Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Anti-Paulkovich: Ken Ammi's List Of 237 Texts Which DO Mention Jesus

Ken wrote a comment on my post examining Paulkovich's list of 126 people who allegedly didn't mention Jesus, and included a link to his blog post listing 237 texts, a list he seems to have published in 2010. (WHY are my posts on Paulkovich suddenly getting a surge of readership more than a year after I posted them? Did Paulkovich get the Presidential Medal of Freedom or something?) Ammi's list is less silly than Paulkovich's -- but of course that's setting the bar very low.

Paulkovich listed the names of some ancient people and claimed to have read their written work and found it very suspicious that none of them mentioned Jesus. All that Paulkovich's list proves is that he is a charlatan and a buffoon: more than 40 of the people on his list left no written work which Paulkovich could have studied. 4 actually do mention Jesus and/or Christians. Most of the rest are not historians, and perhaps a handful would have had some reason to mention anything which happened in Judea or Galilee in the time when Jesus is said to have lived. None of them were there during that time.

Now that's what I call a low bar. But it looks to me as if Ammi has cleared it easily.

Paulkovich automatically discounted all Christian writers. Ammi's list includes mostly Christian writers. Paulkovich counted up 126 people. Ammi lists 237 texts. Those texts are written by somewhat less than 237 people. For example Tertullian wrote 35 of them. Clement of Alexandria wrote 14. Hippolytus of Rome wrote 11.

Ammi counts the Gospel of Marcion as 6 texts instead of 1. That's rather strange. Still, it looks as if he's listed 230 or so texts written up until around AD 250 which do mention Jesus. That's a far, far more scholarly feat than Paulkovich's.

Still, I don't think that Ammi has proven anything about the historical Jesus. A legendary Jesus can account for the New Testament, and the New Testament can account for the rest of the items on Ammi's list. In Ammi's comment he writes: "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." That's true. And it would have been even more spurious, just as Ammi's presentation of 237 texts is already somewhat spurious in counting texts rather than authors, counting Tertullian 35 times instead of once, for example, and in listing each and every text produced before AD 250 which mentions Jesus without asking of each one whether it tells us anything about Jesus which we didn't already know from the New Testament -- if, that is, the New Testament describes a man named Jesus and not a mythical creature.

To be clear: I think that texts later than the New Testament can possibly tell us something about the historical Jesus. Possibly. But I think that the burden of proof is upon him declaring that Marcion, for example, or the Epistle of Barnabas, gives us historical information about Jesus, and not just about the author and possibly also about the Christians with whom the author was acquainted. We don't count up all of the early written references to Achilles and claim that each one strengthens the case for Achilles' historicity, nor should we.

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