Vinny's Jesus Agnostic Blog

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
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Peter Kirby
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Vinny's Jesus Agnostic Blog

Post by Peter Kirby » Sat Apr 04, 2015 1:26 pm

Happened upon this today, after seeing Vinny comment on many other blogs before...

http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... udies.html
On Occam's Razor in New Testament Studies
I read a fair amount of history, but the only place I ever see Occam’s Razor invoked with any frequency is in New Testament studies. I suspect this is because the evidence is simply so sparse that there is little left to fall back on. Unfortunately, like many of the other criteria that New Testament scholars have developed, I just don’t think it can bear anywhere near the weight that they place on it.
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... f-new.html
My Doubts About the Consensus of New Testament Scholars
I am entirely open to the possibility that it is objectively more probable than not that Jesus was a historical person. However, when a scholar claims that he can be almost certain about specific things that Jesus said or did, I think that he is badly overestimating the weight that the evidence will bear. As a result, when he urges me to trust the consensus of mainstream New Testament scholars like himself concerning the certainty of Jesus' historicity, I cannot help but wonder whether the weight the evidence will bear isn't being overestimated again.
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... icism.html
Historical Jesus Agnosticism
History is about establishing what probably happened and probability is determined by the quantity and quality of evidence, not by the number of scholars who look at the evidence. Doubting that Shakespeare wrote The Tempest is not comparable to doubting that Lincoln wrote the Gettysburg Address regardless of how strong the consensus of scholars might be on the former. It is perfectly sensible to be more certain about the latter.
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... ssiah.html
Who Would Invent a Crucified Messiah?
Personally, I don't think we really know enough about how an idea like this might have been invented to say what must have happened to cause it. Ehrman writes "Who would make up the idea of a crucified messiah? No Jew that we know of." So what? Prior to Joseph Smith, did we know of any Christians who would make up the idea of the Golden Plates and the Angel Moroni? Does that give us any reason to think that there is anything historical about Smith's stories.
I think it entirely plausible that the idea arose of a crucified messiah because the follower of an executed messianic claimant interpreted Isaiah as a prophecy in order to cling to his belief in the man he had followed. However, I don't see how that makes it highly probable and I don't see how that is the only way it could have happened. Given the number of devout Jews who must of been searching their scriptures in order to understand why God had not sent a messiah to deliver His people from their tribulations, I think that any number of people might have stumbled on the idea that Isaiah 53 3:5 was a prophecy.
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... s-not.html
Historical Jesus Agnosticism is Not a Slippery Slope
The fact that we can have little, if any, certainty about a first century itinerant preacher who had little impact during his life outside a small group of illiterate peasant followers doesn't mean that we can't have a reasonable degree of certainty about emperors and generals and politicians who were widely enough known during their lives that their activities were chronicled by their contemporaries. The notion that questioning the existence of a historical Jesus necessitates tossing out all ancient history is nonsense.
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... jesus.html
Paul as Evidence for a Historical Jesus: HJA (29)
On the other hand, when my earliest extant source for Jesus tells me that he is relying on divine revelation, supernatural appearances, and centuries-old holy writings, I do not think that I can take that as any evidence that information about a historical person was remembered and passed on. I can consider the possibility that this occurred, but I cannot say that he has given me any evidence that it did. Moreover, I may even need to ask whether he hasn't given me some evidence that the opposite is the case.
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... stand.html
Who Do I Need to Read to Understand the Flaws in Mythicism?
From what I know of Casey, I wouldn't expect him to find Wright's arguments on the resurrection any more persuasive than I do, but I still feel like there is something wrong in a field where the works of such an unabashed apologist can be considered essential reading.
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... jesus.html
Remembering Jesus
In short, regardless of whether the historical Jesus spoke of "the kingdom of God," a lot, a little, or not at all, we shouldn't be surprised to find it becoming a big part of the traditions concerning his life, because those traditions existed in order to preach the meaning of his death. I think that is very easy to explain the frequency with which the Evangelists used "kingdom of God" regardless of how often Jesus actually did.
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... suses.html
On the Multiplicity of Historical Jesuses
One of the ways I know that astrology and feng shui are bullshit is that different “experts” analyzing the same data reach widely different conclusions. The fact that New Testament scholars differ so dramatically in their portraits of the historical Jesus certainly doesn’t prove that he didn’t exist, but it seems like adequate reason to question whether their methodology is sufficient to tell us much of anything about him. That being the case, it is reasonable to take their absolute certainty about his existence with a grain of salt.
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... ixion.html
Why do Historians Consider the Crucifixion of Jesus to be a Fact?
I think that the simplest explanation for a claim that a person has been encountered alive is not only that he is not dead, but that he has never been dead. Before embracing either hallucination or resurrection as the explanation for the encounter, I think a historian would wish to corroborate that the person had in fact died prior to the claimed encounter. It is not hard to imagine a scenario in which Jesus's followers might mistakenly believe that he had been captured and crucified.
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... anged.html
The Criteria Embarrassment and the Changed Lives of the Disciples
If the transformation of the disciples is proof of the resurrection, then their earlier cowardice isn't embarrassing at all. It is an absolutely essential element in the story. In fact, the gospel writers would have every reason to make the disciples look as bad as possible prior to the crucifixion in order to highlight the transformative power of the resurrection.
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... -from.html
Where Did Peter's Clout Come From?
I have a feeling that there is something that Paul isn't telling us that might better explain the basis for Peter's clout. I'm guessing that it is not as impressive as Smith's Golden Plates because Peter doesn't seem to have been able to maintain as much control as Smith did, but I suspect that it is something more than mere chronological priority.
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... jesus.html
What Might Convince Me that Jesus Existed
I have been accused of being dogmatically committed to agnosticism concerning the historicity of Jesus, which I do not believe to be true. What I do believe is that a convincing argument for the existence of Jesus isn't going to depend on our ability to prove the meaning of a single uncorroborated verse in Paul that we cannot prove he wrote anyway. The kind of argument that might convince me is one that explains some broadly observable phenomenon in early Christianity.
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... shell.html
Mythicism v. Historicism in a Nutshell
(1) Did visions of a resurrected Messiah lead to men inventing stories about Jesus of Nazareth?

or

(2) Was it something about Jesus of Nazareth that led to men having visions of him as a resurrected Messiah?
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... jesus.html
Why the Consensus of Historical Jesus Scholars Fails to Impress Me
When I express my doubts about the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth, I am frequently confronted with arguments based on the consensus of scholars. If the overwhelming majority of scholars trained in the field have reached the conclusion that Jesus of Nazareth was a real historical human being, isn't it rational to think that there is probably some good evidence for his existence?
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... jesus.html
Paul or Jesus?
My reluctance to give Jesus's religious experience primacy over Paul's is that I have a very difficult time figuring out what, if any, credible information I have about Jesus's experience. Paul is my earliest source and he doesn't give me any indication that Jesus of Nazareth ever had any religious experiences that were of any consequence to the early Christian movement or even that he had any religious experiences at all. Paul writes a number of letters in which he explains the meaning and significance of his own religious experiences, which he seemed to view as some sort of divine revelation from a heavenly being. Paul never indicates, however, that this revelation was informed by anything that the man Jesus of Nazareth said or did or experienced prior to his death.
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... texts.html
Presuming the Authenticity of Texts
In a discussion over at Diglotting, Kevin Brown wrote "The default position is that Nazareth in Mark 1.9 is authentic; one has to prove otherwise." When I asked him why this was the default position, he responded, "Really?! This shouldn’t be a controversial issue."

It's hard for me to see how presuming the authenticity of the text of Mark wouldn't be controversial. We lack any manuscript evidence for more than the first century of its existence. In the manuscripts that we do have, the earlier ones show a higher rate of variants than the later ones from which we can surmise that the highest rate of variants would have occurred during the period for which we lack evidence. There was no church authority overseeing the copying of the texts, but there were plenty of men who were willing to forge texts in the name of Peter or Paul or any other figure that the forger thought would lend authority to the writing.

In short, there is every reason to think that there were any of number of opportunities for alterations by men with both the motivation and the willingness to do so and every reason to think that there are any number of alterations that left no evidence in the manuscripts. How could we possibly justify authenticity as a default position?
I believe that the presumption of authenticity is also based on policy rather than probability. As Kevin points out "We could argue that every word or phrase in the NT was interpolated with such specious argumentation." So what? If in fact our evidence isn't sufficient to eliminate the possibility of tampering and alterations, why not simply have New Testament scholars qualify their conclusions to reflect the appropriate degree of uncertainty. Isn't that more intellectually honest than presuming authenticity. New Testament scholars want to talk about the original texts, but maybe the evidence doesn't justify it.
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... ja-28.html
The Socratic Problem: HJA (28)
Although I consider myself agnostic about the historicity of Jesus, I'm quite open to the possibility of someone making a convincing argument that the existence of a historical Jesus is objectively more likely than not. Nevertheless, I think it highly unlikely that that someone will be anyone who thinks that the things that Jesus said and did can be known with more certainty than the things Socrates said and did.
The numbering suggests that there are 27 other posts so-numbered concerning historical Jesus agnosticism. A refreshingly honest blog.

http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... gnosticism (the "HJA" posts)
"... almost every critical biblical position was earlier advanced by skeptics." - Raymond Brown

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MrMacSon
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Re: Vinny's Jesus Agnostic Blog

Post by MrMacSon » Sat Apr 04, 2015 2:31 pm

(1) Did visions of a resurrected Messiah lead to men inventing stories about Jesus of Nazareth?
  • or
(2) Was it something about Jesus of Nazareth that led to men having visions of him as a resurrected Messiah?
or, Did narratives about a Logos or other celestial-being lead to men inventing stories about a human Logos-like figure?

There are other possible permutations, too.

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Re: Vinny's Jesus Agnostic Blog

Post by Bernard Muller » Sat Apr 04, 2015 3:30 pm

If Vinny read my website and blog, most of his doubts & questions would be answered.
But I agree that scholars have messed up the issue and will continue to do so.

Cordially, Bernard
I believe freedom of expression should not be curtailed

Stephan Huller
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Re: Vinny's Jesus Agnostic Blog

Post by Stephan Huller » Sat Apr 04, 2015 3:48 pm

If Vinny read my website and blog, most of his doubts & questions would be answered.
That sounds like something an apologist would say. Nietzsche said long before me - I mistrust all systemizers and avoid them. The will to a system is a lack of integrity. No one has all the answers and only a shallow mind says such things without a hint of irony.

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Re: Vinny's Jesus Agnostic Blog

Post by outhouse » Sat Apr 04, 2015 4:41 pm

Bernard Muller wrote:If Vinny read my website and blog, most of his doubts & questions would be answered.
But I agree that scholars have messed up the issue and will continue to do so.

Cordially, Bernard
Possible.

The real challenge and where poor vinny fails, is that all that evidence he discounts, every so magically become valuable and credible when trying to create a replacement hypothesis to explain the evidence we do have.

Then vinny wakes up and understands he has to use that same weak evidence to explain and recreate history himself.

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Re: Vinny's Jesus Agnostic Blog

Post by outhouse » Sat Apr 04, 2015 4:46 pm

Peter Kirby wrote:
The numbering suggests that there are 27 other posts so-numbered concerning historical Jesus agnosticism. A refreshingly honest blog.


I think he does use reason and logic. I do think its honest as well.


But I also feel anyone can find weakness in the historical method dealing with such sources used as evidence.

Apologist are even easier targets. Im surprised N.T. Wright or Tom outside of literature, is not laughed out of any credible historical studies.

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Re: Vinny's Jesus Agnostic Blog

Post by Peter Kirby » Sat Apr 04, 2015 4:53 pm

outhouse wrote:
Peter Kirby wrote:
The numbering suggests that there are 27 other posts so-numbered concerning historical Jesus agnosticism. A refreshingly honest blog.


I think he does use reason and logic. I do think its honest as well.


But I also feel anyone can find weakness in the historical method dealing with such sources used as evidence.
But that's our obligation, whether we're talking about Socrates, Muhammad, Jesus, Buddha, or King Arthur. Unflinchingly we must ask the questions and unhesitatingly we must proportion our answers to the evidence, noting where there is doubt and how much. That is not "finding weakness in the historical method"; that is the historical method.
"... almost every critical biblical position was earlier advanced by skeptics." - Raymond Brown

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Re: Vinny's Jesus Agnostic Blog

Post by Peter Kirby » Sat Apr 04, 2015 7:43 pm

Speaking of blogs, here's a rather extensive review of Carrier and the Bayesian approach in connection to the historicity of Jesus:

http://naturalreason.revolvingplanet.ne ... -of-jesus/
"... almost every critical biblical position was earlier advanced by skeptics." - Raymond Brown

outhouse
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Re: Vinny's Jesus Agnostic Blog

Post by outhouse » Sat Apr 04, 2015 7:49 pm

Peter Kirby wrote:
outhouse wrote:
Peter Kirby wrote:
The numbering suggests that there are 27 other posts so-numbered concerning historical Jesus agnosticism. A refreshingly honest blog.


I think he does use reason and logic. I do think its honest as well.


But I also feel anyone can find weakness in the historical method dealing with such sources used as evidence.
But that's our obligation, whether we're talking about Socrates, Muhammad, Jesus, Buddha, or King Arthur. Unflinchingly we must ask the questions and unhesitatingly we must proportion our answers to the evidence, noting where there is doubt and how much. That is not "finding weakness in the historical method"; that is the historical method.
Understood.

I guess I would just like to see people who critically focus on the evidence, to actually try creating history using the evidence. Finding weakness is a part of the process, the real historical method is using the credible evidence in context to create history.

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Re: Vinny's Jesus Agnostic Blog

Post by outhouse » Sat Apr 04, 2015 8:07 pm

Peter Kirby wrote:Speaking of blogs, here's a rather extensive review of Carrier and the Bayesian approach in connection to the historicity of Jesus:

http://naturalreason.revolvingplanet.ne ... -of-jesus/

That's was a good read and I liked almost all of it. He was doing a great job and well spoken. He lost it in the last few Paragraphs with weak old arguments.

He did show how there was value in the study and I think he is correct there. He is picking out the minority of mythicist who can contribute to the field.

Think of how strange that is. Supposedly God’s chosen son (in their view) had just recently been walking the earth and no one seems to care to mention anything he did.
Because the mythology and theology did not develop in Galilee by Aramaic cultural Jews.

The mythology grew in Gentile and Proselyte Hellenistic circles, by people already worshipping the corrupt Emperor as "son of god"

The only people who found importance, were those far removed from his life that fell for the mythology generated by his martyrdom.


Imagine any modern day preacher writing 20,000 words (roughly the combined word count of Paul’s letters) about Jesus and never mentioning anything he did on earth!



Because Paul wanted more then anything to be a real apostle. He never knew Jesus or his life. Paul only knew the mythology and theology growing in the Diaspora. He learned more about it while hunting these houses down.

So Paul knew nothing about the man himself, nor any act he did in Israel beyond the mythology.

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