Agnosticism, Atheism, Christianity, Faith, God, Religion, Salvation, Truth

The Historicity of Jesus

On a recent blog post, conversation turned toward the reliability of the New Testament, and more specifically, how much evidence we have for whether or not Jesus ever existed. Instead of continuing the discussion there (since it had already broken the 500th comment mark and this would have taken the conversation in a different direction), I thought it might be a good idea to do it here. Makes it easier for other people to find.

So without further ado, here are the three main comments that kicked it off. Feel free to add additional comments below.

UnkleE:

Hi kcchief1, it’s impossible ion a blog comment to do justice you your question, so I’ll give you a few quotes and some references.

EP Sanders, possibly the most respected NT scholar of the last few decades:

“Historical reconstruction is never absolutely certain, and in the case of Jesus it is sometimes highly uncertain. Despite this, we have a good idea of the main lines of his ministry and his message. We know who he was, what he did, what he taught, and why he died. ….. the dominant view [among scholars] today seems to be that we can know pretty well what Jesus was out to accomplish, that we can know a lot about what he said, and that those two things make sense within the world of first-century Judaism.”
(from The Historical Figure of Jesus, p281)

“I shall first offer a list of statements about Jesus that meet two standards: they are almost beyond dispute; and they belong to the framework of his life, and especially of his public career. (A list of everything that we know about Jesus would be appreciably longer.)

Jesus was born c 4 BCE near the time of the death of Herod the Great;
he spent his childhood and early adult years in Nazareth, a Galilean village;
he was baptised by John the Baptist;
he called disciples;
he taught in the towns, villages and countryside of Galilee (apparently not the cities);
he preached ‘the kingdom of God’;
about the year 30 he went to Jerusalem for Passover;
he created a disturbance in the Temple area;
he had a final meal with the disciples;
he was arrested and interrogated by Jewish authorities, specifically the high priest;
he was executed on the orders of the Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate.”

(from The Historical Figure of Jesus, p10-11)

“I think we can be fairly certain that initially Jesus’ fame came as a result of healing, especially exorcism.”
(from The Historical Figure of Jesus, p154)

Maurice Casey:

“[Mark’s] sources, though abbreviated, were literally accurate accounts of incidents and sayings from the life and teaching of Jesus. …. The completed Gospels of Matthew and Luke are also important sources for the life and teachings of Jesus ….Some of his [Matthew’s] special material … shows every sign of being authentic material literally and accurately translated from Aramaic sources.”
(from Jesus of Nazareth, p 97-99)

Classical historian, Michael Grant:

“The consistency, therefore, of the tradition in their [the Gospels’] pages suggests that the picture they present is largely authentic.”
(From Jesus: an historian’s review of the gospels, p 202)

Craig Evans:

“the persistent trend in recent years is to see the Gospels as essentially reliable, especially when properly understood, and to view the historical Jesus in terms much closer to Christianity’s traditional understanding, i.e., as the proclaimer of God’s rule, as understanding himself as the Lord’s anointed, and, indeed, as God’s own son, destined to rule Israel.”
(from http://craigaevans.com/Third_Quest.rev.pdf)

John A.T. Robinson:

“The wealth of manuscripts, and above all the narrow interval of time between the writing and the earliest extant copies, make it by far the best attested text of any ancient writing in the world.”
(From Can we Trust the New Testament?, p36)

You can find more quotes on Jesus in history, <a href="http://www.is-there-a-god.info/belief/nthistory.shtml"Are the gospels historical.

Note that both Evans & Sanders claim to be reporting the view of the majority of scholars.

I don’t think archaeology can help much because it can throw light on places, but not much on the text. But the much-maligned John’s gospel has been found by archaeology to report accurately several locations that were destroyed long before it was written – see Archaeology and John’s gospel.

So that’s as much as I should write here. Please check out the references for more.


kcchief1:

unkleE, you can always find Scholars to support your claims. That doesn’t mean they are right. Here are just a few Scholars who don’t agree with your Scholars. If your evidence was conclusive, why this disagreement amongst Scholars. Also when you tour Jerusalem the most common statement your Tour guide will make before he talks about a Holy Site or Holy person is the famous, ” Tradition tells us” NOT “History tells us” I was recently in the ancient city of Ephesus and someone from my group asked the local guide why he kept using the phrase,”Tradition tells us Paul preached here …isn’t there archaeological evidence for this?” The guide said ,”It’s your story not ours” I have no proof there wasn’t a Jesus any more than you have proof there was. I agree that much of the NT is historical in as much as certain cities, villages, and government official’s names are true. But you can’t boldly proclaim there is historical evidence for the main character, Jesus.

Oh not that it really matters because it proves nothing either but here are scholars who question the historicity of Jesus and/or the NT.

When the Church mythologists established their system, they collected all the writings they could find and managed them as they pleased. It is a matter altogether of uncertainty to us whether such of the writings as now appear under the name of the Old and New Testaments are in the same state in which those collectors say they found them, or whether they added, altered, abridged or dressed them up.

-Thomas Paine (The Age of Reason)

The world has been for a long time engaged in writing lives of Jesus… The library of such books has grown since then. But when we come to examine them, one startling fact confronts us: all of these books relate to a personage concerning whom there does not exist a single scrap of contemporary information — not one! By accepted tradition he was born in the reign of Augustus, the great literary age of the nation of which he was a subject. In the Augustan age historians flourished; poets, orators, critics and travelers abounded. Yet not one mentions the name of Jesus Christ, much less any incident in his life.

-Moncure D. Conway [1832 – 1907] (Modern Thought)

It is only in comparatively modern times that the possibility was considered that Jesus does not belong to history at all.

-J.M. Robertson (Pagan Christs)

Many people– then and now– have assumed that these letters [of Paul] are genuine, and five of them were in fact incorporated into the New Testament as “letters of Paul.” Even today, scholars dispute which are authentic and which are not. Most scholars, however, agree that Paul actually wrote only eight of the thirteen “Pauline” letters now included in the New Testament. collection: Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Philippians, 1 Thessalonians, and Philemon. Virtually all scholars agree that Paul himself did not write 1 or 2 Timothy or Titus– letters written in a style different from Paul’s and reflecting situations and viewpoints in a style different from those in Paul’s own letters. About the authorship of Ephesias, Colossians, and 2 Thessalonians, debate continues; but the majority of scholars include these, too, among the “deutero-Pauline”– literally, secondarily Pauline– letters.”

-Elaine Pagels, Professor of Religion at Princeton University, (Adam, Eve, and the Serpent)

We know virtually nothing about the persons who wrote the gospels we call Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.

-Elaine Pagels, Professor of Religion at Princeton University, (The Gnostic Gospels)

Some hoped to penetrate the various accounts and to discover the “historical Jesus”. . . and that sorting out “authentic” material in the gospels was virtually impossible in the absence of independent evidence.”

-Elaine Pagels, Professor of Religion at Princeton University

The gospels are so anonymous that their titles, all second-century guesses, are all four wrong.

-Randel McCraw Helms (Who Wrote the Gospels?)

Far from being an intimate of an intimate of Jesus, Mark wrote at the forth remove from Jesus.

-Randel McCraw Helms (Who Wrote the Gospels?)

Mark himself clearly did not know any eyewitnesses of Jesus.

-Randel McCraw Helms (Who Wrote the Gospels?)

All four gospels are anonymous texts. The familiar attributions of the Gospels to Matthew, Mark, Luke and John come from the mid-second century and later and we have no good historical reason to accept these attributions.

-Steve Mason, professor of classics, history and religious studies at York University in Toronto (Bible Review, Feb. 2000, p. 36)

The question must also be raised as to whether we have the actual words of Jesus in any Gospel.

-Bishop John Shelby Spong

But even if it could be proved that John’s Gospel had been the first of the four to be written down, there would still be considerable confusion as to who “John” was. For the various styles of the New Testament texts ascribed to John- The Gospel, the letters, and the Book of Revelations– are each so different in their style that it is extremely unlikely that they had been written by one person.

-John Romer, archeologist & Bible scholar (Testament)

It was not until the third century that Jesus’ cross of execution became a common symbol of the Christian faith.

-John Romer, archeologist & Bible scholar (Testament)

What one believes and what one can demonstrate historically are usually two different things.

-Robert J. Miller, Bible scholar, (Bible Review, December 1993, Vol. IX, Number 6, p. 9)

When it comes to the historical question about the Gospels, I adopt a mediating position– that is, these are religious records, close to the sources, but they are not in accordance with modern historiographic requirements or professional standards.

-David Noel Freedman, Bible scholar and general editor of the Anchor Bible series (Bible Review, December 1993, Vol. IX, Number 6, p.34)

Paul did not write the letters to Timothy to Titus or several others published under his name; and it is unlikely that the apostles Matthew, James, Jude, Peter and John had anything to do with the canonical books ascribed to them.

-Michael D. Coogan, Professor of religious studies at Stonehill College (Bible Review, June 1994)

A generation after Jesus’ death, when the Gospels were written, the Romans had destroyed the Jerusalem Temple (in 70 C.E.); the most influential centers of Christianity were cities of the Mediterranean world such as Alexandria, Antioch, Corinth, Damascus, Ephesus and Rome. Although large number of Jews were also followers of Jesus, non-Jews came to predominate in the early Church. They controlled how the Gospels were written after 70 C.E.

-Bruce Chilton, Bell Professor of Religion at Bard College (Bible Review, Dec. 1994, p. 37)

James Dunn says that the Sermon on the Mount, mentioned only by Matthew, “is in fact not historical.”

How historical can the Gospels be? Are Murphy-O-Conner’s speculations concerning Jesus’ baptism by John simply wrong-headed? How can we really know if the baptism, or any other event written about in the Gospels, is historical?

-Daniel P. Sullivan (Bible Review, June 1996, Vol. XII, Number 3, p. 5)

David Friedrich Strauss (The Life of Jesus, 1836), had argued that the Gospels could not be read as straightforward accounts of what Jesus actually did and said; rather, the evangelists and later redactors and commentators, influenced by their religious beliefs, had made use of myths and legends that rendered the gospel narratives, and traditional accounts of Jesus’ life, unreliable as sources of historical information.

-Bible Review, October 1996, Vol. XII, Number 5, p. 39

The Gospel authors were Jews writing within the midrashic tradition and intended their stories to be read as interpretive narratives, not historical accounts.

-Bishop Shelby Spong, Liberating the Gospels

Other scholars have concluded that the Bible is the product of a purely human endeavor, that the identity of the authors is forever lost and that their work has been largely obliterated by centuries of translation and editing.

-Jeffery L. Sheler, “Who Wrote the Bible,” (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)

Yet today, there are few Biblical scholars– from liberal skeptics to conservative evangelicals- who believe that Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John actually wrote the Gospels. Nowhere do the writers of the texts identify themselves by name or claim unambiguously to have known or traveled with Jesus.

-Jeffery L. Sheler, “The Four Gospels,” (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)

Once written, many experts believe, the Gospels were redacted, or edited, repeatedly as they were copied and circulated among church elders during the last first and early second centuries.

-Jeffery L. Sheler, “The Four Gospels,” (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)

The tradition attributing the fourth Gospel to the Apostle John, the son of Zebedee, is first noted by Irenaeus in A.D. 180. It is a tradition based largely on what some view as the writer’s reference to himself as “the beloved disciple” and “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” Current objection to John’s authorship are based largely on modern textural analyses that strongly suggest the fourth Gospel was the work of several hands, probably followers of an elderly teacher in Asia Minor named John who claimed as a young man to have been a disciple of Jesus.

-Jeffery L. Sheler, “The Four Gospels,” (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)

Some scholars say so many revisions occurred in the 100 years following Jesus’ death that no one can be absolutely sure of the accuracy or authenticity of the Gospels, especially of the words the authors attributed to Jesus himself.

-Jeffery L. Sheler, “The catholic papers,” (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)

Three letters that Paul allegedly wrote to his friends and former co-workers Timothy and Titus are now widely disputed as having come from Paul’s hand.

-Jeffery L. Sheler, “The catholic papers,” (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)

The Epistle of James is a practical book, light on theology and full of advice on ethical behavior. Even so, its place in the Bible has been challenged repeatedly over the years. It is generally believed to have been written near the end of the first century to Jewish Christians. . . but scholars are unable conclusively to identify the writer.

Five men named James appear in the New Testament: the brother of Jesus, the son of Zebedee, the son of Alphaeus, “James the younger” and the father of the Apostle Jude.

Little is known of the last three, and since the son of Zebedee was martyred in A.D. 44, tradition has leaned toward the brother of Jesus. However, the writer never claims to be Jesus’ brother. And scholars find the language too erudite for a simple Palestinian. This letter is also disputed on theological grounds. Martin Luther called it “an epistle of straw” that did not belong in the Bible because it seemed to contradict Paul’s teachings that salvation comes by faith as a “gift of God”– not by good works.

-Jeffery L. Sheler, “The catholic papers,” (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)

The origins of the three letters of John are also far from certain.

-Jeffery L. Sheler, “The catholic papers,” (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)

Christian tradition has held that the Apostle Peter wrote the first [letter], probably in Rome shortly before his martyrdom about A.D. 65. However, some modern scholars cite the epistle’s cultivated language and its references to persecutions that did not occur until the reign of Domitian (A.D. 81-96) as evidence that it was actually written by Peter’s disciples sometime later.

Second Peter has suffered even harsher scrutiny. Many scholars consider it the latest of all New Testament books, written around A.D. 125. The letter was never mentioned in second-century writings and was excluded from some church canons into the fifth century. “This letter cannot have been written by Peter,” wrote Werner Kummel, a Heidelberg University scholar, in his highly regarded Introduction to the New Testament.

-Jeffery L. Sheler, “The catholic papers,” (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)

The letter of Jude also is considered too late to have been written by the attested author– “the brother of James” and, thus, of Jesus. The letter, believed written early in the second century.

-Jeffery L. Sheler, “The catholic papers,” (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)

According to the declaration of the Second Vatican Council, a faithful account of the actions and words of Jesus is to be found in the Gospels; but it is impossible to reconcile this with the existence in the text of contradictions, improbabilities, things which are materially impossible or statements which run contrary to firmly established reality.

-Maurice Bucaille (The Bible, the Quran, and Science)

The bottom line is we really don’t know for sure who wrote the Gospels.

-Jerome Neyrey, of the Weston School of Theology, Cambridge, Mass. in “The Four Gospels,” (U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 10, 1990)

Most scholars have come to acknowledge, was done not by the Apostles but by their anonymous followers (or their followers’ followers). Each presented a somewhat different picture of Jesus’ life. The earliest appeared to have been written some 40 years after his Crucifixion.

-David Van Biema, “The Gospel Truth?” (Time, April 8, 1996)

So unreliable were the Gospel accounts that “we can now know almost nothing concerning the life and personality of Jesus.”

-Rudolf Bultmann, University of Marburg, the foremost Protestant scholar in the field in 1926

The Synoptic Gospels employ techniques that we today associate with fiction.

-Paul Q. Beeching, Central Connecticut State University (Bible Review, June 1997, Vol. XIII, Number 3, p. 43)

Josephus says that he himself witnessed a certain Eleazar casting out demons by a method of exorcism that had been given to Solomon by God himself– while Vespasian watched! In the same work, Josephus tells the story of a rainmaker, Onias (14.2.1).

-Paul Q. Beeching, Central Connecticut State University (Bible Review, June 1997, Vol. XIII, Number 3, p. 43)

For Mark’s gospel to work, for instance, you must believe that Isaiah 40:3 (quoted, in a slightly distorted form, in Mark 1:2-3) correctly predicted that a stranger named John would come out of the desert to prepare the way for Jesus. It will then come as something of a surprise to learn in the first chapter of Luke that John is a near relative, well known to Jesus’ family.

-Paul Q. Beeching, Central Connecticut State University (Bible Review, June 1997, Vol. XIII, Number 3, p. 43)

The narrative conventions and world outlook of the gospel prohibit our using it as a historical record of that year.

-Paul Q. Beeching, Central Connecticut State University (Bible Review, June 1997, Vol. XIII, Number 3, p. 54)

Jesus is a mythical figure in the tradition of pagan mythology and almost nothing in all of ancient literature would lead one to believe otherwise. Anyone wanting to believe Jesus lived and walked as a real live human being must do so despite the evidence, not because of it.

-C. Dennis McKinsey, Bible critic (The Encyclopedia of Biblical Errancy)

The gospels are very peculiar types of literature. They’re not biographies.

-Paula Fredriksen, Professor and historian of early Christianity, Boston University (in the PBS documentary, From Jesus to Christ, aired in 1998)

The gospels are not eyewitness accounts

-Allen D. Callahan, Associate Professor of New Testament, Harvard Divinity School

We are led to conclude that, in Paul’s past, there was no historical Jesus. Rather, the activities of the Son about which God’s gospel in scripture told, as interpreted by Paul, had taken place in the spiritual realm and were accessible only through revelation.

-Earl Doherty, “The Jesus Puzzle,” p.83

Before the Gospels were adopted as history, no record exists that he was ever in the city of Jerusalem at all– or anywhere else on earth.

-Earl Doherty, “The Jesus Puzzle,” p.141

Even if there was a historical Jesus lying back of the gospel Christ, he can never be recovered. If there ever was a historical Jesus, there isn’t one any more. All attempts to recover him turn out to be just modern remythologizings of Jesus. Every “historical Jesus” is a Christ of faith, of somebody’s faith. So the “historical Jesus” of modern scholarship is no less a fiction.

-Robert M. Price, “Jesus: Fact or Fiction, A Dialogue With Dr. Robert Price and Rev. John Rankin,” Opening Statement

It is important to recognize the obvious: The gospel story of Jesus is itself apparently mythic from first to last.”

-Robert M. Price, professor of biblical criticism at the Center for Inquiry Institute (Deconstructing Jesus, p. 260)


kcchief1:

unkleE, I could have shortened my last post by 90% by simply providing one Scholar whose reputation speaks for himself. Geza Vermes

Géza Vermes or Vermès (Hungarian: [ˈɡeːzɒ ˈvɛrmɛʃ], 22 June 1924 – 8 May 2013) was a British scholar of Jewish Hungarian origin—one who also served as a Catholic priest in his youth—and writer on religious history, particularly Jewish and Christian. He was a noted authority on the Dead Sea Scrolls and ancient works in Aramaic such as the Targums, and on the life and religion of Jesus. He was one of the most important voices in contemporary Jesus research,[1] and he has been described as the greatest Jesus scholar of his time.[2] Vermes’ written work on Jesus focuses principally on Jesus the Jew, as seen in the broader context of the narrative scope of Jewish history and theology, while questioning the basis of some Christian teachings on Jesus.[3]

Geza Vermes on the Resurrection

Vermes contends that neither the empty tomb or resurrection appearances satisfy the “minimum requirements of a legal or scientific inquiry. The only alternative historians are left with in their effort to make some sense of the Resurrection is to fall back on speculation…”(141) This speculation requires the dismissal of “two extreme” theories – (1) the “blind faith of the fundamentalist” who accept the bodily resurrection and (2) the “unbelievers” who “treat the whole Resurrection story as the figment of early Christian imagination.” (141) So what are the alternatives between this spectrum?

1. The Body was Removed by Someone Unconnected with Jesus
The emptiness of the tomb was genuine, but there are a number of reasons aside from Mark 16:6. The swift nature of the burial in a tomb “obviously prepared for someone else” is explained that someone – possibly the gardener (Jn 20:15) – “took the first opportunity to move the body of Jesus to another available tomb.” (142) It was this innocent transfer of the body that later developed into the “legend of the Resurrection.” (143) Vermes notes that this is itself problematic – those who organised the burial were well known and could have explained this.

2. The Body of Jesus was Stolen by His Disciples
Those familiar with the narrative in Matthew will recognise this hypothesis as a current polemic against the empty tomb tradition (Matt 28:15). Vermes points out that this theory “presupposes that a fraudulent prophecy concerning Jesus’ rising from the dead was widely known among Palestinian Jews.” (143) Evidently, this is a “later Jewish gossip” circulating the time the evangelist was writing and its value for the Resurrection is “next to nil”.

3. The Empty Tomb was not the Tomb of Jesus
Drawing on the fact that the witness of women was not very convincing, the disciples who investigated the report of the empty tomb (Luke 24:11) may have suspected the women had “gone to the wrong tomb.” The disciples may have simply been mistaken, and the resurrection appearances that soon followed “rendered such an inquiry [as to the location of the tomb] superfluous.” (144)

4. Buried Alive, Jesus Later Left the Tomb
This is self-explanatory, and is elaborately forwarded by Barbara Thiering. Josephus’ Life 420 evidences crucifixion victims surviving. The theory is that Jesus was on the cross for such a short time that he was not dead when Joseph of Arimathea asked for the body. John’s mention of the spear in the side was an apologetic to dispel these sort of doubts. (John 19:34) However, I would argue that John’s mention, if invention, would have more to do with suffering servant styled prophecy fulfilled. Vermes sees this as implausible – a “semiconscious Jesus crept out of the tomb in the darkness of night…” (145)

5. The Migrant Jesus
A belief evident in contemporary Ahmadiyya Islam which believes Jesus was revived and eventually died in Kashmir, India. Others such as Thiering believe that Jesus wandered off to Rome where he died. Vermes concludes “In the absence of real ancient evidence, these modern musings need not retain us.”(146) By real evidence, he is of course referring to Thiering’s discovery by using “Pesher” to find whatever she wants in whatever document. For a brief review of pesher see my earlier post.

6. Do the appearances suggest spiritual, not bodily, resurrection?
Visions of the risen Jesus are abundant in the Christian sources (with a notable exception being the shorter ending of Mark.) These visions are separated into 4 categories:
1. “In Matthew no concrete details are given”
2. John/Luke – unknown man such as the gardener and travel are later recognised as Jesus
3. Luke/John – “a spirit mysteriously enters the apostles’ residence despite the locked doors”
4. “The ghost later becomes a stranger with flesh and bones, who says he is Jesus and invited the apostles to touch him, and eat with him.” (146)
As the evangelists do not mention appearances to people outside the circle of his close followers Vermes takes these to imply that the Resurrection was not meant to be an extension of public ministry. In essence, the “Resurrection becomes a purely spiritual concept without requiring any accompanying physical reality.” (147) The idea of spiritual resurrection accounts for the visions, but the Jewish bond of body and spirit spurred the empty tomb and physicality of the body in John and Luke. In appealing to the mystic tradition, Vermes contends that this view is no different from crosscultural experiences. [I didn’t explain this option best although in my defence neither does Vermes.]

Conclusions
Vermes really does come to something quite unsatisfying – “All in all, none of the six suggested theories stands up to stringent scrutiny.”

Geza Vermes on the Nativity
‘The nature of the birth stories and the many fabulous features incorporated in them, angels, dreams, virginal conception, miraculous star,’ bring Dr Vermes to the view that the Infancy Gospels are ‘not the stuff out of which history is made’.

Thank you for your time

164 thoughts on “The Historicity of Jesus”

  1. “I don’t see why I should eliminate ALL Atheist and Agnostic Scholars any more than I should eliminate any Christian ones. Is Christian Scholarship the only Scholarship that counts??? You don’t think they are biased ?”

    kcchief1, I don’t think you read what I wrote carefully enough.

    1. I DID NOT say you should “eliminate all atheist and agnostic scholars”. I said: “There is no problem quoting the genuine scholars among these, but there is not one scholar I recognised that comes from the other ‘side” to give balance “

    2. I did NOT say “Christian Scholarship the only Scholarship that counts”. I said: “3 of the 5 scholars I quoted are non-christians …. I do this to give balance to my own thinking as well as to what I present to others.”

    3. You say “This is why I later said the only one I needed to provide was Geza Vermes. I noticed you didn’t comment on him ? Why ?” Did you not notice that I included Vermes in my list of the reputable scholars on your list? Or that I said: “The Vermes quotes are about the resurrection, not the gospels as history”? Vermes was close to the most respect NT scholar out there, but he had a fairly sceptical and non-christian viewpoint and had his critics, so he should be in the mix, but we still need balance.

    4. You said: “This is why I try to read from as many Atheist and Agnostic Scholars as I do Christian scholars to see what EVERYONE is saying. “, but there were very few on that list.

    5. You said: “Bart Erhman was a Christian Scholar who has now admitted he is Agnostic. Does this make him any less of a Scholar ? Obviously for him the evidence made him draw a different conclusion.” and I agree, Bart Ehrman is an eminent expert on this topic,and should be quoted – but you didn’t quote him (unless I missed him on the list)! But if you checked out the links I included in my earlier post, you’ll see that I do quote him, reference him and draw on his conclusions.

    6 You say: “Again here are the list of Sources I found on the supposed Atheist Website you mentioned. Most of them appear to be qualified to me. Most of them happen to be Christian Scholars too.” Many are scholars, but not working in the field, many are not at all. Most seem to me to come from the sceptical end of the spectrum. Few of the quotes address the question we were discussing.

    As I pointed out before, if you want to discuss inerrancy, then these quotes will do the trick, but most scholars are not inerrantists, they accept most of what is said on your list about historical problems, but they still treat the Gospels as good historical sources. I’m not sure if you have picked up on that yet. A “good source” is not a perfect source, merely one from which good historical information can be obtained.

    7 You say: “I still maintain you tend to diminish whatever evidence I or others may have when it doesn’t measure up to your standards.” This is another misunderstanding, I’m sorry. It isn’t “my standards” we are talking about – we are talking about standards of evidence in historical study. If you want to choose to accept evidence from only one side of the question, or from non-experts, then you are free to do so, but that is not a basis for discussion of history. And I don’t diminish half of your evidence, I just point out is is from only one side of the question.

    So to clarify yet again. There is a wide range of views on some matters, but some clear consensus among most scholars. I believe if we want to form an evidence-based view, we need to read across the range, and especially focus on those most respected scholars who are generally closer to the centre of the range, both believers and sceptics.

    I did that. I quoted 3 non-believers and 2 believers, all well-respected and representative of the broad consensus. I did not quote christian apologists. But your list was heavily biased to the sceptical end and included non-scholars and extreme views. That is your privilege. But in a discussion on the best evidence, it should be seen as biased and unrepresentative.

    Preferable in my view is to try to stick to the best scholars, and then form our conclusions from there. That still leaves both of us free to choose christian or non-christian conclusions, and then discuss our different conclusions. But I agree, moving on is now probably the best.

    Best wishes.

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  2. unkleE, from reading other posts here, I am not the only one who feels you minimise our comments and sources. I read posts from at least 3 other contributers here. I guess the 4 of us are wrong but unkleE is again and always will be right. Yes we need to move onto another subject . You have to be getting tired of being right on this subject. 🙂 I’m being serious but also will always enjoy giving you a hard time. Somebody here needs to at least try to keep you humble. 🙂 If I had to look up the meaning of Ultimate Christian Apologist , your picture would have to be next to it. I will hand that much to you. That was a compliment.

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  3. @Judah first
    Your utter lack of knowledge and understanding of the gospel’s history and composition is demonstrated by the sheer ignorance of your comment.

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  4. Well, let’s not turn this into a flame war.

    While, like Ark, I’m skeptical of the gospels, I wouldn’t say they should be dismissed out of hand. I think it can tell us a number of things about what the early Christians were thinking, if nothing else.

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  5. @Nate.
    Sorry, Nate, you know me…I meant from an ‘historical jesus’ perspective they are of no use whatsoever, other than to demonstrate how disingenuous their compilers were…

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  6. Persto,

    Thank you for your comments on Historical Accuracy. I thought it was Spot On. I would have posted this earlier but have been traveling a lot. I think I will remain a Deist but I still actually enjoy reading the Bible , questions and all.

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  7. Based upon some of the earlier comments, I had this thought: If we were to dismiss certain scholars or sources based upon their credentials, then that’s fine. If we dismiss certain scholars or sources based upon their conclusions, we may need to reconsider ourselves; whether we’re being consistent and so forth.

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  8. Persto-
    I also wanted to lend my thanks for your insightful comments on historical accuracy. Very nicely done.

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  9. This is my favorite quote:

    Even if there was a historical Jesus lying back of the gospel Christ, he can never be recovered. If there ever was a historical Jesus, there isn’t one any more. All attempts to recover him turn out to be just modern remythologizings of Jesus. Every “historical Jesus” is a Christ of faith, of somebody’s faith. So the “historical Jesus” of modern scholarship is no less a fiction.

    -Robert M. Price, “Jesus: Fact or Fiction, A Dialogue With Dr. Robert Price and Rev. John Rankin,” Opening Statement

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  10. I was just reading some of the comments posted here and the original blog where people were trying to tell us we weren’t reading the scriptures as the 1st Century World did and this was adding to our confusion. Didn’t the 20th Century Translators of the NIV, NLT, The Word, The Message, etc. make their Bibles so 20th Century (and Beyond) readers could understand The Scriptures ?

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  11. KC, i see it only as an attempt to excuse or find a way for the internal biblical problems to suddenly not matter. “Oh, it only seems like a problem because you’re not understanding as the people long ago would have…”

    you can “fix” any problem that way and it’s absurd, especially for a book by god, that was supposedly written to reach all of mankind…

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  12. William,
    It’s been very quiet here this week. Thank you for your last post. I’m reading Bishop John Shelby Spong’s new book, “The Fourth Gospel: Tales of a Jewish Mystic”. Like many of his books, he discounts many of the “Historical” claims in the NT and urges readers to look at much of it as Allegory not Fact. He feels you can gain new meaning through this process and not be troubled by the Historical Problems. As a Deist who still has an interest in reading the Bible, I would tend to agree with him.

    Having said this, I still find it difficult understanding some of Jesus’ comments regardless of the way you read them. Matthew 10:5,6 “These twelve Jesus sent out with the following instructions: “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6Go
    rather to the lost sheep of Israel. or Matthew 15:24, “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.”

    Today’s world population is 7,122,994,664 and of that there are 13,800,000 Jews. Hmmmm.

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  13. joenbjerregaard , I think you are referring to Acts 28 as there is no Acts 29. I have read this many times before . It doesn’t erase the 2 scriptures I used previously. It only proves that the Bible is all over the place. Use one scripture to prove a point and someone else will use another to refute your point. Paul also uses the age old excuse of the hardening of hearts when people don’t receive the scriptures. In the OT God hardened many hearts . Why would a God who wants the World to worship him harden people’s hearts??? Makes absolutely no sense to me. Anyway, thank you for your comment.

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  14. kcchief1, maybe I reply too late, I did not notice your response before. Well the doctrine that the preaching would be aimed at the gentiles at a turning point is all over the Bible. It’s in the Old Testament, it’s at least 3 of the gospels, it’s in romans, ephesians, and many more. Scripture references can be provided if requested. So you have to look for disagreements – as skeptics often do – to see them. We can’t expect every doctrine to be taught on every page, it is not reasonable.

    Why would God do this and that? Your guess is as good as mine. The smaller the concept of God, the more the demand for God to explain himself to us. I’m pretty skeptical of much in the Old Testament, but I go along and say God hardened many hearts, as a punishment. Pharaoh was against God and Moses from the beginning but and some point he was not allowed to turn whatever he decided and he became a tool for God to show a point.

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  15. Joe,

    I can agree that every doctrine shouldn’t be expected to be seen in every page – it isn’t reasonable as you’ve stated.

    And Skeptics often do look for disagreements. Looks like I agree with you again. But I think we should elaborate this point. Christians are skeptics too – just of every faith other than their own. They’re skeptical of science that may disagree with the bible (hares chewing cuds, the earth being supported by pillars (though I admit is likely just poetic writing), a seed having to die before it germinates, the sun and moon being under the atmosphere, etc).

    Christians will seek problems in those things as well as in books like the koran to discredit them. So the atheistic/agnostic skeptics are indeed the same. And shouldn’t something so powerful, something from the most powerful, most perfect, most fair, most loving, most wise, and most eternal being stand up to such scrutiny?

    But like the koran or the Sunday paper, shouldnt it be telling of its human origins when it cannot stand up to such scrutiny – no matter how skeptical?

    Look at the contradictions within the bible. Did god bring the birds from the water or from the earth? What day did jesus die? What is the correct linage of jesus through Joseph? Is Tyre in existence or not? Are all the prophecy fulfillments in Mathew really originated in prophecies? How long were the Israelite enslaved in Egypt? When did the Israelites actually take all of canaan – if ever? How did Judas die? … and the list goes on and on…

    But beyond skepticism, the believers will often dismiss and ignore any issue and only focus on the good parts or the cohesive parts. But the problems dont go away no matter how hard you try to ignore them or hide them.

    And really, why would anyone believe the bible was from god anyway? because the bible says it is? because the old authors of the bible claimed that they spoke on behalf of god, as if god couldn’t write a book for himself, as if it was just too tiresome for god to speak to everyone and clear everything up face to face, man to man? Come now. We can be better than that. Where’s the verification? What proves the authors’ claims? Oh yeah, they said there had been miracles that proved it… And that’s great – for those who allegedly witnessed them, but not for anyone else. Where’s the proof of those supposed proofs? Get my question?

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  16. William,

    I don’t know if there is no plausible apolegetic solution to any issue you draw attention to – that could be interesting a when time is avaible – but generally I agree that from one perspective you have some obvious problems outlined here.

    My favourites points to defend are the old “science” of the Bible and the gospel contradictions. Old “science” / myths to old people. Do you expect neo-darwinian evolution in Genesis 1? I saw a cute comedy act some years ago where the disciples asked Jesus how the world came to be. He started with a scientific explenation and they were dumbfunded and clueless. So he gave them the Genesis 1 presentation and they could breath free again. This issue is similar to those that demand Revelation should speak about airplanes and nucler bombs. It would make no sense to the original receivers. You claim an imperfection here, I claim that putting modern science into the bible would be foul play to the original receivers. Just too bad, that it would be great evidence today lol.

    The gospels’ on Jesus’ death and resurrection? Of cause any 21st century person see the problem, me too. But I still think contradictions are better more proof of authentic eye witness accounts. People will see stuff and experience it differently, maybe add some religious imaginary, old times less informed than many modern people etc. And, if this was a big problem to the ancient church, why no attempt to correct this? Modern skeptics would die to have some evidence that the church struggled with all sorts of corrections and alterations to these specific passages but it was never a big quarrel. Instead the variations of the big 4 was appreciated.

    Believers should give little attention to points like hares chewing cuds or the sun and the moon being under the atmosphere. In the 16th century Calvin was more modern thinking than todays young earths. He saw in the creation account an account to simple unlearned man. Why waters above? Well how do you expect it could rain or the earth be flooded if not… ? 🙂

    Believers should give great attention to the Gospel and the moral teachings where details in occurances and ancient science has no relevance. The entire New Testament agrees Christ died and was raised, and also that Judas died, whether he he was struck by lightning or run over by Roman calvalry. These issues you draw attention to do not do any damage to doctrine.

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  17. Hi Joe,

    In John 3:12, Jesus says “If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things?”

    In light of that, how can we dismiss all the inaccuracies of the Bible and say they “do no damage to doctrine”?

    Thanks for your comments!

    Nate

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