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Old 05-21-2001, 09:28 AM   #111
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by joedad:

No one in this thread has yet commented on the 3rd item in Brian's list, so I would like to make a few observations.

This is, in my view, the weakest of the three items.</font>
Actually, the basics of Brian's point #3 are probably about as good an argument as can be made for HJ. We have this religion which, for well over 1,800 years, has been based on the exploits of its alleged human founder. The burden falls on the mythicist to show a more probable beginning.

This is easy enough to do, of course, and Earl has done this by simply examining the Christian documents with an open mind. Do the gospel Jesus stories stem from a real person who taught and died circa 30 CE? Or are they simply stories comprising one of many branches of the early Christian tree, making their debut around 70-90 CE and then gradually, over the course of the 2nd century, gaining favor with the organization (the Roman church) which would go on to dominate? The complete ignorance of the human side of Jesus by so many Christian writers through the first half of the 2nd century strongly suggests the latter.

Now some general thoughts:

It seems there is never a shortage of people who just want to deal Earl a quick knock-out blow and hope he will go away. "Look! The Josephus and Tacitus references. And look here! Romans 1:3: 'Of David's seed'. And here! Galatians 1:19: 'James, the brother of the Lord'. That's it. Earl Doherty's busted. No need to look any further." And they'll add that the epistles' purpose is not to tell the life story of Jesus.

The myth view has little chance of being embraced by anyone suffering from either of two characteristics: (1) difficulty in escaping their modern day outlook and imagining how 1st century writers might have been thinking; (2) difficulty in admitting they've been under a monumental misconception for many years on a matter very dear to them.

The key is to keep the whole picture in mind and consider which side has the most significant problems. Yes, the items noted above (and a few other things) pose some difficulty for the myth view and require explaining. But they ARE explainable, and if they weigh a combined 5 pounds on the scale of significance, then the Great Silence and other features noted by Earl weigh a ton in the other direction.

Brian asked

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Since literally anything that happens here on earth can be said to have taken place in the heavenly realm (plane) instead, is there any means by which the epistles could have said something happened to Jesus, and have it ascribed to an earthly existence as opposed to a neoPlatonic one?</font>
Yes. Just once I'd expect someone to write something like "As Jesus said to his disciples..." or "As the Lord said to the people gathered around him...". Or make any clear reference to an earthly teaching rather than forcing people to read "humans" and "earth" into the text in passages which can just as easily be more examples of Paul's spiritual revelation.

Just one citing of a miracle by Jesus would be persuasive.

Just two (allowing for 1 Tim 6:13) references to a trial would help.

For all the talk of death and resurrection, it would be nice to have some detail (empty tomb, Roman soldiers, the crowd, the place, etc.) indicating the event happened to a human on earth. (Gal. 3:13, suggested by Brian, doesn't cut it. Among the post-crucifixion appearances listed in 1 Cor. 15:3-8, Paul includes himself and leaves no reason to believe the other appearances are any different in nature.)

Or a reference to a holy place (Bethlehem, Nazareth, Calvary, Jerusalem in connection with a ministry).

Or some indication that Jesus had disciples--people who were with him and designated to spread his message.

The writers had an endless supply of opportunities to show that the object of their worship was incarnated as a human and lived a full, human life on earth. No one expects a comprehensive biography as we find in the gospels. But shouldn't there be some indication somewhere that Jesus was more human than the other gods being worshipped around the empire?

To silence the mythicists (or at least to squash their arguments), one of two things has to happen:

(1) Provide a believable explanation for the Great Silence. Show that it isn't really as shocking as we think it is; or

(2) Provide conclusive evidence of a historical Jesus so that the Great Silence, no matter how peculiar, must simply be accepted.

Old 05-21-2001, 10:03 AM   #112
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There's only a Great Silence if the mythists are allowed to use special pleading to explain away all the references we do have. But this is invalid so we do have the David's seed, Pilate reference, Brother of Jesus, Josephus x2, Tacitus, death on the cross etc to deal with. If there were a few more references a mythist could simply use the same tactics that Doherty uses against those we do have (saying they are an interpolation/figurative/mistranslated/too late etc). So he ends up sounding like a creationist explaining away all the evidence against evolution.

Your argument that 'I'd have expected a bit more to be put in' is basically just saying that you are not Paul and he didn't do it your way. Tough.



Bede's Library - faith and reason
Old 05-21-2001, 10:35 AM   #113
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I see the same things that Bede is talking about. Here is one blatant example:

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Earl Doherty:
Within that body of extant writings, we can make this general statement: With the exception of Ignatius and Polycarp, and to a very vague and debatable degree 1 Clement and Barnabas, (and with my proviso on 1 Timothy 6:13--see below), all of which can be dated from about the turn of the second century and later, the Gospel story and the figure of its central character Jesus of Nazareth, as a man who had lived at the beginning of this faith movement, is not to be found. That includes all the New Testament epistles and Revelation.</font>
He admits some exceptions, but then tosses them out. He uses special pleading and throws out 1 Timothy. Then, he throws out the gospels. Next, he throws out Acts because he doesn't think it's historical despite other scholars. Finally, he says that leaves us with only the New Testament epistles and Revelation and that they make no mention of the historical Jesus. However, he uses special pleading to argue away each and every reference to Jesus. What's left? Nothing according to Doherty. Well, sure, if you simply try to cast doubt on everything. Most of history as we know it wouldn't exist if we performed our investigations as he does.

In this case at least, I'll follow the majority of excellent scholars who have credentials in this field of study. I am completely unimpressed with this debate.

Old 05-21-2001, 11:21 AM   #114
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Bede and Ish,

Unfortunately, you don't know what the term "special pleading" means, and neither does Nomad/Brian. Giving an alternative, minority interpretation of a piece of evidence need not necessarily involve inconsistency. To show that Doherty commits the fallacy of special pleading, you must show that he inconsistently applies a certain standard or reason to his opponents and then himself without giving any good reason violates that same standard or reason.

Here is an example of special pleading. Hitler says 'Killing is wrong for everyone, but not for the Aryans because we're special people.' In this case Hitler violates his own principle without giving a good reason for doing so. Instead he makes an unsupported plea to his alleged superiority. This amounts to a form of inconsistency. Doherty, however, merely offers alternative interpretations of pieces of evidence, giving his reasons and arguments. Doherty has not committed the fallacy of special pleading.

Show which standard Doherty specifically applies to everyone else and then violates with no good reason. Show that you understand what you're talking about.

For ample evidence that Nomad/Brian does not understand logic terms, see .
Old 05-23-2001, 04:19 PM   #115
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Hey Bill Paulson. As one of the people who consider Doherty's thesis intriguing but not yet convincing, I have found your comments insightful and illuminating. Indeed, I would very much appreciate hearing your thoughts on a thread I recently started exploring what is for me a more credible scenario than the one Doherty posits. Thanks.
Old 05-25-2001, 02:43 PM   #116
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Hi Bill Paulson and others.

I have been confused many times recently about the claim that Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 does not differentiate between his resurrection appearance and any other resurrection appearance.

The story Earl Doherty and others have been telling, and I want to fairly characterize it, is because Paul believed in a spiritualized Messiah (like the mysteries), he speaks of Jesus in spiritual terms, not physical terms, and his resurrection is meant to be taken as happening in the spiritual realms (cf. Earl's arguments about The Case for Christ in the relevant section, and the Debate with Brian).

Thus, according to this position, since his resurrection experience is comparable to the other experiences in 1 Corinthians 15, the early creed (does Earl believe it's a creed? no matter) only talks about the people who believed (with no proof) that Jesus had risen to life in the heavenly realms, and not about people who walked and talked with Jesus after he had died. Fair?

I want to focus on the idea that in 1 Corinthians 15 Paul's resurrection experience is comparable to all the others.

Briefly, I don't understand why verses 7-11 are not all talking about how Paul's resurrection experience is different from all the others, yet equally valid.

I find this evidence in verse 8, in the phrase "as to one abnormally born", which is the only such reference in verses 5-8, which constitute resurrection experiences only.

I find it in verses 9-11, which seem to me to be a digression explaining why his apostleship is still valid, even though his resurrection experience is very different.

In verse 9 he does indeed explain why he might not deserve to be called an apostle (because he persecuted the church of God). But in verse 9 he does not explain why he does deserve to be called an apostle. I surmise that he has already explained why he deserves to be called an apostle: he was subject to a resurrection experience of Christ, as in verse 8. (this also cf. Acts 1:21-22, where being a witness to the resurrection is a necessary qualification for joining the Twelve)

IMO it seems strange, for the "spiritual Paul" position that he should use language associating his teaching positively with the apostles' teaching in verse 11 ("whether, then, it was I or they, this is what we preach") and at the same time go out of his way to explain his abnormal status among the apostles in verses 8-10, with a digression, in the middle of his teaching about the resurrection in all of Chapter 15.

It suggests to me that Paul was consciously differentiating his experience from that of the apostles, so there is good reason to suppose that he recognized their experiences were different from his (in fact, normal) and points to (I hypothesize) physical experiences of the risen Christ.

I would be happy for more information on the passage, Greek or otherwise. And I would also be happy for a fuller view than my opinion.

Old 05-25-2001, 06:10 PM   #117
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Can't help with Greek, but I've given some thought to the passage. Which in NRSV runs "Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me." 1 Cor. 15:8.

Agreed, Paul is distinguishing himself from the other witnesses. But the natural reading (to me) is that he's explaining why his witness came later (indeed, last). But nothing in the words (to me) suggests the appearances themselves were different from each other. Since the appearance to Paul must have been revelatory (not physical), it follows that so were the others. Not necessarily, but it's the natural reading.
Old 05-26-2001, 10:46 PM   #118
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(Withdrawn in favor of Sauce for the goose ...)

[This message has been edited by JubalH (edited May 27, 2001).]
Old 06-03-2001, 04:16 PM   #119
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Brian Trafford:
You mean the Review of the Bible Unearthed thread in which I exposed the laughable claim by Carrier that "First, Dever attacks the book for saying nothing new, yet he cites not even a single book aimed at "general readers" that advances a complete synthetic history of Israel based on key archaeology completed since the 1990's. There is none."

Worse yet, you challenged me when I offered the title of one such book Who Wrote the Bible? (1997) and Ish offered another Archaeology and the Old Testament by Alfred J. Hoerth (1998). You even had to retract your statement that I was wrong on my claim, so I would have thought that you would have remembered it.
I will resolve at least this one matter: I said no book since 1990 had provided “a complete synthetic history of Israel” for laymen that incorporates archaeological finds of that decade. Neither book you cite above does this. Who Wrote the Bible? was written in 1987, and thus does not cover 1990’s discoveries. Moreover, it is about textual criticism and, to put it bluntly, the Bible. It is not a history of Israel. Likewise, Archaeology and the Old Testament is a textbook for college students of Evangelical Biblical Literalism, not a lay book, and argues for how the Bible can be read literally in light of archaeology. It is not much of a synthetic history of Israel, certainly not a complete one, and indeed talks about the Biblical narrative far more than archaeology. When it deviates from that plan it spends entire chapters on Mesopotamia and Egypt (and despite the title, a chapter on the new testament). Finally, Hoerth rejects all archaeological evidence that contradicts a literal reading of the Bible, rather than incorporating it. It is thus not even an honest work of history.

Though I did not read the rest of the thread, it seems apparent that if this is the sort of dispute you have with my review of Bible Unearthed, you are indeed misrepresenting what I said.

[Respond to this in this other thread]

[This message has been edited by Richard Carrier (edited June 04, 2001).]
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