Which Nativity Story?

Well, it’s that time of year again. Regular church attendees are going to have to share their pews with people who have finally decided to make it out for their second service of the year. Their belief that Jesus bled and died so they can gain eternal salvation might be unshakable, but it apparently isn’t all that motivating, considering how little these believers seem to do in response. Nevertheless, they can at least be counted on to show up for a retelling of Jesus’s miraculous birth.

But what version will they hear? More than likely, they’ll hear a “Hollywood” version of the tale that incorporates the most exciting elements of the two versions that we read about in Matthew and Luke. A quick Google search turned up this one, which illustrates my point perfectly. But what if someone tried to tell the full version? A version that included every detail that both Matthew and Luke provide?

Honestly, it just can’t be done. I had wanted to attempt it here, but there’s just no practical way to do it. For example, the version I linked to above goes like this:

The Standard Tale

  • Mary’s visited by an angel who tells her about the pregnancy (Luke)
  • She and Joseph live in Nazareth of Galilee, but are forced to travel to Bethlehem in Judea for a census commanded by the Roman authorities (Luke)
  • They’re unable to find normal accommodations and are forced to room in an area intended for livestock. Mary gives birth there and is visited by local shepherds (Luke)
  • Wise men far to the east see a star that somehow signifies the birth of the Jewish Messiah (Matthew)
  • They travel for an unspecified period until they reach Jerusalem, where they inquire about the child (Matthew)
  • These inquiries reach Herod, the ruler of the region, and he asks the wise men to send back word to him once they find the child, so Herod himself can also pay his respects (Matthew)
  • The wise men make their way to Bethlehem, find the family, bestow their gifts, and return home via a different route (Matthew)
  • An angel tells Joseph to hightail it out of Bethlehem, because Herod’s sending a posse to wipe out all the children 2 years old and under in an effort to stamp out Jesus (Matthew)
  • Joseph and his family flee to Egypt and remain there until an angel tells him it’s safe to return, because Herod has died (Matthew)
  • Joseph intends to go back toward Bethlehem, but after finding out that Herod’s son is in charge, he takes the family to Nazareth in Galilee (Matthew)

So what’s wrong with this story? I mean, it’s very cohesive, and it makes for a compelling tale. What’s not to like? Its only real problem is that the very books of the Bible that provide its details, contradict its overall narrative.

Two Very Different Stories

Let’s go back to Luke’s version. After Jesus’s birth and the visit from the shepherds, we don’t read about wise men or Herod’s animosity. Instead, Luke 2:22 says that after the days of Mary’s purification were over, the family went to Jerusalem. The “days of purification” are referring to Leviticus 12:1-4, where the Law of Moses stated that a woman was to be considered “unclean” for 40 days after giving birth to a male child. So when Jesus was about 40 days old, Luke claims that they all traveled to Jerusalem to offer sacrifices as thanks for his birth. While there, two elderly people see Jesus and begin proclaiming praise and prophecies concerning Jesus. And there’s no indication that an effort was made to keep any of this quiet, which is very different in tone to what we read in Matthew. Finally, in Luke 2:39, we read “And when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.” We’ll come back to this point in a moment.

The synopsis we looked at earlier incorporated most of Matthew’s version of the story. As we just read, his story ends very differently from Luke’s. However, it’s also significant to note that Matthew gives no indication that Joseph and Mary are from Nazareth. Matt 1:18 through the end of the chapter talks about Mary’s pregnancy, even though she and Joseph had never slept together, but it never specifies where they’re living. Chapter 2 begins with the sentence “Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, ‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?'” Of course, it’s possible that Matthew still knew they were originally from Nazareth and just doesn’t bother to tell us that or divulge how they got to Bethlehem in the first place. But there are three context clues that point against such a possibility. First of all, regardless of how far the wise men had to journey, it likely took them quite a while to make the trip. When Matthew says “the east” he certainly doesn’t mean “east Jersualem,” and travel being what it was back then, any journey would have taken considerable time. The second clue is that Herod supposedly kills all the male children of Bethlehem who are 2 and under. So it’s unlikely that we’re supposed to still be thinking of Jesus as a newborn. Finally, Matthew says that when the family was able to leave Egypt, Joseph wanted to go back to Judea (where Bethlehem is). But after finding out Herod’s son was ruling, he became afraid and “went and lived in a city called Nazareth” (Matt 2:23). This is a very strange way to refer to Nazareth, if it’s where Joseph and Mary were already living.

So Matthew gives no indication that Joseph and Mary were just visiting Bethlehem. He never mentions a manger; instead, he references a house that they were staying in. He never talks about the shepherds from the fields, but has wise men who visit the child. He includes a story about Herod slaughtering a town’s children, though no other historical or biblical source ever mentions this. He claims that the family flees to Egypt until Herod’s death, that they want to return to Bethlehem, but finally settle in “a city called Nazareth.”

Luke, on the other hand, says that Nazareth is their home town, and they’re only visiting Bethlehem. He has no story about wise men, but does talk about shepherds from the fields that visit the newborn Jesus. Instead of Herod attempting to hunt them down and a subsequent flight to Egypt, the family travels straight to Jerusalem, where Herod lives. And there’s no effort to keep Jesus’s identity secret while they’re there, as two elderly prophets begin proclaiming who he is. And after making their sacrifices, the family simply goes back home to Nazareth, far from Herod’s reach (not that Luke indicates Herod’s even interested).

Can These Stories Be Put Together?

The main sticking points between the stories are the flight to Egypt and the trip to Jerusalem. On the one hand, Luke is very clear about his timeline: Jesus was only about 40 days old when they went to Jerusalem and then went home to Nazareth. Matthew doesn’t give specifics on how old Jesus was when the family was forced to flee to Egypt, except that it must have occurred before he was 2 years old.

Could the trip to Egypt have happened before the trip to Jerusalem?

No. First of all, considering all the details Luke provides, why would he have left out such an important event? Secondly, this means Herod would have needed to die within the 40 day purification period, but Matthew tells us that this still wouldn’t have been good enough, because Joseph was determined to avoid all of Judea while Herod’s son was reigning. There’s simply no way he would have felt safe enough to travel directly into Jerusalem. That just makes no sense.

Could the trip to Egypt have happened after the trip to Jerusalem?

No. Luke 2:39 is clear that the family went straight back to Nazareth after their trip to Jerusalem. And considering Luke claimed that Nazareth was already their home, why would they have needed to go back to Bethlehem anyway?

In fact, Luke’s claim that the family was from Nazareth creates a lot of problems for Matthew’s account. Nazareth was far outside of Herod’s reach. So if Herod really had hunted Jesus in Bethlehem, the family could have simply gone back to Nazareth rather than flee to Egypt. But this isn’t a consideration in Matthew’s account, because for him, the family has never been to Nazareth until they simply can’t go back to Bethlehem anymore, even after Herod’s death (Matt 2:23).

Additional Problems

I don’t want to spend too much time here, but for completeness sake, I need to mention a couple of historical issues. Both Matthew and Luke say that Jesus is born during the reign of Herod the Great. Historians usually place his death in 4 BCE, which means Jesus would have been born sometime before that. However, Luke says that Mary and Joseph had traveled to Bethlehem, because Quirinius, the governor of Syria, had commanded a census. However, Quirinius didn’t become governor of Syria until 6 CE — 10 years after Herod’s death. You can find additional resources about these two issues here.

Finally, Luke’s claim is that this census required Joseph to travel back to his ancestral home of Bethlehem, since he was of King David’s lineage. But David would have lived some 1000 years before Joseph. It’s ludicrous to think that the Romans would have cared about such a thing, or that they would have wanted their empire to be so disrupted by having people move around like that for a census. It would have been an impossible feat and would have made for a highly inaccurate, and therefore useless, census.

What Do We Make of All This?

The easiest way to understand why these accounts have such major differences in detail is to understand why either writer bothered with a story about Jesus’s birth at all. You have to remember that the writers of Matthew and Luke didn’t know one another and didn’t know that they were both working on the same material. They certainly didn’t know that their books would one day show up in the same collection. Both of them were working with two basic facts: Micah 5:2 seemed to prophesy that the Messiah would come from Bethlehem; Jesus came from Nazareth (John 1:45-46).

Since those two facts were at odds with one another, it’s easy to see how both writers would have been compelled to explain how Jesus could be from Nazareth but still be from Bethlehem. Unfortunately for them, close comparison shows that both versions simply can’t be true.

How would people react if they showed up for church this weekend and were presented with the full details from both of these stories? I like to think it would spur many of them into deeper study. That it would possibly make them question some of the things they’ve been taking for granted. But 2016 has been pretty demoralizing when it comes to the number of people who seem concerned about what’s true, and I’m not sure how many of them would see this information as a call to action. I know there are people who can be changed by facts. Perhaps there aren’t as many of them as I once thought, but I know they’re out there. And with the way information spreads these days, I’m sure they’ll eventually find the facts they’re looking for.

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846 thoughts on “Which Nativity Story?

  1. Reblogged this on A Tale Unfolds and commented:
    If, like me, you are celebrating Kiddy in a Cowshed Day , then this post from one of my favorite heathens, Nate Owens, who regularly plays his Beatles records backwards, is the ideal hors d’oeuvres to kick start the festivities.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. HI Nate, I was going to email you and wish you a happy Christmas/holiday/NewYear/life, but now I can do that here!

    Just a brief comment on your post. Yes, there are some serious anomalies in the birth stories. They can be put together, but it requires some faith. But I fear you have overstated the problems.

    At the risk of sounding like I’m seeking visits to my blog, I’ve had a look at the problems in Are the stories of Jesus’ birth historically true?. Based on a journal article by a historian, Luke’s account sounds very realistic and believable, To counter just a coupe of your points …

    Luke doesn’t say Joseph lived in Nazareth, only that he travelled up from there. But Jewish betrothal traditions required Joseph to travel to his future bride’s home (Nazareth) to be betrothed, then to his home (Bethlehem) to be married.

    Joseph had to go to Bethlehem for the census as well as the marriage because it was his home town (Luke 2:3), and he had property there and that’s how Romans assessed taxation. The ancestral home is just an additional detail.

    There is evidence that Quirinius was special envoy or official in the area about 5 BCE, so that could be what Luke was referring to.

    Sequencing is often doubtful in the gospels. Originally the stories were told (few people could read), and the connections were made rather ad hoc by the narrator. Then they were compiled from various sources, the writers again using connecting words between the stories. So we shouldn’t assume those connections were immediate or precise. So some of your problems with timing here are based (I think) on modern narrative assumptions rather than recognising the realities of oral cultures.

    My conclusion (supported by the paper I referred to) is that Luke was pretty right, as usual. And Matthew, as usual, is exaggerated and unreliable in some details. A problem for someone who believes the Bible is inerrant, but no problem for everyone else who accepts the gospels as normal historical documents.

    Again, best wishes for now and next year!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Reblogged this on Secular Wings and commented:
    This is my first attempt at *reblogging* a blog post.

    I remember myself looking critically at the two nativity stories, one in Matthew, the other in Luke. I remember wondering. I also remember leaders or others supposedly more enlightened than me telling me that basically the differences didn’t matter. For me, the two stories weren’t a deal breaker. The brewing deal breakers for me were the treatment of women, hell and the vast diversity found within Christianity.

    Do people care about “two very different stories” as Nate writes? I don’t think so. Even if you push on it a bit, in my experience people will just respond with, Look. All I care about is Christ born, crucified and resurrected. That’s it. Seems simple doesn’t it. One wonders why if it is so simple it is so complicated?

    Liked by 4 people

  4. Michael

    UnkleE,

    Just to respond to your first point, my ESV states pretty clearly that Nazareth is their hometown.

    Luke 2:39 – “… they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.”

    I don’t think they would refer to it this way unless it was their home town. Additionally, the reason cited for traveling to Bethelehem in the first place is for the census and, importantly, because Joseph is of the house and lineage of David (Luke 2:4). I think it would be reading into the text to say that Bethlehem is where Joseph lives, especially considering Luke 2:39.

    Nate is right on this one.

    Best regards,
    Michael

    Liked by 4 people

  5. You might want to add that Nazareth did not exist at the time these supposed events took place. There is no mention of the place until about a century later. There is no archaeological evidence that it existed any earlier than that, either. “Biblical archeology” has to be one of the greatest disappointments in all of academia. Starting in the late eighteenth century, archaeologists swarmed the Sinai peninsula, looking for all of the sites described in Exodus. They found no evidence, none whatsoever of those sites. The only physical evidence is of events that were historical but had no real standing in theology, that is historical window dressing.

    Liked by 4 people

  6. Nate,

    A great read.

    My sweetheart is a non-Christian (a natural atheist) and her knowledge of Christianity is just popular stuff even though she had been dragged to churches by her Mom and she dragged her son to them in his younger days. But her real knowledge of Christianity is very poor.

    So, I wanted her to read your post. To set it up, we both read Luke and Matthews account first (her first time reading), and I gave a little commentary.

    Reading your post reinforced my commentary and was great fun. Fantastic writing.

    As to your last paragraph. As you know it is a theme of my writing which states that most self-proclaimed Christians aren’t “doctrinal Christians”, they don’t “believe” because of some truth. They believe because it helps form identity and culture and security of types and that “belief” is just a lose tying of images — no need for coherence, truth and such. It was never their intent in the first place.

    Likewise, in the USA, people voted for the candidate not really seeking truth but due to identity, major messages they love — they did not look for coherence. Their world, as in the religious realm, is comfortable with partitioned minds and purpose taking precedence over truth. It is how most of us operate — some doing it more than others, but all of us do it at times.

    If Christians are idiots for “believing” this stuff, we are all idiots.

    Great post, thanx. My gal loved it too.
    Merry Christmas.

    I look forward to your reply to Michael (“my bible says”) and Steve (Nazareth being later)

    Liked by 2 people

  7. Hey nate-

    Don’t know if this will post, but here’s a thought. You say the writers of the gospels ‘did not know each other,’ and herein lies their contradictions so to speak.

    Uh no. Herein lies your misunderstanding. It proves the very opposite, that in deed, and in fact, the accounts prove knowledge it would be impossible to fabricate.

    You will run out of ink and your arms will fall off, before you can write one line of ‘contradictions’ that cannot be upheld by scripture…..if, you remove your bias.

    You go on to say ‘both versions cannot be true………..’ and it is irrelevant to explain it to you. But don’t you tire of wasting time and resources in that which you find detestable? Are you not embarrassed to traffic in that which is the pride of the atheist?

    Truth be told, you cannot rid the truth of scripture from your conscience, as this effort hjere suggests. Reminds me of the young punk who tried to sink a submarine with a pea shooter.

    It may be a type of therapy for you, but rest assured, there are no defects in scripture. None.

    Like

  8. KC, it isn’t that CS needs insight on his mindset … it’s that his mind is set. Nothing short of him taking his final breath and passing into the nothingness we all will experience will finally convince him (and thousands and thousands of others) that his “mindset” was ensconced in fictitious places and imaginary beings.

    By the way … great post Nate! Lots of depth.

    Liked by 4 people

  9. @ ColorStorm
    I think that it shows that the synoptic gospel writers shared material — that is not evidence of true witnessing at all.

    Ooops, I just read the rest of your comment. No dialogue possible. My bad. Poor prognosis. Only life events can change such a frozen mind. Nan and Ratamacueo are right.

    Liked by 4 people

  10. I was wondering about something just a bit of topic. I knew so many people who went to church only on major holidays. Such as Easter, and of course the Christmas service. Any thoughts on these people? They claim to be Christians, and they claim to be saved by god, they claim they believe and know the bible. ( very doubtful ) I knew so many of these people in my own little home town. I welcome any thoughts or insights on this idea. Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

  11. @ Scottie,

    I don’t think your question is off topic at all (see me comment above). I agree, most Christians don’t even talk about being saved probably. They hope it is good luck to say they believe in Jesus, God, the church, whatever, kind of like crossing their fingers. And besides, they want to fit in and be approved in their society. They want to have the same customs of those they love. So they don’t care that the Bible is consistent any more than they care about the consistency in Harry Potter or other fiction. They are there for the entertainment [security, status, safety, good luck ….] So for those, arguing consistency is pointless. But Nate is addressing doctrinal Christians just like the sort he use to be — hyper-believers. “I got it right” folks.

    Liked by 4 people

  12. My conclusion (supported by the paper I referred to) is that Luke was pretty right, as usual. And Matthew, as usual, is exaggerated and unreliable in some details. A problem for someone who believes the Bible is inerrant, but no problem for everyone else who accepts the gospels as normal historical documents.

    Demonstrating yet again that, the stories written about a make-believe virgin birth by the unknown authors featured in the Synoptics, writing around a half century (at least) of when this highly questionable event almost certainly did not take place still manage to sucker-punch a surprising, but fortunately, ever dwindling number of sadly indoctrinated individuals and including a number of cherry-picking, credulous halfwits, who by now should probably know better.

    Happy Kiddy-in-a-Cowshed day.

    Liked by 2 people

  13. Well said sir. I think you are onto something very important with the curity and entertainment part. The reason I say this is that most of the part timers going to church were men, and the wives went much more often. When there was an after church event the men stood in their groups and the women in theirs. Hugs

    Like

  14. Peter

    A great post as usual Nate. I like the way you logically work through the issues. I should add special thanks to unkleE and CS for providing an insight into how one can still be Christian and be aware of these discrepancies. In essence by refusing to accept that they are discrepancies.

    So just supposing they are not discrepancies as CS ad the Unc propose, and the Bible is true (just presupposing), then we should ask ‘what does this say about God?’ If the Bible is divine and true then it seems that ‘God’ is a sloppy editor, or worse deliberately left difficulties in the text to trip up those who were questioners.

    Now it would be consistent with the character of ‘God’ to leave some snares in the text. I mean to say have a read of the Book of Numbers and see how ‘God’ reacted to a bit grumbling by his folk!

    Looking back I really don’t know how I believed for so long. But in reality perhaps I do know. It was only two years ago that I was involved with my Church’s children’s Christmas service where we thought nothing of having the Wise Man and the Shepherds at the same gig. In the decades that I was a Christian I never once heard anyone raise the issue of the inconsistencies in the accounts, it was a total non event in my experience. I only became aware of the issue after I deconverted.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. @ pete

    What does this say about God you ask, that He is a ‘sloppy editor………………..?’

    Ha, you wish.

    No, what does this say about you that you are a careless reader??? As far as the ‘wise men,’ and the shepherds, that’s right, two different times. It’s your fault that you were spoon fed and believed something contrary to the narrative.

    Keep boasting of your deconnery, and I’ll keep showing you the lights and perfections of scripture.

    Like

  16. Hi everyone! Thanks for all the great comments! I really appreciate all of you taking the time to read such a lengthy post, and I’ve enjoyed reading all the comments. Sorry I haven’t had a chance to respond until now.

    I’m going to make some additional comments directed at specific individuals, but wanted to first thank all of you, since I won’t be able to respond to every single comment directly.

    And I hope that all of you have a fantastic Christmas (or whatever holiday / non-holiday you might be having)! My kids are all finally in bed, and my wife has dozed off, too. I plan to turn in soon myself, unless I hear a clatter on the roof. 😉

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Hey unkleE!

    Merry Christmas to you, as well! I did happen to read your recent articles on this topic, and I found the information really interesting. I didn’t know the details about how livestock were sometimes (often?) kept in the ground floor room of the house. However, I did know that something similar was practiced in parts of Europe long ago, so the arrangement makes perfect sense.

    As to some of the specifics you bring up, my thoughts are very much in line with what Michael said in his comment (welcome, Michael, if this is your first time here!). And I also agree with Peter’s observation that even if there’s a way to work out one or both of these narratives, it seems odd that God would rely on such weak/convoluted evidence in his all-important message.

    Nevertheless, I’m fully aware that your view of inspiration isn’t really hampered by issues like that. As I’ve said before, it’s not a position I can embrace, but I at least find it more reasonable and consistent than that of the people who insist upon inerrancy, despite learning about these kinds of issues.

    Anyway, thanks again for the great comment, and I really do hope you have a wonderful holiday season!

    Like

  18. Steve,

    Thanks for adding that bit about Nazareth — I didn’t think to mention it in my article. If I had, I probably would have just mentioned it as a possibility rather than a fact, mostly because I’ve never spent too much time looking into it. Even so, I would probably always be too hesitant to draw too firm a conclusion on Nazareth’s existence at that time. Even though the gospels come several decades after Jesus, and the writers probably weren’t living in Palestine, they were still much closer to the time and place in question than we are. I’m not sure that I could ever feel comfortable taking modern archaeological findings as strong enough evidence to say for certain that Nazareth didn’t exist at the time.

    With some other areas of the Bible, like the Exodus, I don’t feel so apprehensive. It’s easier to tell that the OT writings are farther removed from the time period in question. There are more legendary and mythological elements in those earliest stories of the OT, as well. And the plagues in Egypt, the Exodus, and the conquest of Canaan all should have left very dramatic archaeological findings, and the evidence we’ve uncovered looks very, very different.

    I only mention all that to stress that I’m not trying to dismiss archaeological evidence, altogether. Even though I haven’t personally been swayed by the questions on Nazareth yet, I do think it’s an important possibility that people should consider, so thank you again for bringing it up!

    Like

  19. Sabio,

    You’ve left one of my favorite comments! I’m really glad that this post was good enough that you decided to share it with your girlfriend. Sounds like you guys had a very fun study!

    I think your comments about why people believe and why they vote the way they do are spot on. I sometimes wish it was different, but I think you’re right. In fact, just yesterday, a friend of mine sent me this article:
    http://qz.com/869587/using-science-in-an-argument-just-makes-people-more-partisan/

    I found it rather depressing. 😦

    But I think it’s really important for all of us to remember your point that we are all guilty of acting this way, probably way more than we realize. And your related point that if people who think differently from us are stupid, then we’re all stupid, is equally important!

    Like

  20. Scottie,

    Thanks for your comments! I agree with Sabio that your question about casual Christians isn’t off-topic at all. As Sabio said, I came out of a group of “hyper-believers” (btw, I think this is an excellent term), so that’s often who I target in my posts. Because of that, I sometimes feel a little contempt for people who are so casual about their beliefs. I don’t understand how they can claim to be followers of a religion, but don’t take the time to learn much about it.

    That being said, I know that most of them are really, really good people. Ironically, they’re the ones I often seem to like the most, because they aren’t usually very dogmatic. They tend to be much more accepting of others. These people are the ones who usually leave a religion because the religion isn’t tolerant enough of gay people, or because they condemn too many people to Hell, or don’t support women’s rights, etc. In other words, they often have a moral core that is clearly independent of their religion. I was not such a person. Sadly, I would have compromised things that should have been clear moral principles, simply to follow the teachings in a book.

    So while a part of me still looks down on casual Christians at times, I think they’re far less dangerous than the hyper-believers.

    Liked by 1 person

  21. Hi ColorStorm,

    I’ve seen your comments in other blogs before, but this may be the first time you’ve commented here. If so, welcome!

    From your comments, I think it’s unlikely that you and I will find any common ground. Nevertheless, since you feel certain that Matthew’s and Luke’s account are in harmony with one another, would you care to explain how?

    Thanks, and Merry Christmas!

    Like

  22. So while a part of me still looks down on casual Christians at times, I think they’re far less dangerous than the hyper-believers.

    Hmm … I wonder, sometimes.
    I realise, Nate, you were to some extent entrenched among ”hypers”, but such views are not universal, even among fellow Christians.

    Normal people will generally dismiss the beliefs of hypers (Also love that term. Consider it nicked) with ne’er a second thought.

    However, the Casuals always give fence sitters pause as they seem to revel in their faux intellectualism that has many in a quandary.

    As we have so often seen, some casuals will go to great lengths to show an endless stream of ”facts” to support their position, using carefully crafted text to emphasize specific points, while somehow never seeming to address any question in a straightforward,direct, commonsense fashion.

    In my view, it is this crowd that is more difficult to deal with, many of whom still wish to hold on to a sort of sick, death-cult mentality, and are holding back the drive towards a society that finally rids itself of supernatural beliefs.

    Jingle bells …. religion smells.

    Ark.

    Liked by 2 people

  23. @ unkleE & Nate:

    You may find interesting that the Chinese/Japanese character (ideogram) for house/home is a pig under a roof.

    See my post on swine-flu for more.

    @ Nate:

    Glad you enjoyed my comment. Very kind of you to say so in such an emphatic way.

    It is interesting that you said to Scottie, “As Sabio said, I came out of a group of “hyper-believers” (btw, I think this is an excellent term), so that’s often who I target in my posts. Because of that, I sometimes feel a little contempt for people who are so casual about their beliefs.”

    My impression is that most atheist bloggers (I’m guessing here, let me know your impression) are either “natural” atheists (never had a twinge of religious thinking in their lives) or former conservative Christians. And they both resonate with your comment. The later, because they never really got over their narrow notion of religion, and the former because instead of being hyper-believers, are naively hyper-rationalists. Hyper-rationalists want to think all decisions can be made clearly logically and that indeed, exactly what they always do. Hugely wrong, of course.

    When we look at how people cheer on football teams (brand loyalty for mercenary sports), countries (blind jingoism) and religious exclusivism, we find huge mental similarities. The very habits that make a hyper-believer often ironically share huge characteristics with those who are hyper-rational. The article you kindly linked (and many in the past) show this clearly. “Science says”, “Studies show”, “The Bible says” all come from the same habit of mind. We form our beliefs to match our preferences but tell ourselves it is the other way around. We are a joke unto ourselves. So I disagree with the article that feels policy woks can think through things clearer and get the right answer. But I agree that it is curiosity, no certainty (atheist [reason] or Christian [faith]), that is our greatest friend.

    Merry Christmas — I have to cook my Sichuan Duck (I use to live in Chengdu, Sichuan). Stop in and have some with us.

    Liked by 2 people

  24. Don’t know where this goes nate, no reply button.

    One thing that will set the context for your inability to trust the narrative of scripture, which rest assured, can withstand any accusation of dark plotting or misconduct.

    Ten people come into your house. They leave. When asked what they ‘saw’ in your living room, they all mention one thing that the other nine did not see. Were the nine then liars for not ‘seeing?’ They could even swear that the other nine were mistaken.

    This is your grand mistake. You do not ‘see’ your own bias, and you take as fact your own misinterpretations.

    Nazareth. Many atheists have swallowed the googlemeisters lie that this town did not exist. There are many sites as you may know, which are looked at as gospel to try to prove the ‘weakness’ of scripture. This cracks me up.

    There is no nefarious plot in the simple narrative of scripture. The question was asked by good men: ‘Can ANY good thing come out of Nazareth?’ And herein lies the beauty of the reliability of scripture’s accuracy, as well as God’s unassuming character in bringing high things from low places.

    Nazareth was a town of insignificance. So unlike London, or Paris. That’s the point. Ever heard of Pitcairn Pennsylvania? Of course you haven’t, neither has 99% per cent of the world. It is irrelevant if people heard of it, and it is literary ignorance to pretend that the scriptures were mistaken as to the existence of Nazareth.

    God’s word has a way of shutting the mouths of fools, and His word will stand long after the circus has left town.

    But merry Christmas.

    Like

  25. “Can ANY good thing come out of Nazareth?”

    “In 2009, Israeli Christian archaeologist Yardenna Alexandre claimed to have excavated archaeological remains in Nazareth that might date to the time of Jesus in the early Roman period. Unfortunately this has not been corroborated by the IAA[41] or any other reliable archaeological sources.” (wiki)

    Liked by 1 person

  26. Tks chief, but it does not matter. If ten thousand archaeologists ‘said’ ‘found’ or ‘proved’ Nazareth was a fable, I will show you ten thousand misinformed men, and possibly many of them are outright liars.

    God’s word stands and needs no defense. I am happy however to point out the obvious.

    Merry Christmas.

    Like

  27. CS, I would be happy to believe God’s word if you could only provide such a book written in “The Hand of God” and NOT Man.

    My Mother recently passed away. We had to provide to the Court a “Will” written in the hand of my Mother. I have 5 siblings. If all 6 of us wrote a Will claiming these were the wishes of my Mother, the Court would have turned us away.

    If God wanted to convey his wishes to the 7.5 billion people on this planet, he wouldn’t single out a hand full of illiterate men from the Middle East to do it.

    Liked by 3 people

  28. It’s easy kc.

    They were ambassadors of another’s message. They had no authority for their opinion or changing their writing.

    Fidelity to the text was paramount. And the ‘lying’ men that I refer to?

    Those who masquerade as scholars, or anybody else who cites the writers of the greatest book on earth as frauds.

    The inspiration of God to lead men to write that which they could not know cannot be denied.

    Example? Yes, how how the ability to ‘see’ throughout the entire world, in an instant…………..long before computers and live feeds were even dreamed of. ‘Buying and selling’ without money? The mark of the beast? Study the fulfillment of prophecy that verifies God’s eternal truths.

    God is light years ahead, and His word is proof.

    Like

  29. “Example? Yes, how how the ability to ‘see’ throughout the entire world, in an instant…………..long before computers and live feeds were even dreamed of. ‘Buying and selling’ without money? The mark of the beast? Study the fulfillment of prophecy that verifies God’s eternal truths.”

    I don’t find any proof of this. The writers of the Bible had no clue anyone existed in either North or South America. Their idea of the World was much smaller than we know it to be today. They also believed the Earth was flat and had 4 corners and God could cause the Sun to stop when in fact for the story to be true He would have caused the Earth to stop.

    And yet you would have us to believe everything else they wrote ?

    Buying and selling without money is not prophetic . Humans have been doing this since the beginning of time.

    Liked by 2 people

  30. That’s right chief. Barter has been around forever.

    Until you can dream up the creation of the world apart from the Creator………as much as a single fingernail……….I’ll stick with what has been true since God created time.

    Like

  31. Hey Ark,

    Good points. I guess the kind of people you’re describing aren’t really who I think of as casual Christians. I guess I’d call them moderates, maybe. They definitely know more about their religion, and they take it pretty seriously. To me, when I think of casual Christians, I think of the ones Sabio was describing — those who identify with a culture instead of putting a lot of stock in specific doctrines.

    I think all these groups can be dangerous in different ways, but casual and moderate theists seem less likely to resort to extreme tactics on behalf of their religion, at least. Of course, dogma can come in all flavors, so I don’t mean to single out religion. It’s just the one we tend to focus on most here.

    Liked by 1 person

  32. The very habits that make a hyper-believer often ironically share huge characteristics with those who are hyper-rational. The article you kindly linked (and many in the past) show this clearly. “Science says”, “Studies show”, “The Bible says” all come from the same habit of mind. We form our beliefs to match our preferences but tell ourselves it is the other way around. We are a joke unto ourselves. So I disagree with the article that feels policy woks can think through things clearer and get the right answer. But I agree that it is curiosity, no certainty (atheist [reason] or Christian [faith]), that is our greatest friend.

    Touché 🙂

    Like

  33. Hi CS,

    Ten people come into your house. They leave. When asked what they ‘saw’ in your living room, they all mention one thing that the other nine did not see. Were the nine then liars for not ‘seeing?’ They could even swear that the other nine were mistaken.

    Well, I’m not saying that Matthew or Luke were lying. They both may have sincerely believed what they were reporting. But if two people meet me, and later one of them says that I was wearing a solid blue shirt, and the other thinks I was wearing a solid red shirt, they can’t both be right. We all know that recollection is not perfect. As I pointed out above, Matthew and Luke report some details that just don’t fit together.

    Now, in your comment about the 10 people, you acknowledge that each might even swear that the others were mistaken. This, of course, points out that human memory can be unreliable. If you’re suggesting that the writers of Matthew and Luke might fit into this category — perhaps mistaken on the details, but truthful on the core facts — then I think that’s an acceptable way to see it. This sounds much like unkleE’s perspective, to me. Personally, I have trouble squaring that scenario with divine inspiration, but I know that other people aren’t bothered by it.

    Am I understanding your position, or are you more of an inerrantist who believes that every single detail of both accounts must be literally true?

    Thanks, and Merry Christmas!

    Like

  34. @ ate
    Tkx for that.

    But your shirt scenerio? Easily answered. Each saw you at different times, thus no contradiction, because you had changed shirts.

    As to Matthew and Luke being mistaken, yet not be liars? No, they were not mistaken, and their accounting has stifled many a complaint when every objection has been met with context, purpose, and reasons WHY there are differences, yet leaving untouched the truth of the narrative.

    Their reporting is 100 per cent accurate, and if there seems a discrepancy, it is always, Always, ALWAYS on our end.

    Would you like to hear of the lights and perfections of justification through faith, and justification through works, and the effulgent truth of both showing the glory of God and zero contradictions?

    Like

  35. @CS

    The bible is actually wrong, and demonstrably so. There were 11 plagues. Yahweh forgot to mention, Leg-end in his own lunchtime, John Colorstorm.

    Naughty Yahweh! Now, go sit in the corner and say three Hail Mummys’

    Liked by 1 person

  36. ”Just to respond to your first point, my ESV states pretty clearly that Nazareth is their hometown.

    Luke 2:39 – “… they returned to Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth.””

    Hi Michael, may I suggest you read the link I indirectly gave: The Accommodations of Joseph and Mary in Bethlehem: Κατάλυμα in Luke 2.7 by Stephen Carlson in New Test. Stud., Cambridge University Press. He argues that the common translation of this verse is based on an old text, and better attested texts suggest it should read “into a city of their own”. He concludes:

    ”the narrative had already identified two such towns: Nazareth as Mary’s town (Luke 1:26, 56) and Bethlehem as Joseph’s town (2:3-4). This summary statement [2:39], therefore, does not establish that Nazareth was ‘their own’ town earlier in the narrative when Jesus was born—only that it was so by the time they went back.”

    So we are left with two explanations – yours and Nate’s which suppose Joseph lived in Nazareth and had to go back to his ancestral home, despite this NOT being the Roman practice, or Carlson’s which accepts the clear statement of 2:3 that each person went to their home town for the census, a practice which we know the Romans did require (so people’s property could be assessed).

    So why would anyone prefer an interpretation that doesn’t make sense over one which does?

    Like

  37. “I should add special thanks to unkleE and CS for providing an insight into how one can still be Christian and be aware of these discrepancies. In essence by refusing to accept that they are discrepancies.”

    Hi Peter, I did smile at the back-handed non-compliment! 🙂 But I must correct you. I have said quite clearly that I accept there are difficulties in these stories. I said it in my comment to Nate:
    “there are some serious anomalies in the birth stories.” And I said it in the blogpost I linked to, which you may not have read. I wouldn’t want a legend to arise in your mind about something I don’t actually think!

    My points was (“But I fear you have overstated the problems.”) that some of the anomalies Nate mentioned are in fact quite understandable once we get the best translation of some of the words and have an understanding of first century Jewish customs. I’m sure you, like Nate, would want to have the best understanding and not repeat furphies, and I think Carlson’s article which I referenced provides that.

    Thanks.

    Like

  38. unkleE, as I’ve asserted numerous times, I’m no biblical scholar. But your reference to Carlson’s opinion did stand out to me …
    He argues that the common translation of this verse is based on an old text, and better attested texts suggest it should read “into a city of their own”.

    Who determines what is “better attested texts”?

    The plain and simple fact is as Nate presents it … the stories related to the birth of Jesus conflict with one another. But someone, somewhere along the way, decided which one was the “better Nativity story” and that is the one that’s generally presented to the Christmas Christians.

    Liked by 3 people

  39. Ark I have to say you have infinitely more patients with C.S. than I ever will. You so clearly show his deficiencies. Yet he won’t even admit the basic facts of life, such as the bible was wrong about the facts of which heavenly body moved around which. In case there is a question… the earth moves around the sun, not the other way around as the bible with the “all knowing God” said. I admire your ability to deal with those types. I can not. I know they will never accept reality, and without reality you have no foundation of life. They would claim that their God is the foundation, to that I would reply..”Ok, go the next two weeks without food or water and then come talk to me about reality and your god”. Thanks for all you do. Hugs

    Liked by 2 people

  40. @unkleE… I am Scottie and I do not think we have been introduced. I am not much into arguing, However I do like finding common understanding grounds. I do not want to misrepresent myself, so I should let you know up front I am an atheist, also a pagan. My biggest complain I have when talking to theists is the total ignoring of reality, well founded and proven science. I really don’t mind people having faith of any kind. I do have a serious problem with the disregarding of science.

    So my question I would ask you is: Do you believe the bible is the inerrant word of God, your deity? I ask this as the bible has been proven to be wrong on so many things, it is not even worth arguing about at this point. Now if you have a reason that the Bible is both the Inerrant word of God and still wrong, I would love to hear you out on it.

    Again I am not looking for a fight on symatics or trying to tear down your faith. If you have a faith that gives you some kind of joy that is grand. I have just asked this same question of several other people who claim to be christians first, reality believers second. I have found every attempt to talk to them ( such as Colorstorm, Godsmanforver, to name two ) breaks down when they refuse to acknowledge the real world we live in in order to prove the false statements in the christian bible. I find there is no real point to a conversation if we can not agree the laws of nature exist. Thanks. Hugs

    Like

  41. Ron

    That Mary must have been one tough cookie. I give props to any woman who can cover over 90 miles (150 km) of rough terrain on foot during her final month of pregnancy, deliver a baby, and then complete the return trip with a nursing infant less than two months later.

    Then there’s the issue with the slaughter of the innocents. Josephus reports that towards the end of his reign King Herod the Great suffered from an illness so severe that he contemplated committing suicide. If true, why would Herod suddenly concern himself about the birth of a child? Plus, if he really wanted to make sure Jesus was killed, why would he send the wise men on their way unaccompanied and trust them to report back instead of sending along soldiers to make sure the task was completed? It doesn’t make much sense.

    Moreover, what does it say about the moral character of a god who willingly allows innocent children to be slaughtered just to fulfill a prophecy—especially one that’s been so obviously pulled out of context? (The prophecy in Jeremiah 31:16-17 promises: “Restrain your voice from weeping and your eyes from tears, for your work will be rewarded,”declares the Lord. “They will return from the land of the enemy. So there is hope for your descendants,”declares the Lord. “Your children will return to their own land.”)

    Liked by 2 people

  42. Hi Scottie, and g’day. Thanks for your intro, I appreciate how you’ve set out how you like to approach these discussions. I feel pretty much the same. Nate and I have been discussion partners and sometime opponents for quite a few years now, and we express our views, disagree on many fundamental matters but agree on others, hopefully learn something from each other, and stay friends. I see now reason why you and I can’t do the same.

    “Do you believe the bible is the inerrant word of God, your deity?”

    No I don’t. It doesn’t say that it is, and it doesn’t seem to be inerrant, so I see no reason to believe that it is. Nevertheless, I don’t agree with you when you say “the bible has been proven to be wrong on so many things”. Conservative christians have explanations for just about any anomaly that sceptics have found, so we can hardly say “proven”. I accept that an error is a more likely explanation in many cases, but I don’t think we can say every anomaly is an error. Some probably are, some probably aren’t. I can live with that uncertainty. I think sceptics and conservative christians each live within cultures that present their ideas with a level of certainty that isn’t warranted by the evidence.

    This is one of the areas where Nate and I have mutual incomprehension about the other’s views. Nate thinks God, if he existed, “should” give us a much more certain revelation (I hope that’s a fair summary of his views). But I think the world is less certain than that, and we have to live with uncertainty and live with the Bible as it is, not as we’d expect it to be. I think Nate came to those views out of the conservative christianity he grew up in, and I also think Nate has a different view of God’s judgment than I have. So I suspect that you and I might differ in the same way.

    “If you have a faith that gives you some kind of joy that is grand.”

    I must also comment on this. Firstly, I appreciate your humanity. But getting joy is not a major factor in my belief. I am as critical of some aspects of institutional christianity as you would probably be, and I don’t really feel part of any church that much. Of course I get joy and satisfaction out of my belief, but I also get challenge and obligation and sadness.

    But I don’t believe for any of those reasons, I believe because I think it is true, and I think it is true because I find that christian belief, rightly understood, offers better answers to most (not all) of the questions about life and the universe. If it wasn’t true, then it wouldn’t offer that to me, so I have no objection to anyone criticising or offering opposing evidence – I only am uninterested in those who used biased information or who choose to be nasty or mocking. Life’s too short for that. So, again, I appreciate the way you have approached this.

    So what do you think about all that?

    Like

  43. “That Mary must have been one tough cookie. I give props to any woman who can cover over 90 miles (150 km) of rough terrain on foot during her final month of pregnancy, deliver a baby, and then complete the return trip with a nursing infant less than two months later.”

    Hi Ron. I wonder whether you have made some assumptions here that are not in the text, but rather form part of popular imagination? I see no reason to believe Mary gave birth shortly after she arrived in Bethlehem – it could have been months later for all we know. Likewise, although she went home after the 40 days of purification, it doesn’t say straight after, and in any case, they WERE tough cookies in those days and travelling 6+ weeks after delivery would have been acceptable.

    I think there are many assumptions made about these stories, understandably, but not necessarily accurately.

    Like

  44. Ron

    unkleE,

    My assumptions are based on the story presented in Luke 2. That narrative claims Joseph traveled to Bethlehem and Mary gave birth while there, but they could find no lodging at the inn (contrary to Mathew’s account of them staying at a house.) And further down (verse 39) it says: “when they had performed everything according to the Law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own town of Nazareth”—which, according to the instructions found in Leviticus 12, would have been ~40 days after the birth. So even if we assumed they took their time getting there, it still presents an arduous journey for a pregnant woman and first-time mother.

    Liked by 1 person

  45. Hey Ron, it no longer says they stayed at an inn because that was a bad translation. The NIV has “guest room”, which means in a house almost certainly of a relative, and the Greek word simply means “a place to stay”. So the time may well have been much longer than you thought.

    Like

  46. Well UnklieE. I was following you really well and agreeing until we hit a curb. I had to print off your responce so I could address it properly. First before I get into anything we may disagree with each other about, I love and respect that you can talk about this without getting upset and resorting to weird vague attacks. I will do my very best to explain what I was talking about.

    First I like that you do not try to defend that the bible is the literal truth of all things, but don’t let Colorstorm hear you say that, he will go coo coo for coco puffs.
    As for areas where the christian bible is wrong, it is as simple as the idea of the sun revolving around the earth, or the idea of the earth being a flat plate being held up by four pillars, with windows to let in water? Or the idea that the human genome project has proven there is no scientific basis for a single adam and eve pair? The whole idea of the global flood being a local legend from several other older “holy” texts ( I am thinking specifically of The Epic of Gilgamesh ) Oh I am not sure I need go on here at this point as we both agree the bible has problems with historical and scientific truth.

    Again I want you to know that I have no problem with you or anyone believing in anything they choose as long as they don’t try to force me to believe it, to do as they do, or make it laws I have to live under, teach it in my public schools or insist that the government give it priority over everyone else.

    I have stopped talking with several people who come to blogs here like C.S. as he won’t accept there is any scientifically proven errors in the bible and instead insists the book has to be word for word fact. I can not accept that nor deal with anyone who just refuses to accept the proven scientific standards we have today of our existence.

    I did not claim the bible was totally full of falsehoods, however my problem is with those who refuse to admit it has errors. If we are to discuss specifics I will need to look them up and research the literature on them, as I do not have degrees in history or science. I am not sure I agree with the statement ” Conservative christians have explanations for just about any anomaly that sceptics have found, so we can hardly say “proven”” as I listen to many people far more educated than I who have proven the anomalies. However I am simply happy that you accept our world and the reality of it, the science that has been proven, and I think that means we have a basis to talk and move forward. I mean people have to have common points of reference to be able to even discuss things, if we all just disregard anything we don’t like or disagree with we wouldn’t have any discussion at all.

    OK you brought up how you see Nates views. I am new to his blog so I have no real idea of what his views are. I would hope they are founded in science and reason, as I hope mine are. I have to say as you expressed it I think on this I agree with Nate. Afterall if it was so important to an omnipotent, all powerful, all knowing deity to have everyone in the world know about it and its plan, it would simply make it known. No ifs, ands, or buts. If that being could wish into creation a whole universe, then do the whole silly genesis thing and the man and woman thing… surely a mass letting everyone know “this is the truth here it is” wouldn’t be that hard, right? The statement “Conservative christians have explanations for just about any anomaly that sceptics have found, so we can hardly say “proven”” is a big problem. I have listen to many people who have proven that the anomalies exist. Just for a few Aron Ra, Matt Dillahunty, Ark. See to me that limits your god. Either he has the ability or he doesn’t. So when simple facts of the bible are proven to be wrong and people still insist they have to be right, that really demeans the god they claim is so powerful, at least to me.

    You mention you and Nate’s disagreement with god’s judgment. Sorry I really can’t weigh in on that in the way you wish as I simply do not believe in your god. To me it is the same as asking my opinion on a unicorns judgement or a dragons ( that I have a few ideas on actually ) or Professor Snape’s or Dumbledore’s. To me these are fictional characters and not to be offencive but so is your god. Again if you want to believe in it, and it gives you comfort I am not here to take it from you, I just want you to not take reality from me and people who do not believe in your god. In fact before I go on reading your comment, it is people who claim to speak for your god who want to take from me my rights as a gay man, who want to deny my 26 year long marriage ( legally only two years now ) to my husband, who want to deny my equality and claim it is their right to discriminate against me and my kind while disregarding all the other laws in the same chapter of that holy book , those people who claim it is holy to throw a child out of the house because they love someone of the same sex and yet are willing to have that same child, flesh of their flesh, have to sell himself or do other horrible things to survive… no that angers me terribly! Sorry that was not called for on my part you never expressed those Ideas, it just gets so maddening to me to have people who claim a high moral ground willing to hurt those least able to defend themselves.
    I figure we both have no place for hypocrites.

    Back to what you wrote. See I am trying here.

    I am not sure what you are saying when you say you don’t get joy out of your faith? Shouldn’t faith of any type give one joy? Otherwise why have it? Not to be argumentative here, but I have many friends I grew up with who are S.D.A and I think they get such a feeling from their church and their beliefs that it is almost wrong to confront them on it. I only do it when their life view threatens mine. It is not my job or purpose to take their joy from them, it is my only hope to keep the secular government and world I live in. If your faith doesn’t give you that joy, why do you hold to it?

    I see in your comment you say you do have joy but also challenges .. I guess it is a personal thing and I really have no place there.

    I think your last paragraph is the most important I think you would be more like a deist. As I understand what you wrote you believe in a deity of some kind, you believe it is powerful and has our best interest in mind, you do not regard every word of the christian bible as infallible words from god’s lips, you feel there is a higher purpose and a guiding power to mans life. I really have no problem with that. I think that is grand. See as long as you are not trying to take away from people what we should be able to move into as an enlightened society, as long as you are not trying to push science out of the classrooms to instead teach myths, as long as your belief is not harming others, Go for it !! I love it really. To me it is like sex, if all parties are consenting, and consent is the real key , if all parties are agreeable to what is going on, it is not my business. It becomes my business and everyone else’s when consent is denied, when the acts are forced on those who do not want or agree to them.

    Sorry this took so long, I had to look over your comment and then I have to get my husband and son off to work. However I really don’t see where you and I have much difference in worldviews. You have a deity. Thats cool. I do not. That is cool also. I know we will talk again, and I hope it can be as friendly as this was. We may disagree on issues. But I really like we can agree we live in the same world, with the same natural laws, and the same basic understandings of human life. From there we can work on individual issues, I think. You ended with a question of what I thought of your response. I think it was grand. It was an attempt to find common ground and bridge differences. That is seriously great. Hugs

    Liked by 2 people

  47. Hi Scotty, thanks for those explanations. There’s quite a lot in there, so let me pick out the bits I think most important.

    ”the sun revolving around the earth, or the idea of the earth being a flat plate being held up by four pillars, with windows to let in water?”
    I wouldn’t say those things make the Bible wrong any wore than me saying the sun rose this morning. They are both the same – an archaic expression which we can still use poetically.

    ”the human genome project has proven there is no scientific basis for a single adam and eve pair?”
    Can you show me where this has been proved, because I have studied this a bit and I don’t think it has. Yes, DNA shows that we have all descended from a single ancient woman and a single ancient man, and they probably weren’t alive at the same time – probably! – and they weren’t the only humans alive at the time. I don’t personally believe in a literal Adam and Eve, but it is possible that “mitochondrial Eve” and “Y chromosome Adam” WERE alive together. Proof needs to be way stronger than you are talking here.

    ”The whole idea of the global flood being a local legend from several other older “holy” texts ( I am thinking specifically of The Epic of Gilgamesh )”
    I think this one is closer to proof, and of course I accept that there was probably a local flood as the basis for those early Akkadian myths, but not a global flood. But that only makes the Bible “wrong” if you think the only way a thing can be “right” is to be literally true. But a story, a myth or a legend can be a vehicle of truth – take the parable of the Good Samaritan as an example.

    Had you said the Bible isn’t always literally historically true I would have totally agreed with you, but “wrong” is a whole different word.

    ”I am not sure I agree with the statement ” Conservative christians have explanations for just about any anomaly that sceptics have found, so we can hardly say “proven”” as I listen to many people far more educated than I who have proven the anomalies.”

    Don’t just listen to one side, and certainly not just to people who are not neutral experts. I could send you to many conservative sites where they have explanations for everything. I don’t necessarily accept their explanations, I am just cautioning against countering their overly strong statements with ones of your own.

    ”Afterall if it was so important to an omnipotent, all powerful, all knowing deity to have everyone in the world know about it and its plan, it would simply make it known.”
    What makes you think the “if” part of that statement is true?

    ”I am not sure what you are saying when you say you don’t get joy out of your faith? Shouldn’t faith of any type give one joy? Otherwise why have it? ”
    As I said, I get mixed joy and sadness and many other emotions too. My point was that those aren’t the reasons I believe. The reason to have it is because it’s true (I believe). What better reason could there be?

    ”I think you would be more like a deist”
    No, not at all. I have a lot of respect for deism, because I think it is a better explanation of the universe than most philosophies. But I am definitely a christian. I believe Jesus was (and is) the son of God and I try to follow him in the way I live.

    ”I really like we can agree we live in the same world, with the same natural laws, and the same basic understandings of human life.”
    Yea, I am very happy with “live and let live” – that’s what God does to us, including atheists!! But I do feel sad that I think you are missing out on a lot.

    Thanks a lot.

    Liked by 1 person

  48. So why would anyone prefer an interpretation that doesn’t make sense over one which does?

    A lot of this hinges on the truth/fact that the village of Nazareth existed as suggested in the story.

    As soon as its existence during the specific time the story is set is brought into question, and one chooses to ignore any doubt put forward, especially because of the lack of archaeological evidence, one is effectively turning a blind eye, and behaving in a willfully ignorant manner.
    Also, building any further case then leaves the door open to be accused of being disingenuous.

    For a number of years after Alexandre made her amazing claim, revealed on or around the eve of Christmas in 2009 if memory serves ( how fortuitous), much to the delight of many Christians and quite likely the confusion and bewilderment of the vast majority who would have never even dreamed there was a whiff of scandal over this affair, It seemed that this was a ‘done deal’ and the protests of those who claimed this was little more than a publicity stunt were ridiculed and often vilified.

    There were even the odd report that suggested in some sort of oblique fashion that this could have been Jesus’ actual home. Cor, wow! And of course, once such a suggestion like this is out there …
    Well, a lie can run around the world before the truth is even out of bed.

    I am grateful to Ken for posting the extract from Wiki as it needs to be shouted from the metaphorical rooftops.

    “In 2009, Israeli Christian archaeologist Yardenna Alexandre claimed to have excavated archaeological remains in Nazareth that might date to the time of Jesus in the early Roman period. <strong<Unfortunately this has not been corroborated by the IAA[41] or any other reliable archaeological sources.” (wiki)

    my emphasis.

    For those who may be interested:

    This discussion ….
    http://www.is-there-a-god.info/blog/belief/nazareth-re-visited/

    ….took place between Unklee and a chap called Bernard.

    I urge everyone here to pop over to Unk’s blog and read the exchange. And also the couple of follow up posts he did.

    In light of the wiki statement above, you might want to rethink if you were contemplating any evidence has come to light.

    Ark

    Like

  49. Yea, I am very happy with “live and let live” – that’s what God does to us, including atheists!! But I do feel sad that I think you are missing out on a lot.

    Benefits of being a Christian would include:

    Spending one’s entire life believing one is a sinner and nothing one ever does will be enough for Jesus, and in the end it is pretty much a crap shoot whether you pass ‘Go’ and get into Heaven.

    Having to suspend critical thought your whole life and hold firm to a belief in the supernatural, convinced you are truly being a sunbeam for Jesus while forcing your brain to compartmentalize just enough to get through each day wondering why Yahweh is such a capricious arsehole.

    Believe that prayer really does work … honest! Even though no prayer has even been demonstrated to have been answered … ever. And while you might be convinced Jesus is sending you a message because his … sorry, His face appeared on your burnt toast yesterday morning, kiddies are dropping dead like flies all over the world every second of every day, and by all accounts prayer flies (sic) in the face of Yahweh’s already laid out Divine Plan. Thus, any piddling whining pleas you offer up are only going to seriously piss Yahweh off and give him a bloody migraine, especially if they involve parking spaces, golf shots or curing your pet hamster of dandruff.

    Acknowledging the amazing benefits of technology and how you can now reach all your Christian brothers and Sisters across the globe and then be quite surprised,nay shocked, to discover how a huge number of them actually don’t consider you are a True Christian at all.
    In fact, some beleive you follow the religion of an Anti-Christ and are going to spend eternity being tortured in Hell.
    But it’s okay, because once you have got over the shock of how truly repugnant some of your fellow Christians are, and you have calmed down a bit, you can take comfort in the fact you beleive exactly the same of them .

    So instead, you blog about how screwed up atheists, humanists, materialists, and naturalists, are on a computer likely designed by an atheist who donates more money than you could even dream of to several atheist/humanist groups in an effort to try to offset poverty, often indirectly created by religions and their greedy self serving farking minions, yet you are convinced they will all be going to hell.

    Meanwhile, some stupid misguided old baggage called Mother Theresa raked in millions upon millions and did fark all with all this boodle to alleviate pain and suffering and was made a Saint by a man in a dress who believes he has the divine right to be the arbiter between humanity and a god his church by all accounts, invented.

    Having to face the world and try to convince yourself ( let alone the world) you are absolutely, and unequivocally perfectly sane and that, several billion non-Christians are the ones who are wrong, misguided, and simply nuts for worshiping other gods or no gods and are all going to hell, when meanwhile, standing right behind you are the likes of Ken Ham, The Creation Institute, and promoters of I.D, many of whom believe the earth is only around 6000 years old and dinosaurs existed with humans.

    So, remind us please, exactly what is it non-Christians are missing out on again?

    Ark.

    Liked by 3 people

  50. ColorStorm,

    You said:

    “But your shirt scenerio? Easily answered. Each saw you at different times, thus no contradiction, because you had changed shirts.”

    I think this highlights how any (literally any) contradiction can be explained away, and also shows how context can be ignored in order to reach a desired conclusion.

    Can you offer an example of what you think is a contradiction?

    I have seen believers invent any resolution, dream up any excuse, no matter how likely or unlikely, and proclaim, “ah ha! Therefore no contradiction,” while ignoring the fact that their own imaginations have created bridges over the gaps in a given story, or placed the Band-Aid over the gaping the hole – yet the text itself still only says what it says, for better or for worse.

    I see two things, the differences and distinctions are still there, even if anyone tries to suggest otherwise, and secondly, I tend to believe that any contradiction, of any religion or story, could be “reconciled” in the way you’re trying to reconcile the bible’s issues.

    Can you provide an example of what an actual contradiction is, if you believe contradictions exist, and would you be willing to explain and demonstrate how Luke and Matthew actually agree and how the issues Nate presented are actually resolved? Maybe by presenting a joined narrative that includes all information from both Luke and Matthew?

    And for a kicker, would you expect a Muslim, or a believer in another faith, to defend their beliefs the same way, taking any problem or contradiction you could muster, and simply offering imagined and contrived “fixes,” whether sensible or not, and to you, would that show stubborn foolishness, or strength, devotion and diligence of faith?

    Liked by 1 person

  51. …And you know, a trip to Egypt in order to avoid murder and the slaughter of a town’s babies are not minor details.

    Why would God instruct, by divine inspiration, one writer to tell the story one way, and then instruct the other writer to tell it another way? Again, these aren’t minor details.

    Even if we accept UnkleE’s position, that the translations were not exact enough, and Joseph was from Bethlehem and Mary from Nazareth, there are still some pretty big problems remaining, despite ColorStorm’s steadfastness of biblical inerrancy.

    If I told someone that I drove to North Carolina for a holiday, and then back to New York, one would naturally assume I left New York, drove directly to NC and back again, but would easily assume I made a few stops for the potty or snacks and fuel, even if I never mentioned those stops.

    But if they heard someone else say that during the same time, I drove to Ohio in order to avoid NC because someone there wanted to kill me, they may either believe the source of this tale is mistaken or lying, or that I intentionally kept some big part of the events from them, because these are significant details, not pit stops.

    One must ignore how people work and ignore context, in order to reconcile these two accounts into one master harmony.

    I don’t think anyone would suggest that God wanted Luke to purposely keep these big details from us while specifically having Matthew relay them, and all in a way that, if nothing else, gives the impression of a contradiction – (going Jerusalem when they were afraid to go to Jerusalem and took lengths to avoid the place – if going to a place and avoiding a place during teh same time period isn’t a contradiction, then nothing is).

    And then this article didn’t even touch on Matthew’s “prophecies” connected to this tale; the biggest in my mind being the virgin birth prophecy which has so many problems with it when trying to actually connect Isaiah 7 & 8 to Jesus.

    Now, if like ColorStorm, you look at a pile of puzzle pieces and proclaim, “It all Fits so perfectly,” without actually taking the time to assemble the pieces, then all of this may seem just fine – but when you actually take the time to see how each part fits together, it becomes pretty evident that they just do not.

    Liked by 2 people

  52. @william

    Having trouble where to reply, but you said this:

    ‘without actually taking the time to assemble the pieces,’ as the reason for holding fast to the narrative of scripture. Uh hello? It is exactly the opposite.

    It is understandable that you see shortcomings, especially if you were preconditioned by the lousy church of Christ doctrines, which are responsible for birthing spiritual dunces.

    It is precisely WHY your alleged contractions have no merit, as the record has been untouched, at the risk of the scripture writers reputation.

    Maybe you have heard about the field of blood that Judas bought……….when he was dead! Ha!
    That’s right, he did, for the clue is given in the text. It was ‘blood money,’ and proper bookkeeping was necessary to justify the purchase. Zero contradiction, and the gripes of atheists and unbelievers throughout the world are laid bare.

    But your greater concern should be: did Judas live? was he an apostle? did he betray the Lord? was there a last supper where he was present? did he lead the religious men in the dark of night to ply his wiles? was the Lord taken prisoner? did Peter warm himself by the fire? did a maiden question him as to his friendship with the Lord? did he go out and weep bitterly? was the Lord taken to Pilate? was there a town called Bethlehem? was there a town called Nazareth? did Golgotha exist?

    Of course you know the answer to these questions, and it is simply a cold heart which looks for distractions. Sorry, but ti the truth.

    But this is why you and others spend a lifetime trying to find ‘errors’ in scripture, and come up empty. Everytime.

    Like

  53. ColorStorm,

    It is good to see that we have some common ground, even if it’s only surrounding the plight of the church of Christ.

    But I wasn’t asking about or talking about the death of Judas, but specifically about the birth narrative as written about in Luke and Matthew as well as on this blog post. Nate says there’s contradictions, walks us through the text, points out the issues and explains why they’re issues.

    You have said he’s mistaken.

    Can you do the same as he did, walk us through the text, except show how the issues that nate has pointed out and explained, are actually not in conflict, and show how they are in harmony?

    From here, it looks as if any religion or any contradiction can be excused and resolved in the same manner that you’re trying to excuse and resolve the bible’s issues. And from here it looks like it’s not much more than to avoid the specific details and simply state that there are no contradictions – maybe even avoid the subject altogether by bringing up another one.

    I do realize that I could be mistaken – I certainly have been before, and recognizing that has led me here.

    Liked by 2 people

  54. @william

    You said this:

    ‘in the same manner that you’re trying to excuse and resolve the bible’s ..’

    Nope. No excuse. I mentioned Judas for one reason. The so-called contradictions of his life and death are nothing but poor and sloppy reading; the same that can be said regarding any so called contradictions.

    And I am trying to resolve nothing. There is nothing to resolve. The narrative of scripture speaks for itself, and is more than willing to present itself as truth to anybody who will take the time to recognize that it is not Readers Digest. God’s words requires God’s tools. Pride is a broken tool.

    Perhaps you have not unpeeled the layers to satisfy your queries. Seek and ye shall find.

    Like

  55. Good morning. Had not planned an in depth conversation so early in my day but let us see where this will go.

    I can see we don’t agree on much. However the fact is the sun doesn’t revolve around the earth and the earth is not flat. Those are facts. It is not the same as you saying the sun rose this morning. The significance of the known fact being wrong in the bible shows that it was not written by an all knowing god, but instead by very limited men who knew little about the sciences we take for granted today. Those men who wrote the bible knew only what was in their area and it shows in what was written in the bible. That is why it is important the errors of the bible. It takes away the deity of the book, and opens it up to being a book of myths.

    Again we are not in agreement over the adam and eve thing. The fact that these humans that we all link back to were not alive at the same time together rather clearly says that we are not descendant from the adam and eve of the bible. The story says we have all sinned because those two did. But the genetics prove the ones we are linked back to can’t have been adam and eve even if they existed, as if they did that line all died out. That means no sin in current man and no need for salvation, which means no need for a christ to come and die for man.

    For much more detailed explanation of the project’s findings and what it means both the godless cranium and Arkenaten did great break downs of it.

    Again on the flood the whole idea of Noah and the ark is beyond silly. That people like Ken Ham are still peddling it to children is very harmful for their education. I disagree the flood story is a “vehicle of truth” in any way. The fable of the dog in the manger is a great example of a teachable story. The way the bible presents the ark is not. IMO.
    Sorry I don’t get your defence of the bible with the saying wrong is a different word than untrue. In fact the bible is both. I don’t think you have to have a bible to have a deity. IF you want to make up a god, make one up. But to make one up that is based on falsehoods, untruths and yes a book that has things wrong all through it is not a very good god. Not to mention the god of the bible is morally despicable. I know people who claim to love their god. Their god has nothing to do with the bible, it is a great being of infinite love and caring, able assist them in every part of their life. This god gives them comfort and can not be handicapped by a failed collections of stories in a single book.

    I am not debating your god. I am saying a god based on the bible is a horrible god if it exists and not worthy of consideration or worship.

    I do listen to those with the skills and judgment to show their argument is factual. I do not need to hear both sides of the global flood story to know it did not happen. I do not need to listen nor do I believe in apologetics. I do believe people such as Victoria, Nan, Ark, and many others who come here are knowledgeable about the subjects and correct in their assessment. I simply believe in what Matt Dillahunty and Aron Ra and Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins have shown to be true. I have hear the debates and I agree with them. Throw in Sam Harris once in awhile for good measure. As I agree with these people, I respect their intelligence, I accept their knowledge of the subject, feel repeating what they have said to be a overly strong statement. I do not need to be able to dream up and figure out the whole theory of general relativity to be able to write E=MC squared.

    However your point about tone is important. I do agree that sometimes without meaning to we do let tones creep into our words we don’t intend. I went back over everything I wrote last night to see if I felt I was overbearing or coming on too strong. I did not see it in what I wrote. In fact I was feeling rather mellow and accepting last night. The comment here I think would be more of a strongly worded and stated with more conviction than last nights. But it is early for me and I am still trying to get things percolating in the old body. 🙂

    “Afterall if it was so important to an omnipotent, all powerful, all knowing deity to have everyone in the world know about it and its plan, it would simply make it known.”
    What makes you think the “if” part of that statement is true? Because such a deity did not do so, therefore if it could it did not care enough to do so, and if it couldn’t it is not the omnipotent all powerful all knowing deity. Sorry but I think you are nit picking here. The sentence is self explanatory.

    I will accept the parts about your faith and why you have it. I do this because it is personal and it is something only you know for sure. I don’t think anyone especially me should try to tell others what they believe or how they feel. I will say we disagree. We greatly disagree. I don’t think not have Christianity in my life diminished it in any way. I personally think it makes my life much better. I am free to explore the world as it really is. I am free to accept science, history , cosmetology, and so many other facets of understand we humans have gained in the world. I do not have to deny them to follow the error filled holy book. I like that freedom to live in this century, not the disproven ideas of up to 2000 years ago.

    Your faith is your own and your own right. I won’t argue that at all, it is true. I believe religions should be joined into and taught to the consenting. Children can’t consent. I do not think that they should be indoctrinated until a more developed age, like 16 or 18. Some say 12 is OK. I Do think if an adult wants to have superstitions, myths, beliefs, it is their right. All I ask is keep it out of the secular government, out of the laws, out of the schools. Simply stop trying to force others to live by a religion they don’t agree with. Now I did not say you do this, but the majority of religious people do. Your comment about your feeling sad I am missing out on a lot shows me how you view this. I assure you I am great and fine with my own beliefs and systems. What is more I do not feel the need to take yours from you. I welcome you to your faith and wish you the best. I just don’t want any part of it.

    Be well and happy, this is again really long, Nate will start putting a word limit on me. 🙂 I have to run and start the day’s emails, things are again piling up. Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

  56. Pingback: The ”Benefits” of Being a Christian and all those wonderful things atheists miss out on …. according to Unklee – A Tale Unfolds

  57. ColorStorm,

    it may not be me who’s guilty of sloppy reading, as twice you’ve turned to discussing Judas death with me and I have yet to say a word on that topic and have asked you specific questions about a different topic.

    Again, here we’re talking about the birth narrative in Luke in Matthew. After your numerous comments, I think I get an idea of your position. I tend to look for a little more than, “nu uh, you’re wrong, the bible is always right, and by the way Judas death…”

    I’ve noted your disagreement with nate’s position and have also noted your lack of a detailed response and demonstration. Interestingly (perhaps only to me), you remind me of the bible’s authors, making a claim, but offering no backup in support.

    I hope your Christmas was a delight and that your New Year will only be better.

    Liked by 2 people

  58. ColorStorm,

    you sited “Seek and ye shall find.” I actually think on Matthew 7 and that verse often.

    What do you seek, to show that the bible is God’s inerrant Word, or the truth (whether you like it or not)?

    If the former, then perhaps you don’t realize you’re starting with a conclusion and working backwards. If the latter, then good luck to you on your quest.

    Liked by 1 person

  59. ColoStorm,

    I think this,

    “But if the testimony of scripture does not suffice, then all the ‘arguing’ by myself on a matter which has long been settled will be to no avail.”

    is true.

    For me, the testimony of the scriptures is nothing more than an assortment of claims made by men. These men only claim to speak for god, and this claim isn’t unique to them or this religion. So unless we’re going to just accept anything anyone claims regarding God(s), then we have to use to something to establish whether we can believe those claims or not, whether those claims actually have any support.

    In my seeking, I have found that the bible is not of God, but merely of men, though it does have some value inside it.

    If I’m wrong, then God will do to me as he sees fit, but will know my heart was sincere and that I made every effort to not make the same mistake as the young prophet in 1 Kings 13.

    And if you’re wrong… Odin help you.

    Liked by 2 people

  60. Gary

    Excellent article, Nate. I will repost it on my blog.

    Christians have had 2,000 years to find harmonizations for every discrepancy in the Holy Bible and here is the harmonization I grew up with for the two Birth Narratives: Mary and Joseph were from Nazareth. They went to Joseph’s ancestral home town, Bethlehem, for the census where Mary gave birth to Jesus in a stable. Days later, they passed through Jerusalem for Mary’s purification and then returned to Nazareth.

    At some time before Jesus was two years old, the family moved to Bethlehem. This is where the Wise Men found them. After being told by an angel of the impending slaughter of the Innocents, Joseph took the family to Egypt. Years later, the family returned to Nazareth.

    As for the census, Christians are always alleging new discoveries that confirm a world wide census at the time of Jesus birth. The current claim is of an inscription in the wall of a Roman building in modern day Turkey about a world wide census.

    I did learn something new from Nate’s post: that Matthew refers to Nazareth as “a town called Nazareth”. If Matthew had known that this was Mary and Joseph’s home town (or even just Mary’s hometown) would he have referred to it in such a way? Very odd.

    And what about UnkleE’s claim that Luke’s account is accurate and Matthew’s account is loaded with fabrications? Why couldn’t both accounts be fabrications? After all, the original Gospel, Mark, has no birth narrative. Not only that, there is no mention of Jesus being born of a virgin in that Gospel. Isn’t it possible that BOTH birth narratives were theological inventions for the purpose of supporting the NEW claim that Jesus had been the Son of God since his birth, and not just since his baptism, as the Gospel of Mark seems to suggest? We have evidence of other embellishments in Luke’s writings. He is the only author who tells us of an Ascension off of the top of a mountain in front of his disciples. If such a dramatic event had happened, why didn’t Mark, Matthew, or John mention this event?

    Liked by 4 people

  61. Pingback: Why does Matthew not Know that Nazareth is Joseph and Mary’s Hometown? – Escaping Christian Fundamentalism

  62. UnkleE… not to put too fine a point on it. But how can the words used and the words meanings change if that is the word of a an all powerful , all knowing, everything in your life deity? That simply doesn’t make sense. Be well Hugs

    Like

  63. Thanks for all the comments, guys!

    UnkleE — I know the conversation has sort of moved past this, but I wanted to add one thing about your statement concerning Nazareth being Mary’s home and Bethlehem being Joseph’s. Luke says that they went to Bethlehem because of the census — and not because it was Joseph’s home, but because it was David’s, his ancestor. I also think re-translating the line “their own town” into “a city of their own” is not significant enough to alter the meaning. Basically, I think Luke’s account could have been written much more clearly if he meant what Stephen Carlson suggests.

    Gary, thanks for the compliment! And I also appreciate your offering the explanation that you used to accept regarding these 2 accounts. Out of curiosity, how do you view it now? I would say that this seems to fall into what William often talks about — any contradiction can be explained away by these sorts of inventions. But also, it seems odd (and a little convenient) to me that Mary and Joseph just happen to move back to Bethlehem. If they hadn’t, the wise men never would have found them at all, even though they obviously assumed that the Messiah was there. The other issue I see with it is that there’s still not much reason for them to have gone to Egypt. If they were already so familiar with Nazareth, it seems much more likely that they would have just gone back there instead.

    I’m sure this is something you’ve thought about since leaving Christianity — have you discovered any other flaws with it?

    Like

  64. Hi Scottie,

    I think you are having difficulties because you are still assuming I think things that I don’t think, and aren’t noticing what I have said. It doesn’t really matter if you understand what I think, or not, but it does matter if you are going to discuss with me. So let me correct a few places where you misunderstand me. I don’t expect you to agree with me, but at least you may be able to not argue against things I don’t think. OK?

    “how can the words used and the words meanings change if that is the word of a an all powerful , all knowing, everything in your life deity?”
    The Bible was NOT written by God. Christians generally don’t believe God dictated the words (like I think Muslims believe) or even gave people the words already written down (like I understand Mormons believe). We believe people wrote the words but God inspired them – sometimes directly with words, but mostly not. So it all comes down to the meaning of “inspiration”. I believe it means what we generally understand it to mean today – giving thoughts and impetus to, but not dictating.

    “it was not written by an all knowing god, but instead by very limited men who knew little about the sciences we take for granted today.”
    Yes. It was written in the language and scientific understanding of the day. It was written down after centuries of being told and re-told. That doesn’t make it mistaken – only mistaken if we take it for more than it was. If we understand it to be a foundational myth, just like other Ancient Near East foundational myths, then we will not be mistaken. Note: a myth isn’t necessary fiction – generally myths are stories based on facts but much developed and embellished to teach deeper truths that simple factual history. In the case of Genesis, it appears that the writers adapted existing myths to tell the truth (as they saw it, and I believe) that there was only one true God, not many, and that he was the ultimate creator.

    “The fact that these humans that we all link back to were not alive at the same time together”
    This is NOT a fact. The likely dates for mitochondrial Eve and Y chromosome Adam keep changing, as scientists get a better understanding of genetics and the rate of genetic change and mutation. It is MOST LIKELY that these two people didn’t live at the same time, but no-one knows exactly. We must make our statements fair to the evidence, don’t you think? I really think you need to read some of the experts on this – and from different viewpoints – the people you quote are generally from only one side of the question, and often they are not the best experts.

    “Sorry I don’t get your defence of the bible with the saying wrong is a different word than untrue.”
    I think we can see the distinction I am making here by asking questions like: Are the Harry Potter stories, or Shakespeare’s plays “wrong”? If we regard them as fiction, then “wrongness” doesn’t come into it. So if Genesis 1-11 is foundational myth, then it isn’t attempting to be history, and it isn’t “right” or “wrong as history. Rather it tells a story with a message, about God and the world. Now at a deeper level, you may regard its stories about God as “untrue”, but that is just your opinion, just as my opinion is different. So if a christian says the stories are historically true, you can legitimately argue that you think they are not. But such an argument is irrelevant to what I believe and am saying.

    ““Afterall if it was so important to an omnipotent, all powerful, all knowing deity to have everyone in the world know about it and its plan, it would simply make it known.”
    What makes you think the “if” part of that statement is true? Because such a deity did not do so, therefore if it could it did not care enough to do so, and if it couldn’t it is not the omnipotent all powerful all knowing deity. Sorry but I think you are nit picking here. The sentence is self explanatory.”

    But Scottie, you haven’t noticed you’ve made a big assumption here. Your argument implicitly assumes two things: (1) that people have to explicitly know God’s plan to respond to him and receive his grace, and (2) that the only way for them to do that is through knowing the facts in the Bible. Please read this carefully: I think both of those assumptions are at least partially incorrect. So before you draw your conclusion, I think you need to justify those assumptions.

    “What is more I do not feel the need to take yours from you. I welcome you to your faith and wish you the best. I just don’t want any part of it.”
    Thanks. That’s your choice Scottie, and I’m not interested in trying to argue you or anyone else into faith. But I said I felt sad because you are rejecting a belief very different from the one I hold. I can understand how you’ve come to the view you have, but I hope you can at least see that there is another way to understand the christian faith that is very different to what you are rejecting.

    Thanks again for the pleasant conversation, and for your intention to avoid offence. I hope I have similarly been inoffensive to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  65. Hi Nate, I guess neither of us want to keep going back and forth, but here is the text of Luke 2:3-4:

    “And everyone went to their own town to register. So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. “

    Now we can argue semantics (and since neither of us a fluent in NT Greek, we will both be arguing from ignorance!), but in English the “so” connects Joseph travelling from Nazareth to Bethlehem because everyone had to go to their home town. Yes, Luke does add the explanation that he was of the line of David, but that comes later, and isn’t explaining why he travelled, but why he lived in Bethlehem – that’s the noun the clause is closest to. I think if we were doing a high school English comprehension, that is how we’d understand it, though I accept it isn’t as clear as we would like it.

    But the killer is that “my” explanation accords with how the Romans did censuses and taxation, and “yours” does not. So granted there is some ambiguity, surely the facts about Roman practices should determine our interpretation?

    You and others here criticise christians for sticking to unlikely explanations for dogmatic reasons. I think sceptics are just as likely to do that, and this is one such case. If this was anything else but the gospels, Carlson’s explanation would be accepted as best fitting all the facts.

    Like

  66. @unkleE .. I have heard that the whole censuses thing in the bible does not line up with historical fact. So that is another big problem with the accuracy of the bible. That is why I keep saying having a faith or a deity is great, but not one connected to the Christian bible. I love Matt Dillahunty’s saying that if you want to know what is wrong with one version of Christianity, simply ask another Christian version and they will tell you what all is wrong with the other. . Be well. Hugs

    Like

  67. Hi unkleE, thanks for pointing that out. I must admit I didn’t glance back at verse 3 when I was writing my response to you, and that was a mistake brought on by laziness and imperfect memory — a dangerous combination.

    I agree with you that verse 3 gives more credence to Carlson’s explanation, though yes, the ambiguity still bothers me. I’m not sure why Luke thought it was necessary to add the bit about Joseph’s lineage if it had nothing to do with his traveling back to Nazareth, since there were probably plenty of other people who could claim descent from David and didn’t live in Bethlehem. It also calls into question why he didn’t have his own house in the town and why the whole family moved back to Nazareth after visiting Jerusalem, when you’d think it would have been Mary who would relocate to join his household. But I’ve downloaded Carlson’s paper and plan to read it when I have some time in the next couple of days.

    For me, the bigger issue is that Matthew’s account still seems irreconcilable with this one, but I know that’s not an issue you have much of a beef with, so I’ll just leave it there. 🙂

    And thanks for setting me straight on verse 3!

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  68. @unkleE, “My points was (“But I fear you have overstated the problems.”) that some of the anomalies Nate mentioned are in fact quite understandable once we get the best translation of some of the words and have an understanding of first century Jewish customs.

    Merry Christmas unkleE. I have always said that the Bible was never meant for present day readers. When you have to search for the best translation of the words, and have an understanding of first century Jewish customs , this alone is proof to me and others that this could not have been written with any connection attributed to a God.

    Like

  69. Hi Nate, thanks for that. Yes we are agreed, Matthew’s account is much more historically problematic than Luke’s.

    My guess on the reference to house of David is that it was important for theological reasons to have Jesus born, even nominally, from the kingly line. And so Luke points out that fact by explaining that his home town was “David’s town”.

    Like

  70. Merry Christmas to you too, kc. But no-one has to search for the best translation. For centuries people read the text, accepted it (generally) and it didn’t do them any harm. But in modern times people have become more critical, and so that criticism has to be addressed via scholarship. My problem arises (too often) when sceptics want to do the criticism without the scholarship.

    Like

  71. @unkleE… I am not sure why but your comment did not show up in my commet list.. I just found this one because I was looking at a comment by someone else. Ok this time we are going to try to keep it short before Nate gets upset with us on his blog.

    I take issue right off with your first statement that I am having difficulties. I have no such things as this subject goes. If you think I do please show me. If you think I do you have totally mistaken my point of view. In fact let me be clear, I feel people who cling to the christian faith to be limited and to denying reality. I thought I made that clear in my other responses.

    That you do not believe the bible was written or dictated by “GOD” makes you a minority. Everyone else I have met including the Pastors I grew up with claimed it was the “word of god”. But to this idea, if this is not the word of your god, but only of man, that means the whole dang religion is a man made thing having no authority. That means the whole thing the christian faith is based on is a man made fable, myth, or power play…which ever you choose.

    Dang you say myths are not necessarily fiction.. are your serious.. OK do you worship Odin, do you worship Zeus? There are far more forgotten gods in history than there are gods in favor now.
    I have to say after reading this I think you are jerking me around as I am trying to be nice.

    Ok let’s start with this. If you are a christian as you claim, then the bible is the basis of that claim, that religion. Yet we have both agreed that the bible is not written by the god, and is full of errors.
    So how can you base your diety on factual errors and proven mistakes?

    If man wrote the book describing the god, if they wrote the book creating it then it is not a deity, it is a man made fiction, no more than marvel’s superheroes or the X-men or even Harry Potter novels.

    As for adam and eve that whole thing is a miss direction and silly. You already said you did not believe it, then accept the science. Ok, two created humans, who have only sons.. and then we have a bunch of incest to get the whole ball of wax going. You and I both know that if it is the first and only people, it is not moral and not realistic. In fact while we are on the subject what was with all the incest in the bible? It sickens me personally. Any deity who claims that is OK, I have no interest in following it!

    I can’t believe you are equating your own holy book with a Harry Potter novel. The answer to that is so simple as to be stupidly silly. Look no one made a religion out of Harry Potter ( other than some really young boys and girls going through puberty. ) Are you jerking me around here, I had a temperature earlier of 101.6 and I am taking my time to answer you. I would not be happy to think you are just having a laugh at my expense.

    No my regarding stories about the Christian god as untrue are not my opinion, sorry they are based in fact. History is what it is, it doesn’t change based on what you want to believe. I had a similar argument with Godsmanfoever when he said the laws of nature don’t exists and that his god could overrule any known scientifically proven theory. I asked him if he was willing to go to the top of the highest building he knew and jump off believing his god would simply negate gravity. Guess what he wouldn’t. Again history is what it is, it has nothing to do with your faith or my disregarding of it. The fact is history has proven that most historical things mentioned in the bible simply did not happen. The bible is a geopolitical feel good work for those people living there.

    As far as it is just my opinion that your god does not exist, that is not on me to prove. It is up to you to prove it does. You are making the positive claim, therefore the burden is on you. I won’t let you shift it onto me because you can’t do it. I already told you if your god was all it is claimed to be it could simply communicate with all of us right now . No question, no doubt. But instead it requires fallible humans to do its biddings, and it has not manifested itself in 2000 years. Rather suspicious don’t you think?

    OK as to the “if” thing. Either your god wants everyone possible to be with him or he doesn’t. I say again either the god of the bible can or can not. As it has not, it can’t. It is that simple really.

    Ok the last thing. About believing in your god or not, I don’t think you can understand. See I have the freedom to do either one, I can believe or reject your god. You seem not able to. I thank you for being able to see the right of my views in our country and its government just I served in two different branches of the US military to give you the right to have your religion. I think you fail to see how many of the most vocal of your fellow believers in your god feel about pushing their beliefs on everyone else. I am not against your belief as you are a consenting adult, it is the cascading of it some want to force it into laws, schools, and the military.

    You have not been offensive to me in your tone or what you want to say. This morning I felt you were being needlessly nitpicking over words.. such as a former president answered “that depends on the meaning of is…is” . It is clear to me we are not going to agree. I also have no wish to continue to argue the points of the bible, others have done that far better than I. I have my view of the bible as I have stated. You have your view of your God. You have your view of your life, and I also have my own view of life. I simply have no interest in arguing those things out with you, because that would be me trying to take your religion from you, that I won’t do. I simply don’t want you to think your way is the best or the greatest, as it is only one way. As you cautioned me to be careful of such things. My life is full, grand, and far more complicated than we have ever discussed, but it has no need of a god for any reason.

    Be well and be happy. If you have new things we should talk about OK. But I have to say I am not really interested in arguing for just to argue. I am not interested in changing your mind nor will you change mind with the arguments you have provided, that is clear now. So unless there is something I missed I think we can give the people on this blog a break from us. Up to you. Hugs, be well. Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

  72. @unkleE, “What in the text we are discussing led to those things, do you think???”

    I didn’t refer to the text we are discussing. I stated , “The Bible”

    “St. Bernard of Clairvaux is perhaps the most well known promoter of the Crusades. He is credited for sparking the 2nd Crusade by writing very convincing letters to the Kings of Christendom.” His scripture references are listed here. http://christianity.stackexchange.com/questions/18954/what-passages-of-scripture-were-used-by-the-popes-and-crusaders-to-justify-the-c

    Lots of scripture listed here for the Inquisitions
    http://www.ironmaidencommentary.com/?url=album10_xfactor/inquisition&lang=eng&link=albums

    I believe Scotty provided references for the Witch Trials

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  73. Peter

    Well unkleE I have to give you credit for the Carlson argument, it is one I had not heard before and among the more ingenious ways of seeking to reconcile the disparate texts. However it is making a lot of assumptions and in my opinion make implications that go against the natural reading of the text. Perhaps Carlson could is correct, but it seems odd to me that the implication in Luke is that the family was already based in Nazareth whereas the implication in Matthew is that they were not.

    So full marks for ingenuity, but as I said in my earlier comment, if there is a god, then that God could have helped us all by removing these difficulties. after all the implication is that ‘God’ wants people to be ‘saved’ so it seems odd that same ‘God’ would allow unnecessary difficulties to remain.

    I realise you have a different view of what divine inspiration should be to me. I have heard others, such as Scholar Pete Enns, articulate a similar view of divine inspiration to that which you espouse. But I really struggle with that view. My faith crumbled once I reached the conclusion that the Bible contained errors.

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  74. Hi Scottie, yes I think now would be a good time to finish up. I’m sorry if I have said anything amiss. You asked me a question originally, and I tried to answer it honestly. Based on your latest comments, I think you still misunderstand what I believe, but since that doesn’t matter, I won’t try to explain again. Thanks for your time.

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  75. “among the more ingenious ways of seeking to reconcile the disparate texts”

    Hi Peter, I think you have missed the point of Carlson’s paper. He wasn’t in any way that I can recall trying to “reconcile the disparate texts”. I did a quick word search of the paper and the word “Matthew” is only mentioned twice, both in footnotes, likewise the word “Matthean”, which confirmed my memory that this wasn’t the purpose of the paper.

    He was doing a historical and linguistic analysis of Luke, on the basis that Luke is generally recognised as a fine historian (e.g. Maurice Casey describes Luke as “an outstanding historian by ancient standards”). He was trying to ascertain the likely facts, which I think he has done.

    I have said it before – I’m sorry your faith crumbled when you realised that the Bible contained errors. It didn’t have to be that way. There is virtually nothing of substance written in the entire history of the world that doesn’t contain errors, yet we manage to know and believe many things. If it is your considered conclusion that christianity isn’t true, then of course you shouldn’t believe it. But lack of an inerrant source of knowledge doesn’t seem to me to be a good reason to disbelieve anything. I suppose you won’t appreciate my writing this, but I think it is worth thinking about. Best wishes to you.

    Like

  76. Luke as “an outstanding historian by ancient standards”

    Hilarious! What a crock of rose fertilizer.

    He got the description of Nazareth wrong didn’t he?

    I dare you to show me a single, non-biblical piece of evidence for this;

    “all the world should be enrolled” (Lk. 2:1).

    Your arguments are generally self-serving at best, disingenuous at times and on occasion, idiotic.

    In the years I have read your blog and comments, you have carefully cherry picked almost every argument you have used to present your case for the veracity of your god.

    You have chiseled and whittled , sanded and polished and discarded anything that might force you to directly confront the obvious.

    And here you are, arguing for the writing of the unknown author of the gospel of Luke, and make claims he was an outstanding historian by ”ancient standards” with a tacit implication he might well have been the actual writer of this nonsense.

    Outstanding historian by ancient standards? Really?
    What this actually means is, that by modern standards he was a perfectly lousy historian and, in effect, his version of history should be judged as such.

    Yet you seem to somehow want to celebrate his awfulness as if it is something quaint; something to be cherished and then try to plead a case of veracity on the nativity on this inaccurate and sloppy writer?

    Why? Because it has Gospel attached to the name?
    Because the fate of your soul rests on you accepting at least some version of this nonsense?

    It is not the things you can squeeze out of this story- and it is a story, make no mistake – that for you might just have a smidgen of a ring of plausibility to still your tremulous heart, but the gaping holes, the utterly inaccurate and falsity of it,the sheer preposterous garbage, the historical and archaeological crap that you simply hand wave away and then have the temerity, the audacity to venture out and stridently
    claim it is, in some fashion truth.

    Liked by 1 person

  77. Peter

    Unk, the issue for me is not Luke’s relative standing as a historian but his absolute standing as being inspired by the creator of the universe. To compare Luke to other historians makes the Bible seem a book on a human level. The issue for me is that if the Bible is inspired by ‘God’ as claimed then it should rise above a human level.

    Raymond Brown in his Introduction to the New Testament notes the Census in Luke and the the rebellions referred to in Acts 5 as almost certain historical errors by Luke. As a human I am prepared to accept he can make errors, but a God who allows such errors seems to either lack power or has questionable methods.

    Other scholars, such as William Barclay observed that all of the moral teaching of Jesus is reworking of earlier Jewish or buddhist tradition, nothing original.

    Raymond Brown also notes that Mark made geographical errors in his Gospel that Luke and Matthew corrected. This just is not how I see a God operating. Perhaps ‘God’ is testing me, well if he is I failed the test. It was not through want of trying.

    Liked by 1 person

  78. Hi Peter, I am sympathetic with your journey and your predicament, if that’s any comfort! All I am saying is that the logical starting point for any consideration of the Bible is how the historians assess it as a normal historical document. As such, the historians generally agree it tells us certain things about Jesus. I think they are enough for us to make an assessment of him and his teachings. The question of the exact mode and outcome of God’s inspiration need not arise at that point. If treating the NT as historical texts like any others leads you to think Jesus isn’t true, then that is your conclusion regardless of whether and how it is inspired. Likewise if it leads you or me to believe Jesus is true, again inspiration doesn’t arise. That means that your assessment of how God “ought” to operate doesn’t come into it, which is fortunate, because none of us really know that. It isn’t too late to re-assess. Thanks.

    PS I think it does rise above the merely human, but not in the way and to the degree that you seem to require.

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  79. That means that your assessment of how God “ought” to operate doesn’t come into it, which is fortunate, because none of us really know that.

    Actually Peter’s point re: Inspired by Yahweh is crucial, as it is disingenuous people such as you, Unklee, that promote it as containing enough positive evidence to consider it truthful and worthy of trust. And this is even without once demonstrating the veracity that Yahweh is in fact anything but an ancient man-made deity.

    We are fortunate to be living in an age where such ignorance can be quickly exposed and the basis for this ignorance, and in this case your claims for any sort of veracity, revealed as the nonsense it is; as Gary also so recently demonstrated in his comprehensive dismantling of a book written by a former Pastor in his old denomination.

    Furthermore, attempting to make a case for ‘Luke’s’ version of the nativity story, merely diminishes even further the one in Matthew.

    Maybe it is about time you actually stepped forward and admitted that your belief is based solely on faith, and you simply harbour this fervent desire to find some grain of evidence of truth in the bible to strengthen the foundation of your , castle made of sand, even though, in your heart of hearts you recognise it is simply historical fiction.

    Liked by 1 person

  80. UnkleE,

    I’m glad you stick around and offer a different view. Like Peter, I struggle to really identify with your perspective on errors within a text that is supposed to be delivered to us by a perfect God, but I do value the opposing position and you often provide things to consider and certainly do your part to help us avoid falling into a strict echo chamber.

    Your point about Luke possibly showing that Joseph lived in Bethlehem while Mary lived in Nazareth is worth considering, but in order to accept it out right, we’d have to ignore other things that do not seem to add up to that in both Luke or Matthew.

    Like Peter, I also have to wonder why a perfect and all knowing God would compose a message that way. I feel like there’s two possibilities:

    1) since a perfect and all knowing God would know that these would present problems and doubts for people, he purposely allowed it to happen,

    or 2) the bible isn’t actually from a prefect and all knowing God, but just another composition of men.

    Since all other book we have aren’t inspired by God either, it seems reasonable to think the bible isn’t, based on percentages of probability, and observation – as well as other things I won’t bother addressing now.

    You said,

    “There is virtually nothing of substance written in the entire history of the world that doesn’t contain errors, yet we manage to know and believe many things…. But lack of an inerrant source of knowledge doesn’t seem to me to be a good reason to disbelieve anything.”

    I see what you’re trying to say, but I think that all the works in the history of world support my view point more than it does yours. Many of these other works, especially the old ones, make miraculous, divine and supernatural claims, yet we do not believe the supernatural claims and instead seek a natural interpretation – I suggest that if we review the bible in the same way, it actually makes more sense.

    And really, since all observation and experimentation has only pinpointed and proven physical natural events, while proving not a single supernatural event, then it would seem a natural explanation is automatically more likely than a supernatural one.

    Liked by 3 people

  81. Gary

    The primary source for the traditional authorship of the Gospels comes from Papias who said that John Mark wrote a Gospel in which he recorded the memoirs of Peter, not adding or leaving out a single detail. Are we to really imagine that Peter never told John Mark about the virgin birth of Jesus or that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, the city of David?

    If one reads the Gospels in the chronological order in which they were written, it is obvious that the story grows (embellishments) with each new telling. They are NOT trustworthy sources of historical information.

    Liked by 5 people

  82. All I am saying is that the logical starting point for any consideration of the Bible is how the historians assess it as a normal historical document. As such, the historians generally agree it tells us certain things about Jesus. I think they are enough for us to make an assessment of him and his teachings. The question of the exact mode and outcome of God’s inspiration need not arise at that point.

    I think if people truly looked at it this way, they wouldn’t be Christians. Historical analysis simply can not provide enough evidence for a person to reasonably conclude that Jesus was actually a god in man-form and that he carried the stamp of approval of the creator of the Universe. I mean, come on… How much sense would it make for God to have all of this stuff happen, but then rely on random individuals to tell the rest of us about it?

    The “historical accuracy” argument has always seemed like a textual version of “God of the gaps” to me. As more and more problems with the Bible have been uncovered, believers are forced to walk back the minimum requirements of belief.

    Liked by 3 people

  83. Gary

    Nate said, “Out of curiosity, how do you view it now?”

    I believe that both Luke and Matthew invented their stories for theological purposes. It is entirely possible that their initial audiences knew that their birth narratives were not historical but theological allegories to support the belief that Jesus had been born the Son of God. Only later generations of Christians understood them to be historical and tried to harmonize them.

    The harmonization for the family fleeing to Egypt instead of Nazareth: Herod and his troops stood in the way of the route north to Nazareth. Egypt was in the opposite direction and therefore the safest escape route. Besides, a prophecy needed to be fulfilled and that could only be done in Egypt!

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  84. After reading Unklee’s comments and his somewhat evasive cherry picking style of reply, his frame of reference is, as obvious as this might sound, Jesus of Nazareth.

    By this I mean, if one accepts that Jesus of Nazareth is who he is claimed to be then anything else is mere decoration.
    And former Christians here can tell me if I am way off base here.

    If one reads the gospels it becomes glaring apparent that the character Jesus clearly accepts the Old Testament as valid and many of the characters, Moses, Isaac, Abraham etc. to be genuine historical people as well.

    Thus if it’s okay by Jesus then it must, therefore be okay for the average believer.
    This then makes a mockery of even attempting to present a valid rebuttal as every demonstration will be hand waved or taken with a pinch of salt as nothing one can offer will be accepted as valid.

    It simply does not matter to an individual such as Unklee, who considers Jesus of Nazareth to be a god and perfect.

    This reminds me of a christian and scientist( his name escapes me for the moment) who openly admitted that if the scientific evidence unequivocally demonstrated his religious belief was false he would side with the bible.

    Liked by 3 people

  85. I think most believers, at least of the extreme/hyper sort, use the bible to validate evidence, instead of using evidence to validate the bible. To them, the bible is the only true thing, period.

    Liked by 5 people

  86. Ark, I think you hit the proverbial nail on the head. 🙂

    I watched a video of apologist Tim Keller and he did the classic theological two step regarding veracity of Old T tales Adam and Eve , Abraham etc, and made the Jesus claim and I thought: Wow, this is how they all approach it!
    Because they beleive JC was perfect and JC believed the OT then it matters not one Iota what evidence is produced, it must be false. They really don’t give a shit!

    As Wally once labelled me the Son of the Devil, they must all think, in their own way that we are all tools of Satan somehow.

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  87. Hey Nate. Hope you had a very merry Christmas and hope you have a happy new year as well. Speaking of new years do you have any plans for your blog for 2017 or are you like me as in just taking blogging one day at a time?

    As usual the discussion here has been good and I’m with William in being glad that Eric (Unklee) sticks around offering a different point of view. It keeps your blog alive and kicking. As far as Eric’s views go I think this statement of his (which he wrote to Peter) probably represents one of the most important points he makes regarding the bible (at least for me): “I think [the bible] does rise above the merely human, but not in the way and to the degree that you seem to require.” I’m not sure though that there is a clear cut objective way to create a measuring stick for a statement like that. Many of us here on your blog have certainly given this kind of more progressive viewpoint a chance but the bible just doesn’t seem to rise above the level of “merely human” for us. That might be an interesting angle that you and Eric could discuss in the future though – e.g. what are Eric’s reasons for thinking it rises above merely human and why those reasons aren’t convincing to you.

    One thing is for sure though – Eric does a good job of showing why one cannot hold to the use of logic, reason, evidence and consistency in their pursuit of truth and at the same time keep to a worldview like ColorStorm’s.

    Liked by 2 people

  88. I’m glad you stick around and offer a different view.
    Hi William. Thanks. I appreciate that Nate allows me that opportunity, and that others like you respond courteously. There is a lot worthy of comment in what you have said.

    Your point about Luke possibly showing that Joseph lived in Bethlehem while Mary lived in Nazareth is worth considering, but in order to accept it out right, we’d have to ignore other things that do not seem to add up to that in both Luke or Matthew.
    I think Luke’s account makes sense, the only real difficulty being whether the census and Quirinius could have been true in about 6-5 BCE. There is some evidence for that, but not strong. Most of the problems are in Matthew, and it is well known that Matthew is more fanciful, or, to be more accurate, he uses a “midrash” approach which goes beyond historical fact to interpret the events. It was acceptable practice back then, but not today.

    1) since a perfect and all knowing God would know that these would present problems and doubts for people, he purposely allowed it to happen
    I have to agree with that. The question then becomes, why would he do that?

    or 2) the bible isn’t actually from a prefect and all knowing God, but just another composition of men.
    I think this is the nub of the misunderstanding of several people here, so let’s look at it. You have suggested two alternatives – either from a perfect God or just another human work. But this is (I think) the fallacy of the excluded middle. In this case, the middle option you’ve excluded is that God may have inspired people to write it, but not dictated it. That means it is neither a perfect document directly from God, nor just another human book -it is a mix of human and divine, so it contains errors and views that were relevant at the time but not now, but it also contains divine truth. I’m not suggesting (yet) that you should believe that option, just that you should consider it.

    Since all other book we have aren’t inspired by God either, it seems reasonable to think the bible isn’t, based on percentages of probability, and observation – as well as other things I won’t bother addressing now.
    I think too that is a reasonable place to start. But again we have to be sure we aren’t excluding some options from consideration. In this case, we need to carefully define “inspiration”. It is often used in these discussions to mean something close to perfect dictation, but that isn’t how we normally use the word, and I don’t believe it was how it was originally meant.

    I see what you’re trying to say, but I think that all the works in the history of world support my view point more than it does yours. Many of these other works, especially the old ones, make miraculous, divine and supernatural claims, yet we do not believe the supernatural claims and instead seek a natural interpretation – I suggest that if we review the bible in the same way, it actually makes more sense.
    Yes, I suggest exactly the same. You’ll notice I never ask people to believe something because it is in the Bible, but because it is good history, or good science or good philosophy. And historians are used to dealing with documents with miraculous claims, and are quite capable of putting them aside without prejudicing the rest of the document – if they didn’t do that, we’d have very little history. So the logic goes like this:

    1. What do historians say about the gospels and the life of Jesus?
    2. From that, what conclusions can I make about Jesus’ claims – i.e. who he was?
    3. From that, what do I then think about the inspiration of the Bible?

    Many christians are saying the same thing these days – we believe in the Bible because we believe in Jesus, not the other way round (and “believe in” doesn’t necessarily mean believing it is inerrant).

    And really, since all observation and experimentation has only pinpointed and proven physical natural events, while proving not a single supernatural event, then it would seem a natural explanation is automatically more likely than a supernatural one.
    “Proof” is a very loaded word. Strictly speaking, NOTHING in science is “proven”, all is subject to further evidence and verification/falsification, and most is “known” only to a given degree of statistical confidence. So we are talking probabilities. I believe there is very good probabilisitic evidence of the supernatural.

    Thanks for the opportunity to explain how I see all this.

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  89. Gary

    “we believe in the Bible because we believe in Jesus”

    This is key to understanding UnkleE’s (Eric’s) belief system. His belief system really isn’t based on historical or textual evidence. It is based on personal experiences of perceived miracles; perceived miracles in Eric’s life and in those of other Christians. As long as Eric believes that Jesus has cured someone of end-stage cancer or some other unexplainable feat, no amount of historical and textual evidence to the contrary is going to convince him that Jesus is still dead and buried somewhere in the sands of the Middle East.

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  90. Gary

    Here is what Christians who believe in Jesus because of perceived miracles need to understand: If every time that a Christian prays to Jesus the prayer is answered, then we should take seriously the Christian claim that Jesus answers prayer. But even Christians must admit that not all prayers are answered. In fact, I bet that most Christians will admit that MOST prayers are not answered.

    So if Christians are ALWAYS praying for EVERYTHING but only a FEW prayers are answered, the fact that a RARE healing occasionally occurs after a prayer to Jesus should be seen for what it is: random chance, not a miracle.

    Liked by 1 person

  91. Gary

    And think about this: If Jesus really does answer prayer, why does he only answer prayers that can be chalked up to random chance? Why doesn’t Jesus ever heal major limb amputees? Why doesn’t Jesus ever heal the guy who just got beheaded? Why doesn’t Jesus ever levitate a Chrysler in the middle of Times Square, for Pete’s sake?

    Isn’t it obvious, folks? There are no miracles. There are only random, rare, coincidences that superstitious people perceive to be miracles just because one of the hundreds of things they prayed for that week came true!

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  92. ”Historical analysis simply can not provide enough evidence for a person to reasonably conclude that Jesus was actually a god in man-form and that he carried the stamp of approval of the creator of the Universe.”

    Hi Nate, naturally I wanted to respond to this – not to try to convert you but to outline why I think it isn’t as ridiculous as you think.

    1. We need a decent basis for making a case either way. I suggest the following two elements. (i) We use secular evidence from the best experts (if necessary we can argue who they are). (ii) The best case is the one that explains the most evidence in a plausible way.

    2. We also need to not start with any presumptions. On my part, not a presumption of theism or of the Bible being true. On your part not a presumption that the supernatural can’t occur – when discussing jesus, this begs the question.

    Sceptics often reference Hume to say that even if a miracle occurred we couldn’t know. But Hume’s argument is built on the view that there is ”a firm and unalterable experience” of the laws of nature not being “broken”. But this simply isn’t true. Surveys show that the majority of people believe miracles have occurred, and Craig Keener has estimated that something like 300 million people believe they have experienced or observed a miracle of healing. So Hume may have believed that no miracles occurred, but there is a case to say that human experience is not at all opposed to them.

    3.Scholars argue about how reliable or not the gospels are, but there are a bunch of events, sayings and passages that there is broad agreement are probably historical (by the normal standards of historical analysis, often more rigorous in the case of the NT). Based on these passages, events and sayings alone, we can say:

    * People of the day believed Jesus performed healing miracles, and the evidence is strong enough that non-believing historians like Michael Grant and Maurice Casey conclude that Jesus did indeed heal people, but by natural “folk” or “mind over matter” means.

    * Jesus did and said a whole bunch of things that are claims to be more than an ordinary person. Some say these were “only” claims to be a special messenger from God, a prophet, or even the Messiah (who wasn’t expected to be supernatural), but a reasonable case can be made that the claims imply divinity – see Jesus – son of God?

    * Most historians conclude that Jesus’ tomb was empty and/or his followers had visions of him alive after his death. It is now generally agreed that belief that he had been resurrected arose very early – within the first few months, or few years at most – and led to (i) him being worshipped in a way that it wasn’t lawful for a Jew to worship a human being, and (ii) the spread of christianity throughout the Roman Empire. NT Wright is acknowledged as one of the leading NT historians (I can give you references to his status), and his book The Resurrection of the Son of God presents a strong argument (summarised here and here) that no other explanation explains the historical facts like the conclusions that he really was resurrected.

    I think I could argue all this in detail with full references to the best scholars. And I think therefore I can say quite reasonably that if we had similar historical evidence for a non-controversial fact, it would be well accepted. In other words, it isn’t a lack of historical evidence that prevents people from concluding Jesus was the son of God, but a predisposition that the supernatural/God cannot be true, or not like this. So rather than believers needing to make special self-serving assumptions (I just start with an open mind), it is unbelievers who make the presumption against the supernatural.

    So I submit to you that I don’t have a “god of the gaps” belief, but a thoroughly historical belief. Of course there are other arguments to consider (e.g. first cause, problem of evil, fine-tuning, God’s hiddenness, etc) but I think I have good grounds for my belief in Jesus. Thanks.

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  93. Bystander comments:

    … need to not start with any presumptions. Is this even possible?

    … explains the most evidence in a plausible way. Who decides?

    But this simply isn’t true and It is now generally agreed that belief that he had been resurrected Sounds like a presumption has already been formed.

    it isn’t a lack of historical evidence that prevents people from concluding Jesus was the son of God, but a predisposition that the supernatural/God cannot be true And you clearly state your predisposition.

    How can a non-biased, non-prejudicial discussion even be possible?

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  94. @unkleE, “On your part not a presumption that the supernatural can’t occur – when discussing jesus, this begs the question”

    This is the problem, unkleE. Why can’t we presume that the supernatural can’t occur???

    @unkleE, “People of the day believed Jesus performed healing miracles, ”

    Millions of people witnessed supernatural healings attending or watching on TV the crusades performed by Oral Roberts, Kathryn Kuhlman, A.A. Allen, Jack Coe, Benny Hinn and Peter Popoff just to name a small few.

    We have more evidence of these healings than we have of the probably less than 100 healings of Jesus.

    Are you ready to say you believe in these Faith Healers as much or more than you believe in the healings of Jesus based on the evidence ? If not, why not ?

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  95. Gary

    Let’s examine Eric’s argument. Eric wants us to allow for the existence of the supernatural. I say that we do so—but—under these conditions: We allow for the possibility that a supernatural Creator exists, but all evidence points to the fact that if such a supernatural Creator exists, he has chosen that the universe will operate by set, inviolable natural laws. There is no good evidence whatsoever that the natural laws of the universe have ever been violated. There may be millions of anecdotal claims of violations of such laws, but none have been documented. Craig Keener admits in his book that he spent ZERO funds on research. All of his miracle claims are based on anecdotes.

    The scientific method has proven, so far, to be the most reliable and reproducible method of evaluating our world and defining reality. I suggest that we be open to the possibility of miracles but alleged miracles must stand up to scrutiny. In particular, if miracles exist, they must be shown to occur, at least occasionally, under observable conditions where scientists can observe the miracle as it happens. At present, miracles only seem to occur in the presence of believers and out of the spotlight of cameras and video recorders.

    Just because people of Jesus day believed he performed miracles doesn’t mean he did. Thousands of Pentecostal Christians and millions of Hindus believe that fantastical miracles are occurring as we speak, but that doesn’t mean that they really are.

    Eric’s claim that most “historians” believe that Jesus tomb was empty is false. The correct claim is that a literature search of articles written by NT scholars between the years of 1975 and 2005 showed that 75% of the authors of these articles favored the historicity of the empty tomb. Whether or not a majority of NT scholars in 2016 holds such a view is unknown.

    I read NT Wright’s book. His principle argument is that no first century Jew would have believed in the resurrection of one individual without having seen the resurrected body of that individual with his own two eyes. There are three problems with this argument. First, the overwhelming majority of first century Jews did NOT believe the Jesus resurrection story. Second, Jesus had been telling his disciples for three years that he would rise from the dead so the fact that a few of them believed this rumor after his death should not come as a surprise, and third, Jews in Asia Minor came to believe in the Resurrection without seeing a resurrected body, but by “reading the Scriptures”, if we believe Paul. So Wright’s theory is proven false.

    Yes, most scholars believe that very early on, Christians believed that Jesus had been raised from the dead.

    But the majority of scholars also do not believe that the Gospels were written by eyewitnesses or their close associates. So put this all together and what do you have: A small group of Galilean peasants came to believe that their dead friend had come back to visit them, just as he had promised. Thousands of grieving people have claimed to have seen their dead loved ones and friends. We don’t believe them, so why should we believe a bunch of Galilean fishermen?

    Liked by 3 people

  96. Hi Howie, and best wishes to you.

    “Many of us here on your blog have certainly given this kind of more progressive viewpoint a chance but the bible just doesn’t seem to rise above the level of “merely human” for us.”

    Just to clarify, I base my views on Jesus on the Bible as a historical document as assessed by secular historians. I conclude that Jesus is believable as the son of God, and this is more believable then any other option). Then I conclude that the Bible is inspired, but only in ways that are consistent with the historical evidence.

    So it doesn’t have to rise above “merely human” to believe in Jesus as I do.

    Like

  97. Gary

    Eric: “no other explanation explains the historical facts like the conclusions that he really was resurrected.”

    This is Christian wishful thinking. What historical facts are there? Let’s look at them…the few that there are:

    1. An Empty Tomb.
    Even if there was an Empty Tomb, there are many, much more probable, NATURAL explanations for an empty tomb than a once in history resurrection.

    2. The early belief that Jesus had appeared to some of his followers.
    As mentioned above, many thousands of people have claimed to have received appearances from their recently departed dead friends and loved ones. Probability says that the disciples mistook vivid dreams, visions, or trances for reality.

    What other evidence is there? Eyewitness testimony? Nope. Not according to the consensus of scholars! The claim that eyewitnesses or their associates wrote the four gospels is no longer held by the majority of scholars. Even conservative scholars admit this (read Richard Bauckham’s, “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses”).

    Liked by 1 person

  98. People of the day believed Jesus performed healing miracles, and the evidence is strong enough that non-believing historians like Michael Grant and Maurice Casey conclude that Jesus did indeed heal people, but by natural “folk” or “mind over matter” means.

    This statement needs to be taken to the cleaners and trashed once and for all.

    The ONLY point of reference for unklee or any believer to make such an assertion is the bible.

    The bible can never be regarded as accurate or reliable history and there is not a single contemporary piece of evidence to back a single thing, and especially anything related to smelly little itinerant preacher running around curing people.

    Unklee openly stated that we should begin from a position of no presupposing and almost straight off the bat he is doing it.

    He is now either being willfully ignorant and obtuse or is simply stupid, and I am really struggling to find a middle ground for his behavior.

    Liked by 1 person

  99. Oh, and as Unklee is so very keen on citing his non-Christian historians, even if some readers might might find his choice of scholar somewhat repetitive as he continually tries to bleed out credibility from his pseudo-fundamentalist position, I came across this somewhat less fawning review of Grant’s ”Historical Jesus” from Neil Godfrey’s site …
    Just to put things into a little more honest perspective

    http://vridar.org/2013/02/25/the-historical-jesus-and-the-demise-of-history-3a-how-one-popular-historian-follows-jesus-to-scholarly-perdition-pt-1/

    http://vridar.org/category/book-reviews-notes/grant-jesus-historians-view/

    Here is one scholar’s view of Grant’s approach.

    ”One New Testament scholar points out exactly what Michael Grant is doing and it is not history. It is outdated New Testament hermeneutics. ”

    Liked by 1 person

  100. Peter

    Ark that was fascinating to read the analysis of Michael Grant’s approach. I could summarise his approach as something along the lines of, ‘the early church would surely not have made up this story so it must be true’.

    So Grant’s conclusions are based not upon evidence but rather upon his particular brand of reasoning.

    Richard Carrier, disdained by so many, nevertheless is very effective in providing contemporary examples to show how many of the assumptions used in the reasoning of historians don’t necessarily apply in reality.

    Liked by 1 person

  101. @Peter.

    Over the past couple of years it has become almost painful to read comments from people like Unklee as they struggle desperately to formulate a response that they believe will not only justify their personal views regarding the supernatural, but in some manner actually make a case for historical and scientific veracity.

    So, as archaeology (science) and genuine biblical scholarship move forward, it is becoming increasingly obvious that this is nothing but a pipe dream.

    If it were not for the wide acceptance of religion – well, some religions – a person behaving in this manner would, in all likelihood, be deemed mentally unstable. In fact, I am fairly sure that many deconverts now look upon their former indoctrinated selves with similar incredulity.

    Hanging on to the barbaric death-cult mythology of Christianity, or any such religion for that matter, is not only demeaning, being nothing more than a perverse symptom of cultural indoctrination, it is, quite frankly, obscene.

    Ark.

    Liked by 1 person

  102. Gary

    Actually, contrary to what Eric believes, the traditional Christian belief system is held together almost exclusively by minority expert positions.

    Eyewitnesses or their associates wrote the Gospels: minority position of scholars
    Papias was a reliable source of information: minority position of scholars

    Without eyewitness testimony and without Papias’ statements on the authorship of the Gospels, the credibility of the supernatural claims of Christianity completely collapses. This is the current state of affairs of New Testament scholarship that Eric and other conservative/moderate Christians so desperately do not want to accept.

    Liked by 2 people

  103. @Jon
    Ehrman devotes rather a lot of his post slating Rene Salm.

    It would appear you haven’t followed this particular topic on this thread and it doesn’t look as if you have studied Ehrman’s article thoroughly either, Jon.

    Maybe you haven’t at least read the archaeological history of the tombs, it seems.

    Have you read anything of Bagatti’s initial report and survey or even the Nazareth Farm Report?

    And Ehrman also cites Alexandre.
    Maybe you missed this?

    “In 2009, Israeli Christian archaeologist Yardenna Alexandre claimed to have excavated archaeological remains in Nazareth that might date to the time of Jesus in the early Roman period. <strong<Unfortunately this has not been corroborated by the IAA[41] or any other reliable archaeological sources.” (wiki)

    Worth a rethink perhaps? What say you Jon?

    Like

  104. Jon

    It is not clear to me what your objection is. If you have a point to make about the archaeological history of the tombs or one of Ehrman’s points, make it!

    I am also unclear what “has not been corroborated by the IAA” means, given that Alexandre was the excavation director for the IAA on this project. Here is a report from the Israel Antiquities Authority about the Alexandre excavation.
    http://www.antiquities.org.il/article_eng.aspx?sec_id=25&subj_id=240&id=1638

    An archaeological excavation the Israel Antiquities Authority recently conducted has revealed new information about ancient Nazareth from the time of Jesus. Remains of a dwelling that date to the Early Roman period were discovered for the first time in an excavation…

    According to Yardenna Alexandre, excavation director on behalf of the Israel Antiquities Authority…

    At the very most, Nazareth was a tiny cluster of homes with a tiny population. It makes no difference to me whether it was populated around the time of Jesus birth or not, but I don’t see why the prospect of a few families/couple hundred people living there is so implausible.

    Like

  105. Charity Burke

    A few days before Christmas I had an interesting discussion with my 11 year old son about the “holy family”. It blew his mind that Mary (if she existed) was only 12 to 15 years old at the birth of Jesus. I could see that he really struggled with that. He already knew that if Joseph existed he was a great deal older than Mary. It’s as though he was picturing a girl from his middle school in that predicament and it really bothered him.

    My preteen, self-proclaimed atheist child is absolutely troubled by this disturbing theology, while Christian adults four to five times his age find it “beautiful”. That’s something to think about.

    Liked by 3 people

  106. Gary

    Jon,

    I am curious. What is your point about Nazareth? Do you believe that if archeology proves that Nazareth existed at the time of Jesus that this proves the Birth Narratives in Matthew and Luke true? If so, would you explain?

    Like

  107. Jon

    Gary

    What is your point about Nazareth?

    I don’t think I really had a point beyond what I wrote.

    Do you believe that if archeology proves that Nazareth existed at the time of Jesus that this proves the Birth Narratives in Matthew and Luke true?

    No, the birth narratives are individually implausible and collectively irreconcilable. I just don’t think all the other problems with the birth narratives require us to also believe Nazareth must have been invented.

    Like

  108. Gary and Ark,

    I think Jon has a good point. There seems to be a strong push among skeptics on the internet for claiming Nazareth didn’t exist in the first century and there are multiple secular sources which indicate that is likely not true. Even Richard Carrier has tried to debunk this claim. Here’s one example:
    http://richardcarrier.blogspot.com/2009/03/craig-debate-wrap.html?showComment=1239740100000#c8085560906076284692

    He also talks about Nazareth in the first century in his book “Not the Impossible Faith”.

    While it doesn’t change the gist of Nate’s argument in this piece, maybe since that claim is brought up a lot on the internet Jon felt it was worthy enough to correct.

    Like

  109. Peter

    @Gary, yes it is interesting to see the reliance on Papias. The first real historian of the Church, Eusebius of Caesarea cast aspersions on the reliability of Papias after reviewing some of Papias’ other writings (these included Judas not dying as recorded in the Bible but instead being affiliated with giant testicles and an enormous head).

    The simple reason for the reliance on Papias is that there is no other source. Interestingly the historians seem to happy to accept what Papias wrote about Mark’s Gospel, but not what he wrote about Matthews (where Papias said it was originally written in Hebrew). The reason the Matthew claim is questioned is that the textual experts consider the Greek version of Matthew to show none of the telltale signs of a translation.

    Speaking of Greek compositions. One has to wonder about John’s Gospel. In the interchange with Nicodemus in John 3, the Greek text includes clever word plays in Greek. The problem is that these word plays could not have possibly worked if it was a translation of an Aramaic conversation. This is more evidence that points to the Gospel account being a later invention rather than a record of any actual conversation.

    Like

  110. The point regarding Alexandre is this: Ehrman cites her work as likely evidence and yet her claims have not been corroborated by any other archaeologist.

    Surely you recognise the significance regarding her claims having not been corroborated?

    As you must have noted, she is also a Christian, although I realise I will likely be metaphorically burned at the stake for raising that point.

    I am not an archaeologist and for me to attempt to write an entire explanation about why Ehrman’s piece is biased would be torn to shreds in an instant. Rightly so, as well!
    Thus, it’s probably best you read the pieces I suggested: Bagatti’s report and the Nazareth Farm Report and maybe even Salm’s work as well. Just Google it. I once downloaded the Nazareth Farm Report and I seem to recall reading Bagatti’s report and survey online as well.

    I also have doubts about Ehrman’s impartiality for writing that piece.
    Let me explain.
    He has very strong negative views regarding those who consider Jesus of Nazareth a myth/fictional character and this was one of the reasons he published a book on the supposed historicity of the character, thus, anything that might allude to Jesus of Nazareth not having been an historical figure will surely damage his rep as an historian in this regard.

    Not to sound like a conspiracy theorist but there are also millions and millions of dollars tied up in Nazareth being regarded as a real historical site at the time when Jesus of Nazareth and his mum and dad are claimed to have once lived.

    The Nazareth village project is worth a LOT of money. These days, you even get to see where Mary lived, apparently! How cool is that?

    It would piss a lot of people off if it turned out that not only was Jesus of Nazareth a narrative construct but that his home town never even existed at the time he was supposedly strutting his stuff and playing the Lake Tiberius Pedestrian.

    Regards.
    Ark

    Liked by 3 people

  111. Hey Eric. How was your Christmas? I hope it went well for you and yours.

    Regarding the book not being required to rise above “merely human”: without some kind of indication of the book being more than a human writing, how do you feel you can consider it as being a reliable source for the parts of it that cannot be confirmed in empirical/historical ways – for example, the parts which describe the ways in which we should live our lives?

    Like

  112. Hi Howie, Christmas was good but busy – we had 11 family for lunch which meant we had to tidy up the hose a bit – not my favourite activity, but worth it. Do you celebrate Christmas?

    As I said to William, to me the logical order is:

    1. What do (secular) historians say about the gospels and the life of Jesus?
    2. From that, what conclusions can I make about Jesus’ claims – i.e. who he was?
    3. From that, what do I then think about the inspiration of the Bible?

    In very brief, my answers are:

    1. The consensus is that, at the very least “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.” (EP Sanders)
    2. I think that is enough to see him as son of God (see e.g. Jesus – son of God.
    3. I think Jesus treated the OT as inspired by God but not set in stone. I think the evidence points to both its human and divine origins.

    So the parts that cannot be verified I consider in the light of both historical evidence and faith that God is behind it in some way. The ethical parts which you specifically mentioned are especially easy because (1) they are not always original – Jesus follows other moral teachers, though he often gives the teachings extra depth and (2) they seem to me to be clearly “right”.

    I think that both conservative christians and trenchant critics generally make exactly the same mistake, of trying to define and classify the scriptures and truth generally in a black and white way. Either the scriptures are divine or they are human, either they are right or they are wrong. But nothing much in life is like that, very little is certain, but we live with that. So if we conclude that scripture is both divine and human, if truth is more subtle, if we don’t have absolute certainty, then we live with that too. I won’t always get my interpretation right. I have been a believer for something like 54 years and I am constantly questioning, adjusting, learning. I am fine with that.

    Like

  113. Gary

    I personally accept that Nazareth existed. I also accept that Jesus most probably existed. That he was an apocalyptic preacher. That some considered him a healer and miracle worker. That he irritated the Jewish authorities. That he was crucified by the Romans. And that shortly after his death, some of his followers believed that he appeared to them in some fashion.

    I would bet that most NT scholars TODAY in 2016 would not endorse the historicity of the Empty Tomb, but since no recent study had been done, I can’t prove that. My main evidence for this is this: We have evidence that early Christians venerated the alleged site of Jesus’ baptism and birth (see the writings of Clement) but there is no mention of the Empty Tomb until Constantine announces that he wants to build some cathedrals at holy sites in the Holy Land. All of a sudden the Bishop of Jerusalem announces the location of the Empty Tomb under a pagan temple built by Hadrian in circa 110 CE. Eusebius, the Bishop of Palestine, was dubious about this claim. Now, why would the bishop of Palestine by dubious about the location of the Empty Tomb if the site had been known to Christians ever since the time of Jesus. I don’t buy it. I think the Empty Tomb was invented by the author of the Gospel of Mark. The apostle Paul seems to know nothing about Joseph of Arimathea’s tomb.

    And as I have mentioned many times, seeing dead people is a very common phenomenon in human history. And since most scholars do not believe that the Gospels are eyewitness accounts, stories they may have started out as “I saw a bright light” end up with sticking fingers in nail prints.

    Liked by 2 people

  114. If anyone wants to check out the archeological evidence for a first century Nazareth, here is a summary of what I have found:

    1. Excavations in the 1950s and 1960s on the site of the Basilica of the Annunciation in central Nazareth revealed what were judged by the Israel Antiquities Authority to be “the nucleus of the small Roman-period village” (quoted in Jenks, 2013)

    2. A number of tombs and graves dated to the first century have been found in the vicinity of Nazareth (see e.g. the reference to archaeology by B. Bagatti, N. Feig & Z. Yavor in Wikiedia).

    3. First century coins have been found at Mary’s Well in Nazareth (probably located outside the ancient village), and there is some evidence of a Roman bath house nearby. However this evidence is considered useful but not conclusive.

    4. The Nazareth Village Farm site is located nearby to the above sites, and was once a farm on a hill just outside ancient Nazareth. Excavations and analysis by Stephan Pfann, Ross Voss and Yehudah Rapuano over the period 1997-2007 have found several structures (a winepress, several watchtowers and agricultural terraces). Coins and pottery found at the site confirm that there was an agrarian community at Nazareth in the first century.

    5. In 2009, the Israel Antiquities Authority announced it had uncovered the remains of a first century house at the International Marian Center site nearby to these others. Artefacts again indicated the house was occupied in the first century, probably before 70 CE.

    6. Dr Ken Dark (PhD in archaeology from Cambridge University, Associate Professor at Reading University, with more than a decade of archaeological work in Galilee and several published papers on his findings), published in 2012 the results of an excavation under the Sisters of Nazareth convent in the centre of the present city of Nazareth.

    He concludes from the remains of a structure, and the dating of some artefacts found there and two tombs, that this is the remains of “an exceptionally well-preserved domestic building, probably a ‘courtyard house’” dating from about the middle of the first century. Unusually, it appears that the house went out of use a little later that century and the tombs were cut into the abandoned house before the end of the first century.

    This is the basis of historians’ confidence that Nazareth was a small village occupied around the time of Jesus, for example:

    Maurice Casey (Jesus of Nazareth p129, written before the two latest finds outlined above were published): ”there does not seem to be any serious doubt among competent investigators that some finds are of sufficiently early date, and that these include a vineyard with walls and a tower, which show that there was some sort of settlement, and shards which are said to date from the Herodian period.”

    Bart Ehrman: ”Even though it existed, this is not the place someone would make up as the hometown of the messiah. Jesus really came from there, as attested in multiple sources.”

    Larry Hurtado (referring to Ken Dark): ”He has identified first-century CE domestic structures”

    For a good summary of the evidence, see The Quest for the Historical Nazareth by Gregory Jenks.

    Like

  115. The consensus is that, at the very least “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.” (EP Sanders)
    2. I think that is enough to see him as son of God (see e.g. Jesus – son of God.

    It was fortunate I was able to find an alternative perspective about Michael Grant’s view of the character Jesus of Nazareth, and fr those who read the articles , it was apparent he was not quite as unbiased as Unklee would like us to beleive.

    No matter the heartfelt pleas and crying from the wilderness that believers such as Unk continue to indulge in the argument for ”The consensus is that,” it is becoming clear that this consensus is nowhere near as broad or even a genuine consensus as some might claim.

    While archaeological evidence for this period continues to be unearthed nothing
    has ever corroborated a single thing that would lend any more credence to such Jesus-Claims.

    And it needs to be restated: The ONLY information regarding the life of the biblical character Jesus of Nazareth is in the gospels; documents we now know from experts , many of whom are Christians, surprisingly enough, are fraught with mistakes, interpolation, and in some case outright fraud.

    We have absolutely no idea who wrote them, or exactly when they were written ( although we know they are not eyewitness testimony)

    And if we consider that one’s eternal soul rests on belief in these spurious texts, or at the very least , believing in the supposed core message they convey, this seems to me very much like giving up everything one owns and leaving your family to set sail for a small island in the South Pacific in a leaky rowboat, simply because you found a hand-drawn treasure map of highly dubious origin, between the pages of a Robert Louis Stevenson novel, signed in red crayon by someone calling themselves Long John Silver.

    Maybe it’s my cynical nature, but this seems not quite Kosher to me.

    Ark

    Liked by 1 person

  116. if truth is more subtle,

    And there you have it, Unklee’s version of truth.

    In an English Premier League match two nights ago, Liverpool beat Stoke 4-1. However, in truth Stoke didn’t actually lose .
    In fact, there is every chance that if the game had been allowed to run even an extra 15 minutes, Stoke could have come back and hammered Liverpool 6-4. At least.

    After all, Stoke had three ex-Liverpool players on their team and there is based on history at least two Liverpool players could very likely have been sent off.

    And let’s not forget the weather. Stats show Liverpool are never at their best when it rains. Well, they may have lost a couple of games in torrential downpours ,and we all know how much rain there is in the UK, right?

    And also, Jurgen Klopp, Liverpool’s manager, was obviously worried about his glasses getting broken again.

    So the subtle truth is, there is absolutely no reason not to beleive that Stoke did run out winners.
    And this is how the consensus of Soccer journos should report it …. subtly.

    Ark.

    Like

  117. @ Howie

    While it doesn’t change the gist of Nate’s argument in this piece, maybe since that claim is brought up a lot on the internet Jon felt it was worthy enough to correct.

    Interesting.
    However …..
    Carrier’s article was penned in 2009!

    That is 17 years ago and in those days he was firmly against the mythicist position.

    You are aware, I hope, that he has shifted his position somewhat these days?

    Although it was nice to read that he also raised the fact of the nearest cliff being over a mile away making ”Luke’s” geography look silly.
    Unless they were planning on rolling JC down the hill? 🙂

    For what it’s worth, the individual who discovered the Caeserea inscription, the Priestly List, I think it’s known as, turned out to be was a known fraudster and there are now doubts about the authenticity of this small, incomplete inscription.
    I cannot remember the link so for now we will just have to say this is hearsay from the Ark.

    And again, I strongly recommend reading the results of Baggati’s survey and report and the later Nazareth Farm Report.

    Regards.

    Like

  118. Charity Burke

    @unkleE

    Seriously, you believe that Jesus didn’t see the OT as set in stone? Really? When I read that I immediately thought of this scripture:

    “Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets. I have come not to abolish but to fulfill. Amen, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest part or the smallest part of a letter will pass from the law, until all things have taken place.” (Matthew 5:17)

    Then there’s this….

    “For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass the law until all is accomplished. Whoever then relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven (Uh-oh, you’re being lax with gee oh dee’s rules!); but he who does them and teaches them shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” — Matthew 5:18-19

    And then we have…..

    “It is easier for Heaven and Earth to pass away than for the smallest part of the letter of the law to become invalid.” (Luke 16:17)

    And….

    “Did not Moses give you the law, and yet none of you keepeth the law” (John7:19)

    You’re a typical Christian, a watered down one. You all have to be because (in all honesty) no one can keep up with all of those scriptures, especially when so many contradict each other. Not to mention, how unreasonable some commandments can be. For instance, Exodus 20 (the Ten Commandments) states that should someone honor his/her parents, he/she will have a long life. The other nine do not carry this promise. So, if a person has a sick and twisted mom or dad he/she should be faithful and loyal to him or her? That’s abuse and manipulation at its finest.

    Liked by 3 people

  119. Jon

    Ark

    The point regarding Alexandre is this: Ehrman cites her work as likely evidence and yet her claims have not been corroborated by any other archaeologist. Surely you recognise the significance regarding her claims having not been corroborated?

    While I think the IAA seems to have accepted and published her finding — and Alexandre has published (along with some other scholars) on this matter (see link below) in a publication of the Israel Antiquities Authority — I am happy to be cautious about the conclusiveness of her findings/arguments.

    The paper: “Mary’s Well, Nazareth : the late Hellenistic to the Ottoman periods / Yardenna Alexandre ; with contributions by Guy Bar-Oz, Ariel Berman and Noa Raban-Gerstel.” http://franklin.library.upenn.edu/record.html?id=FRANKLIN_5915491

    I cannot access the paper, but a review (by a Jewish scholar) published by the The Anglo-Israel Archaeological Society is very positive: http://aias.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/Strata-31-Book-Reviews.pdf

    In addition to discussion of her findings, the review also says “Based upon other excavations in the area, however, most scholars have continued to hold that there was sufficient evidence to hold that Nazareth was a settlement in the first century CE.”

    [Ehrman] has very strong negative views regarding those who consider Jesus of Nazareth a myth/fictional character…

    I generally share his view on this subject, as do well over 99% of relevant scholars.

    Not to sound like a conspiracy theorist but there are also millions and millions of dollars tied up in Nazareth being regarded as a real historical site at the time when Jesus of Nazareth and his mum and dad are claimed to have once lived.

    While I don’t dispute that there are some who are (theologically or financially) motivated to affirm the historicity of Nazareth, I seriously doubt Bart Ehrman or very many critical scholars have any money, job security or prestige riding on Nazareth being populated in the early 1st century.

    Frankly, I think this is a strange argument to make against Bart Ehrman. He is a very well-established, tenured professor who became famous, in large part, by writing books that showed how much of what Christians believe isn’t actually true. The idea that Bart Ehrman, of all people, is deeply invested in the accuracy of the Bible is demonstrably false.

    My own view is that the balance of evidence is that Nazareth was probably modestly populated in the early first century. If more persuasive evidence for Nazareth being abandoned during the lifetime of Jesus comes out, I will happily change my opinion and conclude that Nazareth was (for whatever reason) a legend that arose later.

    Like

  120. Jon

    Ark

    Carrier’s article was penned in 2009! That is 17 years ago and in those days he was firmly against the mythicist position. You are aware, I hope, that he has shifted his position somewhat these days?

    Carrier gave a talk in 2009 entitled “Why I Think Jesus Didn’t Exist.”

    Further, Carrier has also criticized many of his fellow mythicists for making weak/poor arguments that Nazareth did not exist (that is, that Nazareth was not populated in the early 1st century), and he wrote this in 2016:
    http://www.richardcarrier.info/archives/11435

    “…Ehrman is right. Though the evidence for Nazareth is more problematic than Ehrman portrayed (e.g. the coin evidence he referred to means just a few first century coins found in a well on a farm nearby Nazareth; being in a well, we can’t establish when those coins fell there, and the existence of a farm does not entail the existence of a nearby village), I still think the balance of evidence supports an early Nazareth, and Ehrman’s second point (that even if Nazareth didn’t exist, that has no effect on the probability Jesus existed) is exactly what I myself argue in OHJ (p. 258, n. 8).”

    Liked by 1 person

  121. Gary

    Let look at two of Eric’s (UnkleE) principle pieces of evidence for the divinity of Jesus:

    1. That people believed that he performed miracles and healings.

    Several million Pentecostals on the planet believe that their pastors and evangelists perform miracles and healings every day of the week, but does Eric believe that these men and women are divine? No. Does Eric believe that these deeds constitute evidence that any one of these pastors or evangelists is the Son of God? No. So why do similar claims about Jesus prove that he was the Son of God?

    2. A literature search of articles written between 1975 – 2005 on the topic of the Empty Tomb by New Testament scholars demonstrated that 75% of the authors of these articles favored the historicity of the Empty Tomb.

    Think about that. Does such a literature search reflect an accurate polling of the views of all New Testament scholars of that time period, i.e., did every New Testament scholar living during that time period write an article on the Empty Tomb? Would a liberal scholar who did not believe in the historicity of the Empty Tomb have written an article on the Empty Tomb? Maybe, maybe not. Would a conservative, born again, evangelical scholar for whom the bodily resurrection is the foundation of his worldview have written about the Empty Tomb? Most likely, yes. So isn’t it very likely that the results of this literature search will naturally favor of the historicity of this claim?

    But the more important point is this: Even if there was an Empty Tomb, there are MULTIPLE, much more PROBABLE, NATURAL explanations for an empty tomb than a literal resurrection/reanimation of a three-day-dead body.

    The two principle pieces of evidence for Eric’s claim of the divinity of Jesus are very, very weak.

    Liked by 4 people

  122. “Based upon other excavations in the area, however, most scholars have continued to hold that there was sufficient evidence to hold that Nazareth was a settlement in the first century CE.”

    This is important as the term first century is ambiguous.

    There is evidence that suggests the settlement appeared mid to late 1st century but not early, as when JC and his family are supposed to have existed.

    And of course, this would suggest the village or whatever it was and its community was firmly established before the first century, and there is simply not enough evidence to support this.

    Even Alexandre hedged her terms in this regard and the nonsense around the coins …
    well, I suggest you dig deeper, if you will excuse the pun.

    And for what its worth, Yaphia is just up the road and it has been speculated that this was the town that utilized the tombs that were discovered where Nazareth is supposed to have been. A more plausible explanation bearing in mind Jewish burial tradition.

    If we are to base any credence, and credence at all, on Luke’s description we should be digging for a thriving little city complete with synagogue et al.

    Estimates of the size have been down-scaled from a city to a few thousand people to a hamlet / village and a single family farm with a few outbuildings.

    Anyway, this is one of those subjects that you and I are unlikely to agree upon and at the risk of coming across like an unklee and cutting the thread short, I urge you to read Bagatti’s initial report and the NFR.
    Oh, and pop over to unklee’s site and read the dialogue between him and a bloke called Bernard on the post Nazareth revisited.

    An interesting little anecdote to end with.
    Eusebius mentioned Nazareth so was apparently aware of it and it was less than a days’ ride by donkey from Caeserea, I beleive. And yet he never visited it. Not once. Not ever.

    People have traveled far greater distances to see the birthplace of Elvis.

    Personally, I found this odd. One would think he would have wanted to at least visit the birthplace of the Creator of the Universe, wouldn’t you?

    And remember, when in doubt ….. follow the money. 🙂

    T’ra.
    Regards
    Ark

    Liked by 1 person

  123. Jon

    Unklee

    The correct claim is that a literature search of articles written by NT scholars between the years of 1975 and 2005 showed that 75% of the authors of these articles favored the historicity of the empty tomb.

    Would it be fair to say that the basis for this claim is the bald assertion (based on unpublished research) of Gary Habermas?

    Can you identify how many authors were counted to arrive at the 75% figure?

    In the piece I presume you are referencing, Habermas wrote, “I have compiled 23 arguments for the empty tomb and 14 considerations against it, as cited by recent critical scholars. Generally, the listings are what might be expected, dividing along theological “party lines.” To be sure, such a large number of arguments, both pro and con, includes very specific differentiation, including some overlap. Of these scholars, approximately 75% favor one or more of these arguments for the empty tomb, while approximately 25% think that one or more arguments oppose it. Thus, while far from being unanimously held by critical scholars, it may surprise some that those who embrace the empty tomb as a historical fact still comprise a fairly strong majority.”

    Note that he does not explicitly say that the authors counted specifically wrote about the empty tomb. Instead, he only says these authors “cited” some of the arguments/considerations that would be supportive of, or opposed to, the empty tomb. For example, he says “the most popular argument favoring the Gospel testimony on this subject is that, in all four texts, women are listed as the initial witnesses.”

    In other words, he may simply be saying that 75% of the authors he counted were supportive of arguments that he classified as favoring an empty tomb. This is substantially different than authors explicitly finding in favor of the historicity of an empty tomb.

    Perhaps he is making a stronger claim, but what he has written is much more vague than your argument.

    And, of course, it remains a bald assertion.

    However, I am willing to be corrected. If I am mistaken, please provide the data.

    Liked by 2 people

  124. Gary

    Nate has given an excellent summation why there are too many discrepancies in the two birth narratives to believe that they are accurate historical accounts. Forgive me for the self promotion, but I just finished a comparison of the four Resurrection accounts doing the same type of side by side comparison. These four tales are not harmonizable or believable:

    https://lutherwasnotbornagaincom.wordpress.com/2016/12/29/why-are-there-so-many-discrepancies-in-the-resurrection-stories-of-the-four-gospels/

    Liked by 2 people

  125. Hi Charity,

    Yes, there are several passages, which you have quoted, showing that Jesus took the OT very seriously. But that doesn’t mean that he set it in stone. Let me share some examples.

    Five times in the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5:21, 27, 31, 38, 43) Jesus used the phraseology of ”You have heard that it was said ….. But I tell you ….” to quote the Old Testament and then modify it or correct it. Some of those OT passages are in the Ten Commandments, yet even they were not “set in stone” for Jesus!

    There were many occasions in Jesus’ life where he “broke” the Sabbath law: Matthew 12:1-13, Luke 13:10-17, Luke 14:1-6, John 5:1-15, John 9:1-41 – again one of the Ten Commandments not set in stone.

    When he announced his mission in Luke 4:18-19, Jesus quoted from Isaiah 61:1-2 – but he chooses not to complete verse 2 of Isaiah 61, which says: “and the day of vengeance of our God”. It seems he was distancing himself from violence as a means for fulfilling his mission and correcting an Old Testament misunderstanding about God. If he was correcting the OT, he surely didn’t see it set in stone.

    On another occasion (John 10:31-39) Jesus totally changes the meaning of the passage he is quoting (Psalm 82), showing again that he was very flexible about the OT. This shouldn’t surprise us, for this form of flexible interpretation (often labelled “midrash” or “pesher”) was common among first century Jews, and Jesus and Paul used it too. (In fact, I once did a survey of all OT quotes from the first 6 books of the NT, and found fully half of them were very flexible – not set in stone – in their interpretation.)

    So against your 3 passages I have instanced a dozen counter examples, which is surely enough to justify my original statement.

    But you raise a good point, and so we can learn from asking the question: if Jesus so readily modified, changed or flouted the OT, why did he also give it such respect?

    I think the answer is found in a verse right alongside one you quoted: Luke 16:16, which says: ”The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing their way into it.” This enigmatic saying seems to be saying he was offering people a choice – they could continue with the old way of the Law, or they could join the stampede to join the new way of the good news of the kingdom of God.

    This conclusion is reinforced by one of the best known events in Jesus’ entire life, the Last Supper, where Jesus says (Luke 22:20): ”In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you” The allusion is clear. The Old Testament is the old covenant (testament means covenant) characterised by animal sacrifice, but he was beginning a new covenant (also characterised by sacrifice). If we join the new covenant then the old no longer has force. (So I believe the OT is scripture and teaches us about God, but it no longer has jurisdiction over us, which is a clear teaching of the NT.)

    So finally, we can see how your passages and mine fit together. Matthew 5:17: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.” Fulfil means to complete and bring to an end. For the Jews of his day, the Law was the starting point, but Jesus didn’t intend it to be the end point.

    I hope you may even see that I am not actually a ” a typical Christian, a watered down one” (though I’m not sure that being watered down is a bad thing!). In fact, you and I agree totally with your last paragraph: “no one can keep up with all of those scriptures, especially when so many contradict each other. Not to mention, how unreasonable some commandments can be. For instance, Exodus 20 (the Ten Commandments) states that should someone honor his/her parents, he/she will have a long life. The other nine do not carry this promise. So, if a person has a sick and twisted mom or dad he/she should be faithful and loyal to him or her?”

    You have understood what a lot of christians don’t understand, and are closer to the teachings of Jesus than you probably think. So we have much common ground.

    Like

  126. @unkleE, “but he chooses not to complete verse 2 of Isaiah 61, which says: “and the day of vengeance of our God”. It seems he was distancing himself from violence as a means for fulfilling his mission and correcting an Old Testament misunderstanding about God.”

    Then why did Jesus say, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Mt 10:34

    Liked by 5 people

  127. the Last Supper, where Jesus says (Luke 22:20): ”

    It is frustrating to have to point out such a glaringly obvious literary error, but when one is dealing with a believer for whom the character Jesus of Nazareth is also considered a god and the creator of the universe it is necessary.

    It cannot be stated that Jesus of Nazareth said anything at all for there were no eyewitnesses to anything.

    We cannot even be sure there is any genuine veracity for any supposed sayings of Jesus of Nazareth.

    To make any such statement as ”Jesus said … such and such” is simply false.

    Liked by 2 people

  128. Hi Eric,

    Do you celebrate Christmas?

    We do, and we’ve got a good mix of culture in our family. My wife’s family is from a Buddhist background, but when they moved to the United States they took on the celebrations of the culture here, so my wife grew up celebrating Christmas. We also celebrate Hanukkah as well. For me they are both filled with some rich traditions that enhance the time of focussing on relationships with family and friends. And the kids just love the time as well.

    I think that both conservative christians and trenchant critics generally make exactly the same mistake, of trying to define and classify the scriptures and truth generally in a black and white way.

    Yeah, I can see what you mean here in some sense. Not that I see it as part divine of course (although I don’t see that as impossible), but there are times where I see critics end up holding to very black and white ways of looking at the passages in order to get a point across. I can see how this could frustrate you. I personally view the bible like I view the many scriptures of the world (of which I recently listened to a very interesting audible course about). While there could possibly be some influence from some agents outside of humanity, I personally see them as significant and fascinating works of human literature. As with any books written by humans there are things that are correct in them and there are things that are not; things that are benevolent and things that are not.

    As for uncertainty and living life I see some similarities there in the way I live my life, although I’m sure you’d see (and I would agree) my views as being filled with quite a bit more uncertainty metaphysically speaking. I’ve personally found though that when it comes to the practical act of living life it’s not as much of an effect as people might think (depending on the values of the person of course).

    This is really just a leisurely reply not meant at disagreeing but rather sharing my own perspective (some of which seems to overlap a little with yours). I was thinking about replying to another of your comments with some disagreement but it looks like Jon has taken it up and I don’t think I’d have time for that anyway. Seems Jon has had that discussion with you on a previous post of Nate’s, but maybe something different could come out this time.

    Liked by 1 person

  129. Peter

    I had a bit of a laugh today I listened to some old sermons from John MacArthur I had on tape. MacArthur argued that the fact there are seeming contradictions in the Biblical teaching of every theological doctrine proved the Bible was not a man made book. MacArthur’s reasoning is that in the case of a human book the editors would have ensured there was no inconsistency, so the apparent inconsistency and difficulty proved it was not a human book.

    Well really who could argue with that logic?

    MacArthur goes on to say that the concept is so challenging that no human would have made it up.

    So anyway now I understand the birth narratives, using this logic the clear inconsistencies in the accounts ‘proves’ they are true! I mean to say as MacArthur’s ‘logic’ suggests there really could be no other explanation could there?

    Liked by 4 people

  130. Charity Burke

    @kcchief1

    This is a big gripe of mine with Christians. They forget that their fair skinned, blue eyed, blond haired Jesus says that when you’ve seen him you’ve seen the father. I have also brought up that same peace/sword scripture with different Christians and I just get a shoulder shrug.

    @unkleE

    As usual, you still haven’t really told me anything. Pretty much all Christians are watered down and I think you know exactly what I mean. The ones who are the least watered down are the Westboro Baptist ones. Of course, the rest of you try to say you’re nothing like that, but their behavior mirrors a good portion of the Bible. No matter how seeker friendly you try to make your religion out to be (because….Jesus), it’s still abusive, manipulative and like some uppity exclusive club because of Jesus. (As @kcchief1 mentioned above. )

    @Peter

    MacArthur is a trip. He’s always pointing his finger to other preachers in “error”. Blood cult is still a blood cult. Ha!

    Liked by 3 people

  131. Charity Burke

    @Scottie

    I basically became an atheist because I could no longer associate with a god who’s a big ass baby. Quite frankly, we want Christians to be watered down because if any one of them truly reflected their god’s image, they would be absolutely seething with violence and murder.

    Let’s just say there was or is a Jesus. I don’t want to affiliate myself with someone who stands back and either makes shit happen or allows it to happen to others. And if one of you godites tell me that horrible things happen because of human beings or the devil, you’re ultimately telling me that man and Satan are mightier than Jesus. And in that same sentiment you’re revealing to me that Christ’s torture, death and resurrection is null and void as well.

    Liked by 2 people

  132. Hi Jon, it wasn’t me who wrote that, but Gary. But since I would say something similar, I will reply.

    My statement was: “Most historians conclude that Jesus’ tomb was empty and/or his followers had visions of him alive after his death.” Note the “and/or”. I base this on the following:

    1. Yes, I used Habermas’ paper, which says 75% of scholars favour an argument for the empty tomb and 25% favour an argument against. His survey was of papers, not scholars, but he bases this statistic (apparently) on the number scholars who authored those papers. I don’t pretend that this survey is absolutely rigorous statistically (though it is much better evidenced than most such claims!), so I don’t pretend that 75% is an exact figure. But it surely indicates that more than 50% think this.

    2. Habermas’ study also found that “Few critical scholars reject the notion that, after Jesus’ death, the early Christians had real [appearance] experiences of some sort.” So combining that with the empty tomb finding provides ample justification for “most” scholars believing one and/or the other.

    3. This is confirmed by taking my own reading as a small sample. Based on memory (so I won’t swear I’m 100% here) scholars Wright, Bauckham, Keener, Evans & Dickson would accept both. Fox & Grant accept the empty tomb but not the appearances, while Jesus Seminar, Sanders, Casey and (I think) Ehrman accept the appearances but not the empty tomb. The only people I know of who accept neither are the fringe mythicists and mostly non-scholars – Carrier, Fitzgerald, Doherty, Godfrey and Price. While of course the other end of the bell curve, the christian apologists would all accept both.

    So that is it. It isn’t as precise as a controlled survey, but it is way better than a general impression.

    Like

  133. “As usual, you still haven’t really told me anything.”

    Hi Charity. I’m sorry you felt this, as I thought 12 passage to go with and against your 3 was something. I guess now’s a good time to call it a day. Thanks.

    Like

  134. “This is really just a leisurely reply not meant at disagreeing but rather sharing my own perspective (some of which seems to overlap a little with yours). I was thinking about replying to another of your comments with some disagreement”

    Hi Howie, I was happy to hear your perspective and have a brief conversation like two normal people instead of protagonists on the internet. I appreciate your perspective and experience, and yes, we do agree on quite a bit, even if not the things mostly discussed here.

    Best wishes to you and yours.

    Liked by 1 person

  135. Gary

    The fact that many scholars believe, that early Christians believed, that at least some of the disciples believed, that they had experienced appearances of Jesus in some form is not an endorsement of literal bodily appearances.

    Thousands of humans, over thousands of years, have claimed to have seen dead people. The dead person sightings by Jesus disciples were not new or unusual.

    Liked by 4 people

  136. Peter

    @Charity/Unk

    ‘Hi Charity. I’m sorry you felt this, as I thought 12 passage to go with and against your 3 was something.’

    Yes Unk, it is enough to confirm that the Bible contains contradictions, to many, such as myself, proof positive that it is not a divine book.

    Though as I mentioned above John MacArthur seems to see the contradictions as proof of divine inspiration. Of course MacArthur is following in the great Calvinist tradition of his idol Dr Martyn Lloyd Jones who claimed that the fast and loose way that the New Testament authors interpreted the Old Testament was proof of divine inspiration because no human would dare to have been so cavalier with the Holy Scripture.

    At his point I would suggest that a good dose of Occam’s Razor might help these learned preachers consider that there is a more obvious interpretation.

    Liked by 4 people

  137. Hi Peter, I don’t hold any brief for those “learned preachers”, I actually know little about them, so who knows, I might well agree with you.

    So the Bible contains contradictions, or at least, things you can’t put together. But I offered a reasonable explanation, so I hardly see that as “proof positive”. But I understand you see it that way.

    But as I have said all along, it doesn’t have to be a “divine book” to give us true history. I would still be interested to see you respond to it as history rather than continue to treat it as if it must be a divine book or nothing.

    Like

  138. Hi Howie, I was happy to hear your perspective and have a brief conversation like two normal people instead of protagonists on the internet.

    Uuklee, you beleive that a narrative construct, Jesus of Nazareth, is the creator of the universe, that all humans are sinners, that we have to acknowledge this and accept the make beleive character Jesus of Nazareth as some sort of savior otherwise we will end up in some form of Hell after we die.

    Of the approximate 7 billion billion humans on Planet Earth, there are those that consider Jesus might have been an historical character,
    However, the majority do not beleive in the biblical character Jesus of Nazareth as some sort of god and most certainly not the creator of the bloody universe.

    So when you say ”two normal people” I take serious issue with this statement.

    I will most definitely grant Howie a degree of normality ( unless he supports Manchester United), but based on your insidious promotion of the death-cult of Christianity, I am sorry, but as sure as a camel shits in the desert, you, unklee are not normal.

    Liked by 1 person

  139. @unleE, “I would still be interested to see you respond to it as history rather than continue to treat it as if it must be a divine book or nothing.”

    I don’t find many scholars referring to the Bible as a history book. It is a book of Jewish stories which happens to contain some history.

    I would relate it to Dan Brown’s books. The Da vinci Code, Angels and Demons, The Lost Symbol, Inferno. They are all stories which contain a certain amount of history.

    Wouldn’t you agree ?

    I know you’ve been busy responding to all of the questions that have been posed here but you didn’t respond to my earlier one which I’m sure you accidentally overlooked.

    .@unkleE, “but he chooses not to complete verse 2 of Isaiah 61, which says: “and the day of vengeance of our God”. It seems he was distancing himself from violence as a means for fulfilling his mission and correcting an Old Testament misunderstanding about God.”

    Then why did Jesus say, “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Mt 10:34

    Liked by 2 people

  140. Gary

    I find it very odd how moderate Christians such as Eric can see that many of the stories in the Bible are not historical (such as the Creation story and the story of dead saints being shaken out of their graves on the day of the Crucifixion) but insist that the Empty Tomb story and the Appearance Stories are historical facts.

    Liked by 3 people

  141. @ Gary.
    As mentioned before, as he believes that Jesus of Nazareth was who he supposedly claimed he was, then if JC accepted the OLD T in some fashion, so can Unklee and by this standard, any shit will fly, because …. JC is perfect, can do no wrong, and is more spotless than a white shirt after wash-day.

    I think this is called: Having one’s cake and eating it.

    Liked by 1 person

  142. Jon

    Unklee

    Hi Jon, it wasn’t me who wrote that, but Gary.

    Ugh. I’m sorry. I’m not sure how I made that mistake. My apologies.

    1. Yes, I used Habermas’ paper, which says 75% of scholars favour an argument for the empty tomb and 25% favour an argument against. His survey was of papers, not scholars, but he bases this statistic (apparently) on the number scholars who authored those papers. I don’t pretend that this survey is absolutely rigorous statistically (though it is much better evidenced than most such claims!), so I don’t pretend that 75% is an exact figure. But it surely indicates that more than 50% think this.

    It’s not clear to me that he was saying 75% of relevant papers supported the empty tomb. It seems like he just indicated that 75% of relevant papers supported an argument that Habermas categorized as supporting the empty tomb. In other words, based on his wording, he may be counting as support for the empty tomb any paper that expresses support for women as the first witnesses.

    Further, even if he only counted those who made a clear pronouncement (for or against) on the historicity of an empty tomb, I don’t think it’s necessarily reasonable to extrapolate that position to scholars generally. It may be that the issue is disproportionately covered by people inclined to agree (or disagree) with the historicity of the empty tomb.

    In fact, in what I think is a fairly fatal blow to the significance of his finding, I would note that Habermas said “the listings are what might be expected, dividing along theological “party lines.”” This pretty strongly suggests the conclusions are theologically influenced. It also suggests his data contained more confessional than critical scholars.

    Of course, unless Habermas releases his underlying data, we can’t really know whether he’s painting a reasonable picture and his claims are more anecdotal assertions than academic research.

    I genuinely would like to see a survey of (relevant) scholars on topics like this. I don’t know what the outcome would be. It may well be consistent with what Habermas found. For the record, I think it’s plausible that there was an empty tomb. I just don’t think a resurrection was involved.

    Habermas’ study also found that “Few critical scholars reject the notion that, after Jesus’ death, the early Christians had real [appearance] experiences of some sort.” So combining that with the empty tomb finding provides ample justification for “most” scholars believing one and/or the other.

    I don’t think one implies the other at all. Paul, for example, had an “experience” that didn’t require or imply an empty tomb.

    My impression is that most scholars probably accept that at least some early followers had some sort of “experience” that they interpreted as evidence of Jesus’ continued existence. But that covers a very wide range of possible experiences: actual physical resurrection, spiritual resurrection, revelations or visions (like Paul), hallucinations or some other experience that they interpreted as Jesus.

    My own view is that the story probably originally began with a follower — perhaps one of the women, perhaps Peter — claiming they could not find his body and other followers interpreting that as evidence that he had risen. Or it could have begun with one follower having some sort of grief hallucination or dream/vision/revelation. Once one follower made that claim, others would be motivated to “experience” the same thing in order to gain or maintain status within the movement. Suggestion is powerful. There are many examples of this. For example…

    1. Paul introducing “about 12” disciples to the idea of the Holy Spirit (which they had somehow never heard of!) in Acts 19. Once they heard of it, the disciples suddenly “spoke in tongues and prophesied.”

    2. The behavior at Pentecostal churches, where people “speak in tongues”, jump around and generally behave in a culturally conditioned manner that has positive spiritual connotations within the group.

    3. The “satanic panic” of the 80’s and 90’s, where hundreds/thousands of people claimed to have undergone ritual abuse by satanists, pretty much all of which was later proven to be fraudulent or imaginary.

    You get the idea. My point is that “experiences” covers a wide range of things, and can be perfectly consistent with a naturalistic explanation.

    Liked by 2 people

  143. Charity Burke

    @unkleE

    Yes, I’m well aware that “testament” is supposedly synonymous with “covenant”. It’s also the same as “teaching”.

    I posted four passages, but that doesn’t matter. I’ve seen plenty of people go tit for tat with you many times. You’re still going to be love sick with something that doesn’t exist. You’re in love with the idea of being in love with someone who has supposedly come to seek and save the lost. And we all know that you’re here to convince us all the same. The truth is, you can’t because we’ve all done our homework. Like many others here, I didn’t pursue atheism, I pursued god. In all of my praying, Bible studying (personal, home group and church), worship, crying out to Jesus, ministering to others, as well as being ministered to, and church involvements I found myself outside of faith.

    My doubts began while I was studying for my theology degree at Christ For the Nations in Dallas in the early 1990s. Little did I realize until much later, that was the beginning of my deconversion process. I didn’t deconvert until 20 years after that.

    I rarely come to Nate’s blog because of you. I often find you triggering because you follow a big lie and try to convince us all to believe it. Fortunately, my trauma (medical/physical, PTSD as a child and adult with my abusive Christian parents and religious trauma) isn’t as easily triggered. Weekly therapy with a secular trauma therapist has helped immensely. However, I still don’t care for your religious bullying. I don’t care if you think you’re being nice, you’re not. The fact that you actually believe we’re all going to hell and/or are broken without Jesus is sick and twisted. I’ve lived most of my life with the negativity of Jesus, I don’t need the likes of someone like you forcing it down my throat. I live in the Mid-South in the US. I’m surrounded by people like you on the daily. I sometimes don’t even address their proselytizing because doing so on a regular basis is exhausting. However, I confront you because you’re on an atheist/agnostic blog. It is one of the very few places where secularists like me can actually relax and be ourselves. And even in knowing that, you choose to spread your lies here. Someone has brainwashed/programmed/groomed you into your faith and you feel as though it’s your duty (because Jesus) to brainwash/program/groom all of us heathens into it as well. I’m calling you out on it because you’re spreading garbage. You live a big lie and expect us all to do the same.

    Now I find this all triggering. Not really so much because of my trauma that I’ll probably continue to deal with for years to come, but because of Arch. I’m no longer going to be apart of this conversation because talking to you is a waste. More so, I won’t continue this because my achy heart keeps longing for Arch’s contributions. I find myself looking for his gravatar, even though I know he is gone. This conversation left me in tears last night because it reminded me that Arch is gone. He will never be apart of a conversation like this one ever again.

    Love to those who miss Arch.

    Liked by 4 people

  144. @Charity. I am sorry for your pain. You have told me some of what you have gone through and you are an amazing person. I did not have a chance to know Arch long, but I also admired him. I also miss his comments and wit. I feel I learn something new about him whenever those that knew him better speak of him. Please know I care. Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

  145. Gary

    Imagine if a theologian made the following statement: “I have performed a literature search of all articles written by theologians on the topic of the Rapture written between 1975 and 2005 and have found that 75% of theologians who have written articles on this topic accept the Scriptural basis of this teaching. Therefore, 75% of all theologians believe that the Rapture is based on sound Biblical sources.

    Wrong!

    This is a biased sample. Theologians who believe in the Rapture are more apt to write articles on the Rapture, just as NT scholars who believe in the Empty Tomb are more apt to write articles on the Empty Tomb.

    Habermas’ literature search should be taken with a grain of salt.

    Like

  146. Gary

    Back to the Birth Narratives…

    How is it that the Gospel of Mark is/are the memoirs of Peter, written down “faithfully” by John Mark, not leaving out “any detail”, if we are to believe Papias, as conservative Christian scholars ask us to believe…but John Mark fails to tell us one word about a virgin birth in Bethlehem, the city of David!

    And the same conservative Christians ask us to believe that the author of Luke obtained his information directly from eyewitnesses, yet Luke’s eyewitnesses told Luke that the two men/angels at the Empty Tomb said not one word to the women about the disciples meeting Jesus in Galilee, yet according to “Peter” in the Gospel of Mark, the “young man” told the women to tell the disciples to meet Jesus in Galilee.

    Do Conservative Christians actually read this stuff?

    There is NO WAY eyewitnesses wrote these stories!

    Liked by 2 people

  147. Jon

    Gary

    Habermas’ literature search should be taken with a grain of salt.

    Large doses of salt. As I’ve pointed out in comments on other posts, Habermas’ resurrection literature research exists in a Word document on his computer than does not appear to have been seen or verified by anybody else, even his co-author Mike Licona. I take Habermas at his word that this document exists, but his claims remain bald assertions unless and until he makes the underlying data public, or at least has it verified by independent peer reviewers.

    Liked by 1 person

  148. @ Charity.

    Unklee seems to have a mental block when it come to recognizing that practically every one who follows Nate’s blog comes from a thoroughly indoctrinated, Christian fundamentalist background.

    His arguments have always been trite; faith wrapped up in pseudo intellectualism and a thick dollop of condescension.
    Coupled with cherry picking par excellence that borders on dis-ingenuousness.

    And all the while he thinks he is somehow doing his god’s work.
    Yeah, right.
    I think Arch would tell him to stick it where the monkey hides his nuts.

    I don’t care if you think you’re being nice, you’re not.

    I think this about says it all….

    Liked by 2 people

  149. Jon

    Gary

    There is NO WAY eyewitnesses wrote these stories!

    For what it’s worth, the claim made by credible conservative scholars is generally not that the gospels were written by eyewitnesses, but that they contained the testimony of eyewitnesses. Richard Bauckham, for example, agrees that Matthew and John were not written by the Apostles Matthew and John (though, he does think gJohn was written by a different disciple named John). He argues that Luke and Mark were written by Luke (companion of Paul) and John Mark (companion of Peter), but they were not direct eyewitnesses to the life of Jesus. As Bauckham wrote, “the Gospels are CLOSE to the eyewitnesses’ own testimony, not removed from them by decades of oral tradition.”

    I think it’s entirely likely that the Gospels contain information that traces back to the original eyewitnesses. Hell, it is difficult to imagine how they could not. Obviously, many of the stories, quotes and details were invented along the way, but they originated somewhere. Underneath all the legendary embellishments and theological elements (especially in Matthew), there are some original kernels that must trace back to original followers.

    But yeah, it is exceedingly unlikely that the original followers had any direct role in the writing of the stories. What we have is…

    Eyewitnesses + spiritual experiences/beliefs + reinterpretation + theological motivations + midrash/pesher + oral transmission + time + embellishment = Gospels!

    Liked by 1 person

  150. @Jon. In your response to Gary, couldn’t what you wrote also apply to Zeus and the Olympians? To Thor and Odin and that crowd. We all played the game Telephone ( some have called it whisper ) where one person whispers something in the ear of one person, it is repeated all around the room to everyone by whisper. In the end what the last person repeats is nothing like what the first person said. So oral stories repeated for generations must be treated the same way, with the same skepticism. Be well. Hugs

    Like

  151. Jon

    Ark

    We can be pretty sure these tales suffered from accretion but just how much of the story do you beleive they made up?

    I don’t think I have the expertise (or time!) to get into all that. I think I’ve said before that we can be reasonably sure (by the standards of field of history) that Jesus was an apocalyptic preacher associated with the John the Baptist movement, he gained some followers, antagonized the Jewish and Roman leaders and was executed for it, after which his followers reinterpreted his life, message and death in ways that led to the early Christian movement.

    It’s certainly possible that some of the basic messages and events in the Gospels trace back to the historical Jesus, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable trying to identify which ones. The Jesus Seminar provided a fairly liberal scholarly approach to defining the historical Jesus. I’m not sure I would endorse their conclusions, but it does demonstrate how methodology can attempt to sift legend from history.

    More generally, I would say that this is extremely common in the field of history. We don’t exactly have a whole lot of inerrant sources for ancient history. We can’t divide sources into “reliable” and “unreliable.” Once we get past the idea that a source must be either true or false, reliable or unreliable, it’s easier to understand why critical scholars have reached the conclusions they reach.

    Liked by 2 people

  152. Gary

    Jon,

    I am currently reading Bauckham’s “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses”. You are correct that Bauckham does not believe that our Gospel of Matthew was written by Matthew, but he does believe that Matthew wrote a Gospel in Hebrew that was then translated and rearranged by redactors into a Greek gospel, so in essence, Matthew the Apostle is the source of the Gospel of Matthew. He believes that John Mark literally sat in dictation while Peter told him his stories about Jesus. He believes that Luke obtained his stories directly from eyewitnesses, the apostles and the family of Jesus.

    However, I must correct you on one point. Bauckham does believe that the Gospel of John was written by an eyewitness. He believes that the Gospel of John was written by the Beloved Disciple. He believes that the Beloved Disciple was John the Elder, whom Papias references as being alive during Papias’ youth. A man whom Papias claims was a “disciple of Jesus”. Bauckham believes that this means that John the Elder was a disciple and companion of Jesus, therefore a witness to the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus.

    His evidence for this claim is shocking. It is based on hidden literary clues in the Gospel of John, in particular, an “inclusio”.

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  153. Jon

    Scottie

    In your response to Gary, couldn’t what you wrote also apply to Zeus and the Olympians?

    I’m not familiar with scholarship on the origins of those stories, but I doubt the sources we have on Greek mythology are close enough to their development to give us much information about how the stories originated. Wikipedia has some origin theories for the Norse gods, but I’m not familiar with the scholarship around that.

    We all played the game Telephone ( some have called it whisper ) where one person whispers something in the ear of one person, it is repeated all around the room to everyone by whisper. In the end what the last person repeats is nothing like what the first person said. So oral stories repeated for generations must be treated the same way, with the same skepticism.

    That is what historians and critical biblical scholars do.

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  154. Jon

    Gary

    Bauckham does NOT believe that the Beloved Disciple nor John the Elder was John the Apostle, Son of Zebedee.

    Right, that’s what I said. Bauckham agrees that the Apostle John did not write gJohn, but it was instead written by another disciple named John. As Bauckham has written, “I think that the ‘Beloved Disciple’ himself wrote the Gospel of John as we have it, and that he was a disciple of Jesus and thus an eyewitness himself, as he claims, though not John the son of Zebedee.” He thinks that is the only gospel actually written by an “eyewitness.”

    I am, of course, not endorsing his views. I just brought them up to note that serious conservative scholars will often agree that the gospels “contain” eyewitness testimony rather than necessarily being composed by the Apostles with whom they are associated.

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  155. I think I’ve said before that we can be reasonably sure (by the standards of field of history) that Jesus was an apocalyptic preacher associated with the John the Baptist movement, he gained some followers, antagonized the Jewish and Roman leaders and was executed for it, after which his followers reinterpreted his life, message and death in ways that led to the early Christian movement.

    As we have not a shred of contemporary evidence, then this being ”reasonably sure” of course must surely take the leap of faith that the Gospel (s) are not simply rank fiction based on some smelly little itinerant preacher called Yeshu that got picked out the blue and ‘told’ ”You’re It’, and then it was simply a case of

    ”Once upon a time …”

    Liked by 1 person

  156. Gary

    Jon,

    I think that it is certainly possible that the general stories about Jesus’ ministry and crucifixion are historical and may have come from his disciples but do you really believe that the story of his walking on the Sea of Galilee came from his disciples or that the story of his raising Lazarus from the dead came from his disciples? I doubt it. So neither is it probable that the Empty Tomb story and the detailed Appearance Stories originated from the disciples. These stories are most likely theological embellishments. The original appearance stories are most likely those told in the Early Creed in First Corinthians: the male leadership of the Church experienced appearances of Jesus in the same manner that Paul experienced appearances of Jesus: in visions.

    The Empty Tomb story and the detailed appearance stories in the four Gospel accounts are the inventions of skilled storytellers. They should not be viewed as eyewitness testimony based on the numerous discrepancies in the four accounts and the ever more fantastical supernatural claims as each Gospel is produced chronologically (one young man—>one angel—>two men—>two angels, etc.).

    Liked by 1 person

  157. Jon

    Gary

    do you really believe that the story of his walking on the Sea of Galilee came from his disciples or that the story of his raising Lazarus from the dead came from his disciples?

    I don’t know who those stories came from, but “is the story true” and “where did the story originate” are different questions.

    So neither is it probable that the Empty Tomb story and the detailed Appearance Stories originated from the disciples. These stories are most likely theological embellishments.

    Why do you think the disciples could not be responsible for embellished stories?

    I expressed my own tentative view of how these stories originated in a comment earlier today (11:46am). Basically, I agree with you, though I think it’s likely that a woman was involved and that only one or two people needed to have (or just claim to have had) any sort of “experience” in order to start the whole chain of claimed experiences. It could have been anything from a “missing body” to a revelation (strong spiritual feeling) to a dream to a hallucinatory vision. Any of these would suffice to explain why that first person could make the original claim. After that, it’s all peer pressure, status-seeking and group dynamics.

    The Empty Tomb story and the detailed appearance stories in the four Gospel accounts are the inventions of skilled storytellers. They should not be viewed as eyewitness testimony based on the numerous discrepancies in the four accounts and the ever more fantastical supernatural claims as each Gospel is produced chronologically (one young man—>one angel—>two men—>two angels, etc.).

    Fortunately, critical scholars do not accept the gospels uncritically.

    Like

  158. Peter

    @Cary/Jon

    I was very interested in your learned interchange. I have spent a fair bit of time trying to understand the perspective of the Jesus Seminar, specifically the interpretation of John Dominic Crossan. He sees that much of the stories in Mark are intended as parables rather than actual histort.

    When I was a Christian I viewed the Jesus Seminar with disdain. But as a deconvert I can now appreciate the perspective more. If one is interested in this interview Crossan addresses the birth narratives:

    Liked by 1 person

  159. Gary

    No one asked, but I have to tell you why conservative NT Christian scholar Richard Bauckham believes that the Beloved Disciple wrote the Gospel of John:

    According to Bauckham, Greek authors of the first century were famous for using a literary technique called an “inclusio” to indicate the eyewitness source of their story. They did this by naming this eyewitness source as the first and last character of their story. So for instance, Bauckham believes that the author of the Gospel of Mark (allegedly John Mark) did this in his Gospel, by mentioning Peter as the first and last named character in that Gospel. (This is actually incorrect. The author of Mark mentions John the Baptist first and Simon Peter second, but Bauckham limits his use of the “inclusio” to the first mention of a disciple of Jesus. Why he feels he can make this arbitrary change to the definition of an “inclusio” I don’t know.)

    According to Bauckham, the author of the Gospel of John was more subtle in his use of the inclusio. The Beloved Disciple is definitely the last character named in the Gospel (if one considers chapter 21 to be an authentic part of the Gospel, which Bauckham most definitely does, but many other scholars do not), however, the big question is: is the Beloved Discipled the first character mentioned in the Gospel of John? Once again, John the Baptist is mentioned first. But if we allow Bauckham’s exception and limit ourselves to Jesus’ disciples, we find the mention of two of John’s disciples who choose to follow Jesus and become Jesus’ disciples. We are told that one of these disciples is Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. We are never told the name of the other disciple. By some very contorted logic, Bauckham is certain that this disciple is none other than the BELOVED DISCIPLE, and upon this claim, Bauckham builds a case for the Gospel of John being the work of an eyewitness to the entire ministry, death, and resurrection appearances of Jesus!

    It is the most shameless collection of conjecture that I have ever read in all my life!

    Liked by 1 person

  160. Hi Jon, I don’t have much more to say.

    In passing, I feel the common critical comments against his information are often attempts to avoid the information by shooting the messenger. Why should he release his data? Does a medical researcher have to release all the details of his case studies, all the DNA test results, or whatever so that other researchers can take advantage of his hard work? Data is precious, and if people want to data they should collect it themselves. I think the attacks on him are scurrilous and reflect badly on his critics. If they think he’s wrong. let them prove it rather than make ad hominem attacks.

    This is a regrettable and common attack by sceptics faced with information they don’t like. Accuse a scholar of being a christian apologist (even without any evidence – I’ve heard of Bart Ehrman, Maurice Casey, Geza Vermes and EP Sanders being accused of that!) and you can supposedly dismiss what they say, even if they have been peer reviewed and reflect the consensus. Habermas’ paper was published in a peer-reviewed journal, isn’t that enough?

    “It’s not clear to me that he was saying ….”

    But having got that little rant off my chest, it doesn’t matter in tis case because while I agree that Habermas’ information isn’t perfectly clear, I’m not using it in a rigorous sense.

    “This pretty strongly suggests the conclusions are theologically influenced. It also suggests his data contained more confessional than critical scholars.”

    He says they were “critical scholars” so I trust him just as I trust other scholars who are peer reviewed even if they disagree with me. But of course there is theological influence – theology influences historical conclusions and vice verse – but why is this always suggested about christian scholars, as if atheist scholars couldn’t be similarly influenced? If both sides decide to play this game, discussion becomes almost impossible. The peer review system and the establishment of consensus is supposed to reduce that bias.

    “I don’t think one implies the other at all.”

    I think you may have misunderstood me here. I said the majority of scholars accept one and/or the other, but I didn’t say that one implied the other. I am saying it seems like at least half, perhaps 75%, of all scholars accept the empty tomb and clearly more than half, probably more than 75%, accept the appearances, and while there is significant overlap between the two groups, there is also a number who accept one but not the other. So by simple mathematics the total number who accept one and/or the other is clearly more still, so clearly “most”.

    “My own view is that the story probably originally began with a follower — perhaps one of the women, perhaps Peter — claiming they could not find his body and other followers interpreting that as evidence that he had risen. “

    Yes I can see that is what you might conclude. I think that hypothesis has been shown to be quite unlikely psychologically and historically, but I don’t think I want to argue that now. Thanks for your thoughts.

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  161. PS Jon, I don’t mean to imply that you have libelled Habermas in the way I have criticised. I just think other people doing that has made it too easy to pass off a respected academic’s work as a conspiracy theory, as dishonest, or whatever. These are strong allegations which generally have no evidential support. But unfortunately we live (they say) in a post-truth age. So I think it becomes acceptable somehow. I have no objection to your questioning exactly what his data mean, but I do criticise the imputation in people saying they want to see his data before they will accept his findings. If every academic was treated that way, imagine the difficulty of establishing anything! So no offence to you, but just a reaction and an explanation of why I’m not interested in being part of that sort of imputation and debate.

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  162. Hi Jon, I don’t have much more to say.

    Can we have that in writing?
    Oh … of course you already did put that in writing. And yet you keep having more to say … in writing.

    *Sigh*

    As Mary Magdalene once remarked:
    ”Come, Jesus, come quickly!”

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  163. This is a regrettable and common attack by sceptics faced with information they don’t like.

    Yes, how dare we ask for verified evidence. Shocking isn’t it?
    Bloody snotty little upstarts that we are.

    Everyone should simply shut the frak up and accept the word of people like Habermas, Licona and Geisler with ne’er a second thought.
    And blokes like Michael Grant who you also like to mention, is a straight as an arrow and shows no bias at all.

    Of course Jesus walked on water for example. Who wouldn’t beleive such a story?

    Odd then that someone like you will argue the toss for the veracity of something such as the Empty Tomb crap ’til the cows come home.

    Why should he release his data?

    What a thoroughly ridiculous statement.

    If Habermas has data to prove his case then of course he should stop being so smug and release it. And get it checked and peer reviewed.

    Just like any genuine serious scholar would.

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  164. Hmmm …..

    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/crossexamined/2014/02/scholarly-consensus-for-the-jesus-resurrection/

    It includes references to other claims/work from Habermas.

    A few quotes from the article …

    Habermas admitted in 2012, “Most of this material is unpublished.” With his data secret, his conclusions are uncheckable. Carrier says that Habermas has denied repeated requests to review his data.

    And it always pays to remember that Habermas is obliged to follow his statement of faith from Liberty.

    The statement of faith at his Liberty University says, in part, “We affirm that the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, though written by men, was supernaturally inspired by God so that all its words are the written true revelation of God; it is therefore inerrant in the originals and authoritative in all matters.”

    Does anyone doubt for a second Habermas has an agenda?

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  165. Charity,

    I miss him too. ❤

    You wrote this and it resonates with me:

    Like many others here, I didn’t pursue atheism, I pursued god. In all of my praying, Bible studying (personal, home group and church), worship, crying out to Jesus, ministering to others, as well as being ministered to, and church involvements I found myself outside of faith.

    Liked by 1 person

  166. That’s my view, and I think it was Jesus’ view. I don’t know how “simply” that occurs, because I guess there has to be some form of judgment or justice. Some christians think everyone is “saved” in the end, and I would like that to be true, but I don’t think that’s what Jesus taught.

    Why do you ask?

    Liked by 1 person

  167. I asked because I believe I read a few comments where it mentioned you believe we (unbeliever’s go to hell) and I thought I remembered that you didn’t believe in hell. I was looking for clarification.

    I guess I used the term “simply” because if there is “some form of judgment or justice” it wouldn’t be one of those let me think about it moments on God’s part. So simple.

    Either – or. Eternal life – not.

    From human standards, not simple. Divine, simple.

    Like

  168. Yes. I appreciate your willingness to understand a viewpoint you don’t hold yourself. And I appreciate that you accept that I have a different view rather than assume I hold beliefs that we both find repugnant. Thanks.

    Were you ever a christian? Have you been through a difficult process of disbelief like some here, or has your viewpoint come easily to you?

    Liked by 2 people

  169. Unklee, this -> https://secularwings.wordpress.com/fka-a-complicated-salvation/ pretty much says it all. You visited my blog a long time ago, (probably through association with Doug B’s blog). I remembered the hell – annihilation discussion in one of the comment sections.

    I was just putting some laundry into the dryer and I thought how best other than the link I provided here to summarize this so everyone can get back to the nativity story. 🙂

    Deconversion was easy. A relief actually.
    As I think on it, in so many ways, “belief” was my hell.

    Liked by 3 people

  170. I knew I’d visited your blog, but I had no memory of the circumstances. I also seem to have lost contact with Doug, which is a pity.

    People leaving christianity, especially in the US, seem to be at opposite poles – some find it a relief and some find it a trauma. My personal experience is that I find institutional christianity trying at times, but following Jesus is life for me, and I observe from the outside churches I would find worse than trying.

    Anyway, it’s 20 minutes to the new year in Sydney, so I must turn of this computer and enjoy the end of 2016! Best wishes to you!

    Liked by 2 people

  171. @unkleE, “People leaving christianity, especially in the US, seem to be at opposite poles – some find it a relief and some find it a trauma.”

    How many people do you know of who consider it a trauma ? I would suspect they immediately went back to Christianity, yes ?

    Liked by 1 person

  172. Hey ark-

    ‘Everyone who follows this blog…………………….’

    Doesn’t know the difference between Genesis and Revolution………………..

    A little honesty maybe? The laugh factor is off the charts watching people who are clueless as to God and His word. May I repeat this most excellent observation:

    ‘While believing none of it………….they want answers from all of it.’ Scripture has never lost an argument to truth.

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  173. While I realise not everyone speaks French, I feel reasonably confident that I speak for most people on Nate’s blog, if not the consensus , then at least the majority, when I say the French express our collective sentiments beautifully, as only the French can of course, regarding your somewhat warped, but nonetheless, rather unique perspective, Colorstorm:

    ”Va te faire enculer.”

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  174. I’m tellin you ark, I can’t bear these continual compliments!!

    But do know, better men have been ridiculed much more, so it’s to be expected. Daylight tends to send the rats a packin for cover, a fact that none would argue.

    Yep, there’s a free thought, the difference between clean and unclean, a fine biblical principle.

    Like

  175. You do have a penchant for never actually addressing any issue on any of the blogs you visit, seeming to prefer to tramp into others ‘houses’ with your Wellingtons covered in Balaam shit.
    And while the biblical donkeys were generally positive symbols, all you leave is a rather unpleasant stink.

    Although, I am quite content to believe you suffer from a more literal case of foot in mouth disease, especially while you are still wearing wellingtons. It seems odd how religion always leaves a similar taste in my mouth?

    A thousand baths won´t clean the filth from your tongue, Colorstorm.
    I wonder, have you ever considered you might actually be a tool of Satan?

    Oh sweet Veles, how that has a ring of truth about it.
    And how would you know that you weren’t?

    In fact, the more one thinks about it, the more one is drawn to the inevitable conclusion you simply must be the Spawn of Satan.

    Get behind me , Colorstorm.

    Liked by 2 people

  176. Ah but senor ark, I do answer. I get to the root of the matter, and not the surface chatter that is popular.

    However, one must notice that in your responses, you cannot cease from mentioning scripture at every turn……quite quite interesting.

    It’s as if you cannot help but to be drenched with the facts and truth of scripture, even though you may mockingjayingly scorn it.

    Truly refreshing to see the hands of foolery tamper with the sacredness of scripture.

    Tkx much for confirming this word which is blisteringly honest. But back on point in defense of the host, the nativity accounts stand unaccused except to the lazy reader who has not taken the time to examine the distinctions.

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  177. I feel it is easire to lower my satndards to your level and fell no compunction to try to raise the intellectual level of someone who considers the world once experienced a global flood and some smelly little Jewish shit walked on water.

    As to your utterly stupid interpretation of the Nativity texts.
    Well, I’ll let Unklee explain what seems to be wrong with your interpretation.

    Liked by 1 person

  178. Too funny ark. I notice how you value believers opinions only if they agree with you; otherwise they are of no use.

    It’s as if you travel far and wide to create confederacies of the third kind, and pitting believer against believer.

    Notice neither he nor I have yet taken your bait.

    But ‘smelly little Jewish…………..’ Ah yes, more pornography on display by you. Perhaps you should read of the alabaster box, very precious……poured forth by a woman who recognized He whose name is Wonderful………

    ……….and the odor of the ointment filled the room…………

    yeah, quite smelly.

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  179. Pornography? Compared to what Christianity has been responsible for over the millenia?
    I think not.
    Ask Zoe or Charity, or Violet.
    Even what Nate was put through when he deconverted was more ”pornographic ” than calling a narrative construct a smelly little Jewish shit.

    Furthermore, wasn’t pornography addiction one of the reasons you turned to the Lawd?

    I do not value unklee’s opinion at all, trust me.
    However,I am sure you would feel more comfortable discussing these topics with someone who might be able to come down to your level and make a modicum of sense of the rampant gibberish that is the hallmark of your comment style.
    I feel more content to simply repeat:
    Va te fair enculer.
    Far easier. I do love the French language, don’t you?
    It has a certain, je ne sais quoi
    But then, after all, I am an uncouth heathen.

    Now, this has been fun , but you will have to excuse me as I have quite a few pages of proofreading to get through before the soccer this evening.

    Have fun …

    Liked by 1 person

  180. Don'[t think that for one second ark, the mere suggestion by you of citing a believer of an addiction in which there was none, somehow gives it credibility.

    But this how you roll. False accusations.

    Reasonable people when they tire of the dry and dank fruits of godlessness, all will, in due time, regain their senses and know that the Lord, He is God, and He as well as His word, are very good.

    After all, He made the stars also……….

    ..but go have fun.

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  181. Gary

    “Does a medical researcher have to release all the details of his case studies, all the DNA test results, or whatever so that other researchers can take advantage of his hard work? ”

    Absolutely! All data must be available for review by other researchers. That is why we can be so confident in the reliability of science. Human beings love proving other humans wrong! Scientific (including medical) evidence must stand up to rigorous scrutiny before it is accepted as valid by the scientific/medical community as a whole.

    I do not challenge Mr. Habermas’ scruples. He never claimed to have performed a survey of NT scholars. He simply performed a literature search. I believe his results are accurate. The problem is, such a literature search cannot be used to infer a consensus of ALL NT scholars. It can only reflect the consensus of authors who have written articles on the topic of the Empty Tomb between 1975-2005. I suggest that most liberal, and even many moderate, NT scholars would most probably not have taken the time to write a journal article on the subject of the Empty Tomb.

    Liked by 5 people

  182. Gary

    Let’s take a look at what EP Sanders, probably the most famous of all secular/liberal scholars believed about Jesus:

    “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.”

    Gary: Notice anything missing?

    No Empty Tomb.

    Liked by 2 people

  183. Gary

    Check out this VERY INTERESTING article by Peter Kirby which reviews the views of NT scholars who believe that the Empty Tomb is NOT historical. Kirby believes that the Empty Tomb was the invention of the author of the Gospel of Mark (which is what I believe).

    One interesting point Kirby makes is that there is no indication that the early Christians venerated the site of the Empty Tomb. For instance, Paul says he spent two weeks in Jerusalem with Peter and James but says not one word, ever, about visiting the site…of the greatest event…to ever occur…on Planet Earth!

    https://depts.drew.edu/jhc/kirby_tombcase.pdf

    Liked by 3 people

  184. Gary

    Kirby also makes this fascinating point:

    The Early Creed in First Corinthians 15 is our earliest source for Appearance Stories about Jesus. Think about it: If FIVE HUNDRED people, in Jerusalem, or the surrounding suburbs of Jerusalem, had claimed to have seen alive again a man who had just been crucified for high treason against Caesar, how likely is it that this event would have gone unnoticed in recorded history? Not very.

    So for this story to have been believable to the masses, but yet ignored by historians, it had to have happened in the boonies of Galilee (in a scenario, such as: circa five hundred people sitting around on the side of a hill singing hymns, praying for the Resurrection and suddenly they all see a bright light at the top of the hill and believe it is Jesus…similar to Paul’s experience on the Damascus Road).

    And the author of Mark alludes to a pre-existing belief in appearances in Galilee when he writes in his story that a young man inside the Empty Tomb tells the women that Jesus will meet the male disciples later in Galilee.

    So up until circa 70 AD, the early Christians believed in the Resurrection, not because of an empty rock tomb, but because of alleged sightings of Jesus in Galilee to prominent MALE leaders of the Church, as recorded in First Corinthians chapter 15. Then, the author of Mark invented the Empty Tomb in circa 70 AD and decades later, the authors of Matthew, Luke, and John add appearances in Jerusalem to the Resurrection Story in their Gospels. This may seem wrong to us today, but it wasn’t to them because they weren’t writing history books, they were writing works of EVANGELIZATION. Only later did Christians assume that their works were written as historically accurate biographies.

    Liked by 2 people

  185. @ Colorstorm

    Don'[t think that for one second ark, the mere suggestion by you of citing a believer of an addiction in which there was none, somehow gives it credibility.

    Forgive me; my mention regarding you having this issue was more of a question rather than a statement of fact.
    I was merely putting it out there as I have noticed from several random testimonials I have come across over the years this problem does feature.
    Whenever I read a re born Christian fundamentals post I always read the about page or the testimonial first, thus ensuring I am clued up as to their position re: their faith.
    Pornography addiction normally ranks ”up there ” with drug, alcohol and other forms of abuse – often sexual – heavy peer pressure following emotional problems, depression, suicidal tendencies, relationship breakdowns, unemployment issues etc etc.

    One thing I have noticed since encountering people who have converted to Christianity is this: Not a single testimonial I have ever read has the convert stating they sat down, read the bible and all accompanying literature and said calmly:

    ”Yes, this is so obvious. How did I not recognise it before? I am a sinner and am doomed to spend an eternity in Hell if I do not immediately confess all my sins and pledge myself to following the character, Jesus of Nazareth.
    Let me find a branch of this religion that perfectly fits my needs. There are, after all over 30,000 to choose form.
    Furthermore, I shall spend the rest of my life trying to atone for all these sins and at the same time, set out to convince as many people as I can that they too are sinners and unless they also embrace Christianity and all its wonderful God-inspired doctrine they will be burning in hell for eternity. ”

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  186. Hey ark

    Your condolences, even if not genuine, are appreciated.

    The only thing I would agree with you regarding the scriptures, God, life, truth, is where you say ‘this is obvious.’ Indeed, the Creator of snow is obvious.

    Well stated there, but here’s a sincere well wish for a new year on this earth.

    Like

  187. Hi Nate,
    I moved my page with my objections to book of Daniel to a new location. Now it is here:: https://sites.google.com/site/godlesstruthseeker

    My understanding of date of Daniel is it much later than that of present scholarly consensus. I think it is written after the death of Antiochus Epiphanes. My understanding of four kingdoms is radically different to others with fourth kingdom being fiction from the author. I’m too, in the process of finding truth just like you.

    Liked by 1 person

  188. What condolences?
    I merely apologized for suggesting you were a porn addict before turning to the Lawd,

    You weren’t were you?

    Should I at least presume you actually were able to pick up on the sarcasm?

    Like

  189. And I assumed that you would at least recognize a ping-pong sparring.

    And of course sarcasm noted, as I have told you, I am pages ahead, for I am well aware of reindeer games.

    Like

  190. Peter, I had a chance to listen to that interview with John Dominic Crossan that you posted the other day — really good stuff. I’m still thinking about his argument that the birth narratives were meant to be more like parables than literal history. I have conflicting thoughts about that… who knows, maybe I’ll post about it in more depth soon. Thanks again for sharing that!

    Like

  191. Peter

    Nate, Crossan certainly brings a different perspective to the discussion, though like you I have trouble with his conclusion, but that does not stop me appreciating his insights. Crossan seems sympathetic to Christianity though I don’t think he is a believer.

    I suppose what I appreciate in his work is that he tries to help us understand how the people of the day would have interpreted the writings and how this can differ from modern interpretations.

    Liked by 1 person

  192. @ Charity/KC

    I of course thing there’s a lot wrong with the bible, but I do not think Matthew 10 presents any contradiction with the peace/sword talk.

    In verse 16 he’s sending hid disciples out and warning them of “wolves” who would try to do them harm and then warns them to be as wise as serpents (cautious and suspicious of everything) but as harmless as doves (speaks for itself).

    Then he goes on to tell them not to be afraid, that an adversary can only kill the body but not their souls.

    And in verse 34 he does the whole, “I came not to bring peace, but sword,” pitting loved ones against each other – but I think the overall context of Matthew 10 is pretty obvious; he’s not telling his disciples to actually fight with their loved ones, but he is warning them that people will not like the gospel and will harm and kill them over it – but that they are to be harmless as doves.

    Essentially saying,

    “the World will not like this message and it will even make them angry and violent – but go spread the message anyways, and watch out for danger, but be harmless yourself.”

    Liked by 1 person

  193. “…for I am well aware of reindeer games.”

    unfortunately I am too. It wasn’t one of Affleck’s better films, but I would recommend the Accountant – it has both math and murder, which turns out to be a pretty good combination – assuming you like math and murder…

    Like

  194. Colorstorm

    you said, “Indeed, the Creator of snow is obvious.”

    I think I follow you here; you’re saying that the natural world speaks of a creator. That everything is beautiful and grand, and that something powerful and intelligent had to have created it, because chance doesn’t work that well in regard to so much.

    Is that close?

    If so, I can get that viewpoint, even if I am not quite ready to accept it as the only possibility or even the most plausible one, and I’ll skip illustrating all the reasons for that right now…

    But, I did want to ask, if we all just accepted an intelligent designer/creator as being obvious, what evidences then take us from that god(s) to the biblical God? Because to me, there is a huge gap between the two and it seems to me that most believers will point to creation and then proclaim, “therefore Jesus,” without showing their work.

    Can you bridge the gap between the two, if I am not too mistaken about your point above?

    Liked by 1 person

  195. Jon

    Unklee

    In passing, I feel the common critical comments against his information are often attempts to avoid the information by shooting the messenger. Why should he release his data?

    Because it is important to be able to evaluate his claims. Generally, researchers will at least make the data available to other researchers.

    I’m not sure why pointing this out is seem as an attack on him. It certainly is no ad hominem. Wanting to verify data, interpretations and analysis is standard operating procedure in academic research.

    Does a medical researcher have to release all the details of his case studies, all the DNA test results, or whatever so that other researchers can take advantage of his hard work?

    I don’t wish to betray a private conversation, so I won’t say what it is, but his objection to releasing the data is not about others being able to take advantage of his work.

    Of course, since I will not disclose that information publicly, you are welcome to be skeptical of it!

    Liked by 1 person

  196. Hi Jon, no I am not sceptical of you and that comment. Perhaps I over-reacted. But I think it is too easy to avoid information and attack a scholar by inference. Anyway, I’ve said enough. Thanks for not taking it personally.

    Liked by 1 person

  197. Gary

    Jon,

    Are you talking about a private conversation between yourself and Eric (UnkleE) or yourself and Habermas? I’m confused.

    Like

  198. Gary

    Hmm.

    Well, I’m not going to try to pry it out of you, but if a researcher needs to keep secrets about his research THAT is a problem.

    But I don’t think we need to seriously worry about it for a couple of reasons. One, I think that it is obvious to almost everyone that it is much more probable that a conservative/evangelical Christian NT scholar would be more inclined to write a journal article on the Empty Tomb than would a liberal/non-Christian NT scholar during the time period of 1975-2005, and, secondly, what may have been the majority opinion during that time period may not reflect the view of the majority of NT scholars today. Expert opinion in many fields of study can change within a very short period of time. To assume that what was true in 1975 is still true in 2017 is a big assumption.

    Liked by 2 people

  199. “Does a medical researcher have to release all the details of his case studies, all the DNA test results, or whatever so that other researchers can take advantage of his hard work?”

    Reminds me of the “Cold Fusion” claim made in 1989. Of course they have to reveal their methods and data so other scientists can duplicate the findings or find them to be false.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cold_fusion

    Like

  200. unkleE,

    Just wanted to let you know that I finally read Carlson’s article. I’ve also saved a copy so I can go back through it again later. With articles like these, it’s sometimes hard to know how much credence to give an argument since I can’t read Greek, but I felt like he made a very compelling case.

    Once again, here’s the link for anyone who would like to read it: http://www.hypotyposeis.org/papers/Carlson%202010%20NTS.pdf

    I don’t know that his interpretation is correct. The phrase in verse 4 about Joseph’s relation to David seems very odd to me if the writer of Luke isn’t using it as a reason for their trip to Bethlehem, and I’m not sure that I completely buy Carlson’s ideas about whatever lodgings Mary and Joseph would have had there. However, he does make a good case, and for all I know, he may be right.

    I think my biggest problem would be what Peter said earlier — it seems that the author could have made all of this much clearer.

    Anyway, I’m not bringing all that back up to rehash it again — just wanted to let you know that I read it, and I plan to read it again. Thanks for bringing it up.

    Also, just wanted to say that I really appreciated how you and Jon have handled your conversation! That’s the kind of dialogue I really enjoy seeing here. 🙂

    Like

  201. Gary

    I just listened to JD Crossan’s podcast on the Birth Narratives that was linked by (Peter?) above. I’d be curious on what evidence he believes that Matthew and Luke wrote the birth narratives as parables, but I guess I will have to buy his book to find out. It is an interesting idea, though. Wouldn’t it be interesting to find out that he is right!

    And wouldn’t it be even more interesting to find out that the Empty Tomb story and the Appearance Stories are also parables!

    Like

  202. Hi Nate, thanks for your continued friendship and welcome. Yes, it is the opportunity to discuss with you and people like Jon that makes this blog interesting for me.

    I think I’ve said enough about Joseph & Mary. I’m glad you found Carlson interesting. I think there is probably enough in these stories to affirm most people in their existing opinions, but it has been interesting exploring them. Thanks.

    So, it is a new year, I wonder what it will hold. Best wishes to you and your family for the next 11.9 months.

    Liked by 1 person

  203. Gary,

    Just finished reading the article you linked to that argues against the empty tomb (https://depts.drew.edu/jhc/kirby_tombcase.pdf). Just like unkleE’s article, I found this one really compelling, and I’ve downloaded it for further study. It brings up a number of points I hadn’t really thought about (or been aware of) before. I think most of the readers of this blog would be very interested in it. Thanks for sharing!

    Like

  204. Gary

    Hi Nate,

    Yes, it is a very interesting article. He is the same guy who authored “Early Christian Writings” website.

    I think that one thing that many conservative Christians fail to consider is that it is very possible that the authors of the Gospels never intended to write 100% accurate historical biographies. It is possible that many of the stories in their Gospels were meant to be understood theologically, not historically, just as Crossan believes about the birth narratives. Even conservative scholar Mike Licona can see this, if only in Matthew’s story about the dead saints being shaken out of their graves to wander the streets of Jerusalem on the day of the Crucifixion. It wasn’t that Matthew intended to deceive anyone. His first century readers were probably fully aware that he was not being literal with that story. It was only many years and many generations later that Christians understood these stories to be historical facts.

    Like

  205. Hi Gary,

    It doesn’t happen often, but I agree with you on this. Ancient biography (assuming that is what the gospel writers were doing) wasn’t exactly the same as modern biography, and it generally doesn’t make sense to treat something differently to how it was intended. Of course we then have the extra task of deciding how each part was intended, but I think mostly that can be done. But I should say (I hope this doesn’t destroy our new-found unity!) that both conservative christians and sceptics can fall into the trap you have outlined.

    I also agree that Nate’s link doesn’t work – so that’s 2 out of 2! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  206. Peter

    Gary

    Regarding Crossan and parables you might find this article interesting (another New Testament Scholar comments on one of Crossan’s books):
    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/greg-carey/dont-fear-this-book-cross_b_1417435.html

    Crossan makes much of texts like:

    ‘He taught them many things in parables’ (Mark 4:2)

    and

    ‘So Jesus called them over to him and began to speak to them in parables’ (Mark 3:23)

    He suggests these are hints as to interpreting the Gospels.

    As I mentioned to Nate above I find Crossan’s perspective interesting though I don’t think I agree with his conclusion.

    Like

  207. Gary

    Peter,

    Why do you disagree with Crossan’s conclusion? I personally wouldn’t say I disagree with it. I would just say it is impossible to say for sure that the authors meant these stories as parables but it is an interesting possibility.

    Like

  208. Peter

    Gary I don’t have any compelling reason to disagree with Crossan, I am not ruling out Crossan’s conclusion rather my ‘gut feel’ is that it is less likely rather than more likely. I concede Crossan knows far more about these matters than I ever will.

    Like

  209. Oh man, doug/ark, thank you for this laugh. Sooo much new information! NOT. lol

    One more lazy reader, instigator, and scoffer of scripture. I just love it when people sit in judgment of God and His word, as if they are bringing ‘something new.’

    Too funny. But certainly, the atheist will gobble this up as gospel, forgetting that ‘evil men and seducers SHALL wax worse and worse, deceiving, AND being deceived.’

    Thank you for providing yet one more example of the wisdom of God by giving people a heads up that His word is verifiable, reliable, and ever spot on as to the nefarious acts of men.

    On behalf of good people everywhere, thank you, And to the host of this blog, perhaps you will admit, that is spite of the charlatan acts of men tampering with the truth of God and scripture, His word stands unaccused, while accusing all men as liars, at the same time offering grace to such diabolical acts. God is that good.

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  210. Well ark, let me just highlight the obvious and most important.

    He may be speaking about a man named ‘jesus,’ but he is certainly not speaking of the Lord Jesus Christ of the scriptures.

    Indeed, factually and historically. And no, no other explanation is necessary.
    Nuff said.

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  211. 19 pages of undiluted garbage.

    He said he has an agenda. He says he does not believe in God. He cited Paul as delusional.

    He claimed the writers were liars, uninformed. Please ark. As I said, nothing new here, and his opinions are flavored through the lens of godlessness. So what.

    ‘There is nothing new under the sun………

    Can I repeat:’Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived…………..’

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  212. He stated Paul may have been. He also stated he may very have been a work of fiction. A point I tend to agree with.

    He may the pertinent point that there is absolutely no first century contemporary evidence of who is claimed to be the most famous person ever to have lived.
    Why do you think there was no evidence, Colorstorm?

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  213. Jon

    the pertinent point that there is absolutely no first century contemporary evidence of who is claimed to be the most famous person ever to have lived.

    Please. He was not the most famous person who ever lived during his lifetime, or within centuries of his lifetime. Surely you know that is a non sequitur.

    Can you identify any other early 1st century preachers in that region who are identified in contemporaneous literature? Any?

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  214. ColorStrom,

    The argument of, “nothing new here,” always confuses me. It’s senseless. So what of it’s new or not new?

    we can make that claim about the bible:
    “the bible’s old, nothing new here, so therefore…” what?

    No, none of the objections we have with the bible are new, and all that means is that the bible has been questioned by people from the start of it, and instead of addressing these issues, believers try to dismiss them with, “nothing new here,” or “nothing to discuss,” etc.

    The bible is compilation of claims made by other men. Why should we accept their claims, when there are very questionable things in it, and when the believers have to ignore problems, or perform incredible intellectual gymnastic (something they will not do for any other religion) to hold to it?

    If it’s so oblivious as you claim, and if these “old” issues we bring up have been so soundly refuted, then please, share them with us, as we are obviously unaware that they exist.

    This would be a better approach than the one you appear to be taking, which more resembles a kid who’s scared to fight, bit too embarrassed to back away, so he makes big statements about how tough he is or his side it, but seems to have not desire to demonstrate that self declaired strong position.

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  215. “Can I repeat:’Evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived…………..’”

    How do you know you’re not the one who’s deceived?

    How do you know you haven’t fallen for an Emperor’s New Clothes scenario, where part of your strong conviction is the implication that you’re not righteous, that you’re rejecting God, that you’re lacking a good and honest heart, if you question the bible or find it unbelievable?

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  216. I was referring specifically to first century contemporary evidence, as thewriter mentioned.
    Why do you think there is not a scrap of contemporary first century evidence for Jesus, especially when there is contemporary evidence for other prophets etc?

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  217. I would love nothing more than to see my loved ones who have died before me. This is why I remained a Christian for 50 years . I never said I wanted to de-convert or give up the faith. Allowing science and logic to enter my religious world gave me no choice.

    CS, you can’t allow science and logic to enter your religious world or the same thing will happen to you. I think you are well aware of this .

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  218. @Jon

    Please. He was not the most famous person who ever lived during his lifetime, or within centuries of his lifetime. Surely you know that is a non sequitur.

    I did not say he was the most famous person who ever lived during his lifetime. You did.

    I said he is claimed to be.

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  219. Good gravy chief. For the love of God He created science as well as the ability to use logic and the brain.

    Or unless, you think that blood, lungs, bones, just crawled around waiting to ‘think of a way how to be born………’

    Yeah, there’s real logic. It is not God’s fault you find His word suspect. Try reading it again, actually engaging the brain, especially:

    ‘the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked above all things.who can know it?’

    Or perhaps you haven’t read the news lately………..

    You will NEVER win an argument against God or scripture.

    In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth………and He saw that it was very good………..

    Gee, I wonder what happened………….

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  220. @CS, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth………and He saw that it was very good………..

    Gee, I wonder what happened………….”

    What happened is your God stacked the deck to make sure Adam and Eve sinned. Since you believe your God created everything, you have to accept that he also created sin, something you can’t make yourself do.

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  221. Ah so you admit to the Creator, you just do not appreciate the choices men made……..

    It is you chief who views God as a puppetmaster. Maybe you should break the strings and enjoy the creation……..

    The God of scripture inspired arithmetic, the alphabet, and all things whereby you may think; after all, in His image is a truth not given to the hyena………

    Like

  222. ColorStorm,

    As far as reason and logic,

    does it make sense to create a rule that says you have to sacrifice your own son, who is also you, who was born to a virgin (how is that validated?), in order to save your own creations from a hell that you created for them? A hell that you created to place them for being flawed, when you deliberately made them flawed?

    And this logical masterpiece goes on and on…

    But again, even if we all agreed for argument’s sake that there was an intelligent creator or creators, can you take us from that position to the God of the Bible in a logical manner, that other religions couldn’t also claim?

    Can you back up your position with evidence or logic, instead of just a say so or presupposition, in other words?

    Liked by 3 people

  223. @Colorstorm

    Sorry ark, but only a cold heart cannot see the evidence.

    Fair enough.I have a cold heart.

    You have a warm heart. Therefore, why do you beleive there are no contemporary accounts of an actual Jesus?

    Like

  224. Jon

    Why do you think there is not a scrap of contemporary first century evidence for Jesus, especially when there is contemporary evidence for other prophets etc?

    What contemporary evidence is there for other prophets?

    As far as why there is not a scrap of contemporary (during his lifetime) evidence for Jesus, the answer is two-fold:

    1. We don’t have a scrap of contemporary (lifetime) evidence for almost anybody in the ancient world, especially anybody in early 1st century Judea and (warning: made -up word incoming) uber-especially early 1st century Galilee where Jesus spent almost all of his life. In fact, I am not aware of any extant contemporary literature written in early 1st century Judea. Perhaps it exists and I am just unaware of it (very possible!), but our literary record from that period is mostly just a barren wasteland. The semi-relevant literature from the 1st century is almost entirely about prominent political figures.

    2. Even if there were writers covering the area and period, Jesus was absolutely not important enough to get any significant literary attention during his lifetime. He was a minor rural preacher, one of many, who came to Jerusalem and got killed for causing trouble.

    In other words, the lack of literature about Jesus during his lifetime is exactly what we should expect given the characteristics (of Jesus and of the period’s literature) that I have described.

    Liked by 1 person

  225. He was a minor rural preacher, one of many, who came to Jerusalem and got killed for causing trouble.

    I am going to presume you read the paper, yes?

    I am curious, what do you base this assertion that he was an historical figure?

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  226. Jon

    Do you mean the Peter Nothnagle paper? I skimmed it (skipped the setup to get to the key arguments) and found it was basically a layman retreading the arguments made by Carrier and Fitzgerald. He just repeats the same rejected interpretations they use, and makes a number of additional mistakes (e.g., “Outside of [Mark]…there is no attestation of Jesus or his direct protégés from the entire first century”), and generally seems to have a poor understanding of what critical scholars actually argue. This reads like a paper by somebody whose education largely consists of reading Richard Carrier, Robert Price and a few other mythicists.

    Incidentally, after writing the above, I scrolled down to his bibliography. I was right. He’s just retreading Carrier, et al.

    And finally, he makes the same mistake I’m arguing against here. He argues that “What we have instead is a striking lack of evidence where we would really expect to find it if there were an even slightly remarkable person at the origin of the stories…”

     Jesus, if he existed, left no writings that survive.

     If anybody witnessed Jesus being followed by huge crowds or preaching on the mount or being tried and crucified, we have no record of it.

     Jesus supposedly had a dozen devoted followers, but none of them wrote anything that survived, and even though they supposedly went out and spread the word after Jesus’ death, apparently nobody noticed any of them, either.

     Of the famous, well-informed, widely-read chroniclers and commentators of the time, none had anything to say about Jesus.

    This makes it exceedingly clear that the guy has no idea whatsoever what we should “expect” to find from that period. He certainly never explains why we would expect to find these things.

    Let me illustrate: There were a few major annual religious events in Jerusalem to which Jews would travel. Pentecost was one of them. I forget the names of the others, but they were big festivals attended by tens or hundreds of thousands of religious devotees.

    Can you find any extant contemporary writings about those events? Surely, if you think we should “expect” to find contemporary writings about some minor rural preacher from Galilee, we should also expect to have even more extensive literature about events that involved far, far larger numbers of people, right? But we don’t.

    I base the assertion that he was a historical figure on the facts that A) there was a “Christian” movement very early on (as documented by Paul and others in the 1st century), and 2) there were numerous people writing about Jesus (Paul, authors of the synoptic gospels and possibly gJohn, other sources that went into those books, Clement, Josephus) as a historical figure in the first century. A historical Jesus (as critical scholars describe him) is by far the most reasonable explanation for all of that, and the arguments against these points (e.g., Paul only described him as a celestial figure, “brother” didn’t mean a literal brother, late dating for gospels, etc) are individually unpersuasive and collectively absurd.

    The overwhelming consensus of critical scholars is not, in itself, evidence that the historical Jesus existed. But it should make you a lot more humble about how “obvious” your position is. Especially when it is a position that is only advanced by a few atheist activists, only a couple of whom have relevant PhD’s (Carrier and Price) and most of whom are just enthusiastic laymen (Fitzgerald, Doherty, this Nothnagle guy) and none of who are actively working and publishing on the topic within academic journals. The closest any of them come to academic credibility is Carrier’s sort of “peer reviewed” book, although the fact that he solicited his own peer reviewers and conducted his own peer review makes that somewhat dubious, too.

    Liked by 1 person

  227. I base the assertion that he was a historical figure on the facts that A) there was a “Christian” movement very early on (as documented by Paul and others in the 1st century),

    And what evidence outside of the bible do we have for the character of Paul?

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  228. Jon

    Why “outside of the bible”? That is literature from the period. It is relevant evidence. Apart from 7 of his authentic letters, we also have letters that were forged in his name (Titus, Timothy, etc) and stories about him in Acts (scholarly dating for this ranges from late 1st to early 2nd century). Outside of the bible, Clement also mentions Paul in about 95 CE and a few other early Christian writers mention Paul in the very early 2nd century.

    Obviously, we can’t take Acts as an authoritative and reliable accounts of his life any more than we can take most historical biographies as entirely reliable accounts of their subjects. But it is evidence that he was a known figure at the time.

    Liked by 1 person

  229. With all due respect, your argument is exactly what Nothnagle raises; the same argument that has been raised since forever, and an argument that has also diminished somewhat in authority as scholars have come to recognize and acknowledge the true nature of ”Paul’s” letters.

    And it is also an argument that has been severely derided anytime it is raised.
    Of course Paul was a real historical character.

    It was once said the same of Moses.

    But it is evidence that he was a known figure at the time.

    Actually, I don’t think we can say this.
    All there is is simply evidence that a few Christian writers wrote about someone called Paul and there is nothing concrete about ”Clement” either.

    As far as I am aware,Saul of Tarsus is not mentioned in any Jewish literature of the time and, in fact, it appears there are no non-Biblical contemporary references to Paul.

    I stand to be corrected of course.

    Like

  230. @Jon. I would be rather careful using a book to validate the information and characters in the book. I wrote that before here above. The example I used is the Harry Potter series. It mentions proven places. It is referenced in other media, including the books, movies, websites, and news broadcasts. People even dress up as the figures in the books. We can even prove the author is a real person who should have the best knowledge of these events and people. Yet for all that the books were a work of fiction, and everything based on them ( except the news reports ) was a made up fiction. So I as I wouldn’t use the Harry Potter books to say that Albus Dumbledore was a real head wizard and ran a top notch school for students with a mostly grand selection of assisting teachers. Be well. Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

  231. In the research I did for my chapter on Paul, I found NO evidence or information about him outside the bible. Of course, those who believe “The Book” are convinced that what’s written therein is real and true so there’s simply no doubt he was a living, breathing person. To try and get them to see otherwise is a losing battle.

    Having said this … if one accepts his hypothetical existence, the role he played in forming the Christianity practiced today is undeniable.

    Liked by 1 person

  232. And if Jesus and Paul were real dudes, something I have no issue accepting, it’s still a far cry from some literal, virgin born son of God and miracle working apostle.

    Similar to “Creation, therefore God of the Bible,” a real man Jesus doesn’t not automatically mean Jesus was the Son of God who died, came back to life and flew away.

    Liked by 3 people

  233. I think this was also Nothnagle’s argument , Nan, and he seems to feel that maybe it is about time people stopped simply accepting certain aspects of this whole rigmarole and begin to ask ordinary, straightforward questions.
    Most people are simply unaware of the fact there really is no verifiable evidence outside of the bible for any of the tale.

    In his previous comment, Jon states Clement mentions Paul, yet a cursory internet search reveals even this is not exactly correct and with due respect to Jon this too illustrates how we have all been ( to my mind) conned into accepting what has been dished up over the years.

    Liked by 1 person

  234. right, and even with all the information easily available these days with the internet people still hardly take the time to look at it, so is it really a surprise that the religion was accepted so easily when the information was infinitely more scarce?

    Except I think a lot of people don’t look to religion for fact and much as they do feeling, or connection, or security and what have you.

    Liked by 2 people

  235. Jon

    With all due respect, your argument is exactly what Nothnagle raises; the same argument that has been raised since forever, and an argument that has also diminished somewhat in authority as scholars have come to recognize and acknowledge the true nature of ”Paul’s” letters.

    Dude, your source here is a music producer who read a couple books by Richard Carrier, Robert Price and David Fitzgerald. Critical scholarship accepts 7 of Paul’s letters as authentic. If you want to make this argument, fine, but please stop pretending there is any significant scholarly support for your argument.

    As far as I am aware,Saul of Tarsus is not mentioned in any Jewish literature of the time and, in fact, it appears there are no non-Biblical contemporary references to Paul.

    You continue to avoid answering my question about what other similar figures we have contemporary literary evidence of from this period/area. “We don’t have contemporary references to them” only seems like a valid argument to you because you pretend that we should have contemporary references to them.

    Can you either answer the question and demonstrate that we should expect to have extant contemporary references to these figures, or quit making the argument? Either one would be great.

    Actually, I don’t think we can say this. All there is is simply evidence that a few Christian writers wrote about someone called Paul…

    Full stop. The argument against Jesus was that we didn’t have any contemporary writings by him or by people who knew him. Now we’re talking about Paul, for whom we DO have 7 extant letters, and suddenly the goalposts have moved. Now, direct evidence of their writing is insufficient to demonstrate their existence, or at least to make their historical existence more likely than not.

    Most people are simply unaware of the fact there really is no verifiable evidence outside of the bible for any of the tale.

    Every time you make this no non-biblical evidence argument, I point out that A) evidence is not irrelevant just because it’s in the Bible, and B) there IS non-biblical evidence for Jesus (and for Paul). And every time, you just ignore it and go on making the claim.

    In his previous comment, Jon states Clement mentions Paul, yet a cursory internet search reveals even this is not exactly correct and with due respect to Jon this too illustrates how we have all been ( to my mind) conned into accepting what has been dished up over the years.

    First Clement, usually dated to around 95 CE: “By reason of jealousy and strife Paul by his example pointed out the prize of patient endurance. After that he had been seven times in bonds, had been driven into exile, had been stoned, had preached in the East and in the West, he won the noble renown which was the reward of his faith.” Later in First Clement, he also writes “Take up the epistle of the blessed Paul the Apostle. What wrote he first unto you in the beginning of the Gospel?”
    http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/1clement-lightfoot.html

    QED.

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  236. @Jon, “First Clement, usually dated to around 95 CE: “By reason of jealousy and strife Paul by his example pointed out the prize of patient endurance.”

    I’m not sure I would be using Clement as a source for anything. I think he is the one who believed the mythical phoenix to be real.

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  237. Jon

    Scottie

    I would be rather careful using a book to validate the information and characters in the book.

    I cited multiple books and letters, including 7 by the person in question.

    Beyond that, do you really think that this argument has never occurred to critical scholars and historians? Do you think historians just uncritically accept anything they read as true? Do you think they don’t have any methodology for distinguishing between historical and non-historical (or purely literary) figures and events?

    This all reminds me of climate change skeptics who say things like, “Have scientists even considered whether global temperatures might be affected by the sun?” As if this basic fact might have never occurred to people who have spent their life studying the climate. As if climate scientists are going to smack their forehead and say, “Why didn’t that occur to us? Thank you, brilliant layman, without whom we never would have noticed that the sun affects the climate!”

    Critical scholars are not theologians, they are not dunces, and they are not apologists. If you want to overturn the consensus of the entire field, you need to at least understand how the field works.

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  238. Jon

    I’m not sure I would be using Clement as a source for anything. I think he is the one who believed the mythical phoenix to be real.

    This isn’t even an argument. Newton believed in alchemy. So what? Ancient authors routinely wrote about and believed in magical and otherwise fantastical things. Ancient people believed in that stuff. Do you want to throw out as a useful source every ancient writer who was wrong about something? Because you’re not going to be left with a whole lot of historical information.

    Liked by 1 person

  239. using jon’s link about Clement, “CHAPTER 25 — THE PHOENIX AN EMBLEM OF OUR RESURRECTION.

    Let us consider that wonderful sign [of the resurrection] which takes place in Eastern lands, that is, in Arabia and the countries round about. There is a certain bird which is called a phoenix. This is the only one of its kind, and lives five hundred years. And when the time of its dissolution draws near that it must die, it builds itself a nest of frankincense, and myrrh, and other spices, into which, when the time is fulfilled, it enters and dies. But as the flesh decays a certain kind of worm is produced, which, being nourished by the juices of the dead bird, brings forth feathers. Then, when it has acquired strength, it takes up that nest in which are the bones of its parent, and bearing these it passes from the land of Arabia into Egypt, to the city called Heliopolis. And, in open day, flying in the sight of all men, it places them on the altar of the sun, and having done this, hastens back to its former abode. The priests then inspect the registers of the dates, and find that it has returned exactly as the five hundredth year was completed.” (http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/text/1clement-roberts.html)

    It is plain to see that he really believes in the Phoenix.

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  240. For what it’s worth, I’ve got to side with Jon here.

    We have writings from multiple authors, even if they’ve been placed in one collection, that claim these people existed. It’s possible that they didn’t, but I think the claim that they were purely mythological is a more extraordinary claim and requires more evidence.

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  241. “Ancient authors routinely wrote about and believed in magical and otherwise fantastical things.”

    Jon, what separates this statement from the magical and fantastical things in the Bible ?

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  242. Don’t want to speak for Jon, but he doesn’t believe in the magical and fantastical things in the Bible. However, he does believe some of the Bible’s statements: like Jerusalem is a city, figs grow on trees, Herod and Pilate were real people, and more than likely, Jesus and Paul were real people as well. Doesn’t mean they could perform miracles or were in league with the divine, any more than a real Arthur had a magical sword.

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  243. “KC, that doesn’t mean that everything they wrote was fantastical. Each claim should be examined on its own merits.:

    No it doesn’t Nate. As I asked Jon, what separates Clement’s belief in the Phoenix from his belief in the divinity of Jesus ?

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  244. I’m open to the possibility that Jesus was mythical — maybe even Paul was. But I think it’s important for us, as skeptics, to be mindful of the stances we take on things. We get frustrated when we feel like Christians hold to beliefs that seem to be based on very inadequate evidence. But that’s not just a Christian tendency, it’s a human one. We’re no less susceptible. Maybe guys like Price and Carrier are right, but unless we’ve become experts in these areas ourselves, I think we have to be careful being dogmatic about something that’s not in line with the current consensus of critical scholarship.

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  245. As I asked Jon, what separates Clement’s belief in the Phoenix from his belief in the divinity of Jesus ?

    This is a good question. I really like the author Bernard Cornwell, who writes historical fiction. In one of his books, a character who lives in Britain is told about a lion and doesn’t believe such a creature could exist (this story took place in about 500 CE). It struck me how large the world would have felt long ago, when one couldn’t easily travel to other parts of the globe (and they didn’t even know about half of it). I can see how someone like Clement might have heard of a phoenix and believed it was a real animal — he believed in the miraculous, after all.

    But when it comes to relaying normal things, like who an individual is, I think we can have a bit more confidence in what he claims. It’s still possible that he was wrong about Paul, and that Paul was just a myth. But I think that’s not very likely. And as Jon was saying, if we take the fact that these people believed in fantastical things as a reason to discount their more mundane claims, then we really do lose most of ancient history, because all ancient historians believed in the miraculous.

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  246. Critical scholarship accepts 7 of Paul’s letters as authentic. If you want to make this argument, fine, but please stop pretending there is any significant scholarly support for your argument.

    Once upon a time they accepted more than seven. Maybe in the future they will accept less? So, please tell me exactly what are the sources critical scholarship uses?
    Do you know?

    Every time you make this no non-biblical evidence argument, I point out that A) evidence is not irrelevant just because it’s in the Bible, and B) there IS non-biblical evidence for Jesus (and for Paul). And every time, you just ignore it and go on making the claim.

    Nope.
    There is no verifiable non-biblical evidence for either of these characters.
    And yes, unfortunately it is irrelevant because it is in the bible, as is claiming veracity for Harry Potter on the same grounds.

    Just because the former claims it has historical veracity does not mean it does.

    And this has been ably demonstrated with the Pentateuch.

    You continue to avoid answering my question about what other similar figures we have contemporary literary evidence of from this period/area.

    My apologies, Jon, I ‘m not avoiding it, I just can’t see the relevance.

    When one takes all of the bible story into consideration, including how it was compiled and redacted, and recognize just how much fiction and fraud there actually is, then one is left with basically nothing other than what some man said to some other man two thousand years ago.

    If it weren’t for the fact a worldwide religion was hammered out of this fraudulent nonsense I doubt anyone would give a damn.

    As the essay points out, you aren’t so credulous to accept the utter garbage Joseph Smith punted, now are you?

    Yet millions do, so what do they know that you don’t, Jon?

    And yet you continue to vehemently defend the exact position Nothnagle writes about.

    I suppose the question one should probably ask is, why?

    Liked by 1 person

  247. Jon

    Jon, what separates this statement from the magical and fantastical things in the Bible ?

    Nothing. That’s why critical scholars don’t argue for the historicity of miracles. That’s why the “historical Jesus” is a human figure, not a divine figure. Critical scholarship is all about identifying historical facts in the incomplete, embellished and otherwise flawed sources of information we have.

    Liked by 1 person

  248. @Jon. I was speaking specifically of you using people in, and talked about being in, the bible to prove your point. Your sarcasm notwithstanding I don’t put you in the same class as respected climate scientists. I am not even sure of your historical sources as you seem to use some people here disregard, and question the validity of them, the bais they seem based on. I also see that the question of Paul’s reality as a person has come up. So your little spurt about “critical scholars and historians” means little to nothing to me. You have shown belief in and acceptance of authors others here have disputed. The same is said about your view of the Nothnagle paper. I disagree with your conclusion but I won’t mock your ability to come to one even though I am sure others with far more training and education have looked the material over. As for scholars not being theologians, dunces, or apologists, quite frankly some are. I have heard them. I have watched them. So some run with their biases instead of objective facts. I feel you have proven my whole point about bais. I joined the conversation with what I felt to be a valid point as I saw the conversation developing. I may not have a history degree, but I can read and I can follow a discussion. Thanks for making it so pleasant. As I see how much you value my participation I will refrain from intruding on your critical scholarly examination of a subject most here seem to disagree with you on. Oh and I do feel more comfortable with what I have read them post than yours. Hugs and bye.

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  249. Peter

    As we have diverted on this thread to the matter of Paul, I will make a brief comment on the matter.

    When I studied the Bible at a post graduate level, I was taken aback by the difficulty that academics had in reconciling what was written about Paul in the Book of Acts with what Paul wrote in his own letters. This discrepancy related not only to ‘historical facts’ but also theology and even to Paul’s apparent personality.

    The most striking difficulty is reconciling what Paul wrote in chapters 1 & 2 of Galatians with the version of events in Acts.

    This is really a bit like the birth narrative difficulties, in that they make perfect sense in a ‘human’ book, but by contrast cause great difficulty if the Bible is really a divine book. Dare I say another difficulty that ‘God’ allowed that seems strange if the book is to be your testimony to the world.

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  250. Peter

    William I was impressed by your contribution to the discussion with ColorStorm. From past experience I would suggest that his lack of response is because your questions were too difficult.

    CS is especially vulnerable on questions that compare his justification for the truth of the Bible to the claims of other religions. As you mention his arguments could apply to any religion.

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  251. Jon, I misunderstood the path you were taking in this thread as Nate tactfully pointed out to me. My apologies.

    I now understand where you are coming from. Sometimes it is hard to keep track of “Who’s on first, what’s on second and I don’t know’s on third” . 🙂

    I hope you are old enough to know of this classic scene from Abbot and Costello.

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  252. Jon

    Ark

    Once upon a time they accepted more than seven. Maybe in the future they will accept less? So, please tell me exactly what are the sources critical scholarship uses? Do you know?

    Critical biblical scholarship is a relatively new thing. The fact that the Catholic Church accepted 13 books as authentically Pauline 500 years ago has no relevance to critical scholarship, because critical scholarship didn’t really exist at the time. Unless you are making the Chronological Snobbery argument of CS Lewis (where we shouldn’t regard modern conclusions as more valid than historical conclusions), I think we should be comfortable accepting that modern biblical scholarship is more likely to be right than outdated biblical scholarship for the same reason we accept that in virtually every other field of history.

    There is no verifiable non-biblical evidence for either of these characters.

    What would constitute “verifiable” evidence? Because it seems to me that you are just making up standards and methodology as you go. Every time I provide the evidence you ask for, you just move the goalposts farther out.

    My apologies, Jon, I ‘m not avoiding it, I just can’t see the relevance.

    You cannot see the relevance of contemporary textual evidence to your question about contemporary textual evidence? You argue we should “expect” to have contemporary evidence of them, but cannot see the relevance of what kind of contemporary evidence exists?

    As the essay points out, you aren’t so credulous to accept the utter garbage Joseph Smith punted, now are you? Yet millions do, so what do they know that you don’t, Jon?

    Critical scholars are perfectly capable of distinguishing between the historically valid details and the invented details. You and Christian (or Mormon) apologists are the only ones who see a need to make it all true or all false.

    And yet you continue to vehemently defend the exact position Nothnagle writes about. I suppose the question one should probably ask is, why?

    Because I find the topic interesting and I am frustrated by fellow atheists turning into conspiracy theorists. Because I find the popular-on-the-internet idea that every critical scholar is wrong and 2 fringe guys who can’t find work in academia and haven’t published this idea in credible journals are right is….lunacy. I find this frustrating for the same reason I find so much of Christian apologetics frustrating. It’s extremely clear that people are reaching conclusions because it’s what they want to believe and because they don’t actually understand how the academic field works, not because it’s where the evidence leads.

    But hey, you don’t see the relevance of questions about the subject on which you are opining, so what’s the point? If you have reached your conclusion without understanding the subject, I doubt you are interested in why every relevant expert working in the academic field has come to the opposite conclusion.

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  253. Jon

    KCChief:

    Jon, I misunderstood the path you were taking in this thread as Nate tactfully pointed out to me. My apologies. I now understand where you are coming from.

    We’re cool!

    I hope you are old enough to know of this classic scene from Abbot and Costello.

    Naturally! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  254. Jon

    Scottie

    I was speaking specifically of you using people in, and talked about being in, the bible to prove your point.

    I tried to cover a few of the different avenues of evidence. I can wholeheartedly agree that just because somebody is mentioned in a book, that doesn’t necessarily mean we should accept the historicity of that person. There are many people mentioned in the New Testament whose historicity is quite dubious. But with regards to Jesus and Paul, we have substantial evidence that they were real people. We have far, far more evidence for their existence than for almost any other figure in that time.

    I am not even sure of your historical sources as you seem to use some people here disregard, and question the validity of them, the bais they seem based on.

    I have tried to identify and even quote sources, where relevant.

    I also see that the question of Paul’s reality as a person has come up. So your little spurt about “critical scholars and historians” means little to nothing to me.

    To each, their own. I consider experts relevant and important. At the very least, they have more knowledge and credibility than a music producer whose awareness of the field amounts to having read a few books on one side of the argument.

    I disagree with your conclusion but I won’t mock your ability to come to one even though I am sure others with far more training and education have looked the material over.

    They absolutely have. I am citing the overwhelming consensus views of the people with far more training and education who have studied the material and pretty universally concluded that Jesus was a historical figure. The only quasi-exceptions being the people I mentioned previously, who operate outside of academia and whose proposals have been soundly rejected by field. That fact should, at the very least, inspire a modicum of humility in the people who support their proposals.

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  255. There is little point in me trying to explain Nothnagle’s essay if you are simply going to dismiss what he wrote.
    Yet, I reiterate, you are merely personifying the position he writes about and continue to cry ”Critical Scholar”.
    And just what evidence do you offer to explain what this term actually means?
    What evidence to these critical scholars have that you and I don’t that clearly demonstrates the historical veracity of these characters?

    Well?

    How was the bible compiled is one of the first questions I would ask.;
    And what is the answer?
    By vote!

    Even though we are merely trying to establish veracity for the man/men, not the god man, you see nothing untoward in the fact the original compilers of the bible, the primary source for this evidence, were men who were supposedly inspired/guided by God (sic).

    I don’t consider I am moving the goalposts, though I do apologise for not laying out the case more succinctly. I would have hoped you would have read the essay in a little more depth. He makes a much better case than I do.

    Even the bare minimum of claimed facts are merely suppositions,or at best, hearsay.
    What verifiable evidence do we have for anything about the biblical characters, Jesus of Nazareth or Paul?

    Ark.

    Liked by 1 person

  256. But with regards to Jesus and Paul, we have substantial evidence that they were real people. We have far, far more evidence for their existence than for almost any other figure in that time.

    What evidence?

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  257. @Jon.

    “I tried to cover a few of the different avenues of evidence.”

    I just went back to what I wrote the first time to make sure I had written what I thought I had. I think you and I maybe talking across each other. I hope that is the problem. I addressed only one issue. I did not address any other. I was offering my opinion on methodology, one used here only. I did not mention any other. I did not even draw a conclusion. I simply offered my view on that method. It seems to me my comment can stand on its own merit. Yet your response to it threw me as you dragged a lot more into it than I wrote and what I intended.

    As for the veracity of Paul and of Jesus, I disagree with you. I have read the posts here, and formed a different opinion than you have. I have weighed what I read here with what I have read on other sites and I disagree with you. The fact I disagree with you is not of major importance , it won’t make the crops fail or the cow’s milk sour. However it does mean I personally reject your blanket statement of “substantial evidence” of their being real people. If that was the case the people here would conceded the point. The fact that reasonable debate over that substantial points means it is not as conclusive as you claim.

    Everyone is quoting the same sources and frankly there is a lot of difference in the way those same sources are viewed and interpreted. It is like two people looking at a river and one saying “the river is really low” and the other saying ” the river is really high”. In this case the more logical an argument is the more credence to give it. To me it makes no sense a omnipotent all powerful anthropomorphic entity would give its most important message out in a flawed format such as the Christian bible. The bible is so flawed as to be about worthless as a messenger for this deity. That being the case it clearly couldn’t have been the work of such a deity. That being the case it was a work of man. That being the case we have to ask what the intent of the stories was. Seems rather simple to me it was a means of behavioral control over the masses. It gave a foundation to the channeling of control from the bottom to the very top, for the lower classes to cede all power to the upper echelon, and that the upper class was deserving of the fruits of the lower classes labors. Taking all that into account, and adding the need of people even today to use every emotion trick to scam others, and I am thinking the types such as Pat Robertson, Jim Bakker, the founders of every modern religious cult…….I can see how they would make up any story, any figure to promote their goals. They would create and profess to know, have seen, to have touched, to walked with , yes even heard the words personally if need be to help the story along. Add to that we have consensus that other biblical figures such as Noah did not exist but were composites that were made up of other fictional characters in other stories, and you start to see a clear pattern. So clearly it becomes more than possible that any of the biblical characters are simply make believe. Not real people, just made up fictions to make a point or drive a story to the conclusion.

    Jon you totally missed the point of my comment “I also see that the question of Paul’s reality as a person has come up. So your little spurt about “critical scholars and historians” means little to nothing to me.” In my opinion and the way I took your response was dismissive and mocking. so as you seemed to be throwing the idea that only “critical scholars and historians” having the final say on these matters, settled in your favor in your view, I responded the way I did to show you what I thought of that. Plainly I was not clear enough and that is my fault as I believe I should be able to express myself well enough that people shouldn’t have to read my mind to understand. So I think that should clear that up and I will bypass what I see as a passive aggressive response.

    Again as to the “overwhelming” consensus that Jesus is a universally agreed historic figure I disagree. Look we have people on this blog, well educated people with backgrounds in this stuff who disagree it is both conclusive and universally accepted. That being the case your assertion of that as undisputed fact except for a fringe element raises more questions than it puts to bed.

    I am going to ignore your whole “inspire a modicum or humility” crack as that does far more in my mind to weaken your case than improve it. Hugs

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  258. Scottie, Ark, and everyone else,

    Maybe this doesn’t need to be said, but bear with me for a second:

    Right now, none of us is trying to defend the idea that Jesus (if he existed) could perform miracles or actually spoke on behalf of a god. We’re just talking about “the historical Jesus,” which refers to a Jewish preacher who had followed John the Baptist, and then inspired his own small following. He didn’t do real miracles, and he certainly didn’t come back from the dead.

    Such a person probably wouldn’t have attracted a whole lot of attention. The only reason the Jewish leaders became interested in him is probably because he created some kind of scene in the temple.

    If such a person existed, it wouldn’t be that surprising that we don’t have any contemporary sources of him. But if his followers were really zealous, it’s conceivable that their stories about him grew over time and turned into the Christian movement that we’re familiar with.

    Why should we think this guy might have existed? Because we know that such a movement did spring up during the first century. It’s more likely that the movement had a real individual as its inspiration than that it sprang up from some cleverly devised fable.

    There are other reasons that people more qualified than I could go into, but I think that’s a decent foundation. Again, the historical Jesus and the Jesus from the gospels are very different people.

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  259. @Nate. We have a current example of a religion being created totally out of a fiction in our own time. Jedi.

    “Is Jedi a recognized religion?
    It’s official: “Jedi Knight” is ON the list of religions for the 2001 UK census. A campaign to get people to write the entry on their census forms has succeeded in the term being included on the list of religions, alongside Church of England, Roman Catholic, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu.”

    In the USA there are cases of prisoners asking for and receiving Jedi priests. So it is happening. Totally made up. So is it really that far of a stretch to think a religion can be made up without having a real person existing? Hugs

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  260. Peter

    Scottie, I think Scientology is an even better example for your case study. I suspect most Jedi folk play it as a joke, but not with Scientology where the adherents are serious. I still remember my reaction the first time I seriously examined the beliefs of Scientology. I was staggered, to me it seemed tin foil hat stuff. But still it has developed a following.

    Liked by 1 person

  261. So, what are the various possibilities on how Christianity began? If there’s no historical Jesus behind it, who started the religion? Certainly not Paul — his writings don’t detail Jesus’s life or even very many of his teachings, and he writes as though his readers know what he’s referring to. Not the gospels — they were written after Paul’s letters. So how did the idea get off the ground, and what did the instigator/creator have to gain?

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  262. @Nate. First let me say that you have been really nice to me and this is your blog. I don’t want to interfere with your discussion of the post or what it has become. So if you wish me to stop let me know and I will back away. That said I will try to answer your question as best I can.

    I think you have to look at this as we see today with TV preachers, Mega churches, and little home religions like the West Baptist Church. What all these have in common is a charismatic individual trying to do three things. Get recognition and a following. Get money and resources. Get power over others. We see it every day in the world and have become so use to it we ignore it. These people create their own kingdoms. I watched a clip of Pat Robertson telling a lady in her 80’s to go back to work to afford the tithes to the church. Yes a woman called into his show and said she was not making it , couldn’t even feed herself and also pay the tithes,and he told her to get a job. These people control those in their circle.

    Now expand that to where there are a bunch of these in an area of some size all competing with different versions of a story. So to survive and get more power some combine. We know there were many versions of the same story as we have the

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Council_of_Nicaea

    “This first ecumenical council was the first effort to attain consensus in the church through an assembly representing all of Christendom, although previous councils, including the first Church council, the Council of Jerusalem, had met before to settle matters of dispute.[5] It was presided over by Hosius, bishop of Corduba who was in communion with the See of Rome”

    For me the point is that all through history some people have tried to take charge over others. Normally violently. However it is much better to get them to follow you through persuasion. Do we doubt anyone in that age who could spin a tale would have used these stories, expanded them, made a name and a place for themselves to get well off on? I know it would happen today if they had half a chance. Hugs

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  263. @Nate. I left out the part of making things up . Such as the golden plates of Joseph Smith, and the whole scientology thing of Ron L Hubbard. Interesting reads both of them. Also there is the idea that Ellen G. White is a prophet created for the Seventh Day Adventist. Sorry got ahead of myself and left this part out of my reply. Hugs

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  264. don’t want to interfere with your discussion of the post or what it has become. So if you wish me to stop let me know and I will back away.

    Oh, no worries 🙂 I always enjoy seeing where the conversations go!

    I think your point about a charismatic individual is very good. To me, I think Jesus could fit that description, and his followers, shocked at his sudden execution, continue to follow him after death. Much like the Branch Davidians after David Koresh (http://www.npr.org/2013/04/20/178063471/two-decades-later-some-branch-davidians-still-believe).

    If instead, there was no Jesus, but several competing charismatic leaders who preached about him, who were they? And where did the original idea come from? I agree completely with you that there were many widely varying views about Jesus early on in the movement, but there still needed to be some specific inspiration for each of these ideas to spring off of, right?

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  265. First I have to ask… How do you and others get those neat white boxes of what others say? I love them and have no idea how to do it. As to your big question. Where did the idea come for a messiah come from.. well we have to look both to the past and their present. First in the past people made up supernatural stuff. Some of it became parts of the biblical legends. I am not an authority but there is the Epic of Gilgamesh. Second we have to look at the current time frame of those people. What was their reality and what were they hoping for. Any smart charismatic scam artist could build a story around what people wanted to hear. They wanted an end to Roman rule. They wanted a leader to put them first. A kingdom of their own. Does this make sense to you? I have more examples but I feel others could do better than I can. Hugs

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  266. Oh and by the way.. there are still Branch Davidians recruiting today trying to grow their religion. What I did not know and am stunned to find out they are an offshoot, yes a local time offshoot of the SDA. I am off to read up on this.. Weird. Hugs

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  267. It is super. I never knew you could do that stuff and I have been repairing computers since 2001. I never took programing, and self taught myself to repair computers and passed the microsoft A plus test. But with my health I was never able to go to work, so I help out people in my mobile home park when they need it. This is awesome. Thanks. Hugs

    Liked by 1 person

  268. Nan, I do think certain elements of the stories are definitely borrowed from the OT, like the 3 days in the grave being similar to the Jonah story. And the flight to Egypt to avoid infanticide being a repurposing of Moses. But where did the other elements of the story come from?

    I think your comment and Scottie’s are pretty similar:

    Where did the idea come for a messiah come from.. well we have to look both to the past and their present. First in the past people made up supernatural stuff. Some of it became parts of the biblical legends. I am not an authority but there is the Epic of Gilgamesh. Second we have to look at the current time frame of those people. What was their reality and what were they hoping for. Any smart charismatic scam artist could build a story around what people wanted to hear. They wanted an end to Roman rule. They wanted a leader to put them first. A kingdom of their own.

    Even the Epic of Gilgamesh may have been based on an actual local flood.

    What would a scam artist have to gain in making up a character like Jesus? On the other hand, what if there was a Jewish preacher named Jesus who was trying to understand how God could have a kingdom and how the Jews could still be his people despite their sad history of occupation? Might this preacher begin to think that God’s kingdom was spiritual rather than physical? He gathered followers (as any charismatic individual always does), and these followers simply couldn’t believe that he had been killed, etc, etc.

    The thing is, we have several different, independent sources for this individual: Paul, gMark, gJohn, Q, gThomas, and possibly others (this is not an area I’ve researched in-depth). These writings were obviously reliant upon oral traditions, which would have been passed down by the earliest Christians. How did this early group form? To me, it makes sense that it probably grew from the handful of believers who actually knew a preacher named Jesus. Without an historical Jesus, we need a single individual who created the core story and somehow convinced some people to believe him. That’s certainly possible — I just don’t see how it’s more probable than the existence of a person named Jesus.

    And why should we be so skeptical of such a person? What’s unbelievable about it? He’s essentially just another John the Baptist…

    Liked by 1 person

  269. I have a couple of thoughts on this, but my brain is shutting down. I’d like to pursue it more tomorrow but have a suggestion. Why not a new post asking this question? This one is getting VERY full of comments besides the fact it’s drifted fron the originsl post subject. Whaddaya think?

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  270. @Nate. To the first I am afraid you went beyond my knowledge. So I have to defer to others and read what they write and then determine what I think is more realistic. However if there were a real person of Jesus, a man, it would have to be as you describe. I can see how David Koresh would have done something like that in his name. Yet sorry something still seems off to me. I can’t put my finger on it yet. I just have this feeling I am missing something. OH I have it. If a man like that did exist, and caused the problems he is said to cause to the point of getting all the local officials involved, like the governor, won’t there be a record of some type. I mean look at it this way. Today police handle things at their level. Then if need be they go up to the deputy prosecutor. It is still is a long way to the Governor’s desk for the problem to land on. Does that make sense? So if it went all that way up that far, it would have been recorded. Someone on the thread already said only things involving the leaders would have been recorded if I remember right. So we would have a record. Just a thought. Hugs

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  271. I think that makes sense Scottie, but like Jon said, most of those records simply haven’t survived. We do have some official records from Roman times, but they’re nowhere near comprehensive, so it’s not like we have an incredibly long list of all the people Pilate executed, but no mention of Jesus. We just don’t have a list like that at all.

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  272. Peter

    Nate in regard to the stories about Jesus there are strong parallels to the OT stories of Moses and Elijah/Elisha. To the faithful these parallels are part of “God’s” predictions of Jesus, to the skeptical there are models used by the NT authors in creating the stories about Jesus.

    Liked by 1 person

  273. @pete

    There is nothing worse than an atheist trifling with scripture. Maybe more so, a decon’s trifling with scripture.

    It’s a sad sight really to watch people expend energy on that which they find detestable. Did you ever think of something more useful, like a hobby? Because it is an embarrassment to watch people offer excuse after excuse in that which has a shell harder than a thousand armadillos, that being of course, the flawless word of God, which as the eternal anvil, has collected many a hammer and tossed them into the scrapyard of irrelevance.

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  274. Peter

    CS how about you scrolling up through the comments above and finding the questions that William posed to you and try answering them.

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  275. I am well aware peter of the invitation to answer issues to give them an air of credibility. News flash: there is none.

    Watching for instance the mind numbing see-saws of Nazareth, was it, was it not,, is lamentable to say the least. You, and others, are sitting in judgment of God’s word and it is a sight for sore eyes.

    You should know by now I have no interest in addressing things that are clear as day. Maybe one day you will come to your senses; remember like the old king who foraged like a beast………….

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  276. @Jon …
    And anyone else who might want to have a go ….

    There is a constant call to accept the views of experts with regard the historicity of ‘Jesus’, and yes, I am fully aware we are all talking about a smelly, 1st century preacher here and not the gospel god man, in case poor Nate was having serious doubts as to my state of mind! 😉

    As I consider my self somewhat of a Neanderthal when it comes to what passes for critical biblical scholarship, and most if not all at Nate’s spot are probably a lot more well’versed in this field than I am, I therefore propose the following:

    I want you, Jon, ( or anyone else for that matter) to choose whom you consider to be the top five biblical scholars. That’s all, just five individuals, who beleive Jesus was a genuine flesh and blood historical figure.

    However, I do have a few minor provisos.

    1. All five scholars must be recognized historians, and preferably within the last fifty years.
    2. No scholar is permitted to have any direct personal involvement/ties with any religion. ( I am tempted to exclude Ehrman because of his former affiliations, as I consider he still shows a certain amount of bias, but if you wish to include him, then I won’t be so churlish to object)
    I hope it goes without saying that this will obviously exclude the likes of Habermas, Licona,etc.
    3. Summarise their arguments for the historicity for Jesus and explain how they arrived at their conclusions.

    Ark.

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  277. “It’s a sad sight really to watch people expend energy on that which they find detestable.”

    It makes me think of Matthew 7:5.

    ColorStorm, is that detestable sad sight why you’re a believer on an atheist’s blog, expending your energy on something clearly detestable to you?

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  278. Her ya go wiliam:

    ‘ColorStorm, is that detestable sad sight why you’re a believer on an atheist’s blog, expending your energy on something clearly detestable to you?’

    Being familiar with the footprints of darkness sir, it is daylight whereby people thirst. It is natural for darkness to be repelled by the truth of scripture.

    Please do not pretend to lecture believers, while mocking scripture as you ride the merry-go-round of scorn in the playground known as pseudo intellectualism, aka, atheism.

    Yeah, Nazareth did not exist. The scriptures are false. God’s word cannot be trusted.

    And water is not wet either in the mind of fools.

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  279. ColorStorm,

    You’re confusing me with someone else, I never said that Nazareth did not exist, and I don’t think anyone else has either. A few have voiced doubts, based on archeology, that it existed at the time of Jesus’s birth, but those doubts weren’t voiced by me.

    Also, your colorful response, as poetic as it was, really just resembles a dodge. Smoke and mirrors meant to distract everyone from the fact that you criticized people for spending time on refuting something they detest, while at the very same time you yourself were also spending time on refuting something you detest. It’s not a lecture, just a comment on the obvious. And the irony doesn’t stop there, as your beloved book even speaks against such, in passages like Matthew 7:5.

    There are few other things here:
    1) The birth narratives do not fit and do not match. Your argument has been little more that, “NO! it fits perfectly together, you’re all weak minded,” while never actually addressing any of the specific points Nate or the others have raised, or bothered demonstrating how the two passages actually fit together as well as you claim they do. Making a claim is one thing, backing it up is something else.

    2) On several occasions you have used “creation” as proof or evidence of God. Ok, fine. So we have stuff, and it had to come from somewhere, so you’re suggesting a supernatural something was the first cause. I won’t spend time going over all the different possibilities of what the first cause could have been, or if there even was a first cause like you think, let’s just start from the presupposition that there was a beginning and that god(s) were behind it. Now, that does not atomically lead us to the biblical god, so can you help the rest of us bridge that gap between intelligent design and the God of the Bible, using evidence and logic, rather than, “Design, therefore God and Jesus.” Please show us your work.

    And if I may follow this one tangent, you sarcastically said, “God’s Word cannot be trusted.” This isn’t really where I’m coming from. I look at it like this, throughout history men have made claims and have often shown themselves that their claims cannot be trusted. Men wrote the Bible and men said that God said or did this or that, so I am not saying God cannot be trusted, I am saying that when men make huge and miraculous claims, that we should require more than their say so before we just accept it.

    I believe you presuppose God is the author of the bible, so you think that anyway the scriptures might be true, then they must be true – God wrote it afterall. And since nothing is impossible or improbable for God, then any reconciliation you can imagine for the bible works in your head, because nothing is impossible or unlikely for God, not even the absurd.

    I doubt you do that for any other book or any other religion.

    The thing is, any contradiction and any discrepancy can be reconciled and resolved the same ways, and beyond that, the issues and errors are still there, because the “fixes” you imagine aren’t coming from the source, so your source still has these holes and errors, no matter how hard you try to conceal them.

    Can you answer 1 & 2 above?

    Liked by 1 person

  280. Realy william?

    I do not have you confused with anybody else. Scorn is all cut from the same cloth. 339 comments to date, with the heart of this post represented by an EARLY comment:

    —-.You might want to add that Nazareth did not exist at the time these supposed events took place. There is no mention of the place until about a century later. There is no archaeological evidence that it existed any earlier than that, either.’ —-

    I need add no comment to such poison. And your own silence on the matter speaks volumes.

    And your own pitiable observation that the book of Esther is a tall tale. YOUR WORDS. Please, you have no credibility.

    You sir, cannot be trusted. Period. You can try to ply your craft of intellectual superiority over God Himself, but thoughtful people who know the scriptures are not duped.

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  281. ColorStorm,

    I haven’t been silent on Nazareth, and I just don’t have much of a concern over it. I don’t doubt that there was a place called Nazareth at the time of Jesus birth, but I can’t guaranty that one way or the other, no speak to how populated such a place may or may not have been. I partly don’t care because even if Nazareth was indeed there, that doesn’t mean Jesus was born to a virgin, or the Matthew and Luke suddenly agree on all the issues, because they just don’t.

    You say that you need add no comment to the poison of the Nazareth issue, and I can sort of see why, except that you keep trying to bring us back to Nazareth. Ark my be the one you wish to argue that issue over with. But you may first want to make your mind up on whether it’s not worth commenting on, or whether you want to discuss it – from here, it’s not clear.

    I think Esther was a cool little novella, yeah. Thanks for reading. I’d be happy to dive into the scriptures with you and discuss why I think that about Esther more, if you like.

    I take, by your constant dodges, you refuse to answer my questions that are related to the specific topic of Nate’s article, because you realize that you cant actually do so – that, or you’re just more interested Nazareth or Esther. I do think, however, it looks like you’re just trying to avoid them.

    Maybe instead of fervently trying to hold to specific position, you should try clearing your mind and seeing where the given evidence points – then, you can show those evidences and the journey they took on and where they led you. Similar to what nate has done with Matthew and Luke’s account of the birth narratives. He didn’t just say they were dumb and then avoid discussing it. He outlined why there appeared to be problems with them, gave his thoughts on it, and invited others to review it with him.

    Do that. Show us your work, especially if you’re going to say how obvious it all is.

    You and I aren’t enemies. Let’s just talk. let’s review what’s there, discuss the text, the evidence, logic and anecdotes and analogies. We both may learn something if we understand that neither of us has all the answers and each of us could be wrong.

    Liked by 1 person

  282. @will

    Nope, no enemies, but truth does tend to separate, in which case it would not be valuable. Agreed, Nazareth is not the issue, but is central to how ALL the scriptures are weighed.

    Each of us could be wrong? God is always true, and I side with Him. After all, the Creator of the human bone has no equal.

    But dodges? Ha, that’s funny. If you notice, the Lord never answered questions to satisfy curiosity. His answers always went to the heart of the matter.

    I answer. Because they do not meet your requirements, don’t assume they are non answers. My blog is rife full of answered questions and posts all speaking with a sure note.

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  283. ColorStorm, you’re not the Lord, so excusing yourself from defending the hope that is within you (1 Pet 3:15), is also a dodge.

    If, on your blog, you explain how one goes from intelligent design to the God of the Bible, please share a link here.

    If, on your blog, you explain how Matthew and Luke actually fit well together, then please share a link to it here.

    you said,

    “God is always true, and I side with Him. After all, the Creator of the human bone has no equal.”

    that’s all well and good, but who speaks for God? Which God? How do you know the men who authored the bible, the men who told us about the God of the Bible, actually speak for God, or actually had a special insight to God’s will?

    I mean, evidently your God can’t write a book that is error free, so forgive me if I don’t simply accept your word that God actually was behind it. or, perhaps God didn’t right it, and men did, which would better explain the problems within the book. God’s always true afterall, and so if the book isnt, then perhaps it’s not from him. Perhaps the authors, were lying, confused, misled, or mistaken, or all of the above.

    This is the heart of the matter. They say, and you say, that they speak for God – can you defend that claim? Can you support it with evidence? Or do you only have as much as Muslims have, or Buddhists, or Mormons, or Zoroastrians, or any of the other religions who claim enlightenment or to have knowledge of the one true god?

    and FYI, not answering a question, is not an answer. It’s not an assumption, it’s a fact.

    Liked by 1 person

  284. Jon

    Ark

    How was the bible compiled is one of the first questions I would ask.; And what is the answer? By vote!

    This is categorically false. Your lack of awareness of the field should give you pause about making grand pronouncements about the subject.

    The (Christian) Bible was compiled organically, over time, as different churches (and regions) accepted and rejected different books as scripture. Over the course of a few centuries, they gradually settled the canon, though there were a few differences between the canons of various sects/regions, and obviously the Protestant Reformation later removed some books. The Catholic Church did not formally define the canon until, I believe, the 16th century (after the reformation), but it was well settled long prior to that. To the extent that various councils made pronouncements about the canon over the centuries, it was simply to endorse what had already emerged organically rather than to select and impose a canon.

    I don’t consider I am moving the goalposts, though I do apologise for not laying out the case more succinctly. I would have hoped you would have read the essay in a little more depth. He makes a much better case than I do.

    I did read the essay. I skimmed some of the set-up parts, because I’ve read this same argument many, many times before. He is not making an original argument. He is just summarizing the arguments made by people like Carrier, Price, etc. This isn’t new. I’m familiar with it.

    It is also frustrating to have read the essay, responded specifically to things he wrote, given multiple reasons why I found it inadequate and then to have you respond with “if you are simply going to dismiss what he wrote,” as if I hadn’t addressed his essay at all.

    What verifiable evidence do we have for anything about the biblical characters, Jesus of Nazareth or Paul?

    I previously asked you “What would constitute “verifiable” evidence?” I have tried to answer your questions and respond to your arguments, but you consistently ignore questions I ask.

    This is why I think you are not arguing in good faith. I don’t mean that you are lying or intentionally being deceptive. I mean that your approach to this issue is inconsistent and selective, you do not give me the same consideration you ask of me, and when confronted with a factual error, you simply ignore it and sometimes even repeat it later.

    ul>
    You say there is “no evidence.” I point out evidence.

    You argue there is no non-biblical evidence. I point out non-biblical evidence.

    You say there is no contemporaneous evidence. I point out that we should not expect to have contemporaneous evidence because he was unimportant during his lifetime and we have no (or close to no) textual evidence about anybody in that area and time period.

    I ask what contemporaneous evidence from his region/period exists. You suddenly decide that this is irrelevant to the question of whether we should expect to have contemporaneous textual evidence.

    You say Clement never mentioned Jesus. I point out the exact quote(s) where Clement mentions Jesus.

    You argue (or cite an argument) that the lack of contemporaneous writings by or about Jesus are evidence that he did not exist. Then you dismiss the letters Paul wrote as evidence of Paul’s existence.

    You argued that Alexandre has not published her research on Nazareth and it was not corroborated by the IAA or other archaeological sources. I point out that Alexandre has published her research, she did so along with multiple other experts, she was the excavation director for the IAA on the project, her published report was issued by the IAA and it was praised in a review by a (non-Christian) scholar.

    You said “there is absolutely no first century contemporary evidence of who is claimed to be the most famous person ever to have lived.” I point out that he was not famous during his lifetime, which is the only time that “fame” would be relevant to whether we should expect to have contemporary evidence about him. You respond with the non-sequitur, “I said he is claimed to be [famous],” completely ignoring the point I had made.

    Heck, you even argued at one point that Bart Ehrman — a man whose career and reputation were built on overturning popular misconceptions about the history and historicity of things in the Bible! — was biased in favor of defending the historicity of things in the Bible (like Nazareth) because it could undermine his reputation to conclude otherwise. And that Bart Ehrman — an atheist who semi-recently changed his mind in favor of an earlier high(er) Christology — was afraid to change his mind, because it might damage his reputation to agree with people he previously disagreed with.

    I don’t mind a good argument, but it is frustrating to argue with a constantly moving target which refuses to be pinned down, answer questions, identify any clear standards, or even understand the standards and methods of the field he is ridiculing.

    Liked by 1 person

  285. Jon/Ark,

    I’d like to hear and learn more on this – any links would be appreciated.

    “How was the bible compiled is one of the first questions I would ask.; And what is the answer? By vote!

    This is categorically false. Your lack of awareness of the field should give you pause about making grand pronouncements about the subject.”

    I had previously heard that several of the early churches and “church fathers” had referenced and rejected different books that did not make it into the cannon we have today, and that the cannon was voted on because Constantine wanted to avoid contentions and wanted to establish a benchmark and rule.

    But researching it awhile back, I actually couldn’t find anything to support a vote or Constantine involvement. I saw where he ordered 50 copies of the cannon, as if it were already established by that time – but that in and of itself doesn’t preclude any previous involvement by Constantine or anyone else.

    But there were books that some early churches used that did not make the cut. I’d like to see what there is that can shed light on how an agreed text came about.

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  286. @ will

    You just do not get it. You will ask a thousand questions, each never satisfying, only to ask another thousand questions, and avoid the thousand answers already given.

    This is fact. Just read this entire comment thread for proof. and no, I will not spoon feed you with links to my blog.

    And no, your citation of ‘the hope within you’ is so far off the mark it hardly needs addressed.

    But the best link? Read the word of God for yourself. It speaks to an honest seeker of truth. It has no equal.

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  287. Jon

    Scottie

    I think you and I maybe talking across each other. I hope that is the problem. I addressed only one issue. I did not address any other.

    Fair enough, and I apologize if I misrepresented you or presumed too much in my response. I agree that we can’t assume the historicity of a figure simply because the figure is mentioned in a book. Fortunately, in this case, that is not what is happening.

    As for the veracity of Paul and of Jesus, I disagree with you. I have read the posts here, and formed a different opinion than you have.

    Fair enough.

    …I personally reject your blanket statement of “substantial evidence” of their being real people.

    I suppose it depends on what you think constitutes “substantial evidence.” Given the standards of the field of history and the background information we have from that period and region, it is substantial evidence and substantially more than we have of anybody else from that period and region.

    If that was the case the people here would conceded the point. The fact that reasonable debate over that substantial points means it is not as conclusive as you claim.

    People argue over whether the moon landing or the holocaust were hoaxes. People argue over the historicity of William Shakespeare, Socrates, and Mohammed, too. The existence of argument does not mean the evidence is not conclusive, or at least strongly dispositive.

    To me it makes no sense a omnipotent all powerful anthropomorphic entity would give its most important message out in a flawed format such as the Christian bible. The bible is so flawed as to be about worthless as a messenger for this deity.

    Indeed. We can agree wholeheartedly on that.

    Add to that we have consensus that other biblical figures such as Noah did not exist but were composites that were made up of other fictional characters in other stories, and you start to see a clear pattern. So clearly it becomes more than possible that any of the biblical characters are simply make believe. Not real people, just made up fictions to make a point or drive a story to the conclusion.

    The existence of myth, legend, embellishment and falsehood in ancient literature does not render them completely false. Ancient historians said Roman emperors performed miracles in front of large audiences. And yet, the Roman emperors existed. The Bible contains much that is mythical, but also much that is historical. Adam and Eve and Moses were mythical. King David was embellished, but probably existed as at least some local chieftain. Hezekiah and many, many of the other figures identified in the Old Testament were real historical figures, even if the stories about them were likely a mix of historical fact and propaganda. Herod, Quirinius and Judas (of Galilee, not the apostle) were real historical figures, too.

    In my opinion and the way I took your response was dismissive and mocking. so as you seemed to be throwing the idea that only “critical scholars and historians” having the final say on these matters, settled in your favor in your view, I responded the way I did to show you what I thought of that.

    Obviously, critical scholars cannot tell you what to believe. You may believe anything you like. I raise the consensus of experts, because I think it is relevant and worth consideration. If you don’t care that the experts pretty universally disagree with your position, so be it.

    Again as to the “overwhelming” consensus that Jesus is a universally agreed historic figure I disagree. Look we have people on this blog, well educated people with backgrounds in this stuff who disagree it is both conclusive and universally accepted.

    I am referring to the overwhelming consensus within (critical) biblical scholarship. I say “critical scholarship” in order to differentiate between real academics and pseudo-academics who are just doing apologetics masquerading as scholarship. Critical scholarship is scholarship that puts religious beliefs aside and works within the secular standards of history.

    However, the existence of an overwhelming consensus within the field is not simply a matter of opinion. None of the people in this comment section are experts in this field. When it comes to the academic consensus on the historicity of Jesus, our opinion does not matter any more than it would matter if we disagreed with the consensus on existence of black holes or William Shakespeare. Non-experts (like all of us) are equally welcome to our opinions, but our opinions are not equally valid to those of experts. If they were, then we should still be teaching creationism in schools, because an awful lot of people disagree with the overwhelming consensus of experts on that, too.

    I am going to ignore your whole “inspire a modicum or humility” crack as that does far more in my mind to weaken your case than improve it.

    Sorry, that should have read “a modicum OF humility.” Perhaps I should cite Bertrand Russell, instead.

    “There are matters about which those who have investigated them are agreed; the dates of eclipses may serve as an illustration. There are other matters about which experts are not agreed. Even when the experts all agree, they may well be mistaken. Einstein’s view as to the magnitude of the deflection of light by gravitation would have been rejected by all experts not many years ago, yet it proved to be right. Nevertheless the opinion of experts, when it is unanimous, must be accepted by non-experts as more likely to be right than the opposite opinion. The scepticism that I advocate amounts only to this: (1) that when the experts are agreed, the opposite opinion cannot be held to be certain; (2) that when they are not agreed, no opinion can be regarded as certain by a non-expert; and (3) that when they all hold that no sufficient grounds for a positive opinion exist, the ordinary man would do well to suspend his judgment.”

    Perhaps it will turn out that the consensus of experts will be overturned. In the meantime, it seems to me that the consensus should be accepted as more likely to be right than the opposite opinion.

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  288. CS, you wrote: … but thoughtful people who know the scriptures are not duped.

    Thing is … you’ve given NO indication that you “know the scriptures” so where does that leave you? Simply making proclamations about your god and what he stands for (in your mind) does not validate anything, much less the credibility of scripture.

    You’ve been asked time and again to say something from the scriptures to bolster your POV. Yet all you do is spout (as William put it) “colorful response(s).” And “poetic” as they may be (perhaps you missed your calling), they offer nothing in the way of reasoned discussion on the Book you say you live by.

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  289. Tks nan, but truth be told, i could be the very worst of Christian examples, and still leave untouched the fact that God’s word instantly flattens mens (and womens) petty gripes.

    Yes, I said petty. I have said continually, perhaps you remember, God’s word needs no defense; it IS the defense.

    All I am doing is agreeing with what is obvious. If God’s word has no effect, surely you can release me of any so-called deficiency. 😉

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  290. ColorStorm,

    I’ve read the bible a few times and still look it over.

    I’m not sure why you stick around if you’re not going to actually offer any citations, or explanations that could support your claims, but you should know that no one will read this thread and think that you’ve done anything but say, “nuh uh,” as you dodge direct questions asking you to support your position.

    Here I am, a non-believer, asking to study and discuss the bible with you, while you, a believer, refuse to do so. You just want us to accept it just because, which is one of the worst possible reasons to believe in something. If you do not understand that, then we are maybe too far apart to discuss anything.

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  291. For the last time william, read the near 400 comments here. Look at who is dodging the truth of scripture.

    The accounts and narrative stand on their own. It is you sir, who have also said the accounting of the young Hadassah, then Queen Esther is mere poetry.

    So yes, it appears there is no common ground, and if you cannot see the reasons why a long winded conversation is pointless…………

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  292. ColorStorm,

    C’mon. I have seen who’s been dodging, as has any onlooker or passerby – you. As plain as day.

    I could agree that the narratives speak for themselves, and as nate has pointed out, they conflict. Nate has cited scripture, placed them side by side and even explained the differences. You say he’s wrong, but refuse to show it or explain how. You just refuse to do it, and only proclaim, “God is true” – but then wont even explain or show you know or believe that the Bible is a product of God.

    So yeah, we’re at an impasse I guess, because I think discussions like these require more than undefended and unsupported claims.

    You’re not making sense to me, but that’s okay.

    Liked by 2 people

  293. @Jon

    The primary source of all biblical scholarship for the historicity of the characters Jesus of Nazareth and Paul is the New Testament.

    The standards applied are often not the same as for other areas of ancient history.

    I don’t recall saying Clement did not mention Jesus. Please point this out.

    There is no non-biblical evidence to verify these characters. Thus, based on the history of the bible’s compilation and how it developed organically, the interpolation, the atrocious geography, the falsity of a great many historical and scientific aspects, and the outright level of fraud employed, one can easily say the characters are as likely fictitious as they aren’t and be perfectly justified in doing so.
    I lean toward the former.

    Re: Voting for the canon.
    Fair enough. Not voted for. Perhaps the ”Ayes” didn’t have it after all?

    Maybe you would prefer the term ‘’… agreed upon after lengthy deliberation from apparently God-inspired Church Fathers and other prominent notables, initially at the express invitation from Constantine, and later developed organically after further deliberation until eventually settled, more or less, by Church Hierarchy and metaphorically Rubber-Stamped by the Pope.”

    How’s that?

    PS.
    Re: Alexandre and Nazareth.
    She is a Christian as far as I am aware. I do not consider her judgment in these matters to be without bias.

    However, if you have details of the peer-reviewed report ( if we are talking about the first century house, yes?) I would be interested in reading it.

    Unless you are referring to the Nazareth Farm Report which I have read.

    And to close for now …

    PPS.
    I would be very interested if you are prepared to answer my follow-up post regarding the top five biblical scholars ( in your view) and their methodology and their evidence.
    Read up the thread and you can see the full comment.

    Thanks.

    Chill.
    Ark.

    Liked by 1 person

  294. Jon

    Ark

    I want you, Jon, ( or anyone else for that matter) to choose whom you consider to be the top five biblical scholars. That’s all, just five individuals, who beleive Jesus was a genuine flesh and blood historical figure.

    This is a valid request, but I am reluctant to perform on command for somebody who continually ignores my own questions. More to the point, I simply do not have time to study up enough to be able to summarize each (recent, atheist) scholar’s arguments and how they arrived at them. Heck, for many scholars, it’s not even clear whether they have religious beliefs or not.

    I understand the desire for non-Christian scholars, though I think that is a bit unfair to critical scholars who happen to be Christian and yet manage to leave their religious beliefs at the door. For example, Catholic scholars will often acknowledge that the virginity of Mary story was based on a faulty reading of the Septuagint and that the Bible indicates Jesus had siblings, even if they “mentally assent” to the teachings of the church. They distinguish between a faith belief and a scholarly conclusion.

    Some atheist scholars who come to mind…

    Bart Ehrman — Ehrman is the most accessible, widely known biblical scholar. His particular expertise in in textual criticism, where he is regarded as one of the most important textual critics of the past century and has contributed enormously on the topic of the textual history and developments in early Christianity.

    Maurice Casey — I have not read his work, but I understand he has done excellent work on the topic.

    Steven DiMattei — He is not famous like the preceding fellows (almost no biblical scholars are famous, of course), but I’ve enjoyed his work. He runs the “Contradictions in the Bible” website and has written occasionally against mythicism, though he mostly focuses on the OT.

    James Crossley — Crossley is an atheist bible scholar at St. Mary’s University, in England. I think he has spoken out against mythicism in the past, but it’s not a regular topic for him.

    Those are just a few that came to mind off the top of my head. There are others, as well, but as I’ve said, most biblical scholars are not famous, many don’t feel a need to publicize their religious positions (or lack thereof), and the historicity of Jesus is not a subject many scholars feel the need to retread. While mythicism is a popular topic on the internet, it is a long-settled question in academia.

    You might also look into the Jesus Seminar. I believe some of the participants in that were atheist, agnostic or pretty close to it.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_Seminar

    Like

  295. @Jon.
    That’s a fair list, and as I said I will accept Ehrman even though I beleive he demonstrates undue bias regarding historicity of Jesus.

    Casey has passed away I understand and he held out for an Aramaic version of Matthew, am I correct? Not a view shared by many I read somewhere.
    But his methodology would be interesting to read. I haven’t bothered, although I know Unklee is a fan.
    Crossley I have heard of DiMattei I have not.

    As you side with these scholars, I would appreciate if you would also mention something about their methodology and how they arrive at their belief in the historicity of Jesus and Paul.
    As I said, a brief summary of their arguments is fine.

    The reason I ask this is, with due respect, merely stating something along the lines of ” …critical biblical scholars say ….” is in fact not saying anything and certainly not telling the reader how these scholars arrive at the position they do.
    As I said above, you agree with their position, so I assume you must know at least some details of how they work.

    Thanks.

    Read about the Jesus seminar a while back. Interesting.

    Like

  296. Gary

    I vaguely remember Ehrman’s reasoning for why he believes that Jesus was a real historical person (and why he believes the overwhelming majority of scholars and historians also believe that Jesus was a real historical person) in his book on the subject as being that there are (six?) independent source that refer to Jesus as an historical person. I can’t remember them all, but I will take a stab at the ones I can remember:

    1. The author of the Gospel Mark
    2. The source of “Q”
    3. The author of the Gospel John
    4. The apostle Paul
    5. The author of the Gospel of Peter

    I may not have those correct. If someone has the correct list, please correct me.

    However, I think what is more important than whether or not Jesus existed is whether or not Jesus performed unheard of before or since magic tricks: like coming back from the dead!

    It is one thing if twelve people tell you that they saw a dead man walk out of his sealed tomb having come back to life in front of their very eyes. It is quite another if four NON-EYEWITNESS authors, two (and maybe three) of which copied almost wholesale the story of the first, many decades after the alleged event, leave four anonymous stories filled with all manner of supernatural tales and ask you to not only believe their stories as historical fact…but that your eternal salvation depends upon believing them as historical fact!

    The consensus of NT scholars is that no eyewitness, nor even a close associate of an eyewitness, wrote even ONE of the Gospels. Therefore, the probability of the reality of Jesus’ magic tricks are just as probable as the probability of the reality of the magic tricks performed by “Magic Mike” the magician at your child’s birthday party.

    Here is conservative NT scholar NT Wright’s statement on the authorship of the Gospels:

    Liked by 1 person

  297. However, I think what is more important than whether or not Jesus existed is whether or not Jesus performed unheard of before or since magic tricks: like coming back from the dead!

    Yeah Gary, this is where I sit on it, too. I lean toward thinking Jesus was a real figure for 2 main reasons: the current consensus of the experts heavily favor that view, and it also makes sense to me as an explanation for early Christianity.

    But like you, I don’t think it matters a great deal whether the Jesus of the gospels was ever based on a real Jewish preacher named Jesus or was pure myth. The most important thing is that there’s not enough evidence to reasonably think all the miracles took place.

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  298. I assume ColorStorm will comment again, because if he doesn’t, William will have had the last word. So I’ll go ahead and make an observation, too.

    William and Nan, I think you’ve both made some really excellent points and raised some pertinent questions for ColorStorm, but he’s obviously not going to engage. And really, I think that’s okay. When I was a Christian, his comments would have worried me. If he’s a Christian who’s familiar with the kinds of arguments we’re raising (as he obviously is), but is refusing to offer any kind of rebuttal or evidence to resolve the problems, it would make me think that there’s a good chance that there simply are no good responses to these issues. In other words, his comments would have done just as much to make me doubt my faith as any of the other comments here. And I don’t think I’m alone in that. Most Christians I’m familiar with don’t buy into the presuppositionalism that ColorStorm seems to deal in.

    So really, I don’t see the point in trying to press ColorStorm to engage. It would be great if he did, but many readers will simply see his refusal to offer evidence as a tacit admission that he has none.

    Kudos for trying, though!

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  299. @nate
    peter
    Will
    nan,

    and whosoever will…..

    I do agree that nate summed up tersely at least, that there is an impasse. I do not agree however that there lies any weakness in my observations regarding scripture, and my ‘refusal’ to play endless rounds of ping pong.

    When I say without reservation that ‘God made the stars also……….’ according to the testimony of scripture, no amount of ‘explanation’ by myself nor others will satisfy a ‘seeker’ who is bent on not believing.

    God’s word stands alone, apart, and anybody who is honest knows there is no comparison with the ‘religions’ of the world.

    Christianity alone, as revealed in the context of the law of God, unveils the grace of God. There is no other faith in the same universe. But creation is easy to see; redemption, ah, now there’s the difficulty. Easy too when understood, but difficult.

    When there is the charge made that ‘Nazareth was an imaginary construct’ for example, surely you can understand that such a point of view being absurd, is hardly worth engaging, since the scriptures are quite clear, so I will not.

    It is a simple matter of believing the record of scripture, whose record was written by men of far greater character than you or myself.

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  300. That kind of destroys your narrative chief, that people of every tribe, kindred, tongue, and nation, are represented quite well by the power of the true word of God.

    And no, there are no commands to lop heads off………….

    Chinese, Russian, Iranian, you name it, bowing to the truth of God’s word and happy in the process.

    God’s word is not hindered by geography.

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  301. “That kind of destroys your narrative chief, that people of every tribe, kindred, tongue, and nation, are represented quite well by the power of the true word of God.”

    Oh, so you believe Islam is as true a religion as Christianity ? How nice !

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  302. Are you purposefully being recalcitrant, or does it come natural?

    I just told you Christianity has no equal. Surely you know the difference between rat poison and Cheerios which rats enjoy……….

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  303. @CS, “Are you purposefully being recalcitrant, or does it come natural?

    I just told you Christianity has no equal.”

    And I just told you CS, had you been born in Iran, you would most likely be pounding your head on the ground 5 times each day while facing Mecca. What don’t you understand about this ???

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  304. Gary

    I have always said that fundamentalism is the safest form of Christianity. It has the surest defense: the circular argument: “The Bible is true because God says so and God is true because the Bible says so.” No smart-ass skeptic will ever defeat that argument.

    If Colorstorm wants to remain a traditional Christian, he would be a fool to give up his current strategy.

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  305. @Gary
    1. The author of the Gospel Mark
    Heresay. No corroborating evidence.The long ending is an interpolation. Fraudulant.

    2. The source of “Q”
    Pure speculation.
    3. The author of the Gospel John
    See Mark and worse …
    4. The apostle Paul
    No corroborating evidence this character existed. Several epistles fraudulant. Weakens the case for historicity.
    5. The author of the Gospel of Peter
    Pseudoepigraphical.

    @Nate

    But like you, I don’t think it matters a great deal whether the Jesus of the gospels was ever based on a real Jewish preacher named Jesus or was pure myth. The most important thing is that there’s not enough evidence to reasonably think all the miracles took place.

    Would Christianity have survived as long as it has if we knew for a fact that the character, Jesus was a myth from the beginning?

    It is worth contemplating the horrors that have been committed in the name of this man-god.

    Would you personally, have gone through what you did for the fist part of your life ( 30 years?) if the character was a myth?

    Would you and your family still be going through what you are right now if it could be shown categorically that the entire story was a fabrication?

    Imagine the first conversation you and your dad would have if we could demonstrate this beyond all reasonable doubt…. and your dad agreed!

    Now consider for a brief moment those right across the globe that are still subject to this crap.
    And remember, we are only talking about one religion….

    Imagine your response to a Dickhead like Colorstorm if you could categorically state that the character Jesus of Nazareth was simply a narrative construct.

    I wonder …..

    Ark.

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  306. @CS,”If you are drunken, it is understandable. You apparently cannot follow a line of thought.”

    CS, these comments are even below you. You are the one who didn’t follow my line of thought. My point was about your certainty of Christianity being the only true religion. I was trying to get you to realize that had you been born in Iran to a Muslim Family, through indoctrination, you today would be arguing with us that Islam is the only true religion.

    People tend to (but not always) follow the religion their parents adhere to. And their parents tend to adhere to the dominant religion of their culture.

    Continue to berate me if you like because this seems to be the only response you are capable of using. Why ? Because Jesus the one you follow was also quite capable of calling people names.

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  307. Pingback: It’s time for Hitchens, again | The Divine Spark Within

  308. The Emperor’s New Clothes arguments, like these, “God’s word stands alone, apart, and anybody who is honest knows there is no comparison with the ‘religions’ of the world,” astound me.

    “Only the wisest will see how amazing the emperor’s wardrobe is, but fools will not.”

    Your jedi mind trick wont work on me.

    I can plainly see that in stead of demonstrating your position, you’re trying to imply that anyone who doesn’t just accept your position is dishonest. That’s stupid, lazy and disingenuous – perhaps even dishonest.

    You’d have us believe that your position is so obvious that you wont take the time to explain it, but will take the time to keep commenting here again and again only to explain why and how you don’t need to explain… Surely, sir, you’re not that aloof.

    Liked by 1 person

  309. Eye for an Eye was first written by Hammurabi, not Moses or his God on Sinai.

    Circumcision was practiced by others, including Egyptians, before Abraham.

    Socrates said “render not evil for evil” a long time before Paul wrote it.

    Even the Golden Rule was spoken by Rabbis before Christ was born.

    Persians had a virgin birth, a heaven and hell and messiah before the Jews or Christians did.

    Islam has any many disciples as Christianity, and is also represented on every continent, and in every tongue.

    So, ColorStorm, what sets Christianity apart or makes it as special as you claim? Is in anything more than, “the bible says so,” or “it’s just obvious,” or, “you’re not honest if you don’t see it my way?”

    Liked by 1 person

  310. @William
    I did mention some time ago that $50 said he would never give you straight answer, so don’t say you weren’t warned.

    😉

    Occasionally he responds – by going away – to, Va te faire encular

    Liked by 1 person

  311. Uh gary?

    Strategy? Hello?

    I know the Creator of the bone. Do you have the slightest clue as to how the bone attached itself to marrow, the heart, the brain……..apart from intelligence?

    Of course you do not. The guesses of godlessness are laughable. If you call absolute truth .strategy, you are to be pitied.

    The word of God is self proving because it condemns stupidity.

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  312. Uh ColorStorm,

    You know there are bones, like rest of us, but you do not know the bone’s creator, you a know book in which men claim to speak for a God that created bones. It’s much more tenable to claim a personal relationship, and direct knowledge with Anne Frank than with the God of the Bible – she at least wrote her own book. No one questions here existence – and she’s not invisible, and therefore was much harder to label as imaginary.

    But again, if you can show it was the God of the Bible who created bones and everything else, then please demonstrate it. Otherwise, your position and assertion is no more credible than giving the credit of creation to any other “invisible” God or gods or imaginary characters.

    And thank you, every one else, for continually telling me that it’s a waste to comment to ColorStorm. I know he wont answer and I know he cannot and I also know that for most people that is obvious. But for him, and those potential silent believers who view it as him, I plan on reminding them that their efforts to refortify their ignorance simply by making unsupported claims, still has glaring and obvious flaws. And, maybe someone will have an good answer – i’d be happy to see it and think it over.

    It’s no more a wasted effort than bickering over whether there was a guy names Jesus that the gospels and religion were based around.

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  313. The word of God is self proving because it condemns stupidity.

    And yet, you live and breath among us?
    Were you one of Jesus’s little fishies that slipped through the net?

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  314. The ‘irony’ bill, is the stupidity of godlessness.

    And by the way, you, as well as every person who reads this, knows there is one God, and that the Creator is so self evident, it hardly needs addressed. Nature, arithmetic, the alphabet, scripture, ALL speak with the same resounding voice of truth. You cannot add two plus two without the aid of He who created the human brain.

    But you, like the hyena, will laugh this to scorn. Doncha just love nature…………

    It is simply a matter of suppression, which indeed this comment thread is enough proof as well.

    ‘He made the stars also………………………….’ Love that understated terseness.

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  315. Here ya go ark, no charge, a token of truth which no man in his own strength would admit:

    ‘The heart is deceitful and desperately wicked above all things, who can know it?’

    Ah yes, the criminal indictment of a heart left alone to its own devices; a heart that will molest a retarded woman; a heart that will embezzle penny candy or rob a bank; a heart that will steal film from the darkroom, a heart that will kill a puppy, a heart that will boast there is no God………..

    Indeed, the word of God condemns foolishness of every stripe. It wouldn’t kill you to admit your part in the deceitful deeds of men. That would be a good start.

    Oh how God’s word slays the so-called evolution of intellectual progress.

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  316. Look, this is what should be obvious, but it wasn’t to me either, at first. Initially, I was taught God wrote the bible and that the Bible was always true, and I was told this as matter of factly as I was told that Native Americans ran around the continental US before Europeans arrived, or how the Write Brother invented airplanes.

    I didn’t encounter many people who seemed to question any of it, so I accepted it. I didn’t line passages of the bible up side by side, in stead when I read it, I was trying to get the moral lessons, and gain understanding and wisdom. Anything questionable that I saw, i dismissed as my lack of understanding.

    But when I decided to take one step back and allow myself to question it, just like I expected Muslims to do, or anyone else from a differing religion, it all became clear. It was indeed obvious. As obvious as it is that Santa Clause isn’t real.

    Doesn’t it frustrate you that you cannot seem to find a good and clear defense for what you “know” to be true? For what you claim to be obvious?

    Take a step back, as you’d expect a Muslim to do with the Koran, the holy book they’ve been taught not to question, that they’ve been taught was the word of God, that they’ve been taught “honest” people would see as true, and actually look and see if it actually measures up. And then ask yourself, what would I expect a Muslim to see as faulty in the Koran, and does the Bible contain some of those things?

    For me? It was obvious. And even so, here I am, willing to search the scriptures with you, a believer. But the believer is the one unwilling to do it with me. Why is that? What should truth fear?

    Liked by 1 person

  317. @Colorstorm

    Oh,see the mange from ill-gotten gains,
    That adorns thy hide from root to tip,
    How the carrion flies of conscience
    Lay their eggs on the dangling, rotting flesh that resides between your blunted teeth;
    Where even the Dentist of Deliverance is reluctant to poke.
    Oh, how Lucifer Laughs on the other side of his hand,
    As His desperate Fellatio Friendly Feline
    Expends himself hugely in flatulent displays of self-mockery.
    As he inevitably bites the arse out of his own trousers,
    And the crowd cries,
    ”Ole!”
    Colorstorm has been gored by his own Bull.

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  318. I do thank you that your comments expose the blistering indictment against the heart of man.

    Perhaps one of saner minds will appreciate your on-time grunge posing as intellect.

    Which nativity story? Yes, back on point. The only one that matters.

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  319. I’m not trying pose anything. I’m also not dodging direct questions, nor trying to deploy smokescreens in order to avoid backing up my comments.

    Yeah, let’s get back on point. You say nate is wrong about the birth narrative of Matthew and Luke. Please demonstrate how he’s wrong. He has set them side by side, shown the disparities and explained them as well as why he finds them problematic. Can you, will you, do the same to support your claim that Nate is wrong and that the bible is always true and without error?

    Liked by 1 person

  320. Gary

    “Imagine your response to a Dickhead like Colorstorm if you could categorically state that the character Jesus of Nazareth was simply a narrative construct.”

    But that’s the problem, Ark, you are never going to able to “categorically” prove that Jesus did not exist. History is a matter of probability not absolute certainty. The most we can say is that Jesus probably existed or that he probably did not. You are welcome to believe that he probably didn’t, but most people, including the experts, believe he probably did.

    I suggest we concentrate on a Christian claim much more probable to be false: How probable is it that Jesus, if he existed, performed never heard of before or since magic tricks? With that question, we still can’t say “categorically” that these tricks did not occur…but we can get pretty damn close!

    Liked by 3 people

  321. While you sit on the wall like Humpty Dumpty,
    Doomed to eat your own dung and drink your own piss
    Your Commander in Chief, King James,
    Sets Balaam before you,
    That you may converse of carrots,
    In an Eddy Murphy accent,
    And as you get cross at Jesus for biting his nails, you begin to topple from your perch.
    eloi eloi lama sabachthani
    While the crowd cries,
    ”Colorstorm, you crucify us!”

    And all King James’s horses and all King James’s men,
    Couldn’t put Colorstorm back together again.

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  322. Hi CS,

    I’ve just now had a chance to read all the replies since I was on here last night. First of all, thanks for your initial reply to my comment, and I apologize if my tone came across poorly. I know it’s difficult to the lone voice of dissent in a discussion, so you have my sympathies there, if that’s any consolation. 🙂

    I think your last couple of “back-and-forths” with William go to the heart of the issue. When I read William’s summation about his former Christian beliefs and how he came to question them, I felt like I could have written that myself. When you talk about the creator of bones and stars, I know what you mean. I used to think God was that obvious, too.

    But as William has said, there’s a large chasm between Creator and God of Christianity. So how do we bridge that gap? Perhaps you’re comfortable taking a presuppositional stance that the Bible must simply be trusted in its claims, but the rest of us don’t see things that way. If you want to have a true dialogue, then I think William’s right — you should engage with us on the specific arguments we’ve been making. If we’re misrepresenting or misunderstanding scripture, please show us where we’re wrong! Acts 17:11 suggests that this is a reasonable approach to finding truth.

    Of course, you’re welcome to comment here whether you decide to get into the weeds with us or not, but I think your comments will likely carry more gravity if you do.

    Liked by 1 person

  323. Believe me ark, I do not deserve all these laurels, but tkx for the compliments.

    It only means the scriptures have found their mark.

    But if you would wake up, you would no longer be friends with the dark…….

    (sorry nate, a little poetry to lighten up the load)

    Liked by 1 person

  324. Ark, I know you’ve had run-ins with ColorStorm before, so your patience with him may be shorter than usual. But let’s please leave off the personal stuff, you dig? If there really are neutral parties reading from the sidelines, any valid points we might make are going to be poisoned by the vitriol. You feel me? 🙂

    Like

  325. @Gary.

    Once upon a time the world was flat and we were the center of the universe.

    I would not be so quick to state that proof will never be forthcoming …. One day, it might.
    Or at the very least, some form of ecclesiastical confession with accompanying documents.

    Liked by 1 person

  326. @ Nate.
    I was trying my best to sound as biblical as possible … even throwing a bit of Kings in there!

    But fair enough. I appreciate my brand of humour may not be to everyone’s cup of tea.
    We shall just have to allow Colorstorm to call us all liars or …

    Ah yes, the criminal indictment of a heart left alone to its own devices; a heart that will molest a retarded woman; a heart that will embezzle penny candy or rob a bank; a heart that will steal film from the darkroom, a heart that will kill a puppy, a heart that will boast there is no God………..

    :=)

    Liked by 1 person

  327. Or at the very least, some form of ecclesiastical confession with accompanying documents.

    But even then, it would probably be subject to debate. After all, there would have been huge incentive for enemies of Christianity to fabricate such documents. Either way, that’s not the situation we find ourselves in now, and I think Gary’s right: it’s better to focus on the more extreme claims of Christianity, or on prophecy/ consistency problems, or even on the logic of certain doctrinal claims. The data’s more solid there.

    Like

  328. It only means the scriptures have found their mark.

    You think so?
    I rather thought by quoting a bit of scripture it showed just how vile its proponents are?
    Ah, well, all about the interpretation I guess?
    Blessed are the Cheesemakers?

    Liked by 1 person

  329. I hear you, Ark. And I know I may be asking for a double standard at times, but I think there’s a lot of value in trying to take the high road. And like I said to ColorStorm, I know how difficult it is to be the lone voice “crying in the wilderness,” so I realize that some of our Christian commenters might lose their cool with us from time to time. That’s to be expected. The rest of us don’t have the same pressure — at least not on this site.

    Liked by 1 person

  330. While the data may be more solid, in my (albeit limited) experience, people deconvert largely for emotional reasons, just as they converted or were indoctrinated in the first place.

    Beside, a full on Papal confession would carry huge weight, especially if it encouraged a similar public gesture from Jewish Rabbis across the board and would also have massive political repercussions, even if there was equal as huge a denial backlash.

    Once the word is out ….

    Never say never …

    Liked by 2 people

  331. Interpreting is one thing ark. One must first believe in the fidelity of the text before one can interpret.

    I am certain for instance Nazareth was a town, long before it was significant, whereas, you do not.

    In this, there is nothing difficult to interpret; it’s not like its a dream for God’s sake.

    I am trying to keep things on track, and I am abraded because of the sideshows. But that’s ok.

    Lions dens are friendly places every so often.

    Liked by 1 person

  332. As you do not know, or even care to try to understand the etymology behind the word ”Nazareth”, probably consider the N.F.R to be an annual stock-man’s inventory, and beleive Baggati to be a second-rate Italian soccer player, I would not give a rat’s fart for your view on fidelity, period.

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  333. ColorStorm,

    you said,

    “Interpreting is one thing ark. One must first believe in the fidelity of the text before one can interpret.”

    Is this really fair and sensible?

    This is just saying that if you don’t believe it, you cant really understand it. Again, anyone can say that about anything, and it’s not a valid answer or defense – it’s smoke and mirrors; it’s an attempt to claim victory while retreating.

    Imagine a Muslim saying, “the Koran is true, any honest person would see that. Oh, you see problems in the Koran? well your opinion doesnt count because you dont believe in the fidelity of the passages. Once you believe it, then we’ll consider what you have to say regarding the possibility of it not being true.”

    It’s an excuse to avoid to discussion and remain inside an echo chamber. You’re essentially saying I’ll only consider what people who believe like me have to say.

    Like

  334. I may be wrong, but I don’t think CS was using “fidelity” as a synonym for inerrant and inspired. I think he just means that the writings are fairly reliable — in about the same way most critical scholars view them.

    Am I right about that, ColorStorm?

    Like

  335. well, but I don’t even think he means them the way you’re suggesting, nate. From the tone and implications of all his other posts, I get the idea he means all of it is reliable, including the miraculous, outlandish and supernatural.

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but that was the impression I had.

    Liked by 2 people

  336. @ nate

    Fidelity as in no reason to think the writer was full of guile. Fidelity as in faithful in which he was led to write. Fidelity as in pureness with another mans message.

    Fidelity as in believing that it was irrelevant whether anybody believed it or not. It was a non descript, unpopular town. That’s the point. ‘Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?’

    Apparently yes….

    Like

  337. @ william

    Supernatural as in water? supernatural as in moonlight? Supernatural as in a man giving his good heart to a dying criminal so he can live?

    By supernatural you surely mean the impossibility of things ‘natural.’

    Well, then that explains creation quite well and it is no more harder to believe an iron head floated, than it is to recognize the wonder of a common rainbow, by He who owns all registered trademarks to life.

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  338. Thanks for the clarification, CS.

    As to the Nazareth thing, that’s not a big deal for me. I’m happy to agree that it likely existed during Jesus’s time. But what do you think about the other specific issues I raised about the two accounts? Like, can you see a way to rationalize Luke’s story about staying in Bethlehem for about 40 days, then going to Jerusalem, then heading back home to Nazareth with Matthew’s story about being in Bethlehem for years (possibly), then fleeing to Egypt, and only going to Nazareth when they didn’t feel safe enough to return to Bethlehem?

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  339. ColorStorm,

    I’d not describe water or moonlight as supernatural, because they are indeed natural.

    How did they get here? I don’t think that necessitates a supernatural first cause.

    You’d say God spoke it all into existence, or something along those lines. You may even say it’s obvious because nothing can create itself and something has to come from something else. You’d probably say that since things like life, bones, water and moonlight are so intricate, complex and beautiful, that they had to have had been purposely designed.

    I can get it.

    However, you do not think that God was created, yet I’m sure you think he’s beautiful, intricate and complex. All that means is, is that ultimately you do not think everything really has to be designed or created, and that something, somewhere along the line may be eternal.

    To that I say, why not energy, or the universe?

    And if indeed a God, how many, which one, eternal, or also created by other god(s), good or bad, perfect or flawed? And could there be even an infinite amount of other possibilities, beyond even the ones we can imagine?

    I do not know. I’m agnostic, I suppose.

    Also, consider how everything we’ve been able to pinpoint has been demonstrated to be natural, not supernatural. Even things that were once thought to be supernatural, like lightning, typhoons, earthquakes and eclipses, have all be shown to be quite natural. Never has the opposite happened. Never has anything been proven to be supernatural and never has anything thought natural been shown to be supernatural. So if we’re working with odds, the odds seem to favor natural events will continually be discovered down the line.

    Supernatural are things like human virgin births, or coming back from the dead and flying off into heaven. I do not accept these on mere claims. I do not accept that a person hear’s directly from God just because they say so.

    And iron head floating is perfect example. What are the chances of a iron head floating on water? Let;s test it. Let’s test it 1000 times – it’s not at all the same to believe the iron head will sink as to think it will float. Not at all.

    And rainbows act in accordance with natural laws, not contrary to them like an iron head floating or a dead man bringing himself back to life 3 days later. And if you believe the rainbows were created after the flood, then you’re suggesting physics didn’t work the same way prior to the flood – even without rain, there were waterfalls, etc.

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  340. @nate

    Your tone is noticeable and appreciated.

    But I would ask you: Is it any harder to believe that the promise given to young Mary, that ‘her son would be great…….and that He would be given the throne of His father David……’ is this more difficult to believe than that the narratives and their ‘discrepancies’ can be trusted entirely?

    Was she there at Cana? Was she present at Golgotha? Far easier to digest if all taken together. There are no weaknesses in the text, that’s for sure.

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  341. But I would ask you: Is it any harder to believe that the promise given to young Mary, that ‘her son would be great…….and that He would be given the throne of His father David……’ is this more difficult to believe than that the narratives and their ‘discrepancies’ can be trusted entirely?

    There are many kinds of claims I’m willing to believe, but not if they’re mutually exclusive. There’s no such thing as a married bachelor, for instance. I don’t see how the details I mentioned in my last comment can be satisfactorily squared. It’s not so much the fault of the writers of Matthew and Luke, because I don’t think they ever anticipated their narratives would be combined. But such a discrepancy certainly doesn’t make me think there’s any divine guidance underneath.

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  342. Jon

    Ark

    Casey has passed away I understand and he held out for an Aramaic version of Matthew, am I correct? Not a view shared by many I read somewhere.

    I think he argued that there were aramaic sources behind Matthew. I don’t know how accepted or dismissed that view is. The overwhelming consensus is that gMatthew was written in Greek, but I think there is evidence of some aramaic sources. I believe there is a line or two in aramaic in the gospel. The question is how much and how distant. I have not looked into that.

    As you side with these scholars, I would appreciate if you would also mention something about their methodology and how they arrive at their belief in the historicity of Jesus and Paul. As I said, a brief summary of their arguments is fine.

    Like I said, I’m not inclined to spend what would be a full day or two to dig through their work in order to figure out their individual methodologies and arguments. I’m not sure they even have different arguments, any more than scholars who study Shakespeare would have different approaches to arguing for Shakespeare as the author of the plays attributed to Shakespeare. It’s a very simple argument. There are multiple sources/authors within the first century who write about Jesus and his followers (who came to be called Christians). They textual evidence strongly supports an early belief that he was a real person whose followers came to believe he was the messiah and even divine. Once they believed that, the legend-making took off.

    Carrier, et al, only make that seem dubious by rejecting pretty much all of the premises — e.g., the Pauline references to Jesus, to the “brother of Jesus”, to Josephus, etc — and then arguing as if their own novel interpretations should be stipulated as fact. And they get traction because people who lack any familiarity with the field of history, textual criticism and ancient sources think it’s meaningful that we have no textual references to Jesus during his lifetime. This is about as meaningful as our lack of contemporary paintings of Muhammed from his lifetime. Even less so, since at least Muhammed was a very important figure before he died. Jesus was some nobody preacher, who only became important after his death because of how his followers reinterpreted their movement.

    The reason I ask this is, with due respect, merely stating something along the lines of ” …critical biblical scholars say ….” is in fact not saying anything and certainly not telling the reader how these scholars arrive at the position they do.

    I have repeatedly (over this thread and one or two previously) outlined the standard evidence and arguments. I have also explained the flaws and inaccuracies made by the people and arguments you have cited. It does not appear to have registered. At some point it begins to feel like arguing with Dr. Banjo. You ask for evidence, I provide it, you say “yes, but can you prove that?” I mean, maybe the Q hypothesis is wrong, but you still have to explain the identical language shared by gMatthew and gLuke and why it appears to most scholars to have been copied from another source rather than the author of gLuke copying from gMatthew. Calling Q “pure speculation” isn’t an argument.

    Anyway, I don’t see why yet another round of explanations would be any more useful, especially when you won’t even explain what you think constitutes verifiable evidence or why you think we should “expect” to find the evidence you demand.

    If you genuinely want to learn about various methodologies used in the field, there are plenty of resources. Here are a couple links to discussions of var