Family Ties: Nebuchadnezzar, Nabonidus, Belshazzar, and Nitocris

Regular readers of this blog may know that one of the first lines of evidence that caused me to begin questioning my Christian faith had to do with the Book of Daniel. There are a number of issues within the book that have led the majority of scholars to conclude that it was not written by a Jewish prophet living during the reigns of Nebuchadnezzar of Babylon and Cyrus of Persia, but that it was written some 400 years later during the Maccabean period. Over the last several days, a few of us have been having an in-depth discussion about those issues at this thread. One of the items we discussed had to do with a woman named Nitocris.

In Daniel 5, we’re told that Belshazzar is now king, and we’re given the impression that he is the son of Nebuchadnezzar. However, from a number of primary sources (some that even date from the Babylonian empire itself) we know that Belshazzar’s father was actually Nabonidus — a king who was not related to Nebuchadnezzar. Christian apologists have suggested a couple of different ways to resolve this issue.

Succession

One is to say that when Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar are talked about as father and son, it simply means in the sense that Belshazzar is a ruler of Babylon and Nebuchadnezzar was a former ruler of Babylon. It’s just talking about succession, in other words, not actual parentage. As an example, they point to the Obelisk of Shalmaneser III, which has a section that talks about “Jehu of the house of Omri.” That’s significant because Jehu was not related to Omri. Instead, he was a usurper that took the kingdom from Omri’s grandson. Presumably, Shalmaneser III’s court would have known that Jehu was not related to Omri; therefore, Daniel may not have been in error to refer to Belshazzar and Nebuchadnezzar as father and son.

However, the phrase “house of” is not quite the same as “father and son”. It’s important to note that it’s no accident Omri was still being referred to a couple of generations after his reign. As Omri’s Wikipedia entry states:

The short-lived dynasty founded by Omri constitutes a new chapter in the history of the Northern Kingdom of Israel. It ended almost fifty years of constant civil war over the throne. There was peace with the Kingdom of Judah to the south, and even cooperation between the two rival states, while relations with neighboring Sidon to the north were bolstered by marriages negotiated between the two royal courts. This state of peace with two powerful neighbors enabled the Kingdom of Israel to expand its influence and even political control in Transjordan, and these factors combined brought economic prosperity to the kingdom.

Omri presided over a period of substantial growth for Israel, which caused many in the region to view Israel as Omri’s kingdom, even after he died. As the previous Wikipedia page goes on to say, even over 100 years after his death, Assyrian scribes were referring to Israel as “Omri-Land.” To me, that kind of situation seems rather different from the one we see in Daniel 5. “House of Omri” doesn’t sound as intimate as the words “father” and “son.” To help emphasize that a bit more, let’s look at how many times and in what ways the father-son connection is made in Daniel 5:

Belshazzar, when he tasted the wine, commanded that the vessels of gold and of silver that Nebuchadnezzar his father had taken out of the temple in Jerusalem be brought — v. 2

There is a man in your kingdom in whom is the spirit of the holy gods. In the days of your father, light and understanding and wisdom like the wisdom of the gods were found in him, and King Nebuchadnezzar, your father — your father the king — made him chief of the magicians, enchanters, Chaldeans, and astrologers — v. 11

The king answered and said to Daniel, “You are that Daniel, one of the exiles of Judah, whom the king my father brought from Judah” — v. 13

O king, the Most High God gave Nebuchadnezzar your father kingship and greatness and glory and majesty. — v. 18

And you his son, Belshazzar, have not humbled your heart, though you knew all this — v. 22

As you can see, the father-son connection was not just some throw away line that was barely mentioned. Within 20 verses, that connection is mentioned 9 times. If the writer of Daniel really did think Nebuchadnezzar was Belshazzar’s father, he couldn’t have said it any plainer. Belshazzar’s actual father, Nabonidus, is never mentioned in the Book of Daniel. What’s also striking is that the father-son connection is made by 4 different people in this chapter. Verse 2 is the voice of the narrator. The narrator had already written about Nebuchadnezzar in the first 4 chapters of the book, and he never wrote about Nabonidus. It seems strange to me that he would use the “father” description without more clarification, considering his audience wouldn’t likely know the actual relationships between these two individuals. In verse 11, Belshazzar’s mother (we presume) is speaking. She’s actually just referred to as “the queen,” so she could have been Belshazzar’s wife or Nabonidus’s. It’s possible that Nabonidus had more than one wife, so this queen might not even be Belshazzar’s mother. We really don’t know who she is, but she also makes the father-son connection, and she does so more emphatically than anyone else. In verse 13, we have Belshazzar refer to Nebuchadnezzar as “my father,” and in verses 18 and 22, we finally have Daniel make the reference as well. If the father-son connection weren’t real, but just a metaphor, it seems strange to me that all four individuals would use it.

Grandfather – Grandson

The other explanation is that Belshazzar’s mother is Nebuchadnezzar’s daughter. Initially, someone might object by pointing out that Daniel 5 says “father” not “grandfather.” But sadly, Hebrew apparently uses the same word for both. It’s a shame that God didn’t preserve his word in a language that would eliminate this kind of confusion, but there you go. It’s important to note that in the Bible this isn’t usually an issue, because lineage is either talked about in order (Abraham begot Isaac, Isaac begot Jacob, etc), or a distant enough ancestor is named that it eliminates any confusion (like referring to “son of David” centuries after David’s death). I can’t think of another instance in the Bible where the words “father” and “son” are used for a grandparent relationship that are as ambivalent and misleading as what we see in Daniel 5, but perhaps there are some. Either way, the words here do technically allow for a grandfather-grandson relationship.

Because the grandfather-grandson connection is a cleaner fit for what we find in Daniel 5, this claim is made quite often in apologetics circles. It’s not uncommon to see it referenced as though it’s fact, without even giving a reference to the original source of the information (like here). But what evidence do we have for this view? Is it just speculation in an effort to rationalize Daniel 5, or are there real reasons for thinking that Belshazzar was the grandson of Nebuchadnezzar?

It turns out that the Greek historian Herodotus records information about a Babylonian queen named Nitocris. According to him, she completed a number of construction projects in and around Babylon. She was married to a ruler of Babylon named Labynetos, and her son (also named Labynetos) ruled Babylon when Cyrus came against it (Histories I, v. 185-188). For many years, the general consensus was that the younger Labynetos must have been Nabonidus, since he was king when Cyrus took Babylon, and that the older Labynetos must have been Nebuchadnezzar. However, we’ve since discovered that Nabonidus’s mother was not Nitocris, but Addagoppe of Harran. We also know that Nebuchadnezzar was not the father of Nabonidus, and we’ve discovered that Belshazzar was a real individual and the son of Nabonidus. Therefore, it’s much more likely that Nitocris was the wife of Nabonidus and the mother of Belshazzar. That means Herodotus’s older Labynetos is most likely Nabonidus, and the younger Labynetos is Belshazzar.

But what makes us think that Nitocris was related to Nebuchadnezzar? I finally found that most articles that make this claim refer to a book by Raymond Philip Dougherty called Nabonidus and Belshazzar, published in 1929. Luckily, a university in my area has a copy of this book in their library, so I was able to read portions of it for myself. On pages 46-51 of the book, Dougherty establishes that Babylon and Egypt had occasional trade, diplomacy, and military cooperation during Nebuchadnezzar’s lifetime. It’s also known that there was a Nitocris of Egypt who lived around that time as well. It is not believed that she’s the same individual as Belshazzar’s mother. However, both her father and brother served as Pharaoh, and she was a fairly influential person during her time. Perhaps the Babylonian Nitocris was named after her. Dougherty suggests 3 possibilities for the identity of Babylon’s Nitocris (pg 52). Nabonidus might have married:

  1. an Egyptian woman not of royal rank.
  2. an Egyptian princess from Pharaoh’s court.
  3. a descendant of an Egyptian princess who had become the wife of a Babylonian king.

Dougherty thinks the first option is unlikely, because Nabonidus was so ambitious. While he wasn’t royal, he was of noble descent and held a prominent place in the Babylonian government. I don’t know why he couldn’t have married an Egyptian noble, like himself, but that’s not an option that Dougherty addresses. He feels that the second option is also unlikely for the exact opposite reason that he dismissed the first: Nabonidus wasn’t of high enough station to marry an Egyptian princess.

Dougherty spends most of his time discussing the third option. He points to the conflict that Nebuchadnezzar had with Babylon in 605 BCE. A treaty of some kind was agreed upon, because the two nations seem to have had peaceful relations for decades after that incident. Dougherty suggests that Nebuchadnezzar may have picked up an Egyptian wife to solidify that treaty (pg 57). Belshazzar began serving as co-regent with his father around 560 BCE, roughly 45 years after the treaty with Egypt. Conceivably, that’s enough time for a grandchild from this supposed union between Nebuchadnezzar and an Egyptian princess to be old enough to help rule. Dougherty also refers to the descriptions of all the construction and defense projects that Nitocris performed, according to Herodotus, and suggests that her active leadership aligns with the fact that Nabonidus spent time away from Babylon toward the end of his rule. He also argues that a Babylonian princess would have incentive to conduct such projects. I didn’t find that particular point very convincing, though. Regardless of where she came from, a wife of the Babylonian king and mother of the future king would be very invested in the kingdom.

Dougherty’s arguments are interesting, but they don’t change the fact that the argument for Nitocris being Nebuchadnezzar’s daughter is shear speculation. No historical document tells us that Nebuchadnezzar ever had an Egyptian wife, nor is there a document telling us that he had a daughter named Nitocris. Furthermore, despite considering Dougherty’s three possibilities, we have no idea how Nabonidus got his wife. She could have been an Egyptian noble, an Egyptian commoner, or even a Babylonian or Canaanite woman whose family had some ties to Egypt. The possibilities are nearly endless. As one reviewer said, only a year after Dougherty’s book was published:

Anyone who likes arguments will follow with interest the process by which the author, after presenting a hypothesis which is at best merely possible, immediately proceeds to assure us that he knows his case is not proved and that a probability only remains a probability. Practically nowhere in the book does the author use a doubtful argument without warning the reader that the case is not proved. Thus a single section of the book might carry conviction. But the real trouble comes when all these probabilities are finally linked together. To one assumed conclusion is added another which is also more or less doubtful. The first two serve as the basis for a third assumption which in itself is not their necessary corollary; and so the house of cards goes up, ready to come down at the first little touch. (Chiera, pg 401)

And the apologists’ claim that Belshazzar was Nebuchadnezzar’s grandson through Nitocris rests solely on this “house of cards.”

It also occurred to me that Nitocris might create an additional issue within Daniel. Christians often point to the fact that Belshazzar offers Daniel the third place in the kingdom as evidence that the writer of Daniel knew that Belshazzar was only co-regent, since his father Nabonidus was still living. But if the queen in Daniel 5 is Nitocris, it’s evident from Herodotus that she carried a great deal of authority in the kingdom. So how could Belshazzar have offered Daniel third place? The top three spots in the kingdom would have already been filled by Nabonidus, Nitocris, and Belshazzar.

In the end, there’s no good, substantial reason to think that the father-son connection that Daniel creates for Nebuchadnezzar and Belshazzar can be resolved in this way. We have no evidence linking Nitocris to Nebuchadnezzar. And considering how often and in what ways the father-son connection is spoken of in Daniel 5, the most likely explanation still seems to be that the writer was incorrect and actually did think they were father and son.


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209 thoughts on “Family Ties: Nebuchadnezzar, Nabonidus, Belshazzar, and Nitocris”

  1. I had always read that Daniel was written in the 2nd century, about a 4th century literary character – the book itself presents two different writing styles, implying it had more than one author.

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  2. Yes, that’s true. There’s reason to think some of the stories in the book were likely oral traditions that had been passed down for a while. And as you said, some sections may be older than others. It’s a really interesting book. Nowhere near as cut and dry as I was led to believe when I was a Christian.

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  3. Sorry, I’ve been watching a lot of “NYPD Blue” reruns recently, and in that last comment, I was channeling Dennis Franz’s ‘Sipawitz’ —

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nate,
    Did you ever encounter any prior records that might explain the author’s confusion? I saw that the author of Baruch probably copied this mistake from Daniel, but I don’t recall ever seeing any prior precedent for the father-son link. Though it is interesting to note that Qumran’s ‘Prayer of Nabonidus’ puts the correct name on the “gone crazy” episode, which is attributed to Nebuchadnezzar in Daniel. So it seems like Daniel has merged Neb and Nab into a single character, which then makes the father-son relation correct, in a round-about sort of way.

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  5. That’s a great question. No, I didn’t run across anything that would help explain that. My own opinion, which is strictly speculation, is that the Belshazzar story was an old story that had been passed down for a long time. The writer of Daniel already knew about Nebuchadnezzar from the Old Testament books that talked about him. Either the writer or someone prior to him made the assumption that Belshazzar was Neb’s son. Exactly how or when that happened, I don’t know.

    And good point about the possible conflation of Neb and Nab. That insanity story is another that must have been passed down in some form or another. Either the name was changed at some point (they’re similar enough that I could see it happen) or it just got dropped.

    Who knows, maybe one day we’ll get lucky and some team of archaeologists will uncover a cache of ancient documents that solves all this. 🙂

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  6. Hi Nate,

    I debated with myself whether I would comment on your previous “Skeptical Bible Study” post, and decided not to because my comments generally provoke discussion that goes around the same circles. But I couldn’t resist this time, but I want to confine myself to one matter – your comments, which opened both posts, that these matters were instrumental in your deconversion.

    FRom the content of this blog, you seem to base a lot of your unbelief on the matters you raise in these two posts, so I want to start by setting out how the argument might go (please feel free to offer a more accurate version!):

    1. If the christian God exists, he would communicate perfectly.
    2. Such perfection would certainly include the Bible, which is claimed to be his “Word”.
    3. The Bible clearly contains errors, including historical inaccuracies and failed prophecies.
    4. Therefore the christian God doesn’t exist.

    So how does this argument stand up?

    Well, #1 and #2 would certainly be held by the church you used to be a part of, but wouldn’t be held by anywhere near all christians. CS Lewis, arguably the most influential English speaking christian of the last 100 years, believed the Bible began in legend and gradually became more historical, but he still allowed for factual, errors even in the Gospels. You know christians scholars like Peter Enns, NT Wright, wouldn’t agree with these premises as stated. I don’t either. So while you might think this way, it is by no means obvious, and you have some work to do if you want to convince others that this is how God “should” operate – especially as most of the scholars say he hasn’t done it that way.

    Many christians would contest #3, and this is really the main issue you are addressing in these posts. I think you have made a few unjustified assumptions here too – e.g.

    * you have assumed a definition of “inspired” that comes not from the dictionary but from conservative christianity – I would contest that;

    * you assume a view of prophecy that owes more to conservative christianity than to scholars – see e.g. this discussion

    * you conclude that Ezekiel’s prophecy against Tyre doesn’t “come even close”, but I think he got about three quarters right, and he only fails your criteria because you insist on 100% accuracy – which is in keeping with your assumptions at #1 & #2;

    * finally you dispose of a real problem for your argument with the statement “It’s a shame that God didn’t preserve his word in a language that would eliminate this kind of confusion, but there you go.” which is unworthy of your usual high standards of accuracy and fairness, and dodges rather than explains the difficulty.

    But having said all that, I respect your research and that of the recognised scholars, and don’t personally contest #3 (only the degree with which you think it holds).

    So I conclude that all you write here and in other places about prophecy and OT inaccuracy is a reasonable argument against the sort of fundamentalist christianity you grew up with, but says very little about christianity as believed by many thoughtful christians and most scholars.

    From where I sit, it looks like you are shooting an easy target while pretending you are hitting a much harder target. So what can I suggest constructively? I have two suggestions.

    1. You offer a “buyer beware” codicil on all posts which attack fundamentalism that makes it clear that you know it is not a useful attack on thoughtful christianity. I think if you did you might be surprised at how much you write hits this target.

    2. I’d love to see you write about thoughtful christianity. I’d love to see you start with the consensus of scholarship and try to build a case from that. I think you’d find it a lot harder.

    So that’s my challenge. What do you say? Thanks again for your usual courtesy and willingness for me to critique what you write.

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  7. @unklee

    “believed by many thoughtful christians and most scholars”

    Quite arrogant for you to say that, don’t you think?

    Or perhaps no true scotsman?

    Perhaps you may be right, but at least I do think that majority of christians actually do believe the bible as inerrant and infallible, so the “many” may not be as many as you think.

    Also another note, the question of why there are so many “non-thoughtful” christians who also profess that the holy spirit speaks to them clearly?

    Lastly, I have a different view with regards to the consensus of scholarship with regards to Daniel. I’m assuming you think that Daniel is legit, but my readings have led me closer to what Arch as said: “I had always read that Daniel was written in the 2nd century, about a 4th century literary character – the book itself presents two different writing styles, implying it had more than one author.”

    And since we are referring to consensus, what about Ark’s issue of Exodus account, and also scientific consensus of many other fields that directly contradict theistic claims? Don’t think your challenge to Nate is as hard as you might think.

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  8. @Arch

    “Or better yet – maybe the time will come when people cease to care.”

    This is so true. Painful but true.

    What Matt wrote in his blog: http://jerichobrisance.com/2016/02/06/hug-the-shrug/
    resonated strongly with me.

    I think it’s good that if people like us can cease to care, but right now to think about it sounds sad. Cuz it does make our struggle meaningless. I guess it’s akin to winning a war. Peace is great, but most veteran just end up hollow despite their victories, with many wishing they might have just died in the battlefield.

    Not sure where I’m going with this.

    Rant over.

    Liked by 2 people

  9. Hi unkleE,

    I’m very glad you felt you could comment here — thanks for offering your thoughts!

    First of all, I largely agree with the 4 point analysis you made of my view. On the notion of inerrancy, you said this:

    You know christians scholars like Peter Enns, NT Wright, wouldn’t agree with these premises as stated. I don’t either. So while you might think this way, it is by no means obvious, and you have some work to do if you want to convince others that this is how God “should” operate – especially as most of the scholars say he hasn’t done it that way.

    That’s a fair statement. While I don’t believe any flavor of Christianity is true, you have to remember that most of the people I encounter lean toward inerrancy. It’s also been my experience that more moderate Christians aren’t quite as anti-science, and they also tend to be more accepting of other points of view. They tend to embrace equality, even with non-Christians. Not all, certainly — but the percentages are far better than what you find among fundamentalist inerrantists. So I tend to not be as bothered by moderates. I wouldn’t be upset if many of them stopped being Christians, but I don’t necessarily feel the need to dissuade those kinds of Christians.

    From where I sit, it looks like you are shooting an easy target while pretending you are hitting a much harder target.

    Mmm, I don’t know that I really agree with you here. I guess it depends on what you mean by “much harder target.” What target is it that you think I’m aiming for?

    As for your challenge, I may take you up on that. Or at least do another post about my thoughts on the importance of inerrancy. For instance, I don’t know that I’d agree with your label of “thoughtful” Christianity. In some ways, the more moderate versions seem more reasonable, because they simply aren’t as dogmatic. But I don’t know that I’d say they’re automatically more thoughtful or accurate than fundamentalism. In some ways, I think fundamentalism is more consistent. But I’ll say more about that when I tackle that post you’re suggesting.

    As always, thanks for giving me some stuff to think about!

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  10. @powell,

    I totally get what you’re saying, and I have really mixed feelings about it, too (the possibility of general ambivalence toward Christianity). I thought Matt’s post was excellent, and it’s something I’ve thought about with my own kids as well. I’m thankful they aren’t being raised in it the way that I was, and I’m glad that there’s not a need for them to know as much about it as I do. But I also find myself thinking that they should still know something about it. If nothing else, so they know what to guard against.

    Liked by 3 people

  11. Unk is generally a bit nebulous as to the authorities he cites: “many,” “most,” but rarely if ever a specific citation.

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  12. Hi Powell, do you believe most scholars hold a fundamentalist view of Daniel? If you do, then I’m surprised, but if you don’t then my view is no more arrogant than yours. Your assumption that I think Daniel is “legit” is not correct. I haven’t studied Daniel, but I understand some of the critical issues associated with it and I am willing to accept the consensus of historians. I feel Nate would have done his research competently and I specifically said I wasn’t contesting his broad summary (though I might contest the degree of his scepticism) , and we might disagree about exactly what “legit” means.

    I’m not going to get into all the earlier OT stuff, but I’ll say again that I accept the consensus of scholars, the only disagreement I’ve had with people here is what that consensus is. I’d base my view on something like this review of the Exodus.

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  13. Hi Nate,

    It is good that we agree on quite a bit. I think there is actually quite a lot of common ground between us, in politics, ethics, history, etc, and in views on religion. But blogs tend to lead to emphasising the disagreements. 😦

    “What target is it that you think I’m aiming for?”

    Well, it’s a blog named “Finding Truth” and in many posts, including the last two, you talk about your reasons for deconverting. So I think it is reasonable to think you are offering reasons why you think atheism or something close to it is true. But I am suggesting that the reasons you give here have very little bearing on whether christianity is true or false, though they are very relevant to a fundamentalist form of christianity. That’s why I suggested you make it clearer what you are arguing against – as you did in your reply.

    “I don’t know that I’d agree with your label of “thoughtful” Christianity.”

    I’m quite happy to change the word, but I think we know what I’m getting at – christians who accept the historical evidence and don’t dogmatically hold to a hardline doctrinal view such as inerrancy. Some people use the word “progressive” christians, I don’t really mind. Perhaps “non-fundamentalist” would work, but I think fundamentalist has some connotations that I prefer not to get into.

    I’ll look forward to your post if you get that going. Thanks again.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. @Unklee,

    “Hi Powell, do you believe most scholars hold a fundamentalist view of Daniel?”

    No of course not. But the problem is that in many churches (I can testify that 100% of all the church I attended which is 8 across 4 different denomination) teach a fundamentalist view of Daniel despite most scholars disagreeing, and furthermore with a large portion of the pastors that I dealt with being through seminary colleges themselves.

    So, the arrogance I was referring to is saying that you are right, and the majority of christians are wrong – despite them also having the same holy spirit and worship the same god as you.

    That is something I cannot wrap my head around. What if I told you that perhaps it’s the fundamentalist people who are right and actually the minority such as yourself (and of course the rest of us) are wrong? They definitely have more people praying fervently on their side compared to yours. So even if we establish that God is real, I think I’ll probably side with them even though my rationality lean towards us being correct.

    Then again, like I said perhaps you are right, and perhaps you are right all the way, which is also why Jesus said not all who call me Lord Lord, I will know them.

    No worries about the Exodus bit. Was a cheap shot from me. I apologize.

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  15. “the arrogance I was referring to is saying that you are right, and the majority of christians are wrong”

    Hi Powell, um, where did I say anyone else was “wrong” (apart from a couple of comments of Nate’s)?

    “What if I told you that perhaps it’s the fundamentalist people who are right and actually the minority such as yourself (and of course the rest of us) are wrong? “

    If you are talking about this matter, I would be interested in your view, I would probably ask you about it, I would probably disagree with you and we might have an interesting discussion. I can’t see anything wrong with any of that. My side of the discussion would centre on evidence and the conclusions of most scholars, but I would respect your differing view.

    “perhaps you are right, and perhaps you are right all the way, which is also why Jesus said not all who call me Lord Lord, I will know them”

    🙂 I feel sure I’m sometimes right, but I’m equally sure I’m not always right! But I do agree with Jesus on that one (I bet he feels good having me agree with him!) 🙂

    “No worries about the Exodus bit. Was a cheap shot from me. I apologize.”

    Thanks. I didn’t see it as a cheap shot, but I appreciate your thoughtfulness. I just didn’t want to enlarge the discussion too much. But it was good because the reference I gave you is very illuminating.

    Thanks again. I think you may have misunderstood where I’m coming from a bit, but internet discussions are a bit like that. 😦

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  16. @Unklee

    I’d love to see you write about thoughtful christianity. I’d love to see you start with the consensus of scholarship and try to build a case from that. I think you’d find it a lot harder.

    Thoughtful Christianity?
    Are you serious?
    Sadly I suspect you believe you are.

    And what a condescending comment from such a thoroughly biased presuppositional indoctrinated believer.

    You and your disgusting so-called reasonableness is what, in times past decreed what Christianity was to become based solely on theological consensus and then went on to exterminate so-called heretics such as the Cathars etc eventually clearing the playing fields for the establishment of secular democracy so you and your ilk are free to practice their reasonable Christianity.
    Of course, in your case,(Australian) this would have meant wiping out a fair amount of indigenous people as did your American counterparts back in the day, right?

    And your smarmy, insipid brand of rationalization is no different than those that that allowed ”witches” to be hunted and burned at the stake.
    And yet you insist that a man walking on water, feeding thousands and rising from the dead is reasonable while Creationists are extreme?

    Your brand of Christianity is insidious, because you want to make every one believe it is respectable.

    Someone pass me some water, please. I have a foul taste in my mouth, and it’s because of the words unklee and thoughtful Christianity.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. unkleE and I disagree about a number of things, but I prefer to not let those get in the way of all the things we have in common. We’re both decent guys who care about people, we share an interest in discussing religion, and we both have bitching beards. We don’t have to agree on Jesus for me to like him. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  18. unkleE and I disagree about a number of things, but I prefer to not let those get in the way of all the things we have in common.

    I have a similar relationship with a number of Manchester United supporters.
    And even though they consider not supporting United is a heinous sin they don’t consider I will be going to Hell for my lack of belief in their team.

    When Yahweh has the decency to speak to me personally and confirms that Unklee is right and the majority of the population of the planet is wrong, then maybe I will afford him the respect you consider is due.

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  19. OK – I have an announcement, and I want Ark, Neuronuts and Nan to all get together, and give out a big ‘Nelson Muntz’ “HA! HA!” —

    I have contracted this day for a new website, which it will likely take weeks to get ready, but the kicker is (fanfare please —): it is a WordPress product!

    Go ahead, knock your selves out!
    (PLEASE!)

    Liked by 1 person

  20. @Unklee

    “where did I say anyone else was “wrong””

    It’s implied.

    Unless you are saying that non-thoughtful christians are right, despite having totally different views from you with regards to the nuance of the bible.

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  21. “It’s implied.

    Unless you are saying that non-thoughtful christians are right, despite having totally different views from you with regards to the nuance of the bible.”

    Hi Powell, I don’t there is any need to get into a wrangle about this. Of course I think I’m right about what I believe, just as I guess everyone else here does, including you – otherwise we’d change to what we do think is right. Is that not so?

    But in this case, I wasn’t thinking about being right so I didn’t make any statement to that effect. I was simply pointing out that Nate was hitting one easy target when there was a harder target that he wasn’t (IMO) hitting. There is no claim to rightness there, just to incompleteness.

    Do you think we can maybe leave it at that? Thanks.

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  22. @Unklee

    I was just addressing the point with regards to arrogance. The assumption that you know you’re the minority who know better vs the rest of the world.

    But yes, let’s just drop it.

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  23. Happy to drop it, but note I didn’t say I knew better than the rest of the world, that’s your assumption, I simply said it was a view point held by nonconservative christians and most scholars that Nate hadn’t addressed.

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  24. @Unklee

    I simply said it was a view point held by non-conservative christians and most scholars that Nate hadn’t addressed.

    Non-conservative Christians?
    This is perhaps those thoughtful Christians to whom you refer – such as yourself, I suspect,yes?

    The same thoughtful Christians who consider that even with all the acknowledged myth, forgery and outright lies contained in the bible; the same bible that is the sole (soul? sic) source of your belief in a smelly little first-century itinerant rabbi for whom there is absolutely no contemporary evidence whatsoever is some sort of man-god and the creator of the universe who will supposedly forgive all your naughtiness if you simply confess your ”sins” – whatever the Gehenna that means and acknowledge this individual as a saviour? The individual who is patently a narrative construct.
    These thoughtful Christians who still consider this ignorant religion and fallacious, disgusting rag of a ”book” is worth believing in?

    As one of your fellow countryman, comedian, Jim Jefferies once said:
    “Please know that you are wrong.”

    I think this just about covers why it would be a fools errand to address these particular scholars and christians.
    It isn’t that you are all following a worldview based on lies – this goes without saying -, but merely the degree of nonsense you allow yourself to be suckered into. And the more pertinent point; the degree of crap you inculcate children with.

    In an effort to gain respectability or control (or both) Christians have been moving the goalposts regarding their theology since the time someone yelled, ”Lake Tiberius Pedestrian!’ .

    Eventually, science and common sense will dismantle the goalposts entirely and take away your ball for good measure and tell you all:
    ”Sorry, game over. Now, grow up!”

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  25. Some other thoughts on the Book of Daniel:

    The text contains a number of Greek words; yet the Greek occupation of the area did not occur until the 4th century BCE.

    One of the musical instruments mentioned in Daniel 3:5 and in subsequent passages did not exist until developed in 2nd century BCE Greece.

    Daniel 1:4 refers to the “Chaldeans” as a priestly class in Babylon. This term did not attain this meaning until much later than the 6th century.

    About 180 BCE, Jeshua ben Sira listed the heroes of the Jewish faith, including “Enoch, Noah and Abraham through to Nehemiah;” Daniel is not mentioned – presumably because Jeshua is unaware of him. This would indicate that the book of Daniel was written after that time.

    Chapter 12 discusses the dead being resurrected, judged, and taken to either heaven and hell. At the time of Daniel, the Jews believed that all persons went to Sheol (http://www.religioustolerance.org/aft_bibl.htm) after death. The concept of heaven and hell (http://www.religioustolerance.org/heav_hel.htm) was introduced centuries later by the Greeks. It did not appear in Israel until the time of the Maccabean revolt.

    Prior to Daniel 11:40, the author(s) has been recording past events under the Babylonian, Median, Persian and Greek empires. In Daniel 11:40-45, he really attempts to predict the future. He prophesizes that a king of the south (of the Ptolemaic dynasty) will attack the Greeks in Judea, under Antiochus. The Greeks will win, will lay spoil to all of northeast Africa, and return to Judea where Antiochus will die. The end of history will then occur. The author(s) appeared to be a poor psychic because none of these events actually happened. Antiochus did die in 164 BCE, but it was in Persia.

    Liked by 2 people

  26. I think it’s been shown that those words weren’t anachronisms after all. And Tom has noted that Sirach omitted some other names as well that aren’t disputed historically. However, Sirach 49 (I think) says that there’s no one like Joseph, when Daniel is actually remarkably similar.

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  27. I found a good summary of those points at this site, which is by no means scholarly. But he does provide references. It’s not an angle I’ve ever looked at very deeply, so I don’t have a strong opinion. Here’s the quote:

    There are also Persian loan-words and genre in Daniel. All of these words have been determined to be of the Old Persian, or Achaemedian tongue (539-332 BC; Vasholz, pg. 316ff; Wiseman, pg. 117). Some would wonder why this Israelite would be using Persian in his book, and how he would know it. The answer is -that Cyrus was a Persian, and Daniel being the gifted statesman and fast learner that he was (Dan 1:4, 6:28), he would have to had learn Persian to retain his position (Waltke, pg. 323-324). Also, the word Chaldean is contested, as it is used in a dual manner that is not used anywhere else in the Old Testament. It is commonly used in the ethnic sense of a Chaldean, but in Daniel it is used in an ethnic sense, and also in a restricted sense of one who is a magician or sorcerer. This apparent anachronism is no longer a problem, as we have discovered that Herodotus (c. 450 BC) in Persian Wars, uses Chaldean in both senses, and accepted that their religious practices went back at least as far as Cyrus (Harrison, pg. 1113).

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  28. I meant to include the next paragraph as well:

    As for the Aramaic words, 90% of them are found in texts of the fifth century BC or earlier (Vasholz, pg. 315). Rosenthal’s studies have led him to conclude that the “Aramaic employed in Daniel was that which grew up in the courts and chancellors from the seventh century BC, and subsequently became widespread in the Near East” (Waltke, pg. 322-323). Robert Vasholz says: ” Many morphological forms were deemed ‘ late’ …have been established as early as the eighth to the fifth centuries BC [by the Elephantine papyri of the sixth century and Old Aramaic treaty texts from Sefire],” (Vasholz, pg. 316). Further, some syntactical forms found in Daniel did not survive past the fifth century BC, for example the preposition Ie before a king’s name, and the “Assur Ostracon (seventh century BC) which agrees with the word order in Daniel .”

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  29. Here’s one for you, Nate – as any apologist will readily tell you, the sins of Adam and Eve have followed mankind down through the ages – “In Adam’s fall, we sinned all” – else, what possible reason did Jesus have for volunteering to be the expiating sin offering?

    Yet Ezekiel 18:20 RSV tells us:

    “THE SON SHALL NOT SUFFER FOR THE INIQUITY OF THE FATHER. NOR THE FATHER SUFFER FOR THE INIQUITY OF THE SON; the righteousness of the righteous shall be upon himself, and the wickedness of the wicked shall be upon himself.”

    I’ll bet that if someone had mentioned that to Jesus while he was on the cross, he would have said, “WTF??! NOW they tell me!

    Liked by 1 person

  30. It’s going to sound crazy, but that’s another area where the Church of Christ differs from other denominations — we didn’t hold to the original sin doctrine. That passage in Ezekiel was one of the reasons.

    But yeah, the whole blood atonement thing makes no sense anyway.

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  31. Just screwin’ with you, Son – see you in three days —

    OK, OK – rewrite – better line yet:
    Just screwin’ with you, Son – have a nice weekend —

    Isn’t that better?

    Liked by 2 people

  32. “the Church of Christ differs from other denominations — we didn’t hold to the original sin doctrine”

    That’s surprising to me, Nate, and very interesting. I’ve tended to think your former denomination was pretty unappealing, but that is one matter on which I agree with them.

    Liked by 1 person

  33. Obviously, they differ from you in their conservatism and their hold to inerrancy, but in most other respects they probably have a similar outlook. They have many faults, but to their credit, most of them have a very solid knowledge of the Bible, both testaments. So you don’t run into the kind of confusion you often see from other Christians who don’t know when the Sabbath is, don’t know the difference between Israel and Judah or between Elijah and Elisha, etc. They get the nuances of books like Galatians and Hebrews. It was an interesting way to grow up.

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  34. For those with a spare 15 minutes this talk from the Yale University Old Testament course provides a good summary of the reality (in my view) of Daniel and its composition. I have tried to cue it at the 35:21 minute part of the 50 minute lecture where the discussion on Daniel starts:

    Liked by 1 person

  35. Peter, I finally got around to watching that video. Great stuff! Thanks for posting it.

    When I watch this kind of stuff, I wonder if there are people in the audience who are hearing this outlook for the first time and what must be going through their minds.

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  36. I have tried to cue it at the 35:21 minute part of the 50 minute lecture where the discussion on Daniel starts

    Well, you didn’t succeed, Peter, and am I ever glad you didn’t! I watched the whole thing, and even bookmarked it – it was fascinating, and now I plan to watch her entire series, all because you screwed up!

    What I found ESPECIALLY interesting, was how the post-exhillic prophets continually moved the goalposts. The PRE-Exhillic prophets spoke of a remnant of exhiled Jews who would return in glory to Jerusalem. Those who did return, did so to poverty and misery. The prophet Haggai, then predicts a glorious reign of the then Governor of Judea, Zaruabbel, a descendant of David, will will ascend to the throne and take Israel forward – Zechariah confirms this even more enthusiastically than Haggai – well somehow Zaruabbel is done away with, and suddenly it’s the High Priest, Joshuah, who will become king and put a chicken in every pot. (Interestingly, only the first 8 chapters of the book’s 14, were written by Zechariah, 9-14 were written by a different author, and were apocalyptic in nature.

    This is great, Peter – you should screw up like this more often!

    Liked by 2 people

  37. @Nate, yes I sort of feel sorry for the sincere believer when faced with the reality of their faith. It must be very traumatic. But people act in different ways some accept reality others sort of fight back in a psychological way and draw deeper into their faith. Some just dismiss scholarship as a deceit by the Devil.

    @Arch. We see the prophets are sort of ‘making it up as they go along’.

    Liked by 1 person

  38. Hey Peter, you forgot another possibility. Many christians find that these historical ideas are no threat at all to their faith because their belief is based on the New Testament, not the Old. Some (I am one, Peter Enns is another) find their faith strengthened because their understanding is strengthened. In my case, I “grew up” as a christian on CS Lewis and he showed me 50 years ago that the OT started with myth, gradually mixed history and myth until it reached almost total history (though not necessarily history as we would see it today). There was a certain amount of soul-searching (hardly “trauma”) on the way because I try to be open to evidence and honest with it, but there has been a lot of enjoyment and a sense of discovery too.

    I honestly feel sorry for ex-christians like you and Nate who are obviously sincere and decent people who were taught (I know in Nate’s case, I guess in yours too) a historically unrealistic version of christianity, and then threw the baby of truth out with the bathwater of error and apparently saw no difference between them.

    I realise those are leading statements, and I mean no offence, just using similar language to yours to point out there are other ways of looking at it. I appreciate and share your sympathy for those who found it traumatic as I know Nate and many others have, but it didn’t have to be that way.

    + unkleE hides under a rock to escape the avalanche of crap that he worries may now fall on him, not from you Peter, or Nate, but from others – and hopes this comment may reduce it. * 🙂

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  39. So, to summarize, “…the OT started with myth, and [over a thousand years], gradually mixed history and myth until it reached almost total history (though not necessarily history as we would see it today) [whatever that means]”- BUT – over the NEXT 100, everyone told the absolute truth, and a 3-in-1 man/god was born of a virgin, walked on water, came back from the dead, and floated up into the sky.

    Got it! It seems so simple, the way you tell it, I don’t know why I never saw it that way before —

    Liked by 1 person

  40. @ Unklee

    Lol-ed at your last statement. Sneaky elbow jab there. Sneaky but friendly, but ultimately I think it’s fair.

    You can come out from your rock now, but I can’t guarantee Ark won’t bite your head off.

    In any case, I think this point regarding baby and bathwater has been debated to the death. We think there is no baby at all, The key difference is that we disagree that truth can/should be started from myth. You can, we can’t, I don’t think this has anything to do with upbringing, or how we are taught when we were christians. This is just a matter of our expectations for truth.

    Some people when showed with all the evidences in the world, they will not believe, out of sheer stupidity, obstinate, or pride. Then of course you have people that will believe in anything. Simply put, I think we might be closer to the former, and yours the latter.

    I don’t think this is something to be sorry for or proud about.

    The only thing I can say is, regardless of where you are in the spectrum, is it fair to then burn someone for eternity?

    I don’t think you subscribe to this sort of belief either. A good god who indeed know me by my number of hairs and created me for who I am will not be unreasonable with regards to our current position.

    Also if it’s an evil god with unrealistic expectations then I’m screwed anyway, or he/she/it/undefined may also laugh at you for believing in an OT myth based religion that is created to befuddle humans so that they’ll quarrel and waste their time between each other.

    Who knows? I’m just leaving my day trying to be as good a person I can be (and trying to cut down my belly which is unfortunately growing). I think feeling of pity on either side only ends up fueling ego of the self, for one can only deem the other side pitiful if they deem themselves on a higher pedestal.

    Liked by 2 people

  41. Hi Powell, nice reply. (I mean it, just to make sure.)

    Yes, we could, and often have, debated all that, and I wasn’t aiming to do so now. I was just making the point that Peter’s sorrow could be matched on the other side by mine, and that not all the options involve believers being naive unreasoning dupes any more than atheists all being blind fools. Both those viewpoints are, IMO, false stereotypes. After all, when it comes to the NT, we have secular historians more on our side than against us, and that is more important to christian belief than the book of Daniel or even the whole OT.

    But I have no objections to your response. Thanks.

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  42. Hi unkleE,

    I would just add that I don’t think Peter was saying he felt sorry for them in any kind of negative way — I got the impression that he was just saying that he acknowledged how difficult it would be to be a believing Christian confronted with that information for the first time, regardless of which direction their faith ultimately takes afterward.

    + unkleE hides under a rock to escape the avalanche of crap that he worries may now fall on him, not from you Peter, or Nate, but from others – and hopes this comment may reduce it. *

    Nicely done! 😀

    Liked by 1 person

  43. The reason I ask unkleE is that since I have read your comments for the past 3 years, you seem to justify what you believe by the general concensus of scholars. Do you need a general concensus, peer reviewed reports, etc to affirm your belief system ?

    Isn’t the simple, easy to read King James Version enough to solidify your beliefs ? Shouldn’t the “Bible of your choice” be enough to convince the non-believer to believe ?

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  44. Hi Nate, Isaw that Peter felt sympathy (“I sort of feel sorry for the sincere believer when faced with the reality of their faith”), which is why I said “I appreciate and share your sympathy”. But I also felt there was some unnecessary negative feeling (“some accept reality others sort of fight back in a psychological way and draw deeper into their faith. Some just dismiss scholarship as a deceit by the Devil.”) and I wanted to point out some of us, perhaps many of us, don’t feel that way at all.

    I’m glad you liked my last paragraph! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  45. Hi Ken, we’ve been through this before, I’m sure, but here’s how I see it.

    The Gospels contain stories that seem on the surface to be written by genuine people, and the many independent accounts verify the main details, even though disagreeing on smaller matters. Faced with this, a reader can make two choices, it seems to me – either (1) accept the writers as genuine and their stories as true, or (2) decide to investigate the matter further.

    I have no problems with anyone who chooses the first option, but most of us here, including me, choose the second option. If we do, then again we have two logical choices, I believe – (2.1) do a heap of study of original documents in original languages, archaeology, first century history, etc, to be sure of our facts, or (2.2) accept the findings of those who have put in the study.

    I don’t know of anyone here who qualifies as (2.1), so I [presume we are all 2.2. If so, then we face a third choice – (2.2.1) try to read across the varying viewpoints, and base our views on the most respected, least biased scholars at the centre of scholarship, or (2.2.2) choose to base our views on scholars we like regardless of how well-respected their views are in the academy.

    I choose the first. Unfortunately, many people, including some who comment here, seem to prefer the latter, at least on some occasions.

    So that is why I base my views on good scholarship. As to what the best scholars say, I’ll avoid filling the page and just give you a selection (more available on demand!).

    Jesus did exist; and we know more about him than about almost any Palestinian Jew before 70 C.E. Prof James Charlesworth, Princeton Theological Seminary, in ‘Jesus Within Judaism’

    I don’t think there’s any serious historian who doubts the existence of Jesus …. We have more evidence for Jesus than we have for almost anybody from his time period. Prof Bart Ehrman, University of North Carolina in an interview by The Infidel Guy

    Research in the historical Jesus has taken several positive steps in recent years. …. 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 Prof Craig Evans, Arcadia Divinity College, Arcadia University, in ‘What are They Saying about the Historical Jesus?’

    some judgments are so probable as to be certain; for example, Jesus really existed, and he really was crucified, just as Julius Caesar really existed and was assassinated. …. We can in fact know as much about Jesus as we can about any figure in the ancient world. Marcus Borg, Professor of Religion and Culture at Oregon State University, in ‘The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions’

    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. EP Sanders, Oxford & Duke Universities, in ‘The Historical Figure of Jesus’. Sanders gives a list of facts that cover most of Jesus’ life that hew regards as “almost beyond dispute”.

    Maurice Casey (‘Jesus of Nazareth’) concludes that Mark includes “literally accurate accounts of incidents and sayings from the life and teaching of Jesus” and “the Gospel of Luke, like that of Matthew, is a major source for our knowledge of the life and teaching of Jesus”

    All this is in marked (pun!) contrast to the scholars’ conclusions about Daniel. Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  46. Hi unkleE,

    I think that’s a pretty fair statement about scholarly consensus. The rub comes from the supernatural claims. And even though I feel that way, I would disagree with anyone who suggested that my disbelief is based on an a priori rejection of the supernatural. Does that distinction make sense to you?

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  47. Thanks unkleE for taking the time to respond. I never hear you speak of feeling the presence of Jesus in your heart or the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life as your conclusive evidence. Am I missing something here ?

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  48. Most, if not all reputable NT scholars, including Prof Bart Ehrman, University of North Carolina and whoever does research for the Roman Catholic Church, agree that Mark was the first anonymous author to write a gospel, that he wrote his about 70 CE, and that he never met Yeshua and what parts of his gospel he didn’t concoct, he took from multiple-hand hearsay information. Bart Ehrman also maintains that the anonymous author of Matthew copied 90 percent of his work from Mark, which of course means that it couldn’t possibly be much more accurate than that first gospel. The anonymous author of Luke never met Yeshua either, writing as he did a good 15 years after “Mark’s” book hit the shelves, and the anonymous author of John ten to 15 years after that.

    If you want to claim that Josephus is evidence for Yeshua’s existence, I’m afraid you’ll unleash an episode of laughter that may not allow me to sleep tonight. None of Yeshua’s contemporaries wrote of him, despite the fact that he is reputed to have gone about the Galilean countryside healing the sick and driving out [non-existent] demons.

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  49. “The rub comes from the supernatural claims. And even though I feel that way, I would disagree with anyone who suggested that my disbelief is based on an a priori rejection of the supernatural. Does that distinction make sense to you?”

    Hi Nate, yes I understand the distinction. Assessing supernatural claims in history is obviously difficult. In the life of Caesar or Alexander, most of us would feel happy to count any miraculous claims as likely legendary, because they are not important to understanding those guys, and there is no real reason to think them other than legends.

    But with Jesus (and doubtless a few other figures in history) it isn’t so easy. There is some sort of divine claims and the miraculous is part of the essence of the story, so we can’t just write it off and get on with the facts. Take out the miraculous and the story is totally changed.

    Some historians make judgments (either for or against the supernatural) but many leave the truth of those stories to one side and simply make judgments on what people of that day believed about Jesus. So Sanders (an agnostic who’s probably slightly to the sceptical side of centre and perhaps the most influential NT scholar of the last few decades) discusses (and accepts) the stories of miracles and the resurrection, but specifically says he’s unable to judge what actually happened with any historical probability.

    So judgment on whether the supernatural is real in the gospels is a separate question from the historical one, and is decided pretty much by our metaphysical assumptions and our personal judgment. That is why you can agree with me about the scholarly consensus but disagree about the supernatural.

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  50. “I never hear you speak of feeling the presence of Jesus in your heart or the presence of the Holy Spirit in your life as your conclusive evidence. Am I missing something here ?”

    No, you’re not missing much. I am a pretty unspiritual person. I believe in Jesus because I think that is where the evidence clearly points, but I don’t “feel him in my heart” much. I believe the Holy Spirit is present in my life, and I pray every day, but I rarely feel that reality.

    But it does happen occasionally, and I occasionally talk about it, but mostly I don’t think it is relevant to people here.

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  51. I appreciate the candor in your last statement, unkleE. That’s pretty much how I always felt as a Christian as well. I firmly believed in the trinity, and I felt sure that my prayers were being heard. I just never really felt anything inside other than my own thoughts and feelings.

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  52. Take out the miraculous and the story is totally changed.

    And everything else, whether accurate or not, if irrelevant.

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  53. Ah the Supernatural claims! For so long I wanted to believe. I accepted what was in the Bible as stated. I accepted supernatural reality. I struggled with a few claims, like the long day in Joshua and the Noah flood, but in regard to the claims about Jesus I accepted them 100%, with no quibble or doubt.

    It was only really after I spent some time in churches that were into the supernatural side of ministry that I started to question what was in the Bible. The reason I started to question the supernatural was because I found that the claimed healings in the Churches I attended were not sustained, that the words of prophecy were not fulfilled, that the words of knowledge were not true.

    Having observed at first hand the propensity of humans to accept the supernatural as an explanation when, in retrospect, psychological factors provide a far better explanation I was then prepared, for perhaps the first time, to question the supernatural claims of the Bible once I started to see that the history did not stack up.

    So I went from being a person who wholly accepted the supernatural claims of the Bible to being a skeptic.

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  54. Hi Peter, I can understand, if that was your experience, how you felt. I too spent some time (6 years) in a Pentecostal church that emphasised prophecy and healing. I agree that many supernatural claims seem to me to be natural, but I certainly don’t think they all were, and I have difficulty thinking that you could be sure they all were false too.

    I hope I’m not being rude, but is it not possible that both extremes (your former 100% belief and your present 100% disbelief) were beyond the evidence?

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  55. Hello my dear atheist and agnostic friends!

    What do you think of this argument against the Resurrection:

    1. It is possible that grave robbers stole the body of Jesus.
    2. It is possible that the alleged post-death appearances of Jesus were simply vivid dreams confused with reality.

    Even if Yahweh exists, is all-powerful, and does violate the laws of nature at times to perform miracles, according to the Bible he had never previously resurrected anyone in all of human history. To make the claim that a bodily resurrection of Jesus is more plausible than any natural explanation, Christians need to prove that the odds of grave robbery and vivid dreams confused with reality occurred less often in first century Palestine than a never heard of before resurrection.

    They can’t. The Christian argument has been disproved.

    Millions of people believe in miracles, believe in Yahweh, and believe that Yahweh does occasionally violate the rules of nature to perform miracles. These people are called…Jews.

    One can still believe in God and in miracles and reject the very weak evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus. There are just too many natural explanations for this early Christian belief.

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  56. It is possible that the alleged post-death appearances of Jesus were simply vivid dreams confused with reality.

    There WERE no post-death appearances of Jesus as recorded by anyone who ever met him.

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  57. Hey Gary (nonsupernaturalist),

    You may want to revise your statement that no one else had been raised from the dead prior to Jesus, according to the Bible. Jesus raised at least two (supposedly), and there were a few in the OT, too. This site goes through them all:
    http://stronginfaith.org/article.php?page=114

    Other than that, I think your argument is pretty solid. To me though, this is one of those issues that people aren’t going to bend on very easily. I doubt that anyone who thinks there’s good evidence of the resurrection is going to be persuaded by the opposing view, and vice versa. The best that could probably happen is that casual Christians who have never really looked into the evidence that closely before may be struck by how little of it there really is when you get right down to it.

    It’s not something that can be proven either way, so like you, I don’t see enough evidence to convince me that natural law was violated. But for people who already accept that, they’re going to have a harder time seeing why they shouldn’t believe it.

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  58. Hi Nate.

    “…according to the Bible he (Yahweh) had never previously resurrected anyone in all of human history.

    I intentionally used the word “resurrection” in my statement because even Christians admit there has only been (at most) ONE resurrection in all of human history. Yahweh and Jesus may have “raised from the dead” several people, but neither had ever resurrected anyone (immortal body, supernatural powers, etc).

    Christians often accuse skeptics of discounting the possibility of miracles and the existence of a Creator God in their discussions about the Resurrection. However, in my discussions with Christians, I argue that even if we accept the existence of Yahweh as a fact, and we accept that he is all-powerful, and we accept that he sometimes violates the laws of nature to perform miracles, the odds that natural explanations, such as vivid dreams/visions, are behind the early Christian belief in a Resurrection are still much higher than a literal resurrection for the simple reason that no resurrection, prior to Jesus death, had EVER occurred.

    I believe that in order for Christians to say that natural explanations for an empty tomb and for the alleged appearances of Jesus are implausible and much lower in probability than a miracle, they must assume a priori that Jesus was God or at least divine in some sense. But that is begging the question. Jesus’ divinity is only proven if he was bodily resurrected. If he wasn’t bodily resurrected, he was just one in a long line of false messiahs.

    The Christians on TW don’t like that and are furiously insisting that they are not assuming Jesus divinity a priori in their argument…but I believe they very much are. What I have told them is this: There are millions of people on earth who believe in miracles, believe in Yahweh, and believe that Yahweh sometimes violates the laws of nature to perform miracles, but who agree with skeptics that the evidence for the bodily resurrection of Jesus is very, very weak. These people are called…JEWS.

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  59. Ah, okay. I think I see the distinction you’re making.

    You make an interesting point about the a priori assumptions they’re making…

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  60. The stories of “the empty tomb and for the alleged appearances of Jesus” were written by anonymous authors who never met the man, but were writing on the basis of multiple-hand information.

    Liked by 1 person

  61. I agree Arch. The evidence for a historical Jesus is ify. But since I am trying to “convert” these people to the truth, I am using a different strategy other than a full frontal assault to blow them out of the water.

    So I accept as much of their position as I can, including an empty tomb, and then I try to show how a natural explanation for the early Christian belief in a resurrection is STILL much more probable.

    If I told them that it is doubtful that a real Jesus existed, they wouldn’t even listen to me.

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  62. I can’t argue with that, but it’s been my observation that most Christians, having done no extracurricular reading or research, believe that the gospel authors really were Mark, Matthew, Luke and John (the son of Zebedee), and that they were all contemporary with Yehsua and were reporting events as they personally witnessed them. Once I inform them as to how it actually was, some are prompted to look it up, if for no other reason than to prove me wrong, and come away quite surprised that in all of the years they had been attending church, no minister had ever bothered to mention that to his congregation. In some instances, that experience marks the beginning of the end – a little research often leads to more, then the who thing begins to unravel.

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  63. The guys I’m up against consider themselves “apologists”. They are very well read when it comes to NT scholarship. They will admit that not all the gospel authors were eyewitnesses but they believe some of them were.

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  64. Which ones? “Mark,” who wrote in 70 AD? “Matthew,” who wrote in 75 AD, and copied 90% of his entire gospel from “Mark”? Or “Luke,” who wrote about 85 AD and copied 60% of his gospel from “Mark,” or maybe “John,” who wrote between 90 and 105 AD?

    You know what? If I believed I had met the actual son of a god, watched him die and saw him alive again, I’d be shouting it from the rooftops! The earliest of these guys wrote 40 years after the fact – maybe he was a slow writer —

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  65. A thought on another facet of the Christian belief system:

    I and my children have been learning German for the last five years. One of the best ways to improve your vocabulary in a foreign language is to read children’s books because the words used in children’s stories are basic, common words. When we started learning German five years ago, we were still Christians. At that time, I bought a lot of Bible story books in German to read to my kids.

    I still read these stories to my children for several reasons. It is good German practice; the stories are fascinating; and there are good moral lessons in the stories…but not always in the ways we were taught to see them when we were Christians. Tonight we read the story of Yahweh testing Abraham’s love and loyalty to him by ordering him to take his son up to a mountain to kill him and then burn his body on an altar.

    My young children were horrified.

    We had quite an interesting discussion about the morality of any being, god or otherwise, ordering a father to kill his child as a test of loyalty.

    I strongly encourage every Christian parent to get out their children’s Bible story books and read them. Really read them. Is the morality displayed by Yahweh and his followers the morality you want your children to adopt?

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  66. Yeah William, that’s a distinction I’d never heard before either. For those who view resurrection and being raised from the dead as different things, I think they view being “raised from the dead” as someone being brought back to life, but that individual will die again some day. Resurrection, on the other hand, is when someone comes back from the dead but will never die again. One site I found quoted Luke 20:35-36:

    But they which shall be accounted worthy to obtain that world, and the resurrection from the dead, neither marry, nor are given in marriage: Neither can they die any more: for they are equal unto the angels; and are the children of God, being the children of the resurrection.

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  67. Gary, have you read Peter Boghossian’s book A Manual for Creating Atheists? I think you’d find his approach really fascinating. He advocates focusing on how we know or believe things vs the beliefs themselves. I’m about halfway through it right now, and I plan to start working some of his strategies into my conversations with people.

    There’s also a guy on YouTube who takes the Boghossian approach — pretty interesting:
    https://www.youtube.com/user/magnabosco210

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  68. “Believe God and not man.”

    But the only things you know about your God is what some man has told you. So you have to believe in man before you can believe in God or believe what those men have said that God said.

    “Oh, well, Jesus is special because now that he’s risen, he’ll never die again, where as the others who’ve been claimed to have come back from the dead did die again.”

    How do you know? Say my older brother lives longer than me, does that mean he’ll live forever? Again, believing these stories and claims is first believing the men that told them, before it is believing in God.

    it’s just stories. Far fetched stories and the only evidence for these outrageous stories are more stories and people who believe them.

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  69. Posted by Apologiaphoenix (apologist, Nick Peters) on TW:

    It’s more probable (the bodily resurrection hypothesis) because it better explains all the data we have, is more in line with what is already known, is not ad hoc, and has better illuminating power. No. You don’t need Jesus’s deity for this at all. (I had suggested that Christians assume the divinity of Jesus, a priori in their Resurrection argument) You really need to give up mind reading. You kind of suck at it.

    Gary: What you already know comes from four anonymous books, written decades after the alleged event, two of which copy much of the first! Possible explanations for a missing body and alleged sightings of dead people are not ad hoc if we present them as POSSIBLE explanations, not THE explanation. If I suggest that a missing cow is probably the result of theft, and not an alien abduction, that is NOT ad hoc.

    Better illuminating power??? Maybe in the world of Science Fiction!

    -There were no guards.
    -The body was left unguarded for some part of 72 hours.
    -Someone, for unknown reasons, takes the body.
    -Someone finds the empty grave.
    -The empty grave triggers the disciples memory that Jesus had predicted he would rise from the dead after three days.
    -In the excitement, bordering hysteria, people begin to “see” Jesus in vivid dreams, visions, and false sightings.

    And the Resurrection story takes off, with multiple details added over the next thirty to sixty years.

    That is what most educated, non-Christians would consider as the most probable explanation for the early Christian Resurrection belief. There is nothing ad hoc about it. It is no different than surmising the probable explanations for a missing milk cow

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  70. Christians are confused, insulted, and even infuriated that skeptics do not accept the list of eyewitnesses to the bodily resurrection of Jesus, as listed in the Early Creed quoted by Paul in First Corinthians chapter 15, as historically reliable. “Do skeptics think that the early Christians would make this list up? The early Christians were risking their lives by preaching this stuff! That makes no sense!”

    Most skeptics accept the early dating of the Creed, and, most skeptics do not believe that early Christians just made up this list of eyewitnesses. Most skeptics believe that early Christians sincerely believed that they had seen the resurrected Jesus. However, we skeptics believe that the most probable explanation for this belief is not a miraculous, once in history resurrection, but some natural phenomenon, or collection of phenomena, which the early Christians innocently confused for a miracle.

    Some Christians demand that we skeptics give evidence for any alternative explanation for the early Christian resurrection belief, but we skeptics are under no obligation to prove an extra-ordinary claim to be false nor are we under any obligation to provide evidence for any one naturalistic explanation. The onus is on Christians to provide the evidence for their extra-ordinary claim, and, to demonstrate that all possible naturalistic explanations are impossible. If even one naturalistic cause is possible to explain the event, and it can be shown that this naturalistic cause has happened more than just once in human history, then by simple mathematics, a naturalistic explanation is more probable than a once in history miracle resurrection.

    So what possibly gave rise to the early Christian belief in the post-death appearances of a resurrected Jesus? Here is one possible scenario:

    The chief disciple, Peter, has a vivid dream, or a trance, in which Jesus appears to him and tells him that he has been resurrected by the power of God and shows him his wounds as proof. The next day, Peter announces to the disciples that Jesus has been resurrected and that Jesus has appeared to him! The disciples who had been in deep despair since the sudden death of their leader are jolted with excitement bordering on hysteria. Soon several other disciples receive similar appearances by Jesus in dreams or trances. And shortly thereafter as the Twelve (including Matthias) are sitting on a hillside, a bright light appears at the top of the hill. It is so bright it is blinding. It takes the shape of a cross then it disappears!

    “It was Jesus! He has just appeared to the Twelve!”

    A few weeks later, a similar phenomenon happens to a group of five hundred believers!

    And it is these events upon with the Early Creed is based, and from which, many decades later, embellished stories of groups of women coming to an empty tomb, multiple earthquakes, multiple celestial beings, and multiple dead saints roaming the streets of a major city, emerge to give us the Gospels.

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  71. Extra-ordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.

    “If it is a miracle, any sort of evidence will suffice, if it is a fact, proof is required.”
    — Mark Twain —

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  72. Oh boy, where do I start (having just seen your ‘witnesses’) – the testimony of the four anonymous gospel authors don’t count, as they wrote from 40 to 75 years after the fact, never met Yeshua and have no idea what he said or did, operating as they were on multi-hand information.

    The term in Revelation, “like the Son of Man,” could be, and has been, interpreted by apologists as being Yeshua, but the OT is full of references to “the Son of Man,” and it has never been established that Yeshua WAS the Son of Man.

    As for any statements in Acts, it has been confirmed by “The Acts Seminar,” that the Acts was written by yet another anonymous author, even later, in the second century AD, who did not follow Paul and corroborate his travels, but rather used Paul’s letters over half a century after the death of Paul, to write his testament.

    There were no evidentially-confirmed witnesses to the resurrection of Yeshua.

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  73. We have more evidence for Jesus than we have for almost anybody from his time period. Prof Bart Ehrman, University of North Carolina in an interview by The Infidel Guy

    What I find disturbing with such forthright statements is those that make them never seem to tell us exactly what this evidence is.

    This becomes even more confusing when you read other statements like this:
    Although there is overwhelming evidence that the New Testament is an accurate and trustworthy historical document,

    http://www.bethinking.org/jesus/ancient-evidence-for-jesus-from-non-christian-sources

    And when you read an encyclopaedia you are told that while there are a few extra biblical references these cannot be substantiated.
    In fact, there is doubt cast over their veracity. This includes references by Josephus and Tacitus. In reality, the only ‘evidence’ we have is the bible, and that is not evidence at all. Especially when supporters of this erroneous text write nonsense as recorded above pertaining to this ”trustworthy historical document”.
    And the second this is show to be absolute twaddle why on earth should we trust anything else ”biblical”.

    This problem of verification is compounded by the fact the is not a single scrap of contemporary evidence for the character, Jesus of Nazareth. Nothing!

    So, can anyone here actually provide a list of this evidence, this iron-clad, unimpeachable documentation or archaeological evidence that I can read?

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  74. You are absolutely correct, Ark. Christian apologists make me nuts. Even if one allows for the existence of Yahweh, and allows for his ability to perform miracles, Christians must admit that Yahweh has never before or since performed a resurrection. So if there are any natural possible explanations for the early Christian belief in Jesus’ resurrection, the probability that these natural explanations are the cause of the belief is much higher than a once in history resurrection. It’s simple statistical probability: math.

    They still don’t buy it. They then dive into philosophical and metaphysical arguments to show that prior-probability is irrelevant for this claim, arguments that they would never use for any other event in their daily lives.

    To me it shows that most apologists have no interest in the truth. They are only interested in defending their ancient tall tale to the death, regarding of the evidence.

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  75. Christian apologists assure Christians that it is impossible that first century Jews would believe in an executed-resurrected Messiah unless they had truly seen and interacted with a literal, resurrected body. They base this belief on the assumption that since no Jew had ever heard of an executed-resurrected Messiah concept, no Jew would ever have believed such a concept without physical proof. The resurrection of Jesus had to have happened for Jews to believe this story! Therefore, Christian apologists scoff and snicker at the idea that the Resurrection belief could be based on vivid dreams, visions, or hallucinations.

    The problem is, however, the Bible itself gives proof that first century Jews could dramatically change their religious views based on nothing other than dreams, visions, hallucinations, or…trances:

    About noon the next day, as they were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat; and while it was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw the heaven opened and something like a large sheet coming down, being lowered to the ground by its four corners. In it were all kinds of four-footed creatures and reptiles and birds of the air. Then he heard a voice saying, “Get up, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “By no means, Lord; for I have never eaten anything that is profane or unclean.” The voice said to him again, a second time, “What God has made clean, you must not call profane.” This happened three times, and the thing was suddenly taken up to heaven.

    —Acts 10: 9-16

    Based on nothing but this “trance”, Christianity began telling devout Jews that it was no longer necessary to keep the Kosher dietary laws, a central teaching of historic Judaism. Not even Jesus had ever taught such a concept! Yet, based on this one trance, devout Jews began eating non-kosher food!

    The claim by Christian apologists that the early Christian belief in a bodily resurrection of Jesus could not have been due to vivid dreams, visions, hallucinations, or trances is proven false by the Bible itself.

    Liked by 2 people

  76. That’s an excellent point, Gary! I hadn’t thought about it that way before.

    Of course, that “Jews wouldn’t have believed it…” argument always drives me nuts anyway. All of human history shows just how susceptible we are to believing nonsense.

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  77. In regard to what’s historically acceptable, I think many apologists take the likelihood of certain characters and places as being historically accurate, and then running with that as a starting place for their giant leap to then say that each claimed event surrounding those characters and places are also just as accurate, which is of course quite a leap to make.

    We don’t do that with any other source. Many old books have historic figures and places, but we take many things with a grain of salt – even things that aren’t supernatural. Old military reports of number of enemies killed or number of friendlies killed are often viewed with skepticism as those numbers could be purposely embellished for propaganda reasons, etc. and then with supernatural claims, historians are even more skeptical – so why is it different with the bible, where now, all of a sudden, not only are people places historically dependable, but so are all the claimed events, no matter how supernatural or far fetched?

    It just doesn’t appear consistent to me.

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  78. …and most Jews didn’t believe it. That argument is as dumb as saying Americans wouldn’t believe in Jim Jones unless he was actually who he said he was – or making the same argument for any religion.

    Some believed it, some didn’t and neither position lends any meaningful commentary on whether I find it believable it or not.

    It’s smoke and mirrors.

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  79. Check this out, my Rational, non-Theist Friends:

    As I mentioned above, it seems like everyone and his uncle in first century Palestine was receiving messages from God in dreams, visions, trances, or by angelic appearances. And it is very clear that first century Jews took these dreams, visions, trances, and appearances very seriously. Joseph, the husband of Mary, for instance, has a dream in which an angel tells him to marry a woman who is pregnant by someone else. So he marries her! A couple years later, in another dream, an angel tells Joseph to move to a foreign country, in the middle of the night. And he does it!

    And I mention above regarding the passage in which Peter “sees” a floating sheet full of non-kosher animals; unclean animals which God told him to kill and eat, that first century Jews were willing to abandon traditions that the Jewish people had observed for over a millennia, based on nothing more than a dream, vision, or trance. So the idea that all first century Jews needed hard evidence to accept a radically new teaching is contradicted by Peter’s “trance”. And the idea that first century Jews could distinguish a dream from reality is also called into question by Peter’s confusion over this “trance”. Was it a trance? Or was it a real experience, a “miracle”, performed by God? Peter wasn’t sure.

    But there’s more.

    Let’s look at another alleged “miracle” involving first century Jews confusing reality with visions, dreams, and trances: The Stoning of Stephen.

    When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen.[a] 55 But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. 56 “Look,” he said, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!” 57 But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. 58 Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. 59 While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 60 Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, “Lord, do not hold this sin against them.” When he had said this, he died.

    There is zero indication in this passage that Stephen was asleep, dreaming, or in a trance. However, how do we now that this passage cannot be a statement of reality? Answer: Stephen claims to see Jesus standing at the right hand of God! This directly contradicts other passages of the Bible that specifically state that “no man has ever seen God”.

    Even many Christians assume that this statement by Stephen was a vision. But no where in the passage does it state that this was a vision. This passage shows that first century Jews (at least a small group of them) could assume that a vision was reality, or, it demonstrates that the writers of the Gospels (the author of Acts was also the author of Luke) were willing to retell a vision without mentioning that it was a vision. They wrote the story of a vision using language as if it were reality.

    All this demonstrates that it very possible that the early Christian belief in the Resurrection of Jesus was originally based on visions, vivid dreams, trances, or hallucinations. It also demonstrates that just because the Gospel author does not expressly state that the “appearance of Jesus” occurred in a vision or trance, that doesn’t mean it didn’t. Thirdly, it demonstrates that some first century Jews could be convinced simply by a vision, dream, or trance to believe radically new teachings that directly contradicted a millennia of Jewish teaching: such as eating non-Kosher foods and believing that a human being could see God.

    What does all this evidence tell us, folks? It tells us that the early Christian belief in the resurrection of Jesus was most probably based on dreams, visions, trances, or hallucinations. And the evidence for this probability can be found in the Bible itself. Stop listening to the spin of Christian apologists who try make the obvious seem so much more complicated than it really is. You don’t need scholars to see the simple truth, folks. Use your brain and good ol’ common sense: This is a tall tale by ancient, gullible, superstitious people.

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  80. Actually, if you read the passage, Stephen (allegedly) saw Jesus and God the Father while he was still being interrogated by the Sanhedrin. It was only after he made this claim that they dragged him outside to stone him, so this experience cannot be blamed on head trauma.

    Bottom line: This passage shows that the authors of the Gospels were more than willing to describe an event which happened in a vision or dream as if it had happened in reality. So the Christian argument that the authors of the Gospels knew the difference between dreams/visions and reality, and would never confuse (intentionally or unintentionally) the two in their description of the events surrounding the alleged Resurrection, is proven false!

    The original story most probably involved disciples claiming to have seen Jesus in a dream, vision, or trance. When the authors of the Gospels wrote down these stories decades later, either the oral story had dropped the words “dream, vision, or trance” by that time, or, the authors themselves left these words out, possibly to better serve their theological purpose: evangelization of the uneducated and gullible masses!

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  81. @Unklee

    After all, when it comes to the NT, we have secular historians more on our side than against us,

    What an absolute load of unsupported pig swill.

    Once again, you are simply making yourself look like a complete arse.
    Genuine secular historians consider the claims of the New Testament a load of utter tosh!

    Really, you’re comments and assertions are getting beyond a joke, I’m afraid.

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  82. Ah, Unk’s famous, ‘most scholars’ ploy again – without actually naming them. Wears thin quickly.

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  83. “After all, when it comes to the NT, we have secular historians more on our side than against us,”

    You also have to ask yourself, “What the hell does this even mean?”

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  84. I am just surprised he is not laughed out the park with this nonsense.
    It’s about time the notion of what secular historians really believe is made clear once and for all:
    And it’s quite simple, they do not believe the New Testament.

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  85. “You also have to ask yourself, “What the hell does this even mean?”

    Hi Ken, thank you for taking an interest in what I wrote. I’d hate to leave you wondering, so please allow me to explain, with references. (I’m sorry Nate, but this is going to be a long one.)

    I was talking about NT historical scholarship, and I will try to explain what I meant with seven statements.

    1. Scholarship is based on evidence.

    1.1 I wasn’t talking about my opinions or beliefs, but about the conclusions of the best historical scholars. After we establish facts, THEN we can discuss.
    1.2 The basic facts about Jesus require understanding of language, culture, archaeology, documents, and history generally, of the first century Roman and Jewish scene. Since I don’t have expertise in those areas, and I don’t think you do either, we must rely on experts to give us the basic facts.
    1.3 Experts disagree. If we are going to be evidence-based, we need to read across a subject, getting a range of views (including ones we don’t “like” so much) and try to establish the broad consesnus.

    These things I try to do. In the explanation below, I refer to some of the most respected scholars in the field, and I reference non-believers more often than believers (though that shouldn’t matter – we are dealing with peer-reviewed experts mostly working in secular institutions.)

    2.The Gospels are the main sources of Jesus’ life.

    The experts accept that Josephus and Tacitus made references to Jesus, and these add to the many Biblical sources. Bart Ehrman mentions a number of these sources and says: “[Jesus] is abundantly attested in early sources …. early and independent sources indicate certainly that Jesus existed”. Maurice Casey (in his book ‘Jesus of Nazareth’, p61-99) says Mark, Matthew and Luke are the most reliable historical sources we have, and though he doesn’t think we can accept everything in them, he says Mark’s sources were “literally accurate accounts”.

    3. We can be confident the documents we have are very close to the originals.

    There are so many copies of NT documents that we can identify copying errors, far better than for any other ancient documents – there are on average 4 variant readings in every 10 pages, which isn’t bad for hand copying. Helmut Koester: “Classical authors are often represented by but one surviving manuscript; if there are half a dozen or more, one can speak of a rather advantageous situation for reconstructing the text. But there are nearly five thousand manuscripts of the NT in Greek… The only surviving manuscripts of classical authors often come from the Middle Ages, but the manuscript tradition of the NT begins as early as the end of II CE; it is therefore separated by only a century or so from the time at which the autographs were written. Thus it seems that NT textual criticism possesses a base which is far more advantageous than that for the textual criticism of classical authors.”

    In his book ‘Misquoting Jesus’, Ehrman says the text has been changed “radically”, but the main examples he gives are 9 NT passages that a problematic – two larger passages are footnoted in most modern Bibles as being doubtful, two smaller passages (2-3 verses) look like interpolations, and the remaining 5 are minor difficulties about a word. That is about the extent of the “problems” he raises in detail. So he can also say: “To be sure, of all the hundreds of thousands of textual changes found among our manuscripts, most of them are completely insignificant, immaterial, of no real importance for anything other than showing that scribes could not spell or keep focused any better than the rest of us.”

    4. The gospels are based on eye-witness accounts.

    The synoptic gospels are generally believed to be written 30-55 years after Jesus, but based on written and oral sources passed down. Casey says Mark used “literally accurate accounts of incidents and sayings from the life and teachings of Jesus” (p97) and concludes that some of Matthews’s gospel came from accounts written down at the time by the tax collector Matthew. Many scholars don’t agree here, but many do. On the more sceptical side, Ehrman says none of the authors were eyewitnesses, and thinks many of the stories were edited on the way through, nevertheless he says (‘Jesus Interrupted p144’) that: “the Gospel writers received most of their information from the oral tradition, stories that had been in circulation about Jesus by word of mouth from the time he died until the time the Gospel writers wrote them down”.

    Richard Bauckham (in ‘Jesus: a very short introduction’) says recent scholarship has investigated oral transmission in oral societies and shown that, commonly, important oral traditions are passed down by guardians who oversee the retention of the important detail, although allowing for flexibility in telling the story. In these societies, oral transmission may be as good as written.

    Furthermore, virtually all scholars now accept that the gospels belong to the genre of “historical biography” (see Richard Burridge: ‘What are the gospels’), a genre that required accurate reporting of the main details obtained from eyewitnesses, but allowed some creativity in the presentation of details.

    Finally, it is now recognised that while John contains much later theology, it has a strong eye-witness core (see Urban von Walde’s paper in ‘Jesus and Archeology’ edited by J Charlesworth).

    5. Scholars therefore believe we can know lots of information about Jesus.

    Here is a sample of quotes (more in Quotes on Jesus as a historical person):

    EP Sanders: “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.”

    Craig Evans: “Research in the historical Jesus has taken several positive steps in recent years. …. 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”

    Bart Ehrman: “We have more evidence for Jesus than we have for almost anybody from his time period.”

    6. What the scholars conclude we can know covers most of the main details of Jesus’ life

    Here are some more quotes (for more see Jesus in history):

    EP Sanders (‘The Historical Figure of Jesus, p10-11’): “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.”

    Many other scholars (e.g Wright, Grant, Ehrman, Casey, Bauckham) would endorse that list, and more. Scholars such as Ehrman, Stanton, Casey, Wright, Sanders believe Jesus was known as a healer and exorcist, though of course they differ about whether and how he did such things. Most accept he taught the kingdom of God and redemption.

    Sanders also says: “That Jesus’ followers (and later Paul) had resurrection experiences is, in my judgment, a fact. What the reality was that gave rise to the experiences I do not know.” Many other scholars agree (e.g. Casey, Jesus Seminar).

    7. These historical conclusions form a strong set of facts from which to make judgments about Jesus.

    So now you can see what I meant. I have provided about a dozen quotes from eminent scholars and referenced a dozen more. Based on the conclusions of the best secular scholars, we have evidence (contrary to many atheists on the internet) that most aspects of the stories and teachings of Jesus are well based historically. Individual details are sometimes highly arguable, but discard half the miracles stories, half the teachings, etc, and you still have substantially the same core.

    None of this addresses the question of whether Jesus was divine or was resurrected, etc, it just provides historical evidence for a judgment on those matters. Anyone who values expert evidence should accept conclusions something along these lines. There is no way sensible discussion can occur until facts are settled.

    All this will possibly be a little surprising and shocking to you, but NT study has undergone a lot of change in the last 40 years, and scholars are increasingly confident about the historical basis of the Jesus story. J Paget talks of “a growing conviction among many scholars that the Gospels tell us more about Jesus and his aims than we had previously thought”. Many internet sceptics base many of their views on outdated scholarship, and you’ll therefore read a lot that is poorly based.

    I hope that helps you understand, even if we don’t agree on the beliefs we draw from the evidence. Best wishes.

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  86. From my own research, I’d have to say that unkleE’s synopsis seems pretty spot-on. I think the one statement he makes that probably draws the most controversy is this one:

    Based on the conclusions of the best secular scholars, we have evidence (contrary to many atheists on the internet) that most aspects of the stories and teachings of Jesus are well based historically.

    I wouldn’t say it that way, but I get what he means. I think we non-believers are often exasperated that so many people assume the claims about Jesus are true (specifically, the supernatural ones), so statements like unkleE’s raise alarms. We want to cry “nuh-uh!” because we’re aware of the issues that most people aren’t.

    That being said, I don’t think unkleE is trying to be misleading with that statement — he’s talking about all the elements of the gospels, including the mundane: that Jesus lived, he was from Galilee, he had a following and taught specific things, etc. And in those things, he’s right about the consensus (as far as I know).

    In other words, I think Christians and non-Christians just hear different things in a statement like that, kind of like the phrase “transitional fossils.”

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  87. “Hi Ken, thank you for taking an interest in what I wrote.”

    unkleE, I actually took an interest in what you didn’t write. 🙂 Now that I’ve read your 7 point statement, I would tend to agree with Nate’s response but will offer my own response later as I find time. Have you read Bart Erhman’s latest book, “Jesus before the Gospels” ?

    As you stated earlier, “All this will possibly be a little surprising and shocking to you, but NT study has undergone a lot of change in the last 40 years, ”

    And as I am reading Erhman’s latest book, it appears his previous thoughts and opinions are going through a little change as well. I will elaborate more later.

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  88. sure, but aren’t we discussing the divinity of Jesus? Isn’t that the point that religion is based upon?

    So I can’t help but feel like saying, “the majority of secular scholars are on the side of Jesus” is misleading, whether intentional or not, especially when holding a discussion on the merits of religion. The scholars may mostly agree that Jesus was a real guy, but that’s not the same as saying that Jesus was really the son of God and actually performed miracles, came back to life and flew into heaven.

    I believe Jesus was a real guy, and I believe that the gospels have some truth in them, I just also believe that the gospels were fictions based on reality or at least highly romanticized and embellished historical fictions.

    I haven’t counted, but i’d have a hard time believing that the majority of scholars believed there was adequate evidence for the divinity or Christ or that would vouch for the supernatural events claimed in the NT or OT.

    But if we’re all in agreement on this now, i’m glad it was clarified.

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  89. We know stuff-all about the character Jesus of Nazareth.

    Tacitus’ reference is considered hearsay… by historians.

    The trope about a core of the TF is not accepted as hard evidence by historians these days.
    Every single scholar has the same source – the bible. And that is it.
    There is not a single shred of contemporaneity evidence for the character Jesus of Nazareth.
    And I’m going on record and state that Ehrman is soon going to change his tune regarding mythicism and you, unklee like every other apologist are eventually going to be left with egg all over your face.

    Liked by 1 person

  90. Maurice Casey (in his book ‘Jesus of Nazareth’, p61-99) says Mark, Matthew and Luke are the most reliable historical sources we have

    That’s very likely true, and it serves to point out just how little evidence there is to prove that he ever existed. As you doubtless know, the Gospels were all written from 40 to 75 years after the events they were written to depict were purported to have happened, by men who never met Yeshua and had no idea what he did or said except through multiple-hand hearsay information. To make matters worse, ‘Matthew’ copied roughly 90% of his stories from the book of ‘Mark,’ yet a further indication that he wasn’t there and that his observations were not first-hand. ‘Luke’ copied roughly 65% of his gospel from ‘Mark’ as well – only ‘John,’ writing between 95 CE and 105 CE writes a relatively independent gospel, but by ‘John’s’ time it is clear in his writing that the apocalyptic, ‘Jesus is coming back any day now‘ is gone, or removed into the distant future (we’re still waiting –).

    The experts accept that Josephus and Tacitus made references to Jesus

    It didn’t take long to get to Unk’s famous standby: “experts accept,”authorities agree” – in this instance, ‘authorities agree that the reference in Josephus was interpolated by a scribe (Josephus: The Essential Writings – Page 265 Paul L. Maier – 1990: “scholars have long suspected a Christian interpolation, since Josephus would not have believed Jesus to be the Messiah“, and Carrier insists that that was the case for Tacitus (written in 116 CE) as well.

    RE Ehrman’s, “the Gospel writers received most of their information from the oral tradition, stories that had been in circulation about Jesus by word of mouth from the time he died until the time the Gospel writers wrote them down” – I don’t suppose you’ve ever played a game of ‘Telephone,’ have you?

    virtually all scholars now accept that the gospels belong to the genre of ‘historical biography’

    And there we go with the ‘all scholars accept’ thing again – I would be more inclined to call it, “Semi-historical gossip.”

    These historical conclusions form a strong set of facts from which to make judgments about Jesus.

    I’d be more inclined to agree with EP Sanders, above: “Historical reconstruction is never absolutely certain, and in the case of Jesus it is sometimes highly uncertain.

    Who is ‘J Paget’ – I can’t find him/her anywhere —

    You’re really desperate to prove this, aren’t you Unk? – to whom are you attempting to prove it, yourself?

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  91. One thing that is never offered when people like unklee waffle on is evidence.
    And just what evidence do we have for the character Jesus of Nazareth?

    One single piece of contemporary evidence that we can point to and say unequivocally:
    ”Yeah, that confirms it. Jesus of Nazareth existed.”

    Well?

    In fact there is nothing.

    And if unklee feels confident to offer such a piece of evidence I will publicly apologise.

    Not what ”scholars say”, not a smarmy retort about the historical method ( which biblical scholars who are religiously inclined generally do not follow) but a piece of evidence I can look at , research or read of.

    One piece.

    The floor is all yours, unklee

    Like

  92. em>Bart Ehrman: “We have more evidence for Jesus than we have for almost anybody from his time period.”

    What evidence for the gods” sake?

    Like

  93. I wish we could settle this Zoolander style with an Ark and UnkleE walk-off.

    The real tragedy is that David Bowie isn’t around to judge.

    Oh what troubling times

    Liked by 2 people

  94. The degree of desperation of facing up to the truth of this issue – Jesus was a narrative construct no different form Abraham, Joseph or Moses – makes the maneuvering by apologists like unklee almost pitiable.

    If such people state it is simply faith then one could happily let dogs lie.
    Nobody gives a rat’s arse over Thor or Odin yet Yahweh/Jesus has to be afforded some special dispensation?

    Why?

    Answer this question and maybe the character Jesus of Nazareth could be cut some slack.

    Liked by 1 person

  95. It’s really rather irrelevant, as Paul hijacked Christianity and strayed so far away from the messages ascribed to Yeshua that god Jr. himself wouldn’t recognize it.

    Liked by 1 person

  96. It is very interesting to me how easily it can viewed that way.

    When I was a Christian, I saw it as a God Approved evolution and planned progression of the religion through the new apostle paul.

    But now that i’m unplugged from the Matrix, I see several hints where Paul was an outlier, making real changes; from his frequent defenses of apostleship, to his quibbling with the other apostles, and how he’s the only one who says it’s alright to eat meat sacrificed to idols which had been condemned in Acts multiple times and again in Revelation 2 or 3 where one of the 7 churches of Asia had a crooked and wicked member who was coercing disciples to eat meat sacrificed to idols…

    But all that being said, Paul still had several good points, one just has to cut it out of everything else.

    But I am very interested in Paul’s Christianity compared to the rest of the NT.

    Like

  97. Here’s something to consider, William.
    Paul claims he received his authority through revelation; Galatians 1 ( I think).
    Yet Paul is claimed to have met Jesus’ brother, James, who was supposedly head of the Jerusalem church; the mantle being passed to him by his kid brother. So I wonder what Paul and James talked about?

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  98. Though I have not finished reading Ehrman’s latest book, I would like to share a passage he wrote, “There are 2 billion people today who are committed to the memory of Jesus. How many of those 2 billion people have what I, as a historian, would consider to be a historically accurate recollection of the basic facts of Jesus’ real life and ministry? Some thousands? It’s a tiny fraction. The historical Jesus did not make history. The remembered Jesus did. “

    Liked by 4 people

  99. I wonder how Peter, “the rock upon which I will build my church,” felt about that —

    Like

  100. I found an interesting question in Bart Ehrman’s The New Testament: a historical introduction to the early Christian writings:

    ‘Matthew’ (5:17-20) said that Jesus commanded his followers to keep the entire law even better than did the Pharisees and the scribes. Paul urged the Galatians (5:2-3) not to become circumcised, because if they did, they would be obligated to follow the entire law.

    Ehrman asks, suppose ‘Matthew’ and Paul had been brought together and instructed to produce a joint position paper on whether believers in Jesus were to follow Jewish law – would they have been able to hammer out a consensus?

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  101. yeah, but believers won’t be bothered by this.

    My brand of christianity explained this by saying that the Old Law stayed in effect until the Church was established, which didn’t actually happen until the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2 when the Apostles were baptized with fire and converted 3000 souls.

    We didnt believe that Peter was “the rock” upon what christ would build his church, but rather the rock was the essence of perter’s confession, that Jesus was the son of god.

    The Gospel was to the Jew First and then to the Gentile.

    SO when Matthew wrote, he wrote of pre-church rules, where Paul not only wrote of post-Church establishment, also after acceptance of Gentiles which came in, when, acts 10, with Cornelius?

    but there are other differences to be sure.

    But why believe either Matthew or Paul, strangers to all of us, who claimed wild and outrageous supernatural things? Should we believe such claims at the word of any man, much less the word of strangers?

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  102. Well, I believed you were replying to Nate:

    william commented on Family Ties: Nebuchadnezzar, Nabonidus, Belshazzar, and Nitocris.

    in response to Nate:

    So, why not?

    Like

  103. william — I think you were giving examples of what your church believed, but I can’t help but ask … you do know that it was Paul who claimed “The Gospel was to the Jew First and then to the Gentile..”, yes? Yeshua never said this nor did he support it. But as has been pointed out numerous times and in numerous places, Paul said and taught many things that Yeshua never mentioned and, in fact, would not even have recognized.

    Like

  104. Smart a__! 😉

    Since we both feel the same way about Paul, isn’t it rather obvious we might cross paths in our comments and opinions? Sheesh.

    Liked by 1 person

  105. oh sure, yeah, it’s what my church taught and what i believed when i was a believer. But even though Paul was the one who said that, that is the way it played out in Acts. And even if that was the apostles and not Jesus, Jesus did say that whatever they bound on earth would be bound in heaven, etc.

    I’m just saying that somethings speak to me now as a disbeliever that wouldn’t have spoken to me while I was still a believer.

    But really, we didnt even know what jesus actually said – we only know what a couple of guy said that he said – so it’s hard to take as complete gospel either way.

    Liked by 2 people

  106. Hi Nate, thanks for your comment. Yes I agree with what you say. I made it clear that I was talking about basic facts, not my beliefs, that I was talking about what people believed about Jesus’ miracles, not whether they were genuine miracles, that I was talking about the broad shape of Jesus’ life and teachings, not the historicity of each individual story.

    Ken, I’d be interested to hear more of what your learn from Ehrman’s book. He says himself he changed his views during the writing of ‘How Jesus became God’, so what have you learned so far from ‘Jesus before the gospels’?

    Hi William, we seem to be on different wavelengths. I certainly wasn’t talking about Jesus’ divinity. There is a lot of argument here and elsewhere about Jesus, and experts in conflict resolution have identified different causes of conflict. And one is “data conflict” – differing views and understandings about the facts. They say if there is a data conflict, that has to be resolved before most other matters can be addressed, otherwise protagonists have no common basis and will be at cross purposes. So before anyone can discuss Jesus’ divinity, the basic historical facts about him have to be accepted. Thus Nate and I can discuss other matters about Jesus because we are broadly agreed on what the historians say. What about you?

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  107. “Ken, I’d be interested to hear more of what your learn from Ehrman’s book.”

    I am more concerned that I quote him correctly. 🙂 Initially Ehrman says, ” For about 2 years now I have spent virtually all my free time doing nothing but reading about memory–what cognitive psychologists have to say about individual memories , what sociologists can tell us about collective memory , and what anthropologists have written about oral cultures and the ways they preserve their unwritten traditions.”

    “The more I read the more I became surprised that so many scholars of the New Testament–the vast bulk of them, so far as I can tell — have never explored this research, even though it is so fascinating and most immediately relevant. Ehrman says in his conclusion, “But even though I do deal with the Bible as a historian, I do not personally think that is the only way to deal with the Bible, and I find it unsettling when readers think that once the Gospels are shown to have discrepencies, implausibilities, and historical mistakes, we should just get rid of them and move on to other things.”

    “In my view, the early Christian Gospels are so much more than historical sources. They are memories of early Christians about the one they considered to be the most important person ever to walk the planet. Yes, these memories can be recognized as distorted when seen from the perspective of historical reality. But–at least for me–that doesn’t rob them of their value. It simply makes them memories. All memories are distorted.”

    I would be interested in your take on this book should you decide to read it, unkleE.

    Like

  108. The problem I have with the Gospels as being different memories is the so-called synoptic problem. The evidence that Matthew and Luke relied on Mark’s Gospel as a source is overwhelming. There is also clear evidence that the later Gospel accounts subtly changed the picture of Jesus to make him more in control, more divine and less human.

    These factors cause me to ponder whether we are seeing different memories or rather the development of a legend of sorts.

    Liked by 2 people

  109. Hi Ken, as soon as I read your quotes, I knew I had seen them before, but had forgotten. I must have looked at Ehrman’s book on Amazon, or something like that, I can’t remember now.

    The idea of personal and collective memory are very interesting to me. The ideas are not new, although this is apparently the first time that Ehrman has addressed them. I have a book, Historical Jesus by Anthony Le Donne (2011) that addresses these questions. I will have to re-read it.

    It is clear that the gospels present accounts of Jesus’ life that reflect the beliefs of the writers. It could hardly be otherwise, and the experts say that most writings of the time had definite political or personal aims and viewpoints. Le Donne argues that rather than seeing the personal perspectives as getting in the way of knowing history, we should see them as revealing history. I note that a review of Ehrman’s book concludes with this quote: “The historical Jesus did not make history,” he writes. “The remembered Jesus did.” Le Donne is saying something similar.

    The other author I have read on the subject is Richard Bauckham, and his book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (2006), which builds on the research of Birger Gerhardsson, Samuel Byrskog and others on oral societies. In such societies, important stories are not passed down individually, but collectively, with checks and corrections, and so the important details are preserved even while some of the settings and fringe detail are allowed to vary. Again, the review of Ehrman’s book suggests a similar thought: “Readers of the Bible can, however, assume that “gist memories” are based in solid reality. Gist memories reflect the basic situation (e.g., Jesus was crucified) without potentially distorted qualifications (e.g., dialogue at the site of the crucifixion).”

    This fits with what we see in the Gospels – agreement about the important facts but sometimes the setting is lost or changed or details vary. That doesn’t bother me unduly, as I’ve said already here – the broad scope of Jesus’ life and teachings is quite clear, and if the Gospel of John (for example) expresses some of what Jesus said but in John’s words, I see no difficulty. It is content that matters to me, not the actual words (which we don’t have anyway because they were in Aramaic, and have been twice translated to Greek and then English before I get to read them).

    It is fascinating stuff, and I think it is worth reading several approaches to the topic. How are you seeing it so far?

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  110. “The other author I have read on the subject is Richard Bauckham, and his book Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (2006), which builds on the research of Birger Gerhardsson, Samuel Byrskog and others on oral societies. In such societies, important stories are not passed down individually, but collectively, with checks and corrections, and so the important details are preserved even while some of the settings and fringe detail are allowed to vary. Again, the review of Ehrman’s book suggests a similar thought:”

    Well unkleE, not so fast. Ehrman knows people like you would read and agree with people like the author you just mentioned (Richard Bauckham). Sorry for being lengthy but here is what Ehrman says about Bauckham. “Outside the ranks of conservative evangelical Christians, very few if any biblical scholars have found Bauckham’s case persuasive. It founders on numerous grounds, not the least of which is its steadfast refusal to take seriously scholarship on eyewitness testimony undertaken for more than a century by such experts as legal scholars see the real-life importance of the question.”

    Ehrman goes on to say about Bauckham, ” The book is also not persuasive that the Gospels are either eyewitness reports themselves (e.g., John) or reports directly based on eyewitness testimony.”

    unkleE, “It is fascinating stuff, and I think it is worth reading several approaches to the topic. How are you seeing it so far?”

    I think reading Ehrman’s book is a different approach than your Mr Bauckham . Are you planning on reading this book too ?

    Thank you for the exchange of ideas .

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  111. @Unklee.
    Once more, you continue to use the terms fact and facts.

    I think as a matter of intellectual honesty it would be very helpful if you could list at last a few of these facts to which you continually allude.

    Obviously you will not respond to my comment, but for the sake of others here, Nate, Ken, etc who have all been officially christian at some point in their lives.
    Again, I am not asking for a treatise, just a short list of some of the facts about the character, Jesus of Nazareth.
    Thanks.

    Liked by 1 person

  112. Hi Ken,

    Yes I saw that comment in Ehrman’s book. He interacts with Bauckham’s and Gerhardsson’s ideas a bit judging by the index. (But he seems to have not referenced the LeDonne book I have read.)

    His criticism is of course only one side of the story. There are many scholars who praise Bauckham’s book (e.g. Wright, Dunn, Stanton, Hengel are featured on the cover), and most of the reviews I have read praise sections and disagree with other sections. It is such a wide-ranging book that is a likely outcome. Ehrman too gets both positive and negative reviews, with some critics saying he tends to overstate his case.

    I think both the praise and the criticism of both authors seem to have some reasonable basis – that’s why I think it is good to read several viewpoints, as you are doing.

    I don’t always agree with Ehrman, but I quoted him because I think in discussion with people I disagree with, it is best to go more than halfway towards them, and not mostly quote people who agree with me.

    Like

  113. unkleE , “I don’t always agree with Ehrman, but I quoted him because I think in discussion with people I disagree with, it is best to go more than halfway towards them, and not mostly quote people who agree with me.”

    unkleE, maybe I am missing something, but where have you gone more than halfway in our discussion ? You listed Ehrman (a professing agnostic) which might be considered a person representing my side. Then you mentioned Bauckham, Gerhardsson (Swedish theologian and Priest), Wright (Anglican bishop), James Dunn (minister of the Church of Scotland), Graham Stanton (licensed by the Presbyterian Church of New Zealand ), Martin Hengel ( Lutheran parish minister), Anthony LeDonne (Mission Statement:To recruit and educate faithful leaders for the mission of Jesus Christ in the world), and Samuel Byrskog .

    I don’t hardly see where you have gone more than halfway here. Where am I wrong ?

    Liked by 3 people

  114. “Welcome to the Wonderful World of unkleE –!”

    Arch, unkleE was one of the first people I ever engaged with in my early years of blogging. He has always been civil to me, but at times condescending (though he claims this was not his intent ) and always keeping a score. You will never have the last word with unkleE. When you think you’ve made the last statement, he will always make one more. 🙂

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  115. Ken, I’m not interested in saying you are wrong, just answering your questions.

    The question of who I quote needs context. My comment was related to the issues we were discussing – personal and group memory and transmission of information in oral cultures. And perhaps you didn’t consider my big post that started this. Here is the list of people I quoted or referenced to demonstrate my points (if I’ve counted correctly): Ehrman 4, Koester, Casey 2, Sanders 3, Burridge, von Walde, Bauckham, Evans, Paget. The majority of those are on “your side”. Secondly, I referenced on my website dozens of other scholars. I’ve never bothered to check the exact numbers, but both “sides” are strongly mentioned.

    The scholars you mention were not the ones I referenced in my main comment, but ones I mentioned in our subsequent discussion, where I just thought we were comparing notes.

    And it is worth pondering that religious “side” isn’t always relevant. Casey was a strong non-believer, yet he thought it likely that the sayings of Jesus recorded in Matthew (which he believes was written before 60CE) were recorded in writing at the time they were spoken by the eyewitness Matthew the tax collector, and that Mark was written within about a decade based on other eyewitness reports. Meanwhile, Le Donne, who you infer is a christian of some sort (I have no idea, despite having read his book) takes a line much closer to Ehrman’s.

    Finally, I’m sorry you feel some sense of unfairness that I have always insisted on having the last word. That comment doesn’t make sense to me, especially when I am always foregoing the opportunity to reply to people on this very blog. But it really isn’t important to me. So to change this alleged pattern, I will leave you to make one more comment, I will read it, and then I will unsubscribe from this discussion without commenting, and leave you the glorious privilege of having the last word! I hope it lives up to your expectations! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  116. I will read it, and then I will unsubscribe from this discussion without commenting, and leave you the glorious privilege of having the last word! I hope it lives up to your expectations!:)

    A comment pattern you have often resorted to.
    Remember Nazareth?
    🙂
    Just a heads-up. It comes across as adult whining.
    However, I wonder if Ken were to ask you for a handful of these facts you love to mention but are so parsimonious in revealing would you have the integrity to divulge?

    Like

  117. I honestly think Nate has the patience of Job where unklee is concerned.
    Or the patience of any other fictional biblical character you care to mention. And there are one or two, I think?
    One good thing is that all his experts are going to die eventually and I don’t see any new ones of any salt coming through the ranks.
    Imagine, the Crispyians will be relying on the likes of Licona, Habermaas and Wallace. What a pathetic shower.

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  118. Weel, Nate claims he learns from his discussions with Unk, but I’ve watched those conversations with interest, and don’t see what there is to learn – I’ve yet to see Unk say anything even worthy of taking notes on, much less writing home about.

    Like

  119. The real issue is that if we remove every shred of the Jesus of faith- which would account for pretty much everything in the gospels, what are we really left with?
    Paul? Serious?
    Josephus? I don’t buy the core of truth of the the TF. And ho quoted it before Eusebius?

    Is there truly evidence of a crucified rebellious Jew who may have kick-started a new religious movement?
    There is only the mention by Tacitus of a Chrestus and this ”gem”did not surface for a 1000 years after Yeshua was purported to have died. A thousand flaming years!
    Did any other scholar or historian refer to him before this? No.

    And that’s it.

    And this is evidence to hang your hat on?

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  120. Arkenaten commented on Family Ties: Nebuchadnezzar, Nabonidus, Belshazzar, and Nitocris.

    in response to archaeopteryx1

    You talkin’ to me?

    Liked by 1 person

  121. In the middle of a discussion about Unk, you want to stop and have Round Two of “Did Jesus exist”? I’m working in the yard, and you’re crawling around in your garden on all fours, calling, “Here, buggy, buggy –” – are you sure you have time for this? I know I don’t!

    Liked by 1 person

  122. I definitely see Ark’s point in this discussion. The evidence for a historical Jesus is slim. But since my goal is conversion of Christians…to non-supernaturalism…I have decided to accept as fact as much of the story of Jesus as possible up to the point that one must cross over into supernaturalism.

    I believe that this gives me the best chance of demonstrating to Christians that their supernatural beliefs about an historical man are unfounded. If I start off with “Jesus didn’t exist”, they immediately tune me out. If I start out by accepting Jesus the man, and showing a deep respect for his many humanistic teachings, I believe I develop some (small) level of repoire with them.

    But I do not blame Ark or any other non-supernaturalist for doubting the ENTIRE story.

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  123. If I start off with ‘Jesus didn’t exist’, they immediately tune me out.

    My point to Ark exactly, but you know that hard head of his —

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  124. The problem by accepting the historical Jesus is it simply allows the Christians to move the goalposts.
    Unklee is on record stating that the historicity of the Old Testament has little if any bearing on his ”faith”. So why is the Old Testament ”dismissed” but the New gets a bye?

    Straight away, this allows him and many others who consider themselves ”intellectual christians” a bolt hole. Furthermore , he and his ilk use the historicity issue against non-believers.

    We already don’t give two hoots for the Jesus of Faith and we know this is all bullshit. But while there is this claim of historicity for the character, Jesus of Nazareth the believer will utilize every opportunity to say, ”Aha! you see?”
    And unklee will always bring up apologist prats like Habermaas and others, even if only in passing. And then there is Casey and he still trots out Lowder for his resurrection claim.
    And while this glimmer exists you are fighting a losing battle; merely pissing in the wind and he is laughing all the way back to his blog.
    Why do think he will not engage me? Yes I can get aggressive, but this is not it.

    Why do you think he ends every blog engagement the moment he gets his arse handed to him on a plate?
    See how sanctimonious he is to almost every blogger he interacts with who has a contrary view to his.

    Go look on his blog and see what a bloke called Bernhard did to him over Nazareth, and he is so arrogant he believes he actually won that discussion!

    Josephus mentions 19 or 20 Jesuses. No, in actual fact he doesn’t mention a single one. And this is another reason we need to kill this stone dead. There was never any Jew called Jesus.

    Unklee and others of his ilk are not interested in open discussion to search for genuine truth.
    The truth is already revealed. The tenets of the christian faith are all man-made.
    We know this for a fact.
    What needs to be done is to demonstrate once and for all that there was never a smelly little itinerant Jewish Rabbi running around 1st century Judea that people like unklee can lay claim to.

    Ark.

    Like

  125. Why do think he will not engage me?

    He ignores me too. IMO, he looks for the weak among the herd, as any predator would.

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  126. I’m not saying you’re weak, KC, but you’re not the Doberman that Ark and I are. Instead you rely on reason and logic, not realizing that those only work on sane people and have absolutely no effect on Unk.

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  127. At least you’ve finally learned the difference – I was beginning to think I’d need to send you my Thesaurus, so you could look up the real word you should have used, instead of grabbing ‘spiteful’ out of thin air, but I considered the postage and decided there had to be a better way.

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  128. I suggest you read it yourself. It would definitely help stabilize your shakey people skills.
    And I reiterate, Nate’s blog is not the place for your petulance.Mine neither, for that matter, but that’s where you began this so ….
    Last reply.

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  129. Why does everyone think that agnostic/atheist scholars such as Bart Ehrman believe that there is sufficient evidence to believe that Jesus was an historical person? That is part of why I am hesitant to adopt a mythicist view of Jesus. It seems that even among agnostic/atheist scholars, mythicisim is a very small minority view.

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  130. I tend to side with you NSN. I think Yeshua did exist … and most likely did walk the countryside and talk about God. I just feel all the “other stuff” that was claimed about him is a bunch of malarkey.

    Liked by 2 people

  131. It seems to me that the only evidence for the existence of Jesus is from seven or so “sources” for the stories about him: Mark, Q, M, L, John, the Gospel of Peter, and Paul. I seriously doubt Josephus said anything about Paul’s Jesus.

    I would say that Paul’s “Jesus” is purely an invention of his only troubled mind, since Paul says practically nothing about the historical Jesus. But…Paul does claim to meet with Peter, Jesus’ chief disciple and James, his brother, two people mentioned in the other sources.

    So unless Paul invented Jesus AND invented Peter and James, and subsequently over the next several decades, the authors of Mark, Q, M, L, John, and the Gospel of Peter wrote their stories based on oral legendary embellishments to Paul’s original invented story, I don’t see how Jesus could be mythical.

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  132. @Nan

    I tend to side with you NSN. I think Yeshua did exist … and most likely did walk the countryside and talk about God. I just feel all the “other stuff” that was claimed about him is a bunch of malarkey.

    What you are in effect saying is that aside for the supernatural crap there really was a Jesus as featured in the bible.
    Really?

    Josephus mentions 19 or 20 men called Jesus. One I recall comes pretty close in some respects to the Jesus of the bible.
    So are we saying JC was possibly one of these guys or someone completely different that Josephus missed entirely?
    Bearing in mind that Nazareth as described in the bible could not have possible existed while Jesus of Nazareth supposed;y strode around Galilee.

    But if he existed he must have made quite an impression on some people, ( excluding the miracles ) for them to start a religion based on his ”teachings”, yet he appears nowhere on the secular historical record.

    Why is that, do you think?

    Liked by 1 person

  133. Ark … I did not say that I thought “Jesus” existed. Read again what I wrote. I said a man named Yeshua. It may seem like a minor detail since “the world” sees Yeshua and Jesus as one and the same. But Yeshua didn’t become “Jesus” until the Greeks began writing about him … and by then he had supposedly done miracles, healed people, and had been crucified and resurrected. That’s why I added that I thought all the “other stuff” was malarky.

    Liked by 1 person

  134. Hi Ark,

    Do you believe that Paul is the source of the Gospel’s Jesus? Do you think that Paul invented Jesus out of whole cloth and the Gospels stories are simply embellishments upon Paul’s Jesus? Or do you think that there was a legend already circulating about a Jesus when Paul had his “vision”?

    Like

  135. Fair enough. I thought we were doing the semantic crossover thingy. 😉

    But all this does is change the fact that Josephus mentioned numerous Yeshuas’.

    Are we now to presume that there was a real live Yeshua – maybe one Josephus mentions – that the as-yet- unnamed-crispyians commandeered and bestowed upon him supernatural powers?

    Surely if he was based upon a real live character there is always the risk of actually discovering who this earthly individual really was, whereas, if he was 100% make believe like Superman, you can bust a gut until the cows come home but you will never find a real historical character behind the comic strip/ bible character.

    And wasn’t this the whole point of the origins of Christianity? Faith?

    Like

  136. @Nonsupernauralist.

    I think Paul is a narrative construct, as is ”Jesus of Nazareth”.
    There is no non-biblical/secular evidence for him anywhere.
    All we have are a few epistles that are written by someone claiming to be someone called Paul.

    Do you really believe there is an actual person called , Ark or Arkenaten?

    And why not? You even have a picture of me next to every comment make.

    Like

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