Sunday, August 7, 2016

Bowen-Hinman Debate: Hinman's 5th argument, historical methods

Bowen-Hinman Debate: Joe Hinman’s fifth argument for the existence of Jesus is presented in three section.

Bowen: Hinman’s first principle of historical investigation is this:
P1. The document, not the people, is the point.

I don’t know what (P1) means, and Hinman’s discussion of this idea does not make it any clearer.  Hinman’s discussion of (P1) makes a number of assertions that are interesting and worth thinking about, but I will comment on those more specific points in my next post on “Historical Methods”.  I won’t criticize what I don’t understand, so Hinman needs to clarify this principle before I will attempt to evaluate it.

Hinman: The Document not the people means, as I said,"Historians don't base their conclusions upon the documents we lack but upon those we possess" so we don't start from the premise Jesus, did he exist or not? Well if so why we have more documents. No we start from  these gospel things what is their historical validity? Too much attention is paid to speculations rather than facts about what we do have and can show. More of my words of wisdom: 
--The objection that we don't have anyone who knew Jesus personally writing about him (supposedly), is bunk. Start from what what the documents we do have tell us about him. Chitneis emphasizes internal and external aspects of the document. External is getting back to the original document itself: author, audience, why written. Internal aspects are inconsistency or consistency within the document. The practice of history is largely about evaluating documents. 

The second principle put forward by Hinman is a bit clearer:
P2. Supernatural content does not negate historic aspects.
A comment by Hinman provides further clarification of (P2):Historians do not discount sources merely for supernatural contents.  Even when they don’t believe the supernatural details, they don’t just deny everything the source says.
This is certainly a true point about how historians work, and I have no problem with the basic point.  However, there are some qualifications that I would add to this principle.First, the Gospels don’t just have a few “supernatural details”.  They are filled with supernatural beings and events, from start to finish.  Here are a few supernatural elements from the beginnings of two Gospels (Matthew and Luke):
  • [i deleted the liswt as I don't need to refer to it]

The Gospels do not just contain a few “supernatural details”.  They are filled with supernatural beings (angels and demons and spirits) and supernatural events (miraculous healings, resurrections, mind reading, and nature miracles like levitation, walking on water, and controlling the weather).

Hinman: He's just multiplying  examples. The issue is not how many miracles. He's not going to accept it if there are only two let's say,. he is still going to deny even one miracle. I do not them them ideologically. I don't deny them because science tells me to or because my philosophical outlook tells me to. .It's totally a matter of why are we talking about them? For example Jesus' Resurrection and his resurrections of other people were not proof that he was divine but they were signatures to show he was messiah because Messiah was in charge of life and death. Just working a miracle was not the issue, working that particular miracle had importance Mechanistically.

Second, the supernatural elements in the Gospels are often essential to the stories related in the Gospels.  If we strip out all of the supernatural beings and events from the birth narratives, for example, there is not much left over.  If 75% of the assertions in the birth narratives are fictional, then why believe the 25% that remains?
Hinman: For that reason they serve literary function and theological function so it's less important weather or not they actually happened. That is not to be confused with saying it doesn't matter if the story is is true or not.

It is possible that the very minimal historical claim “Jesus was born in Bethlehem” could be true, but given the general unreliability of the birth narratives (due in part to their being filled with supernatural beings and events), this also casts doubt on the tiny bit of historical “information” that remains after stripping out all of the clearly fictional B.S.  Given that Christians believed that the Old Testament predicted that the Messiah would be born in Bethlehem, and given that most of the other assertions in the birth narratives are historically dubious, we ought to be very skeptical about the claim “Jesus was born in Bethlehem” even though this claim does not, by itself, involve any supernatural elements.  It might represent prophecy that was used to formulate “history”.
 There is no logical reason why it should cast doubt. You are violating the principle and making the SN aspect the determining factor that's not what historians do,. They merely control for it element the whole work. If anything it makes birth in Bethlehem more likley because it might indicate they had a motive to to fix up what is an otherwise not too glamours origin in a one horse town,.

What remains of the story of Jesus at the wedding in Cana if we delete his miracle of turning water into wine? Not much: Jesus went to a wedding in Cana. What remains of the story of Jesus walking on water on the sea of Galilee if we remove the walking on water part?  Not much: Jesus went in a boat with some of his disciples on the sea of Galilee. What remains of the transfiguration story if we remove the part about how Jesus began to shine like a bright light and if we remove the appearance of Moses and Elijah?  Not much: Jesus prayed with some of his disciples on a mountain top.  In a few stories the supernatural beings or events might be a detail that can be ignored, but in many cases the supernatural being or event plays an important role in the story, so that removing the supernatural element guts the story or seriously changes the meaning of the story or makes the story illogical and incoherent.
Hinman: See you are missing huge chunks of the text that your not even willing to think about because you are only focused on miracles.Believe it or not there are more reasons to look at biblical text than just thinking about miracles. The important point might be that it;s a wedding that it's in Canna. That his mother was there. the point revolves around a miracle but that doesn't mean the point is the miracle.

As David Friedrich Strauss argued long ago in The Life of Jesus, the attempt of skeptics to strip out all of the supernatural elements of the Gospels while still maintaining the basic historicity of the Gospel accounts makes no sense.  It makes far more sense to admit that Gospels are filled with legends and myths and fictional stories, and that only a few bits and pieces here and there, at best, are factual and historical.
Hinman: You are citing those crack posts of the first generation Jesus mythers, do you really that's impressing me? He's one of those Schweitzer debunked as imposing 18th century enlightenment image over Jesus.

no it makes far ,more sense to stop reducing every thing to that one issue and start figure out what it's really about. Baultmann said he wanted to demythiolgize the Bible because miracles were the wrong stumbling block .They gave the skeptic the excuse of ignore it all by reducing it all that one issue.You are willing to let that one issue determine the whole text. But weather or not Jesus lived has nothing at all do with how the redactor up the passages, you seem to assume the NT is made of transcripts from a video recording. It's set up to say  something. Each passage is there for a reason not just to record a bunch of miracles.

Third, the assertion of this principle borders on a STRAW MAN fallacy.  There is the suggestion here that Jesus skeptics doubt the historicity of the Gospels ONLY because the Gospel stories contain supernatural elements.  Skeptics do NOT doubt the historicity of the Gospels ONLY because of there are a few supernatural details in them, nor do skeptics doubt the historicity of the Gospels ONLY because the Gospels are filled with supernatural beings and events.

Hinman: B0wen has no room to talk about strawman arguments,he makes them all the time.  Below he distorts my words to say something totally different than what I was saying and in such a way that it served his rhetorical interest, that is the essence of straw man argument,

Take the birth narratives in Matthew and Luke for example.  They include many supernatural elements, both supernatural beings (angels), and supernatural events (virgin birth, a star that guides people to a specific location).  These supernatural elements are one reason for doubting the historicity of these stories, but there are other reasons as well.  The Gospels of Matthew and Luke use Mark as a primary source of information about Jesus, but there is no birth story in Mark.  When Matthew and Luke follow the narrative framework in Mark, they generally agree with each other, but when they provide birth stories, their stories contradict each other, indicating that when they depart from the information in Mark, at least one of the two Gospels provides a fictional birth story, and perhaps both birth stories are fictional.
Hinman: One has Shepards one has angles,no contradiction so they could have both,

There are also some historically improbable details in both accounts beyond the supernatural elements.  The census in Luke is historically improbable for various reasons.  The slaughter of the innocents story in Matthew is historically improbable. 
Hinman: I don't want to get off on that it's far more definable than you think. I am not into inerrancy so I don't have to argue that are no mistakes, there can be mistakes,I don't care. That's not the issue. I'm sure you have loads of things to doubt, my point you reduce it all to matter of miracles  rather than the ideas of point the text is making. You are missing the point because you are worried abouit having things to criticize and disbelieve, I don't have time to open the topic up to everything.

 The relocation of the holy family to Egypt is historically improbable.  The fact that both Matthew and Luke place the birth of Jesus in Bethlehem in accordance with an alleged messianic prophecy, casts doubt on the historicity of that key shared claim between the two birth stories.
Hinman: what I just said! Ok I'll answer that one point, I believe the sojourn into Egypt because it's one of the few times I actually use the criterion of embarrassment. The Jews used the sojourn into Egypt as part of their polemic saying he learned black magic in Egypt. So either they had to have a basis for it that was true in fact (they went to Egypt) or the Christians had a reason why they could not deny that he went to Egypt. Either way it makes no sense that he had nothing to do with Egypt, the enemies use it as a polemic and yet they still put it in the Gospel. Most parsimonious answer, he did go there.

Hinman’s third principle of historical investigation is a bit vague:
P3. What people believed tells us things, even if we don’t believe it.

I’m not sure what Hinman is getting at here, but taken straightforwardly, this principle seems obviously correct.  Using an historical document to determine what early Christians believed about God or Jesus “tells us things”, even if the historian rejects some or all of those beliefs.  At the very least, this tells us what early Christians believed about God or Jesus!

 Hinman: I said that because i had just found a quote by Crosson where he said almost the same thing. I was almost quoting him directly. The point is the fact that the early church believed Jesus was a historical person is a good reason to think he was. They were in a position to know and there's no reason to think they made it up. We should expect the accounts to reflect the historical situation of the authors at least generally.

This information about the beliefs of early Christians can also help historians to better analyze and evaluate particular Gospel stories and passages.  If early Christians believed that Jesus lived a perfectly sinless life, then historians could anticipate and look for places where the Gospels of Matthew and Luke modify some story or passage from Mark in order to make Jesus appear to be sinless, and to the extent that historians do find such modifications of Mark by Matthew and Luke, this provides further evidence that early Christians believed Jesus was sinless and also provides evidence that Matthew and Luke alter information from their sources to make the story or quotation fit better with their theological beliefs or the theological beliefs of their early Christian readers.
Hinman: I'm sure Mark really painted Jesus as a sinner,

One of the things that the Gospels tell us is that early Christians were gullible and superstitious, at least if we assume that early Christian believers read the Gospels literally.  They believed in astrological signs, in angels, in demons, in demon possession, in the devil, in faith healing, in prophetic dreams, in levitation, in mind reading, in spirits of the dead, in raising the dead, in prophecy.  
Hinman: I am sure that the society in which they lived were full of such ideas The society in which we live is full of such ideas, the national enquirer is full of such ideas. They weren't writing a hand book on critical thinking you know.
They believed all of these things without demanding strong evidence for claims of such events; they believed such things on the basis of hearsay and testimonial evidence,  on the basis of contradictory reports in the canonical Gospels, and without conducting serious skeptical investigations into the facts.  This is an important fact about early Christians that we can learn from reading the Gospels.  We can learn of the gullibility of early Christian believers even if we reject some or all of the beliefs that they formed in gullible and uncritical ways.
[delete long parade of  things]

not taking bait today ;-)

P4. Everyone is biased.
Based on Hinman’s discussion of (P4) and (P5) it appears that this principle is given in part as a reply to an objection about an alleged bias of scholars on the issue of the historicity of Jesus.  Here are two plausible claims about NT scholars along such lines:

Hinman: That's just the kind of thing I like to point out

  • The vast majority of NT scholars have a significant bias in favor of the historicity of Jesus.
  • Most NT scholars have a strong bias in favor of the historicity of Jesus. 
that's because the have strong aversions to argument from silence and begging the question. besides Jesus existence has presumption, no myther has ever e e tried to over turn presumption they don't even know what the term means.

(1) not a single piece of physical evidence supports the myther BS, nothing, By their own logic that should cook their stance.

(2) not one  single figure in history for 1900 years ever questioned Jesus' existence. Some of those Jewish polemics said the most absurd things about him but no one ever questioned his existence.

(3) His enemies not only admitted he existed but actually made up stuff about his background

(4) we have writings of people who knew his friends,

(5) his movement always affirmed his existence from as far back as we can go.

all of that spells out presumption, We do not need to prove his existence, it is aqssumed as a historical fact, unquestioned, If you want to question it fine, but you must do the proving,we do not have to prove!

So, one question to keep in mind is whether (P4) provides a strong reply to such criticisms about NT scholars.
Hinman: Since everyone is biased the real issue becomes how up front are we in being honest about our biases.


The principle (P4) is a bit vague and ambiguous.  Here are a couple of different possible interpretations of (P4):P4a. Everyone has a bias on some issue or other.P4b. For any given theory, everyone is either biased in favor of the theory or biased against the theory.
Hinman: all we can really do is check our own biases.


Principle (P4a) is no doubt true, but it is insignificant and unhelpful in this context, because it leaves open the possibility that some people have a bias when it comes to the issue of the historicity of Jesus and other people do NOT have a bias on this issue.  Because (P4a) leaves this possibility open, it does not help us any in dealing with this particular issue; it fails to provide a strong reply to the above criticisms about NT scholars.
Principle (P4b) on the other hand, would certainly be of some significance to the issue of the historicity of Jesus, but, alas, (P4b) is a very broad generalization that is clearly false.  So, principle (P4b) is of no use, and fails to provide a strong reply to the above criticisms of NT scholars, because (P4b) is false.We could try to rescue (P4b) by narrowing the scope to focus exclusively on the issue of the historicity of Jesus:

Hinman: everyone is willing to be honest about the other guy's biases that's not the Challenger,

I think at this point we are not saying anything helpful about the issue.


P4c. Everyone is either biased in favor of the historicity of Jesus or is biased against the historicity of Jesus.
Hinman written like a true ideologue, the world revovles aroumd myi ideology you are either for it or against it,. no complexity, no neutrality,

But (P4c) is still somewhat dubious.  The issue of the historicity of Jesus is more controversial than many other issues, but controversiality is based on the feelings and attitudes of people in general, and there are almost always exceptions to such general psychological phenomena.  In other words, although most people have strong feelings about this issue, it seems fairly certain that there are at least a few people who don’t have strong feelings or opinions about the historicity of Jesus.  So, in order to rescue the (P4c) in terms of truth, we would need to either qualify the degree of bias that is being asserted or revise the quantification in terms of the proportion of people in scope:

Hinman I'm not biased I just happen to be right ;-)  Seriously I do have a strong biased against the Jesus myther idea but somehow that hasn't helped them dig up any more evidence.

P4d.  Everyone is either biased at least a tiny bit in favor of the historicity of Jesus or biased at least a tiny bit against the historicity of Jesus.
P4e.  Most people are either significantly biased in favor of the historicity of Jesus or significantly biased against the historicity of Jesus.
These generalizations are at least plausible.  However, (P4d) leaves open the possibility that some people (e.g. NT scholars) have a strong bias in favor of the historicity of Jesus, while other people (e.g. Jesus skeptics) have only a tiny bit of bias against the historicity of Jesus.  This would clearly not help Hinman’s case for the existence of Jesus, and fails to provide a strong reply to the above criticsims about NT scholars.

Also, (P4e) leaves open the possibility that some people (e.g. NT scholars) have a strong bias in favor of the historicity of Jesus, while a few people (e.g. Jesus skeptics) have no significant bias on this issue.  Again, this would not be of help for Hinman’s case, and fails to provide a strong reply to the criticisms of NT scholars.
I have considered a number of different possible interpretations of principle (P4).  The principle is false or dubious on some of those interpretations, and on the interpretations where the principle is true or plausible, it is either insignificant and unhelpful or appears to be of no help to Hinman’s case, and fails to provide a strong reply to the above criticisms of NT scholars.

Hinman Historians agree with the scholars on historicity of Jesus, my department chair and the chair of my dissertation and the  guy I worked for as a TA were all atheists and historians who did not study the bible they called Daugherty an idiot and never heard of carrier and support the historicity of Jesus not even willing to talk about it.  As far as they are concerned you are against  historical fact. The mythers are to historians what creationists are to scientists.that's their statement.

If Hinman wants to continue to advocate this principle, he needs to clarify it in terms of the quantification of the portion of people who are being characterized and he needs to clarify it in terms of the scope of issues to which it applies, and he needs to clarify it in terms of the degree of bias that is being alleged (because there is a big difference between a strong bias and a very tiny bit of bias).  Principle (P4) cannot be rationally evaluated unless and until it is re-stated in a much clearer and more specific form.
As with (P4), the final principle is in need of clarification:

I don't think so but I did clarify it. It's Bowen who wrote 10 different versions of my words and never even bothered  to ask whist my words meant,

P5. The historicity of a single persona cannot be examined apart from the framework.
What matters in this context is whether this principle applies to (or is correct in terms of) the issue of the historicity of Jesus, so we can focus on this instantiation of (P5): ”IP5. The historicity of Jesus of Nazareth cannot be examined apart from the framework.
The term “the framework” is unclear and vague.  However, based on Hinman’s discussion of this principle, this phrase appears to refer to the view or theory that Jesus existed, that Jesus was a flesh-and-blood historical person.  Given this understanding of “the framework”, the principle is still ambiguous.  Here are two different possible interpretations:
 Hinman: Wrong assumption. I said we need to pay more attention to the frame work than to historicity so he assumes the frame work is historicity? Obviously I'm talking about the framework in which we understand the text: who wrote it? when?why? to whom?

I am saying getting this stuff nailed down is prior to the historicity question and will help solve it, I see no reason to begin with the assumption  that history is wrong, Jesus is a fact of history, there's no point in denying it unless you are just trying to kill Christianity. Of course the myther is working at huge disadvantage because she is trying to argue against historical fact and with no evidence. We don't need to go to any great lengths to argue for it because it's assumed by history. We should concentrate on others like the reasons for writing the Gospel.

I just delight in laying this little adage on atheists since they like to lay it on us: extraordinary know...

IP5a. The historicity of Jesus of Nazareth cannot be examined apart from assuming that Jesus of Nazareth was a flesh-and-blood historical person.
 Hinman: a straw man argument, I did not make this argument, he did by re writing my words.  he set it up. 

I would assume Jesus' was a flesh and blood man because that;s the presumption of the historical view, that's not what I am calling the  framework. That's the assumption I', entitled to make., you must prove he wasn't. The framework is the assumptions we make about the text. It might support the assumption of Jesus' historicity but that's not the point of it. It consists of issues that used to be called'higher criticism: who wrote the boo? When Where To whom and why?

IP5b. The historicity of Jesus of Nazareth cannot be examined apart from examining the issue of  whether Jesus of Nazareth was a flesh-and-blood historical person.

Hinman I did not say that at all. These are his words not moimne, Now I feel that since Jesus historicity is taken as fact by history I ma well within  my rights to assume it,l When I say we need need to pay more attention ot other matters that;s just what I mean. Only if the myth somehow finds some real evidence do we need to discuss it., Speculation, Bayes based probabilities, and argument from silence are not evidence.

Principle (IP5a) clearly involves circular reasoning.  If one simply assumes that Jesus was a flesh-and-blood historical person, then one begs the question of the historicity of Jesus. 
Hinman: total bull shit, First, that's the assumption all historians make., There is no reason to assume he's not, No basis for it,. the presumption is with historicity not against. The text asserts it the early church claimed to know it first hand and all historic commentators no one ever undoubted t for 1900 years.

He is asserting that there is some mark that stands against historicity and it has to get out from under the cloud of doubt before we can assert it or we beg the question,there is no question there is no mark,  made up and it flies in the fade of the vast preponderance of evidence and vast majority of historians.


 So, we must reject (IP5a) because it is an unreasonable and illogical principle.Principle (IP5b), on the other hand, is completely and undeniably true.  But it is true because it is a trivial and uninformative tautology.  The question of the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth just is the question of whether Jesus of Nazareth was a flesh-and-blood historical person.  So, this principle is of no significant help or use (other than to clarify the question at issue for those who are ignorant or confused).
Hinman: suits me because that's not my principle,. that's your tweaked version, sorry you don't get the importance of the issue, I'm saying we doesn't even need to consider the historicity of Jesus it's a given, it's a waste o time to argue about it., my principle says matters not the historicity but an understanding of the framework in which historicity is derived, are what we should focus upon. If there is some hidden evidence lurking it;s only goimng to be found by understand more  about the text.

There is one other interpretation, which seems both plausible and significant:IP5c. The historicity of Jesus of Nazareth cannot be examined apart from treating this question as a question about which framework or theory among available alternatives best accounts for all of the available evidence (e.g. the theory that Jesus was a flesh-and-blood historical person vs. the theory that Jesus was just a myth).

Hinman that should have been the only one he brought up.

Because this interpretation is both plausible and significant, 
Hinman glad I thought of it! ;-)

the Principle of Charity indicates that this is the best interpretation, at least of the possible interpretations considered so far.

I have no objection to (IP5c).  However, it is obvious to any intelligent and informed Jesus skeptic that (IP5c) is true, and intelligent and informed Jesus skeptics usually think and argue in keeping with (IP5c).  G.A. Wells, Earl Doherty,  Robert Price, and Richard Carrier all accept this principle and they all think and argue in keeping with this principle, at least most of the time.  So, emphasis on this principle appears to me to be bordering on a STRAW MAN fallacy.
Hinman t

All of their evidence amounts to making positive statements about a posity of evidence,


Jesus skeptics do NOT argue that because this or that Gospel story is historically problematic, therefore Jesus is just a myth. 
Hinman all the time
 The case against the historicity of Jesus is much broader than that and deals with a wide range of evidence both from the NT and from external (non-biblical) historical sources. Emphasis of this principle is a way of suggesting that Jesus skeptics and Jesus mythicists are idiots who don’t think and argue in keeping with this principle, but that suggestion is false and slanderous.  There are some stupid and unreasonable Jesus skeptics, but the major published Jesus skeptics accept (IP5c) and generally conform their thinking to this principle.
- See more at:

Hinman  No it's not. It's nothing but argument from silence and incredulity is no one piece of evidence in a posative vain that supports the thesis. 

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