Tuesday, September 30, 2014

126 Writers Who, According To Michael Paulkovich, Should Have Mentioned Jesus If Jesus Existed

[PS, 21. November 2016: I'm a mythicist. I'm not sure whether Jesus ever existed. I mention this because some people seem to assume that my issue with Paulkovich is that I believe Jesus existed. No, my issue is that I don't think Paulkovich has proven anything about Jesus. At all.]



Here we go, here's Paulkovich's list, reproduced as he gave it, complete with quirky renderings such as "Cassius Deo" rather than the more familiar "Deo Cassius," and "Halicarnassensis Dionysus II" rather than "Dionysus of Halicarnassus."

Aelius Theon, Albinus, Alcinous, Ammonius of Athens, Alexander of Aegae, Antipater of Thessalonica, Antonius Polemo, Apollonius Dyscolus, Apollonius of Tyana, Appian, Archigenes, Aretaeus, Arrian, Asclepiades of Prusa, Asconius, Aspasius, Atilicinus, Attalus, Bassus of Corinth, C Cassius Longinus, Calvisius Taurus of Berytus, Cassius Deo, Chaeremon of Alexandria, Claudius Agathemerus, Claudius Ptolomaeus, Cleopatra the Physician, Cluvius Rufus, Cn Cornelius Lentulus Gaetulicus, Cornelius Celsus, Columella, Cornutus, D Haterius Agrippa, D Valerius Asiaticus, Damis, Demetrius, Demonox, Demosthenes Philalethes, Dion of Prusa, Domitius Afer, Epictetus, Erotianus, Euphrates of Tyre, Fabius Rusticus, Favorinus, Flaccus, Florus, Fronto, Gellius, Gordius of Tyana, Gnaeus Domitius, Halicarnassensis Dionysus II, Heron of Alexandria, Josephus, Justus of Tiberius, Juvenal, Lesbonax of Mytilene, Lucanus, Lucian, Lysimachus, M Antonius Pallas, M Vinicius, Macro, Mam Aemilius Scaurus, Marcellus Sidetes, Martial, Maximus Tyrius, Moderatus of Gades, Musonius, Nicarchus, Nicomachus Gerasenus, Onasandros, P Clodius Thrasea Paetus, Palaemon, Pamphila, Pausanius, Pedacus Dioscorides, Persius/Perseus, Petronius, Phaedrus, Phillipus of Theesalonica, Philo of Alexandria, Phlegon of Tralles, Pliny the Elder, Pliny the Younger, Plotinus, Plutarch, Pompeius Saturninus, Pomponius Mela, Pomponius Secundus, Potamon of Mytilene, Ptolomy of Mauretania, Q Curtius Rufus, Quintilian, Rubellius Plautus, Rufus the Ephesian, Saleius Bassus, Scopelian the Sophist, Scribonius, Seneca the Elder, Seneca the Younger, Sex Afranius Burrus, Sex Julius Frontinus, Servilius Damocratus, Silius Italicus, Soranus, Soterides of Epidaurus, Sotian, Statius the Elder, Statius the Younger, Suetonius, Sulpicia, T Aristo, T Statilius Crito, Tacitus, Thallus, Theon of Smyrna, Thrasyllus of Mendes, Ti Claudius Pasion, Ti Julius alexander, Tiberius, Valerius Flaccus, Valerius Maximus, Vardanes I, Vellius Paterculus, Verginius Flavius and Vindex.

Okay. Let's start with those on the list who, contrary to Paulkovich's assertions, actually do mention Jesus or Christians: Josephus, Pliny the Younger, Suetonius and Tacitus. There is of course a passage in the manuscripts of Josephus, which praises Jesus to the point of calling him god-like, which is now generally agreed to be an interpolation. Some scholars, apologists, mostly, agree that it is an interpolation but insist -- unconvincingly, in my opinion -- that the original narrative still mentioned Jesus at that point. Be that as it may, Jesus is mentioned in another passage in Josephus having to do with his brother James. Some say that the passage in Tacitus describing Nero's cruel treatment of Christians actually has to do with followers of Chrestus, not Christus. I maintain that "Chrestus" is simply a misspelling. [PS, 6. November 2014: the spelling "Chrestus" occurs in Suetonius (Divus Claudius 25,4), not Tacitus. Thanks to Tim O'Neill for bringing this error to my attention.] 4 who mention Jesus or Christians, that leaves 122 names on Paulkovich's list.

Next are the 47 people whose writings Paulkovich cannot have studied, as he claimed, because none of their writings survive: Albinus (assuming Paulkovich is referring to the Albinus who was procurator of Judea in Nero's reign), Ammonius, Alexander of Aegae, Apollonius of Tyana, Attalus, Bassus of Corinth, Chaeremon of Alexandria, Claudius Agathemerus, Cleopatra the Physician, Cluvius Rufus, Gnaeus Cornelius Lentulus Gaetulicus, Didius Haterius Agrippa, Damis, Demetrius the Cynic, Demosthenes Philalethes, Domitius Afer, Epictetus, Fabius Rusticus, Favorinus, Gnaeus Domitius Afer, Justus of Tiberias, Pallas, Marcus Vinicius, Mamercus Aemilius Scaurus, Moderatus of Gades, Thrasea, Palaemon, Pamphile of Epidaurus, Pompeius Saturninus, Pomponius Secundus, Rubellius Plautus, Saleius Bassus, Scopelian, Scribonius, Sextus Afranius Burrus, Servilius Damocrates, Soteridas, Sotion, Statius the Elder, Aristo, Crito, Thrasyllus of Mendes, Tiberius Claudius Pasion, Tiberius Julius Alexander, Tiberius, Vardanes I, Lucius Verginius Rufus and Vindex. That leaves 74.

Aelius Theon is known only as the author of exercises for orators. Alcinous wrote a manuel of Platonic philosopher for teachers. Lesbonax died before Jesus, if he lived, was full grown. All of the several Lysimachus' died before Jesus would've been born, as did both Scribonius', father and son. Silius Italicus is known for a poem about the 2nd Punic war, Valerius Flaccus for Jason and the Argonauts. Flaccus is Valerius Flaccus. From Sulpicia, 2 lines of erotic verse survive. Soranus was a gynacologist. Archigenes, Arataeus, Pedanius, Celsus and Rufus were also physicians. Frontinus wrote one famous book about aqueducts and another about military strategy. Florus wrote an epitome of Livy. We're down to 57 names on Paulkovich's list. Only 2 funeral orations survive from Polemon. 4 books by Apollonius Dyscolus survive, 1 each on syntax, adjectives, conjunctions and pronouns.
55.

Ptolomy is that extremely famous mathematician and astronomer whose authority on one point Copernicus overturned. Why does Paulkovich consider him to have been an historian? Your guess is as good as mine. Columella wrote on agriculture, Cornutus on Greek mythology, D Valerius Asiaticus wrote a letter to the police about a stolen pig, Erotianus wrote a book which leaves it unclear whether he was a physician who loved polished grammar or a grammarian who greatly admired Hippocrates. 50. That leaves 4 epigrammatists, 4 mathematicians, 2 more geographers, 9 people I've never heard of (Typos by Paulkovich?), and 31 more people who might have written a total of 5 pages between them about the entire history of Judea and Galilee, 5 pages which very suspiciously contain no mention of Jesus!

And many non-Christian writers before AD 300, Paulkovich's cut-off point, who do mention Jesus or Christians, who are not on his list.

As an atheist, I long for a much better class of atheists, atheists writing about history who are not historically illiterate.

45 comments:

  1. Some scholars, apologists, mostly, agree that it is an interpolation but insist -- unconvincingly, in my opinion -- that the original narrative still mentioned Jesus at that point.

    Ummm, no, not "apologists, mostly". That is actually the consensus postion of the majority of Josephan scholars, who are mostly Jewish. Apologists tend to agree with them, but so do most scholarly non-apologists. That's because this position is based firmly on sound textual and stylistic evidence.

    Well done on the rest of your analysis here. Paulkovich's article was the worst pseudo historical nonsense I've read on this subject all year. Which, considering his competition on that front, is quite an achievement. I'm another atheist who long ago realised that when it comes to historiography, most atheists are stunted at about a high school level of understanding. Which is why so many of us find junk reasoning like Paulovich's crap persuasive when anyone with an undergraduate level of understanding can see it's garbage.

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    1. All right, good catch, I was reaching when I said "apologists, mostly." On the other hand, I don't always accept the scholarly consensus, certainly not always when the subject is Jeebus. The overwhelming scholarly consensus is that Jesus existed, but I'm not sure. My impression is that there's an overwhelming unspoken agreement among Biblical scholars, going back to the trauma inflicted upon them by Schweitzer, not to question Jesus' existence, and to rudely mock everyone who does -- which is quite easy for the specialists to do in most cases, because when the professionals don't look into something, that leaves amateurs to do their best, unsupervised.

      At least the specialists don't torture us and burn us alive anymore over such things.

      I think you may be reaching when you talk about "most atheists" being stunted in their understanding of historiography. Certainly, most of the prominent New Atheists, those who currently are most visible as atheists, are stunted that way: Dawkins, Harris, Meyers & Co. All three of them have contributed to Free Inquiry, where Paulkovich published this absurd list.

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    2. My impression is that there's an overwhelming unspoken agreement among Biblical scholars

      Sorry, but I find the idea that Mythicism has little to no support amongst scholars out of some kind of intertia (let alone "trauma") ridiculous to the point of verging on a conspiracy theory. Why would scholars happily accept a range of ideas about Jesus, from an apocalyptic prophet to a charismatic hasid, hippy sage or even gay magician, but have a mental block against a mythic Jesus? That makes no sense. The real problem is that the Jesus Myth thesis requires a series of baseless suppositions to prop it up and gets slashed to pieces by Occam's Razor. That's why it only appeals to fringe contrarians and/or ideologues with an agenda.

      "I think you may be reaching when you talk about "most atheists" being stunted in their understanding of historiography."

      I wish I was. I used to think I was part of a silent majority and the noisy illiterates were just more active online. These days I'm not so sure. Take this article by Paulkovich - it was posted on the /r/atheism subreddit yesterday. So far it's received 3323 upvotes and 1841 comments. Read the comments and tell me I'm wrong about atheists being clueless about how history is studied:
      http://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/comments/2hvhmo/jesus_never_existed_says_new_report_that_finds_no/

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    3. Perhaps we can agree that the subject of Jesus often inflames the passions and leads to less-than-perfectly-rational statements and actions. If you want me to supply a rational, reasonable and honorable reason why academics would suppress debate about historicism, I can't.

      I don't think that typical online comments by atheists -- I know what kind of comments you mean -- necessarily represent atheists in general. The number of atheists who don't spend much time posting comments about atheism online is, of course, unknown.

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    4. PS: " That's why it only appeals to fringe contrarians and/or ideologues with an agenda."

      Thank you for that.

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    5. If you want me to supply a rational, reasonable and honorable reason why academics would suppress debate about historicism, I can't.

      "Suppress"? Pardon? The most obvious reason they don't take it seriously is that consider it tendentious crap that doesn't stand up to Occam's Razor. They "suppress" it the way biology "suppresses" Creationism.

      "I don't think that typical online comments by atheists -- I know what kind of comments you mean -- necessarily represent atheists in general."

      Then I wonder why the majority is so consistently silent. Whenever I see this subject come up online the number of comments by atheists who have some grasp of historiography and the flaws in the Jesus Myth thesis are outnumbered by the screeching "Jeebus didn't exist!" fanatics by about 50 to one. I've abandoned several atheist fora in sheer weariness at trying to stem the tide of boneheaded Jesus Myth hysteria. I think you're being hopeful without cause.

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    6. You think that Biblical studies is 100% as free from theology and from objectivity concerning things which impinge on religion as biology? Really? Well, come to think of it, if Dawkins and Meyers are representative, then biology is hardly objective about religion. Most biologists are probably much more reasonable about religion than those two. But I don't believe that anybody's 100% objective about everything. I think I'm unusually objective about things, but who doesn't think that about himself?

      You just offered an answer to your own question about why a possible atheist majority might be absent from online discussions on religious topics -- because they're weary of the boneheads.

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    7. "You think that Biblical studies is 100% as free from theology and from objectivity concerning things which impinge on religion as biology?"

      No, I don't think that. I don't know where you got the idea I'd believe anything of the sort. What I'm saying is that the idea a field broad enough to encompass everything from the Jesus of evangelical literalism to Jesus the gay magician would somehow baulk at the mythic Jesus out of pure narrow conservatism is patently absurd. They baulk at it because it's a creaking contrivance that doesn't stand up to informed scrutiny.

      "You just offered an answer to your own question about why a possible atheist majority might be absent from online discussions on religious topics -- because they're weary of the boneheads."

      I'm afraid that's only part of the story. The bigger part is that there aren't very many historically literate atheists in the first place. The fact that many people come to atheism via arguments about science explains the historical illiteracy better - few people who have a background in science have studied history past high school level, let alone historiography.

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    8. "there aren't very many historically literate atheists in the first place"

      I've met a lot of Classicists who are atheists and who could've easily done a much better and more thorough job with Paulkovich than I did. (I'm an autistic autodidact.)

      But that's just anecdotal evidence from my personal experience. What I'm trying to drive at here is that I wonder whether either one of us really KNOWS what a "typical" atheist is like.

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    9. Hey Steven

      So much of this hulabaloo is based on conflating the question whether the man, Jesus existed or Jesus, the miracle worker, Son of God, savior of the world existed.

      Which to me is like trying to answer the question whether George Washington existed by examining folk tales about George chopping down a cheery tree and never telling a lie. The folk tale obviously has no bearing on the question whether GW actually lived and existed.

      Further, ancient Egypt, the Middle East, and India was a hot bed of religion and spirituality.
      The notion that an first century Palestinian holy man with disciples was so strange and unusual for that time and place that Jesus had to be manufactured or imagined is bs.

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    10. "So much of this hulabaloo is based on conflating the question whether the man, Jesus existed or Jesus, the miracle worker, Son of God, savior of the world existed."

      You're absolutely right about that. Very often in these debates about Jesus we get all agitated and shout at each other and fail to notice that we're talking about different things.

      "like trying to answer the question whether George Washington existed by examining folk tales about George chopping down a cheery tree and never telling a lie"

      Except that in the case of Washington there is a huge amount of evidence apart from the story about the cherry tree and how young George could not tell a lie (By the way, those stories about young George were invented by Parson Weems.), while in the case of Jesus, the evidence all pretty much boils down to the New Testament, jam-packed with fairy tales.

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    11. "That's why it only appeals to fringe contrarians and/or ideologues with an agenda." Well, I suppose I could be a fringe contrarian, as I don't care much for ideologues. Probably projection on my part... At any rate, I think the Jesus Myth has broader appeal than to just those groups because it sounds like an academic argument (which vanishes upon objective examination) and it seems like a trump card to passionate atheists who don't know history when confronted with Christians who only know the bible: "Well, Jesus didn't even exist!"

      As atheists, we like to think we're rational, empirically-minded people (at least I do), but we're still susceptible to attractive falsehoods that we wish were true.

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    12. @ z

      "I think the Jesus Myth has broader appeal than to just those group"

      In the wider sphere, yes of course it does. I was talking about in the academic sphere. The tiny handful of people who can be, by any stretch, called scholars and who accept the Jesus Myth thesis can be categorised as contrarians (e.g. Price) and ideologues (e.g. Carrier). Though there's a broad overlap between those two categories.

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    13. I don't know how we can determine that a majority of Josephus specialists agree that the reference to Jesus is genuine at least in its core, but we do know the evidence has not changed but society and attitudes towards Jews and ecumenicism has. Jews and Jewish sources since the latter half of the twentieth century have been found to contain so much more that is positive for Christianity than was ever known among them before. We also know -- or at least it's a pity more of us don't -- that the criteria used to establish "authenticity" in Christian sources and sources used for the study of Christianity were originally developed (prior to form criticism) in direct response to engagement with mythicists of the days of Drews et al. It was well acknowledged that Christian historical inquiries were circular and some sort of more objective method was needed to establish the "facts" of Jesus etc. Hence our criteria for authenticity that have been stretched to embrace -- to a large extent -- the fundamental arguments supporting the newfound evidence that Josephus did mention Jesus after all! Of course we also know that those criteria have been demonstrated to be logically flawed but, well, what can we do. They're all we've got.

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    14. "I don't know how we can determine that a majority of Josephus specialists agree that the reference to Jesus is genuine at least in its core"

      Yes, it would be impossible for someone - say, Louis Feldman - to do a survey of the scholarship and determine this. That could never happen.

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    15. Perhaps you would like to be just a little helpful and cite the survey and its years of coverage so we can examine its methods and scope and definitions. Presumably the survey addresses contemporary scholars and not those of a generation ago.

      Not that I doubt it has been done or that a majority of Josephan specialists have published something that writes with an implicit assumption about the TF, but since we are attempting to deal in facts I would be interested in exactly the context of such implicit references in publications and the extent of the majority.

      I only know I come across a surprising number of New Testament and religion scholars who today do drop an passing comment that they don't accept that any of the TF is necessarily original. I'm sure they are a minority, but how small a minority might be interesting, and also their confessional backgrounds, too.

      The bottom line for me is the context. I have yet to find a comprehensive argument that addresses all the evidence and that explains how Josephus could despise all messianic hopefuls except one, despise all contemporary miracle workers except one, despise all preachers of the end except one, despise all who protested against the temple and religious status quo except one, and just happened to express his sole exception in the middle of a passage that he introduced as a list of the most calamitous woes!



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  2. He seems to intentionally have omitted sources that actually does indeed mention Jesus at the time he was alive. Like the sources mentioned by Holger Kersten in his studies on Jesus' travels through Asia.

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  3. There's also the canonical and extra-canonical sources, likely dismissed or not even considered by Paulkovich simply because they were written by believers. These need to be taken on the merits of secondary sources, and in some cases primary, as well as how they reflect the transmission of oral traditions. Whether one is a believer or not these are voices that should be considered in any complete analysis.

    Also, it should be noted that Jesus was not as famous as people might think he might have been at the time. Even by the late first century there were at best 6,000 Christians in the entire Roman Empire, barely a fraction of a percent of the population. The assumption that Jesus should have been more famous than that is fundamentally flawed. Especially if Jesus is understood to have come from the poor underclass of a backwater province.

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    1. "There's also the canonical and extra-canonical sources, likely dismissed or not even considered by Paulkovich simply because they were written by believers"

      Bingo. The canonical New Testament contains the main evidence which has to be considered concerning Jesus? existence. If you ignore the New Testament you're pretty much ignoring the entire subject of Jesus' historicity.

      "Also, it should be noted that Jesus was not as famous as people might think he might have been at the time"

      Bingo again.

      Please excuse the lateness of my reply. There have been a lot of interesting comments on my blog this week, and I simply haven't had time to address them all. Thanks very much for your comment.

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  4. Like you Stephen, I'm not Christian, I'm a deist so if Jesus didn't exist, it wouldn't impact what I believe anyway. However given the ancient historians who did mention Jesus, I think it's fair to go with the agreed upon conclusion by current historians and scholars today who say that Jesus did indeed exist and that he was a preacher (and one who did teach some good morals).

    I've researched many of those writers and it is as you said, half aren't even historians so it seems worthless even invoking them for any record of history considering most failed to record any notable events during their lives outside of their own. The Damis mention is a laugh riot too seeing as his existence has actually been doubted itself and he's not considered a reliable source for what he did write about as his writings are huge exaggerations (and they weren't recordings of history and worldly goings on so he's irrelevant anyway).

    Thank you for challenging Michael Paulkovich and his bad scholarship. He sounds like another person trying to make a quick cash in on a debunked conspiracy.

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    1. I don't see any problem with investigating the possibility that Jesus didn't exist. The primary sources for Jesus' life are the writings in the New Testament, and I see several good reasons not to simply accept them as solid evidence of Jesus' existence. The extremely high amount of mythological elements such as miracles is just one of those reasons.

      In my opinion, the academic mainstream continues to be much too quick to squelch speculation about Jesus' existence, and it is precisely this which gives rise to authors like Dougherty and Freke and Paulkovich: the professionals have left the field almost entirely to the amateurs, with predictably amateurish results.

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    2. "The primary sources for Jesus' life are the writings in the New Testament, and I see several good reasons not to simply accept them as solid evidence of Jesus' existence."

      I see several good reasons not to take them at face value about his life or even to treat them the same way as we'd treat other ancient historical writings, but that's mainly because they are not historical writings. But that does not mean they are not very good sources of information about what the Jesus sect followers that made up their audiences believed about Jesus. Comparing this across the various NT texts shows us how these beliefs developed and changed and so indicates what these beliefs grew out of. And that does have a direct bearing on the question of Jesus' existence. In fact, several points that indicate his existence come from precisely this kind of analysis. This is why the boneheaded online Mythicist reject of the NT texts out of hand is so stupid.

      " The extremely high amount of mythological elements such as miracles is just one of those reasons. "

      It's one, but not as critical as some try to make out. We have supernatural (not "mythological" - people need to stop misusing that word) elements in most ancient sources.

      "In my opinion, the academic mainstream continues to be much too quick to squelch speculation about Jesus' existence ..."

      They "squelch" it? At most they pay it very little attention, largely because it's so contrived and, often, patently silly. For years Doherty used to howl about the vast academic conspiracy against Mythicists and claim they deliberately didn't publish Mythicst work. When challenged to list any such work which had been submitted and rejected he would always fall silent. That's because there was none. The conspiracy was in his imagination.

      Now Carrier has had a couple of papers and one book published under peer review. So it seems if they are "squelching" Mythicism they are letting things slip through. Mythcism's resurgence will stand or fall on whether it can hold its own in the academic sphere. if not, it will decline into the fringes the way it did in the early twentieth century. Mythicists are greatly encouraged by Carrier's publications and are trumpeting them as the great renaissance for their theory. Going on the number of citations of his papers (few) and scholarly reviews of his book (none that I can see), however, it seems like a false dawn so far.

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    3. I actually am Catholic, but there are several books that were written that were NOT selected to be included in the NT. These are the so-call Non-Canonical Gospels. For whatever reason the powers that be in charge of the Catholic church at the time decided NOT to include these, have you had a chance to research these Steven? This website has the full list - http://wesley.nnu.edu/sermons-essays-books/noncanonical-literature/noncanonical-literature-gospels/

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    4. Actually, here is the full list of Pseudepigrapha - http://www.pseudepigrapha.com/

      Remember, The Dead Sea Scrolls were not found until the early 1900s in jars in a cave by the Dead Sea. Who is to say there aren't more writings out there? Or that writings weren't lost to fire or other natural disasters?

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    5. Jason, the problem with saying that non-canonical Gospels were "not selected to be included in the New Testament" is that most of them were written after the selection of books in the New Testament had already been established, some time before AD 200. Of course, all of these texts were being edited and revised for theological and political purposes right up until the Council of Nicea in 325, and to a lesser extent afterword. (Ironically, very many people seem to think that the Bible was revised at the Council of Nicea, but it wasn't. And there's absolutely no evidence that Constantine had anything to do with any of the changes. And as far as Constantine and the Pope conspiring at Nicea -- the Pope wasn't at Nicea. And just the fact that Constantine moved the capital of the Empire 1000 miles away from Rome to Byzantium, that fact alone would put him down toward the bottom of the list of people who were cozy with the Bishop of Rome.)

      Ancient texts are being found all the time. Jewish and Christian texts like the Dead Sea Scrolls and apochryphal Gospels get all the headlines, but they're just a tiny bit of the tip of the iceberg of the total of all ancient manuscripts found in the past 200 years. Two of the most productive sites are Oxyrhynchus and Faiyum in Egypt. Papyrii began to be found at Oxyrhynchus in the late 19th centuy, and are still being found there. The papyrii at Oxyrhynchus have been found much more quickly than they could be studied and published. Volume 100 of the Oxyrhynchus Papyrii, also known as the "Graeco-Roman Memoirs," was published this year, and they're just getting started.

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    6. I was just looking over these comments again because, amazingly enough, people keep reading this post and the "Open Letter," week in and week out if not always day-in and day-out. So, Tim, even if you never read this, someone else may.

      Tim, to be honest, by the time we got to this thread 2 years ago I was getting a little tired of you and no longer reading your comments with great care, and so I'd like to clarify something which may not have been clear to you at the time: although I am a mythicist, if a mythicist is anyone who's not certain Jesus existed, and that's how the term is generally defined, I am not a fan of the leading contemporary mythicists: Price, Carrier, Doherty, Freke, Anchyra S et al. I share your disdain for that bunch.

      However, a case being badly argued does not actually argue against the case itself.

      I know of one, just one impressive mythicist: G A Wells. His book The Jesus Legend (Chicago and La Salle: 1996), makes the case that the experts do tend to go out of their way to avoid questioning the default historicist position. He does much the same in briefer form in "The Historicity of Jesus," on pp 27-45 of Jesus in History and Myth, ed by R Joseph Hoffmann and Gerald A Larue (New York: 1986).

      Hoffmann, another first-rate scholar, who co-edited Jesus in History and Myth and also wrote a foreword to The Jesus Legend, although he has never himself argued for the mythicist position, and indeed outlined a fairly standard historist position in his book Jesus Outside the Gospels (New York: 1984), certainly was open to mythicists' arguments (or at the very least, to Wells' arguments) decades ago. In the meantime, he seems to have become more unreservedly historicist.

      I still haven't read enough of Thomas L Thompson's work to say whether I would add his name to Wells' as a worthy exponent of doubt of Jesus' historicity.

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    7. "I know of one, just one impressive mythicist: G A Wells. "

      Wells was a professor of German (I assume he's now retired, since he's now 90 years old) who at one stage did not believe a historical Jesus existed and has since modified that view. In 1999 he admitted that there are elements in the gospels - mainly in the "Q material" found in gMatt and gMatt - which reflects a historical human preacher.

      "His book The Jesus Legend (Chicago and La Salle: 1996), makes the case that the experts do tend to go out of their way to avoid questioning the default historicist position. "

      Yes, Mythicists tend to try to make that case. It's hard to do. As I note above, it doesn't make sense that a field broad enough to encompass everything from the Jesus of evangelical literalism to Jesus the gay magician would somehow baulk at the mythic Jesus out of pure narrow conservatism. Jesus scholarship happily embraces all kinds of conceptions of Jesus that are totally unorthodox religiously. They reject this one because it just doesn't work. As Wells was eventually forced to admit.

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    8. I never said all historicists were motivated by "pure narrow conservatism."

      As to the popular claim that Wells became an historist, I'll let him speak for himself:

      "I propose here that the disparity between the early documents and the gospels is explicable if the Jesus of the former is not the same person as the Jesus of the latter. Some elements in the ministry of the gospel Jesus are arguably traceable to the activity of a Galilean preacher of the early first century, who figures in what is known as Q (an abbreviation for Quelle, German for ‘source’). Q supplied the gospels of Matthew and Luke with much of their material concerning Jesus’s Galilean preaching. [...] In my first books on Jesus, I argued that the gospel Jesus is an entirely mythical expansion of the Jesus of the early epistles. The summary of the argument of the Jesus Legend (1996) and the Jesus Myth (1999) given in this section of the present work makes it clear that I no longer maintain this position. The weakness of my earlier position was pressed upon me by J.D.G. Dunn, who objected that we really cannot plausibly assume that such a complex of traditions as we have in the gospels and their sources could have developed within such a short time from the early epistles without a historical basis (Dunn, [The Evidence for Jesus] 1985, p. 29). My present standpoint is: this complex is not all post-Pauline [there is also a historical Galilean preacher from the Q source] (Q, or at any rate parts of it, may well be as early as ca. A.D. 50); and if I am right, against Doherty and Price - it is not all mythical. The essential point, as I see it, is that the Q material, whether or not it suffices as evidence of Jesus's historicity, refers to a [human] personage who is not to be identified with the [mythical] dying and rising Christ of the early epistles." (Can We Trust the NT?, 2004, pp. 43, 49–50).

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    9. "I never said all historicists were motivated by "pure narrow conservatism." "

      That's what the attempts at explaining the consensus away usually boil down to. But you referred to Wells' attempt at this without explaining what it is,why it's so convincing to you or how it differs from the usual Mythicist excuses. It's been years since I read his book and don't have a copy to hand, so if he argues something different, perhaps you could explain.

      "As to the popular claim that Wells became an historist, I'll let him speak for himself:"

      Thanks for a direct quote that shows the so-called "popular claim" is correct. Wells abandoned the Mythicist position and admitted that the evidence is best explained by a historical figure. Full points to him for both rationality and the honesty to change his mind and dump a position that simply doesn't work except as an emotional crutch.

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    10. Once again you're right, Tim: Wells became an historicist decades ago. More on that in my latest post: http://thewrongmonkey.blogspot.com/2016/11/g-wells-is-no-longer-mythicist.html

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  5. I'm not an intellect nor a scholar by any means. I know I certainly can't keep up with all of you. However, I find it interesting that this man or myth, Jesus, left such an impact 2000 years ago, that people are still trying to deny him. ( I don't, and I'm not an athiest). I don't appreciate individuals telling me I'm silly or stupid for believing what I do. I respect the author and commentators on this blog, and I feel he's saying the same of you. Anyways these are just my thoughts. Hmm, I wonder if the idea of aliens that Dawkins and Hawking purport are any more or less plausible?

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    1. Atheism is as much of a world view and belief system as any religion. Radical Atheists can dodge the claim that atheism is a "religion," but harder to dodge the claim that atheists often act like zealots for their belief system and use similar tactics as religious zealots.

      If multi-cultural tolerance and respect was actually an modern academic and intellectual value, clearly there would be less effort in beating the dead horse, that Jesus never existed. What is this but unnecessary extremism, representing zero tolerance and zero respect for different views and different cultures while setting arbitrary limits on thinking, beliefs and imagination?

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    2. Thank you. You articulated exactly what I was thinking and feeling.

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  6. Just a tiny note (that doesn't really matter in the end). It is generally believed that there were two poets named Sulpicia in ancient Rome. The one that is thought to have lived during Jesus' time (referred to as 'Sulpicia I') has 6-11 surviving poems, depending on who you talk to. The Sulpicia who only has two surviving lines lived during the time of Martial and Domitian ('Sulpicia II'). That said, the writings of both were erotic, and there would've been no place for comment on Jesus/religion. I'm wondering if Paulkovich was meaning one of the various male writers named Sulpicius, as at least a couple of them wrote history and law stuff within Paulkovich's timeline. Sulpicia = female, Sulpicius = male.

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  7. Hi Tim O'Neill ,

    Did you get a chance to provide the source for your contention that :

    "Yes, it would be impossible for someone - say, Louis Feldman - to do a survey of the scholarship and determine this. That could never happen."

    As Neil asked above?

    "Perhaps you would like to be just a little helpful and cite the survey and its years of coverage so we can examine its methods and scope and definitions. Presumably the survey addresses contemporary scholars and not those of a generation ago."

    This would be very informative and educational for all.

    Thanks

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  8. I tend to ignore Neil Godfrey. But since you asked, I'll tell you what he already knows. Leading Josephan scholar Louis H. Feldman surveyed the relevant scholarly from 1937 to 1980 in his Josephus and Modern Scholarship. He found that 4 scholars regarded the TF as entirely genuine, 35 as partially authentic, and 13 regarded it as a wholesale interpolation. In 2001 Peter Kirby surveyed a further 13 books and studies and found that the consensus had, if anything shifted even further towards partial authenticity: "In my own reading of thirteen books since 1980 that touch upon the passage, ten out of thirteen argue the Testimonium to be partly genuine, while the other three maintain it to be entirely spurious. Coincidentally, the same three books also argue that Jesus did not exist." Chris Price undertook a similar survey in 2004 with a similar result: in favour of partial authenticity versus wholesale interpolation by 15 to 1, with the one being, again, a Mythicist.

    So if Godfrey, an odd character who claims to not be a Mythicist while constantly boosting even the more marginal and weird Mythicist hobbyists, thinks there has been a dramatic turnaround in the scholarship (not amongst his hobbyists and self-published amateurs), let's see his evidence. He seems a person with a great deal of spare time on his hands, so this could be an opportunity to put it to some actual useful purpose for a change.

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  9. The spelling Chrestus occurs in Suetonius, not Tacitus

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  10. There is an extant corpus of letters by Apollonius of Tyanna.

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  11. There is a corpus of notes taken by Arrian from Epictetus lectures. This is usually referred to as Epictetus; writings. he is now known to have written anything else.

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  12. OK, I'm going to admit some confusion here. If the argument is, "Was Jesus just a guy who lived in the very early days of the Common Era or, was he the Son of God become human to redeem the sinners of the world?" then what does it matter? If he was "just a guy", then he has very little place in history. If he was the Son of God, then Atheism is disproved. From what I've seen, there is no definitive record of proof that Jesus ever existed. A few mentions in a few archaic texts proves nothing.

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    1. The truth is that there's more than one debate going on about the historical Jesus, and sometimes people aren't clear about what the people they're talking to are talking about.

      I don't believe in God, and I don't believe that Jesus did any supernatural things. For me, this isn't a theological discussion, it's a discussion about history. There have been billions of Christians. To me, that makes the question of how Christianty started very significant.

      I'm not sure whether a non-supernatural Jesus ever existed. I am sure that Paulkovich's list of 126 people who should've mentioned Jesus, if he existed, is a ridiculous list. Over 40 of them didn't write anything which has survived. Few of them were historians, most of them never were anywhere near Judea and Galilee and had no reason to care about anything that ever happened there.

      The truth is that we have very little written evidence about anything at all in 1st century Judea and Galilee. When we decide whether or not we think Jesus existed, the New Testament is pretty much all we have to go on. Does it prove Jesus' existence? Most academics say yes. Paulkovich says no. (But Paulkovich clearly has no idea what he's talking about) I say -- I don't know.

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  13. I found Paulkovich’s claims fascinating as a few years ago I personally conducted research on documents written 70 AD to 280 AD and chronicled 237 texts that reference Jesus.
    The number refers to the texts themselves and not to the number of times that Jesus is referenced in each text.
    Counting each reference would take us well beyond the 237 total.
    Furthermore, the number refers to the texts and not to each manuscript behind each text.
    Counting each manuscript would also take us well beyond the 237 total.
    My evidence is here:
    http://www.truefreethinker.com/articles/historical-jesus-two-centuries-worth-citations

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  14. Ptolomy is that extremely famous mathematician and astronomer whose authority on one point Copernicus overturned.

    Actually not.

    Ptolemy or Aristotle saying all bodies in the universe turn directly around Earth was overturned by Galileo discovering the Moons of Jupiter. Ptolemy would rather have said, btw, Earth is the only BODY which is centre for a movement, since he admitted epicentres but considered them as mathematical moving points only, void of bodies.

    And Tycho was able to accomodate this little fault in Ptolemy without much ado, certainly without accepting Copernicus, whose tables he was correcting.

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