UC Davis Lecture on the Existence of Jesus January 18, 2011

UC Davis Lecture on the Existence of Jesus

The Agnostic & Atheist Student Association at UC Davis in California is bringing Dave Fitzgerald to their campus this Friday to discuss his book Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed at All.

So that won’t be controversial at all… right?

Admission is only $1 but the first 20 people in line will get in for free! And it sounds like a great introduction to the debate of whether or not a person named Jesus ever really existed. I hope Christians attend and ask Fitzgerald all sorts of questions afterwards since there will be plenty of time for that 🙂

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  • Jeff Dale

    I’m in AgASA and plan to attend the event. Tabling on campus will include the annual Blasphemous Bake Sale (club fundraiser), at which you can use your immortal soul as a coupon for a discounted price.

  • Here is my little comic about Jesus not existing that I did a couple of years ago.

  • I’ve seen David’s presentation, and it’s really interesting! For $1, how can you afford not go?

  • SteveC

    J.T. Eberhard (Skepticon organizer) has a video of the talk Fitzgerald gave at Skepticon 3 over on his blog. It’s about an hour long, iirc, pretty good.

  • Natalie Sera

    Of course a person named Jesus exists! Go down to Mexico, and there’s one on every street corner!!!! 🙂

  • mj
  • Revyloution

    At this point, Im fairly convinced that Jesus, or someone who’s story eventually evolved into Jesus, was a real person. Reading through scholarly works by Bart Ehrnman, Hector Avalos, and John Loftus, that case seems pretty tight. The evidence that he was divine is pretty thin.

    My current opinion: Yesheua was a delusional street preacher who became far more popular after his death, which was grabbed by the Greeks and turned into a demi-god story.

  • Robert W.

    Revyloution,

    My current opinion: Yesheua was a delusional street preacher who became far more popular after his death, which was grabbed by the Greeks and turned into a demi-god story.

    The problem I see with this theory is that the first converts to Christianity were Jews and the spread of the Christian church initially was among the Jewish nation. The Greeks did not turn him into a demi god, Peter and Paul among the other disciples were already preaching that Jesus was the son of God before the Gospel was spread to the Gentiles.

  • J.

    I haven’t heard of this fellow yet, but as to the Biblical Jesus – Miracles et. al.

    1) Jesus walked on water.
    — Jesus wasn’t my pet waterbug.

    2) Jesus turned water into wine.
    — So why was the women’s **Christian** Temperance union for prohibition?

    3) Jesus bled holy water at the Crusifiction.

  • Lion IRC

    I would like to know if any/all of the Ten points can be summarized here?

  • Green Dragoon

    “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence.”——–Carl Sagan

    “The truth may be puzzling. It may take some work to grapple with. It may be counterintuitive. It may contradict deeply held prejudices. It may not be consonant with what we desperately want to be true. But our preferences do not determine what’s true.”——–Carl Sagan

    Skepticism and critical thinking are especially important when dealing with concepts that align with your own ideology. Fitzgerald may have a convincing argument, but you have to admit, that is one hell of a claim he’s making. It would take an awful lot of evidence to back that up appropriately. Has his book been peer-reviewed in scholarly journals? What are Fitzgerald’s credentials? Are we disregarding rigorous mainstream scholarship while giving undue attention to a possible fringe alternative? Nevermind the Christians. We atheists and skeptics need to be asking tough questions, too.

  • Darwin’s Dagger

    The Greeks did not turn him into a demi god, Peter and Paul among the other disciples were already preaching that Jesus was the son of God before the Gospel was spread to the Gentiles.

    Peter and Paul were speaking of Jesus as a son of God in a Jewish context, as a fully human man who was selected by God, anointed if you will, as the Messiah. It took the Greeks to raise his status to one of pre-existing divinity, part of a co-equal trinity.

  • Revyloution

    Thanks Darwins Dagger, that’s how I understand the history of the 4 gospels.

    We don’t have any complete originals from that period, only fragmentary versions. Without complete originals, we can’t know what was added later and what existed when they culled the 4 cannonical documents from the 25+ other gospels that were abandoned.

  • billybee

    Earl Doherty’s book, “Challenging the Verdict”, does an excellent job of dismantling the apologist’s attempts to support the existence of a historical Jesus. Fitzgerald’s is probably the best book to read as an introduction to the subject.

    I wish more people would make the effort to look into the origins of Christianity. The knowledge gained is well worth having.

  • Robert W.

    Darwin’s Dagger,

    Peter and Paul were speaking of Jesus as a son of God in a Jewish context, as a fully human man who was selected by God, anointed if you will, as the Messiah. It took the Greeks to raise his status to one of pre-existing divinity, part of a co-equal trinity.

    I don’t agree with that opinion. Paul makes reference to Jesus being God who created the Earth in Colossians 1:15-17. In Colossians 2:9 Paul says that all diety resides in Jesus in bodily form. Also in Hebrews 11:24-26 when he talks about Jesus being with the Jewish people as they wandered the desert.

    Additionally, the Gospel accounts of Matthew and Luke say that Jesus was born of a virgin through the Holy Spirit. John 1:1 says that: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning” This is a reference to Jesus being God as part of the Trinity.

    Jesus says it himself in John 8:58 when He says before Abraham was born, I Am in reference to God saying he was I Am to Moses

    There are more examples, but it is pretty clear that the theology of Jesus being God was developed before the Gospel message was ever accepted in large numbers by the Gentiles such that you can say it was the Greek influence that led to that theology.

  • ACN

    I don’t agree with that opinion. Paul makes reference to Jesus being God who created the Earth in Colossians 1:15-17. In Colossians 2:9 Paul says that all diety resides in Jesus in bodily form. Also in Hebrews 11:24-26 when he talks about Jesus being with the Jewish people as they wandered the desert.

    Most scholars do not think that Paul wrote the book of Hebrews. There is a strong divide between scholars on whether or not he wrote Colossians, the issue is by no means clear.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Green Dragoon: Fitzgerald may have a convincing argument, but you have to admit, that is one hell of a claim he’s making.

    What? Most people here (this being an atheist blog) are in agreement that the miraculous Jesus H. Christ described in the New Testament did not exist. Fitzgerald’s claim amounts to: this story is a whole-cloth myth, rather than a thoroughly mythologized account of an actual normal human being. Could you please point out the part that is extraordinary?

  • ACN

    I thought that what you just said was what Green Dragon was objecting to. That is was a whole-cloth fabrication.

    Perhaps you could clarify Green Dragon?

  • Reginald Selkirk

    What are Fitzgerald’s credentials?

    **** that. Take your ad hominem argument elsewhere.

    Are we disregarding rigorous mainstream scholarship while giving undue attention to a possible fringe alternative? Nevermind the Christians.

    There is a problem here in that most scholar in that field are there because they are devout believers. It is a matter of motivation.

    Once you get beyond that, you can start asking the really relevant questions as to whether the scholars supporting the historical Jesus argument are meeting the standards applied elsewhere in history. Richard Carrier, for example, makes the case that they are not.

    I have heard what Ehrman has to say, and it is not the least bit impressive.

  • ACN

    I have heard what Ehrman has to say, and it is not the least bit impressive.

    Now I’m confused. Where does Ehrman come into play here?

  • Reginald Selkirk

    I thought that what you just said was what Green Dragon was objecting to. That is was a whole-cloth fabrication.

    Green Dragoon says that the “no historical Jesus” position is an exotic, extraordinary claim, and thus requires extraordinary evidence. It doesn’t seem that way at all to me. We have plenty of other whole-cloth myths lying around, Paul Bunyan being one already cited. Since we are generally agreed that the miraculous Jesus was not real, what exactly is so far-fetched and extraordinary about questioning the existence of a historical Jesus at the core of it?

  • Robert W.

    Green Dragoon,

    Skepticism and critical thinking are especially important when dealing with concepts that align with your own ideology. Fitzgerald may have a convincing argument, but you have to admit, that is one hell of a claim he’s making.

    That is a good point. Fitzgerald has a bachelor’s degree in History and considers himself an amateur historian. This is a self published book that he says he submitted to other historians for review ans revisions. He also writes erotica and this is is first non fiction book.

    His theory that Jesus was a myth is not new. It has been around for decades is not longer. It has been roundly rejected by scholars on the subject. Even by atheists and skeptics. A good place to find quotes about the rejection of this idea is here:

    http://www.bede.org.uk/price1.htm

    It has been mentioned before here, but there is a nice debate between Mr. Fitzgerald and Dr. MacCrath which you should review.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    ACN: Now I’m confused. Where does Ehrman come into play here?

    Revyloution mentioned Ehrman, although he spelled it wrong. Ehrman is a textual scholar, not a historian. While he has become agnostic due to his textual studies, he is still gung ho for a historical Jesus. But his arguments are pretty lame.

  • ACN

    Revyloution mentioned Ehrman, although he spelled it wrong. Ehrman is a textual scholar, not a historian. While he has become agnostic due to his textual studies, he is still gung ho for a historical Jesus. But his arguments are pretty lame.

    Aha! That is why my ctrl-f didn’t find any other mentions 🙂

  • Darwin’s Dagger

    There are more examples, but it is pretty clear that the theology of Jesus being God was developed before the Gospel message was ever accepted in large numbers by the Gentiles such that you can say it was the Greek influence that led to that theology.

    The whole New Testament is a Greek document, written in the Greek language by people who understood Greek. It certainly was based on an Aramaic oral tradition that existed for decades before it was written down, but in the writing of it, in Greek, it was also certainly influenced by Greek ideas.

  • Robert W.

    ACN,

    You are correct about Hebrews. I misspoke saying this was written by Paul.

    Darwin,

    Paul was clearly Jewish, as were the Gospel writers. Paul was an educated Jewish rabbi going by the name of Saul until his conversion on the road to Damascus. He wrote extensively about the hedenistic Greek culture so I doubt that he was influenced by it in his religion.

  • Green Dragoon

    Reginald Selkirk is correct that I’m stating that the “no historical Jesus” position is an exotic, extraordinary claim, and thus requires extraordinary evidence. Like McGrath, I think it is unlikely that someone would start with the idea of the Messiah and then come up with the crucified Jesus. As he says, “The entire current of Jewish expectation regarding the restoration of a descendant of David to the throne was moving in a direction antithetical to the idea of a crucified Messiah. But to invent or make up a figure and a story about that individual being crucified, with the attention of winning Jews and others in the Roman world to one’s faith – that is implausible in the extreme.”

    I certainly don’t think Jesus was divine. Yes, the records could be better. Much of what Jesus said and did is probably fiction, and he might be an amalgamation of several individuals. Yet stating unequivocally that Jesus didn’t exist at all is an extraordinary claim. No qualifications? No maybes? No conditions? Hell, I know of reputable scholars (Inga Clendinnen’s Ambivalent Conquests) who refuse to be that bold when writing about the Spanish conquest of the Yucatan, and that was only five hundred years ago.

    I want to know what the historical community says about this. What about Biblical archaeology? Religious studies? I’m not leaping onto a bandwagon just because the message sounds good.

    @ Reginald Selkirk, I don’t think asking for Fitzgerald’s credentials amounts to an ad hominem attack (it certainly is not intended as such), and I think that I’m asking a legitimate question. Richard Dawkins once said:

    “There are various senses of faith in which we do — scientists do participate. There’s branches of science which I don’t understand; for example, physics. It could be said, I suppose, that I have faith that physicists understand it better than I do. And so when I say something that physicists tell me, such as that there was nothing before the Big Bang — they’re not allowed to talk about the word “before” in the context of the Big Bang — I sort of have faith that physicists understand enough to be allowed to say that, even though I don’t understand why they’re allowed to say that. But it’s not blind faith; it’s not faith in the absence of evidence. It’s faith that’s based upon confidence in the scientific method, in the scientific peer review process, the fact that I know that there are other physicists who can test, verify, criticize the views of any one physicist. So it’s not the same as religious faith, which is based upon no evidence at all.”

    I think that Dawkins’s approach needs to be extended to every branch of inquiry that has a built-in peer review process. We need to look at what the scholars in the mainstream are saying. I’m more ready to believe a well-published PhD who had a fantastic education, especially if he is representing a credible organization.

    You wrote: “There is a problem here in that most scholar in that field are there because they are devout believers. It is a matter of motivation.”

    Not all of them are. A lot of skeptics are getting involved in the mainstream, too. I have a religious studies professor that took part in the Center for Inquiry’s now-defunct Jesus Project, and a friend of mine’s father is a secular biblical archaeologist. They do exist. Regardless, many scholars are able to separate their own faith (or lack thereof) from their modes of inquiry. These beliefs are so divergent that peer review would weed out a lot of the fringe ideas, too. I haven’t read Fitzgerald’s book, so he may have a compelling case. What I’m asking is that we extend our skepticism to ideas that might seem especially appealing—to think critically. If we don’t, then this movement loses some legitimacy.

  • ACN

    Green Dragon,

    Thanks for the clarification. For what it’s worth, I think I mostly agree with you. My own reading of work in this field, it is possible to build a case for “no historical jesus” but the evidence seems to fit better the existence of a person around whom a legend was build, or a legend that grew up around several persons that were amalgamated rather than a whole-cloth fabrication.

    One of, I think, the most telling pieces of internal evidence for this is the entire virgin birth narrative in Matthew/Luke. Luke concocts a census which seems to have happened, but not at all in the way that he suggests (with folks returning to their city of origin rather than being counted in their home town). If there weren’t a figure(s) who had been running around at the time saying things and attracting some attention, and Luke were in fact spinning the tale out of nothing, there is no reason whatsoever to tell this tale of his parents traveling to be counted in a census to spawn him in Bethlehem. It seems far more likely, that there was a guy, known as Jesus of Nazareth, who was well known to be a Nazarene, around whom a legend was built up. To fit with some strange OT prophecies, the author of Luke spins this tale about them traveling to Bethlehem, when if he were carrying out this whole cloth fabrication, he could have just had the character born in Bethlehem to begin with and saved himself all sorts of narrative trouble.

    The fabrication, the lies about Quirinius being the governor of Syria at the same time of the census, the lies about how the census was carried, the absurd attempt to make it come out right, itself seems to say something.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Yet stating unequivocally that Jesus didn’t exist at all is an extraordinary claim.

    “Stating unequivocally” – who bears the burden of proof here? What actual evidence for a historical Jesus has been presented?

    And of course, even if a historical Jesus existed, that is no challenge to atheism. Jeshua, a form of Joshua, was a fairly common name at the time. Jeshuas certainly existed, but tying them to the Jeshua of the gospels is another matter.
    That would not constitute evidence of the divine and miraculous aspects of the gospels.

  • Darwin’s Dagger

    And of course, even if a historical Jesus existed, that is no challenge to atheism. Jeshua, a form of Joshua, was a fairly common name at the time. Jeshuas certainly existed, but tying them to the Jeshua of the gospels is another matter.
    That would not constitute evidence of the divine and miraculous aspects of the gospels.

    Which is why trying to disprove the existence of a historic Jesus is so pointless. Who cares? There’s enough evidence to go either way on the issue. Palestine in the 1st century was lousy with Yeshuas. It was lousy with apocalyptic street preachers and anti-roman zealots that it’s easy enough to believe that there was an apocalyptic street preacher named Yeshua who ran afoul of the Roman authorities and got crucified for his trouble. Or maybe there was more than one Jesus, and the stories about a Galilean preacher and a crucified zealot were woven together in the decades after they died.

    The only fact you can be sure of is that non-existent beings do not have offspring, no God, no Son of God.

  • ACN

    The only fact you can be sure of is that non-existent beings do not have offspring, no God, no Son of God.

    Well said sir.

  • Green Dragoon

    @ Robert W. Thanks for the info on Fitzgerald and the website link! Much appreciated.

    @ Reginald Selkirk
    I never said that a historical Jesus was a challenge to atheism—whether or not Jesus existed does not affect my nonbelief, nor does it affect many others. Stating that there is a historical basis for Jesus is a far cry from accepting him as our zombie overlord. I am saying that if we simply believe whatever feels good without asking hard questions, then the skeptic movement (which most atheists are part of, though not all) loses some legitimacy.

    As you and Darwin’s Dagger point out, many Yeshuas and Joshuas existed back then (and probably a boatload of Miriams as well), and there was essentially a Messiah on every street corner. The harsh nature of Roman occupation certainly initiated a lot of that. One or more men probably studied and critiqued Hillel the Elder’s teachings, became a leader in John the Baptist’s movement, developed a charismatic following (or took over for John the Baptist after his death), assaulted some money-changers, and/or were crucified. If any of this was transmitted orally or in writing among early Christians, then you have a historical basis.

    I think ACN and I are pretty much on the same page with this debate, especially with regards to the virgin birth narrative in Matthew and Luke. As ACN explains, the Gospels go to a lot of trouble to explain how Jesus is the Messiah, even though the narrative isn’t a perfect fit with OT prophesies. If the story is entirely fictitious—then why not write one that is more clear-cut and decisive? Also, if the crucifixion was a cause of embarrassment to early Christians, they would be unlikely to claim that Jesus had been crucified unless he actually had been. The ancient Romans were repulsed by early Christian ideological concepts like the Eucharist and the love feast, which they likened to cannibalism (“eating Christ’s flesh”) and orgies, respectively. Promulgating these ideas made Christian attempts at conversion more difficult. The whole thing doesn’t make any sense, and for that reason, the burden of proof rests more on the mythicists.

    As I understand it, the spectrum of Jesus’s historicity fits into one of four positions:
    1. The Jesus myth theory: the gospels describe a virtually, and perhaps entirely, fictitious person. There are no grounds for supposing that any aspect of the Jesus narrative is rooted in history. This view is represented to varying degrees by Bruno Bauer, Arthur Drews, G.A. Wells, and Robert Price.
    2. There is enough evidence to conclude that Jesus existed, but the reports are so unreliable that very little can be said about him with confidence. This view is represented by Rudolf Bultmann and Burton Mack.
    3. Historical research can reveal a core of historical facts about Jesus, but he is very different from the Jesus of the New Testament. His sayings and miracles are myths. Robert Funk and Crossan represent this view, one that Eddy and Boyd write is increasingly common among New Testament scholars.
    4. The gospels are reliable historical sources, and critical historiography should not rule out the possibility of supernatural occurrence, a view represented by John P. Meier and N.T. Wright.

    I’m more inclined to agree with either the second or third positions, but I’m willing to change my mind so long as there is *convincing evidence.*

    @ Darwin’s Dagger:
    You wrote: “Which is why trying to disprove the existence of a historic Jesus is so pointless. Who cares? There’s enough evidence to go either way on the issue.”

    I think that is ultimately why the Center for Inquiry ended the Jesus Project. According to Wikipedia, “Joseph Hoffman of the Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion was the project’s director. The project was temporarily halted in June 2009 when its funding was suspended, and shortly thereafter Hoffmann resigned, which effectively brought it to an end. He wrote that he no longer believed it was possible to answer the historicity question, because of the extent to which history, myth, and religious belief are intertwined.”

    “Hoffmann said there were problems with the media and blogs sensationalizing stories about the project, with the only possible newsworthy outcome being the conclusion that Jesus had not existed, a conclusion he writes the majority of participants would not have reached. When one Jesus myth supporter asked that the project set up a section devoted to members committed to the non-existence thesis—with Hoffmann describing the ‘mythers’ as people out to prove through consensus what they cannot establish through evidence—he interpreted it as a sign of trouble ahead, a lack of the kind of skepticism he argues the Jesus myth theory itself invites.”

  • J. J. Ramsey

    Green Dragoon:

    The gospels are reliable historical sources, and critical historiography should not rule out the possibility of supernatural occurrence, a view represented by John P. Meier and N.T. Wright.

    I’ve read parts of Meier’s A Marginal Jew, and he didn’t seem to be in favor of including miracles in a critical historiography, and was quite frank in pointing out errors in the New Testament. N.T. Wright, on the other hand, does think that miracles have historical support.

  • Green Dragoon

    J. J. Ramsey,

    I obtained that information from Wikipedia. It’s a good starting point, but by no means should it be the last. If you’re sure about your information, I encourage you to correct the entry if you feel so inclined. Here is the link:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jesus_myth_theory

    Thanks for the head’s up. I’m still learning, and while versed in some of the arguments, in no way do I claim expertise. 🙂

  • Amuses me the way evangelical atheists will protest any AiG lectures at universities as promoting discredited theories unsupported by the academic consensus, and yet, they go and promote this… an historical theory that is thoroughly dead in scholarly consensus. If AiG is guilty of pseudo-science, then Jesus-Mythers are guilty of Psuedo-History (most of the handful of proponents aren’t even professional historians).

  • ACN

    *head scratch*

    Did you read any of the discussion we had on this?

  • ACN

    On top of that, I still think you’re waaaaaaaaay overselling the AiG crew.

  • @ACN – I’ve read the Jesus-Myth arguments before – the ones that rely on Doherty, Price et al. They are very poor. And I’m not overselling the AiG crew – Jesus-Myth has the same standing in historical scholarship as YEC has in Scientific scholarship. In fact, you’re more likely to find a couple more professional scientists professors supporting YEC than you are to find professional historians / professors supporting Jesus-Myth. It’s recent popularity amongst the apologetics of evangelical atheists doesn’t change the reality of its scholarly standing. (I think it’s rather telling that the only proponents of it happen to be rather anti-theist, actually).

  • Robert W.

    Green Dragoon,

    I reviewed the link for the “love feast” and tried to see where Romans didn’t like this practice because it was an orgy. Frankly it looked like a common meal together and nothing more. Did I miss something?

    As for converting Romans, from my understanding of Roman culture and religious practice orgies were common place and readily accepted. I would think that any problem converting Romans to Christianity was the requirement that these stop not because they were part of Christianity.

    Maybe I misunderstood your point.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Green Dragoon: I never said that a historical Jesus was a challenge to atheism

    Great, we agree on that.

    1, 2, 3, 4, – I’m more inclined to agree with either the second or third positions, but I’m willing to change my mind so long as there is *convincing evidence.*

    I agree that the Jesus-myth hypothesis is not solidly established. I never said that it was. Our biggest difference seems to be on the burden of proof. We are discussing an alleged person for whom absolutely no artifacts or documentation exist within his alleged lifetime. And I am expected to provide evidence of the nonexistence of this alleged person? What form could that evidence possibly take? The only evidence of any kind is accounts by religious wackos written decades after his alleged death. You make various surmises from those religious texts about the basis for the wackos’ beliefs. That is not a “core of historical facts,” it is speculation. And I think it is a reasonable argument that it is not even “enough evidence to conclude that Jesus existed.”

    So once again, who bears the burden of proof?

    As to position #4 “The gospels are reliable historical sources” (which we both presumably agree is false), here is a nice recent tear-down of Matthew: Nox’s Wall of Text, Part 3


    AndrewFinden: (I think it’s rather telling that the only proponents of it happen to be rather anti-theist, actually).

    I consider it to be obvious, not telling. I wouldn’t expect a lot of devout Christians to be in the Jesus-myth camp.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Green Dragoon: If the story is entirely fictitious—then why not write one that is more clear-cut and decisive? Also, if the crucifixion was a cause of embarrassment to early Christians, they would be unlikely to claim that Jesus had been crucified unless he actually had been.

    Are these established historical techniques that are used in other fields? I have never seen them used outside Biblical apologetics.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    In Round River Drive, Paul Bunyan mistakes his own logging camp for a rival camp. How embarrassing! Is this proof of the actual existence of Paul Bunyan? Surely the Bunyanites would not promulgate a story in which their saviour embarrasses himself unless it were true.

  • J. J. Ramsey

    Reginald Selkirk:

    In Round River Drive, Paul Bunyan mistakes his own logging camp for a rival camp. How embarrassing!

    Why is it embarrassing? Of course, within the story, it’s embarrassing to Paul Bunyan, but it’s not embarrassing to the ones who originally told the story, and it’s the latter that’s important.

    Judging from your attempt to rubbish the criterion of embarrassment, the following two statements from a pastor would have the same credence to you:

    * I recently committed adultery while a pastor.
    * I brought thousands of people to Christ.

    Of course, most people think that a statement that goes against its teller’s interest is more credible than a self-aggrandizing statement. That’s the principle of embarrassment at work.

  • Reginald Selkirk

    Please answer the question: is this principle of embarrassment used routinely throughout historical studies, or only with respect to Christian scriptures?

  • J. J. Ramsey

    Reginald Selkirk, I’ve seen the criterion of embarrassment used with regard to the sources regarding Apollonius of Tyana. Generally, it appears to be used when dealing with unreliable sources with ideological axes to grind. What goes against the ideological agenda is treated as more reliable.

    (BTW, your misapplication of the criterion of embarrassment to Paul Bunyan stems from failing to understand the intended use of a story. Stories about Bunyan are told for fun, not as propaganda to make people like him, so those telling the tales have no reason to be embarrassed by stories of his failures.)

  • cornbread_r2

    I’m not a historian, but as I understand the issue, the so-called criteria of embarrassment is normally used by secular historians to establish the relative veracity of an event attributed to a particular individual after the existence of the individual has been established. IIRC, it isn’t used to attempt to establish the existence of an individual — except by Biblical historians.

  • cornbread_r2

    BTW, my primary source for the issue of embarrassment is the wide-ranging and long-standing discussion of it over at Vridar.

  • Jeff Dale

    Jesus-Myth has the same standing in historical scholarship as YEC has in Scientific scholarship

    False. Yes, a majority of scholars of the subject are apparently persuaded that there likely was a historical person behind the Xian gospel myths. But that level of certainty is nowhere near the level of certainty we have that the earth is ancient.

  • Green Dragoon

    Robert W.,

    I reviewed the link for the “love feast” and tried to see where Romans didn’t like this practice because it was an orgy. Frankly it looked like a common meal together and nothing more. Did I miss something?

    As for converting Romans, from my understanding of Roman culture and religious practice orgies were common place and readily accepted. I would think that any problem converting Romans to Christianity was the requirement that these stop not because they were part of Christianity.

    Maybe I misunderstood your point.

    No, you’re spot on, but I think you overemphasize the extent of orgies in the Roman world. Contrary to popular belief, orgies lacked social approval and widespread practice in the Roman world. We remember them—vividly—not because the Romans regularly involved themselves in orgies, but because they were so sensational for the few times they did occur.

    I also found you a better link on the whole love feast thing. From what I can gather, many Romans simply misunderstood what the term actually implied. I hope this clears up the ambiguity.

    **********

    Reginald Selkirk,

    Are these established historical techniques that are used in other fields? I have never seen them used outside Biblical apologetics.

    J.J. Ramsey has already covered–quite nicely–most of what I would otherwise address, but I will concur that historians regularly use these techniques to filter out ideological biases. This proves especially useful when trying to ascertain indigenous and African American histories. I recommend that you read Inga Clendinnen’s Ambivalent Conquests: Maya and Spaniard in Yucatán, 1517-1570 as an example of what I am referring to, as it remains a highly regarded book among academic scholars. You’ll notice that she is quite careful in her approach, and qualifies much of what she says. From what I’ve seen, Fitzgerald doesn’t do that.