Three New Videos


My Huntsville debate with David Marshal can now be viewed online (Is the Christian Faith Reasonable?) as can my Raleigh talk on the literary study of the Gospels (Why the Gospels Are Myth: The Evidence of Genre and Content) and my Greensboro talk on the historicity of Jesus (Why I Think Jesus Didn’t Exist: A Historian Explains the Evidence That Changed His Mind), which is a double-length expansion of my briefer summary at Madison last year (So…if Jesus Didn’t Exist, Where Did He Come from Then?). All three talks summarize material that will appear in my next book, On the Historicity of Jesus Christ.

The debate, meanwhile, was something organized separately. It was a decisive win. I thought that might be because Marshal was too honest. He didn’t have any real rebuttal to my case to offer, and wasn’t willing to invent one (and had no bag of tricks to manipulate the audience with either). But as his subsequent blog commentaries show, he doesn’t seem to know what he’s talking about anyway. As John Loftus reports, Dr. Hector Avalos told David Marshall, “I’ve seen your debate with Carrier, in which you were clearly outmatched intellectually, theologicaly, historically, and scientifically.” Loftus concurs: “Having seen it myself I agree.” As one might expect, Marshall has been writing a blog series in a desperate attempt to salvage something from the debate, yet just skimming all that I find it full of weird factual errors and yet more logical fallacies and irrelevancies. I’m honesty not even sure it’s worth replying to.

 

Comments

  1. jim green says

    David Marshall comes on Amazon sometimes and brags about his wins and that some will not debate him.

    Last year.

    He wasn’t able to hold his own on Amazon forum threads.

    Which I told him among others.

    I told him people would not debate him because he just was not up to par.

    But if someone is paying, why not debate him.

    I hope you got paid.

  2. Sili says

    On the subject of the gospels, do you have Joel Watts new book on mimetic criticism of Mark?

    He thinks Dennis MacDonald has (some of) the right idea, but has chosen the wrong hypotext – according to Watts Homer did not present a pertinent example for emulation. His suggestion is that Lucan is the inspiration.

    I haven’t read the book through yet. I’ve only just finished the introductory matters. But I don’t much care for Watts’ style. He has little of the clarity of MacDonald and Goodacre. Or for that matter Pervo. And his attempt to play around and show in his own text how mimesis works is very annoying, since I cannot tell what is deliberate ‘wrongness of language’ in emulation of Lucan and Mark and what is just poor editing.

    So far the most amusing bit has been finding Ben Witherington indexed under III. (Not familiar with the man, but I don’t think I’ve ever read so scathing remarks about an author as those Pervo uses about Witherington.)

    • says

      No, I haven’t heard of Watts’ thesis. Reading his review of Winn, however, it sounds like Watts doesn’t argue that Mark emulated Lucan, but that Mark’s emulation technique is similar to Lucan’s. But your description of his latest book sounds like he is going beyond that and even arguing for emulation of Lucan? Strange, since Lucan is a Latin author.

    • Sili says

      There certainly seems to be an argument that Mark has copied Lucan in using rough and broken grammar and language. Apparently a major part of the thesis is, that Mark is fighting on two fronts against Messianic pretenders: in Jerusalem, the followers of the ‘martyred’ Simon ben Giora, and in Rome, Vespasian proclaimed by Josephus.

      I was surprised by the description of The Jewish War. I hadn’t realised it was essentially contemporary with Mark even proceding it. Secondly, I had thought after reading Mason, that Josephus had a fairly limited audience of Roman god-fearers and other people already well-disposed towards the Jews. That he should have played a major propaganda role, and been distributed throughout the Empire soon after publication was news to me.

      Watts, incidentally, doesn’t like you very much – or at least not your work. There are a couple of barbed remarks about unnamed people trying to apply maths to history. But he’s been gracious enough to include you in the bibliography.

    • says

      There certainly seems to be an argument that Mark has copied Lucan in using rough and broken grammar and language. Apparently a major part of the thesis is, that Mark is fighting on two fronts against Messianic pretenders: in Jerusalem, the followers of the ‘martyred’ Simon ben Giora, and in Rome, Vespasian proclaimed by Josephus.

      There is truth to that (e.g. the Barabbas story is a parable against militaristic messianism, and I suspect [but cannot prove] a similar message is intended by the triad of Simon of Cyrene and his sons, which I’ll explain in OHJC), but that doesn’t support a Lucan emulation hypothesis. Nor would a stylistic argument, since stylistic similarity does not entail influence or emulation.

      Watts, incidentally, doesn’t like you very much – or at least not your work. There are a couple of barbed remarks about unnamed people trying to apply maths to history. But he’s been gracious enough to include you in the bibliography.

      I always find it amusing when someone attempts what is a nakedly probability-dependent argument (like that Mark was influenced by and/or emulating Lucan) and then insists no one can apply maths to history. They are only refuting themselves.

    • says

      Apparently a major part of the thesis is, that Mark is fighting on two fronts against Messianic pretenders: in Jerusalem, the followers of the ‘martyred’ Simon ben Giora, and in Rome, Vespasian proclaimed by Josephus.

      Spur of the moment thought here; does this relate to the “Render unto Caesar” story? I’ve always thought of it as a story arguing for non-aggression against the Romans, but might it also have the subtext of “sure, there’s the emperor, but don’t be so foolish as tho think he’s god”?
      I.e. it’s not so much that you should give to Caesar what is Caesar’s (gold/material wealth), but more importantly, you shouldn’t give to Caesar what rightfully belongs to god (worship).

      Am I barking up the wrong tree?

    • says

      Sort of. That is certainly already the sub-text. The Judas revolt decades before was partly based on the notion that accepting Imperial rule was tantamount to paying tribute to two gods, which was idolatry; but that is precisely why the Jews are supposedly cornering Jesus here, because they already regard paying a tax with a coin that declares the man on it god (as coins then typically did) to be idolatry. So Jesus didn’t have to teach them that. He had to find a way around it. Hence there is more going on in this tale. It is more likely a post-hoc defense of the command of Paul in Romans 13:6-7, attempting to justify what Paul said in light of the fact that paying a tax with a coin that declares the man on it god feels like idolatry.

      Indeed, I suspect it’s actually a veiled reference (or even deliberate response) to the redirected temple tax after the Jewish War: the tribute that was owed the temple every year by faithful Jews was then commanded to be paid to Rome instead, which was a major slap in the face. The pronouncement Mark puts on the lips of Jesus simultaneously defuses that outrage and condemns the Jews who reject Christ, who don’t understand that (as you rightly suspect) God is owed something other than money (whereas in the actual time Jesus would have been saying this, God was owed a deposit of an annual coin–and although certainly not a denarius, that still would have made Jesus’ pronouncement here confusing, since he seems to be distinguishing the rendering of money to a false god from rendering faith to the true god, whereas at the time one rendered money to both). On all this, see here.

      Either way, notably, we can be reasonably sure Jesus never said this. On the second theory, this saying was invented after 70 AD, and on the first, it was certainly invented after the death of Jesus (if such there was). This is clear enough from the fact that Paul is completely unaware that Jesus said this, in a passage where he is advocating it, in a letter so near the end of his career it’s impossible he couldn’t have heard of Jesus saying something so elegant and authoritative on the point.

  3. says

    Hi Richard,

    I was at your Raleigh talk earlier this year and talked briefly with you. Over at the Debunking Christianity site, Harry MaCall has posted an extensive list of 295 sacred Jewish and Christian texts not included in any canon, yet dated around the time jesus, or the Jesus legend, was being established and given meaning among the many factions.

    My questions to you is about your argument that the chiastic structures and inclusios (spelling?), are that first century fisherman couldn’t have written this advanced in the Greek, or with this literary prouis. Looking over Harry’s list, I’m wondering if many of those books where also written in Greek originally and if they also possess chiastic structures and inclisios? This, combined with the fact hat many, if not all, early literature from this time period used these structures, how is it established that the originals where likely in Greek, and due to the fact that the way even historical literature was written in that era, and how do you support your assertion?

    I’m trying to understand the argument from an objective point of view. As someone who recently left the faith and attended conservative seminary, I was fascinated to find about the chiastic structure and the obvious lack of chronology or multi-layered contradictions about Jesus life, sayings and miracles because of this structure. It’s interesting, but looking for you to answer some of the apologetic assertions against this ( fishermen where likely smart business men with language abilities, could have hired scribes, would have sought to write in the style of the day etc).

    Thanks,

    Christian

    • says

      I doubt there are 295 texts dated to the first half of the first century. Maybe that many dated from 200 BC to 200 AD, but that’s a pretty wide window. As to the literary practices across so many works, I neither know nor have the time to find out, nor see any value in checking. As to whether a work existed originally in Greek or some other language, that’s a complex question requiring case-by-case analysis. As to why we conclude the NT was all originally in Greek, it’s because it uses the Greek OT instead of newly translating the Hebrew of the OT and often in fact relies on the Greek OT for its points and assumptions and wordplays (among other evidence, discussed in the literature on the language of the Gospels, for example).

      As to the “illiterate fishermen could have done this” argument, there is simply no basis for thinking that. Ehrman dispatches that nonsense well enough in his book Forged. But a crucial background demonstration of its absurdity follows from any close read of Harris’ Ancient Literacy.

  4. EmmaZunz says

    Cheers for the links, Richard. Good job.

    Did not know about the Revelation of Moses where Adam is buried in “paradise … the third heaven”. That is curious.

    Just one issue I have… I feel you are a bit too dismissive of Earl Doherty’s books, given that so much of what you say is actually based on his work. I don’t know if you make clear enough how much you owe him.

    I have read your reviews and a lot of what you have said about him. I understand your points. I just think you don’t put across his achievement like it deserves.

    Best wishes

    • says

      Doherty is always at the top of my list of recommended reading on the theory. Indeed, I have mentioned it nearly every time I have ever discussed this theory, in print or podcast.

  5. duce7999 says

    On your debate with David Marshal (“Is the Christian Faith Reasonable?“) I noticed that you had excess time on 2 occasions during the debate. I hope I don’t presume too much when I suggest that a good way to deal with this is to request that the moderator place the remainder of your time towards Q&A. I just think it is a classy way to handle the situation. Great job by the way. I enjoyed it greatly.

    • says

      I don’t think that would have been necessary. I felt adequately represented in Q&A and wouldn’t have needed any additional time there. Plus, this wasn’t parliamentary debate. Our agreed rules thus did not allow reserving time like that.

  6. says

    Richard: Thank you for the compliment, and I do try to be honest, but you are mostly mistaken. The debate was, I think, a draw. You failed entirely to answer my three arguments, dismissing two of them on spurious grounds, and almost completely misunderstanding the third. Meanwhile, you are right that I answered your own argument poorly, partly because I do feel its force (one can find a certain belief reasonable, even overwhelmingly so, yet also recognize the weight of contrary arguments), partly through lack of expertise in that field, and partly by sheer gaff — I left my “Problem of Pain” notes on the table. Also, of course, it is impossible to answer that question in five minutes, at least for me.

    Avalos and Loftus should not be taken as objective judges. The first takes my arguments personally, for reasons I need not get into. The second is also rather sore at me for giving his last book a mostly thumbs-down review (though we generally get along). And both are, of course, deeply committed to your position.

    What is really weird (or at least enlightening) is that the best parallels to the gospels you could come up with were Golden Ass, Apollonius of Tyana, Life of Romulus, and Book of Tobit. As I show, this not only discredits your argument badly, it also furnishes powerful evidence not just for the historicity, but for the general historical accuracy, of the gospels.

    I have now posted the transcript of our opening talkings and first rebuttals, along with the blog series you refer to above. I’ll try to post the rest of the debate within the next few weeks. As I said, please do let me know if you find any errors in the transcript.

    This has nothing to do with “desperation” or a “salvage” job of some sort on my part. As I said, I agreed strongly with your comment that a debate should just be the beginning of the work of intellectual exploration. I find your critique of Christianity intellectually interesting — in some ways, that is a polite way to put it, but I do respect some aspects of your work — and therefore find your arguments a useful foil. Neither desperation nor disrespect should be read into that: these are big issues, and merit closer study.

    • says

      You failed entirely to answer my three arguments, dismissing two of them on spurious grounds, and almost completely misunderstanding the third.

      I don’t think you understand how debates work. Once I demonstrate a fallacy in an argument, that argument is rebutted. It’s done. You can try to recover it with a new, non-fallacious argument, but you never did. Thus, by the way debates are scored, you lost. Badly.

      It was your job to “re-explain” in the debate any argument I “misunderstood.” I think that charge is spurious (you are Monday-morning-quarterbacking yourself here), but even if it were true, if you don’t recover a crucial lost point in the debate, you lose the debate. That’s how it works.

      Moreover, you never successfully rebutted any of my arguments, and as such, your arguments stood rebutted by them. Indeed, as anyone can see who watches the debate, I demonstrated that the Christian faith is not reasonable. And you failed to present any logically valid argument to the contrary.

      Sorry, but that’s what happened.

      What is really weird (or at least enlightening) is that the best parallels to the gospels you could come up with were Golden Ass, Apollonius of Tyana, Life of Romulus, and Book of Tobit. As I show, this not only discredits your argument badly, it also furnishes powerful evidence not just for the historicity, but for the general historical accuracy, of the gospels.

      This is an example of someone not understanding an argument. In this case, you not understanding mine.

      But if we had debated your “fifty criteria” (you didn’t, so that’s moot) on this matter, I would have shown how illogical your criteria are, and how divorced they are from how historians actually reason. Indeed, my book Proving History already provides enough information for anyone to expose what’s wrong with every point you make there. But in any case, those weren’t points you made in the debate. You can’t discredit me for not answering points you didn’t make. That’s dirty pool.

      As I said, I agreed strongly with your comment that a debate should just be the beginning of the work of intellectual exploration.

      I welcome that.

      But you still have to get the facts and logic right.

    • GrzeTor says

      David – you misunderstood what should be changed. Hint: It’s not your argumentation.

      You sell a product/service called Christianity. In a normal world, when a product fails as much as your did in this debate then what typically do is to introduce an improved product version 2.0, that solves main problems that were plaguing the original one. Version 2.0 is usually much better, but still needs improvement. So you go with version 3.0, then 4.0, each eliminating weaknesses and adding new exciting features to the product, perhaps with some in-between versions like 2.5, 3.5 for eliminating minor inconveniences.

      So it follows, that after Richard exposed severe problems with your product, you should improve it, make a new version N+1 with major changes. The biggest weakness of your product, as shown by Richard, is in this concept of god, as well as the concept of supernatural. To improve your product you must get rid of them. You can then fill the resultant empty space with topics that were shown to be important in the debate, like morality.

      The other aspect that compromise your product is what I am showing in this post. For things to be good they need a reliable, constant process of improvement, of the type I described at the beginning of this post. It looks like this whole concept of god (and supernatural) and reliance on it prevents such process from existing – it prevents you from fixing “word of god”, even if you are shown they are wrong, as in the debate with Richard. You have to wait for revelation to do this, and it desn’t come – because of the problems with this concepts of god and supernatural. So the additional benefit of getting rid of this whole concepts of god and supernatural is that you can actually make Christianity better then!

      It means in a sense you are right that there should be an aftermath to the debate. But it should not be just another, written debate, but actual improvements in your ideology, a necessary component of them being getting rid of this whole concepts of god and supernatural from it.

  7. says

    Thanks for your reply.

    If I understand some your assertion, which I think is interesting and compelling, it goes like this:

    the complex chiastic structure and use of inclusio are further evidence that the authors of the gospels mythologized the stories contained therin.

    Some apologetic response to this might be: “It is fallacy to apply the Chiasmic-equals-myth argument in almost every instance. If this rule applies, even remotely, then we lose the vast majority of our historic texts.

    It leads us to question the historicity of Alexander the great, and many others. It is well recognized that Josephus employed Chiasmis in his second book “The Judean Antiquities”. Tacitus also used it (Tacitus 318).

    You would be hard pressed to find an ancient writer who didn’t use the literary devices of their day. And, for the vast majority, chiastic writing was the device of choice.”

    Could you address this counter argument?

    • says

      Yes, on the one hand it’s a cumulative case argument (literary artifice, the more it is used, increases the probability of fabrication, it does not guarantee it–and, BTW, this includes historians like Tacitus and Josephus, who include a lot of myth in their histories). But more importantly is not that literary artifice was used, but how it was used. That is what makes a use mythographic. I discuss this in the video, several times, e.g. I use the example of Suetonius to illustrate what literary artifice in the writing of history looks like that differs from literary artifice in the writing of myth. I give other examples in the talk of how the use of artifice can have, and in the Gospels routinely has, hallmarks of myth. Hence the mere fact of literary artifice is not sufficient, it’s the addition of other attributes (which indicate how that artifice was constructed and deployed) that render it myth.

  8. bleepbloop says

    The ending with the Muslim woman was perfect. I started losing it as soon as she went “the prophet Jesus was not divine.” Surely, Loftus must have particularly liked that bit.

  9. GrzeTor says

    From your debate with David Marshall, your words “we don’t really know for example wheter the supernatural exists”. Are you sure that modern physics doesn’t actually exclude the possibility of a supernatural?

    Example talk “From Particles to People” by Sean Carrol on the subject (interesting conclusions in the middle):

    • says

      I believe the evidence renders the supernatural extraordinarily unlikely. That’s the most we can now say. Although it is essentially what Carrol says. And it’s essentially what I argued in the debate (extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence).

    • GrzeTor says

      When you look at physics before 20-th centaury it was about how some phenomena works (eg. gravity in case of Newton) without excluding that there is something else out there, another yet unknown forces (eg. electromagnetism discovered after Newton).

      Modern physics, starting from 20-th centaury onwards, is not only about discovering, it is about excluding what is and what can be and happen. Relativity theory excluded object with mass moving faster than light. Quantum mechanics started from much more severe exclusions – for example (Wikipedia):

      “In physics, a quantum (plural: quanta) is the minimum amount of any physical entity involved in an interaction. Behind this, one finds the fundamental notion that a physical property may be “quantized,” referred to as “the hypothesis of quantization”.[1] This means that the magnitude can take on only certain discrete values”

      Then you have Heisenbergs uncertainty principle, which again says what is impossible in the realm of accuracies of measurments.

      So basically from the stat it created an area of allowed values, and thus excluded any other values than these. Basically saying they don’t exist…

      Sean Carroll’s presentation describes yet more modern state of physics, and it is obvious that this trend in physics of describing what is the set of the only permissible values, states etc., while holding anything other as impossible, not existing only intensified since the exclusions started. In the context of this thread the most interesting part of physics he described is quantum filed theory, which has described what fields, in the set of fields with properties affecting us, do exist, and which don’t exist. It follows that there are no supernatural fields (forces)! At least at the strenghts and distances that we as humans perceive. Within those boundries every field is already discovered (eg. elecromagnetic, gravitaitional) and described.

      That means that you are either with quantum field theory (possibly the best proven theory in science) and against classic supernatural (life after death, levitation, soul, etc.) or you are with classic supernatural and against quantum field theory, or you are just internally inconsistent, holding two incompatible views at once, or you go with ignorant – not learning about quantum field theory.

      I wouldn’t be surprised if christians go with the inconsistent option. After all Christianity has been inconsistent for a long time. Lilke having 4 gospels with a lot of information in one contradicting the other… Muslims (at least deeply believing ones) on the other hand are more likely to go with against option, as they seem to value consistency with their beliefs more than truth etc.

      There’s also another option related to god of the gaps concept. As you saw from Sean’s presentation there’s still something to disover among fields that are very weak, work on very small distances etc. People can put god out there. (Eg. Ken Miller and quantum fluctuations).

      So it seems that “classic supernatural” is already disproven by modern physics, while overall, generalized supernatural has still some niches to hide – should we call it “quantum supernatural”?

    • says

      Generally you’re correct, except that I see no validity to the distinction you make between pre- and post- 1900 physics. Newton also excluded (quite a lot of theories of gravity, in fact, as well as quite a lot of theories of motion–Aristotle’s laws of motion, most infamously). And Relativity also “was about how some phenomena works,” again gravity. Relativity “fixed” errors in Newton–things, ironically, Newton excluded, not realizing it, Einstein put back in, such as the effects of different inertial frames and the equivalence of gravity and acceleration under a force. We thus knew so much better how gravity worked we could make new predictions and explain previously inexplicable data (e.g. the strange behavior of the orbit of Mercury, which Newton’s explanation of gravity couldn’t account for). And so on.

      Thus, science almost always adds and excludes at the same time. And if it ever does one without the other, there is no discernible historical pattern as to when.

  10. Koray says

    In your UNCG talk you mention of the existence of copies/versions in heaven of earthly things. Is this notion encountered anywhere in Judaism? I hadn’t heard of it before, and it made me think of the Koran (which is, according to itself, merely a recitation of the original tablets that are in heaven).

    Speaking of heaven, it is quite curious to hear apologists insist on things like that brother in the “brother of the Lord” is literally a biological brother, or “son of God”, etc., while nobody is quite keen on interpreting “heaven” equally literally.

    I think your Roswell analogy resonates with people, and you may want to add more examples.

    • says

      Is this notion encountered anywhere in Judaism?

      Extensively. It’s in the Dead Sea Scrolls, appears in the Testament of Abraham and the Revelation of Moses, is argued in detail by Paul’s Jewish contemporary Philo of Alexandria, and is just an extension of the concept already appearing in Exodus 25:40.

  11. peter87 says

    I really enjoyed the myth lecture. My question is about how these myths were received by readers. Did they recognise them for what they were, and were they supposed to? I read in Eusebius when he was discussing Papias “Papias reproduces other stories communicated to him by word of mouth, together with some other unknown parables and teachings of the Saviour, and other things of a more allegorical character” (39:11). Is this “allegorical character” bit an example of Papias also engaging in myth-making (or passing on myths that he heard elsewhere) and Eusebius recognising this?

    • says

      Did they recognise them for what they were, and were they supposed to?

      Since we have no literature discussing this from when the myths were first being formed and propagated (second half of the first century), we can’t claim to know. But there are hints that the commonplace principle of double meaning was used (this is evident in Origen, and was common in other religions of the time): select higher ranking persons were told the truth and expected to understand the hidden meanings accordingly, while the hoi polloi were expected to take the literal meaning on faith. I say something about this, albeit only on the subject of the nature of the resurrection, here.

      Is this “allegorical character” bit an example of Papias also engaging in myth-making (or passing on myths that he heard elsewhere) and Eusebius recognising this?

      It’s unclear if Eusebius means Papias said that or that this is what Eusebius is concluding. Because Eusebius goes on to say Papias was a profoundly stupid man who didn’t understand half of what he reported. So we can reach no conclusion about Papias (except that he does seem to be a naive literalist), and his sources may have been allegorists he didn’t understand in some cases, and literalists who were lying (or passing on lies) in other cases. We do know that there were many Christian intellectuals (Origen most explicitly; likewise Paul, e.g. Gal. 4) who were allegorists. But like the Jews before them (e.g. Philo), they could salad-bar their allegorism: choose some elements or stories to be literally true, others only allegorically true, and others still as mixed amounts of both, however they needed or preferred. And as Origen reports, they could even assert different positions depending on what audience they were speaking to.

      In general, almost all evidence relating to allegorism was erased by the Christian church (either destroyed or simply not preserved), and what little was preserved only was because it also supported the then-party-line (e.g. Origen supports literalism just enough to get a pass, although a lot of his works were destroyed or altered: e.g. here and the item following it, which I also linked to above; likewise Irenaeus discusses a variety of allegorists as heretics, but of course he himself is arguing against them in most cases).

  12. allan says

    Richard, the apologists (probably aping WLC) often slip in the notion of a ‘disembodied mind’. As in ‘abstract objects or disembodied minds’. This is part of their Kalam argument where they go from disembodied mind to god. I’m always astonished that they get away with the idea that a ‘disembodied mind’ is a meaningful concept. It seems to me that there is zero evidence that a disembodied mind can exist Have you any thoughts on the validity of using this kind of concept in an argument. The argument seems very circular. Surely if you accept the idea of a disembodied mind (presumably something beyond physical laws) it’s a very small step to god.

  13. ThisCannotBeTheFuture says

    Richard,

    Wouldn’t you prefer to debate people in more of a “discussion-debate” style if possible? I watched your debate with Mike Licona from ayear ago or so and really liked the long exchange where ideas can quickly be rebutted, explored, etc.

    I’ve felt for a long time that one of William Lane Craig’s greatest advantages is the format of the debate where he’s allowed to use rhetorical devices like thousands of name-drops, assertions that can’t always be answered, etc. In a discussion-debate I don’t think he would be as impressive.

    • says

      Yes, I prefer those debates. In fact, I even more prefer written debates (since that allows fact-checking). But I don’t arrange debates. And the debate organizers choose the format–indeed, very often my opponent chooses the format, and I only ensure that what they propose is fair.

  14. wharfedale says

    jesus REPLIED to peter

    And Peter answering said to him, ‘Explain to us this simile.’ 16And Jesus said, ‘Are ye also yet without understanding? 17do ye not understand that all that is going into the mouth doth pass into the belly, and into the drain is cast forth? 18but the things coming forth from the mouth from the heart do come forth, and these defile the man; 19for out of the heart come forth evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, whoredoms, thefts, false witnessings, evil speakings: 20these are the things defiling the man; but to eat with unwashen hands doth not defile the man.’

    are there scientific findings which establish link between food and thought process?
    i remember i heard that their are certain proteins in foods which can cause thoughts, which according to jesus would be evil .

  15. Sili says

    Something entirely off topic:

    Can you recommend translations of Josephus and Philo for those of us who have no Greek, and would like to check out quotations in context?

    • says

      The most convenient (and amazingly complete and affordable) translation of the extant works of Philo is the Yonge edition. There may be advantages to the Loeb Classics translations, but they are neither complete (hardly even close) nor affordable (altogether).

      For Josephus, the easiest to use are simply the old Whiston & Niese translations, which are available online for free at Perseus (go here and search for “Josephus” and make sure you enter the English version of each title under his name). Those suffer the defect of being very outdated and thus occasionally take liberties. If you want something more reliable, the Loeb Classics editions are the best you’ll get by way of complete collections (see list here), but those are expensive (especially considered altogether) and still outdated (these are still the old Thackeray translations, which is two centuries more recent than Whiston, but we are nearly a century more recent than Thackeray!). I am unaware of anything better, though. Steve Mason is slowly working on producing new translations, with modern commentaries, but he is a long way from done, and the books in that series are almost instantly out of print and cost in the hundreds of dollars apiece (e.g. Against Apion and Life). So, basically useless.

    • moarscienceplz says

      and still outdated … but we are nearly a century more recent than Thackeray!

      That’s interesting! Are they outdated because modern readers are at risk of misunderstanding Victorian English, or has man’s understanding of Ancient Greek improved considerably in the last hundred years, or is it that recent discoveries such as the Dead Sea Scrolls have altered our understanding of what Josephus was talking about?

    • says

      A little of all those factors. But most of all, overconfident assumptions were common in days of yore, resulting in liberties sometimes being taken in translation that might not be taken today by someone more careful and working in hindsight (like, presumably, Mason et al., although I haven’t vetted those new translations to confirm this). See, in general, my argument about pre-1950s history (which Thackeray was relying on in all his background assumptions).

      However, there are also overlooked merits to Thackeray’s translation (or Ralph Marcus’s translation, since he finished the Thackeray text post mortem). For example, see my remarks regarding Thackeray on one particular issue of translation here. I think overall it’s the best translation we now have. Unless Mason et al. is improving on it.

    • Sili says

      Thank you. I enjoyed Mason’s little book on Josephus and the NT. It would have been nice to read his translation, yes.

  16. says

    “I don’t think you understand how debates work. Once I demonstrate a fallacy in an argument, that argument is rebutted. It’s done. You can try to recover it with a new, non-fallacious argument, but you never did. Thus, by the way debates are scored, you lost. Badly.”

    Dream on. Sorry, Richard, but you didn’t even seem to understand my arguments very well, let alone “rebut” or refute them. One can imagine all kinds of things, but that did not happen.

    Some of those points one has to just shrug off in a few minutes on stage, like your amusing claim that the resurrections Jesus worked in the gospels could have been “psychosomatic.” I think most people in the audience shrugged at that one, too, and I didn’t really think even you were entirely serious.

    Of course you didn’t show that the specific instances of miracles I cited didn’t actually happen, nor could you have. Of course you didn’t show that my argument for God has no force, and you barely waved your hand at the question. (And claimed you’d answered it in two books, in which you don’t come within a mile of the question.) Given that I quoted you as, in effect, conceding the validity of both arguments in print, and you never even tried to explain those earlier concessions, and why they should now be ignored, obviously you did nothing to refute those first arguments.

    The third, you misunderstood, especially at first. I did “re-explain.” You then said twice that some ancient fiction shares “all” the qualities of the Gospels. This I disputed, in the case of Apollonius, which I had already analyzed. I have now analyzed the other works you mentioned, and found that they are not one whit closer to sharing “all” of even a significant number of the relevant characteristics in the gospels.

    “This is an example of someone not understanding an argument. In this case, you not understanding mine.”

    Well, we’ve got the quotes. But feel free to explain what you really meant, as opposed to what you said.

    “But if we had debated your “fifty criteria” (you didn’t, so that’s moot) on this matter . . . ”

    I brought up six or seven of them, and we discussed them somewhat, actually. Of course there wasn’t time to analyze them in detail, so that is what I have done a bit more now. But you certainly in no way overturned, or seriously challenged, my positive case for the gospels. This is clear by simply reading the transcript.

    For one thing, I cited leading NT scholars, mostly atheists or skeptics, to back up a few points. You responded by mistaking my point badly, and then offering your own subjective take on the gospels in rebuttal of . .. Thomas Jefferson, Robert Funk, John Crossan, NT Wright, etc. There wasn’t time to point this out, but I think the audience understood that in that contest of authorities, the senior scholars win.

    “I would have shown how illogical your criteria are, and how divorced they are from how historians actually reason. Indeed, my book Proving History already provides enough information for anyone to expose what’s wrong with every point you make there.”

    Right. Just like Apollonius of Tyana shares “all” the characteristics of the gospels. You also claimed in the debate that you had disproven my first two arguments in Debunking Christianity or The End of Christianity — even though you don’t come within a thousand miles of even mentioning the second, and not really the first, either, in those books. Of course, no one could check them on the spot — but will you admit error on that point, now? One expects a few gaffs, and we both made them.

    I’ve read Proving History. And I think I’m at least as familiar with historical NT scholarship as, and more in agreement with it than you are.

    “But in any case, those weren’t points you made in the debate. You can’t discredit me for not answering points you didn’t make. That’s dirty pool.”

    I didn’t. And don’t. I think your claim to have won the debate is clearly untrue, but that’s not why I spent the time to post the transcript, and rebut your arguments in more detail. What is important is historical truth, especially the truth about early Christianity. Your arguments are a useful tool for exploring the real character of the gospels, which is am even bigger issue than your ego or mine. If you want to claim to have won in Huntsville, that’s fine. I am sure you believe that to be so. In tribute to your excellent “sardines” line — I have bigger fish to fry.

    • says

      One can imagine all kinds of things, but that did not happen.

      One can indeed imagine all kinds of things. But that did happen.

      If you don’t recognize that, then you will never improve as a debater, and you are pretty much going to be screwed in debates here on out. But that’s your own lookout.

      “…like your amusing claim that the resurrections Jesus worked in the gospels could have been “psychosomatic.”…”

      That is not what I said. Evidently, one can imagine all kinds of things as having happened in that debate.

      Of course you didn’t show that the specific instances of miracles I cited didn’t actually happen, nor could you have.

      The burden is on the claimant to rule out alternative explanations before they can assert the explanation they prefer is true and not others. That’s simply how logic works.

      Of course you didn’t show that my argument for God has no force…

      Yes, I did. That God exists does not even imply Christianity is true. The existence of God is therefore irrelevant to that debate.

      I could perhaps have tried attacking that premise instead, since if God doesn’t exist, neither can Christianity be true. But I was asked to debate the reasonableness of Christianity alone, not theism altogether. And so I did.

      If you can’t grasp the fact that theism being true does not imply Christianity, you have bigger problems than I thought. You may as well have defended the reasonableness of Islam. Or the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

      You then said twice that some ancient fiction shares “all” the qualities of the Gospels.

      All relevant qualities. Big difference. And crucial. That you missed it (and still don’t get it) speaks volumes.

      The rest of your points simply don’t have a sound bead on what actually went on in our debate, the arguments I actually made, and your inability to effectively rebut them, and the inability of your arguments to actually sustain the premise that Christian faith is reasonable, as I pointed out. You don’t even seem to understand the points I made, that even when correct your statements do not establish the Christian faith is reasonable, nor do you acknowledge the times I pointed out your statements were incorrect.

      You seem really lost in a delusional bubble. I can’t help you. I’m sorry.

  17. Blood says

    The Raleigh talk was excellent. A lot of so-called scholars barely mention the chiastic structures of the gospels, which is a bit like a Shakespeare scholar never mentioning iambic pentameter. Awareness of the chiasms certainly helps make sense of a lot of otherwise awkward bits.

  18. Richard Barrett says

    I’m just going to come out and say it. Dr Marshall was a jabbering wreck, didn’t stick to the topic of the debate, and made little sense. I’m no scholar but I have a great nose for BS when I hear it. Truly cringeworthy. I guess that’s what happens when you’re knocked sideways by an argument as strong as Carrier’s when he talked about confronting germs and bacteria back in the day. If Jesus had spent less time showing off on water, pissing off the Romans, and turning water into wine he would have had time to do something useful.

  19. says

    Actually, Richard, you said just what I said you did. Here are your exact words (at 58 -58:23):

    Carrier first rebuttal:

    “Now everything he says about the gospels is true of all kinds of faith literature in all religions. He picks on certain kinds of examples that look different from the gospels. But that’s special pleading. He’s picking certain examples through selection bias to make his argument.

    “There are other examples that look more like the gospels, for example, the Book of Tobit. Or Plutarch’s biography of Romulus. Or Philostratus’ biography of Apollonius of Tyana. There are a lot of these examples of faith literature that look more like the gospels. And if you wanted me to sit down and research and find the most similar example, I could. But it’s not necessary. There’s plenty of examples LIKE THIS that have ALL the characteristics of the gospels.” (my emphasis)

    I was pretty charitable in how I interpretted that gross error:

    “During our debate in February, Richard Carrier accused me of “confirmation bias,” of cherry-picking texts that conformed to my analysis (summarized above, or see previous post for our actual wording). He mentioned fictional texts that he thought resemble the gospels more closely than the ones I had analyzed earlier, and accused me of confirmation bias for cherry-picking texts that conform to my analysis . He said these other texts, which he mentioned, shared ALL the characteristics of the gospels!

    “This was a bold claim, since he obviously hadn’t read my analysis, which for one thing included one of the texts he mentioned — Apollonius of Tyana.

    “I will not hold Carrier literally to “all” 50 characteristics — one must make allowance for hyperbole and oral glibness. But I will compare the four ancient works of fiction he mentioned, on each of 26 gospel characteristics related to historicity.”

    I then did compare the gospels to the three above, plus The Golden Ass, which you also brought up in a related connection. I found that not only didn’t any of them share “all” the characteristics of the gospels, or even all the 26 historically-relevant characteristics I was referring to, none of them share so many as six to any serious extent.

    So your claim was enormously mistaken. In fact, the error is so significant that I think it undermines your entire approach to the gospels. I would, however, take a look if you could name some other ancient fictional “faith” text that you think does better.

    Meanwhile, Hector Avalos has taken a whole series of rather poorly-aimed shots at my second argument (and at me, and at Christian missionaries), on God, which you had little to say about, at Debunking Christianity.

    I pointed out the many errors in his arguments, especially gross misreadings both of myself and of Emile Durkheim, beginning with this post:

    http://christthetao.blogspot.com/2013/05/avalos-attacks-tact-and-me-and-yes.html

    And then refine the argument, which I’m now calling Theistic Argument from Cultural Transcendence (TACT), in the following post.

    I’m pleased that Avalos gave it a bit more of detailed challenge; I’m also pleased to find that, mischaracterizations and pique taken duly account of, the argument seems to come out stronger than ever. (Though apparently he plans to respond again.)

    • says

      That is not charitable. Charitable is understanding that only relevant characteristics matter. Saying the Gospels are different in irrelevant ways is not a valid rebuttal to what I said. You still don’t seem to understand this.

      Moreover, you did not list these “50 characteristics” in the debate so there is no possible way you can honestly claim I was referring to them…I was referring to what you said in the debate and to what you said in the debate that was relevant to the debate. You still don’t seem to understand this, either.

  20. says

    Mr. Barrett: Apparently you were listening to another debate. I made three arguments, all of which directly supported my claim in the debate, and I focused almost entirely on defending those arguments. If my arguments were “BS,” perhaps you can point to where they were refuted — it certainly wasn’t on stage, that evening.

    The weakness of my argument lay in not effectively rebutting Richard Carrier’s own main argument. That, I admit. He happened to pick on one of my own least favorite verses in the New Testament, for one thing, asking a question I’ve been asking myself (somewhat idly) for decades. Nor is the Problem of Pain something I am inclined to give glib answers to, or pretend to be able to answer well at all — I find holes in most Christian arguments on the subject. That is why I don’t claim to have won the debate. But I certainly didn’t lose it.

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