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Nov 03 2013

Some Good Reads on Ancient History vs. the Gospels

I blogged a while ago about Matthew Ferguson’s brilliant takedown of the 10/42 apologetic. That’s the argument that springs off the ridiculously false claim that we have better sources for Jesus than for Emperor Tiberius…why 42 against 10 even! Not. Oh, so not. See Ten Reasons to Reject the Apologetic 10/42 Source Slogan. (Just this year I had a Christian in Q&A try to “get” me with the 10/42 apologetic, so it’s still making the rounds, even after such a decisive refutation that more than one Christian apologist admitted they’d boned it. I was so glad I had that article to refer my questioner to. It masterfully educates.)

Anyway, Ferguson (a doctoral student in Classics at UCI) has been blogging a lot since, in ancient history, counter-apologetics, and philosophy. But I thought my readers would be especially interested in a recent fine article of interest to historicity buffs: Ancient Historical Writing Compared to the Gospels of the New Testament. I have often written about the same subject (such as in Not the Impossible Faith, ch. 7; Sense and Goodness without God IV.1.2.6, pp. 246-47; and my analysis of Xenophon vs. the Gospels and the two sections after that). But Ferguson does a really good job building even further on all this, adding examples and clearly explaining the significance of each point, and going beyond even the points I’ve made. Any history buff will find it interesting. It’s just gravy that it has its uses in combating Christian apologetics as well. I’d even say it’s required reading for any layman who wants to get up to speed on essential common knowledge in the field of ancient history that often isn’t known by Christian apologists. This is the thing to read if you want to take on the absurd C.S. Lewisism that the Gospels don’t “read like” myth. They actually don’t read like history. Ferguson explains why.

Ferguson also composed a really good combo discussion of historical method and philosophy–in particular, epistemology of the supernatural, that subject wherein Christians keep accusing us of “bias against the supernatural” without quite comprehending the difference between bias and logically valid inference. Called Griffin Beak, Mermaid Fin, and Dragon Blood Soup, he presents probably one of the best articles I’ve seen on “what it would take to convince a reasonable skeptic of a miracle (like the resurrection of Jesus).” My most avid readers might notice he is building a lot on my work, but that’s the beauty of it. He develops and expands on what I’ve argued exceptionally well. This is exactly the kind of thing I like to see happen. He also makes use of Greg Cavin’s recent excellent presentation on Bayesianism, miracles, and the resurrection of Jesus (already a legend in the counter-apologetics field, Cavin’s 434 page slideshow is actually quite educational, and spot-on almost top to bottom). Ferguson’s article also made me laugh. More than once. It’s kind of a wink-wink take down of the entirety of Christian apologetics. All without explicitly claiming to be. Check it out.

Other top articles by Ferguson in the same vein are Outside Corroboration as a Historical Criterion and the Validity of Arguments from Silence and Methodological Approaches to Ancient History.

 

 

8 comments

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  1. 1
    F [i'm not here, i'm gone]

    This sounds fascinating. Thanks for the pointers.

  2. 2
    iplon

    Sir, I am disgusted with you.

    How dare you link me to a 434 page document ALMOST ENTIRELY IN COMIC SANS?!

    1. 2.1
      Richard Carrier

      Oh, yes. True. Greg Cavin is not the best graphic designer of slideshows. I’ll grant you that. :-)

      I was more interested in the content than the aesthetics of its presentation. I’m generally forgiving about the latter when the former is good enough. But I’ll still acknowledge the merits of an aesthetic critique.

  3. 3
    Mikael Smith

    I love blog posts and books that talk about this subject. John W. Loftus has a book called Why I Became An Atheist that has great chapter that talks about miracles and probabilities. If somebody has not read the book yet, now is the time.

  4. 4
    otrame

    Very, very good stuff, Richard. Thank you.

  5. 5
    culuriel

    Just read Ferguson’s “Ten Reasons…”. It’s such a great read, thanks for the intro to his site!

  6. 6
    Giuseppe

    Hi Richard,
    I heard about this book from Per Bilde, an atheist scholar:
    http://www.libreriauniversitaria.it/originality-jesus-bilde-vandenhoeck-ruprecht/buch/9783525536094

    He comes to the conclusion that Jesus can be regarded as similar to a number of these figures, however, some more than others, and that he appears to be unique in some other respects.

    According to you, he grasps the subjects of your Proving History or, like the others, makes the mistake of assuming already a Historical Jesus ?
    Thanks,
    Giuseppe

    1. 6.1
      Richard Carrier

      Haven’t read it, so I can’t comment.

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