Archive for the ‘Historicity’ Category

The Gospel of Mark as Reaction and Allegory


(RR) – R.G. Price:

Throughout history many scholars have considered the Gospel of Mark a puzzling, and at times incoherent, work. This is yet another reason why this Gospel was so little regarded for so long, but what I hope to demonstrate here is that confusion over the Gospel of Mark stems from supposing that it is something which it is not, and that once you realize that the Gospel of Mark was not written as a foundational religious document at all, but that it was written as an allegorical story to portray the Judean Jews and the early Christian apostles as fools who brought destruction upon themselves, then the work makes perfect sense.

As a story that was written in reaction to the destruction of Jerusalem the Gospel of Mark is a story of absurdity and despair. This story of loss, despair, and destruction, was only later transformed into a story of hope and resurrection by the later Gospel writers, and by those who edited the Gospel of Mark and added the portions after Mark 16:8. Indeed, the Gospel of Mark may have been written by a disaffected ex-Christian who viewed the Christian movement in general as a failure. That such a bizarre and disaffected story would have become the basis for the other narratives which portray a life of Jesus (the other Gospels) can only indicate the sheer lack of other biographical material. …

rationalrevolution gospel_markFrancesco Hayez: Destruction of the Jerusalem 2nd Temple in 70 CE by Titus

The Jesus Question


(Vridar) – Neil Godfrey:

In the Gospel of Mark, the Jesus figure is most unlike any ordinary human figure in ancient (or modern) literature. He is a human, of course, with brothers and sisters and a mother, and he eats and drinks. But he is unlike any other figure in works that we know to be ancient biographies or histories. He is presented to us “cold”, that is, without us having any knowledge of who the biographer is or why he is even writing about him. Without any explanation of how the author came to know anything about his life, he is depicted as engaging in conversations and activities with spirit beings both in heaven and on earth. He calls and mere mortals drop all their livelihoods in a moment and obey. He reads peoples minds and hearts. He exercises God’s prerogative to forgive sins and rules the physical elements. He talks in mysteries so none can understand, and though he explains all his mysterious messages to his disciples, even they don’t truly believe. Even his disciples are far from genuine human beings: they walk as if mesmerized into obedience to follow him at his call; they are unrealistically stupid in not recognizing his power despite seeing it demonstrated time and again; they, along with the crowds in the narrative, come and go as the author needs them, not as per any realistic plot device. In other words, Jesus is depicted in the earliest gospel as a figure of a human but certainly something trans-human. The story-line is absurd — quite against the grain of the way real people really are and how real people really respond — if read “realistically”. But if read as ciphers, or symbols, or personifications, or mouthpieces for some particular set of beliefs and doctrines, if read as a parable or symbolically, the story makes perfect sense.

We have evidence to encourage us in our view that this earliest gospel’s Jesus and disciples (and even his enemies and other persons that appear in the narrative) are far from realistic or natural. That evidence lies in the way that the subsequent evangelists (“Matthew” and “Luke” — even “John”, some would argue) changed Mark’s Jesus and disciples into somewhat more realistic figures. (“John”, on the other hand, went in the other direction and made him even less human.) “Luke” even reduces Jesus to a martyr in the tradition of the Maccabees. …

vridar jesus-questionR.G.Price: selection of historicity books

Questioning the Historicity of Jesus: Conclusion


(Vridar) – Neil Godfrey:

As I read each chapter or section of Raphael Lataster’s book, Questioning the Historicity of Jesus, I wrote about it here, but now that I have read the concluding pages I discover that Lataster anticipated some of the points I made along the way. …

Lataster places his hopes in “future generations” of scholars, especially as more retiring scholars speak openly as they open the doors to that new generation.

After all, as Lataster points out,

every crucial aspect of the best cases against historicity, and for agnosticism and mythicism, is already accepted in mainstream scholarship. That is not to say that all – or even a majority – of scholars accept all of them, but that each of these components is held to by a significant number of mainstream scholars, and even Christians. In other words, these sceptical theories may not be so ‘fringe’ or ‘unthinkable’ after all.


  • Pre-Christian Jews believed in a divine and celestial Messiah/Christ.*
  • The Epistles – especially Paul’s – describe a Celestial Jesus communicating from Heaven.*
  • Mark allegorises Paul’s writings.*

The three asterisked points “demonstrate that the Celestial Jesus theory is reasonable, and alludes to an organic development from already-existing Jewish beliefs” (Lataster, pp. 460 f) …

vridar part-10 lataster

Raphael Lataster: Questioning the Historicity of Jesus – Why a Philosophical Analysis Elucidates the Historical Discourse

The Case For the Historicity of Jesus


(Vridar) – Neil Godfrey:

Part One of Questioning the Historicity of Jesus addresses the case for the historical existence of Jesus. The first difficulty here is finding the best and strongest scholarly arguments for Jesus’ historicity:

I have long searched for good cases for the Historical Jesus. I sought fairly recent, peer-reviewed academic books or articles, solely/primarily focussed on arguing for Jesus’ historicity, written by secular scholars in relevant fields. Not one source met these criteria. I would have loved the opportunity to critique books focused on this topic written by a James Crossley or an Aaron W. Hughes, and published with Oxford University Press, but such books – perhaps like Jesus – do not exist; so I have settled for two popular books written by Bart Ehrman and Maurice Casey. (Lataster, p. 29)

Those books are Bart Ehrman’s Did Jesus Exist? (2012) and Maurice Casey’s Jesus: Evidence and Argument Or Mythicist Myths? (2014). …

vridar part-3 lataster

Books by Bart Ehrman, Maurice Casey, and Raphael Lataster on the Historicity of Jesus

Introduction of „Questioning the Historicity of Jesus“


(Vridar) – Neil Godfrey:

I am dwelling on both the Foreword and Introduction in this first post on Raphael Lataster’s book Questioning the Historicity of Jesus because the question is certainly controversial enough and misconceptions abound and need to be confronted and cleared away in order for a serious reading to happen.

Lataster is clear that he is a “historical Jesus agnostic”. He is not “a biblical scholar” but defends his academic credibility in addressing the question of Jesus’ existence …

Having engaged with several biblical scholars online about historical methods I have found the same limitation: too often New Testament scholars demonstrate a lack of awareness of how historians in ancient history and classics departments go about establishing “what happened” in the past. James Crossley notes the “crucial insights” interdisciplinary studies can bring to the question and Lataster cites other New Testament scholars (Pieter Craffert, John Gager) making the same point.

Lataster describes the way his own work has been received by both non-biblical and biblical historians. …

Bart Ehrman’s and Maurice Casey’s publications attempting to argue for the historical existence of Jesus are discussed, along with Richard Carrier’s responses and how Raphael Lataster himself entered the discussion.

Lataster concludes his Introduction with what he believes an analytical philosophical approach can bring to the question. …

vridar 2019/09/22 part-1-questioning

Raphael Lataster: Questioning the Historicity of Jesus – Why a Philosophical Analysis Elucidates the Historical Discourse

Questioning Jesus’ Historicity


(Bible Interpretation) – Raphael Lataster:

Give the state of the sources, then, as well as the underwhelming – and few – cases presented by respected secular scholars of the New Testament, it is very reasonable to be agnostic about Jesus’ historicity. But if that isn’t fringe enough, consider an alternative to the mainstream Historical Jesus hypothesis. Consider that Christianity began with the belief in a purely Celestial Jesus. Now in principle, this idea cannot be dismissed out of hand. Just as with the Judaisms of the time early Christianities (there was of course much overlap) were very diverse, and there is much about the early years we do not know and will likely never know. But this Celestial Jesus theory, floating around in hyper-sceptical circles for over 100 years, is not just possible. It is, based on the currently available evidence, which is admittedly not much, quite probable. …

bibleinterp questioning-jesus-historicity

Raphael Lataster: Questioning the Historicity of Jesus – Why a Philosophical Analysis Elucidates the Historical Discourse

Evidence for the ‘Historical Jesus’


(The Conversation) – Raphael Lataster:

The first problem we encounter when trying to discover more about the Historical Jesus is the lack of early sources. The earliest sources only reference the clearly fictional Christ of Faith.

These early sources, compiled decades after the alleged events, all stem from Christian authors eager to promote Christianity – which gives us reason to question them. The authors of the Gospels fail to name themselves, describe their qualifications, or show any criticism with their foundational sources – which they also fail to identify.

Filled with mythical and non-historical information, and heavily edited over time, the Gospels certainly should not convince critics to trust even the more mundane claims made therein.

The methods traditionally used to tease out rare nuggets of truth from the Gospels are dubious. …

theconversation weighing-up-the-evidence

Papyrus 46 folio

Real Jesus Hiding in the NT?


(Debunking Christianity) – David Madison:

It’s standard practice for art dealers to provide documentation that the works they sell are the real thing; ideally there will be a paper trail showing ownership back to the original artist. At the end of movies there are several minutes of rolling credits, hundreds of names, of all the people who helped make the film. At the end of any biography, the reader can find the sources used, commonly hundreds of them: this is where the information comes from – and any curious researcher can find them as well.

A couple of hundred years ago, Bible scholars began to grapple with the inconvenient truth that the gospels – those iconic titles, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John – have no such anchors: No documentation, credits at the end, or identified sources. They seem to position themselves as history, but what’s the evidence for that?

So, without the documentation, any list of credits or identified sources, just what are the gospels? Yes, they are theology, but what if the gospel of Mark – which all the others copied, referred to and modified – was never even intended as history? R. G. Price’s 2018 book, Deciphering the Gospels Proves Jesus Never Existed, presents the case for that. Price, a software engineer and data analyst, demonstrates his skills as a detective, looking behind the façade of the gospels to get at what really happened. His book is highly readable, and can help laypeople grasp why a real Jesus is subject to doubt. …

debunking real-jesus-hiding

R. G. Price: Deciphering the Gospels - Proves Jesus Never Existed

A Bible Book Of Blunders


(Debunking Christianity) – David Madison:

In terms of shattering the credibility of Christianity, the Book of Acts does a pretty good job. Some of the cringe-worthy stuff jumps right out at us, other flaws become more obvious when readers study the texts carefully and try to align its stories with information in the letters of Paul, who is the main hero of Acts.

Was Acts written 30, 40 or 50 years after Paul’s death? We don’t know, but whenever we read something in Paul’s letters that contradicts Act, we can be sure that it was the author of Acts who got it wrong. “…when Acts can be compared with information derived from the undisputed Pauline letters, there is partial or full disagreement upon most major points.” …

debunking book-of-blunders

Papyrus 46 folio

The Bible Against Itself


(Debunking Christianity) – David Madison:

It was a big blunder to publish the four gospels side-by-side; careful readers can see the errors and inconsistencies. It’s probably too harsh to say that the authors were good liars; we should be kind and just accept that they wrote pious fiction. We shouldn’t even look for fragments of history in the gospels; there’s no way to be sure which verses preserve authentic memories of Jesus events.

The problems abound when the gospels are studied against the background of the epistles. The apostle Paul, for example, wrote his letters well before the gospels existed, and seems to have known precious little about Jesus—and had no interest in finding out. Paul blustered along, writing reams of theology, little suspecting that he was undermining stories that the later gospel writers would tell.

Consider, for example, an excerpt from Paul’s Letter to the Romans, 13:1-4

debunking peter-got-demotion

Randel McCraw Helms: The Bible Against Itself: Why the Bible Seems to Contradict Itself

Goodreads: Randel Helms: The Bible Against Itself: Why the Bible Seems to Contradict Itself