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And they say atheists are arrogant

It’s jarring traveling from Seattle to middle-of-nowhere Florida. Here the lawns are overflowing with signs proclaiming “Jesus is the reason for the season” and “Happy Birthday” Jesus. Sure, it’s their lawn. They can put up as much kitschy Christmas shit as they want. But frankly, it pisses me off for two main reasons.

1. They are blatantly wrong. This might seem petty to some, but the pursuit of truth is important to my ethics. No (EDIT: sane and unbiased) historian believes that Jesus was born in winter, let alone exactly on December 25th. The only reason we celebrate December 25th for Christmas is because Christianity was made the state religion of Rome in the 4th century, and the Pope co-opted pagan holidays that fell around that date in order to more efficiently convert the masses. The solstice was celebrated because that’s when the days started growing longer again, which meant spring (and crops) were eventually coming. That’s reason to celebrate, not because an old guy in a dumb hat is trying to convert people.

2. This isn’t just blinking lights or “Merry Christmas.” This isn’t wishing goodwill and cheer and joy to all. This is a “My holiday is the real reason we celebrate anything this season, my religion is better than yours, fuck your inferior Hanukkah and Kwanza and secular celebrations.” How fucking arrogant. Your mythological holiday isn’t superior. Go shove your “Jesus is the reason for the season” signs up your ass.

…I miss Seattle.

Comments

  1. julian says

    Christmas near Christians is always annoying. It’s like they take the smugness to a whole new level.

  2. chigau (mrmee, mrmee, mrmee) says

    If you look up “merry” in almost any dictionary, you will find the word “gay” in the definition.
    Put that on your lawn-sign.

  3. Tree says

    And there’s the straw that broke the camel’s back. I’ve decided that I’ll be packing up and moving to Seattle in the New Year. No one will be tempting me with Florida, no, not even ‘The Space Coast’.

  4. Mike Ham says

    Look at it this way…the believers are victims of a scam…you aren’t…neither am I, but freedom of expression is more important than what is being expressed.

  5. says

    Like what Mike Ham had to say but it is really worrying me that freedom of expression seems to be the right of only the brain dead who are certain that our government is benign but not those who can still think for themselves and see much evil in what is going on in Congress, the White House and SCOTUS.

  6. Nance Confer says

    Welcome to the Sunshine State. :)

    Pity those of us who live with this nonsense all year long.

    Nance

  7. Erp says

    Actually given that the birth stories are outright legends, Jesus could have been born in winter (about 25% chance) though almost certainly in Nazareth or nearby not Bethlehem; the two birth stories seem to be created in part to give the alleged messiah a birth in Bethlehem when it was common knowledge that Jesus came from Nazareth. One story, Matthew, has his family living there, fleeing to Egypt to avoid Herod and then going to Nazareth to avoid Herod’s successor. The other story has the family living in Nazareth, going to Bethlehem because of a census, going to Jerusalem for a presentation at the temple, then returning to Nazareth.

    You could always find the text of the Massachusetts law banning Christmas and post it on the lawn (just make sure the attribution to the Puritans is prominent).

  8. otrame says

    Just stick a “the axial tilt is the reason for the season” sign on your lawn. Then talk to your neighbors about setting up a pool for how many hours it exists before it is vandalized.

  9. cag says

    No historian believes that Jesus was born in winter, let alone exactly on December 25th.

    This can better be rewritten as “No sane unbiased historian believes that Jesus was born.”

  10. says

    There’s a “Keep Christ in Christmas” sign at a local Roman Catholic Church near my home. The main reason is kind of annoys me is for the reasons you stated above, and additionally, because I get the impression that many Christians don’t “keep Christ in Christmas” either. It seems weird for a church to announce this to everyone in a diverse community, when many members of their own religion don’t follow it. (Also, how many people only go to church on the holidays and don’t really care about Christ at any other time?)

  11. Mike Ham says

    I’ve been waiting for someone to point that out. There is absolutely no evidence that the historical Jesus actually lived.

  12. says

    This can better be rewritten as “No sane unbiased historian believes that Jesus was born.”

    Where’s the “Like” or “+1” button when you need one?

  13. kaorunegisa says

    Sorry. Just now picking up humanist actvism. Come back next year, I’ll see what I can do before then.

  14. J. J. Ramsey says

    Well, except for circumstantial stuff such as Paul claiming to have met James, “brother of the Lord,” or Josephus offhandedly mentioning James the brother of Jesus called Christ (note that this is not a reference to the Testimonium Flavianum). Yes, there are Jesus-mythers who try to explain this stuff away, but it comes off as a kludge.

    There’s also the matter of why one would bother have Jesus be from the no-account village of Nazareth instead of putting him in Bethlehem in the first place, which would be a cleaner fit to Old Testament prophecy. Heck, the early gospel is kind of an odd thing to make up from whole cloth if you think about it:

    “Hey, our man Jesus is the Messiah. Sure, he was killing in a horribly humiliating fashion by those that the Messiah was supposed to overthrow, but he’s going to come back Real Soon Now(TM) to do all the stuff that the Messiah is actually supposed to do. And that death, um, yeah, he meant to do that. No really, he was supposed to die for our sins. Yeah, that’s right!”

    This looks like a story made up by someone who followed a would-be Messiah named Jesus, and when things turned south, he rationalized a story about why he hadn’t backed the wrong horse.

  15. says

    Amusing correction, but still some sane unbiased historians do believe that Jesus was *born*. Just not that there were any real miracles – virgins, magi, angels, zombies in the street, stars and eclipses, resurrections etc etc. Or that Yeshua was a demi-god or whatever.

    Apocalyptic wandering Jewish preachers were pretty common at the time, it’s not an extraordinary claim. Saying “legends accreted onto an otherwise unremarkable historical figure” isn’t crazy. It’s pretty hard to tell that apart from non-existence, so historians can legitimately differ on this nuance.

    Personally I’m agnostic on the issue, but it’s possible that one day there’ll be archaeology. Menelaus and Agamemnon were once thought to be entirely legendary; now we know they existed. But we still don’t believe that their wives were hatched from eggs after their mother was raped by a god disguised as a swan.

  16. says

    I’m not trying to get into the debate on if he was born or not. I’m just remarking that there’s no information provided in the Bible that would suggest Jesus was born remotely close to December 25th.

  17. says

    Actually, most sane unbiased historians do believe, based on the evidence, that there was a Jesus. The alternative is rather implausible (as J. J. Ramsey points out). The Jesus-as-myth-from-scratch people just sound like desperate revisionists. That there was at least one rabbi/magician in first century Palestine named Yeshua who had a modest following that believed him to be the expected Messiah was almost inevitable. Such magic makers were very common at the time (so common that there’s even one other reported in Acts–Simon Magus is his name). Toss a stone and you would’ve hit one. That one such was crucified and accumulated stories of resurrection is also unsurprising. Occam’s Razor balks at notion of the myth of Jesus being constructed out of whole cloth (and in such patches!).

  18. F says

    There’s also the matter of why one would bother have Jesus be from the no-account village of Nazareth instead of putting him in Bethlehem in the first place,

    Or the completely non-existent village of Nazareth, for that matter.

  19. Tom Singer says

    Hanukkah would be just another holiday on the Jewish calendar if it didn’t happen to coincide with a major Christian holiday in a part of the world where we feel bad that Jewish kids get left out of the fun. It really is inferior to Christmas.

    I don’t know much about Kwanzaa, but I get the sense that most people that celebrate both Kwanzaa and Christmas would consider Christmas to be the more important holiday.

    Florida is awesome. I’ll take sunshine, year-round flip flops, and suffer a few Christians over whatever appeals to you about Seattle. Thanks for crapping on my state, though. That’s awesome of you.

  20. Erp says

    I have to agree. Most historians of the era (even the non-Christians) do think Jesus existed, but, that many of the stories about him are legend and/or garbled. I have yet to see a better explanation for the start of Christianity than that a wandering Jewish teacher called Jesus who was executed left behind some followers who were convinced that he wasn’t really gone (this has happened at other times, see Sabbatai Zevi though in his case they had to work with him converting to Islam instead of being executed so it didn’t take off as much [he still has followers a few centuries later]).

  21. 'Tis Himself, OM. says

    But we still don’t believe that their wives were hatched from eggs after their mother was raped by a god disguised as a swan.

    How do you know they weren’t hatched from eggs? Were you there? :-þ

  22. says

    Yeah, just saw some signs like this in my neighborhood, kinda annoying how arrogant and ignorant some people are. What they believe is mostly wrong anyways so I just say let them believe whatever nonsense they want to…

  23. 'Tis Himself, OM. says

    Not everyone is in love with Florida. You guys have huge cockroaches infesting the place. You call them “palmetto bugs” but they’re just big cockroaches.

  24. StevoR says

    FWIW, ‘Merry’ is also aptly slang for being drunk. At least here in Oz.

    Plus of course the word ‘gay’ used to mean simply happy, joyful, cheery, etc .. but then we all know that right?

  25. anat says

    There were many Jesuses. Lots of Jewish guys named Yeshua, some of whom had fathers named Joseph, some had mothers named Mary, etc. There were some that were involved in assorted acts of rebellion against the Romans. Some may have been rabbis. The gospels were written at least a generation after the time in which they were set. To the degree their contents had any basis in reality there is no reason to assume they originated in stories about a single person.

  26. says

    I used to not mind Christmas, family stuff, etc. Even put up lights in my apartment windows.

    Then the right-wing started with all of this exclusionary “war-on-Christmas” BS as just one obnoxious part of their war on all the billions of people who are not white male American conservative Christians of the right flavor.

    In much the same way that they scream about liberals starting “class warfare” when liberals happen to notice the class warfare the right has been conducting for decades, they start this shit. There was never a war on Christmas, but there is now a war OF Christmas.

    They’ve co-opted Xmas as tool in their war on liberals, on secularism, on regulation, on everyone non-white, on women, on everything.

    So I now recognize the war OF Christmas. Nobody gets wished Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays or anything by me. Cards get trashed. No cards or phone calls or greetings get sent.

    Fuck Christmas.

    Some may say this is a bit harsh, but WHY? It’s just a freaking holiday, just a made-up reason to party and eat and whatever.
    We don’t need to fight with someone else over that.

    Let the assholes have Christmas. As a bonus, it makes it easier to identify assholes.

    Me, I’m celebrating little other things. Plenty of holidays to go around.

  27. says

    Hi.
    As an former resident of Florida, I am officially qualified to reveal that Florida is a shithole.

    All of the worst aspects of American culture with none of the good ones.

    No interesting architecture, but tons of cinderblock strip malls. No historic preservation, but tons of spiffy new parking lots and corporate chains.

    Plenty of culture if your idea of culture is stripper bars and motorcycles.

    Restaurants? Well, not so many good privately-owned restaurants (except some good thai places, I’ll say that… but they’re in crappy ugly strip malls too…) but you do have a TGI Ruby AppleFridays on every fucking streetcorner.

    Hooters? Invented in Florida! Outback Steakhouse and their whole range of pre-fab eateries? Headquartered there!

    The weather is pleasant for two weeks in December. The rest of the year you go from your air-conditioned house to your air-conditioned car to drive to the air-conditioned mall or air-conditioned Chili’s for some fine dining.

    Florida is flat, would be the perfect place for biking and walking. But you can’t.
    FL has the most car-centric culture on earth. You literally are taking your life in your hands crossing the street. Many times I had people play chicken with me with their SUV when I was crossing with the walk signal… they were outraged that I would dare block their way.

    Literally impossible to use most roads with bikes, far too dangerous, and drivers WILL TRY TO HIT YOU.
    And no shoulders in most places, let alone bike lanes.

    A Humvee driver almost ran down my mother, then opened his window and screamed obscenities at her because she, a 70 year old disabled woman with a pacemaker, was walking on the sidewalk too slow for him and he had to wait a second to pull into the strip mall driveway.

    Walking I regularly had things thrown at me for no reason, and often had Floridians yell out their car windows to me as I walked on the sidewalk “get a fucking CAR!” or “Faggot!” (It’s well-known in FL that only gay people walk.)

    Absolute festering shithole. Only place I’ve ever lived where the people you see riding bicycles are on the sidewalk and usually also smoking a cigarette. That’s an odd image.

    There is some natural beauty – rapidly being obliterated and developed into more cinderblock strip malls.

    And in my town, in the most culturally diverse county in the state, the town supervisor who had had glowing reviews for a full career, was instantly fired when it was revealed she was going through male to female transition. The good citizens in the town and on the council said “Jesus would want ‘him’ fired.”

    The schools are shit, teach to the test, all that matters is the FCAT score, anoint the kids desks with holy oil to increase FCAT scores, etc.

    Sexist, racist, misogynist, tasteless, crass, rude, violent, pig-headed assholes everywhere you look.

    I also lived in Texas for a time.
    I was not a fan of Texas.

    Texas is fantastic compared to Florida.

  28. Svlad Cjelli says

    This is the third secularist post I’ve read about this today.

    How come a young blogger is more attuned to the realities of warmth and food-supply than two old ones?

  29. Svlad Cjelli says

    Was there ever really a Big Brother in Oceania? I don’t know.
    But I do know that the only plausible part is, “I used to hang around a guy with a beard.”
    Which really isn’t much of a story, and could even be accidentally true.

  30. Tom Singer says

    Florida didn’t GIVE us the Bush presidency. That’s like blaming a football loss on the last play of the game. A bunch of other states voted Republican in 2000. And 2004. Enough blame to go around.

  31. Tom Singer says

    I could address all of your points, but that’s impractical on a phone. Let me just say that, superficially, you’re right on a lot of them (and, superficially,you could apply them to just about anywhere), but if you lived here without getting beyond such a superficial impression, then you clearly weren’t trying very hard.

  32. Bob Rodriguez says

    Very cool blog post. You can take some satisfaction in knowing behind those bullshit lights and pomp and circumstance are typically miserable people stressed out with relatives they hate, bills they accruing, and stress that only Jack Daniels can release. Watching these dumbasses celebrate is like watching cage fighting.

  33. julian says

    Please don’t say evidence. There isn’t evidence for Jesus. There’s a few stories that make more sense if we assume there was a guy named Jesus who inspired a couple.

    What we “know” about Jesus comes from working backwards to figure out what kind of life, education and experience a Jew from that time period would have had.

  34. A Gould says

    I suppose it’s strictly true that “Jesus is the reason for the season”, if you define “Season” as two stat days off.

    But beyond that, I mentally file them in the same cupboard as over-bearing sports fans and leave it at that. It’s their yard, they can put whatever they want on it.

    That way, when I am feeling evil, no-one can bitch when I start putting signs on *my* lawn. :)

  35. julian says

    Which is exactly why we shouldn’t hold this stuff in. Think of how few opportunities we really have in life to point out the bs. We should cherish these moments when our blood boils as the gifts they truly are.

    Happy Holidays, everyone. And go fuck yourselves!

  36. Tom Singer says

    Ok, laptop. Architecture/historical preservation: You’re not going to get gothic NYC-style skyscrapers, because Miami and Orlando are not old cities. But check out the UF campus, for instance, for some beautiful buildings. You want history? St. Augustine. The Hemingway House in Key West is a pretty nice little tour.

    I’m pretty sure motorcycle culture counts as a culture, but it doesn’t appeal to everyone (myself included). You want to go see a show? Orlando has plenty of places to do that. So does Miami. UF, and I assume FSU, has lots of good museums.

    A lot of restaurants near me are the typical chains. But there are also plenty of Cuban and other Latin restaurants, lots of local seafood, there’s a really good German place near my house, and all the greasy spoons you care to try. Many of the restaurants at the theme parks are fantastic, although you can’t eat at those every day.

    Weather is subjective, I guess, but I like it. I certainly prefer it to DC, where I spent a year. I went camping the first weekend of December, and was perfectly comfortable. Hopefully it will be beautiful until April (although last winter was pretty damn cold). I drive to and from work for probably 8 months out of the year with the AC off. Mowing the lawn in July kind of sucks, but I prefer that to shoveling snow or not seeing the Sun all winter. Again, subjective.

    Plenty of places are bike friendly. The UF campus certainly was. The space center is, if you have access. There are lots of trails to ride. It’s admittedly tough to use a bike as transportation because there aren’t dense urban areas. And people are assholes everywhere, I guess. When I was in DC, the bikers were assholes to pedestrians. Shit rolls downhill. And I’m not sure where else you’ve lived that you don’t see people riding bikes on sidewalks. I imagine that happens pretty much everywhere that doesn’t have dedicated bike lanes.

    And you seem to put a lot of stock in biking, but there are plenty of other outdoor activities to participate in. Boating, fishing, horseback riding (Ocala is known for its horses, and there is lots of land in the middle of the state). Diving, beaches. Adventure-type stuff like zip lining. Hunting, hiking. Go to Devil’s Millhopper, tube on the Ichetucknee or any of the other natural springs. Ride dirtbikes in the Ocala National Forest.

    The rest of your complaints are accurate, but pretty generic. I imagine there are lots of towns in America where a sex change operation would get you kicked out of office. That doesn’t make it right, but it’s not unique to Florida. “Teaching to the test” is another thing that is not unique to Florida. High stakes testing, and the things that go along with it, are nationwide. And if you’re looking for assholes of various stripes, you’ll find plenty of them, in Florida and elsewhere. It sure seems like Jen and others find plenty of material from other parts of the world.

    Let me add that we have some damn fine public universities, and we launch rockets (although … :-( …). It’s not filled with high-density urban centers, but neither is most of America, and it’s hardly fair to compare all of Florida with a single large city.

    I mean, if you don’t like it, you don’t like it. But that doesn’t make it a shit hole.

  37. Beth says

    Huh. Sounds like my impression of Miami magnified on a large scale. I hated Miami. The traffic was absolutely awful and it seemed like everyone was purposely trying to be an asshole. I will never go back there if I can help it.

    The only other places I’ve been in Florida are Disney World, which doesn’t count as that is its own little country, and the Florida Keys, which again, almost count as a separate state. I did love the Keys though.

  38. Tom Singer says

    And the transsexual, Susan (originally Steve) Stanton, who was fired was hired in a similar position in another Florida community (although she was let go this month). How many towns in whatever state you live in can say that they hired an out transsexual for a prominent position? Doesn’t that make us awfully progressive?

  39. Tom Singer says

    You might try reading a little farther. Stanton was fired by Largo in 2007 after he (at the time) announced his plans to undergo sex reassignment surgery. In 2009, Stanton was hired in 2009 by the city of Lake Worth, FL to be city manager, with full knowledge that she was transgender.

    http://www.tampabay.com/news/article990520.ece

    So, what facts did I twist?

  40. says

    The account I read said Largo was 2nd, not first. Sorry that lead me to malign your statement. I lived in FL in the ’60s and liked it but is now way too conservative for me.

  41. Kevin says

    …a belated Happy Festivus to you…

    I see that you’ve already begun the Airing of the Grievances.

    I think that the whole “war on Xmas” thing is just a way for angry, small-minded, petty bigots to retain their angry, small-minded petty bigotry through a season that has traditionally been about peace and good will.

  42. Upright Ape says

    I am sure there have been plenty of Clark Kents and Bruce Waynes. But superman and batman are still mythical.

  43. says

    A friend of mine got a book of apt quotations as part of a gift exchange and regaled us all with them. One seems apt here (and my apologies if I don’t get it word-perfect):

    “If men who make love to men are gay, then women who make love to women are ecstatic.”

    Merry Christmas, one and all! :)

  44. bob42 says

    I wonder if we started spelling Hitch’s name as Xopher Hitchens if the Christians would be yelling, “Put the Christ back in Christopher!”

  45. opposablethumbs, que le pouce enragé mette les pouces says

    @Kevin #26

    just a way for angry, small-minded, petty bigots to retain their angry, small-minded petty bigotry

    I agree that drivelling fundies who complain when a company or an individual wishes anyone “happy holidays” are indeed angry, small-minded petty bigots.
    I agree that those who think one religion and one only – theirs – should get special dispensation to ride roughshod over the separation of church and state and have explicitly xian (in this case) messages or symbols erected on public property and/or with public money, and who scream offence if they are held to the same standards of compliance with the law as everyone else, are indeed angry, small-minded petty bigots.
    I agree that those who make a fuss about people wishing to celebrate the winter solstice holiday period in any way other than xian are indeed angry, small-minded petty bigots.

  46. opposablethumbs, que le pouce enragé mette les pouces says

    ETA a) sorry, I forgot there’s comment nesting here!
    and b) um, that may have come off in a way I didn’t intend – so, shorter me: I agree! :-D

    also, happy monkey / festivus / io saturnalia / yule etc.

    may the sun continue to not get eaten by wolves (in cold places) and not overdo things (in hot ones)

  47. Tom Singer says

    I don’t see how it’s concern trolling to point out that Jesus, mythical though he may be, really is the “reason for the season” in America. You don’t get a day off work because of a minor Jewish holiday, any more than you get a day off work for Ramadan or Cinco de Mayo. And let me add that I can understand how some Christians are upset that one of their major holidays has been turned into an orgy of consumerism (although given its roots in Saturnalia, I suppose it’s appropriate). In my experience, *that* is generally what people are referring to when they say things like Jesus is the reason for the season, and I’m surprised no one has brought that up.

    I’ll give you passive aggressive. I’ll try to be more direct: Florida is awesome, and if all you take from it is that there are some people who use their lawns to post a religious message, then you’re really missing out. So please stop crapping on my state.

  48. Nathair says

    Most unbiased historians might think that Jesus existed. The problem is that, if they do, they think it without the benefit of any evidence to support it. Usually, around here, we take a pretty dim view of thinking something without having any evidence to back it up or of deciding reality by popular vote, but apparently even in the skeptical atheist community many people will still give good ol’ Jesus a free pass.

    Hmm. Maybe there should have been scare quotes around “skeptical”.

  49. says

    No. Progressive is not getting fired for her transition in the first place. Tell me… would you call it progressive if a mayor was fired when it happened to come to light that she was Jewish, but some other town happened to hire her shortly thereafter (and apparently then fire her again)?

    Also generally considered poor form to use a trans person’s birth name, even parenthetically, unless it’s directly relevant.

  50. says

    P.S. I really don’t see why a trans woman having a “prominent position” should even be considered all that remarkable in the first place. And if you live somewhere where it is remarkable, well… that’s a bad sign, not a good one.

  51. Jeffrey says

    I have always wondered, upon seeing those signs/facebook posts, “Do they mean to say that winter wouldn’t exist and it wouldn’t get cold without Jesus?” :D

  52. Al Whassizname says

    Western Washington (of which Seattle is a part) is different than Florida. Down there they tan; up here we rust. Typical adaptation includes webbed toes and an appreciation of gray skies.

    Just so that you know.

  53. says

    I am so glad that I got to move away from FloriDUH… That state would always just make me physically ill in the overt religiosity and smarmy theism… I have found that I am much happier in New England where theists are at least (for the most part) respectful enough to understand that their religion is a personal thing (cue penis analogy).

  54. Tom Singer says

    I’d say the one is a shame, but the other is a hopeful sign.

    What’s the problem with using her original name? Is it a breach of privacy? I don’t think that’s an issue in this case, given that she’s a public figure, named as both in news articles, but in general? Is it just respect for her choice of a gender? Because to me, if I’m talking about something she did when she was a he, it makes sense to refer to her using the name and pronoun that was appropriate at the time.

    And I don’t know where you live that transsexuals can reasonably expect to be completely accepted public life. I don’t think that’s particularly common.

  55. says

    It’s not a privacy thing. It’s just rude. Her name is Susan. That’s who she is. There is absolutely no need to mention her prior name. Her gender status and “what she used to be” is already established by you having referred to her as transsexual. The name is irrelevant, so it’s just pointlessly throwing in an insensitive and disrespectful reference to the identity she fought to shed.

    But please, just take my word for it: we REALLY don’t like our boynames being mentioned, unless there’s a really, really, really good reason for it.

    I don’t live somewhere where trans people are totally accepted, no. There is not yet any such place. But I do live somewhere where the simple fact that a trans woman is capable of holding a good job or leadership role is regarded as some kind of huge, stunning triumph in the progress of human rights.

  56. says

    Also I’m referring to the “Susan (originally Steve)” remark, where you were speaking about her and her life in the present, after transition, not about her prior life.

  57. Jurjen S. says

    Yes, there are Jesus-mythers who try to explain this stuff away, but it comes off as a kludge.

    Well, if you already have your mind made up and don’t want to accept any arguments that would refute your pet theory, yes I suppose it would “come off a kludge”. But frankly, two incidental mentions of James supposedly being “the brother of the Lord” do not make for a particularly compelling case for a historical Jesus.

    For openers, the mention in the Antiquities book 20, chap. 9 is very probably a forgery, certainly if you accept that the Testimonium Flavianum is a forgery, which you seem to tacitly concede is at least plausible. Because otherwise we have Josephus, writing for a Roman audience unfamiliar with the concept of a messiah, nonchalantly tossing in the statement that this James guy was the brother of the Anointed One without a single word of explanation why or how that was significant. Moreover, the chapter goes on to describe how the Jews were incensed about James’ execution by stoning, and petitioned king Agrippa II and incoming Roman procurator Lucceius Albinus to dismiss Ananus from his post of high priest, as indeed he subsequently was. This is extremely incongruous if the James in question were indeed James the Just, first Christian bishop of Jerusalem and thus, by Jewish standards, an apostate. A far simpler explanation would be that we’re dealing with a different James (Ya’akov/Iakobos, an all too common name in the gospels alone) and that the bit about his being “the brother of Jesus, who is named Christ” is simply a 3rd century (or later) interpolation; or possibly the “who is named Christ” bit, given that Ananus is replaced as high priest by Jesus, the son of Damneus, so perhaps this James was the brother of that Jesus.

    And against Paul of Tarsus’ single mention of an apostle unhelpfully identified only as James, “the brother of the lord” (and there’s absolutely no agreement as to whether this James was a James mentioned in the gospels), we have Paul’s repeated instances of failing to acknowledge a mortal, Earth-bound Jesus when one might reasonably expect him to, e.g. stating in 1 Corinthians 9 his authority as an apostle rests on having seen the lord; in a vision, not in the flesh. If there had been people around who had spent an extensive amount with the Jesus incarnate (e.g. Peter and James, per Galatians 1), ought Paul not to defer to them, or at least seek their counsel? Instead, he states in Galatians, after receiving his vision:

    […] immediately I conferred not with flesh and blood, nor did I go up to Jerusalem unto those who were apostles before me, but I went away to Arabia, and again returned to Damascus, then, after three years I went up to Jerusalem to enquire about Peter, and remained with him fifteen days, and other of the apostles I did not see, except James, the brother of the Lord.

    He spends three years faffing about east of the Jordan, and only then does he seek out Peter and spend two weeks with him, during which he meets James maybe only as little as once. I think it’s safe to say Paul didn’t think he had much to learn from the people who supposedly had known Jesus personally and intimately. Maybe because he didn’t think they had, in fact, known Jesus as a human being, but only seen him in a vision much like Paul himself had.

    Heck, the early gospel is kind of an odd thing to make up from whole cloth if you think about it […]

    Well, if you subscribe to the ideas of Earl Doherty and “Ebon Musings,” the gospels weren’t made up from whole cloth: they were based on a version of events in which Jesus was a personification of a Platonic logos, an agent of the perfect deity to interact with an imperfect material realm, who took the sins of the world upon himself and cleansed them by dying by crucifixion, to be subsequently resurrected to act as the judge of humankind at the end of time. But this whole version of events occurred in a spiritual realm, not on Earth (which would explain why Paul’s experience of Jesus was equal to that of Peter or James). Thus, the gospels merely transposed the existing story from the setting of this spiritual realm to Earth, and filled in the gaps with embellishments, adapted in the case of each gospel to make whoever was Christianity’s primary enemy at the time of writing look like the villain.

  58. Tom Singer says

    She was a man when she was fired. If you were looking for info, it makes sense to look for her under the name she was using at the time. But I can see your point, and I’ll respect it when there’s not a need for the info.

  59. Mike says

    When I was in middle- or maybe high-school I once had a neighbor kid ask me, “Why is it snowing when it isn’t Jesus’ birthday yet?”

    Years later he would get arrested for breaking and entering.

    Into a cop’s house.

    While the cop was home.

    I hated that little kid.

  60. J. J. Ramsey says

    For openers, the mention in the Antiquities book 20, chap. 9 is very probably a forgery, certainly if you accept that the Testimonium Flavianum is a forgery, which you seem to tacitly concede is at least plausible. Because otherwise we have Josephus, writing for a Roman audience unfamiliar with the concept of a messiah, nonchalantly tossing in the statement that this James guy was the brother of the Anointed One without a single word of explanation why or how that was significant.

    That nonchalantness works against you rather than for you. Take the Testimonium Flavianum, for example. Its lack of nonchalantness, the flattering way that it describes Jesus, is what gives it away as a forgery. The fact that Josephus appears to toss out a reference to James in a very neutral fashion, as if he were of minor consequence, is far more in character for Josephus.

    Moreover, the chapter goes on to describe how the Jews were incensed about James’ execution by stoning

    Actually, it says that “as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done.” In other words, the upset was due to the breach of laws, a matter already foreshadowed when Josephus mentioned that Ananus was “insolent,” not about who was killed.

    A far simpler explanation would be that we’re dealing with a different James (Ya’akov/Iakobos, an all too common name in the gospels alone) and that the bit about his being “the brother of Jesus, who is named Christ” is simply a 3rd century (or later) interpolation; or possibly the “who is named Christ” bit, given that Ananus is replaced as high priest by Jesus, the son of Damneus, so perhaps this James was the brother of that Jesus.

    There’s a problem with this explanation. Here’s a partial quote of the passage:

    Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned: but as for those who seemed the most equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws, they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king [Agrippa], desiring him to send to Ananus that he should act so no more, for that what he had already done was not to be justified; nay, some of them went also to meet Albinus, as he was upon his journey from Alexandria, and informed him that it was not lawful for Ananus to assemble a sanhedrim without his consent. Whereupon Albinus complied with what they said, and wrote in anger to Ananus, and threatened that he would bring him to punishment for what he had done; on which king Agrippa took the high priesthood from him, when he had ruled but three months, and made Jesus, the son of Damneus, high priest.

    If the “who was called Christ” is struck out and this Jesus is supposed to be “the son of Damneus,” then Josephus has neglected to identify who this Jesus is until the end of the paragraph, which is odd since (1) that’s not Josephus’ style and (2) Jesus is a common name and just referring to a “Jesus” without a “brother of”, “son of”, etc., would be ambiguous.

  61. Jurjen S. says

    (I don’t seem to be able to respond directly to J.J. Ramsey, so it’ll have to go here.)

    J.J. Ramsey wrote:

    That nonchalantness works against you rather than for you. Take the Testimonium Flavianum, for example. Its lack of nonchalantness, the flattering way that it describes Jesus, is what gives it away as a forgery.

    To paraphrase Tolstoy, “genuine documents are all alike; every forgery is fake in its own way.” In other words, the fact that the Testimonium Flavianum is fake doesn’t mean every (or even any) other forgery needs to be written in the same style. Point remains that, taking it as read the Testimonium Flavianum is a forgery, the mention in Antiquities 20.9.1 of Jesus “who is named Christ” is the only one in the entire work. Again, Josephus was writing primarily for a Roman audience (he was sponsored by Vespasian, after all), and it seems highly incongruous for him to just toss out the Christ thing without bothering to explain what that even meant. As you yourself point out, it’s uncharacteristic for Josephus to delay providing identifying information; how much more uncharacteristic must it then be to omit it altogether? One way or the other, we have an incongruity, and given that there are no surviving copies of the Antiquities that predate the 10th century, it is entirely possible that not only is the passage an interpolation, but the forger (not too harsh a term, IMO) also deleted the original clause of identifying information.

    Okay, so my suggestion that perhaps the interpolation was limited to “who is named Christ” doesn’t hold up. It was only a suggestion, based on a possible explanation that the forger came across a reference to a James, brother of a Jesus, and (accepting the gospels as, well, gospel) jumped to the conclusion that the Iesous this particular Iacobos was a brother of was the Iseous “who is named Christ,” as opposed to some other Iesous. (It’s worth noting in this context that the phrase “who is named Christ” is, in the original Koine, worded identically to the phrase in Matthew 1:6, except for the use of the genitive case.) But maybe there was no reference to a Iesous in the sentence to begin with.

    Bottom line is, if we accept the Testimonium Flavianum is a false interpolation, added at a later date (which, to the best of my understanding, is the commonly accepted interpretation), we therefore know the Antiquities have been messed with. If one of the two references to Jesus Christ is fake, we have zero reason to assume the other is genuine without evidence to that effect. Gospel-tinted conjecture does not constitute that evidence.

  62. J. J. Ramsey says

    Again, Josephus was writing primarily for a Roman audience (he was sponsored by Vespasian, after all), and it seems highly incongruous for him to just toss out the Christ thing without bothering to explain what that even meant.

    If the point was mainly to distinguish the Jesus who was the brother of James from the Jesus who was the son of Damneus, then there’s no need to get into detail about what “Christ” means. Indeed, if there had been a digression at that point on that topic, that would be a sign of interpolation.

    Look, I don’t want to get into another drawn-out Internet argument over this, especially since that wasn’t the point of the opening post. I’ll just say that your attempts to argue that the James reference in Josephus is forged highlight why the experts’ consensus is that the reference is genuine.

  63. says

    “I’m not trying to get into the debate on if he was born or not. I’m just remarking that there’s no information provided in the Bible that would suggest Jesus was born remotely close to December 25th.”

    Which is exactly why you shouldn’t discuss the Bible.

    How many times can you get things wrong?

    You’re kinda’ approaching the full gamut here.

    Anyone that quotes a Huff Post Canada cultural critic who has no idea that her own proof points originate from Herbert W. Armstrong sympathizers and some his non-Christian breakaways.

    Ask your bud PZ Myers about Plain Truth Magazine and what type of credence he would assign Armstrong’s followers and their pap. Your cultural critic (Kirsten West Savali) ain’t too critical—of her sources. The need for attention, and the need to denounce, should always supplant the facts.

    Pope Telesphorus, in the year 130, ordered that the Feast of the Nativity be held on December 25. This pope also instituted Christmas Midnight Masses, the celebration of Easter on Sundays, regardless of the day it actual fell on in a particular year, and a seven week Lent preceding Easter.

    In 221 AD, Sextus Julius Africanus, in “Chronologia”, wrote that the early Christian community celebrated Christmas on December 25.

    And Sol Invictus festival first appeared in 274AD, so yeah, Christians patterned the date of the Christmas festival after SI…140years before it existed!

    And from Catholic Fr. Tom Wilson:

    “…Gabriel’s announcement to Mary that she would bear Jesus (Lk 1:26-38). Gabriel also announces to Mary that Elizabeth has conceived…and is in her sixth month who was once called barren (Lk 1:36).

    If Elizabeth is in her sixth month (from late September) at the Annunciation, than the conception of Jesus is March 25. If the conception of Jesus is on March 25, then His birth is on December 25, the day we celebrate Christmas. If Elizabeth is in her sixth month in late March, then John is born in late June.

    Liturgically, we celebrate the Annunciation on March 25, the birth of John the Baptist on June 24, and the birth of Jesus on December 25, with all of these events corresponding to the events and de facto time frame recorded in Scripture. The celebration of Christmas is not primarily driven by the winter solstice, although it provides a beautiful backdrop that the Light of the World is born at the darkest time of the year.”

  64. tamaratemple says

    I haven’t seen anyone mention this, so I thought maybe I would. When those funny people say “Jesus is the reason for the season” — they don’t mean winter. They mean their very own, special Christmas season, in which they assume everyone has the Christmas Spirit or they get butt-hurt when someone says something like “It’s not my holiday.” So, not climatological or earth-tilt season; very own Special Season.

  65. says

    There are actually a number of details like that to take into consideration. That may be a great point to bring up. I offer the thoughts above as basic inspiration however clearly there are questions like the one you carry up where an important thing can be working in honest good faith. I don?t know if greatest practices have emerged around issues like that, however I’m positive that your job is clearly recognized as a fair game. Each girls and boys really feel the impression of just a second’s pleasure, for the rest of their lives.

  66. Diomasach says

    Yes, but March is lambing season because it is the beginning of spring, not because it is March. This is important becuase December was not always a winter month.

    Due to a phenomenon known as precession, the seasons are gradually shifting, and change places roughly every 10,000 years. So 10,000 years from now us here in Seattle will be getting snow in July and sun in January.

    Ergo, if you go back 2000 years you are looking at the effect of a little more than 2 months precession and December = February so late December would be pretty close to March.

    Got it?

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  68. says

    And they say atheists are arrogant | Blag Hag I was suggested this blog by my cousin. I’m not sure whether this post is written by him as no one else know such detailed about my problem. You are amazing! Thanks! your article about And they say atheists are arrogant | Blag HagBest Regards Justin

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