Jesus – assessing the evidence fairly?

October 31st, 2012 in Belief. Tags: , , , , , ,

Books about Jesus

It seems like it has happened a hundred times, and maybe it has.

I get into a conversation with a non-believer about Jesus, and the conversation takes a familiar path.

The way it goes ….

Nonbeliever (NB): “There’s no historical evidence for Jesus.”

Me: “The historians say otherwise.” (And I quote some of them – see Was Jesus a real person?.)

NB: “Oh you can always find a christian historian who will tell you what you want to hear. I suppose you’ve been reading Lee Strobel or Josh McDowell?”

Me: “No, the historians I quoted were all reputable historians and most of them are not believers.”

NB: “But they work in universities where they have to follow the christian line or they lose their jobs.

Me: “That sounds like an enormous conspiracy theory and a libel against the integrity of universities and scholars – have you any evidence for this?”

NB: “It’s obvious. They’re all biased. You should read ….” and they name someone like Earl Doherty, Freke and Gandy, Dan Barker or David Fitzgerald.

Me: “But none of them is a reputable scholar.”

NB: “Ah but they’re the only ones who are free to tell it like it is.”

Me: “How is it that when I quote the world’s most eminent scholars, many of them unbelievers, you say I’m biased, but then you quote people who are not scholars and are all strongly anti-christian, but that’s OK? Why should I believe them over against the real experts?”

The discussion often stops about there. Or it goes in the same circles until one or the other of us gives up.

What’s happening?

Many unbelievers are very reasonable, and accept the same historical evidence that I do – we just come to different conclusions. But it seems that there are more and more sceptics who say they base their views on evidence, but then only accept the evidence that supports the conclusion they have come to. They criticise christians (sometimes justifiably, sometimes not) for believing on faith without evidence, but don’t see they are doing exactly the same.

Historian Maurice Casey, who is not a believer, sums up his conclusions about this sort of thinking from one unqualified author:

He is just as full of inaccurate prejudice as the most conservative Christians whom he despises.

So which writers should we trust?

I have read a lot on this topic (see Historical Jesus references) and have found reading a number of the most reputable historians, both believers and non-believers, gives a balanced view of the historical evidence (see Which historians should we trust?).

29 Comments

  1. The aspect of this topic that has always fascinated me is not what historians say – from either camp – but rather the material they have at their disposal, which is exactly the same, and thus it is merely a matter of interpretation.

    And the fact that this topic is so divisive suggests it is far from cut and dried.
    And this is without even raising the divinity question.
    If one wants to apply the law of simple common sense, then based on what evidence we have available, then Yes, Jesus was probably a historical character.
    Applying the same criteria to the resurrection and his divinity then one would be obliged to return a resounding ‘No’.

    A Pope, I forget which one, was quoted as saying that belief in
    Jesus is based on faith.
    I might not agree with the man’s doctrine or his religion but I sure as heck believe he got that right.

  2. G’day Akhenaten, thanks for reading and commenting again. I think you have over-simplified when you say “the material they have at their disposal, which is exactly the same, and thus it is merely a matter of interpretation”

    Historians try to ascertain what can be considered historical fact, what might be the best explanations of those facts, what remains uncertain, what can be ruled out as most unlikely, etc. It isn’t just black and white.

    So with the same historical evidence, most recognised historians come to the same conclusions about a whole range of facts – that Jesus existed, that the gospels contain good historical material (not necessarily 100%, but to a certain degree at least), that Jesus was known as a teacher and healer, that he was believed to be the Messiah by some, that he was killed by crucifixion, and that his followers believed from very early on that he had been resurrected, etc. Check out most reputable historians and they will agree on that, and a whole bunch of related facts (e.g. that the famous Josephus passage about Jesus is basically original, but with some significant later additions, etc). So those things are not very much matters of interpretation any more.

    It is when we come to an explanation of those facts that we get the large range of opinions, from those who believe those facts can only be explained by recognising Jesus as divine, to those who regard Jesus as a failed Messianic prophet, etc.

    This is all entirely predictable. After all, faced with the same political and economic facts, the US electorate was almost 50/50 divided on which of two men would best lead their country. So I find it quite unsurprising that people would disagree about the interpretation of the facts about Jesus. In fact, I believe that is the way God intended it – we are judged not be our knowledge of the facts but by our response to those facts, over which we have clear choice.

    So christianity isn’t a matter of faith, but of evidence and response – one possible response being faith, another being doubt, another being disbelief, another being refusal to believe.

    Best wishes.

  3. Your frequent use of the word ‘facts’ pertaining to Jesus is somewhat disingeneous, I’m afraid, and largely depends in which ‘camp’ one wishes to pitch one’s tent.

    There are no facts, regarding Jesus, merely evidence that one can thereafter draw conclusions from.

    “So christianity isn’t (solely)a matter of faith, but of evidence and response – one possible response being faith, another being doubt, another being disbelief, another being refusal to believe.”

    Would I be presumptious to suggest you meant to include the word ‘soleley’ between ‘isn’t’ and ‘a’?

    I have mentioned before that a Pope ( can never remember which one, is on record stating belief in Jesus is purely a matter of faith).

    “It is when we come to an explanation of those facts that we get the large range of opinions, from those who believe those facts can only be explained by recognising Jesus as divine, to those who regard Jesus as a failed Messianic prophet, etc.”

    Which is more or less what I stated in the opening paragraph of my initial comment -other than your disingenous use of the word ‘facts’ , of course.
    It is all about interpretation. And the fact that this topic is so divisive clearly demonstrates there is NO cut and dried answer.
    Although I commend you on your wonderfully creative apologetic response -“In fact, I believe that is the way God intended it …” Classic!

    Can’t argue with this answer, now can we? 😉

  4. G’day Akhenaten,

    “Your frequent use of the word ‘facts’ pertaining to Jesus is somewhat disingeneous,”

    I wonder what “disingeneous” means here? That you disagree? That I am wrong? That I am being dishonest? I don’t really know, but I will answer as best I can.

    I said “Historians try to ascertain what can be considered historical fact ….. most recognised historians come to the same conclusions about a whole range of facts”

    So I was clearly talking about historical fact, something that can be known as much as any history can be known. And it is true, as I said, that most historians regard the things I mentioned as “historical facts”.

    For example, EP Sanders, one of the most respected NT scholars of the last 30 years, wrote in The historical figure of Jesus (p10, 11) about there being “no substantial doubts” about a number of “facts” about Jesus and the early history of christianity which are “almost beyond dispute”. (You can look these pages up at this reference and check it out for yourself).

    Quite surprising to me, Maurice Casey, in Jesus of Nazareth (again, you can search and find these references) describes Mark’s Gospel as a “literal” translation of an Aramaic original which gives a “perfectly accurate” account of events in Jesus’ life.

    Not all historians would agree with Casey but most would agree with Sanders. And neither of these scholars are active christians.

    I could quote many more, but I won’t for now. But you need to face it – the scholars do indeed say what I report them as saying, and your refusal to accept this only makes it look like you are less interested in the true evidence than I am. It is quite possible to accept the scholars’ judgment on the “facts” and still not believe if you choose not to, just as Sanders and Casey don’t, so why not accept the evidence and the conclusions of those best able to make a reasonable judgment?

  5. “(e.g. that the famous Josephus passage about Jesus is basically original, but with some significant later additions, etc).”

    Sorry, unkleE,forgot this part. Please, if you will, explain what you mean by the above statement as it comes across ( to me, at least) as somewhat vague.

  6. I was listing examples of conclusions that are now fairly well established among historians as “facts”, so I listed some about Jesus himself, and then this one that relates to information relevant to Jesus. So I was simply saying that almost all scholars (as far as I can judge) would regard the famous Josephus references as neither totally genuine nor totally fake, but a mixture of the two. (There is reasonable agreement about which bits are which, but certainly not consensus yet.)

  7. I’ll offer a PS as well. : )

    1. I don’t regard the Pope as an expert on NT scholarship, not am I a Catholic that I have to regard him as anything more than one person offering his views. I don’t know what he said and in what context, but it would be silly to say that belief in Jesus is “solely” a matter of faith because the New Testament claims itself to present historical evidence.

    2. JD Crossan is an experienced scholar, but my assessment is that he is far from the centre of NT scholarship. He is famous for describing Jesus as a Cynic, something that most scholars now totally reject because they pretty much all believe Jesus should be interpreted within first century Judaism. I have read some of Crossan’s work, and he is an engaging writer, but I don’t think his views carry much weight. But note that, on the matter of whether Jesus existed and what we can know about him, he would probably agree with my list.

    3. You say “Which is more or less what I stated in the opening paragraph of my initial comment”

    Does this mean you agree with both my statements …. ?

    ” most recognised historians come to the same conclusions about a whole range of facts” ….

    and

    “when we come to an explanation of those facts that we get the large range of opinions, from those who believe those facts can only be explained by recognising Jesus as divine, to those who regard Jesus as a failed Messianic prophet, etc.”

    If so, then our discussion has been fruitful.

  8. “So with the same historical evidence, most recognised historians come to the same conclusions about a whole range of facts – that Jesus existed, that the gospels contain good historical material (not necessarily 100%, but to a certain degree at least), that Jesus was known as a teacher and healer, that he was believed to be the Messiah by some, that he was killed by crucifixion, and that his followers believed from very early on that he had been resurrected, etc. Check out most reputable historians and they will agree on that, and a whole bunch of related facts (e.g. that the famous Josephus passage about Jesus is basically original, but with some significant later additions, etc). So those things are not very much matters of interpretation any more.”

    Again your use of the word/s ‘fact’ and ‘facts’ is disingeneous, which will mislead anyone not familiar with the truth, which is simply that nothing about Jesus can be considered fact.
    In fact, the only statement that can be conidered factual is we simply do not know for sure. It is as simple as that.
    I will not bother dragging up a whole list of eminant scholars that agree with this as this is not a p****** contest.
    Casey I won’t discuss for the same reason.

    “It is quite possible to accept the scholars’ judgment on the “facts” and still not believe if you choose not to, just as Sanders and Casey don’t, so why not accept the evidence and the conclusions of those best able to make a reasonable judgment?”

    And the final condescending paragrph? What on earth do you need to stoop to this level for?
    I could just as easily ask a similar question of you about Price & Carrier; both degreed individuals, and Carrier has several including a Phd. The views of these two eminent gentleman I do take note of but you would likely state they don’t qualify for one reason or another.

    I have mentioned before that you post material in a fashion that attempts to lend credibility to an unbiased approach, but this is somewhat fallacious as the overall tone of the material is ultimately slanted towards a Christian outcome. Intentional or unintentional I cannot state for sure, though my gut tells me the former.

    In conclusion, I reiterate. There are no facts about the historicity of Jesus.
    What one chooses to believe based on the available evidence is another matter entirely.
    The key is to recognise the difference and be honest enough to recognise the fact.

  9. Akhenaten, we seem to always get to this stage, don’t we? I’m sorry. I don’t know if it’s anyone’s “fault”, but we don’t seem to agree about anything much at all. This makes it hard to discuss because there seems to be no basis for discussion.

    But let us try once more. I will ask a few questions, and if you are willing to answer them, we may be able to go on from there. OK?

    1 “There are no facts about the historicity of Jesus.”
    Do you think there are any historical facts from ancient history? If so, what makes them facts?

    2. “I could just as easily ask a similar question of you about Price & Carrier; both degreed individuals, and Carrier has several including a Phd.”
    What criteria makes a person a scholar we should recognise as having an expert opinion? Which scholars (please name them all) meet these criteria and doubt the historicity of Jesus?

    3. “And the final condescending paragrph? What on earth do you need to stoop to this level for?”
    What is your personal attitude to believing that Jesus existed? Would you accept what the scholars say if you were convinced that they mostly say this? Would you want 100% of all scholars saying it, or 95% or 90%? Or would you not accept this as true regardless of what scholars say?

    If you are willing to answer these questions, then I will see if I have any further response. Thanks again for visiting.

  10. 1
    “Do you think there are any historical facts from ancient history?”

    It is unlikely that we can know with 100% certainty anything from ancient history.
    For example: While one can state as absolute fact that the pyramids and the Sphinx exist, one cannot state as absolute fact the exact age of these monuments.

    “If so, what makes them facts?”
    “Primary evidence- sources that are physically situated in the time and place: statues, coins, and multiple independent literary sources whose genre and independence establish with as much certainty as we can get.” (Neil Godfrey) I concur.
    2.
    “I could just as easily ask a similar question of you about Price & Carrier; both degreed individuals, and Carrier has several including a Phd.”

    “What criteria makes a person a scholar we should recognise as having an expert opinion?”

    Again this will become a p****** contest, as well you realise, hence your question, as even recognised professional experts disagree among themselves all the time.
    Maurice Casey is a case in point who has his detractors. Bart Ehrman, another. Each is considered an expert; each has a degree in their chosen field – Casey has two, I believe, and some of the academic field will likely disagree with their view point, while it’s likely an equal number will agree.
    If 99 out of 100 scholars state that X is fact does it mean that the single scholar who states that it is Y is wrong?
    To use the numbers game would negate those scientists and scholars over the ages that have held a different position and point of view than their peers and gone on to be proved right.

    “Which scholars (please name them all) meet these criteria and doubt the historicity of Jesus?
    See above.

    3. “And the final condescending paragrph? What on earth do you need to stoop to this level for?”

    “What is your personal attitude to believing that Jesus existed?”

    I have actually answered this question before somewhere on your blog. However, let me try again. Based on the evidence currently available, I do not believe that the character as portrayed in the Gospels existed.

    “Would you accept what the scholars say if you were convinced that they mostly say this?”
    This question is a little confusing, unkleE. Could you please rephrase it?

    “Would you want 100% of all scholars saying it, or 95% or 90%? Or would you not accept this as true regardless of what scholars say?”

    Although qualified scholarly consensus can be helpful, for me personally, any decision I arrive at is primarily based on my own evaluation of the evidence at hand. I appreciate this might sound a bit arrogant but as I have mentioned, there is no consensus among supposed experts so why must I automatically trust a majority view merely because it IS a majority view?

  11. I have re read my comments and I want to clarify that my statements regarding academic views apply to the topic at hand – the character Jesus. and related theological material.
    I felt it important to mention this in case you felt compelled to retort with a “Therefore using your criteria, what would you say about xyz….” type of response, okay?

  12. OK, thanks. Now let me ask a few more questions please ….

    1. “It is unlikely that we can know with 100% certainty anything from ancient history.”
    1.1 Do you regard something as a fact only if we can know it with 100% certainty? If not, what level of certainty do you regard as required?
    1.2 Which of these do you think you can know with 100% certainty (or the level of certainty that you require):
    (a) Life evolved from chemicals about 3.6 billion years ago.
    (b) Your memories.
    (c) The Sydney Opera House exists.
    (d) Hannibal existed.
    (e) Alexander the Great existed.

    2. “Primary evidence- sources that are physically situated in the time and place: statues, coins, and multiple independent literary sources whose genre and independence establish with as much certainty as we can get.” (Neil Godfrey) I concur.”
    2.1 Why do think this is the correct criterion for something being a fact?
    2.2 Which of the above 5 statements can be verified by the above criterion?

    3. “To use the numbers game would negate those scientists and scholars over the ages that have held a different position and point of view than their peers and gone on to be proved right.”
    What do you think we are discussing here:
    (a) Whether a man named Jesus, whose life is recorded somewhat accurately in the synoptic gospels, existed.
    (b) Whether what christians believe about Jesus is true.
    (c) Both of these – they are the same thing.
    (d) Neither of these (please nominate).

    4. “This question is a little confusing, unkleE. Could you please rephrase it?”
    If you could be shown that almost every historical scholar, christian or otherwise, accepted a certain historical “fact” (not a theological statement) about Jesus (e.g. that he existed) as historically “almost certain”, would you then accept it also? Or would this not make any difference to what you accept as historical fact?

    Thanks again.

  13. OK, thanks. Now let me ask a few more questions please ….
    1. “It is unlikely that we can know with 100% certainty anything from ancient history.”
    1.1 Do you regard something as a fact only if we can know it with 100% certainty? If not, what level of certainty do you regard as required?
    Response: A fact (derived from the Latin factum, see below) is something that has really occurred or is actually the case. The usual test for a statement of fact is verifiability, that is whether it can be proven to correspond to experience. Standard reference works are often used to check facts. Scientific facts are verified by repeatable experiments.
    This is Wiki’s interpretation and I agree.

    1.2 Which of these do you think you can know with 100% certainty (or the level of certainty that you require):
    (a) Life evolved from chemicals about 3.6 billion years ago.
    (b) Your memories.
    (c) The Sydney Opera House exists.
    (d) Hannibal existed.
    (e) Alexander the Great existed.

    Response: The question may be unintentionally ambiguous, but to answer the question as it is asked: Only (c)

    2. “Primary evidence- sources that are physically situated in the time and place: statues, coins, and multiple independent literary sources whose genre and independence establish with as much certainty as we can get.” (Neil Godfrey) I concur.”
    2.1 Why do think this is the correct criterion for something being a fact?
    Response: Because every attempt is made to minimalise the margin of error, it attempts to remove as much possible emotional or vested interest and requires multiple independent verification.

    2.2 Which of the above 5 statements can be verified by the above criterion?
    Response: I do not know enough about a or d to answer effectively and b is always suspect. Therefore, c, e,

    3. “To use the numbers game would negate those scientists and scholars over the ages that have held a different position and point of view than their peers and gone on to be proved right.”
    What do you think we are discussing here:
    (a) Whether a man named Jesus, whose life is recorded somewhat accurately in the synoptic gospels, existed.
    Response: The term “Somewhat accurately” is misleading. Either it is accurate or it is not.

    (b) Whether what christians believe about Jesus is true.
    Response: Based on available evidence there is no way of knowing whether what Christians believe about the character of Jesus is true or not. Although I do not doubt that THEY believe it is true.

    (c) Both of these – they are the same thing.See above

    (d) Neither of these (please nominate).
    See Above
    4. “This question is a little confusing, unkleE. Could you please rephrase it?”
    If you could be shown that almost every historical scholar, christian or otherwise, accepted a certain historical “fact” (not a theological statement) about Jesus (e.g. that he existed) as historically “almost certain”, would you then accept it also? Or would this not make any difference to what you accept as historical fact?

    Response: Again, the question is ambiguous, I’m afraid. However I will answer as best as I can.
    Eg. If 99 Christian scholars and 1 non-Christian scholar said Jesus existed would this make the case?
    No, it would not.
    Conversely, if 99 non-Christian scholars said Jesus did not exist and one Christian scholar would this make the case?
    No. It would not.
    So, once again, I will state simply this. That a man named Jesus lived sometime around 2000 years ago and was an itinerant preacher is eminently possible and Christianity could well have been based on such a figure. And this is as far as one can speculate based on available evidence.
    That the character of Jesus as portrayed in the Bible and specifically the synoptic gospels was an actual person is not possible.

  14. And if you have a free hour or so, take a look at this ‘discussion’.
    Brace yourself, it is almost beyond belief what goes down, I kid you not….I was flabbergasted.
    As is often said of entertainment, “Something for everyone….”
    This should illustrate perfectly why no consensus has been reached on this issue, and why, in all honesty it is all one huge point-scoring contest.
    http://rjosephhoffmann.wordpress.com/2012/05/22/the-jesus-process-maurice-casey/

  15. G’day Akhenaten,

    Thanks for your answers. I think they make a few things clear to me:

    1. You are a historical sceptic, not even believing we can be confident that Hannibal and Alexander existed.
    2. You are perhaps even an epistemological sceptic, not trusting even your own memories or the scientific conclusion about the beginnings of life on earth.
    3. You don’t seem to accept the views of the consensus of scholars, but prefer the views of a handful of scholars and non-scholars on the fringes who happen to be disbelievers just like you.
    4. It isn’t always clear whether your comments relate to the historical evidence (which is what I am discussing) or my faith as a christian (which I am not discussing here).

    These observations suggest to me that it is time to conclude. Accordingly, I have tried to summarise the outcomes of our discussion in a new post (The evidence for Jesus: a case study) and invite you to comment. Then I suggest it may be best to conclude, unless you feel there is some useful way forward.

    Thanks for the discussion.

  16. “And if you have a free hour or so, take a look at this ‘discussion’.”

    I have seen it already, but I disagree with your conclusion that this “should illustrate perfectly why no consensus has been reached on this issue”. All it illustrates is that avid amateurs can always maintain an argument if they refuse to accept expert opinion.

    It’s no different to a bunch of young earth creationists arguing with competent evolutionary biologists. In each case the experts cannot convince the sceptics, not because their arguments and evidence are not good enough, but because the sceptics are impervious to both.

  17. The problem with claimed inerrent expert opinion is it often becomes obsolete, sometimes overnight, and this is worth bearing in mind.
    1.Consider: Once upon a time, the Church stated as irrefutable fact, based on expert testimony, that the Earth was the centre of the universe.
    2.Consider: How many millions died of septicemia before the acknowlegment of the majority of medical experts, whose expert scholarly opinion was that leeches were a panacea for most diseases?
    3.Consider: Expert scholarly opinion stated that the Coelacanth was extinct until they turned up in 1938.

    No doubt, a case could easily be made to show how fraught with danger ascribing too much faith( excuse the pun) to expert opinion in any field, especially one as emotionally charged as this.
    I for one, wouldn’t put my house on it, as the saying goes.
    Would you?

  18. Sorry. This should have read …..
    Consider: How many millions died of septicemia before the acknowlegment of the majority of medical experts, whose expert scholarly opinion was that leeches were a panacea for most diseases was wrong?

  19. “The problem with claimed inerrent expert opinion is it often becomes obsolete, sometimes overnight, and this is worth bearing in mind.”

    I agree completely. I have never claimed that expert opinion is “inerrant”. Almost everything in life is based on probabilities, likelihood. But the expert opinion is more likely to be true than our own, unless we have done as much work as the experts.

    “I for one, wouldn’t put my house on it, as the saying goes.
    Would you?”

    All of (as far as we know) have only one life, and we live it one way or another. Our choices matter. If we only make choices that are certain, we would probably never study, never take a job, never get married or enter in to a relationship, never believe anything, or disbelieve anything. In fact we’d never do anything much at all.

    In reality, we all make those choices. We are all betting our lives (something much more important than a house) on all those choices. To not choose is just as much a choice as to choose.

    So I have bet my life on God existing and Jesus telling the truth. Non-believers bet their lives on that not being true. Each of us have bet just as much, but on different (and opposite) things. No-one is neutral in their choices, or at least not for very long.

    I feel comfortable with my main choices, even after 50 years of believing.

  20. “But the expert opinion is more likely to be true than our own, unless we have done as much work as the experts.”

    This after agreeing that expert opinion is regularly made obsolete.
    Interesting.
    Therefore,, we can agree with expert opinion until the next expert opinion comes along. So in light of this, how ‘expert’ is the previous expert opinion?
    And while you readily entertain this belief for medecine for example
    ( and I’m sure for physics /science / music etc as well – and you would no doubt relish expert opinion categorically disproving other world religions) yet you refuse steadfastly to accept the possibility that expert opinion might change for your religion. Most odd, especially as it has changed quite considerably in the last two centuries.
    And of course it then begs the question if expert opinion did change away from your faith-based belief whether you would change with it?
    Methinks not. Thus, you making claims of accepting expert opinion regarding you faith somewhat moot as you only agree whil;e it serves your belief. As you do with a scholar such as Ehrman.

  21. The point you miss is that changes in expert opinion are either on the theoretical level the result of refining methodology or a shift in interpretation or on the empirical level the discovery of new evidence. It is true for.

    The thing is, just as new explanations in physics include older theories as a special case, similarly already established historical facts are generally included in the newer historical descriptions – unless those “facts” weren’t based on evidence. So it’s not very likely that the very basic outline of Jesus UnkleE provided will be overturned: a Galilean itinerant teacher steeped in eschatological Jewish teachings and messianic expectations, reputed to be a wonderdoer and an exorcist, was executed by the Romans in Jerusalem, buried in a grave outside Jerusalem, while his followers had visions of him.

    Don’t forget that the historical method and the scope of history have developed considerably over the centuries, so change over the past 200 years isn’t necessarily very meaningful as an argument for distrust in a consensus.

  22. Unless, for example, a goat herder discovers a cache of sealed urns in a cave that contains a papyrus documents which alludes to the fabled Q document which shows the Jesus figure to be based on a ficticious character or an unrelated individual who the author of Mark based his version of the messiah upon.
    I realise it is a preposterous idea to suggest that one could possibly contemplate finding religious documents in a sealed urn in a cave nearly 2000 years after the event, but then again, you never know, right?

  23. “This after agreeing that expert opinion is regularly made obsolete”

    Akhenaten, I believe I have answered all your comments previously, and repeating my answers is only going round in circles. You have shown yourself to be a historical sceptic. I am not. You mistrust the experts in both history and science to a much greater degree than I do. You continue to accuse me of intellectual dishonesty, without ever demonstrating that you satisfy your unstated criteria for honesty any better than I do.

    Like I said before, if you cannot do better than that, I don’t think any discussion we could have would be fruitful.

    Best wishes to you.

  24. “You continue to accuse me of intellectual dishonesty, without ever demonstrating that you satisfy your unstated criteria for honesty any It better than I do.”

    To make clear: every criticism (from either you or me) is always in reference to the topic/s at hand: Jesus/religion/Christianty and such things that directly relate to these topics.

    While you may believe there is consesus among academia there is no guarantee their views will pan out in the long run, and it will take a minor discovery to cause a major paradigm shift to ALL areas of such ‘esteemed’ consensus.
    You are perfectly within your rights to side with the views of those you feel best represent your case, but please, have the intellectual integrity to acknowledge this “expert opinion” could change in a nano second.
    Furthermore, and by far more serious, by presenting your case for divinity and ressurection and citing so -called expert opinion for its validity in a manner suggestive it was perfectly acceptable and placing such Christian based biblical scholarly opinion alongside non-christian biblical scholarly opinion you create the impression they lend weight to the argument and hence credence. This is fallacious and one of the reasons I have written that the way you present your case is, on occasion, disingeneous. It is often subtle, and maybe unintentional, but disingeneous nonetheless. Many of the Conclusions to your essays reflect this trend. The Nazareth revisited essay is a perfect case in point.

    And as Nate, and many others, have pointed out time and again, if the bible is errent on so many aspects why must we believe, let alone trust, any of it to be describing a faithful, accurate story?

  25. “You are perfectly within your rights to side with the views of those you feel best represent your case, but please, have the intellectual integrity to acknowledge this “expert opinion” could change in a nano second.”

    I’m sorry, but you don’t seem to be reading what I say, let alone believe that I mean it. When I quote expert opinion, it is when discussing the best historical evidence. And …

    (1) I do not quote those who bets represent my cause, I quote both believers and non-believers who are the most respected by their peers (there are ways of determining that – you only have to ask for me to tell you). So your statement is wrong – what you have said appears to be what you do.

    (2) I have also said that expert opinion on central matters is unlikely to change a lot, because it is well-based. Like science, it may change a little, especially around lesser details, and that is part of life.

    “by presenting your case for divinity and ressurection and citing so -called expert opinion for its validity in a manner suggestive it was perfectly acceptable and placing such Christian based biblical scholarly opinion alongside non-christian biblical scholarly opinion you create the impression they lend weight to the argument and hence credence”

    Of course I base my case for divinity and resurrection on scholarly opinion, otherwise you would accuse me of having no basis for my beliefs! But I don’t ever suggest that the consensus of scholarly opinion supports divinity or resurrection, and I’d be interested in your showing an example please.

  26. “Of course I base my case for divinity and resurrection on scholarly opinion, otherwise you would accuse me of having no basis for my beliefs!

    Weird. I have never met another Christian who based their belief/faith on a scholar. I have always been under the impression a Christian had a relationship with Jesus based on faith and belief in the bible, not scholarly opinion.

    “But I don’t ever suggest that the consensus of scholarly opinion supports divinity or resurrection, and I’d be interested in your showing an example please.”
    Now who is not reading properly?
    This reference to consensus here is to Christian biblical scholars, and the fact you afford them equal credibility as non christian scholars thus bolstering your case for divinity.

  27. I will add, there is no case for divinity, only faith, as not a single non christian scholar would even countenance such a concept. To include both sets of scholars in the same disscusions is, once again, misleading. Both camps would not convene a conference an include both topics on the same agenda, would they? So why should you if you are trying to present an unbiased perspective?

    Plead the case for historicity with non-Christian scholars only and the divinity myths with Christians.

  28. “This reference to consensus here is to Christian biblical scholars, and the fact you afford them equal credibility as non christian scholars thus bolstering your case for divinity.”

    I understood what you were referring to, and I ask again, please give me an example when I talked of the consensus of scholars on belief in the resurrection, for I don’t think I ever did that.

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