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To that end, commentary from Nick, in what I have to say is one of the most succinct explanations of why these historical reference points are not to be considered as the hard evidence of Jesus’ existence as they are often said to be, asserted the following: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.
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
John D. Crossan
Luke T. Johnson
J. Carleton Paget
J. Spencer Kennard
Robert Van Voorst
Edwin M. Yamuchi
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
"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
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
Tabor:"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.
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
"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.