This is why I don’t have to get involved with the Historical Jesus debate

Carrier describes as “Ehrman’s only evidence” Paul’s reference in Galatians to having met “James the brother of the Lord.” He attempts to sow doubt about the meaning, but the phrase is clear. There is no evidence for any Jews in Paul’s time speaking of God having a brother, and so the most natural reference is to Jesus being the Lord here, as indeed Paul refers to him often with this title. Carrier then follows mythicists like Earl Doherty in trying to suggest that “brother(s) of” can mean the same thing as “brother(s) in.” But the two phrases are obviously distinct in meaning, and based on the evidence available, it was not the custom in this time to refer to Christians in general, or a specific subset of Christians, as “brothers of the Lord.” (I should add even using the term “Christians” is anachronistic). Carrier’s attempt to appeal to New Testament sources as evidence to the contrary, when those same sources provide evidence of a historical Jesus, is very strange indeed, and thoroughly unpersuasive.

via Responding to Richard Carrier’s Response to Bart Ehrman « Exploring Our Matrix.

Because Dr. James McGrath lays it out so well…

Here’s the thing – no method in searching for the Historical Jesus can be considered truly objective. We can deal with subjective data objectively, but in the end, the methods which we choose will come down to what we are trained with. Carrier’s new theory, which I hear is remarkable, is still a subjective attempt. Godfrey will only allow what information benefits him. Mythicists are by far and away the must subjective, because they like Young Earth Creationists, aim to prove by disproving, and they disprove by ignoring. They cannot answer, only circumvent and deflect.

The Jesus of the Gospels, Acts, and the later Church exists historigraphically and theologically. The historical Jesus is a figment of a scholar’s imagination. Was there a real person named Jesus in 1st century Palestine which started an apocalyptic movement? I’d say yes based on the methods of historians. Is this man named Jesus the Messiah? By faith, I say yes. What ever data, however, that I use will be subjectively chosen, however, either by me or someone long before me.

I look at the Apostles’ Creed, and the ones it evolved from. No mention of the life of Christ. In the earliest post-New Testament writings, there is no mention of the Gospels. Sure, Polycarp mentions the teachings of Jesus, but the spirit descendant of John doesn’t talk about so called miracles, and the such.

Anyway, read the entire post. Good stuff.

Thank God for Dr. McGrath’s scholarship.

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Post By Joel Watts (10,110 Posts)

Joel L. Watts holds a Masters of Arts from United Theological Seminary with a focus in literary and rhetorical criticism of the New Testament. He is currently a Ph.D. student at the University of the Free State, analyzing Paul’s model of atonement in Galatians. He is the author of Mimetic Criticism of the Gospel of Mark: Introduction and Commentary (Wipf and Stock, 2013), a co-editor and contributor to From Fear to Faith: Stories of Hitting Spiritual Walls (Energion, 2013), and Praying in God's Theater, Meditations on the Book of Revelation (Wipf and Stock, 2014).

Website: → Unsettled Christianity

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33 thoughts on “This is why I don’t have to get involved with the Historical Jesus debate

  1. You wrote: “it was not the custom in this time to refer to Christians in general”

    What about the CHRISTIANOS inscription found at Pompeii. Scholars today are silent about it and that includes Mcgrath.

      • It is called The Christian Inscription at Pompeii by Paul Berry. Page 23 of the book says 18 scholars, historians, theologians, and archaeologists, from 1862 to 1987, worked on this inscription, such has been the interest. This was an inscription in Latin, dated before the eruption of mount Vesuvius in 79 CE. CHRISTIANOS is a plural noun. It is more than likely that it was inscribed a number of years before that. Pompeii was a place frequented by Seneca, a Stoic, who had a mansion there. Nero was also a visitor. So why do scholars today ignore this inscription, and yet create a big fuss over the Talpiot tomb?

  2. The point is, when was Peter’s group that you refer to, called Christians repeatedly in Greek? You have no evidence that this group was the first to write. It is as you say a matter of ‘faith’. And did it mean the same as when the CHRISTIANOS inscription was inscribed in latin? I don’t think it did. Was this evidence that the CHRISTIANOS (latin) established themselves in Italy first?

    • Um, what facts are you reading? A balanced view of the facts reveal that Chrestianos is the better reading, that it doesn’t have to refer to Peter’s group, and the such.

  3. So to what group does this obviously early inscription, CHRISTIANOS, in latin refer? One can say with a fairly high degree of confidence that it is earlier that any Greek reading you can produce.

      • In fact it is obvious that Zara is quite dismissive of the CHRISTIANOS inscription (its actually a charcoal gaffiti). He has only one short paragraph about it and simply quotes another author. For me Berry’s book confirms what I have suspected for a long time. It is that the original Christians were not followers of Christ, but were ‘anointed ones’, filled with the Spirit. Such a practice by Jews could only have flourished in a land away from persecution in Judea, a land where there was already a sympathetic audience of Stoic followers such as Seneca who had a villa in Pompeii. The villa where the CHRISTIANOS grafitti was found was again obviously not a place of Jewish slaves, but a residence of Jewish aristocrats, probably of Hasmonean descent.
        Zara quotes one interpretation of the graffiti: “Bovos listens to the Chriatianos, the cruel haters”. I would suggest that the ‘cruel haters’ were the Jewish persecutors of those Jews who believed in the Spirit, and not sacrifice or slavish obedience of the law. The graffiti was sympathetic to the cause of the Christianos.

        • You can suggest what you want, but has it as no real foundation, you are only spouting. Further, Berry’s book suggests just the opposite.

          • But it has the touch of reality. The fictitious Paul was not on his way to Rome when he supposedly called in at Puteoli to see some brothers. James was on his way to Jerusalem.

  4. Its the same link. Zara concludes: Perhaps Jucundus was a part of a group called “Chrestians”, but as no external evidence in support of such a notion exists, I will leave the subject without further conclusions about the meaning of the word Chrestiani here.” In other words he cannot conclude that Chrestiani refers to a group.

    About the Pompeii inscription, CHRISTIANOS, Zara says “the inscription already in 1864 was lost, and is only available in two conflicting drawings.” He quotes a 1984 book by Leslie Barnard.

    Zara’s statement (and Barnard’s) conflicts with what Berry says on plate 10, between pages 25 and 26. Berry appears to be quoting later research: “The lettering shown here was traced in 1995 from carbon particles retained in the wall surface.”

  5. Mcgrath wrote:

    “Carrier’s attempt to appeal to New Testament sources as evidence to the contrary, when those same sources provide evidence of a historical Jesus, is very strange indeed, and thoroughly unpersuasive”.

    I wonder when Mcgrath and others will wake up and realise that the New Testament has been extensively changed and added to. What he calls evidence is largely a pack of lies. Mcgrath’s so-called evidence is a myth, but proving that from the NT itself and from the extant history passed down to us is not an easy thing to do. At the moment, the real clues come from archaeology. But there is another way, and that is to reconstruct the valid bits of the NT to make a consistent whole. Obviously this would never be acceptable to an academic like Mcgrath.

    One fairly obvious archaeological fact is that there is absolutely no evidence that Vespasian ever went to Galilee with an army, yet scholars ignore that fact. There are no first century remains of Roman army camps. In Judea the camps are large. Yet interestingly there are no remains of first century Roman camps around Jerusalem. If the received war history is wrong, then everything about the received NT history is wrong.

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