Saturday, August 27, 2016

An Ironic Incident And An Attempt To Do Better

I'm not convinced that Jesus existed. I think maybe he did, or maybe that someone (leading candidate: St Paul) made him up, or had a dream about him and concluded he was real; or maybe that the nonfictional John the Baptist gradually morphed, in the minds of several people, into a mythical character, Jesus. The overwhelming majority of academics who specialize in the New Testament and related fields insist that Jesus existed. The problem I have with them is that they seem unwilling even to discuss the possibility that he never existed. Several times on this blog, I've characterized the response of many of them toward people who aren't convinced that Jesus existed as, "We're right, you're wrong, shut up!" And I've complained that this sort of response does not amount to an argument. I've complained about the unwillingness to discuss the matter.

This morning, it suddenly occurred to me that "I'm right, you're wrong, shut up!" is exactly what I said to someone in my previous post on this blog, in which I responded to someone who'd said that there are 5h-century Viking maps of Canada.

That's ironic. And I shouldn't do exactly the same thing I complain about other people doing. So, does that mean that I'm going to explain in this post in painstaking detail why I'm so sure that the assertion that there are 5th-century Viking maps of Canada is mistaken? No, not right now, because that would require some effort. Hard work made me quit. But I'll provide some references to the work of some other people. For example, there is this book, also linked in yesterday's post:

Does this embarrassing ironic incident make Jesus' existence seem more likely to me? Also no. Does it give me more sympathy for the academics who are convinced Jesus did exist, and respond to us who aren't convinced by saying, "We're right, you're wrong, shut up!" ? Yes.

I'll try not to repeat yesterday's behavior. I'll try to improve upon it with this:

Am I aware of any plausible evidence of Europeans sailing to the Western Hemisphere as early as the 5th century AD? No. (That's how I should participate in debates: not by saying, "You're wrong! Get out!" but by saying: "I am unaware of any plausible evidence which supports what you're saying." That's not merely nicer: it's also much more precise. It is open for the possibility that there may be evidence of which I am unaware. Such openness is the way to be.)

Now, when we come to the 6th century, I am aware of some things: namely, St Brendan and some other Irish monks sailed west from Ireland, and as far as I can see, no one knows with anything approaching certainty how far west they journeyed. Samuel Eliot Morison's book The European Discovery of America: the Northern Voyages, AD 500-1600 is an excellent introduction to the subject, and has superb bibliographies following each chapter, with a heavy emphasis on the primary sources. Morison is completely convinced that the Vinland Map is a fake.

Morison also wrote an excellent book about the southern voyages, ie, Columbus and those who followed him.

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