The best case for Jesus's historicity: Mark Craig

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
neilgodfrey
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Re: The best case for Jesus's historicity: Mark Craig

Post by neilgodfrey » Tue Sep 12, 2017 12:39 pm

Paul the Uncertain wrote:
Tue Sep 12, 2017 8:59 am
Neil
I do not know why you bother to try to engage with me.
You asked a question on an open forum. As luck would have it, I knew one answer to what you asked.
The normal process in conversation is for people to exchange views, listening and trying to understand one another, back and forth to reach a fuller understanding of the point of view of the other party.

When one party makes a response to what the other said and then simply ignores or refuses to listen to the reply that comes in turn, and carries on as if no critical response was ever made, then we become aware that that party is just on the sidelines yelling taunts and not genuinely interested in serious discussion.

I responded to what you thought you would bring me by "luck" by pointing out that it did not address the point at all, that far more than mere embarrassment was involved in the example you gave, and that your reply completely failed to rebut anything.

Paul the Uncertain
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Re: The best case for Jesus's historicity: Mark Craig

Post by Paul the Uncertain » Tue Sep 12, 2017 2:01 pm

Neil
The normal process in conversation is for people to exchange views, ...
You are seriously teaching that when somebody asks a question of fact on an open forum, it isn't "normal" for those who know a factual answer to contribute it to the forum community? If so, then that's absurd. Exchange of information is as "normal" as exchange of views.
that it did not address the point at all,
Yes, I have already stated that I now realize that you probably intended your question to be rhetorical. You weren't interested in the information you ostensibly sought. It was apparently a "word game" on your part, to use your own phrase, in hopes of making a "point."

I get it, now, but I didn't at the time I answered your question.
that far more than mere embarrassment was involved in the example you gave,
The force of the argument behind the heuristic is entirely parallel to the rationale for the exception. The chief limitation of the heuristic and of the rationale are also similar. The exception and its rationale constitute a responsive answer to your question as you posed it.
and that your reply completely failed to rebut anything
Indeed. You hadn't offered a proposition for me to rebut. You had asked a question, and I answered it. If you had stated your "point," rather than pretended to seek information related to it, then who's to say whether I would have responded? If you had and I had, then that would have been rebuttal. Anwering a question of fact correctly isn't rebuttal.

neilgodfrey
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Re: The best case for Jesus's historicity: Mark Craig

Post by neilgodfrey » Tue Sep 12, 2017 4:17 pm

Paul the Uncertain wrote:
Tue Sep 12, 2017 2:01 pm
Neil
The normal process in conversation is for people to exchange views, ...
You are seriously teaching that when somebody asks a question of fact on an open forum, it isn't "normal" for those who know a factual answer to contribute it to the forum community? If so, then that's absurd. Exchange of information is as "normal" as exchange of views.

I don't know why you say I am "teaching", but to the point ... I was actually pointing out in my response to your answer that your answer was flawed because it did not establish the point it was meant to prove.

Your answer was to present a case that purported to be an instance of embarrassment alone determining historicity of an event and I pointed out in reply that your example relied on far, far more than mere embarrassment, and that there were a host of additional reasons in your example for us to conclude historicity.

I have read several works written for advanced history students about fundamentals of research and not a single one of them has suggested "criteria" such as "embarrassment" or any other form of "criteriology" are grounds for establishing the historicity of any event. Criteriology as a basis for establishing "historical facts" is, to my knowledge, unique to biblical studies.

neilgodfrey
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Re: The best case for Jesus's historicity: Mark Craig

Post by neilgodfrey » Tue Sep 12, 2017 4:47 pm

Paul the Uncertain wrote:
Tue Sep 12, 2017 4:43 am
There is no sliding scale from clear cut black and white proof down to more or less something close ...
That'd be news to Laplace, Neil.
We are talking about historical "facts" such as the existence of certain persons and reality of certain past events.

Once we get into the murky shades of uncertainty historians do not, if they are living up to their professional ideals, rely upon dubious data as the basis for fundamental reconstructions of events that actually happened or material circumstances that actually existed in the past. Certain details about governance, trade, social structure, political events in ancient Athens are known to us from "hard data", records that bear up under testing and questioning.

Such fundamental historical data is established as secure. (I am not suggesting we know everything about the social structure and economy of ancient Athens or that what we do know may not be revised in the future..... but read on.)

The difference between the secure data we have for ancient Athens and any modern city or nation is that we have far less for the former; we know far less about the ancient setting than we do about the modern. It is primarily a quantitative difference.

But what we know -- very little for the ancient place, very much for the modern one -- is "certain". We may find out some of what we think we know needs revision down the track, but by and large we can be certain that there are fixed legal price limits for certain goods in Australia and there were fixed legal limits for certain prices in Athens yesterday. The difference between the two facts is that we know much more detail about the Australian consumer affairs legislation and legal bodies than we do about the ancient Athenian ones.

The difference is quantitative. That quantitative difference enables us to ask more questions and learn much more about a modern society than it does about an ancient society. That's the difference.

Historians do not decide to lower their standards or definitions of what is a "historical fact" with ancient societies just so they can learn what they want to know about them. If we don't have the evidence, the "facts" that are facts by any definition, whether in modern or ancient history, then we simply don't know. Or we ask different questions and learn different things.

To my knowledge biblical studies is the only field that does not work like this in practice.

(Paul, try to be nice if you decide to respond.)

Paul the Uncertain
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Re: The best case for Jesus's historicity: Mark Craig

Post by Paul the Uncertain » Wed Sep 13, 2017 12:17 am

Neil
if they are living up to their professional ideals,
Your ideals for their profession, Neil.

The multi-party conversation in this thread has identified two of the chief strategies for dealing with sparse evidence:

- refrain from studying some questions, or

- study any well-posed question, and apportion belief according to the evidence available and a priori plausibility

Obviously, nobody has the time or interest to study every question that comes up. One criterion for selecting what to work on will be the propsects for making a contribution, including the availability of bearing evidence. But that selectivity isn't what's been discussed here. You prefer to restrict what questions other people study. That's your ideal for them. Fine, but your choice isn't binding on anybody else.
That quantitative difference enables us to ask more questions and learn much more about a modern society than it does about an ancient society. That's the difference.
No, that's one difference. Anybody could instead ask any question that interests them, provided they accept that they will almost always draw inferences with higher confidence about modern, global-scale events (did WW II happen?) than about ancient local-scale events (did Jesus exist?).

Paul the Uncertain
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Re: The best case for Jesus's historicity: Mark Craig

Post by Paul the Uncertain » Wed Sep 13, 2017 12:40 am

Apologies for the double post. The natures of the issues addressed are sufficiently different to justify physical separation, IMO.

Neil

Your original question was, with emphasis added:
What other field of inquiry uses "embarrassment" as at least one criterion to determine and what is and what is not a "fact" in anonymous and unprovenanced documents?
Therefore, your recent remark, corresponding emphasis also added.
... I pointed out in reply that your example relied on far, far more than mere embarrassment, and that there were a host of additional reasons in your example for us to conclude historicity.
is irrelevant to the responsiveness of my answer to the question you had asked.

You complained recently about another poster supposedly "moving the goalposts." 'Nuff said.

neilgodfrey
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Re: The best case for Jesus's historicity: Mark Craig

Post by neilgodfrey » Wed Sep 13, 2017 2:24 am

Paul the Uncertain wrote:
Wed Sep 13, 2017 12:17 am
Neil
if they are living up to their professional ideals,
Your ideals for their profession, Neil.
Nonsense. Why do you say stuff like that? What's your beef with me? I get the impression you don't know anything about the study of history as discussed among historians themselves. Maybe you recoil at such a silo-ization of knowledge and want to see Laplace's mathematical theories introduced into historical inquiry.
Paul the Uncertain wrote:
Wed Sep 13, 2017 12:17 am
The multi-party conversation in this thread has identified two of the chief strategies for dealing with sparse evidence:

- refrain from studying some questions, or

- study any well-posed question, and apportion belief according to the evidence available and a priori plausibility
Why did you omit the alternative that actually happens, the one I mentioned?
Paul the Uncertain wrote:
Wed Sep 13, 2017 12:17 am
Obviously, nobody has the time or interest to study every question that comes up. One criterion for selecting what to work on will be the propsects for making a contribution, including the availability of bearing evidence. But that selectivity isn't what's been discussed here. You prefer to restrict what questions other people study. That's your ideal for them. Fine, but your choice isn't binding on anybody else.
What I said was that the types of questions we ask need to be determined by the nature of the data we are dealing with. That doesn't "restrict" questions. It means we ask useful questions to which we can elicit supportable answers. It means asking different questions from the ones sometimes asked. We don't ask of a collection of rocks, "What species of fish did they catch on Tuesday?"
Paul the Uncertain wrote:
Wed Sep 13, 2017 12:17 am
That quantitative difference enables us to ask more questions and learn much more about a modern society than it does about an ancient society. That's the difference.
No, that's one difference. Anybody could instead ask any question that interests them, provided they accept that they will almost always draw inferences with higher confidence about modern, global-scale events (did WW II happen?) than about ancient local-scale events (did Jesus exist?).
I have no idea (nor any interest in trying to figure out) what the hell you are talking about. If you want to discuss something real then address the question of the actual evidence -- forget all your airy-fairy stuff about what amounts to social or public knowledge. We are talking about historical evidence. If you want to bring Laplace and meteorology and geology into the mix then find someone else on your wavelength.
Paul the Uncertain wrote:
Wed Sep 13, 2017 12:40 am

Your original question was, with emphasis added:
What other field of inquiry uses "embarrassment" as at least one criterion to determine and what is and what is not a "fact" in anonymous and unprovenanced documents?
Therefore, your recent remark, corresponding emphasis also added.
... I pointed out in reply that your example relied on far, far more than mere embarrassment, and that there were a host of additional reasons in your example for us to conclude historicity.
is irrelevant to the responsiveness of my answer to the question you had asked.

You complained recently about another poster supposedly "moving the goalposts." 'Nuff said.
In the example you gave embarrassment was not a criterion of historicity at all -- despite your assertion to the contrary. All embarrassment did was point to a consequence of what was by virtue of a host of other real-world data established as historical. We have a real person, a real situation, a real emotional response .....

None of that applies to some guessed-at embarrassment on a creative anonymous author who from the start tells the story and presents all the characters and events in it.

Paul the Uncertain
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Re: The best case for Jesus's historicity: Mark Craig

Post by Paul the Uncertain » Wed Sep 13, 2017 5:48 am

Neil
... want to see Laplace's mathematical theories introduced into historical inquiry.
Of course I do. Heuristically, anything Richard Carrier and I agree on probably isn't all that bad.
Why did you omit the alternative that actually happens, the one I mentioned?
I am unsure which one you mean, but the answer is the same for all possible omissions. Refrain from study and study are exhaustive. The only scope for omission is something which implies "study but do not apportion belief according to the evidence available and a priori plausibility." It is obvious why I omitted all of those, given my view of Laplace (see above).
What I said was that the types of questions we ask need to be determined by the nature of the data we are dealing with.
And I disagreed. More affirmatively, the nature of the data we are dealing with determines something else - the confidence we will have in each of the seriously possible answers to whatever well-posed questions we choose to ask.
That doesn't "restrict" questions.
Uh huh. No word games there, eh, Neil?
We don't ask of a collection of rocks, "What species of fish did they catch on Tuesday?"
No condescension there, eh, Neil?
In the example you gave embarrassment was not a criterion of historicity at all -- despite your assertion to the contrary...
That's all very interesting, but it doesn't make my answer unresponsive to the question which you asked.
None of that applies to some guessed-at embarrassment on a creative anonymous author who from the start tells the story and presents all the characters and events in it.
In other words, any heursitic can be misapplied. Yup. That's uninformative about the merits of the same heuristic when it is properly applied.

Bernard Muller
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Re: The best case for Jesus's historicity: Mark Craig

Post by Bernard Muller » Wed Sep 13, 2017 10:28 am

to Neil,
You were clearly saying, and the examples you gave supported your claim, that the criterion of embarrassment (alone) was sufficient grounds for asserting certain details are actually historical.
Yes, but you need plausibility also, and these details (or important items) fits well in a reconstruction which is coherent & comprehensible. In the case of Peter not saying Jesus was Christ because of the alleged gag order, there are corroborations in Paul's epistles and other writings.
Before we can do any reconstruction we first need to establish what are clear and unambiguous facts. Without those we cannot begin to think of any reconstruction. That always means we need independent corroboration of some kind. Biblical studies is the only exception that I know of.
But this is what I did. I did not do my reconstruction first and then look for clear and unambiguous facts. For corroboration of Jesus' existence as a human as in gMark, there are corroborations in the Pauline epistles (written around 55), Josephus' Antiquities book 20 & Tacitus Annals. Also in 'Hebrews' which, according to my study, was also early (54) we have more corroborations. And there are no clear and unambiguous facts showing Jesus was believed, in antiquity, never to have existed as a human.
I don't think you recognize your Freudian slip by dropping this line in there, Bernard. Anyone would suspect that you have made up your mind before the research begins that you must have a central role for the historical Jesus in any reconstruction. That's not kosher. That's not how historical inquiry that is genuinely scholarly is supposed to work.
Yes, I already told you there are enough evidence showing Jesus existed on earth. What are you implying? a giant conspiracy in order to retrofit a historical Jesus into a religion which started with only a mythical Jesus? If you have a different theory for this alleged retrofitting, please let me know.
Forget your historical and mythical Jesuses. I am not the least interested in challenging or debunking anyone's religious beliefs or trying to tear down historical Jesus icons. I am quite happy for anyone to assume there is a little historical Jesus at the start of Christianity. All I am interested in is what the data itself allows us to say about the emergence of Christianity. Hell, most scholarly studies of the gospels I know of (at least the ones not clouded by apologetics) acknowledge the Jesus of the Gospels is a mythical reconstruction. That doesn't mean there was no historical Jesus, too. Why are you so jumpy about anyone doing research on emergence of Christianity unless they make their first chapters all about what the historical Jesus said and did?
If Paul said there is a Christ crucified at the center of Christian belief, I think it is legitimate to research how that Christ crucified came to be considered as such. If that cannot be done, then look for different scenarios. But that can be achieved by looking at the available data available. And if without supernatural, with a minimal human Jesus as described in Paul's epistles, a coherent & plausible reconstruction can be made, through critical (including literary) analysis of ancient documents, that's worth taking in consideration.
Maybe you should pay more attention to that approach, rather to constantly throw doubts at any historicity, including the one of John the Baptist.
If the suspects of a crime tell their story (which obviously would exonerate them, one by one!), the first thing that investigators do is to check the stories according to the evidence they collected. That's about what I did.
Then you reject the fundamental methods of historians in other fields and stick with the idiosyncratic and tendentious methods of biblical studies historians (most of them).
If I had tons of data, including local chronicles of the time, letters of witnesses about rather strange events happening during a certain Passover in Jerusalem, of course I would follow the fundamental methods of these historians you have in mind.
Also, I do not follow the methods of biblical studies historians. My methods are more the one of a detective working on a case (more so cold case) with little evidence and dubious or reluctant witnesses.
When I worked in engineering, I was called upon a few times in order to explain from what a rather strange (but expensive) component of a project started from. Or why it would be so important to have a particular feature which does not make much sense?
In the chaotic process of engineering project, these can happen.
Most of the time, I found by going progressively to the source, the initial cause was a misunderstanding, something said but never approved but along the weeks got worked upon.
If you follow that very strict fundamental methods of historians, obviously you'll reach a dead end very quickly, because you never will have all the clear-cut evidence you desire. Not even a need to start, that would be a waste of time. But also, as you said, that would not mean a historical Jesus did not exist. But that would not mean either any mythicist theory (with a lot less pertinent evidence!) could be valid. Your only choice is to stay on the fence because you are ultra skeptical and think a historical Jesus existence cannot be 100% certain, according to the evidence.

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

neilgodfrey
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Re: The best case for Jesus's historicity: Mark Craig

Post by neilgodfrey » Wed Sep 13, 2017 1:05 pm

Paul the Uncertain wrote:
Wed Sep 13, 2017 5:48 am
What I said was that the types of questions we ask need to be determined by the nature of the data we are dealing with.
And I disagreed. More affirmatively, the nature of the data we are dealing with determines something else - the confidence we will have in each of the seriously possible answers to whatever well-posed questions we choose to ask.
Then we are talking at cross purposes (again).

If we do not have copies of birth certificates and school records or any accounts of a figure's past, and we have only a news report of what that figure did later in life (e.g. performed a heroic act saving someone from a burning house), then the data we have does not allow us to ask anything about that person's childhood. (Unless, of course, the same news article said something about that.)

If we only have an anonymous and uncorroborated narrative filled with moralistic and fantastical anecdotes about a figure then we cannot ask it to become part of any serious historical or biographical reconstruction of that figure.

I took it as a truism that the nature of our evidence limits the questions we can reasonably ask of it. My reference to the rock was not a word game. It was an attempt to point out that it is surely a truism that the nature of our data limits the questions we can reasonably ask of it.
Paul the Uncertain wrote:
Wed Sep 13, 2017 5:48 am
That doesn't "restrict" questions.
Uh huh. No word games there, eh, Neil?
No, That's not a "word game". There is no attempt to trick you or mislead and then pounce. I don't play word games.
Paul the Uncertain wrote:
Wed Sep 13, 2017 5:48 am
We don't ask of a collection of rocks, "What species of fish did they catch on Tuesday?"
No condescension there, eh, Neil?
No, none at all. I wrote in a joking tone. One I would deliver with peers in any discussion. Evidently you are reading a condescending tone into my words. I will have to try to work harder on adding visual cues to my my emotional states with you. But how to do that without looking fatuous?

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