Mythicist Milwaukee Podcast Live Next Week!

Raphael Lataster and I will be on the Mythicist Milwaukee Show next week to talk about many things to do with the mythology of Jesus, including my upcoming debate with Justin Bass in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, the following week (that debate will be this March 19th, and it’s already selling out; details here). We will also discuss Lataster’s recent book, Jesus Did Not Exist, which I recently reviewed.

Tune in this Saturday, March 12th, at 10am PST (a departure from their usual Sunday afternoon slot, since Lataster will be joining us from Australia). Details here. Live feed airs here. It will be archived at their site as well.

Kennesaw State Debate with Craig Evans: Did Jesus Exist?

I’ll be debating renowned New Testament scholar Dr. Craig Evans at Kennesaw State University in Kennesaw, Georgia, this April 13 (2016) at 7pm in the Social Sciences building, room 1021 (parking in the West Parking Deck). Co-hosted by Ratio Christi and the Atheists, Humanists, and Agnostics at KSU. Q&A will follow. We’ll be selling and signing books in the Social Sciences Atrium afterward. Details here.

Can Paul’s Human Jesus Not Be a Celestial Jesus?

Fake science fiction book cover showing all kinds of Buck Rogers style action scenes, and in the middle a Buck Rogers style Jesus pointing a blaster and gollowed by a similarly armed woman companion, title says the Amazing Adventures of Space Jesus. Image I believe was made by a guest blogger at The Friendly Atheist.James McGrath wrote a couple of years ago about Paul’s Human Jesus as an argument against mythicism—in particular against the Doherty thesis, which in stripped down form is what I find most likely to be true in On the Historicity of Jesus. I have noted before how McGrath makes armchair assertions without fact-checking them. Yet he represents his opinion as authoritative, giving the impression that he researched it and knows what he is talking about. As such he is deceiving his readers.

The most glaring example of this was McGrath’s face-palm-worthy assertion that only state officials commissioned inscriptions in the Greco-Roman era. Which he used to argue that Christians would never have produced inscriptions. Wow. This not only illustrates how he deceives his readers (by representing his unchecked assumptions as researched and authoritative facts), and how he is neither an expert (since he didn’t know the truth in this case, he cannot claim to be well versed in ancient history or its sources) nor reliable (since it didn’t even occur to him to check his claim before asserting it, how many other times has he done that?), but also how emotionally invested he is in dissuading people from considering even the possibility that there was no historical Jesus. Because he jumped immediately to this ridiculous, unchecked, factually false argument. Instead of just making the far more competent and level-headed argument that the earliest Christians were too poor or expecting the apocalypse too imminently to bother erecting inscriptions. A point with which I have agreed (it’s why I don’t count the absence of such inscriptions as evidence against historicity: see Chapter 8.4 of OHJ).

Instead McGrath just ran with the first thing that came into his head. And asserted it as a fact. And instantly believed it was true without even knowing if it was.

This is how a Christian apologist behaves. Not a competent and reliable expert in the matter.

He did this again in Paul’s Human Jesus. [Read more…]

Tucker’s Review of Proving History in the Journal History & Theory

Cropped view of the cover of a recent issue of the journal History and Theory. Subtitled: Studies in the Philosophy of History.As I recently mentioned, a Harvard University philosopher, Aviezer Tucker, just published a review of my book Proving History for the academic journal History and Theory (Vol. 55, February 2016, pp. 129-140), titled, The Reverend Bayes vs. Jesus Christ. Tucker is an expert in the methods and philosophy of history, so his review carries some weight. It’s significant, therefore, that he endorses the program of my book—that historians need to start using Bayes’ Theorem, as effectively as they can, to resolve questions in their field—and that in fact even when he criticizes my book, he does so by suggesting improvements that are either already in that book (and he merely overlooked them) or in my subsequent application of its program in its sequel, On the Historicity of Jesus. This is almost the best assessment one could expect. It lacks merely noticing that much of what he suggests, I already did. What I provide below is an analysis of his review that helps understand his points, and relates them to what I’ve already written. [Read more…]

Why the Smart Money Is on the Gospel of Jesus’s Wife Being a Forgery

Photo of the Gospel of Jesus's Wife papyrus fragment, a rectangle with seven or eight lines of sloppy writing in Coptic, courtesy of Harvard University.I was going to do a news roundup of several new developments in ancient manuscript studies, until one of them turned out to be a roller-coaster ride down a rabbit hole filled with all manner of twists and turns. The subject? The Gospel of Jesus’s Wife. The other news I’ll post on separately. Because this one. Boy. It needs an article all unto itself.

[Read more…]

Notes & Interviews

Just some random stuff today:

  • I’ve lost track of all the many pods and vids in which I’m interviewed or featured. But I shall try to link to more of them in notes like this as they come up. Anyone who knows of others from this year, please add them in comments.
  • Kim Ellington conducted a great interview with me on my historicity of Jesus research, and a little on the intersection of history, philosophy, methodology, and epistemology, for The Humanist Hour (Episode 161).
  • Related to that and expanding on it is my interview by a renowned Jewish creationist and biblical literalist, Nehemia Gordon, in episode 13 of his show Hebrew Voices. I help him “sort out the genuine pagan influences on Christmas, from modern-day myths” that often stem from “dodgy scholarship.” We touch on Tammuz & Inanna, Isis & Osiris, Mithra, and discuss ancient comments by Philo, Justin, Plutarch, Euhemerus, Plato and more.
  • I spoke at a rally on the capitol steps of Boise, Idaho for this year’s National Day of Reason, on behalf of the Treasure Valley Coalition of Reason. The video is now available (and I have provided a rough transcript here). My speech is an amusing and rousing demonstration that our Christian legislators are simultaneously trying to outlaw Sharia Law and enact Sharia Law—and don’t know how democracy works, or the point of the Constitution, or that what they are doing is precisely what the Founding Fathers feared and denounced.
  • It’s well known that Luke used Josephus as a color source for his Gospel and Acts (see bibliography in OHJ, pp. 267, n. 26; and my summary of only some of the evidence here). In a new article, Lena Einhorn extensively collects even more evidence & bibliography on this (so those interested in that subject will find a lot of use there). But she discusses it in the context of her defense of a separate thesis: that Jesus was actually crucified under Claudius in the 40s, not under Tiberius in the 30s. This will be of interest to those who noticed that I document that there actually were early Christians who thought that (OHJ, Ch. 8.1). Of course, Einhorn’s thesis doesn’t argue for an actual crucifixion (she is presuming that it was an actual event), and as such it just as well supports the fact of Christian disagreement over when to place that event (and possibly the existence of lost Gospels that did).

Bart Ehrman vs. Robert Price & Richard Carrier vs. Justin Bass: The Debates Are On! (Get Your Tickets Now)

Mythicist Milwaukee logo.Two debates are happening next year (2016), sponsored by Mythicist Milwaukee as part of their Buzzed Belief debate series. Details here. You can get tickets now, through links there, and start making plans to travel and lodge where you can for these momentous debates.

First up…

Saturday, March 19, 2016 – 7-10 pm
Shank Hall, 1434 N Farwell Ave, Milwaukee, WI 53202
Richard Carrier and Justin Bass
Are There Reliable Sources for the Miraculous Resurrection of Jesus?

FREE admission with advanced reservation. $5 at the door.

The resurrection of Jesus is the Christian religious belief that, after being put to death, Jesus rose again from the dead. It is the central tenet of Christian theology and part of the Nicene Creed. His resurrection is covered in the Scriptures; but are these writings reliable? 

That’s right. We aren’t doing that tired old “Did Jesus Rise from the Dead?” debate that’s been done to death and resurrected a million times. This time, we are debating what we should always have been debating first before that, yet never have before now: Are the sources we have for that even sufficiently reliable to establish that claim?—even if the claim itself happened to be true! The letters of Paul and the Gospels. Can we even count on them for this? Should we just not even?

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Next up…

Friday, October 21, 2016 – 6-9 pm
Turner Hall, 1034 N 4th St, Milwaukee, WI 53203
Dr. Robert Price and Bart D. Ehrman
Did Jesus Exist?

$30* Early bird (tickets limited reg. price $60) ends 3/20/16
$47* Mythicist Milwaukee members at the door
$60* Regular Price after 3/20/16

$105* Early Bird Debate & VIP Meet-and-Greet (Reg. Price $160) ends 3/20/16
$160* Debate & VIP Meet-and-Greet after 3/20/16

*All tickets include FREE entrance to the Mythinformation Conference III

One of the most anticipated debates in the secular and theist realm alike realm is finally here! These two New Testament scholars are coming together to discuss the hotly debated topic of the existence of a historical Jesus Christ.

This was that debate they asked to get funded earlier, and they got the funding! This will actually help Robert Price make ends meet (Ehrman, already well off, will donate his honorarium to charity). And it will be the first time Bart Ehrman has ever debated the historicity of Jesus. This will be a historic event. I won’t be debating, but I will likely be included in the VIP crew. And of course I’ll be available for a post-debate analysis.

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For either or both, get your tickets now!

Lataster on the Historicity of Jesus Being a Debate Among Atheists

Cover of Raphael Lataster's book Jesus Did Not Exist, A Debate Among Atheists, with Richard Carrier. Shows an annular solar eclipse.Raphael Lataster, an Australian doctoral student in religious studies, has published a book recently, Jesus Did Not Exist: A Debate among Atheists, examining the debate over the historicity of Jesus by focusing only on what atheist and agnostic experts are saying, and not Christian believers—regarding the latter as too biased to consider; since any good arguments they have should be as convincing to experts who aren’t believers anyway, so really we should only be looking at the debate among atheists.

It’s a good point. Unfortunately, atheist academic monographs defending historicity don’t exist. The only two so far written this century, by Bart Ehrman and Maurice Casey, were neither published by academic presses, nor underwent any formal peer review. But Lataster works with what the academy has given him. And so he surveys the merits of those two books anyway. And compares them with mine, On the Historicity of Jesus, which was published by an academic press and did pass formal academic peer review. His own result is historicity agnosticism. And a lot of serious criticism of how the academy has handled this debate, judging by the only two books it has produced so far in defense of what the academy often claims should be so well demonstrated as to be irrefutable.

I was commissioned to write a foreword and afterword to the book, and to read the manuscript and provide any advice I had towards its improvement or the correction of any obvious errors or omissions. Lataster operated independently. He did not necessarily heed all of my advice. Whatever remains in the book is now his responsibility to defend. But I will make some comments on the matter below. In particular, I discuss in his book’s afterword what I expected critics will attempt to do, like attack its tone rather than its content—or lie about its contents. That process has already begun… [Read more…]

Celebrate the Holidays with My Class on the Historicity of the Baby Jesus!

Color drawing of the bust of Jesus, eyesturned up to heaven and head cocked to the side as if he is on the cross dying or dead, and over his crown of thorns has been placed a crown of colored Christmas lights. Source: I-Mockery.I’ll be teaching my one month online course on the historicity of Jesus this December: the best arguments pro and con, the cultural and historical background, the competing theories of the origins of Christianity, and more. We’ll go through my book chapter by chapter and discuss its contents, and look at some additional resources and challenges. And by the end you’ll be able to converse informedly about all the main issues in the debate: what the best evidence is for the historical Jesus, why it can be questioned and how, and how you can decide for yourself whether theories without one are better or not. You will also have the opportunity to ask me all the questions you want, challenge me with all the arguments you’ve run into, and otherwise pick my brain on all the related issues you think important.

The course, Questioning or Defending the Historicity of Jesus, begins December 1 (my birthday, incidentally!) and goes one month, covering four units, one per week. There are no timed events so you can do the readings or post questions or engage in the forum discussions whenever you want, any day and time that suits you. All the course materials, including the discussions, stay available for you to consult or download for an additional month after that.

The only course text you must acquire (if you don’t already have it) is my book On the Historicity of Jesus. Everything else will be provided. For a more complete course description, and how to register, visit the course announcement page.

Please acquire the required text in print or kindle or any format available, except the audiobook, which won’t be functional for the needs of the course. So you should only get that in addition to another version, if you get it at all. And be aware it probably won’t work with the whisper function either, since the read text differs from the printed text (I had to incorporate footnote commentary into the main text, and read out descriptions of diagrams and tables, so the audiobook is complete, but not verbatim or in the same order as the kindle text; the audio also doesn’t contain the useful indexes and reference lists and citations).

Appearing in Kenya! (And You Can Watch)

Blue meme ad for the event, with the twitter hashtag #christisahoax, 31 October 2015, Metro Hotel 5:00pm, and twitter handle @atheistsinkenya.Early this Saturday morning I’ll be joining Robert Price, David Fitzgerald, and Harrison Mumia of Atheists in Kenya in a live broadcast event held in the Metro Hotel in Nairobi, Kenya. I won’t actually be in Africa (at least not this time!). This will be a Google Hangout and Q&A before a live Kenyan audience. The subject? The existence of Jesus and the truth of the Bible, Old Testament and New. Expect interesting questions from the audience in this highly religious country. And experience a feel for the rise of atheist activism in Kenya, as Mumia is heading what may be the highest profile organization of nonbelievers on the continent.

The event Presentation: Did Christ Ever Exist? will happen this Saturday, October 31 (2015). Though it will be an evening event there, it will start at 7am in the morning here in California. And it will be possible to watch from around the world. For more details follow the link!

(The link for viewing should be posted on that Facebook page shortly before it airs. Many thanks to Mythicist Milwaukee for inspiring and helping put on this event!)