joseph Hinman, "Bowen Himan debqte: Jesus in the Talmud," The Religios a proiproi [accessed jan 24,2021]

  [9] Michael L. Rodkinson, History of The Talmud , Vols. I and II.1918 Vol I Book 10, Chapter II, 8

  [10]Gailia Cornfleld, Archaeoloy of the Bible book by book. New York:,Harper/Collins, 1976 288

  Biblical Archaeology Society Staff, "How the remnants of the humble dwelling of Jesus in Capernaum illuminate how Christianity began,: Bible History Daily, (feb 2020)Biblical Archeaology society

No comments: