In this episode, Kurt and David provide reasons for knowing Jesus mythicism is hogwash.
David’s slides from the debate:
Opponent’s slides from the debate:
Kurt: Good day to you and thanks for joining us here on another episode of Veracity Hill where we are striving for truth on faith, politics, and society. So nice to be here in West Chicago back in the saddle. Last week we were at the Apologetics and Evangelism Conference in West Hartford, Connecticut and what a fun time that was. It was really a blessing to me to see a number of people so passionate about learning more about evangelism and how they can defend their faith and how they share the gospel with their friends, family, co-workers, neighbors. Just had a really fun time and I know my friend who’s in studio this week, David Montoya, we’ve been at it for the last couple of weeks. We’ve had a number of events and pushing hard on all the work we’re doing, huh?
David: Full steam ahead.
Kurt: You had a debate two Tuesdays ago, a week and a half ago, and then we went to Connecticut and now here we are. On today’s program….
David: We’re still not sick of each other. Right?
Kurt: No. Not yet. At least I hope not. Today’s episode, we are devoting to the topic of Jesus mythicism and for some of you who may not know this, there are in fact people out there that believe Jesus never existed. This is fascinating because the vast vast vast majority of New Testament scholars of classicists, of historians, believe that Jesus was not just a historical figure, but arguably, one of the best attested figures from antiquity, and when I say that, I’m not just saying that as a Christian. There are non-Christians that will concede that. Of all the evidence that we have, if you survey history and look at historical documents, Jesus is the best attested figure. So why is it that some people believe Jesus never existed? There can be a number of reasons that is the case. For some of the supposed intellectual reasons, not willful ones, or at least explicitly willful ones, and what I mean by that is people may just not want Jesus to exist. For the intellectual objections, we’re going to be dealing with those on today’s program. I hope that you’ll stick with us through today’s episode and learn a framework for how we can identify faulty objections to the claim that Jesus never existed. That’s why I’ve titled today’s episode, Did Jesus Really Not Exist? You could phrase it, “Did Jesus Exist?” That’s sort of putting it in the affirmative. I think in this case though, we want to phrase it in the negative. Did Jesus Really Not Exist? The actual answer to that is no. He did not exist in the not not sense. It can be confusing, but I hope you’re following along. Before we jump into that, first, again, we welcome David here in studio. You debated a Jesus mythicist a week and a half ago. Before we get into the things Jesus mythicists say, let’s get just a basic case for believing that Jesus was a historical figure. Just briefly though.
David: Sure. I want to differentiate between soft mythicism that believes Jesus was a historical figure, but later legends were added upon at a later time versus what we’re talking about here today is hard mythicism, that is to say that Jesus is a myth wholecloth wholesale.
Kurt: So there might be some scholars that think the language about Jesus being divine is legendary, embellishment, and you’re calling that soft mythicism, that there are these myths about Jesus, but really there’s this hard mythicism that’s becoming very popular on the internet and in forums, people just bouncing ideas off each other instead of doing their research and it’s the position that Jesus didn’t exist period.
David: Correct. Here’s the case that He does exist. We lay out that in the debate in my opening statement, I laid out the criterion. When we look at the hard mythicist position, what criterion are they using versus the criterion that historical Jesus scholars use? The criterion is as follows? Multiple attestion, criterion of embarrassment, criterion of friend and foe, and the one I did not have in the debate is the criterion of dissimilarity which you can look at on your own time. The analogy is this. We have news agencies that cover the same story, disseminating the same facts. We have on reasonable grounds that this story, at least the facts that they’re covering are historical. When we get to the front and full we see that MSNBC is on one side of the political spectrum, Fox News on the other side of the political spectrum, but they’re agreeing on the same story and the same historical facts. We’re on good grounds to conclude that the event is indeed historical.
Kurt: So having multiple sources is a reliable indicator that what they’re saying is generally true.
David: And on top of that if they’re friends and foes of each other. If they’re enemies of each other…
Kurt: Even more so.
David: When we look at the sources very quickly, we see Paul, our earliest sources, writing in the 50’s, meets, and this is key, meets Peter, the chief apostle chosen by Jesus of Nazareth and James, His brother. That would be akin to a historian asking Richard Cheney and Jeb Bush about the existence of George W. Bush as a historical figure. That’s the analogy. We went through 17 points that Paul affirms throughout the Pauline corpus, attesting to a historical Jesus. We then laid out the Gospel witnesses, Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, attesting to both Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist and that He was crucified under Pontius Pilate. That is the biblical record. We have five, in this case, sources, Paul, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, ranging from 50 all the way to 90 and those are early attestations. Outside of the Bible we have Josephus, Tacitus, and Suetonius, so those are the records both. All these, particularly Josephus and Tacitus lay out the fact that Jesus was crucified under Pontius Pilate. This is very explicit. This is very clear. These are very early, and these are reliable sources.
Kurt: Let me say something too about the external sources. Some might object, “Well, they weren’t eyewitnesses of Jesus so how do they know? They were just told by some people that there was this guy.” You have to understand ancient history. A lot of historians that we take for being generally reliable, maybe even strongly reliable, were not eyewitnesses to what they’re writing about, but that they themselves have investigated and are trustworthy to convey this information to us so even if they make a claim that so and so said Jesus was a magician, right? And Jesus did exorcisms or something like that, not that they agree that Jesus is the Son of God, but that they claim people think certain things about Him. That nevertheless is still evidence that there was a guy named Jesus.
David: Yeah. I mean the assertion that they attained this information from already believing Christians has the same probability as if they got records attesting to that same crucifixion internally, particularly with the case with Tacitus. I can say the same thing. It’s just as probable that Tacitus had those records within his grasp, just as much as the skeptic saying that he attained that information from already believing Christians. I believe the weight is the same. You cannot prove it my way. I can’t prove it my way. It’s about the same.
Kurt: We’ve got this very basic case that there was this guy named Jesus, but there are some people out there who might object and say “Well it’s all made up. It’s all legendary. What are some of the ways, what’s framework for recognizing the types of objections made against the historical, the existence of the historical Jesus?
David: As I said under my predictions is the close of my opening statement. What we see is we have speculations upon speculations whose probability taken in conjunction, and if we do probability we know if we stack a probability on top of each other, it makes it more improbable, but we’re stacking them so high that the whole case becomes untenable, Then we have what are called non-sequiturs. That is conclusions whose logic does not necessarily follow. The way I put is if I see someone driving into the church parking lot with a brand new 2018 Mercedes Benz, I may conclude that that person has quite a bit of money, but it could be the case that he’s just borrowing it from his cousin or that he’s in debt up to his neck. The conclusion that he has a lot of money does not necessarily follow from the fact that he’s driving a 2018 Mercedes Benz. We have this third one which is called the arguments from silence and they are prevalent. The fourth one is finally is what’s called parallelomania. Just because something looks similar or appears similar. The prior preceding event was copied from the event they’re saying came later.
Kurt: We’re going to take today’s episode and we’re going to go through these types of objections. We’re going to give you specific examples. We’ve got powerpoint slides that we’re going to be putting up on the screen. Hopefully, if David’s reading a long quote, we’ll have Chris coordinating here the different powerpoints, slides, and hopefully that’ll all come out okay. We’re going to be going over Bible difficulties. We’re going to be going over these objections, supposed contradictions against the Gospels themselves, concerns against church fathers. It’s going to be a lot of fun.
David: And world religions.
Kurt: And world religions. The pagan myths. We’ve got a lot of material to cover and we might not cover all of it in today’s program, but if we don’t maybe we’ll have to have a 2.0 version at some point in the future. I’m happy to start wherever you think we should start, David.
David: Sure. The main case was made against, in this debate, Jesus Ben Ananias. I’m surprised my debate opponent did not bring up these parallels. This is once again fitting into what’s called parallelomania. I’ll just read off the list. This would have been more impressive in the debate.
Both are named Jesus.
Both come to Jerusalem during a major religious festival.
Both enter the temple area and rant against the temple during which both quote the same chapter out of Jeremiah.
Preach daily against the temple.
Predict the temple will be destroyed.
Both are beaten by the Romans.
Both are finally killed by Romans.
Both are accused of speaking against the temple.
Both are beaten by Jews.
Both are interrogated by the Roman governor.
It goes on and on.
The claim was that Jesus Ben Ananias, found in Josephus’s writings, is the main basis for Jesus of Nazareth, the myth arising.
Kurt: So there is another historical figure named Jesus Ben Ananias.
David: Who goes into the temple. Starts screaming all these predictions.
Kurt: This is in what? About 62 AD?
David: Correct. He stays there. They detain him, release him as a maniac and madman. He continues for 7+ years declaring the same prophecy in the temple and finally he’s killed by a rock hurled by a catapult. The claim is…
Kurt: Because there are these similarities, this is where the Christians got it from, or this is where some people got it from.
David: Look at all the similarities. They’re quite a bit.
Kurt: Yes. We’ll get to that in a minute. Because of these similarities, at this point you can’t even say the Christians because there were no Christians according to this fellow’s view, but there was someone who took these ideas and created a copycat and off of these similarities, this person wrote a story that somehow began to get attention of people and hey began to believe that it was a real person or something like that. I’m not sure where exactly the legend becomes history in the minds of the followers…
David: That’s another question that’s always difficult for them to answer.
Kurt: When does it go from fiction to people actually believing this stuff is historically true?
David: Probably 200 or 300 years down the road people assume it’s historical, it’s historical fiction and then the fiction part gets exed out.
Kurt: Let’s talk about these similarities. There are many other examples of similarities with other pagan deities, the dying and rising gods motif, that’s another line of reasoning. I want to, this is one of my favorite analogies. I’m going to take the time to go through this. I want to talk about the Titanic, the ship that sank. Right? There was prior to the Titanic sinking, there was a work of fiction, and I kid you not, what I’m saying here is the absolute truth. There was a work of fiction written in 1898. This is what, Titanic sank what, 1912? Is that right? 1912. You’re talking a couple of decades here before the Titanic sank. A work of fiction called The Wreck of the Titan. Titanic and the Titan. Alright? The wreck of the Titanic is about a
David: Wreck of the Titan.
Kurt: Right. Sorry. The Wreck of the Titan is a work of fiction about the largest ship ever made, hits an iceberg, people die, and it’s quite amazing.
David: On the starboard side.
Kurt: I’ll go through the similarities here. Both the Titanic and the Titan were described as being the largest craft afloat in the greatest of the works of men. The Titan was 800 ft long, displacing 75,000 tons. The Titanic was 882 ft long, displacing 46,000 tons. Only difference of 82 ft. Both were described as unsinkable. Both had a triple screw, that’s the propeller I gues. I don’t know my naval craft all that well. On both boats there was a shortage of lifeboats, lifecrafts. The Titan carried as few as the law allowed, 24 lifeboats, which would carry less than half of the total complement at 3,000. The Titanic carried only 16 lifeboats plus 4 folding lifeboats. Here’s where it gets really good.
Both of them struck an iceberg. The Titan, this is the fictional work, moving at 25 knots struck an iceberg on the starboard side on a night of April in the North Atlantic 400 nautical miles from Newfoundland. The Titanic moving at 22.5 knots struck an iceberg on the starboard side on the night of April 14, 1912 in the North Atlantic, I kid you not, 400 nautical miles from Newfoundland.
David: So what you’re saying is that the Titanic event never happened?
Kurt: The sinking, the Titan sink and the majority of 2,405 passengers and crew died. Only thirteen survived. On the Titanic, there were 1,523 for 2,200 passengers and crew died. 705 survived so more survived. This is fascinating. You have a work of fiction written 24 years before the Titanic sank and this work of fiction predicted what would happen with the Titanic and I put predicted in quotations because this is a huge coincidence. The facts about the striking of an iceberg, that’s an amazing coincidence. Just because there is this crazy coincidence, it doesn’t mean that the Titanic never existed. You can go for yourself and see the Titanic. Just because something happened before it and there are coinciding facts that it happened in another event doesn’t mean one of them is made up.
Maybe there are in fact times when authors will copy fictional details and try to pass it off as their own, *cough* Joseph Smith *cough*. What burden of proof there is for a person making such a claim is to present an argument which would in fact detail that the copying actually occurred, that there has to be enough evidence to suggest that. Merely citing coinciding details is insufficient for such a claim, for such an argument. As David mentioned earlier, you can create and present what are called non-sequiturs, statements that simply do not follow. The parallelomania are a category of non-sequiturs. Talking about the dying and rising gods motif. There’s a great chapter in a book, Come Let Us Reason: New Essays in Christian Apologetics. Great chapter by Mary Jo Sharp. Her chapter’s titled, “Does The Story of Jesus Mimic Pagan Mystery Stories?” If you have this book I want to encourage you to read it. If not maybe we’ll put a link on our website to get this book. Read this chapter. Upon investigating these different pagan stories you will come to the truth that these pagan dying and rising god motifs are unlike what Christians are claiming. I’m speaking kind of slowly when I’m saying these things, because I want people to really let these truths marinate. Upon investigating the dying and rising gods motifs, you’ll find that what the Christians are saying is very unlike what the pagans had claimed. Furthermore, why would any devout Jewish thinker want to copy what the pagans are saying? That would be awful for the devout Jew to do such a thing. They never would do such a thing. They were so devout to their belief system that they simply wouldn’t do that.
David: Post-Maccabean war.
Kurt: I know we’re just, pun intended, we’re just hitting the tip of the iceberg. We just won’t have time to go through all the examples. We could even take a through and Mary Jo Sharp in her chapter goes through Osiris and Mithras and a couple of others.
David: For example, slide #8 in the debate opponent’s president. Dionysus also changed water into wine centuries before the alleged birth of Christ. When you actually look at the primary source, that’s actually written in the second century.
Kurt: Sorry. What slide number are you on again?
David: Slide #8 and the last point about Dionysus changing water to wine is actually from the 2nd century, not from centuries before the alleged birth of Christ.
Kurt: So sadly, in these powerpoints, there were a lot of assertions made and as we’re putting these up on the screen for you, you will see just these comments, these assertions. They’re not cited. There aren’t any sources here for you to double-check these and sadly….
David: That’s the usual problem is when you check the primary sources, when you critically analyze them, they begin to debunk themselves.
Kurt: We’re going to go through a few more of these slides from your debate opponent.
Kurt: I was able to share my Titan/Titanic example. I got that off of my list of things to do. Other things that you wanted to cover here.
David: Sure. That was not covered in the debate. We had made, in the cross-examination, we made very clear that this whole story of Jesus Ben Ananias is so unlikely to be copied from because it’s simply too late. Paul already talk about Jesus, the historical Jesus. Mark is already written, I can assert before this time. To late date any of these Gospels into the early second century is preposterous because we have early church fathers quoting them. That’s a big hole that I can drive a Mack Truck right through.
Kurt: Let’s flesh this out….
David: When we have another alleged parallel with an individual called Johnathan the Weaver, slide #7 in this case, another Messiah whose followers joined him in the wilderness, where they were killed by the Romans. Once again, this is far too late to be borrowing from to make the myth up just as in the case of Jesus Ben Ananias because we already have Paul’s records and Mark’s all ready to go.
Kurt: So the way that we know this argument is poor is because Josephus is writing in the second half of the first century and we have dated Paul’s writings and if you’re gonna reject the Gospels, even just setting aside the Gospels for the moment, which I don’t think one should do ultimately of course, but you’ve got Paul’s writings which predate Josephus and Paul’s writing about this Jesus guy….
David: By a quarter of the century.
Kurt: So what do you do? What is the Jesus mythicist to do with that?
David: Like I said, you could drive a Mack Truck through that one because…
Kurt: They just have to say Paul’s writings are also made up.
David: It becomes stacked because they say Paul should be late-dated and maybe Marcion wrote them and then we have the records of the church fathers, maybe they were manipulated and actually came later. There’s once again speculations upon speculations that are stacked upon each other.
Kurt: This was one of the arguments you said in your debate. You have, for example, Clement of Rome, writing, and even if Clement of Rome doesn’t quote any of the Scriptures, New Testament Scriptures, the fact that Clement of Rome is a Christian in Rome towards the end of the first century is still problematic because there are churches or there is at least a church in Rome. Now according to this specific Jesus mythicist, the supposed writing of the Gospels are occurring at some point after Josephus. Consider the time it takes to go from Josephus to whoever is writing, say, Mark. The Christian church wouldn’t even exist yet. The Christian church wouldn’t exist until the second century at least? But here we have Clement of Rome…
David: Who dies in 101.
Kurt: Existing. It really poses a big problem and I think the only way that strikes me as the only way out is just to say Clement of Rome should be dated later.
David: He’s also a forgery by the way. That’s what they’re going to claim, It’s speculation upon speculation. It keeps compounding. You got to shift everything else.
Kurt: Exactly. You shift everything else. It becomes very problematic, very problematic, by historical standards. It’s really an untenable position for a number of reasons. Alright. We’ve got to take our break here, but when we come back we’re going to be looking at some Bible difficulties. One specifically that I’d like to talk about, Jesus casting demons into the pigs. Where did this happen? Also, how old was Jesus when He died? Most scholars and church tradition hold that Jesus was about 33 years, but Irenaeus says 50, or does he? We’re going to be talking about that so be sure to stick with us after this short break from our sponsors.
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Yes. We’d love to get your support. We want this ministry to grow and to eventually become a radio ministry and we can’t do it without your support. Thank you for your consideration. On today’s program we are talking about the historical Jesus and really we’re analyzing the arguments of those who say Jesus never even existed. The title of today’s program is “Did Jesus really not exist?” The answer to that is, it should just be so obvious to folks that Jesus was a historical figure. He’s one of the best, if not the best attested figure from history. It really I think is a sad state of affairs even when we have to have a show on this topic because there are so many misconceptions, so many statements that mislead people. If you have questions about the historical Jesus, we would love to take those questions, be able to help you and to analyze. My piece of advice would be simply to look at the sources. Go do the research and you’ll see I think that what people are claiming is not the case there with the Jesus mythicists.
Continuing on, David, you wanted to talk about the death of Jesus.
David: My debate opponent was talking about how conspiracy theorists and actual historians agree to the debate of when JFK was assassinated or when the moon landing took place. When we actually look at, for example, the lunar landing, actually looking into the conspiracy theorists they actually believe that this thing was filmed in a studio beforehand and that the broadcast happened on the same day that the lunar landing allegedly took place according to the conspiracy theorists. There is a variety of dates. When you drill down into some of these conspiracy theories. Nevertheless, what he was basically asserting, the point he was trying to make, was Jesus Christ’s death in our records is attested to in different points and times, slide 10, according to him, states that one record shows it at 100 BCE, another one 83 BCE, Irenaeus, puts it at 50, our Gospel records put it at 31 or 33, and so we have varying dates. Of course, this is a myth would be the argument. Well, if you drill down into these records and we can also provide a powerpoint refuting that with scholarly quotes, where the Sefer Toledot Yeshu is actually an early medieval period document and is explicitly non-rabbinical and is explicitly satire. Of course, it would be making fun of the date and this is why I said in the debate that some of these points are on spurious sources. Additionally with the, and Richard Carrier makes a point in the Talmud, the one on the date 83 BCE where Jesus existed there with Alexander, this one also is very problematic. The historical Jesus scholars do not take the later Talmudic sources at all serious for anything to do with historical Jesus studies and the Blackwell companion book makes that very clear and we could provide the slide with those exact quotes. This one actually bothers me and has bothered me and I’m very curious to see, Kurt, what your answer was. I was actually hoping that my debate opponent wouldn’t press this one too much…
Kurt: On Irenaeus.
David: Mainly, I want to hear your answer. You’re more studied in the church fathers.
Kurt: The bishop of Lyon, Irenaeus. This can be a tricky one and it’s difficult and I read a number of Irenaeus scholars on this and you have to understand, Irenaeus’s view of the atonement and his recapitulation theory which you see in Ephesians 1, that in the fullness of times, Christ Jesus would be revealed and that there is a mass reconciling that is occurring. All things are being made new. Okay? Think Christus Victor model, but this mass reconciliation that’s occurring, this recapitulation, is throughout Irenaeus’s writings and you even see a little bit of it in this passage. So what’s this passage? In Irenaeus’s work “Against Heresies”, book 2, chapter 22, this is where he supposedly is making the historical claim that Jesus lived until He was 50. Irenaeus doesn’t actually make that claim, mind you, and I’m gonna talk about that here.
David: Once again, go to the original source.
Kurt: Yeah. Go to the original source. So in section 2, Irenaeus talks about the whole time from His advent onwards to the consumation of all things so there’s the reference to recapitulation, the consumation of all things there. This is key for understanding his view. Irenaeus is writing against the Gnostics and he is responding to the position that Jesus’s ministry was one year and that Jesus died when He was 30. He’s responding to this because 30 is like a magical number for the Gnostics. It’s like a superstition. It’s like numerology. 30’s opponent. They think Jesus’s ministry only lasted only one year. Irenaeus talks about, “No. When you read the Gospels you can see that there were three Passovers and so that in addition to other things that that happened, had led scholars, evangelical and non, to believe that Jesus’s ministry lasted roughly three years. Okay? That’s a widely held position and it’s also on firm belief that Jesus was thirty years old when He began His ministry. Luke also tells us that. So here’s what Irenaeus writes.
“Being thirty years old when He came to be baptized, and then possessing the full age of a Master, (That’s key.) He came to Jerusalem, so that He might be properly acknowledged by all as a Master. This was the case because sanctifying every age, for He came to save all through means of Himself — infants, and children, and boys, and youths, and old men. He therefore passed through every age, becoming an infant for infants, thus sanctifying infants; a child for children, thus sanctifying those who are of this age, being at the same time…
What is Irenaeus saying here? He’s saying that Jesus might be a perfect master for all. Irenaeus’s recapitulation theory is that all things are being reconciled and so for Jesus to be able to reconcile even old men Jesus would have to be an old man, but is that what Irenaeus is really saying? I don’t think he is. Irenaeus, does about how that the age of a young man is up until he turns thirty and then he says that
Now, that the first stage of early life embraces thirty years, and that this extends onwards to the fortieth year, every one will admit; but from the fortieth and fiftieth year a man begins to decline towards old age, which our Lord possessed while He still fulfilled the office of a Teacher,
So you see here what might be mistaken as Irenaeus making a historical claim. Here is the ultimate matter in his last paragraph.
For the period included between the thirtieth and the fiftieth year can never be regarded as one year, unless indeed, among their Æons, (That’s a Gnostic term)there be so long years assigned to those who sit in their ranks with Bythus in the Pleroma;
So basically Irenaeus is saying Jesus died somewhere between His thirtieth and fiftieth year. He’s not quite saying Jesus lived till fifty. So what’s going on here?
What’s happening here is Irenaeus is saying that Jesus possessed the full age of a master. I think if we had to sort of make, and mind you, Irenaeus is doing something different with his text than what historians are saying. Right? Irenaeus is making sort of a theological claim here that Jesus was so mature it was as if He had the age and wisdom of someone who had lived that long. I think that’s what Irenaeus is saying here.
David: It’s pretty convincing is against the Gnostics talking about aeons, talking about the pleroma. This is all Gnostic there and the genre there, the context there….
Kurt: Right. He’s making theological arguments. I don’t think he’s necessarily making a historical argument and in fact, a number of Irenaean scholars would agree that he’s doing something different. He’s not just writing straight history. Okay? Now, my own thought is this. Why would it be till fifty years old? Irenaeus, recapitulation, you’re an OT guy David. In ancient Israel, what happens in the fiftieth year?
David: You have a sabbath of sabbaths, Pentecost.
Kurt: Year of Jubilee. Right? The year of Jubilee, when everything is made well again. All the debts are forgotten. All the slaves are set free. Boy, that sounds like recapitulation.
David: Sure does.
Kurt: So I think maybe even there’s some….
David: You just blew my mind.
Kurt: I think there’s something more going here with Irenaeus’s view on recapitulation. You see it here in his argument against the Gnostics. Again, I don’t think Irenaeus is making…, if we had to draw any historical claims by Irenaeus, I think he’s saying…
David: Jesus was a historical figure.
Kurt: Of course, he’s saying that, but what he’s saying is Jesus died sometime between when he was thirty and fifty years old. I think he gives a range. It’s not explicit that Jesus dates to actually living till fifty years old. That’s not explicit in the text and I don’t think you can even get that as an implied statement. What is being implied here from these statements about the master is him living until the old age, I think what Irenaeus is doing is he’s saying that Jesus was so wise, He was a master, it was as if He were that old age. He writes in section 4, again this is book 2, chapter 22 of Against Heresies, section 4.
Being thirty years old when He came to be baptized, and then possessing the full age of a Master
He already possesses the full age of a master at thirty years old. I think that’s one of the critical aspects to recognize here. Being a master therefore He also possessed the age of a master. I think Irenaeus is saying something special here about Jesus, He’s not making that historical claim. That would be the way to understand Irenaeus. It’s true Irenaeus isn’t explicit, Irenaeus says that there’s three years of Jesus’s ministry, because He talks about the Passover. You have to recognize what he’s doing and it’s something different than just straight history. There’s that. We’ve got other stuff to get to.
David: Other things. One of the other things that was brought up and these are very common mythicist claims. These are what are called anachronisms and the way I define anachronisms is putting it in the following. If I were to translate the record of Moses coming down the mountain with two iPads, with the Ten Commandments, you would immediately recognize that iPads did not exist in the time of Moses. That would be an anachronism. No. He came down with two tablets.
Kurt: Tablets of stone. Not of sand. iPads are made of sand.
David: They definitely weren’t iPads so that’s an anachronism. The claim is that Galilee didn’t have a synagogue in the first century, Nazareth was uninhabited in the first century. Pharisees didn’t exist until after post 70 AD, that’s a slide twelve of my debate opponent. In the debate, we thoroughly debunked all of that. If he’s going to say that he cannot find peer-reviewed literature on this, I would just invite him to contact…[NP1] of the Israeli Antiquities Authority. You can’t get more official than that. If the mythicist is going to quote Rene Salm in his book that has been thoroughly debunked and he still appears, ironically enough, on mythicist podcasts, believe it or not, when his stuff is so thoroughly debunked. Moving on, he did bring up a claim, Kurt, concerning the chapter five of Mark, stating that these demon possessed pigs couldn’t, that event couldn’t have taken place, it’s on the level of myth, slide #14, that the pigs, they have to run a marathon to get down to the slope to drown themselves. This couldn’t possibly have taken place, and once again, this is a non-sequitur. Just because the story didn’t happen doesn’t necessarily follow that Jesus didn’t exist, but anyway, we’re going to knock this one out of the park here.
Kurt: Okay. Let me give some background for people. There’s a nice article here from a website called logicandlight.org. I’ll be sure to share this link so you can read it as well. The background, Mark 5, Matthew 8, Luke 8, this is where Jesus casts the demon out of the man, this is where the demon says, “We are Legion. We are many.” The demons go into the pigs and the pigs run off of a cliff and drown. Okay. Where did this story occur? The problem is that the Gospel authors differ in where they say it happened. You have Mark and Luke describing it as occurring in the country of the Gerasenes, while Matthew says it was in the country of the Gadarenes. Geresa, modern Jerash, my Hebrew is not too good there, is 37 miles southeast of the Sea of Galilee while Gadara is seven miles southeast of the sea so would the pigs have run 37 miles…
David: Come on.
Kurt: That’s a hike. Now there’s seven miles, that’s a shorter option. Some people might say pigs wouldn’t run seven miles. Well, think about that. A mile’s four times around a track. Right? I think of a high school football field. Four times around. That’s a mile. Would it be so out of the picture that a herd of pigs would trek 28 times around a track? That’s not so out of the question, but maybe there’s even a better answer and there is. The ancient town of Kursi is along the Sea of Galilee and this is the traditional site of where this happened. There’s a steep cliff that goes right up to the sea, but what happened? How did the Gospel authors get it wrong?
Kurt: Yeah. Allegedly. It has to do with the Aramaic, the word. Back in the day you just used the consonants, now the vowels. It’d be GRS. The G and the K can be very similar. KRS. By the way, I’m not just making this up. This is a scholarly consensus for those that have investigated this. Whether that there was a correction by a copyist, an editor, that tried to fix what they thought was the right answer. That could have happened. Scholars are quick to say that could have happened. You’re dealing with one letter. The one letter difference could have led a copyist to modify it. Kursi is the town that this happened and they didn’t run 37 miles, they didn’t even run 7 miles. They likely just ran down the hill. That would be sort of painting the whole picture. Again, there’s more that can be said on this and I’ll give the link to this logicandlight.org article. Very nice. Even has pictures of Kursi, you can see the steep cliff, the shore, going into the Sea of Galilee. It really isn’t a problem and mind you, the Gospel authors don’t mention the actual city. Okay? They say, the country of the Gerasenes. The country of the Gadarenes. It’s a general region. Okay? Don’t have in mind that this happened necessarily in a specific town but could have happened in the countryside. Even if it’s Gadara, seven miles. If it’s in the countryside of that town, you could be seven miles out. It’s much more feasible. I don’t really view this as a problem.
David: Excellent. Let’s go on to slide #23. This one is quite disingenuous. Once again, it has a massive non-sequitur. Mourning women in Gospels comes from long pagan tradition of women mourning dying and rising gods. If i apply this logic consistently I could say that mourning women at the funeral home this weekend comes from mourning for dying and rising gods. That is how preposterous this claim is.
Kurt: What you’re saying is that women can’t mourn the death of anybody cause it’s a copy.
David: I guess so. I think it’s just disingenuous.
Kurt: It’s really poor critical thinking at this point.
David: This one, I was very surprised to see this. I even addressed it in the debate because it’s so patently false. Slide #26, last point claims that Mithra was also born of a virgin on December 25th. I’m going to let Chris pull up Mithras. He can pull this up very quickly. Mithras, born from a rock. We know exactly from the iconography of this and he can pull this up real quick for you. Mithras born from a rock. You can go see this at the major museums in London, the British Museum has that for everyone to see. To claim that Mithras is born of a virgin is patently, demonstrably false and Christians don’t believe that Jesus was born on December 25th. I was very surprised to see that even in the presentation.
Kurt: The problem again as I stated earlier is there are a lot of
assertions, but there’s no evidence, there’s no proper citation. It’s really a
concern when statements are just made. I was talking to one of the students I
tutor just yesterday and she was asking for help on how to respond to certain
statements. She said she didn’t know how. I said, “Why don’t you ask the
person making the assertion, the claim, “How do you know that?” How
do you know that the claim you’re making is true? Get them to open up, provide
the reasons, provide the sources, so that you can investigate yourself. If
they’re making a claim, you want them to show you why you should think it’s
true. You shouldn’t be forced to just go on your own and think of it. The
example I use frequently is this. David, did you know that there are
McDonalds’s on Mars?
David: Really. I heard there was a face on there, but not McDonald’s.
Kurt: Yeah. McDonald’s on Mars. You see merely asking a question with the tone of skepticism or the tone of doubt, the skeptic is going to hope that it plants a seed in you and you’re going to begin questioning all that you know about everything. You see this with street epistemology. That’s not an argument. A question is not an argument. Okay? A question might try to make a point, so ask them to make an argument. Ask them to provide support. How do you know that? What are your grounds for thinking that? That’s very important in order to prevent the tide of skepticism from bringing a seed of doubt into your whole framework and I know I did an episode on this awhile ago, it was on the worldview series on skepticism. I want to encourage you to go back and check that episode out because this is what it is. It’s throwing a thousand darts and seeing what can stick on the dartboard to convince someone away from their position.
David: Let’s go to, we’re closing in on the conclusion here of this podcast. I want to go to slide #30. The assertion was….
Kurt: Paul is silent on events.
David: No. We’re talking about the last one here. The second one, it says, Paul was silent on events. We cited the seventeen points in the debate where he references the historical Jesus. Second point is one that’s very common among followers of Richard Carrier and his work. He states that Christ is described as a heavenly being, killed in the heavenly spheres, by the archons in the epistle to the Hebrews. It’s actually the epistle in the 1 Corinthians is what Richard Carrier and most mythicists actually look at. When we’re dealing with hermeneutics. We look at who wrote 1 Corinthians and we see if the author has used that word in other epistles or within the epistle itself. When we look at the direct context of what is being said in 1 Corinthians 2:*, that the rulers of this age, so on and so forth, put to death Jesus, that that’s really demons in the heavenly realms. When we look at the context, there’s no chapter divisions in the originals. 1 Cor. 1:20 talks about human wisdom and human strength and v. 9-16, v. 13 it’s all human strength, human strength, so by the time you get to 1 Cor. 2, and following after that it’s all about human strength and so why would that have anything to do with demons in the heavenly realms and Jesus being crucified in the heavenly realms. It just doesn’t fix the context. When we see the way Paul uses archons, particularly in Romans 13, we see very clearly he’s talking about human rulers. It’s obvious. Just read it for yourself. If you want to be consistent and say that it’s demon rulers, insert demons rulers into Romans 13 and you see how ludicrous the claim really is. Just be consistent with the argument and this is one of the things of being an apologist. Take their argument to its logical conclusion and apply it in Romans 13 and you see that Paul is not using archons in this manner in 1 Cor. 2 or in Romans 13.
Kurt: I know we’re running low on time here. We might have to do an episode on Bible difficulties. We didn’t even get around to Quirinius and the census, but that’s also an argument from silence. We don’t have any evidence that this happened, therefore…
David: Jesus doesn’t exist.
Kurt: Or therefore Luke is wrong. Wait a second. Why should you think that? Why should you think just because no other author mentions something that when one author does mention it, they’re wrong.
David: He had a whole list of historians that didn’t Jesus so therefore, it’s like 29, look at that whole list. Because none of these historians and quite frankly Josephus is on the list and so is Tacitus who does mention Jesus so I have no idea why they’re on the list, but I want to ask, where do they mention Pilate? Where do they mention Caiaphas? Therefore, Caiaphas and Pilate don’t exist. All those are just not good.
Kurt: It’s awful reasoning. I’m not sure. I can’t remember if you
made this in the debate or not. Fascinating that he dismisses Josephus’s use of
talking about Jesus, but he uses Josephus for his theory on Jesus Ben Ananias.
Why didn’t Josephus just make up Jesus Ben Ananias off of Jesus Ben Joseph?
David: Later I said, in my closing statment, the radical statement will say give me evidence that God exists. Here, I’ll present you Jesus Christ who claimed to be God incarnate. He is the ultimate evidence as Hebrews 1 presents it. Then when we give the radical skeptic the canonical Biblical records of the historical Jesus, that’s not sufficient. We want something outside of the Bible. When we provide something outside of the Bible, more excuses come up, “Well those are interpolations. Those were inserted later. Those are forgeries. They’re not reliable.” They’ll make up any excuse not to believe and the more evidence you pile on, it seems there’s always a way for the natural man to get around it, to suppress the truth in unrighteousness.
Kurt: At that point what we’re dealing with is not a matter of the intellect. It’s a matter of the will. The goalposts are changed. Right? The No True Scottsman fallacy. Moving the goalposts. The argument, the expectations are modified because you can’t, if you meet my criteria I’m going to change my criteria. It just creates an untenable position and really these are individuals I think we should pray for because for people like that who move those goalposts. It becomes apparent that the issue is not really about the intellect but the will.
We do have planned, someone wrote to us from the mailbag, but I think we’re going to have to postpone that till next week, so Leondra, thank you for writing in. If you have a question and you would like to hear a thoughtful response, insightful commentary on it, please feel free to write me, Kurt@veracityhill.com. Also, with apologetics 315, that website I’m using that, we receive a number of inquiries from that web ministry. We’re going to be filtering those questions into the podcast and integrating the Veracity Hill podcast into the Apologetics315 web site. IF you’d like to listen to the debate that David Montoya participated in, we’ve got that uploaded to our YouTube channel. Just search for Veracity Hill on Youtube. Coming up, on next week’s program, we are talking with Jim Spiegel on the virtue of openmindedness.
That does it for today’s program. I’m grateful for the continued support of our patrons and the partnerships we have with our sponsors, Defenders Media, Consult Kevin, The Sky Floor, Rethinking Hell, The Illinois Family Institute, Fox Restoration, and Non-Profit Megaphone. I want to thank our technical producer Chris and our in-studio guest, a friend of our podcast, David Montoya, for coming in and chatting about Jesus mythicism. Last but not least I want to thank you for listening in and for striving for truth on faith, politics, and society.
[NP1]Not even trying this name at 45:30