Archive for the ‘Historicity’ Category

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. …

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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.” …

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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

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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

Jésus-Christ, Sublime Figure de Papier


(Vridar) – Neil Godfrey:

My routine was interrupted this week with the arrival of a new book in the mail, Jésus-Christ, Sublime Figure de Papier by Nanine Charbonnel. She is an emeritus professor of philosophy who describes herself as a specialist in hermeneutics.

This book proposes to read the Gospel tales as midrashim, reminding us rightly that it is impossible to read the New Testament texts without locating them in their relation to the Old Testament (in Hebrew and Greek). As a midrash, an exegesis and reinterpretation of earlier texts, evangelical tales set up a theology of fulfillment through narratives, drawing largely on the texts and themes of the Hebrew Bible. Nanine Charbonnel shows it in pedagogical tables indicating the different borrowing and rewriting that can be found behind the tales of the Gospels. She then details the function of the characters appearing in the Gospels, like the twelve apostles, representing the twelve tribes of the new Israel, and Mary, the Jewish people who begets the Messiah. Jesus is the new Adam, the new Moses, the new Elijah and the new Elishah, but also the new Joshua and the incarnation of the “suffering servant”, a messiah who brings together different messianic traits. The Gospels no longer appear as compilations but as creative works repeating and transforming statements in the Hebrew Bible.

To understand the figure of Jesus Christ as a sublime invention of the human mind is the main thesis of this book. …

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Nanine Charbonnel: Jésus-Christ, Sublime Figure de Papier

“The Chosen People Were Not Awaiting the Messiah”


(Vridar) – Neil Godfrey:

One widely held view that I have long questioned is that there were widespread expectations or hopes for a soon-coming messiah around the time of Jesus. One line of evidence often cited in support for this scenario are the scrolls from Qumran. I have posted regularly on the evidence and what various scholars have had to say about it, and now happily (for me) I have found one more scholar who has likewise questioned the prevailing assumption and specifically pointed to the failure of the Qumran scrolls to indicate the existence of messianic fervour or imminent hopes prior to the Jewish War of 66-70 CE. The author speaks of Judahism to distinguish the religious ideas and practices of later (200 CE – 600 CE Judaism). …

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Donald Harman Akenson: Surpassing Wonder: The Invention of the Bible and the Talmuds

Jesus Before the New Testament Canon


(Vridar) – Neil Godfrey:

The point here is to clarify the grounds upon which Nodet and Taylor claimed that our canonical gospels are not the best place to start in order to understand Christian origins. The evidence they cited for this claim came from the Christian writings we have prior to the appearance in the literature of any explicit knowledge of our gospels. Our gospels evidently carried very little (= zero) weight as authoritative information about Jesus until the late second century. …

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Étienne Nodet, Justin Taylor: The Origins of Christianity: An Exploration

Josephus on Jesus?


(Richard Carrier Blogs) – Richard Carrier:

We know Josephus published The Jewish War about 75 A.D. And no mention of the Christian Jesus is in it. Josephus then published the Jewish Antiquities about 93 A.D. And in surviving manuscripts of that today, there are two references to the Christian Jesus: the Testimonium Flavianum (in book 18) and a reference to James the brother of Jesus (in book 20).
 The first is a brief fawning paragraph about Jesus whose authenticity has been widely doubted for centuries. How much of it is authentic, or if any reference to Jesus existed there at all, remains widely debated. The second is a single line that connects the execution of a certain James to Jesus “the one called Christ” without any explanation. That has been doubted by some experts over the decades, but accepted as authentic by most. …

The latest research collectively establishes that both references to Jesus were probably added to the manuscripts of Josephus at the Library of Caesarea after their first custodian, Origen—who had no knowledge of either passage—but by the time of their last custodian, Eusebius—who is the first to find them there. The long passage (the Testimonium Flavianum) was almost certainly added deliberately; the later passage about James probably had the phrase “the one called Christ” (just three words in Greek) added to it accidentally, and was not originally about the Christian James, but someone else. …

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Page from Flavius Josephus: Antiquitates Judaicae

Jesus : His Life


(Debunking Christianity) – R.G. Price:

When I heard about History’s new TV special, Jesus : His Life, I was quite interested to see how they were going to handle the subject. As the author of the recently published book, Deciphering the Gospels Proves Jesus Never Existed, obviously I knew that my perspective on the subject would be different than whatever might be presented, but I was still quite interested to see how they were going to present the subject matter. …

The bigger point here, and the reason that I bothered reviewing this program, is that this is the type of material that drives public perception of our knowledge of Jesus. It’s not the academic publications or hard-core biblical scholarship, it’s programs like this that lead people to believe that our knowledge of Jesus is far more reliable, clear and certain than what it really is. As it turns out, this program doesn’t even present poor scholarship, it just presents outright propaganda and church doctrine as fact. …

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Jesus: His Life, 2019 TV series

The State of Scholarly Mythicism


(Debunking Christianity) – R.G. Price:

After publishing Deciphering the Gospels Proves Jesus Never Existed in late 2018 I have become increasingly engaged in the field of biblical studies and Christian origins. The subject of mythicism is a complex one that is fraught with problems, as is the entire subject of Christian origins, because of the vast array of competing claims in the field, some of which are of dubious academic quality. Nevertheless, I believe that the field is maturing and has reached a point of growing consensus around a model for Christian origins without the existence of a human Jesus. …

What I’d like to do here is review major works of scholarship that support this overall model to highlight how these works contribute to the model and where they disagree. The works I will be reviewing are as follows:

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R.G.Price: selection of historicity books

Here We Go Again with “He Is Risen!”


(Debunking Christianity) – David Madison:

The supreme killer text in the New Testament—the one that wipes out the story that Jesus rose from the dead—is a gift to us from the author of Matthew’s gospel. This is worth noting as Easter is upon us, but I wonder how many believers notice this text; or, for that matter, how many have done even a little due diligence on the gospel accounts of Easter morning.

My colleague at the Debunking Christianity Blog, Robert Conner, has offered a solid analysis in this book, Apparitions of Jesus: The Resurrection as Ghost Story—and his sharp wit as well:

“I’ve long suspected that what the majority of people know about Christianity derives from its major holidays. They get their religion from Christmas cards and Easter imagery—thinking the Easter Bunny was one of the twelve apostles and candy eggs were on the menu at the Last Supper.” (Conner, Debunking Christianity Blog, 16 November 2018)

But yet another holiday, Halloween, comes to mind, when we read the supreme killer text, which Matthew inserts just as Jesus took his last breath:

“At that moment the curtain of the temple was torn in two, from top to bottom. The earth shook, and the rocks were split. The tombs also were opened, and many bodies of the saints who had fallen asleep were raised. After his resurrection they came out of the tombs and entered the holy city and appeared to many.” (Matthew 27:51-53)

This is the point at which Christians should say, “Okay, that’s it, we’re outta here.” Matthew has dropped the biggest clue imaginable that the New Testament trades in superstition. In any other context this story would be laughed off as a macabre detail in a horror novel. But Matthew was pushing the idea that the resurrection of Jesus had magical properties; so he alone came up with the fantastic account of a swarm of dead bodies coming alive as a consequence: “See, it works!” I suppose we have to give him credit for being creative. …

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Robert Conner: Apparitions of Jesus: The Resurrection as Ghost Story