Monday, December 28, 2009

Swift responds to the accuzation of false data

This is the prison things. The argument that Christians are more likely to got prison than atheists. They guy who put up that site responds:


December 23, 2009 4:56 PM
Blogger Rod Swift said...

As *the* Rod Swift who gathered the data I can verify that has completely misrepresented the data that was presented to me by the US Federal Bureau of Prisons.

The fact is that, yes, the data table provided contained an 'unknown' factor. This is because some prisons do not survey prisoners for data about religion. This is why the original table excluded these individuals.

The data is valid, and has been statistically emulated by surveys of prisoners in other nations -- like the UK -- which found the rate of offence for atheists is far lower than that of other groups.

My response to him:

December 28, 2009 6:46 AM
Blogger Metacrock said...

I'll give you the benefit of a doubt and not accuse you of lying. I withdraw (conditionally) my accusation. you may be mistaken. you may be lying, I will find out. But in the mean time I'll accept your statement that you are blameless. is not a Christian apologetic site. they have no real motive for saying that. They have professional demographers so it's not likely they made the mistake. I will try to contact them and get to the bottom of it.

In all fairness to you I will put this on the website.

I want to be fair and seek the truth. I know the accusation that Christians are more likely to go to prison is idiotic. I notice he doesn't respond to any other arguments such as the parole argument or the sociologists saying that his methodology sux. In fairness to him its his word against I'm going to check into it. There are four possiblities

(1) he's lying (since he says he's not I'll suspend that suspicion--innocent until proved guilty and all that)

(2) He is mistaken, so his data in error for some reason but he didn't intentionally deceive.

(3)he's right and his data is right

(4) both sets of data of data are wrong.

We shall see.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Merry Chrsitmas: Back after Holidays


"Hark the Herald" by Charles Wesley. You can't find a more Orthodox statement of the doctrine of Trinity (not outside the creeds). My second favorite Christmas carol. (Silent Night is first)

please read the words and think about it.

Hark! the herald angels sing,
Glory to the newborn King;
Peace on earth, and mercy mild,
God and sinners reconciled."
Joyful all ye nations, rise,
Join the triumph of the skies;
With th' angelic host proclaim,
Christ is born in Bethlehem.

Hark! the herald angels sing,
Christ is born in Bethlehem.

Christ, by highest heaven adored
Christ, the everlasting Lord;
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a virgin's womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th' Incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with man to dwell;
Jesus, our Emmanuel.

Come, Desire of nations come,
Fix in us Thy humble home;
Rise, the Woman's conquering Seed,
Bruise in us the Serpent's head.
Adam's likeness, Lord efface:
Stamp Thy image in its place;
Second Adam, from above,
Reinstate us in thy love.

Hail, the heav'n-born Prince of Peace!
Hail, the Son of Righteousness!
Light and life to all He brings,
Ris'n with healing in His wings.
Mild He lays His glory by,
Born that man no more may die,
Born to raise the sons of earth,
Born to give them second birth.


Merry Christmas all you atheists out there! I mean it! and Jews, and Buddhists, and Janists and Christians and everyone! Muslims and Mensa, and existentialists and process theology people and agnostics, and everyone!

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Bogus Atheist Social Science: The Lie About Christians Being More likley to Go to Prision


One attempt at this bogus atheist social sciences is a site by Boyd Swift. Swift, thought he would be a wrote the bureaus of prisons for stats, but unfortunately he doesn't know how to read a table.

I can't reproduce the table here without screwing up the side bar, but I will link to the tables, please read them. I will reproduce some of the stats.

the tables are here.

What's really interesting is what has to say about these stats and Swifts website. Here is a letter by researcher on who checked out Swift's data:

David Rice has written to us (23 October 2002) concerning the origin of the data in the table below: The data came from Denise Golumbaski, who was a Research Analyst for the Federal Bureau of Prisons. The data was compiled from up-to-the-day figures on March 5th, 1997. (Note that as of the year 1999, Analyst Golumbaski is no longer working for the Federal Bureau of Prisons; I had telephoned Analyst Golumbaski to request the latest figures, and was told by another analyst that Golumbaski was no longer employed there.) The data was requested by Mr. Rod Swift, who passed it on to me for my web site. I later called the Federal Bureau of Prisons and confirmed that the data did in fact come from their database.

I have represented both talbes exactly as they appear on the website.

Several interesting points. The original says "National of Islam," Swift's Version says "Nation" only. The Original puts Muslims at 5.837% While Swift's version puts them at 7.273%. Swift's has Mormons as seventh from bottom. The original doesn't have Mormons on it.

What's really interesting is the major difference for our purposes, the original includes "none/atheist/unknown as third from the top. Swift puts them much further down. The Originals give the atheist category almost 20% while Swift gives it 0.2% or less.

Examine this table with the one above.

Swift's Table

On Swift's table there is no mention of atheist in the first five and atheist is listed fifth from the bottom. In that table atheist is 0.209%. Now here is the table sent by the Bureau of prisons to Rice, first five:,br>

In this table Atheist/unknown/none is third form top and has 19%! Fifth from the bottom on this version is not atheist but "Hindu." So the version sent by the Bureau of Prisons is significantly different than the version put up by Swift.

It seems Swift misrepresented the data.

So in other words, the actual number of atheists is about a quarter as high as the Christians. It's not this tiny 0.something percent, it's actually pretty high.
It's pretty clear he fabricated the data. These mistakes are too far off to be merely mistakes in recording.

Swift goes on to explain how the disproportionate number of atheists in prison from the general population means they are so far better behaved than Christians.

Now, let's just deal with the nasty Christian types, no? "Judeo-Christian Total 62594 83.761% (of the 74731 total responses) Total Known Responses 74731 Not unexpected as a result. Note that atheists, being a moderate proportion of the USA population (about 8-16%) are disproportionately less in the prison populations (0.21%)."

Of course he's distorting these figures too because it's not 8% certainly not 16%. He's including people who believe in God but don't like organized religion as well as agnostics as atheists. He's also dealing with his false figures. The actual figure is 20% atheists in prison and 3% in society. So what does this tell us? Atheist are a lot less well behaved.
answers Swift's page directly:
One atheist web page ( presented statistics stating that 0.209% of federal prisoners (in 1997) stated "atheist" as their religious preference. This site said that this is far less than the 8 to 16% of the American population that are atheists.

The atheist site, however, provided no source for the notion that "8 to 16%" of Americans are atheists. This statistic is completely without support from the available data. Gallup polls which include questions about religion have consistently shown that between 93 and 96% of Americans say that they believe in God. Presumably atheist writers would not suggest that up to half of their claimed "atheists" believe in God. The actual proportion of atheists in the United States is about 0.5% (half of one percent). This is the figure obtained from the largest survey of religious preference ever conducted: the National Survey of Religious Identification (Kosmin, 1990), which polled 113,000 people. The religious preference questions were part of questioning completely unrelated to religious preference (consumer preferences, entertainment, etc.), so the frequent retort of atheists that their numbers don't like to admit to atheism, and hence are under counted, is unlikely.

Atheists play a little game where they refuse to accept the fact that there are distinctions between really have a devotion to a faith and merely having a passing identification. They play this game so they can say that all the bad things of history are done by Christians and Christians can't say "O but they weren't real Christians." Yet real sociologists (which is more than just a matter of dedication but of real credentials) say that there is a valid distinction and not all people who say "I am a Christian" are really examples of dedication to that faith. The refusal to account for depth of commitment is a real flaw in Swift's thinking and this is exactly what points out:

Thus, some commentators on one side have claimed that being religious is associated with incarceration. This is based only on religious preference statistics. American sociologists are well aware that nearly all Americans profess a religious preference. But there is a major difference between those who are actually religious affiliated, that is, members of a congregation (approx. 45 to 65% of the population, varying by region), and those who merely profess a preference, likely the name of the denomination that their parents of grandparents were a part of. (One of the best discussions of this phenomenon can be found in The Churching of America, 1776-1990, by Roger Finke and Rodney Stark; New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1992.)

On that same page quotes Bureau of Justice Statistics (National Census of the Jail Population 12/31/95):

72% affirm Christianity

54% actually declare themselves religious

Only 33% actually pracitce their faith (by attending chruch).

Sociologists would laugh themselves silly over the simplistic nature of Swift's thinking. It's just not enough to assume from raw data on the afflictions of prison population that some belief system leads to crime. From that same page:

Thus, some commentators on one side have claimed that being religious is associated with incarceration. This is based only on religious preference statistics. American sociologists are well aware that nearly all Americans profess a religious preference. But there is a major difference between those who are actually religious affiliated, that is, members of a congregation (approx. 45 to 65% of the population, varying by region), and those who merely profess a preference, likely the name of the denomination that their parents of grandparents were a part of. (One of the best discussions of this phenomenon can be found in The Churching of America, 1776-1990, by Roger Finke and Rodney Stark; New Brunswick, New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1992.)

As that same article points out someone on a survey answering "Im a Methodist" is virtually meaningless, not sociologically it is meaningless, becuase that person may be just remembering the affliction of the family or the grandparents or parents, not his own actual feelings. A more reliable indication is enrollment on chruch rolls. Even more reliable than that is chruch attendance.

Swift does not even take into account depth of belief, he doesn't bother to determine when the inmates started their beliefs. If I went to prison I would join a chruch and say I was a Christian, even if I wasn't. You are more likely to get parole, you have a group to identify with which may be able to protect you in certain cases, and you may get favored treatment. Parole boards really love to hear about religious conversions.I knew a guy who fakes a religious conversion because he went to jail and he continued the deception even while the was out on parole latter. When he got off parole, that ever day, he left his wife. He was not a Christian when he went to jail. He became one in jail.

Here is the analysis of Chris Price, a friend of mine and member of the CADRE apologetics group:

Priceless comments

CADRE Comments, Oct 16,2007

First, I note that when atheists are trying to emphasize their numbers, they include agnostics and nonbelievers and skeptics among their ranks. But when they want to deemphasize their involvement in negative social characteristics, they take a more limited approach to the data. This study only mentions atheists, not unbelievers, irreligious, unbelievers, skeptics, etc. So, you may think there are more “atheists” in the United States than the data supports. Most stats at, for example, puts the number of “atheists” at less than 1%.

Second, atheists tend to be more privileged than the rest of the population, especially the prison population. They are predominately white, more educated, and middle class. These are typically the result of birth, which is not something for which their atheism can claim credit.

Third, the study tells us nothing about the timing or strength of religious identification. There is a strong motive to “clean up your act” in prison, complete with visits by prison chaplains and evangelists working to reform the inmates. Add to this the fact that religious conversion may be a good way to signal to others—such as the warden or parole board—that the inmate has reformed, there are ample reasons to find increased religious identification among inmates.

Fourth, your review of the data is over simplistic. For example, you ignore the fact that Protestants make up a much smaller percentage of the prison population (35%) than they do the population at large (53%). Mormons make up about 2% of the population, but are a negligible portion of the prison population. Now, this may also be linked to other issues such as income, race, or education levels.

...Actually, if you compare church attendance (and thus exposure to the preaching of Christian values) you get plenty of improved morality. This article by a self-styled "secular liberal" who is also an Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia admits that "surveys have long shown that religious believers in the United States are happier, healthier, longer-lived, and more generous to charity and to each other than are secular people."*

The article Price sites is The Third Edge

JONATHAN HAIDT: who is Associate Professor of Psychology at the University of Virginia, where he does research on morality and emotion and how they vary across cultures. He is the author of The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom.

Prices comments are "priceless," but its worse than he thought. He assumes the atheist is fudging by just not including unbelievers and those who have no opinion as atheist, as they usually do. He willfully misrepresented the stats.

counter data: Swift is not a social scientist and his fabricated data is not a real study. But a large body of real social scinece proves that religious belief and participation deter crime.
Dark Larson proves there are 400 studies done by real social scientists that show that religous participation reduces the likelihood of Juvenile delinquency.

Cities on a Hill Newsletter, 1999

Dr. Larson laid the foundation for the discussion by summarizing the findings of 400 studies on juvenile delinquency,conducted during the past two decades. He believes that although more research is needed, we can say without a doubt that religion makes a positive contribution. His conclusion:“The better we study religion,the more we find it makes a difference.”

Attending services is the most significant factor in predicting charitable giving. Robert Wunthnow, Acts of Compassion, Princeton University Press, 1991.

* [] Attending services is the most significant factor in predicting volunteer activity. Ibid.

* [] Sixth through twelfth graders who attend religious services once a month or more are half as likely to engage in at-risk behaviors such as substance abuse, sexual excess, truancy, vandalism, drunk driving and other trouble with police. Search Institute, "The Faith Factor," Source, Vol. 3, Feb. 1992, p.1.

* [] Churchgoers are more likely to aid their neighbors in need than are non-attendees. George Barna, What Americans Believe, Regal Books, 1991, p. 226.

* [] Three out of four Americans say that religious practice has strengthened family relationships. George Gallup, Jr. "Religion in America: Will the Vitality of Churches Be the Surprise of the Next Century," The Public Perspective, The Roper Center, Oct./Nov. 1995.

* [] Church attendance lessens the probabilities of homicide and incarceration. Nadia M. Parson and James K. Mikawa: "Incarceration of African-American Men Raised in Black Christian Churches." The Journal of Psychology, Vol. 125, 1990, pp.163-173.

* [] Religious practice lowers the rate of suicide. Joubert, Charles E., "Religious Nonaffiliation in Relation to Suicide, Murder, Rape and Illegitimacy," Psychological Reports 75:1 part 1 (1994): 10 Jon W. Hoelter: "Religiosity, Fear of Death and Suicide Acceptibility." Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, Vol. 9, 1979, pp.163-172.

*The presence of active churches, synagogues, or mosques reduces violent crime in neighborhoods. John J. Dilulio, Jr., "Building Spiritual Capital: How Religious Congregations Cut Crime and Enhance Community Well-Being," RIAL Update, Spring 1996.

* [] People with religious faith are less likely to be school drop-outs, single parents, divorced, drug or alcohol abusers. Ronald J. Sider and Heidi Roland, "Correcting the Welfare Tragedy," The Center for Public Justice, 1994.

* [] Church involvement is the single most important factor in enabling inner-city black males to escape the destructive cycle of the ghetto. Richard B. Freeman and Harry J. Holzer, eds., The Black Youth Employment Crisis, University of Chicago Press, 1986, p.354.

* [] Attending services at a church or other house of worship once a month or more makes a person more than twice as likely to stay married than a person who attends once a year or less. David B. Larson and Susan S. Larson, "Is Divorce Hazardous to Your Health?" Physician, June 1990. Improving Personal Well-Being

[] Most happy people are also religious people.

96% of people who say they are generally happy agree that "My religious faith is the most important influence in my life."
George Gallup, Jr. "Religion in America: Will the Vitality of Churches Be the Surprise of the Next Century?", The Public Perspective, The Roper Center, Oct./Nov. 1995.

[] Most people who find their work exciting and fulfilling are religious people.

<65%>80% of those who say they are "excited about the future" agree that they find "comfort and support from my religious beliefs." Ibid.

[] Most people who feel close to their families are religious people.

94% of people who "feel very close" to their families agree that "my religious faith is the most important influence in my life." Ibid.

[] Eight in ten Americans say religious beliefs help them respect themselves. Ibid.

[] More than eight in ten say that their religious beliefs lead them to respect people of other religions. Ibid.

*Improving Health

[] Regular church attendance lessens the possibility of cardiovascular diseases, cirrhosis of the liver, emphysema and arteriosclerosis. George W. Comstock amd Kay B. Patridge:* "Church attendance and health."* Journal of Chronic Disease, Vol. 25, 1972, pp. 665-672.

*[] Regular church attendance significantly reduces the probablility of high blood pressure.* David B. Larson, H. G. Koenig, B. H. Kaplan, R. S. Greenberg, E. Logue and H. A. Tyroler:* " The Impact of religion on men's blood pressure."* Journal of Religion and Health, Vol. 28, 1989, pp.265-278.* W.T. Maramot:* "Diet, Hypertension and Stroke." in* M. R. Turner (ed.) Nutrition and Health, Alan R. Liss, New York, 1982, p. 243.

*[] People who attend services at least once a week are much less likely to have high blood levels of interlukin-6, an immune system protein associated with many age-related diseases.* Harold Koenig and Harvey Cohen, The International Journal of Psychiatry and Medicine, October 1997.

*[] Regular practice of religion lessens depression and enhances self esteem. *Peter L. Bensen and Barnard P. Spilka:* "God-Image as a function of self-esteem and locus of control" in H. N. Maloney (ed.) Current Perspectives in the Psychology of Religion, Eedermans, Grand Rapids, 1977, pp. 209-224.* Carl Jung: "Psychotherapies on the Clergy" in Collected Works Vol. 2, 1969, pp.327-347.

*[] About half of religious people "have a lot of stress" in their lives, but only half of these "often get depressed." George Gallup, Jr. "Religion in America: Will the Vitality of Churches Be the Surprise of the Next Century?" The Public Perspective, The Roper Center, Oct./Nov. 1995.

*[] Church attendance is a primary factor in preventing substance abuse and repairing damage caused by substance abuse.* Edward M. Adalf and Reginald G. Smart:* "Drug Use and Religious Affiliation, Feelings and Behavior." * British Journal of Addiction, Vol. 80, 1985, pp.163-171.* Jerald G. Bachman, Lloyd D. Johnson, and Patrick M. O'Malley:* "Explaining* the Recent Decline in Cocaine Use Among Young Adults:* Further Evidence That Perceived Risks and Disapproval Lead to Reduced Drug Use."* Journal of Health and Social Behavior, Vol. 31,* 1990, pp. 173-184.* Deborah Hasin, Jean Endicott, * and Collins Lewis:* "Alcohol and Drug Abuse in Patients With Affective Syndromes."* Comprehensive Psychiatry, Vol. 26, 1985, pp. 283-295. * The findings of this NIMH-supported study were repilcated in the Bachmen et. al. study above.

* This data is reprinted from RIAL Update which is edited by Robert B. Lennick and published twice a year by Religion In American Life.* Reprinting of any material in this copyright publication requires written permission from the editor.

W.K. Kay and L.J. Francis Drift from the Churches: attitudes towards Christianity during childhood and adolescence, Cardiff, University of Wales Press, 1996, pp x + 266Key words: attitudes - Christianity - children - adolescents - empiricalMedium: authored bookSummary:

How and why do some young people become religious?* Are religious people happier than others?* Do church schools help pupils to develop a positive attitude toward Christianity?* What part does personal religious experience play in shaping religious attitudes?*

Twenty-five years of empirical psychological and sociological research on young people in relation to Christianity is presented here in a set of interrelated studies which show how attitude toward Christianity in young people is linked with schooling, cognitive development, masculinity and femininity, church attendance, religious experience, science, well-being, mental health and the Eysenckian model of personality.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Atheists show their true colors

12/18/09 CARM poster named Paradoxical

Originally Posted by paradoxical View Post
Meta, in reading quite a few of your posts, you believe in "God", but do not believe completely in the Christian God.
with all due respect man. I am not trying to insult you, this is not a tit for tat from past squabbling. I mean this in a non insulting way. I did study at a major seminary I have Masters degree in theology. I'm not saying that to brag to or to say you have to listen to me. I'm just saying I know what the Christian view is, I am expert in Christian theology (well to the Masters level anyway). You are wrong. You are mislead by what fundamentalists say. If you studied the theology I've studied you would know better. I am merely going by what I learned in betting my masters in theology. It was a Christian seminary but of a liberal flavor (Methodist). We did study the Evangelical views too, and the Catholic, we studied it all.

You believe that Jesus existed and he rose from the dead, but you don't believe in the virgin birth or that the bible is inerrant.
I do believe in the Virgin birth (It's actual called "virginal conception"). I don't believe that it was necessarily predicted by Issiah (although it might have been). I do believe it happened.

I don't believe in inerrency but inerrency is not part of any creed. No council every made inerrency a part of Christian identity. that view didn't exist until the 19th century. Inerrancy is not historical Christianity it was invented to fight Darwin.

I'm sure there are many other things that you don't agree with mainstream Christianity on. You have given your reasons for your beliefs, which you arrived at after what looks like quite a bit of study, research and deliberation, after which you have constructed your own God concept.
No that is totally false.I've told you this before. My views come from Paul Tillich, who is agreed with by major conservative theologians such as Balthasar and by the whole Roman Catholic Church, by the Orthdox church and many historical great theologians.

Just because you haven't heard of it doesn't' mean it's not true.

Certain parts of Christianity you defend. Others you don't, or ignore. You could probably start your own religion based on your beliefs and win a fair amount of converts. Undoubtedly, this is why and how so many branches of christianity have developed over the centuries, which is from people such as yourself deliberating over the topic, and deciding for himself what is right and what is wrong.

you are exaggerating because you view of Christianity is limited to modern day fundamentalists. You don't even seem have a concept of histrionically theology. you don't seem to understand what makes a faith what it is. You can't base what Christianity is on a bunch of Televangelists. They are not speaking for the chruch. They just buy air time and speak for themselves. they have no authority in the chruch.

For me, there are no words you or a Christian could ever say, and there is no book or books or manuscripts I could ever read, no minute study of the bible or learning Hebrew or ancient history that could ever make me believe in the Christian God. It is just not possible. I have learned over my many years that is just as impossible to make a devout Christian not believe. Of course, there are some rare exceptions to this as pastors, priests and monks have become atheists and agnostics.

another poster called "made max" (carm)

Originally Posted by Metacrock View Post
but don't need to be proven so.
Ultimately I don't think any proving is necessary as long as we can agree on the important issues.

sure, but they would not be as well grounded as they would be with God.
I don't understand why value judgments from a deity would be more "well grounded" than my own. They would just be a reflection of it values as my judgments are a reflection of my own.

...the problem is atheists don't understand what it means to say God si the foundation of reality and they don't understand the logical implications of that.
I can't speak for all atheists, but I agree that I don't understand any of that. It's not a problem for me though since I don't know there is any God that needs such understanding.

Most people don'tk now anything about ethical theory.
Most people probably don't know anything about various ethical theories taught in universities, but most do seem to know at least a little bit about one theory or another, even if the theory is simply "because God says so".

..when it comes to discussion about ethical theory both sides are totally confused.
Does that include you?

My ethical stance is pretty simple really. Morals are essentially personal value judgments and we are all valuers.

I say:

It's pretty basic really. IF you are the basis of all relaity then it not a value judgment is' the basis of truth. that's just exactly what God is. God is the transcendental signifier, he that which gives meaning it's meaning. thus if he says it has meaning. for you it's a value judgment becuase you are nto the basis of reality. you are a contingency created by the basis of reality.

to which he responds

Originally Posted by Metacrock View Post
It's pretty basic really. IF you are the basis of all relaity then it not a value judgment is' the basis of truth.
Sorry, that's just double talk. Even if God is everything you say it is, it's making a value judgment just like I do. All you're doing after that is arbitrarily declaring it's judgments to be "truth" and not personal judgments. How do you know that this God didn't purposely leave morals to be personal judgments? Perhaps (assuming it exists of course), that is the very thing it intended to do, with no objective "truth" to the matter any more than there is an objective truth that rap music sucks, or that spinache tastes bad. If some God doesn't want something to have objective truth to it, I seriously doubt you could force it otherwise.

God is the transcendental signifier, he that which gives meaning it's meaning. thus if he says it has meaning. for you it's a value judgment becuase you are nto the basis of reality. you are a contingency created by the basis of reality.
Whether I am a contingency or not that doesn't change the fact that if I think some act ought not to be done I am making a value judgement. The same with any God - it would be making a value judgment.

that's like saying 'I don't get this loigc stuff but confuse me with the facts."
No, it's like saying that I don't believe this God you speak of exists so subsequently the problem you assert exists doesn't exist except as an assertion by you that there's a problem.

Do you often interpret statements this poorly?

Quote: many graduate level ethics courses have you taken?
None, though this has nothing to do with what I said.

I've studied with a couple of major ethicists at the graduate level.
Great. Not sure how that has any bearing on my statement though.

...that's because you don't have the existential grounding to make your opinions anything more than that.
Or they actually aren't anything more than that and it's good that I don't claim them to be. It's even possible that as you claim to speak for this God in regards to it's moral position, you've got it all wrong.

If you created all things it would be different. Then you would be the thing that makes truth true.
My value judgments are true for me and for all I know some God made morals just that way with no objective truth to them.

that's one of the major steps toward the decline of Western civilization was accepting relativism and dumping the concept of truth.
*shrug* Unless of course relativism is the truth in which case your assertion is false. And if God made them that way, not only is your assertion false, you'd be misrepresenting such a being.
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Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Silence Argument


Loren continues her arguemnts on the darkness at noon. Don't ask me why she's so hung up on that. But it seems to be a real sticking point for her.

Arguments from silence are completely legitimate are in some cases. Let's say that I claimed that a 100-ft-tall giant robot walked through downtown Dallas last Wednesday noon. But nobody in Dallas ever claimed to have seen it, and there was no mention of it in the newspapers or the local TV news shows. Would you claim that that non-observation is not really evidence against the presence of that giant robot?

Meta: problem is when argument from silence proves the case against your view then you will ignore it or call it a fallacy. So you apply it selectively. You set up a phony crtieria that historians don't use. no historian says "X must be written by about by Pliny to be true." But for arbitray reason you set up Pliny as the guy. why not use Josephus as the guy? because that disprove your view.

example of argument from silence disproving the Jesus myth position: no opponent of Christianity ever argued that he didn't exist any time before the late 19th century. In fact major opponents said he did exist. But you don't count that as anything.

the gaint walking through Dallas example is bad. Because the writing we have from the first century are sparce. We don't have a ot of things, and just becasue we don't have Pliny writting about Jesus doesn't mean he didn't it dosn't mean he's the standard and if he didn't write about something it didn't exist.

Mythers also just ignore a host of real good reasons why contemporaries didn't write about Jesus during his life time but they totally ignore these kinds of things to suit their phony criteria.

So it is with that crucifixion darkness. People all over the Roman Empire would have seen it, and the more literate ones would have written about it in detail; we'd have a *lot* more than the Gospels and some obscure allusions.

Meta: we have hardly anything from that century and we do have three people talking about and you just dismiss it as an eclipse so if Pliny did write about it you would just ignore it. Maybe others do. maybe there are 50 people who mention it and it's all put under the heading of "eclipse."

They might have gotten puzzled over why the people in Hispania saw it in late morning while the people in Anatolia saw it in early afternoon and people in Italy saw it at midday -- until someone points out that that's a natural consequence of the roundness of the Earth

Meta: you are assuming that we have gobs of information form that century and people all over the world wrote and we have their writings. we have only a handful of writings overall from the whole the first century. it's very space if you everything we have from the whole first century it would be less I've written in school.

here's a list of first century source that don't mention Jesus:

First century Sources that don't mention Jesus.

[form JP Holding--Teckton Apologetics]

"A final consideration is that we have very little information from first-century sources to begin with. Not much has survived the test of time from A.D. 1 to today. Blaiklock has cataloged the non-Christian writings of the Roman Empire (other than those of Philo) which have survived from the first century and do not mention Jesus. These items are":

* An amateurish history of Rome by Vellius Paterculus, a retired army officer of Tiberius. It was published in 30 A.D., just when Jesus was getting started in His ministry.

* An inscription that mentions Pilate.

Why Jesus wouldn't be mentioned more than he is.

Jp Holding:Tekton apologetics.

We turn to John P. Meier [Meie.MarJ, 7-9] and Murray Harris [Harr.3Cruc, 24-27] for several reasons on this point:

a. Roman Historians were only concerned with issues that directly effected them where they lived, or pertained to the fortunes of the empire. He didn't address the Roman Senate, worte no treatesies, histories, poems or palys, never travaled outside of Palestine, and did not change the socio-economic situation in Paltestine. He was a strictly local affair, of regional importance only, in his own lifetime.

Harris adds that "Roman writers could hardly be expected to have foreseen the subsequent influence of Christianity on the Roman Empire and therefore to have carefully documented" Christian origins. How were they to know that this minor Nazarene prophet would cause such a fuss?"

Jesus and History

On Line Electronic books

Edward C. Wharton

From Pagan Sources

"Palestine of the first century has been referred to as an unimportant frontier province in the Roman Empire. Those provincial governors assigned to that region of the world were often thought to have received hardship posts. Too, those who wrote the history of Rome were in the upper strata of Roman society and usually had a personal dislike of Orientals, disapproved of their religions and looked upon their superstitions as very un-Roman. [Micahel Green , Runaway World, Inter-Varsity Press, p. 12.] This partially accounts for the little trickles of information that comes from their pens about the Christian religion. They wrote about it only as it forced its way into the mainstream of their view. Yet what they did write is proof positive that Jesus Christ was both a real person and that he had made such an impact upon society that the Roman world found it increasingly difficult to disregard him."

b. Jesus was not a big enough threat to the Romans He was enough of a threat to warrent his exicution, but there had been many other Messianich "pretenders" who warrented harher treatment. The Romans never had to call out troops to quell a revolt led by Jesus or his followers.

c. His death as a criminal made him even more marginal, and as one of many criminals exicuted by Rome during their stay in Palestine he was unremarkable.

d. He was itinerant

J.P. Holding:

"Jesus marginalized himself by being occupied as an itinerant preacher. Of course, there was no Palestine News Network, and even if there had been one, there were no televisions to broadcast it. Jesus never used the established "news organs" of the day to spread His message. He travelled about the countryside, avoiding for the most part (and with the exception of Jerusalem) the major urban centers of the day. How would we regard someone who preached only in sites like, say, Hahira, Georgia?"

e. He was a nerdowell.

Holding agin: "Jesus lived an offensive lifestyle and alienated many people. He associated with the despised and rejected: Tax collectors, prostitutes, and the band of fishermen He had as disciples."

f. He was unimportant, poor, migrant, in an empire the captial of which was very far away, ran by rich tyrannts and he could do nothing to imporve their power. Why should they have an interest in him?

g. Not concerned with Roman gods.

Jesus' bore a message of eschatological and spiritual significance about an obscure foreign God most Romans knew little about. They had no particular reason to see him as anything other than a strictly regional private matter concerning a religion that seemed barbaric and about which they had no interest.

h. No evening News.

News travaled slowly, the distances were great. They had no mass communications. It took months for Rome to learn of events in Palestine, and most of the events there were of little interest to them. Moreover, his work only lasted three years. By the time he was begining to reach the height of his fame in Jerusalem word of his very existence might just be reaching Rome, where it would have been gretaed coldly with no real interest anyway. Than suddenly he was gone, exicuted as a torulbe maker and good ridence! Reports of his resurrection would not flood Rome as great astounding news, other supernatural claims were made all the time from all parts of the world, including Rome itself, so who would believe or care about this one?

i. One of many wonder workers.

There were actually quite a few "wonder workers" and Messianic claimants in Jesus' time. In fact he may have seen one himself, a man called "The Egyptian" who led a revolt in Jesus' childhood, in The Galillee, but his followered were slaughtered and the Egyptian disappeared. Why should the Romans Take notice of just one more. (Now many will argue well see Jesus was just one more of these guys, but for an answer on that see "How do I know that Jesus is the Son of God?")

B. How Historians Look at Historicity

Histirans do not dismiss the historicity of a figure just because supernatural claims are invovled. They dismiss the cliams of the supernatual as a matter of ideological bias (ideological in the non-pajorative sense). But, they do not dismiss out of hand the existence of any particular individual just because he is bound up with superntural claims. Most ancient world figures in early history were bound up with such claims. Gilgamesh is the star of an ancient flood narrative which history takes to be mythical, but historians see Gilgamesh himself as an historical figure, probably king of ancient Sumer. Now in all fairness, most histoirans do not place much stock in Pliny the younger's account as proof of Jesus' historicity, most of them do not accept Thallas account at all, or Sarapion, but they accept without question that Jesus existed based upon the Gospels, and the accounts of Josephus and Tacitus.

Luke Timothy Johnson, The Real Jesus, San Francisco: Harper, 1996,p.121

"...Non narrative New Testament writtings datable with some degree of probability before the year 70 testify to traditions circulating within the Chrsitian movement concerning Jesus that corrospond to important points within the Gospel narratives. Such traditions do not, by themselves, demonstrate historicity. But they demonstrate that memoires about Jesus were in fairly wide circulation. This makes it less likely that the corrosponding points within the Gospels were the invention of a single author. If that were the case than such invention would have to be early enough and authoritative enough to have been distributed and unchallenged across the diverse communities with which Paul delt. Such an hypothosis of course would work agaisnt the premise that Paul's form of christiantiy had little to do with those shaping the memory of Jesus." "As I have tried to show, the character of the Gospel narratives does not allow a fully satisfying reconstruction of Jesus ministry. Nevertheless certain fundamental points when taken together with confirming lines of convergence from outside testimony and non-narrative New Testament evidence, can be regarded as historical with a high degree of probability.Even the most cirtical historian can confiently assert that a Jew named Jesus worked as a teacher and wonder-worker in Palestine during the reign of Tiberius, was exicuted by crucifiction under the prefect Pontius Pilate, and continued to have followers after his death. These assertions are not mathematically or metaphysically certain, for certainty is not within the reach of history. But they enjoy a very high level of proability."

The level of probablity is slightly less secure wtih the resurrection, but that is one of those points of convergence which meet steming form these three different points of origin (Gospels, epistles, and secular sources). It must be remebered that the epistles were written before the Gospels, except perhaps for Mark. So they do count as independent sources.

C. How Historians Look at the Historicity of Jesus

John Dominic Crossan


The full review is at:

If I understand what Earl Doherty is arguing, Neil, it is that Jesus of Nazareth never existed as an historical person, or, at least that historians, like myself, presume that he did and act on that fatally flawed presumption.

I am not sure, as I said earlier, that one can persuade people that Jesus did exist as long as they are ready to explain the entire phenomenon of historical Jesus and earliest Christianity either as an evil trick or a holy parable. I had a friend in Ireland who did not believe that Americans had landed on the moon but that they had created the entire thing to bolster their cold-war image against the communists. I got nowhere with him. So I am not at all certain that I can prove that the historical Jesus existed against such an hypothesis and probably, to be honest, I am not even interested in trying.

It was, however, that hypothesis taken not as a settled conclusion, but as a simple question that was behind the first pages of BofC when I mentioned Josephus and Tacitus. I do not think that either of them checked out Jewish or Roman archival materials about Jesus. I think they were expressing the general public knowledge that "everyone" had about this weird group called Christians and their weird founder called Christ. The existence, not just of Christian materials, but of those other non-Christian sources, is enough to convince me that we are dealing with an historical individual. Furthermore, in all the many ways that opponents criticized earliest Christianity, nobody ever suggested that it was all made up. That in general, is quite enough for me.

There was one other point where I think Earl Doherty simply misstated what I did. In BofC, after the initial sections on materials and methods (1-235), I spent about equal time in Galilee (237-406) , or at least to the north, and in Jerusalem with pre-Pauline materials (407-573). I agree that if we had a totally different and irreconcilable vision/program between Paul and Q (just to take an example), it would require some very good explaining. Part of what I was doing, for example, in talking about the Common Meal Tradition was showing how even such utterly distinct eucharistic scenarios as Didache 9-10 and I Cor 11-12 have rather fascinating common elements behind and between them. It is a very different thing, in summary, for Paul to say that he is not interested in the historical Jesus (Jesus in the flesh) than to say that "no Galilee and no historical Jesus lie behind Paul."M


Crosson's Asnwer:I am not certain, Neil, that I have much to add to my previous post. I do not claim "ideological immunity" against the possibility that the historical Jesus never existed. That such a person existed is an historical conclusion for me, and neither a dogmatic postulate nor a theological presupposition. My very general arguments are: (1) that existence is given in Christian, pagan, and Jewish sources; (2) it is never negated by even the most hostile critics of early Christianity (Jesus is a bastard and a fool but never a myth or a fiction!); (3) there are no historical parallels that I know of from that time and period that help me understand such a total creation. There is, however, a fourth point that I touched on in BofC 403-406. It is crucially important for me that Jesus sent out companions and told them to do exactly what he was doing (not in his name, but as part of the Kingdom of God). The most basic continuity that I see between Jesus and those companions was, as I put it, not in mnemonics, but in mimetics. In other words, they were imitating his lifestyle and not just remembering his words. I find that emphasized in the Q Gospel�s indictment of those who talk, but do not do, and in the Didache�s emphasis on the ways (tropoi) of the Lord (not just words/logoi). When, therefore, I look at a phrase such as "blessed are the destitute," and am quite willing to argue that it comes from the historical Jesus, I am always at least as sure that it represents the accurate summary of an attitude as the accurate recall of a saying. For analogy: If Gandhi had developed a large movement after his death of people who are living in non-violent resistance to oppression, and one of them cited an aphorism of Gandhi, namely "if you do not stand on a small bug, why would you stand on a Big Bug," I would be more secure on the continuity in lifestyle than in memory and could work on that as basis.

From J.P. Holding

"Greco-Roman historian Michael Grant, who certainly has no theological axe to grind, indicates that there is more evidence for the existence of Jesus thanthere is for a large number of famous pagan personages - yet no one woulddare to argue their non-existence. Meier notes that what we know about Alexander the Great could fit on only a few sheets of paper; yet no onedoubts that Alexander existed. [Meier, John P. - A Marginal Jew: Rethinkingthe Historical Jesus. New York: Doubleday, 1991, p. 23]Charlesworth has written that "Jesus did exist; and we know more about him than about almost any Palestinian Jew before 70 C.E." [Charlesworth, JamesH. - Jesus Within Judaism. New York: Doubleday, 1988., 168-9]The well-respected Jewish New Testament scholar, E.P. Sanders, echoes Grant,saying that "We know a lot about Jesus, vastly more than about John the Baptist, Theudas, Judas the Galilean, or any of the other figures whosenames we have from approximately the same date and place."[ Sanders, E.P. -The Historical Figure of Jesus. New York: Penguin Press, 1993., xiv.]

On the Crucifixion, Harvey writes: "It would be no exaggeration to say that this event is better attested, and supported by a more impressive array of evidence, than any other event of comparable importance of which we have knowledge from the ancient world." [Harvey, A. E. Jesus and the Constraintsof History. Philadelphia: Westminster, 1982., 11] The main proponent of the view that Jesus never existed has been the German Professor G.A. Wells (NOT an NT scholar). Referring to Wells' thesis, Dunnwrites:

"The alternative thesis is that within thirty years there had evolved such acoherent and consistent complex of traditions about a non-existent figuresuch as we have in the sources of the Gospels is just too implausible. Itinvolves too many complex and speculative hypotheses, in contrast to themuch simpler explanation that there was a Jesus who said and did more orless what the first three Gospels attribute to him. The fact ofChristianity's beginnings and the character of its earliest tradition issuch that we could only deny the existence of Jesus by hypothesizing theexistence of some other figure who was a sufficient cause of Chrstianity'sbeginnings - another figure who on careful reflection would probably comeout very like Jesus!"[ Dunn, James G. D. The Evidence for Jesus. Louisville:Westminster, 1985., 29]

Morton Smith, a hardened skeptic of Orthodox Christianity and an Emeritusv Professor of History, wrote of Wells' work:"I don't think the arguments in (Wells') book deserve detailed refutation."

"...he argues mainly from silence."

"...many (of his arguments) are incorrect, far too many to discuss in this space."

"(Wells) presents us with a piece of private mythology that I findincredible beyond anything in theGospels."[Hoffmann, R. J. and Larue, Gerald, eds. Jesus in History and Myth. Buffalo: Prometheus, 1986, 47-48.]

Encyclopedia. Britannica says, in its discussion of the multipleextra-biblical witnesses (Tacitus, Josephus, the Talmud, etc.):"These independent accounts prove that in ancient times even the opponentsof Christianity never doubted the historicity of Jesus, which was disputed for the first time and on inadequate grounds by several authors at the end of the 18th, during the 19th, and at the beginning of the 20th centuries."(Article on "Jesus", 1990)

As F.F. Bruce, Rylands professor of biblical criticism and exegesis at theUniversity of Manchester, has stated:

"Some writers may toy with the fancy of a 'Christ-myth,' but they do not doso on the ground of historical evidence. The historicity of Christ is asaxiomatic for an unbiased historian as the historicity of Julius Caesar. Itis not historians who propagate the 'Christ-myth' theories."[Bruce, F.F. The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? ..5th revised edition, Downers Grove: Inter-Varsity Press, 1972.]Otto Betz concludes: "NO SERIOUS scholar has ventured to postulate thenon-historicity of Jesus (emphasis mine)."[Otto Betz, What do We Know about Jesus?, SCM Press, 1968, page 9]

J.P. Meier, in his authoritative work on Jesus, points out that what is MOSTsurprising is that we have ANY reference to Jesus at all:

"When we look for statements about Jesus from non canonical writings of the1st or 2nd century A.D., we are at first disappointed by the lack ofreferences. We have to remember that Jews and pagans of this period, if theywere at all aware of a new religious phenomenon on the horizon, would bemore aware of the nascent group called Christianity than of its putativefounder Jesus. Some of these writers, at least, had direct or indirectcontact with Christians; none of them had had contact with the ChristChristians worshiped. This simply reminds us that Jesus was a marginal Jewleading a marginal movement in a marginal province of a vast Roman Empire.The wonder is that any learned Jew or pagan would have known or referred tohim at all in the 1st or early 2nd century." ."[John P. Meier, A MarginalJew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus. (New York: Doubleday, 1994)]

The Historicity of Jesus In his recent work on extra-biblical references to Jesus, Robert E. Van Voorst comments on the thesis that Christ was not a historical figure:

"The nonhistoricity thesis has always been controversial, and it has consistently failed to convince scholars of many disciplines and religious creeds. Moreover, it has also consistently failed to convince many who for reasons of religious skepticism might have been expected to entertain it, from Voltaire to Bertrand Russell. Biblical scholars and classical historians now regard it as effectively refuted." [Robert E. Van Voorst, Jesus Outside the New Testament, (Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000), p. 16.]

The authors of two of the most influential histories of New Testament interpretation sum up the scholarly opinion of the Christ-myth thesis in their day. Werner G. Kummel writes in a footnote that "the denial of the existence of Jesus.[is] arbitrary and ill-founded."[The New Testament: The History of the Investigation of its Problems (Nashville: Abingdon, 1972) p. 447, n. 367.]

And according to Gunter Bornkamm, "to doubt the historical existence of Jesus at all.was reserved for an unrestrained, tendentious criticism of modern times into which it is not worth while to enter here."[Jesus of Nazareth (New York: Harper & Row, 1959) p. 28.]

Likewise, Van Voorst, referring to the mythicists, states that "Contemporary New Testament scholars have typically viewed their arguments as so weak or bizarre that they relegate them to footnotes, or often ignore them completely." [Robert E. Van Voorst, Jesus Outside the New Testament, (Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000), p. 6.]

The arche liberal Rudolf Bultmann, who doubted the authenticity of much of the Gospel traditions, concluded: "Of course the doubt as to whether Jesus really existed is unfounded and not worth refutation. No sane person can doubt that Jesus stands as founder behind the historical movement whose first distinct stage is represented by the Palestinian community."[Jesus and the Word (2nd ed.; New York: Scribners, 1958).p.13]

Charlesworth has written that "Jesus did exist; and we know more about him than about almost any Palestinian Jew before 70 C.E." [Charlesworth, James H. - Jesus Within Judaism. New York: Doubleday, 1988., 168-9]

Van Voorst Wrote of Wells:

"Although Wells has been probably the most able advocate of the nonhistoricity theory, he has not been persuasive and is now almost a lone voice for it. The theory of Jesus' nonexistence is now effectively dead as a scholarly question." [Robert E. Van Voorst, Jesus Outside the New Testament, (Michigan: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2000), p. 14.]

To his credit, G.A. Wells has now abandoned the Christ-Myth hypothesis and has accepted the historicity of Jesus on the basis of the "Q" document. [See G.A. Wells, The Jesus Myth (La Salle, Illinois: Open Court, 1999).]

Of the historicity of Jesus, Glenn Miller writes the following:

"Jesus lived His public life in the land of Palestine under the Roman rule of Tiberius (ad 14-37). There are four Roman historical sources for his reign: Tacitus (55-117), Suetonius (70-160), Velleius Paterculus (a contemporary), and Dio Cassius (3rd century). There are two Jewish historical resources that describe events of this period: Josephus (37-100?), writing in Greek, and the Rabbinical Writings (written in Hebrew after 200, but much of which would have been in oral form prior to that time). "Of these writings, we would NOT expect Velleius to have a reference to Jesus (i.e. the events were just happening OUTSIDE of Velleius' home area), and Dio Cassius is OUTSIDE of our time window of pre-3rd century. Of the remaining Roman writers--Tacitus and Suetonius--we have apparent references to Jesus (discussed below). If these are genuine and trustworthy 'mentions' of Jesus, then we have an amazing fact--ALL the relevant non-Jewish historical sources mention Jesus! (Notice that this is the OPPOSITE situation than is commonly assumed--"If Jesus was so important, why didn't more historians write about Him?" In this case, THEY ALL DID!).

"Of the Jewish resources--Josephus and the Rabbinical writings (e.g. Talmud, Midrash)--BOTH make clear references to the existence of Jesus (even though the details reported may be odd). So ALL the Jewish sources refer to Him.

"In addition, there are three OTHER candidates for historical 'mentions' of Jesus that fall in the 2nd century: one Roman (Pliny the Younger) , one possibly Syrian (Mara Bar Serapion), and one Samaritian (Thallus)."

In his book, The Historical Figure of Jesus, E.P. Sanders explains that Jesus would not have been well-known by historians in his day: "Most of the first-century literature that survives was written by members of the very small elite class of the Roman Empire. To them, Jesus (if they heard of him at all) was merely a troublesome rabble-rouser and magician in a small, backward part of the world" (1993, p. 49, parenthetical comment in orig.).

J.P. Meier, in his authoritative work on Jesus, points out that what is MOST surprising is that we have ANY reference to Jesus at all:

"When we look for statements about Jesus from non canonical writings of the 1st or 2nd century A.D., we are at first disappointed by the lack of references. We have to remember that Jews and pagans of this period, if they were at all aware of a new religious phenomenon on the horizon, would be more aware of the nascent group called Christianity than of its putative founder Jesus. Some of these writers, at least, had direct or indirect contact with Christians; none of them had had contact with the Christ Christians worshiped. This simply reminds us that Jesus was a marginal Jew leading a marginal movement in a marginal province of a vast Roman Empire. The wonder is that any learned Jew or pagan would have known or referred to him at all in the 1st or early 2nd century." ."[John P. Meier, A Marginal Jew: Rethinking the Historical Jesus (New York: Doubleday, 1994)]

Yamauchi summarized quite well the findings of the secular sources regarding Christ:

"Even if we did not have the New Testament or Christian writings, we would be able to conclude from such non-Christian writings as Josephus, the Talmud, Tacitus and Pliny the Younger that: (1) Jesus was a Jewish teacher; (2) many people believed that he performed healings and exorcisms; (3) he was rejected by the Jewish leaders; (4) he was crucified under Pontius Pilate in the reign of Tiberius; (5) despite this shameful death, his followers, who believed that he was still alive, spread beyond Palestine so that there were multitudes of them in Rome by 64 A.D.; (6) all kinds of people from the cities and countryside-men and women, slave and free-worshiped him as God by the beginning of the second century." (1995, p. 222)

As J.P. Holding writes: "None of these scholars, we emphasize, is a friendof fundamentalism or evangelical Christianity. Contrary to the protestationsof the "Jesus-myth" consortium, they make their statements based onevidence, not ideology. Conspiracy and bias exist only in their ownimagination."

To his credit, G.A. Wells has now abandoned the Christ-Myth hypothesis andhas accepted the historicity of Jesus on the basis of the "Q" document. [SeeG.A. Wells, The Jesus Myth (La Salle, Illinois: Open Court, 1999).]

"The Historicity of Jesus Christ"

Wayne Jackson

The Christian Courier

December, 7 1998

"More careful scholars, however, have been forced to acknowledge the historicity of the Lord. German historian, Adolf Harnack (1851-1930), declared that Jesus was so imposing that He was "far beyond the power of men to invent" and that those who treat Him as a myth are bereft of "the capacity to distinguish between fiction and the documentary evidence..." (as quoted by Harrison, p. 3). Joseph Klausner, the famous Jewish scholar of Hebrew University (who did not accept Christ as the Son of God) conceded that Jesus lived and exerted a powerful influence, both in the first century and subsequent thereto (1989, pp. 17-62)."

Next: Argument II; chruch fathers.

* Fables written by Phaedrus, a Macedonian freedman, in the 40s A.D.

* From the 50s and 60s A.D., Blaiklock tells us: "Bookends set a foot apart on this desk where I write would enclose the works from these significant years." Included are philosophical works and letters by Seneca; a poem by his nephew Lucan; a book on agriculture by Columella, a retired soldier; fragments of the novel Satyricon by Gaius Petronius; a few lines from a Roman satirist, Persius; Pliny the Elder's Historia Naturalis; fragments of a commentary on Cicero by Asconius Pedianus, and finally, a history of Alexander the Great by Quinus Curtius.

Of all these writers, only Seneca may have conceivably had reason to refer to Jesus. But considering his personal troubles with Nero, it is doubtful that he would have had the interest or the time to do any work on the subject.

* From the 70s and 80s A.D., we have some poems and epigrams by Martial, and works by Tacitus (a minor work on oratory) and Josephus (Against Apion, Wars of the Jews). None of these would have offered occasion to mention Jesus.

* From the 90s, we have a poetic work by Statius; twelve books by Quintillian on oratory; Tacitus' biography of his father-in-law Agricola, and his work on Germany. [Blaik.MM, 13-16]

"To this Meier adds [ibid., 23] that in general, knowledge of the vast majority of ancient peoples is "simply not accessible to us today by historical research and never will be." It is just as was said in his earlier comment on Alexander the Great: What we know of most ancient people as individuals could fit on just a few pieces of paper. Thus it is misguided for the skeptic to complain that we know so little about the historical Jesus, and have so little recorded about Him in ancient pagan sources. Compared to most ancient people, we know quite a lot about Jesus, and have quite a lot recorded about Him!"

So there just aren't that many overall sources to go by in the first palce. But why wouldn't more of Jesus' contempoaries write about him?

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Rex Chimes In

Rex makes his responses to the Gardener article. These responses are so ideologically typical. I don't mean to single Rex out by he did add a comment so this is my answer:

You still have no proof that god exists.

Which is irrelevant because it has nothing to with Jesus existing as a man in history. It's also absurd to make that an issue since God can't be the object of empirical investigation.

Evidently, you have a bunch of "scowlers" who share your delusions, but arguing over 1500 year old hearsay, is not evidence, or truth, or anything new.

another ignorance display. What's heretical about it? Why would being old make it wrong. Why does truth change over time?

Tell me that god appeared to the UN, and that, during his speech, he created a new continent in the Pacific, and that we have a new moon in orbit around Earth, and he moved a couple of interesting stars close enough to us so that we could study them better, then I will believe in your god. Until then, I will continue to think that you suffer from the same delusions of your ancestors.

what planet does this guy live on? Why are atheist like this? He apprentice thinks that if God exists he's suppose to do earth shattering things no one could deny. Why is it so hard for the fathom the concept that we are supposes to search for truth and not supposed to be something we can't deny why is that so hard to understand? Apparently these hate group types are short on imagination and want everything to be tucked away neatly with no ambiguity. Strange attitude for "free thinkers."

I understand that you choose to believe in the tooth fairy, but I don't.

obviously an attitude of hate. he can't just accept that some people believe things he doesn't believe. If you don't accept his belief then your belief system must be stupid and he has to run you down. What's odd is that most atheists on the net can't understand how this is response of hate but what else could it be? he's showing nothing but pure content for anyone who doesn't accept his world view. Deriding and belittling other people's understanding of the world, and why would he think that somehow I am asking him to believe what I believe? where did that "I don't," come from? That's supposed to rally prove it. "What I believe is obviously true and if you don't accept it you are an idiot."

All of your "evidence" is hearsay.

In order to know that you would have to know what my evidence is! I am betting you would rather hard pressed to tell me what one piece of my evidence is.

No matter who your "scholars" are, they are all working off of thousand year old texts, "written" by illiterates, decades after the supposed events took place.

a thousand year old text? can't you count? why would being old make it false? That's so stupid. Otherwise he's going to criticize the gospels for being written after the events but then he turns around and seems to say being older makes it less true!

If god really existed, and he wanted us to worship him correctly, he would appear to us regularly, and guide us as to how to do it correctly.

this is such typical stupidity. Such an illogical argument. If God really existed he would become a man in history and die for our sins."

"well, Jesus did that"

"are you a fool, Jesus couldn't be the son of God, he didn't exist, you can't prove Existed and he lived a long time ago."

how about this one, "you can't prove Jesus was the son of God"

"how do you know that?"

"because he lived a long time ago"

what's with this tendency to second guess what God would do. "If God existed he wasn't give me a test he would show me up front, so therefore, this can't be a test so I refuse to believe."

it's such circular reasoning!

His lack of appearances that can be verified objectively, speak to the fact that either he doesn't care about us, or more likely, he doesn't exist.

see what I mean? Jesus could be verified objectively?" why would God have to be verified objectively? what if he wants you to have faith? "O he can't do that that would mean I have to actually make a commitment to a faith concept."

I have not turned every stone in the universe, so I cannot say that I know for sure. If you say that you know for sure, you are engaging in the most pernicious form of wishful thinking, and outright lying, in the history of mankind, and deep down, you know it. That knowledge, and the knowledge of your mortality drive you to defend your fairy tale at the top of your lungs!

how do you prove anyone is lying? Since you admit you don't if God exists or not why don't you try to think about the evidence that I do give. try to read some books get some intellectual background (lost cause I know) so you understand the arguments, so you at least wont dismissing them out of hand. the typical atheist dismissing God argument because they are about God, regardless of weather they prove anything or not.

I am sorry for you that you can't accept that we will not ever truly have all of the answers in our lifetimes, but to claim to have them all is intellectually bankrupt.

But I do have the answers i need. why should I discord what works for me? why should I give up something to satisfy your anger when ti's gotten me total joy and vast sense of happiness and life transformation?

The time has come to draw back the curtain that covers the sham that religion has been since the dawn of Man, and allow Humans to step into the light of the truth without the tooth fairy.

you mean you would actually be willing to read a books and learn some logic and try generate an IQ point or two worth of thought about God arguemnts? I will be happy to walk you through some God arguments if you are willing to shed your ignorant hateful little act and actually try to think about it? how about it?

We don't have all of the answers, but that is the point, we seek them, and we know that the ones that are from antiquity ring false. Geocentrism, anyone?

you seek answers unless they lead toward belief in God, which you don't want becuase he wont let you screw or be gay so you just wont think about it right? The gencentrism crack but your stupid little head where your cake hole is ok? you have zero learning in terms of religious thinkers. until you actually read a page or two of modern theology you have no right to say such things. stop being an idiot and learn something.

how do I define "idiot?" Not as someone can't learn. I'm sure you could if you would stop throwing your little tantrum and actually educate yourself. But you are so busy trying force God do things your way that you can't think logically. If you want ot learn to think like a real thinker I'll teach you. I'm sure you have the generic ability. I'm just being honest.

I don't' hate you like you hate me. But I'm not going to try and place your childish little anger. if you can't honesty and truth then fuck you. you don't have the right to say these insulting idiotic things. you are a brain washed lackey of a hate group.

Beware of anyone who claims to have all of the answers, because he is playing on your fears to manipulate you. It is after all, the oldest human trick in the book.

you claim to have all the answers. you claim to know what I feel and what I know and what I think. Truth is you don't know spit about Christianity. you maybe have gone to chruch but I bet you slept through every service. you have clearly not a read any books on modern theology.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Answering Jim Gardener's Jesus Myth Arguemnts


Jim Gardener of the "How good was that" blog wants to discuss the Jesus myth thing after claiming that I posted something on this blog in the wrong place. It turns out that issue was simple confusion with the structure of his blog. Now he makes overtures to discuss other topics, so let's do it. He claims he wants to expand the Jesus myth discussion.

Frankly I don't see anything other than old hat:

The purpose of this post is to expand the on-going debate from an older blog posting, in which many constructive ideas and explanations were bounced around as to the historical verisimilitude of the Jesus story.

Armchair theologians are fond of recalling nuggets of received opinion that stand as unqualified proof that the Jesus of the new testament was a living, breathing single individual who really did perform miracles and preside over a ministry as not only detailed in scripture, but in the narrative of ancient historians such as Josephus.

This guy writes with a bouncy community college creative writing class style. NO matter. Why characterize "arm chair theologians?" why not quote real ones and get to the point?

These third party sources are widely sighted as corroborative proof that Jesus and the Nazarene, as a distinct organised group violently opposed to Roman rule, to which Jesus belonged, were known to and written about by independently reliable sources of information vouchsafed by references made in their extended works to other figures from antiquity, such as various Roman Caesars.

They are good corroborative sources, and there are many of them.

from Doxa (my website):

* Thallus (c. 50-75AD)

*Phlegon (First century)

* Josephus (Antiquities of the Jews, c.93)

* Tacitus (Annals, c.115-120)

* Suetonius (Lives of the Caesars, c. 125)

* Galen (various writings, c.150)

* Celsus (True Discourse, c.170).

* Mara Bar Serapion (pre-200?)

* Talmudic References( written after 300 CE, but some refs probably go back to eyewitnesses)

*Lucian (Second century)

*Numenius (Second cent.)

*Galerius (Second Cent.)

To that end, commentary from Nick, in what I have to say is one of the most succinct explanations of why these historical reference points are not to be considered as the hard evidence of Jesus’ existence as they are often said to be, asserted the following:

They are not direct evidence, that's why the are called "corroborative." But here we see one of the major distorting tricks of the Dawkie arsenal. He's quoting a guy from a message board. Why not deal with real scholars? I can find a thousand guys on message boards who have decent knowledge but ultimately no expertise.

Most of the scholarly works on the Testimonium Flavianum agree that it is either partly inauthentic or wholly inauthentic.

Yea, that's another use of this distorting trick. She's speaking in a half truth and that makes it sound like the majority of scholars believe Jo didn't write about Jesus. that is exactly the opposite of he facts. while it's true that scholars either believe he did or the didn't and if you lump them together you can say they believe either it's fake in part or in whole. That's true. That does not mean, however, that the majority don't believe that Josephus really talked about Jesus. The majority do believe that he did! This the experts now, those who spend their lives studying the material. It's not an appeal to popularity bu to experts.

from Doxa:
As to the major passage, the "TF," Most scholars agree that it at least has a core of authenticity, but has been reworked. Thus most scholars agree that Jospheus does at least mention someone named Jesus of Nazerath who probably give rise to the Christian movment. According to Louis H. Feldman in "The Testimonium Flavianum: The State of the Question" in Christological Perspectives, Robert F. Berkey and Sarah A. Edwards (New York: Pilgrim, 1982) there are liberal scholars who leave the entire passage intact! (e.g. A.M. Dubarle, the French scholar). Feldman's count: 4 scholars regard as completely genuine, 6 mostly genuine; 20 accept it with some interpolations, 9 with several interpolations; 13 regard it as being totally an interpolation.[ Feldman, Louis H. Josephus and Modern Scholarship. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 1984. P. 684-91]

A List of Scholar who accept at least some core passage.

John P. Meier
Raymond Brown
Graham Stanton
N.T. Wright
Paula Fredrickson
John D. Crossan
E.P. Sanders
Geza Vermes
Louis Feldman
John Thackeray
Andre Pelletier
Paul Winter
A. Dubarle
Ernst Bammel
Otto Betz
Paul Mier
Ben Witherington
F.F. Bruce
Luke T. Johnson
Craig Blomberg
J. Carleton Paget
Alice Whealey
J. Spencer Kennard
R. Eisler
R.T. France
Gary Habermas
Robert Van Voorst
Shlomo Pines
Edwin M. Yamuchi
James Tabor
John O'Connor-Murphy
Mark Goodacre
Paula Frederiksen
David Flusser
Steve Mason

Alice Whealy, Berkely Cal.

The TF controversy from antiquity to present

Twentieth century controversy over the Testimonium Flavianum can be distinguished from controversy over the text in the early modern period insofar as it seems generally more academic and less sectarian. While the challenge to the authenticity of the Testimonium in the early modern period was orchestrated almost entirely by Protestant scholars and while in the same period Jews outside the church uniformly denounced the text's authenticity, the twentieth century controversies over the text have been marked by the presence of Jewish scholars for the first time as prominent participants on both sides of the question. In general, the attitudes of Protestant, Roman Catholic, Jewish and secular scholars towards the text have drawn closer together, with a greater tendency among scholars of all religious backgrounds to see the text as largely authentic. On the one hand this can be interpreted as the result of an increasing trend towards secularism, which is usually seen as product of modernity. On the other hand it can be interpreted as a sort of post-modern disillusionment with the verities of modern skepticism, and an attempt to recapture the sensibility of the ancient world, when it apparently was still possible for a first-century Jew to have written a text as favorable towards Jesus of Nazareth as the Testimonium Flavianum.

According to Lois Feldman author of Josephus and Modern Scholarship "the vast majority of scholars (75 %) favor partial authenticity of the Testimonium."

Ancient Evidence for Jesus from Non-Christian Sources

Michael Gleghorn

"Did Josephus really write this? Most scholars think the core of the passage originated with Josephus, but that it was later altered by a Christian editor, possibly between the third and fourth century A.D."

(these next few quotes about scholar's views contributed by researcher Nehemias 8/18/2008 02:16:00 PM)

Prof. Mark Goodacre, Duke University:
"Josephus' text has, of course, been interpolated by Christians, but most scholars think that there is at its base a passage written by Josephus: NB style, context & non-Christian elements that survive".

Prof. Paula Frederiksen, Boston University:
"Most scholars currently incline to see the passage as basically authentic, with a few later insertions by Christian scribes." (Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews, page 249).
Prof. David Flusser, Hebraica University:

"Although it is generally recognized that the passage concerning Jesus in the extant greek manuscripts of his Jewish Antiquities (18:63-64) was distorted by later christian hands "the most probable view seems to be that our text represents substantially what Josephus wrote, but that some alterations have been made by a christian interpolator" (The Sage from Galilee - Rediscovering Jesus' Genius, page 12)

The leading Josephus Scholar, Steve Mason discusses the two references to Jesus in Josephus' writings in his book "Josephus and the New Testament":

about scholarship consensus:
"Taking all of these problems into consideration, a few scholars have argued that the entire passage (the testimonium) as it stands in Josephus is a Christian forgery. The Christian scribes who copied the Jewish historian's writings thought it intolerable that he should have said nothing about Jesus and spliced the paragraph in where it might logically have stood, in Josephus' account of Pilate's tenure. (...) Most critics, however, have been reluctant to go so far." (page 170-171)Mbr>

Josephus'Testimony to Jesus: by Dr. James D. Tabor

Testimonium Flavianum)
Josephus, Antiquities
18. 63-64

As we see from the quotes above it is quite a distortion to try and say that the majority of scholars don't bellicose that Jo spoke of Jesus, they do. The majority believe that the reading is "tweaked" but not fabricated wholly. That means they majority do not believe it's made up completely. That is to say they believe Josephus knew of Jesus' existence. It's utterly deceptive to try and combine those who buy the tweak theory with the few who believe it's all made up and pretend that the majority believe as the latter.

This is not the end of Gardener's dishonest approach. He also wants us to think that because Origin didn't speak of the TF then there's not textual basis for it prior to Eusebius.

Origen was clearly familiar with the Antiquities, and writes about a far less significant brief possible allusion to Jesus via James, and yet he not only makes no mention of the Testimonium passage, he further characterizes Josephus as not believing in Jesus the Christ–totally inconsistent with the transcriptions of the Testimonium we now have. Indeed, we don’t have any reference at all to the Testimonium passage from any of the early church fathers until Eusebius, writing about three centuries after the supposed time of Jesus.

Many atheists try to imply that Eusebius forged it but Gardener doesn't go that far. His assertions are unfounded however. We do have indications that the passage was known before Eusebius.

the following is a section form Doxa that I worte and researched:

Steve Mason discusses the two references to Jesus in Josephus' writings in his book "Josephus and the New Testament":

alternate versions (Agapius, Pseudo-Hegesipus, Michael the Syrian):

"Finally, the existence of alternative versions of the testimonium has encouraged many scholars to think that Josephus must have written something close to what we find in them, which was later edited by Christian hands. if the laudatory version in Eusebius and our text of Josephus were the free creation of Christian scribes, who then created the more restrained versions found in Jerome, Agapius, and Michael?" (page 172)

"Nevertheless, since most of those who know the evidence agree that he said something about Jesus, one is probably entitled to cite him as independent evidence that Jesus actually lived, if such evidence were needed. (page 174 ff).

Prof. Louis Feldmann, in his book Josephus and Modern Scholarship, noted that between 1937 to 1980, of 52 scholars reviewing the subject, 39 found portions of the Testimonium Flavianum to be authentic - 10 scholars regarded the Testimonium Flavianum as entirely or mostly genuine, 20 accept it with some interpolations, 9 with several interpolations, and 13 regard it as being totally an interpolation. (See Christopher Price, A Thorough Review of the Testimonium Flavianum; Peter Kirby, Testimonium Flavianum)

So, according Feldman, the vast majority of scholars (75 %) favor partial authenticity of the Testimonium. Some scholars who accepts that Josephus wrote something about Jesus: Lane Fox, Michael Grant, Crossan, Borg, Meier, Tabor, Thiessen, Frederiksen, Flusser, Charlesworth, Paul Winter, Feldman, Mason...

far from Gardener's implication that the majority don't believe Jo wrote any of it, the truth is a huge majority believe he did and online small parts are "tweaked."

Finally, many commentators who regards TF as entirely interpolation, do accept smaller passage (eg. Per Bilde, Hans Colzelmann).

(Mason, Feldman, Colzelmann quotes contributed by researcher Nehemias CADRE blog 8/18/2008 02:16:00 PM)

a) Jerome's Reading.

St. Jerome quoted from the TF as saying "he was believed to bethe Messiah," rather than "he was the Messiah." This has led many scholars to believe that Jerome knew of another, perhaps older version of the TF that read differently and lacked the "tweeked" parts of the passage.

That tells us there was a earlier reading than the one we know.

b)The Arabic Text.

A Jewish scholar named Sholmo Poines foudn an Arabic Text that reads differently then does the recieved version of the TF.

Josephus'Testimony to Jesus
James D. Tabor
(Testimonium Flavianum) Josephus, Antiquities 18. 63-64

"Professor Shlomo Pines found a different version of Josephus testimony in an Arabic version of the tenth century. It has obviously not been interpolated in the same way as the Christian version circulating in the West:"

"At this time there was a wise man who was called Jesus, and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and the other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified and to die. And those who had become his disciples did not abandon their loyalty to him. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion, and that he was alive. Accordingly they believed that he was the Messiah, concerning whom the Prophets have recounted wonders."

c) Syriac text.

Alice Whealy, Berkely Cal.

The TF controversy from antiquity to present

In the second major twentieth century controversy over the authenticity of the Testimonium Flavianum, the erudite Near Eastern studies scholar, Shlomo Pines, tried to argue that the paraphrase of the Testimonium that appears in a Christian Arabic chronicle dating from the tenth century might be more authentic than the textus receptus Testimonium. 21 Reaction to Pines' thesis was mixed, but the most important piece of evidence that Pines' scholarship on Christian Semitic sources brought to light was not the Arabic paraphrase of the Testimonium that he proposed was more authentic than the textus receptus, but the literal Syriac translation of the Testimonium that is quoted in a twelfth century chronicle compiled by the Syrian Patriarch of Antioch (1166-1199). 22 It is this version of the Testimonium, not the Arabic paraphrase of it, that has the greatest likelihood of being, at least in some ways, more authentic than the textus receptus Testimonium because, as noted earlier, this version of the text agrees with Jerome's Latin version of the text in the same crucial regard. The medieval Syriac Testimonium that Pines uncovered is very strong evidence for what many scholars had argued since birth of the controversy over the text in the Renaissance, namely that Jerome did not alter the Testimonium Flavianum to read "he was believed to be the Christ" but rather that he in fact knew the original version of the Testimonium, which he probably found in Eusebius' Historia Ecclesiastica , which read "he was believed to be the Christ" rather than "he was the Christ."

(2) No Textaul evidence

No textual evidence supports the charge that Origin or Eusbius made up the passage.

a) All copies we have contain the quote.

If it had been forged we should have some copies that don't contian it.

New Advent Encyplopidia:

"all codices or manuscripts of Josephus's work contain the text in question; to maintain the spuriousness of the text, we must suppose that all the copies of Josephus were in the hands of Christians, and were changed in the same way."

b) Passage known prior to Eusebius

Nor is it ture that our first indication of the existence of the Passage begins with Eusebuis:

Again, the same conclusion follows from the fact that Origen knew a Josephan text about Jesus, but was not acquainted with our present reading; for, according to the great Alexandrian doctor, Josephus did not believe that Jesus was the Messias ("In Matth.", xiii, 55; "Contra Cels.", I, 47).

c)Silence of Early writters is explianed

Second, it is true that neither Tertullian nor St. Justin makes use of Josephus's passage concerning Jesus; but this silence is probably due to the contempt with which the contemporary Jews regarded Josephus, and to the relatively little authority he had among the Roman readers. Writers of the age of Tertullian and Justin could appeal to living witnesses of the Apostolic tradition. (Ibid)

3)Eusebius careful with sources.

Lightfoot, again:

The manner in which Eusebius deals with his very numerous quotations elsewhere, where we can test his honesty, is a sufficient vindication against this unjust charge.1Moreover, Eusebius is generally careful not only to collect the best evidence accessible, but also to distinguish between different kinds of evidence. “Almost every page witnesses to the zeal with which he collected testimonies from writers who lived at the time of the events which he describes. For the sixth and seventh books he evidently rejoices to be able to use for the foundation of his narrative the contemporary letters of Dionysius; ‘Dionysius, our great bishop of Alexandria,’ he writes, ‘will again help me by his own words in the composition of my seventh book of the history, since he relates in order the events of his own time in the letters which he has left’ (vii. praef.) . . . In accordance with this instinctive desire for original testimony, Eusebius scrupulously distinguishes facts which rest on documentary from those which rest on oral evidence. Some things he relates on the authority of a ‘general’ (iii. 11, 36) or ‘old report’ (iii. 19, 20) or from tradition (i. 7, . 9, vi. 2, &c.).

3)Admits when he can't fill in gaps

Lightfoot agin:

"In the lists of successions he is careful to notice where written records failed him. ‘I could not,’ he says, ‘ by any means find the chronology of the bishops of Jerusalem preserved in writing; thus much only I received from written sources, that there were fifteen bishops in succession up to the date of the siege under Hadrian, &c.’ (iv. 5).” [W.] “There is nothing like hearing the actual words” of the writer, he says again and again (i. 23, iii. 32, vii. 23; comp. iv. 23), when introducing a quotation."(Lightfoot,Ibid.)

If Eusebius really believed that pious fruad was acceptable, why did he bother to admit when he couldn't fill in a gap? Why didn't he just make up the information? If he made up Bishop lists on other occasions, why not this time?

4)Pious Fraud Quotation Itself a fraud

Roger Pearse, an experienced amateur scholar demonstrates that this rumor about Eusebius goes back to a quotation by Gibbon, and Eusebuis never said anything like it:

"Some very odd statements are in circulation about Eusebius Pampilus the Historian. Recently someone quoted one of them at me, as a put-down. I had the opportunity to check the statements fairly easily, and the results are interesting, if discouraging for those looking for data on the internet. Since then I have come across other variants, and added these also.

Note that the Greek text is rendered using the Scholars Press SPIonic font, free from here.

*'I have repeated whatever may rebound to the glory, and suppressed all that could tend to the disgrace of our religion'

*'It will sometimes be necessary to use falsehood for the benefit of those who need such a mode of treatment.'"

Roger goes on in a long page to disect and disprove this whole thesis, and to show that it was the 18th century historian Gibbon who said this about Eusebius, and not Eusebius himself.

Next: Page 3 THIS Argument; Josephus 3
Next argument: III.B. Tacitus


So 1) the authenticity of the passage is highly suspect. 2) Even if it had been authentic, it would have been written decades after the time of Jesus, based on, at best, second-hand information taken from unreferenced sources of unknown reliability. And 3) As the story goes, the creator of a vast cosmos of (at least) a hundred billion galaxies comes to our tiny speck (after a few billion years) and actually lives among us for a while. Given the limitless power at his disposal, why are we having to scratch for a pathetic few highly-suspect crumbs of transcriptions of second-hand stories written long after the fact? Does that really sound like the modus operandi of a god? If he came to this planet to reveal himself, why did he do so in a secretive way that leaves behind the exact same lack of hard evidence that we typically have for personages of myth?

Gardener's assertions are contrary to the facts. Most of his arguemnts are made up of begging the question. The evidence for the TF is overwhealming. No copy of Jo exists without the TF in it. We have version we know to be older than Eusebius. There are so many different versions and so widespread there is no reason to think a forger could have controled all the readings.

His arguments about what God would do how he thinks the universe ought to stack up is not based upon facts but merely begs the question.