Begin the Questioning: On the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus

As I said in my first post, I’m looking for some help.

To start with, I’m requesting input on sources and theories regarding the historicity of the resurrection of Jesus–both critical and defending sources. What do you recommend? I’m especially interested in good source/rebuttal pairs, if they exist.

I figure the questions of authorship of the gospels in particular, and the perhaps some other parts of the New Testament may be relevant. Yes? No? How so? Sources regarding viewpoints?

If Jesus was not raised from the dead, then what happened? What are alternate hypotheses of what really happened, and how Christianity came to exist? Sources–critical of and defending the hypotheses? Do you find any of the them compelling or plausible?

I’m not expecting to find proof “beyond a reasonable doubt”. I’m just hoping that the “preponderance of evidence” leans one way or the other.

Again, a hearty thank you to anyone who takes the time to assist.

Regarding One Particular Source and Its Rebuttals

I did acquire Josh McDowell’s The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict (NETDAV), and I was planning to read through the relevant sections. However, sometime recently, I read what seemed to me to be a rather damning critique of McDowell’s methods and sources–I forget where, though. It might have been a part of The Jury Is In (which rebuts the old Vol. 1 of ETDAV[1]).

I’m considering reading the relevant parts of both The New Evidence and Jury (where it covers the material), and also watching the corresponding videos in Steve Shives’ An Atheist Reads Evidence That Demands a Verdict.

Are all these worth my time? ‘Evidence’ That Demands a Refund suggests perhaps not.

Notes

1. The content of ETDAV (Vol. 1) is included in NETDAV, but it does not comprise the whole work.

Advertisements

50 thoughts on “Begin the Questioning: On the Historicity of the Resurrection of Jesus

  1. Pingback: A Reluctant Start | aspiretofindtruth

  2. sgl

    i’d suggest reading bart erhman’s books, in particular “misquoting jesus” and “jesus, interrupted”. you can also get a feel for his work, and a brief summary, by watching some of his videos on youtube:

    Bart D. Ehrman’s YouTube Channel

    Misquoting Jesus in the Bible
    “Heyns Lecture Series at Cubberley Auditorium, Stanford University Campus, Wednesday, April 25, 2007. Lecture on ‘Misquoting Jesus’ a textual criticism of Biblical manuscript tampering. From the book ‘Misquoting Jesus: Scribes Who Altered Scripture and Readers Who May Never Know.'”

    Bart Ehrman & Jesus, Interrupted – Commonwealth Club, Monday, March 21, 2011, San Francisco.

    bart is a new testament scholar at university of north carolina (can’t recall which location). he started out as a fundamentalist, but over time, became more liberal, and finally an atheist. he became more liberal as he learned how the bible was put together, and realized that “inerrancy” was really hard to believe in once you saw how the sausage was made, so to speak. but it was the problem of evil in the world that actually made him an atheist. but he does a great job of discussing the complex issues and inconsistencies of how the bible was written, what scholars know and how they know it, where the problems are, and some of the attempts at reconciling the problems.

    Like

    Reply
    1. ratamacue0 Post author

      I expected I’d be looking at some of Ehrman’s stuff, but I wasn’t sure which of his works to choose, so I appreciate the specific recommendations.

      “inerrancy” was really hard to believe in once you saw how the sausage was made, so to speak.

      I think I’m there already.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
    2. ratamacue0 Post author

      A couple of the links (or embedded videos?) had been deleted. I saw in the comment history:

      Akismet cleared this comment

      I added the links in your post, and deleted our comments discussing it.

      I’m not sure how this Akismet thing works yet. Apparently it’s some kind of spam filtering.

      Like

      Reply
    3. Jbars

      ratamacueo,
      I too would recommend Bart Ehrman. I very much appreciated his YouTube videos and writing, especially Jesus Interrupted. I think it’s important to read from the scholars. I read Jesus Interrupted and The Case For Christ at the same time. I learned volumes from the former and was thoroughly disappointed in the latter. There are so many voices out there; might as well hear from the ones who know what they’re talking about.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. ratamacue0 Post author

        Thanks for the reinforcement on Ehrman.

        I think it’s important to read from the scholars.

        Agreed.

        I read Jesus Interrupted [Ehrman] and The Case For Christ [Strobel] at the same time. I learned volumes from the former and was thoroughly disappointed in the latter.

        Interesting. Your opinion on Strobel appears consistent with DagoodS’:

        Honestly, I wouldn’t bother with McDowell or Strobel. Go with the best argument in Licona.

        Like

        Reply
  3. Howie

    Hey ratamacue,
    I definitely would not recommend Josh McDowell – he just compiles whatever things he can find to support his view without weighing their value, and his stuff is amateur.
    First, while it is quite heavy reading, I would recommend Dale Allison’s “Resurrecting Jesus” (only 1 chapter in that book is relevant). You may be able to find it in a seminary library near you. Allison does a good job of listing a whole bunch of views both pro and con regarding the issue. He is a liberal Christian who says he lives life practically as a deist.
    I’d recommend N.T. Wright as far as an affirmative view of the resurrection – he is probably the most scholarly of that viewpoint. Mike Licona is also another scholar who tries to keep a scholarly approach and he is a bit more conservative than N.T. Wright. Gary Habermas is also widely known but he is not quite as thorough as the other 2.
    To get a quick somewhat layperson understanding of a lot of the views on both sides I’d recommend watching both debates between Mike Licona and Richard Carrier. Just by watching those you’ll learn quite a bit on both sides. There are tons of debates on the resurrection, some better than others obviously. Gerd Ludemann is a bit boring, but you may be able to learn some more from his debates with William Lane Craig. Gary Habermas is a fun person to listen to and I liked listening to his debates – he seems like a cool guy and I like his attitude.
    On the negative side I think Richard Carrier is probably the most scholarly on the subject, and he writes in layperson style. You may already know that he is a very vocal proponent of atheism. While he is not a scholar Kris Komarnitsky also does a good job of detailing the negative side in his book on the subject. You can find references to more scholarly stuff in his book. “The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave” may be another useful resource from the negative side.
    My own view is that scholarly consensus confirms that there is legendary embellishment in the gospels (although what is debatable is how much of it is embellished), so I feel it is not very useful to rely on details in the gospels to build a case for the resurrection. This is why scholars like Mike Licona and Gary Habermas try the “minimal facts approach” which I think is a good idea – they basically try and use the facts that have scholarly consensus and build a case from that. The problem though is that there isn’t much to go by for that – the case is mainly taken from I Corinthians 15:3-8. Gary Habermas does a good job of explaining why this passage is so key in his debates. With just this passage, and also considering that people back then were much more superstitious and much less careful in writing history we basically don’t have enough information to build a firm historical case for exactly what happened 2000 years ago. The scholarly consensus we get is that the early Christians had “experiences” that led them to believe that Jesus was resurrected. Experiences is the key word – we don’t even know if these experiences were visions – the consensus belief which I believe remains true to the text is that they had experiences which could have just been strong heartfelt feelings of a presence of Jesus which led them to believe he was resurrected. To make a long comment short – I personally don’t see why this kind of data is not analogous to some other historical events that even most Christians do not trust – the Marian apparitions are the most popular of these, the Knock Shrine incident probably being the clearest analogy in my view. Dale Allison and Richard Carrier give some other analogies in history. Mike Licona addresses these kind of analogies in his interview with Luke Meuhlhauser, but after listening to that I didn’t feel his response was very convincing. He did say as some Christians will say that maybe some of the Marian apparitions are veridical but that he would interpret them differently than Catholics do – and I don’t know if you catch this, but therein lies the problem for all of these kinds of supernatural claims. For example, what’s to stop a Jewish person from saying “perhaps the resurrection is a veridical event – I just interpret it differently than Mike Licona”.
    Sorry for the long comment – I have other thoughts on this, but I’ve already crowed up your comment space. I plan on some posts on my blog on this, but it will take me a while to get there – the hardest part is organizing the tons of thoughts in my head, and I’ve got lots of other topics before this one.

    Liked by 1 person

    Reply
    1. ratamacue0 Post author

      Sorry for the long comment

      Don’t apologize; it was awesome! Very informative, with names and sources and summaries.

      [Dale Allison] is a liberal Christian who says he lives life practically as a deist.

      Does he also explain that part in his “Resurrecting Jesus” book?

      I plan on some posts on my blog on this, but it will take me a while to get there

      I look forward to it. Please consider pasting a link in the comments on this page, or any later relevant page on my blog. 🙂

      Like

      Reply
      1. Howie

        Does he also explain that part in his “Resurrecting Jesus” book?

        No, Allison just mentions it very briefly in passing in one part of the book. It was hard to tell exactly what his beliefs were. The comment about “living life practically as a deist” can be interpreted in different ways. e.g. he may have meant that in his day to day life he doesn’t experience anything “God-like” even though he still believes in a personal God. I’m not sure what he meant. He seems like a fair minded fellow though, and I read the resurrection chapter of his book after Mike Licona recommended him.

        Like

        Reply
  4. DagoodS

    Welcome to an…interesting…study. Quite a bit on your plate, I would say!
    To support the resurrection of Jesus, the best (in my opinion) work would be Mike Licona’s “The Resurrection of Jesus: A New Historiographical Approach.” Honestly, I wouldn’t bother with McDowell or Strobel. Go with the best argument in Licona. You can read much of it on-line through Google books.
    The two (2) books for a skeptical approach would be “The Empty Tomb” edited by Jeffrey Lowder or “Doubting Jesus’ Resurrection” by Kris Komarnitsky. Both give a pretty good outline with what we are dealing with.
    Regarding authorship, I highly, HIGHLY recommend Udo Schnelle’s “History and Theology of New Testament Writings.” Does a great job of addressing the pro’s and con’s of authorship, dating, location and general theology of the New Testament. Provides scholars and biographies for alternate positions. This is absolutely the place to start.
    Here are some things to keep in mind:
    1) Stick to your method. I like the “preponderance of the evidence” method (as anyone perusing my blog would quickly learn). Just make sure the evidence preponderates to a neutral party. In other words, NOT “what is more likely to me?” but “what would be more likely to a person who is neutral on the topic?”
    If your method causes you to change your position, this only supports the strength of the method.
    2) Remember the genre. It would be good to read up on and understand Greco-Roman biographies. These are NOT history books. They are NOT police reports (I am looking at you, J. Warner Wallace.) They are not newspaper reports. These are particular collect edworks written in a specific era for particular people.
    Take an on-line iTunes course on Roman history—it will enlighten you as to what was happening at the time.
    Read other works of the times. Read Josephus. Read Suetonius. Read Tacitus. Read Philo. Read Cassius Dio. How did they write? Did they include miracle stories (Hint: yes.) How do historians treat those stories?
    I also recommend Bruce Malina’s “Social-Science commentary on the synoptic Gospels” so you understand an honor-shame society. If one doesn’t know what “honor-shame” or “patron-client” or “altered states of conscience” means, then one is not fully cognizant of the society of 1st century Mediterranean.
    I assume you are aware of the Synoptic Problem. I recommend when reading the New Testament accounts, always read what Mark said first, then Matthew on the same incident, then Luke and finally John.
    Read the undisputed Pauline letters in Chronological Order. (1 Thess. 1 Corinthians, Galatians, 2 Corinthians, Romans. Philippians and Philemon.) Does Paul’s theology change? What does Paul say about Jesus? Does Paul make similar claims as Jesus, but say something differently? (i.e. Divorce or the Greatest Commandment.)
    That should get you rolling. grin

    Like

    Reply
    1. ratamacue0 Post author

      Great information, DagoodS–thank you.

      Quite a bit on your plate, I would say!

      Indeed. It’s intimidating, and I wonder whether I’ll be able to devote enough time to make an educated decision in “a reasonable timeframe”. (A couple months–I wish.)

      I was a good student in school, but history was one of my weaker and least favorite subjects.

      1) Stick to your method. I like the “preponderance of the evidence” method (as anyone perusing my blog would quickly learn).

      As you may have noticed by my necro-comments on your site, I’ve been reading through some of your old entries–so I get this. 😉

      Like

      Reply
  5. (Matt) Brisancian

    Wow, such good content above from everyone – and lengthy from DagoodS and Howie. They’ve covered a lot of very good ground in all this.
    I myself have struggled through this material, but I think it can probably be simplified in a couple of ways.
    Recognize the level of the claim and the level of the needed support.
    The Resurrection is the grand-daddy of Tall Tales, a Big Fish story – though the danger for us believers and formers is that it is a really familiar one. Blindness by myopia sets in… Step back and compare this Big Fish story with other more recent Big Fish stories and ask yourself, how much support would I need to believe X?
    Watch for “special facts” vs assertions/contentions.
    These are so-called “facts” that only insiders acknowledge as facts… Habermas, Licona, Craig, and the like – they will cite their constellations of “facts” for their MF arguments, but at bottom half of the facts simply aren’t facts. They are “contentions” being made in the face of scholarly dispute. Ideas like the tomb being found empty are like this. So too the death of the martyrs. Or the uniformity of belief among Jesus’ followers, most of whom we really don’t know what became of in the following decades. Habermas and those quoting him will state that “75% of New Testament scholars believe X”, but he has been savaged for such claims because he has no idea what he’s doing in compiling his supposed statistics. You’re looking for critical historian viewpoints – not the glommed together opinions of a bunch of “NT scholars” (i.e., linguists, apologists, theologians, etc). This critique is very evident in Ehrman’s redirects against WL Craig during their debate:


    I also recommend Arif Ahmed vs Gary Habermas:


    Yet when all is said and done, the case for the Resurrection cannot be made without “special facts”.
    Consider the nature of the gospel records.
    Ehrman is very good here, and very intelligible: “Jesus Interrupted” is a solid well-rounded place to start. It gives an all points summary of the critical scholarly view of the texts, and from all checking and deeper reading I’ve done, what he says checks out… this is the mainstream view of the texts, not a minority, fringe, or fundamentalist view.
    The gospels are about all we have, and all other evidences are really a very distant second. And the gospels are crap – insider documents from a splinter religious movement – a class of documents generally known for many things, accuracy not being among them. Stare hard at the reality of these documents. Dating. Bias. Divergence. Consider what the texts do and do not say about themselves… we actually need the parallel traditions about the texts (shaky as hell) because they themselves do not say who wrote them, when, or using what references (either oral or written). Its all guesswork – because that’s how God wanted it, apparently. What should be strong testimony winds up requiring a lot of “special facts” just to get us to the place of being considered decent or somehow reliable records.
    Much ado about nothing.
    Consider the evidence that is missing.
    Consider what is missing. Big one: Jesus himself wrote nothing, and this is troubling for a faith that would come to be dependent entirely on the quality of the written records left behind. Carrier is very good here. Jesus has a public ministry in front of thousands, in front of the Romans, in front of the Jews, etc., and then returns only to a few followers? (and no, the supposed and undocumented 500 in Paul don’t help; hearsay as claimed by one man). Further, consider the big claims about the darkness and earthquake at the time of crucifixion, and the absence of what should be manifold records elsewhere. Consider the walking dead in Jerusalem, absent despite Jewish and pagan authorities present. The High Priest never committed suicide or went mad because he realized too late what he had done, or because he was visited by the risen Jesus. Nor Pilate.
    Consider the Recycling of Jesus from antecedent parts/pieces.
    Borg does a good job outlining how the early believers adopted Roman Imperial Theology to adorn their ideas about Jesus (see my resources page). Carrier has demonstrated that there isn’t much about Jesus that hadn’t been “done before” in various other mythologies. Jesus is an original blend, but all the parts existed already. It is hard to see how/why a strictly monotheistic God would vindicate pagan ideas and disrupt the monotheism he’d worked so hard and long to beat into the heads of the Jewish people with his Trinitarian revelation. But this is all quite explicable in an organic cult emergence from a cosmopolitan milieu. Also look here at Raglans’ hero criteria: http://department.monm.edu/classics/courses/clas230/MythDocuments/HeroPattern/default.htm
    Consider the Cargo Cults and Mormonism and Islam.
    Christianity just didn’t have the unprecedented explosive growth that the apologists like to sell. It was small for a very long time… today we would call it a cult. It didn’t get big until at least 2-3 generations later. The growth track is not terribly dissimilar to that of Mormonism today. And the Cargo Cults of Melanesia show just how fast a non-sense belief in a non-existent savior can get off the ground. Christian growth was simply not special. http://jerichobrisance.com/2014/01/23/youtube-dawkins-on-cargo-cults/
    Read the NT with a Harmony of the Gospels.
    Really – buy a Harmony of the Gospels, hard copy, much easier than online versions. The NT demonstrates itself to be a collection of fact and embellishment. Lazarus was made up by John. The long discourse with Pilate, yep, only in John. the “I am” statements, only in John. The guard at the tomb? Not in the earliest records by Mark. Nor indeed were the post resurrection sitings, the ascension, the Great Commission, the virgin birth, etc. Development was happening, as I’ve worked to distill in an infographic. http://jerichobrisance.com/2013/10/13/infographic-timeline-of-the-new-testament-books/
    As to sources, they have been hit already here. Don’t read the big tomes. I read two of Wright’s very long works on Jesus, and it all could have been boiled down a lot simpler. Debates are good, but I suggest the more accessible books (250 page range). I too would use references like MacDowell on a spot-wise basis – in order to see what he leaves out. That’s a useful exercise in itself. You may also try either Paine or Hitchens in their summary treatments of the NT. This is useful to simply hear a change of perspective, absent the glowing aura of textual respect too often granted by people who have decided to make their incomes attached to the industry of NT scholarship.
    Much ado about nothing. Big Fish story. The Greatest Story Ever Told. The Tallest Tale ever told. And one that, if to be taken seriously, requires “special facts”, credit of eyewitness veracity that we routinely deny alien abduction claimants, gymnastic textual harmonizations, minimal facts arguments, and a hearty parallel “tradition” about texts and authors that remain shrouded in dubious anonymity.
    It is almost as though we believe these accounts simply because we want them to be true.

    Like

    Reply
    1. ratamacue0 Post author

      Matt,

      Thanks again for your time and recommendations–especially those that attempt to help me simplify.

      Step back and compare this Big Fish story with other more recent Big Fish stories and ask yourself, how much support would I need to believe X?

      Others such as?

      Watch for “special facts” vs assertions/contentions.
      These are so-called “facts” that only insiders acknowledge as facts… Habermas, Licona, Craig, and the like – they will cite their constellations of “facts” for their MF arguments, but at bottom half of the facts simply aren’t facts.

      “MF” arguments?

      I had watched the debate you linked to between William Lane Craig and Bart Ehrman: Did Jesus Rise From The Dead. IIRC:

      • Craig used an argument from (4) “minimal facts” (including the empty tomb), and argued that the resurrection is the best explanation.
      • Ehrman disputed none of the “facts”, but only claimed that miracles are de-facto improbable, and out of bounds for historical study. He postulated several alternative explanations (all of which he admitted were unlikely), and claimed that the sum of the probabilities of all alternative explanations is greater than the probability of resurrection.

      I came out with the impression that Craig’s “four facts” are not meaningfully disputed (so to speak) by biblical or historical scholars. Am I mistaken?

      Consequently, I felt Ehrman’s position in that debate was kind of weak.

      Mind you, as a “questioning Christian”, I am “on the fence” regarding the miracle aspect of the resurrection. I won’t rule it out prima facie–at least not based on what I know so far. However, I do think the burden of proof is on those supporting the claim.

      And the gospels are crap – insider documents from a splinter religious movement – a class of documents generally known for many things, accuracy not being among them.

      Who else espouses this view?

      we actually need the parallel traditions about the texts (shaky as hell) because they themselves do not say who wrote them, when, or using what references (either oral or written).

      I know it was a different time, and the culture was different, and not rigorous and scientific like today…but this just seems so insane to me–that a loving God, intent on communicating his message of paramount importance to all people–a message which affects their eternal destinies…that he would communicate it using such an unreliable channel, such that the message content and author can’t(?) be effectively verified.

      the supposed and undocumented 500 in Paul don’t help; hearsay as claimed by one man

      What do you make of the apologists’ contention that someone would have called him out on it if he were lying?

      It is hard to see how/why a strictly monotheistic God would vindicate pagan ideas and disrupt the monotheism he’d worked so hard and long to beat into the heads of the Jewish people with his Trinitarian revelation.

      A very interesting contention–and turn of phrase. 😉

      Christianity just didn’t have the unprecedented explosive growth that the apologists like to sell. It was small for a very long time… today we would call it a cult. It didn’t get big until at least 2-3 generations later.

      Source(s)?

      buy a Harmony of the Gospels, hard copy

      Any particular recommendation? Or is one as good as another? (I would guess not.)

      Development was happening, as I’ve worked to distill in an infographic. http://jerichobrisance.com/2013/10/13/infographic-timeline-of-the-new-testament-books/

      Is there consensus on the dates (and sequence) in your infographic? Would anyone (e.g. NT scholars) dispute them?

      Is it possible that any of the gospels’ namesakes could have lived long enough to pen their respectively-named works?

      Like

      Reply
      1. (Matt) Brisancian

        Hmmmm. All my formatting was eliminated from my comment. I’m afraid it was nowhere nearly as clear as it started out. Perhaps I’ll try a repost of the 7 high points:
        1.Recognize the level of the claim and the level of the needed support.
        2.Watch for “special facts” vs assertions/contentions.
        3.Consider the nature of the gospel records.
        4.Consider the evidence that is missing.
        5.Consider the Recycling of Jesus from antecedent parts/pieces.
        6.Consider the Cargo Cults and Mormonism and Islam.
        7.Read the NT with a Harmony of the Gospels.

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
      2. (Matt) Brisancian

        To respond to your line by line follow ups:
        Big Fish Stories
        To begin, you could consider other religious textual claims… Mohammed’s winged horse flight, Joseph Smith’s golden tablets, etc. In more modern terms, consider UFOs and alien abductions, or 9-11 Conspiracy claims. The UFO point is very interesting – consider just how many eyewitnesses we actually have for those bizarre activities. Yet we have no compelling tangible physical evidence, as we are well aware. And that’s a problem. Big Fish stories are worth thinking long and hard about, because all the time we make judgments about what is believable or not… and then we lower the bar for stories that simply promise us something we want… such as weight loss secrets, or get-rich opportunities, or eternal life.
        “MF” Arguments = Minimal Facts arguments for the resurrection, though admittedly, MF could stand for other things.
        Ehrman vs Craig.
        Check that out again. In shorter back and forths, Ehrman states bluntly that the majority of NT scholars may agree with certain facts like the empty tomb, but that the majority of historians do not. This is an important distinction, and one to which Craig never responds. And at the bottom of the entire minimal facts case is the simple problem: they’ve polled and then advertised the opinion of the wrong kinds of supposed experts.
        This is very much like the diet book world, in which the testimony of doctors is used to sell a very wide range of very divergent dietary strategies. “Doctor” doesn’t mean anything. What kind of doctor? Dieticians? Epidemiologists? General practitioners? This is just like the issue with 9-11 Conspiracies, in which they develop long petitions of “engineers and architects” that supposedly smell something fishy. To be blunt, as a person who actually works with the sort of protective design issues involved with the Towers, I don’t care what the consensus of Electrical Engineers think about the structural failure of the towers. Nor biomed engineers. Nor anyone except those of the appropriate field: structural engineering. “Engineer” and “Doctor” do not have any more meaning than “NT Scholar.”
        Ehrman made this point very plainly, and Craig never stepped up. Habermas is the source for the supposed statistics, and he flatly fails to make any distinctions. In fact, he admits that NT Historians are a minority subgroup of his “survey”. And they are the kind of expert that matters.
        But beyond this, even in the right field, the statistics ought to account for ideology, and they do not. Just imagine, if you will, what kind of “facts” we could arrive at with regard to the Koran if one polled “Koranic Scholars” and took no account of the ideology of the scholars involved (i.e., believing or not believing). Its a bit like asking Big Tobacco scientists about the health facts of tobacco use. And we all know this intrinsically – right up until its a religion or political subject in which we have an emotional investment. And then our natural powers of discrimination are checked at the door.
        So, yes, the minimal facts certainly have been meaningfully disputed. Do a search for critiques of the Habermas survey. The claim of majority perspective just isn’t worth the paper its printed on.
        Gospel Quality
        Here one can find a very wide range of sources to acknowledge the issues with the gospels. Marcus Borg, Bart Ehrman, John Dominic Crossan, Richard Carrier, etc. But even those friendly to the Bible will concede the serious issues in trying to extract historically defensible information from them: Craig Evans, Luke Timothy Johnson, etc.
        Watch the Evans/Ehrman debates, and pay close attention to the number of factual points about the texts to which Evans concedes. The book “Evolution of the Word” by Borg is very interesting. So is the comparative 5-views book “The Historical Jesus, Five Views”. Five entirely different scholars going at it and critiquing each other.
        At bottom, a good history is a disinterested one, and we don’t have a single such account of Jesus’ life. The Gospels are not historical documents – they are a different genre altogether. And there is a lack of consensus about what that document even is. They are “stories about Jesus”, not histories of the life of Jesus. Unless you’re talking to the fundamentalist branches of the church.
        Paul and the 500
        No, I doubt anyone would call him on it. Christianity was tiny at that point, and nobody but Paul was writing anything about the sect. Nobody. Paul is the earliest of all writings we have. There are no Jewish counters for better than a century to anything, if memory serves.
        Christianity has been called “Paulianity”, and this is a profound thing to consider… in the lifetime of the first generation followers, Paul was the only one who wrote anything.
        Growth of the Cult
        Yes, Carrier has a very extensive article on this, in which he cites several scholars who have done the work of researching the size and growth of Christianity. See here: http://infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/improbable/luck.html#18.3
        Harmony of Gospels
        I use the one by Robert L. Thomas. I don’t know if there are better ones or not – I just use it for the textual side by side, not really so much for the essays at the end.
        Infographic
        Is there consensus on the dates in the infographic? That depends. As I describe on that page, a lot of the dates are soft, and some are heavily disputed. That’s why I chose the base timeline that I did – Raymond Brown is considered a middle-road guy on his positions.
        Yet the sequence of the really important stuff finds strong majority support. And here I am calling “the important stuff” the following:
        A. The authentic letters of Paul were written first
        B. The gospels were written thereafter
        C. The gospels are sequenced as follows: Mark first, then Matthew/Luke, and John last.
        D. Irenaeus is the first source we have to identify the true gospels and their authors.
        I think there is strong majority support for other less important components, like the forgery of the Petrine letters, etc. Yet the critical argument of development needs only the sequence of Pauline letters and Gospels to stand firm, and we have firm grounding for these assumptions. But as I say in the article: “The gospels declare no author and claim no date of writing, leaving us to do our best on both counts.” Somewhat reckless for a divine architect.
        Long Lived Gospel Namesake Authors
        Sure, entirely possible. Not likely though.
        But beyond the dating, there are much more serious problems… they were written in the wrong language for Galilean disciples… they are all anonymous… they include details that indicate that the authors weren’t from Galilee… they are not voiced as eyewitness records… they include information that even eyewitnesses would not have known about… they disagree with an critique one another, per the editorial scalpel that Luke takes to Mark’s account, etc… Jesus Interrupted gives the general scope of these problems.
        Hope that helps!

        Liked by 1 person

        Reply
        1. ratamacue0 Post author

          There is an option checked in my Dashboard -> Settings -> Discussion, which says, “Use Markdown for comments.” So if it’s using markdown, I guess it’s stripping the HTML?

          Are you able to put HTML links in comments (using anchor tags with href), as I did above?

          I want the comments to be user-friendly to the maximum number of commenters. I figured markdown was preferable in that regard. What do you recommend?

          Like

        2. Howie

          I think you probably want to deselect that option. Every blog I’ve commented on has accepted the html formatting, and it seems that is not recognized with the markdown option. Markdown sounds like it has some very cool options, but unfortunately it seems to be doing some really quirky things with the formatting. Like my first comment on here didn’t have any links but all the extra lines I put between paragraphs disappeared.

          Like

        3. Howie

          Hey ratamacue: I’ve been seeing the same thing as Matt. Especially the paragraph breaks (just a simple extra empty line). My comments always look different after I submit.
          Also, not sure why but I am subscribed to comments but seem to be getting only some of them. I haven’t figured out the pattern yet. I seem to be getting all of your replies to everyone, but other than that it seems random.

          Like

    2. ratamacue0 Post author

      You may also try either Paine or Hitchens in their summary treatments of the NT. This is useful to simply hear a change of perspective, absent the glowing aura of textual respect too often granted by people who have decided to make their incomes attached to the industry of NT scholarship.

      I found the following listed on your Bibliography page. Are they the authors/works you were referring to?

      • Hitchens, Christopher. God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything. New York: Hachette Book Group, 2007.
      • Also various videos featuring Hitchens.
      • Paine, Thomas. The Age of Reason: Being an Investigation of True and Fabulous Theology. Nineola, NY. Dover Publications. 1794/1896/2004.

      Like

      Reply
      1. Nate

        I know I’m a bit late to this conversation, but let me second Matt’s suggestion of Thomas Paine’s The Age of Reason. It’s old, but it’s just so good. It was one of the first skeptical treatments of the Bible I’d ever read, and Thomas Paine remains one of my all-time heroes as a result. It’s hard to find another source that so soundly tears apart the Bible — and for ex-inerrantists like me, that’s exactly what we need.

        Like

        Reply
  6. reasonalblyskeptic

    I see lots of suggestions for reading Ehrman, and I second that wholeheartedly. Another book of his to check out is “Forged: Writing in the Name of God–Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are”. This book addresses authorship/historicity specifically.
    Also, check out “The Gnostic Gospels” by Elaine Pagels. It’s not specifically about authorship, but it does address the development of early Christianity with regard to Gnostic texts, so she spends some quality time on texts that were omitted. I have found that reviewing the apocryphal texts also gives me a better perspective on the ways Christianity was molded from a much more pagan base into what we know it to be today, so that does make it relevant to me on questions of its historicity.
    Lastly, check out the YouTube channel: Evid3nce. His playlist, Why I am no longer a Christian, addresses the authorship/historicity of the bible in episodes 8 and 9.

    Like

    Reply
    1. ratamacue0 Post author

      Thanks for your input, reasonably.

      I see lots of suggestions for reading Ehrman, and I second that wholeheartedly.

      How were all the previous generations ever supposed to find the truth without Ehrman? 😉 (Tongue in cheek…but I really wonder…)

      Re: Evid3nce’s Why I am no longer a Christian:

      I did actually watch that recently. It was quite interesting, though I didn’t find it completely persuasive by itself. He seemed to put together a framework with a high degree of internal consistency–but then again, I’d say Christianity has that going for it, too. (Pick-a-flavor notwithstanding.)

      I haven’t yet seen anyone take the Documentary Hypothesis as far as he did–though I haven’t researched it extensively.

      P.S. Is there a typo in your username? Or is it correct, and ReasonablySkeptic is not your blog?

      Like

      Reply
      1. reasonablyskeptic

        Typo. I seem to be plagued by that recently.
        I have a few blogs, and I wanted to comment based on the relevant one: ReasonablySkeptic.
        If the Evid3nc3 videos were interesting to you, I’d also suggest a BBC series featuring Dr Francesca Stavrakopoulou:


        She is also a biblical historian, from more of an archaeological perspective than textual, and she takes Documentary Hypothesis further by suggesting that not only is the OT based on Canaanite paganism, but she shows how the archaeology supports this… not just the texts themselves. It makes for a very interesting perspective.

        Like

        Reply
  7. DagoodS

    Copy your comment from your word processor. Paste it in Notepad. (Remember Notepad?) Then copy it again and paste it in the comment section.
    The simplest work-around I have found for these formatting issues.

    Like

    Reply
  8. Alice

    This may be completely on the fringe, but I really enjoyed this video series. I don’t know how accurate any of the information is, but there are some cool things he points out and brings up. It’s long, so you may want to put it aside for a rainy day:)

    Like

    Reply
  9. paarsurrey

    @ratamacue0
    “If Jesus was not raised from the dead, then what happened? What are alternate hypotheses of what really happened, and how Christianity came to exist?”
    Jesus did not die on the Cross to start with; though he was put on the Cross but delivered from it near-dead never the less alive. For further detail,I suggest to read the following small book available on line:
    “Jesus in India” by Mirza Ghulam Ahmad
    http://www.alislam.org/library/books/Jesus-in-India.pdf
    Thanks and regards

    Like

    Reply
  10. paarsurrey

    @(Matt) Brisancian ; MARCH 15, 2014 AT 9:12 AM
    “Recognize the level of the claim and the level of the needed support.”
    I agree with you; resurrection from the dead is a big claim and the whole Christianity is based on this; so its proofs and evidences also must be very strong and certain.
    Regards

    Like

    Reply
  11. paarsurrey

    @ (Matt) Brisancian :MARCH 18, 2014 AT 9:30 AM
    “Mohammed’s winged horse flight”
    Well; this would be off-topic; yet I have to clarify that this has not been mentioned in Quran.
    Regards

    Like

    Reply
  12. unkleE

    Hi ratamacue0,
    I somehow didn’t get subscribed when I thought I had, so I missed out until now. I actually agree with a lot of the advice you’ve been given, particularly, if you want to get a fair view, don’t read the people at either extremes of belief/unbelief with as much credence as those at the centre.
    Ehrman is clearly a well credentialled scholar, but you need to make sure you actually read his books and not just a couple of quotes. I found when I read his books on the textual problems in the New Testament that his often-quoted conclusions were quite strong, but not really supported by his own careful analysis.
    For example his ‘Misquoting Jesus’ lists as anomalies 4 passages that have significant additions, but which are noted as such in modern Bibles, and about half a dozen other minor problems with a word or a phrase – and that’s about it. Even he says:
    “To be sure, of all the hundreds of thousands of textual changes found among our manuscripts, most of them are completely insignificant, immaterial, of no real importance for anything other than showing that scribes could not spell or keep focused any better than the rest of us.”
    So like I say, don’t believe what others say about Ehrman, don’t believe his headlines, believe what he actually writes in the text and you’ll find there are not as many problems as you might have been led to think.
    As far as the resurrection goes, I think you can start with reputable scholars who have written lives of Jesus – Michael Grant, EP Sanders, Maurice Casey & NT Wright are a good start to understanding the historical issues, though of course the non-christian scholars won’t believe in the resurrection actually happening – Wright and Licona may be the best to give the christan side of it. I have written a summary of how I see it here – Was Jesus raised from the dead?.
    Hope that helps a little. Thanks.

    Like

    Reply
  13. Professor Taboo

    Ratamacue0,

    I read many of the comments here and I (fortunately) have nothing more significant to add on Secular sources on the historicity of the Yeshua/Isa resurrection. I use Yeshua because Christ was definitely Hebrew, and I use Isa because he was equally Arabian; a side rarely told here in America or the West. And both these titles are clearly played-down or omitted by today’s Greco-Roman slanted Canonical Bibles.

    Because of my heavy lengthy American-south (Mississippi) undergraduate education at a PCA affiliated college, and then subsequent graduate education at Reformed Theological Seminary (also in Mississippi) also PCA-Baptist affiliated, I will try my best to dig up my Apologetic books/info my college and seminary provided me — all very popular in those circles. Give me a week or two (hopefully not more) to gather?

    Ultimately though Ratamacue0, your heartfelt search and eventual (evolving?) conclusions of propondence WILL place you in a peaceful, tranquil walk with humanity…which can never be bad IMHO. 🙂

    Warm wishes Sir!

    Like

    Reply
    1. ratamacue0 Post author

      Interesting perspective.

      I (fortunately) have nothing more significant to add on Secular sources on the historicity of the Yeshua/Isa resurrection.

      I’m glad you didn’t waste time on it, since I’m now past that stage of searching. Perhaps I should add an update to this post.

      I will try my best to dig up my Apologetic books/info my college and seminary provided me — all very popular in those circles. Give me a week or two (hopefully not more) to gather?

      If you feel there’s something important I should consider, I’m open to suggestions. But, as above, I’m past this stage of research, so I’m not seeking it at this time.

      Ultimately though Ratamacue0, your heartfelt search and eventual (evolving?) conclusions of propondence WILL place you in a peaceful, tranquil walk with humanity…which can never be bad IMHO. 🙂

      This blog is documenting some of my evolution. 😉 And it does seem more peaceful now.

      Liked by 1 person

      Reply
      1. Professor Taboo

        I thought this (respectfully buried past of times earlier) might be the case now. Thank you for letting me know; I won’t bother. I’ll just stay updated with your current journey! 🙂

        Ratamacue0, of our resulting shared peace thru our similar paths, what I’ve gained is an enormously massive respect, awe, and compassion for my place on the Pale Blue Dot, others who walk with me while others live in stifling fear, and the deeper desire & appreciation to live much more in the present — not as a human future, but a human BEING — with as many Soul Mates as I encounter and engage! That’s a trickle of the peace, joy, despair, and struggles I share with my human family. All that right there is MORE THAN ENOUGH to occupy my time presently, and less about what happens to my body at death! LOL

        Like

        Reply
        1. Professor Taboo

          I had to ask because I am most certainly an encourageable chatter-box on certain subjects! 😀

          Soul MateS? Hmm, how to keep this brief?

          Much of my views and beliefs stem from Edgar Cayce’s mediumship readings while under/inside subconsciousness. I have found that his readings fit nicely within certain Quantum fields of study & theories! With that said, under my aforementioned love for the LCMET, or Law of Conservation of Mass/Energy (Thermodynamics), and the ever increasing reliability of many psychics, clairvoyants, mediums, etc, throughout the globe, it is increasingly likely that our antiquated teachings of social conduct greatly restricts us all (damn near suffocates and kills) our immense capacity to love, empathize, connect beyond the perceived 5-senses, and serve others around us! These neo-revelations severely undermine our ancient socio-religious structures of control-management of the masses, or more accurately, the “unscribed” if that historical context helps. Edgar Cayce came to discover then later believe that every single human being has MANY soul mates now in their lives, as well as in past lives—i.e. return to time-space continuum in Quantum Mechanics and LCMET. Now if I may, I will leap from there to philosophical theories I find very useful and true…

          (1) Strength in numbers. Why is that true much of the time? All the time? Ant colonies are one beautiful example of this. (2) Collective collaborative brain-storming (think tanks) launch more ingenious ideas than just 1 or 2 people. Statistically is that probable? And (3), is a story or event always accurately and ‘truthfully’ told by ONE person? Of course not. Why not?

          Why have we humans socially chained (enslaved?) ourselves to the myth of one Soul Mate? Can one single person through our entire lifetime be the ONLY person—on a planet of 7.3 billion and exponentially growing—to teach us, help us, love us in their own single way, emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually!? Purely from a statistical standpoint is that probable? And what if God or a Supreme Theistic designer(s) does not exist at all? Does one realize out SEVERELY you are cheating yourself out of an astonishing plethora of learning, experiencing, living, crying, laughing, becoming more whole a human being, by staying with ONE primary partner the majority of your very short life in this form, this dimension!!!!? 😮 Why on Earth would one want to be that stagnate!? And Ratamacue, this isn’t just about sexual interactions. Make sense?

          Edgar Cayce eventually determined that we NEED to impactfully connect with as many of our Soul MateS as possible, even the ones who challenge us and annoy us! LOL
          The growth & maturity is WAY BEYOND what only one person can facilitate. 😀

          Like

        2. Professor Taboo

          Addendum — most all of the perceived failures of multiple Soul Mates are not a reflection of the fluid-social-system, they are in truth a reflection of the individuals abilities to honorably and with integrity achieved and given, manage and communicate rawly & proactively their own progress within the group. Or their downright FEAR of being outside their stagnate comfort zone.

          “Fear stifles, courage fulfills.” It isn’t about failing in the traditional sense. It’s about failing better! Failing better in an environment of equality and understanding that all participants are at varied points and varied speeds. Be patient while learning how to better articulate! Does that help? 🙂

          Like

        3. ratamacue0 Post author

          Edgar Cayce came to discover then later believe that every single human being has MANY soul mates now in their lives, as well as in past lives—i.e. return to time-space continuum in Quantum Mechanics and LCMET.

          Well, you’ve given some additional context (not quoted) around the idea, but it seems to me that you’ve still used the term itself to define it – perhaps along with some other terms/idea from Cayce’s work – terms and work with which I’m not familiar. I’m also unsure to what extent the ideas you’re proposing here are “secular”, vs. having some “woo”.

          In any case, even what you’ve put here is quite a lot to digest – especially if I were to follow threads elsewhere to try to grok it. I’m inclined to table the issue for the time being.

          For anyone’s future reference, I see you’ve written further on it: Soul MateS.

          Liked by 1 person

        4. Professor Taboo

          Ratamacue0,

          Without overly bogging this thread down, I’ll focus just on my term “Soul MateS” for now.

          The common romantic story-line that many hopeful lovers embrace — especially in America — and is perpetuated by businesses such as eHarmony, Match.com, and Hollywood ad nauseam, is that everyone alive has only ONE specific person (a Soul Mate) who completes them, to borrow the Jerry Maguire line. I do not believe that in the least, primarily because statistically speaking that is damn near impossible on a planet of 7.3 billion (with over half of those females, due to all the wars in history), but additionally because it is ridiculously UNFAIR to put such lofty expectations onto one person to be everything a person could possibly desire or want for their entire lifetime! We are highly imperfect creatures. Therefore, in order to “hedge against” (if I can borrow that investment term & philosophy) a horrible ROI (Return on Investment), learn, give, receive, share, all forms of virtues with MORE!

          Hope that helps. And yes, thank you for mentioning my blog-post and the link. There are several more posts on the subject of polyamory and the alternative lifestyles I embrace. 🙂

          Like

  14. Pingback: WINC: Alleged Resurrection – The Gospels | aspiretofindtruth

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s