http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... udies.html
On Occam's Razor in New Testament Studies
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... f-new.htmlI 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.
My Doubts About the Consensus of New Testament Scholars
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... icism.htmlI 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.
Historical Jesus Agnosticism
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... ssiah.htmlHistory 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.
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.
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... s-not.htmlI 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.
Historical Jesus Agnosticism is Not a Slippery Slope
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... jesus.htmlThe 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.
Paul as Evidence for a Historical Jesus: HJA (29)
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... stand.htmlOn 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.
Who Do I Need to Read to Understand the Flaws in Mythicism?
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... jesus.htmlFrom 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/ ... suses.htmlIn 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.
On the Multiplicity of Historical Jesuses
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... ixion.htmlOne 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.
Why do Historians Consider the Crucifixion of Jesus to be a Fact?
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... anged.htmlI 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.
The Criteria Embarrassment and the Changed Lives of the Disciples
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... -from.htmlIf 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.
Where Did Peter's Clout Come From?
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... jesus.htmlI 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.
What Might Convince Me that Jesus Existed
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... shell.htmlI 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.
Mythicism v. Historicism in a Nutshell
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... jesus.html(1) Did visions of a resurrected Messiah lead to men inventing stories about Jesus of Nazareth?
(2) Was it something about Jesus of Nazareth that led to men having visions of him as a resurrected Messiah?
Why the Consensus of Historical Jesus Scholars Fails to Impress Me
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... jesus.htmlWhen 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?
Paul or Jesus?
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... texts.htmlMy 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.
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?
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... ja-28.htmlI 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.
The Socratic Problem: HJA (28)
The numbering suggests that there are 27 other posts so-numbered concerning historical Jesus agnosticism. A refreshingly honest blog.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.
http://youcallthisculture.blogspot.com/ ... gnosticism (the "HJA" posts)