Sketches on Atheism

This is not my beautiful god…

FictionOne need only be measurably literate and mildly curious to know that Yahwehism is beset with such a slew of legitimacy problems that it’s honestly difficult to imagine it surviving (in any coherent form) within educated populations through the second-half of this century. The Patriarchs (Abraham, Jacob and Isaac) never existed, Moses was a legendary character not found in history, the Exodus never happened, there was no military conquest of Canaan, and there was never a 10th Century United Kingdom. Penned by Judean copywriters between the 7th and 5th Centuries BCE (nearly a millenium after its alleged origin) the Pentateuch and Deuteronomistic History of the Nevi’im (including the books of Joshua, Judges, Samuel and much of Kings) is recognised today by even conservative Jewish rabbis to be nothing but a geopolitical work of fiction commissioned to justify a northern land grab after the fall of Mamlekhet Yisra’el (Kingdom of Israel) in 722 BCE.

“There is no archaeological evidence for any of it. This is something unexampled in history. They [Judah] wanted to seize control of the territories of the kingdom of Israel and annex them, because, they said, `These territories are actually ours and if you have a minute, we´ll tell you how that´s so.’ The goal was to create a myth saying that Judah is the center of the world, of the Israelite way of life, against the background of the reality of the later kingdom.” (Israel Finkelstein, professor of archaeology, Tel Aviv University)

Those are the facts, they’ve been in the public domain for over thirty years, but as Prof. Ze’ev Herzog of Tel Aviv University observed: “we are witnessing a fascinating phenomenon in that all this is simply ignored by the public.” For now that’s not too surprising, cowards often evade awkward things, and for Yahwehists it’s hard to fathom anything more uncomfortable than admitting there was no supernatural revelation (to anyone, at any time), and that Jesus (if he ever existed, which is doubtful) and Muhammad (who, regrettably, did exist) were both talking through their (un)inspired hats. If this were not the case both characters would have blithely let their audiences in on the little 6th Century secret and straightened out the historical farce once and for all. Neither, of course, did. Both, in fact, named the patriarchs on multiple occasions and by doing so revealed their own bumbling ignorance of basic regional history… a history one would naturally expect god-men to actually know.

Uncomfortable, sure, but there lurks in the archaeological record an even more distressing reality check awaiting the idolaters of this particular Middle Eastern god and it’s a date with reality that will not be easily reconciled. Simply put, Yahweh is a renovated do-it-upper bungalow of a god; a one-time lowly character inhabiting the 1st millennium Canaanite pantheon who with the help of a new publicity team, ghost writers, and a level of plagiarism that would make even a Chinese businessman blush pulled off a reasonably successful supernal makeover that saw him jump from the D-list of godly celebrities right into the VIP section. Before the facelift, though, he was a member of the Divine Family; just one of seventy children fathered by El (whose name, not Yahweh’s, is given to Israel: Yisra’el) and his wife, the mother goddess, Asherah. Alex OliverWorshiped as a patron in his portion of the “seventy nations” (possibly Edom in the south) Yahweh’s restyling began in the 7th Century with a shift toward monolatry where he started to be identified with the father, El: el dū yahwī aba’ôt. Ambition then led this otherworldly mover and shaker to do something quite unexpected. At the behest of his human handlers this celestial yuppie in a tunic married his mother; a fact revealed at two 7th Century sites (Kuntilet Ajrud and Khirbet el-Kom) where Hebrew inscriptions were found that read ‘YHWH and his Asherah’, ‘YHWH Shomron and his Asherah’, and, ‘YHWH Teman and his Asherah.’ Alone, these sites are proof-positive Yahweh was a pantheon deity; a menial one no less, who was slowly redecorated by a people undergoing a refurbishment of their own.  Oedipal complexes to one side, in the post-Exilic period (after exposure to monotheistic Zoroastrianism in Babylon) monolatry gave way to Judaic monotheism where the Canaanite pantheon was thrown out and the “sons of God” were called upon to worship Yahweh as the Divine King (Psalm 29:2).

Sorry Yahwehists, you can have your own beliefs, but you can’t have your own facts. Monotheism emerged amongst the Israelites 1,000 years later than alleged, and YHWH was nothing but a side character in an off-off Broadway divine play whose role was re-written by men looking to add a little supernatural spice to their geopolitical ambitions.

Enuma Elish_1Now it sounds odd to our post-Enlightenment ears but shuffling the deck of the Divine Family was a manoeuvre as old, in fact, as the pantheons themselves. The first Sumerian gods who brought order from chaos, An and Ki, gave birth to Enlil who would dominate (until his own expulsion) the veritable smorgasbord of gods who’d come to inhabit the first pantheon dreamed up by men; their lives unfolding like an ever-expanding family drama complete with labour strikes as experienced when the 6th generation of gods literally refused to work. Love, hate, envy, lust, sex, rape, incest, political intrigue, alcoholism, and wars; the Sumerian pantheon had it all, and it was flexible, too. As one city state rose and assumed dominion over the proto-empire their particular patron god also rose in order of authority which in-turn forced a re-arranging of the family deck as a whole. In time, micromanaging the family of gods took on an entirely new dimension as city states merged and became fully fledged empires whose fate ebbed and flowed like everything else. As the power of Sumer bled into the Akkadian Empire which then dulled and that of Babylon rose some serious adjustments needed to be made to the heavenly order to better reflect the new earthly reality. The solution the Babylonians found was brazen, if not perfectly straightforward: they simply wrote the Enuma Elish which catapulted their cities patron god, Marduk, way up the order in the existing creation story and had him slaughter the pre-time chaos embodied in the demon Tiâmat. Without care or concern for script continuity they made him a son of the Sumerian Lord Enki who, according to the new version of events, ceded power leaving the one-time fairly lowly Babylonian god to rule all of mankind.

Easy!

Complete and utter fantasy, but easy just the same, and given the size, complexity and authority of Babylon it was a cultural feat unimaginably more difficult (and impressive) than the one performed by a handful of Canaanite hill tribes fifty generations later. As Professor Finkelstein noted: “I don’t think there is any other place in the world where there was a city with such a wretched material infrastructure but which succeeded in creating such a sweeping movement in its favour as Jerusalem, which even in its time of greatness was a joke in comparison to the cities of Assyria, Babylon or Egypt. It was a typical mountain village.” A village, one might add, sporting a remodelled god who by hook or by crook had not only taken over his dads business but also his wife…. Before, of course, ditching her (and everyone else in his family) after a Babylonian holiday two-hundred years later.

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199 thoughts on “This is not my beautiful god…

  1. Muhammad didn’t exist either. It was a title for Jesus during the Syrian Arabic Christian era. Muhammad was a title for chosen one or praiseworthy. I have a post on this I can provide to you if you like and a couple of books that really get into the history of things.

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  2. Damn, will this … thinking … never stop? (By the way, the singular of millenia is millenium.) And you made me just go buy one of Israel Finkelstein’s books and I must have bought 50 or so books I haven’t read yet.

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    • Fixed! You have a good eye for these things…. i think you’d make a good archer, Steve 😉

      Finkelstein is the man, but it seems the entire archaeology department at Tel Aviv Uni is in consensus. The only real question (which i didn’t deal with here) is whether Yhwh was first Ugaritic or stolen from the Shashu of Yhw. I’ve argued the latter, but the question remains.

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  3. We must give it to them that for people in exile and living on hill, they did weave a story that has kept generations since then captive of this middle eastern parthenon!

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    • We wouldn’t be talking about it if Constantine didn’t get hoodwinked. People say if they had a time machine they’d go back and kill Hitler. Not me: i’d go back and put a bullet between the General’s eyes.

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      • Deal! You’re an architect, so you make the machine then let me know when to fly to Nairobi. I think we should dress in special uniforms; technicolour gowns and enormous Ronald McDonald wigs. What say you?

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      • We will need engineers and astrophysicists to help with the issues of time. The uniforms I think we can be worked out, I would want to dress as Cicero would have dressed while addressing the senate but to do this I’ll need the machine to take me back to that period in time and I will have to go with my tailor. This should be an interesting project.

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      • Fuck it, let’s just take Cicero with us! We’ll give him the pistol and let him do it for all of humanity. He’ll love it, trust me.

        Ok, you can dress like a Roman Senator but i’m definitely wearing the giant red wig… Maybe even clown shoes just to see how historians record it.

        We don’t need engineers and astrophysicists. I’ve read Wells’ The Time Machine and the dude is just an inventor. You have 200 years of science on top of him so it should be a walk in the park for you.

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      • Do you think our friends living in Rome, if it is part of the old empire, could have an idea where Cicero rests so we could try and have him wake up for this very important service to mankind and am sure he would agree to it.

        As for dressing, you keep your wig and clown shoes maybe you can dress as the current occupant of that seat in Vatican city to give historians something to write about.

        Time to get parts to the time machine. And while we are on our way to exterminating Constantine, we should take a detour around 625 CE to confirm if the camel merchant Mo was actually around at the time marrying 6 year olds.

        I liking this project already.

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      • We don’t need to resurrect Cicero as we’re going to pick him up back in 43 BCE.

        We won’t need to go and check in on Mo. If we kill Constantine then Christianity won’t spread and Islam will never happen. Mo will just remain a child molesting epileptic.

        While we’re at it should we kill anyone else? I’d like to pop in on Democritus and tell him not to listen to Aristotle.

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      • I think I would want to have a word with Marcus Aurelius as we are on our way back and then go farther back and have a word with the great Socrates, and tell his accusers a piece of my mind, then if we still feel like it, a meeting with the Buddha should be in order 😛

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  4. Look at those names, movie characters from George Lucas productions. Including Indian mythology those were brilliant fantasy stories written by talented writers. Poor writers went unnoticed such is our fate till date and their characters became gods. It still exists in India. Fans construct temples of film stars, install their idols, worship them.

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    • True! I watched a 4 hour stage production of the Mahabharata and it blew my mind. That was some seriously brilliant storytelling and the depth and scope of the characters left the pantheon creatures of Middle Eastern descent looking quite foolish.

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      • I missed that bit … there were lots of long words and funny names. But you know you’ve done a great post when PeW and Raut are having a tussle! Well done! (Maybe it’s low quality coffee that’s affecting my ability to process …)

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      • You missed it? But i even gave you a heads-up that it was coming… plus its in two places! I’m starting to suspect you just look at the pretty pictures…

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      • How would one distinguish between YHWH emerging from a polytheistic cult including Asherah and a polytheistic cult including Ashera emerging from YHWH-worship via syncretism?

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      • What a baffling way to ask a question.

        Simple: age of pantheon. Asherah comes from the older Ugaritic pantheon and was adopted (along with El, of course) into Canaanite polytheism. Perhaps an even more telling example would be the amount of references (inscriptions, reliefs, busts) made; obviously favouring the more prominent deity, which was El’s wife, not so surprisingly.

        PeW, El’s name is even in Israel: Yisra’el.

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      • Hmm, let me see if I can rephrase the question.

        Fact: We have an inscription that says “YHWH and his Asherah”.

        Scenario 1: YHWH and Asherah are both worshipped as part of the same pantheon. Later, Asherah is excised and YHWH is given monolatric, then monotheistic status.

        Scenario 2: YHWH is worshipped monolatrically and/or monotheistically. At some point, some of YHWH’s worshippers adopt the older Ugaritic Asherah and make her YHWH’s wife by way of syncretism.

        Scenario 3: Worshippers of Asherah intermarry with some worshippers of YHWH, adding YHWH into their existing pantheon in a supporting role.

        How do we determine which of these three possible scenarios is most probable?

        Comparing all the various names isn’t particularly impressive, I’m afraid. These are linguistic issues, not theological ones. It’s about as convincing as when a Muslim insists that Islam has to be true because “God” in Aramaic is pronounced “Allah” and Jesus spoke Aramaic.

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      • Again: stack up the number of references to both deities (over time) and compare them. You’ll find the Asherah basket 1,000 years older and very, very, very full, whereas the YHWH basket could only be compared to a small child’s coin pouch.

        Ask yourself: why would anyone marry Yhwh to El’s wife? What purpose would that serve other than to artificially inflate the standing of that deity?

        Like I said, PeW, you can have your own beliefs but you can’t have your own facts.

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      • Scenarios 2 and 3 already presupposed that Asherah was part of an older pantheon, so I’m not sure what relevance that observation has.

        We see quite a few examples of pantheon intermarriage in religious syncretism. It’s quite common, really. It’s particularly likely if the Asherah-worshippers in question (given Scenario 3) came from a supreme-goddess worship in which El had been previously rejected.

        What are these “own facts” of which you speak?

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      • Car keys? Yikes. We only have one key for my wife’s car. If it went missing, I don’t know what I’d do.

        Then again….does Veles’s power work against anyone, or only fundies? Because if it’s the latter, then I’m home free.

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      • The work he does is excellent because it’s done they way it’s supposed to be done. For the longest time I remember seeing documentaries in which biblical scholars tried to force the archeological data with scripture. Finkelstein simply examines the data, then makes the appropriate cross-reference to see what correlates and what doesn’t. Imagine that.

        Great link, I would’ve never been able to find that on my own. Of course, your blog is doing wonders in and of itself!

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  5. Beat me to the punch ya bastard!! Though I think mine would have read a bit differently 😉 I may still post about the defining of YHWH against other gods, at least linguistically… some interesting stuff in there. But great, well-researched, and well-written post. I’m thinking of buying that Mark Smith.

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    • I’m waiting for your post. You like the linguistic thing more than me so definitely do it. The question i want answered is whether Yhwh came originally from the Ugaritic pantheon (as most think) or from the Shashu (of Yhw) Bedouins as mentioned in the Temple of Soleb. Problem is there’s just not a lot of evidence as this divine play was seriously small-town.

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  6. “You can have your own beliefs, but you can’t have your own facts.”, at least you leave a glimmer of hope after have deleted organized religion. Very Christian of you!

    But seriously, I don’t think we have got any less gullible today. I heard Deepak Chopra on the radio today. He’s not waiting 1000 years to write down his dogma and neither is waiting to collect the alms. Unlike Abraham who didn’t exist (which I didn’t know), Deepak definitely does.

    What are we going to do about the new gods, John?

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    • Atheists are more Christian than most Christians!

      Deepak is a nutcase, but he’s a nutcase that’s as cunning as a fox… plus he’s a damn good liar. I’ve seen debates where actual scientists have said directly to his face that he was talking absolute gibberish and didn’t understand the first thing about quantum mechanics only to have him repeat the same erroneous claim 5 minutes later. He doesn’t care, just like William Land Craig doesn’t care. They’re in it for the money, and there’ll always be money in religious nonsense.

      As for the Good News…. That’s easy to answer: I’ll start promoting it just as soon as you find your way out of the forest (with a winners smile on your face) and tell me! 🙂

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    • “non-fundamentalists won’t be convinced by arguments directed at fundamentalists”

      Who’s directing anything to fundamentalists? This is directed to ALL Yahwehists, you included. All i’m doing is presenting the recognised facts.

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      • Your facts are not at issue; the arguments are the problem. Your arguments are only convincing for those people which adhere to fundamentalism.

        All the fundamentalist arguments I heard growing up are simply being repackaged in the negative and thrown back. It seems that people have a commitment to fundamentalism no matter which end of the extreme they end up on. It’s not enough just to change your mind about a particular brand of fundamentalism; you actually have to learn to think in a new way. 🙂

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      • I’m not following you. How can stating the facts be considered fundamentalist? Fundamentalism is twisting the story to meet desired ends: ie. Lying. Nothing I’ve written here is a lie; it’s all in the public domain. It’s all been published. I’m promoting what is real.

        And anyway, I’m not really concerned about fundamentalists. They’ve already excluded themselves from the human species. I’m glad for individuals like you who’ve escaped it, but on the whole there’s no point in trying to convince the willfully ignorant. As a humanist my drive is to weaken Yawehism to such a degree (by presenting the facts) that it becomes simply too embarrassing for a sane person to admit to believing in it.

        Tell me, how can you continue to be a Yahwehist knowing it’s all bunk? There was no revelation? Jesus (if he existed) didn’t know squat. And, Yahweh is CLEARLY a human invention, melded over time by men.

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      • “Fundamentalism is twisting the story to meet desired ends: ie. Lying.”

        Wow, where did you get that definition of fundamentalism? That’s quite original; I’ve never heard anything like it before. No dictionary I’ve ever seen defines fundamentalism in any way even remotely close to that.

        It seems like an awfully convenient definition, too, because it neatly insulates you from any such accusations. 😉

        Fundamentalism has nothing to do with whether or not you’re “twisting” anything; that would require every fundamentalist to be intentionally deceptive. Fundamentalism is a way of thinking about the world: seeing things in black and white, believing that the world can ONLY be the way you’ve been conditioned to perceive it. Fundamentalism is an all-or-nothing approach to everything, especially things like historical and literary criticism.

        Though your facts (well, claims, but we won’t get into that) are indeed “public domain”, the arguments you’re advancing are simply repackaged fundamentalism. “If X isn’t true, then everything containing X must not be true either!” That’s textbook.

        “Tell me, how can you continue to be a Yahwehist knowing it’s all bunk? There was no revelation? Jesus (if he existed) didn’t know squat. And, Yahweh is CLEARLY a human invention, melded over time by men.”

        Those are the questions that a fundamentalist Christian isn’t allowed to ask, and that a fundamentalist humanist sees as a conclusion rather than a starting point.

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      • “believing that the world can ONLY be the way you’ve been conditioned to perceive it….”

        Precisely, ignoring reality and (if need be) lying to fit those ends. Exactly my point.

        Facts = a consensus on the matter. There is a sweeping consensus that the Pentateuch is utter bunk. Even Christianity Today’s Kevin D. Miller conceded: “The fact is that not one shred of direct archaeological evidence has been found for Abraham, Isaac, or Jacob or the 400-plus years the children of Israel sojourned in Egypt. The same is true for their miraculous exodus from slavery.”

        OK, seeing as you’re no-longer a fundamentalist how about you answer the question then: How can you remain a Yahwehist knowing the Pentateuch is pure myth? How can you remain a Yahwehist knowing there was never a revelation to anyone at any time, that Jesus (if he existed) evidently didn’t know what the hell he was talking about, and Yhwh was a pantheon deity who got dressed up by men looking to add some supernatural spice to their geopolitical ambitions…

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      • “‘believing that the world can ONLY be the way you’ve been conditioned to perceive it….’

        Precisely, ignoring reality….”

        Gahh! That’s the point! Don’t you see? They’re the ones saying that YOU’RE ignoring reality, and you’re saying that THEY’RE ignoring reality. It’s all the same “this is the only possible reality” fundamentalism, no matter how you package it.

        “Facts = a consensus on the matter.”

        Nope. It can be a fact that a consensus exists, but that’s as far as it goes.

        “How can you remain a Yahwehist knowing the Pentateuch is pure myth?”

        Because I recognize the meaning of true myth, which is something beyond the understanding of theistic or atheistic fundamentalism.

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      • But I’m NOT “ignoring reality”…. I’m presenting it! I didn’t do the digging or write the papers. I just read them (some of them) and put the findings down here. I think fundamentalism burnt your brain, PeW. Some things just don’t penetrate. 🙂

        “Because I recognize the meaning of true myth, which is something beyond the understanding of theistic or atheistic fundamentalism.”

        That’s not an answer…. Want to try again? How can you believe in Yahweh knowing everything is fake? That’s to say, precisely what are you basing your belief on?

        (BTW, how do you get things into italics?)

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      • “But I’m NOT ‘ignoring reality’….I’m presenting it! I didn’t do the digging or write the papers. I just read them (some of them) and put the findings down here.”

        That’s fundamentalism. “Here are the facts, hearken ye unto them.” I saw it again and again growing up.

        “That’s not an answer…. Want to try again? How can you believe in Yahweh knowing everything is fake?”

        Again, textbook fundamentalism.

        For one thing, your presentation of the “facts” leaves a great deal to be desired. But the specific level of “fakeness” isn’t at issue; the issue is whether fiction can represent truth.

        As I’ve stated before, I base my belief on the historicity of the resurrection. If you want to deconvert people like me, just demonstrate that the resurrection is more probably ahistorical.

        And these comment boxes will take HTML markup. Bold, italic, and so forth.

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      • Oh stop trying to label me a fundamentalist for presenting facts. Anyone who reads is free to look them up as I’ve provided links.

        Are these people “fundamentalists”? By your silly reckoning they must be because they’re so sure.

        “The period of the patriarchs, exodus, conquest, or judges as devised by the writers of Scriptures never existed,” asserted Robert Coote, Senior Research Professor of Hebrew Exegesis at San Francisco’s Theological Seminary.

        “The Genesis and Exodus accounts are a fiction,”noted the biblical scholar Niels Peter Lemche of the University of Copenhagen.

        “The actual evidence concerning the Exodus resembles the evidence for the unicorn,” concluded Baruch Halpern, Professor of Jewish Studies of Pennsylvania State University.

        “The patriarchs’ acts are legendary stories, we did not sojourn in Egypt or make an exodus, we did not conquer the land. Those who take an interest have known these facts for years,” declared famed Israeli archeologist, Ze’ev Herzog of Tel Aviv University.

        “Scholars have known these things for a long time, but we’ve broken the news very gently,” explained one of America’s preeminent archaeologists, Professor William Dever of the University of Arizona

        What historicity of the resurrection? This I have to hear….

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      • No, they aren’t fundamentalist for presenting their findings. You are fundamentalist for arguing that those findings can only lead to a single fundamentalist conclusion.

        Fundamentalism isn’t a set of beliefs, it’s a way of processing information.

        I find the historicity of the resurrection to be highly probable, and I therefore find the Biblical metanarrative to be both compelling and convincing. If you want to deconvert me, provide evidence contraverting the probability of a historical resurrection.

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      • Haven’t we been through this before?

        There has never been a single recorded supernatural event in human history
        There has never been a single recorded supernatural event in human history
        There has never been a single recorded supernatural event in human history
        There has never been a single recorded supernatural event in human history
        There has never been a single recorded supernatural event in human history
        There has never been a single recorded supernatural event in human history
        There has never been a single recorded supernatural event in human history
        There has never been a single recorded supernatural event in human history
        There has never been a single recorded supernatural event in human history
        There has never been a single recorded supernatural event in human history
        There has never been a single recorded supernatural event in human history
        There has never been a single recorded supernatural event in human history
        There has never been a single recorded supernatural event in human history
        There has never been a single recorded supernatural event in human history
        There has never been a single recorded supernatural event in human history

        Now repeat it after me….

        There has never been a single recorded supernatural event in human history
        There has never been a single recorded supernatural event in human history
        There has never been a single recorded supernatural event in human history…. 😉

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      • Tim is busy playing Foggy Mountain Breakdown. I’ll leave him a note.

        You’re beyond help, PeW. If you choose to willfully ignore all the evidence which proves your god (and your religion) bunk then there’s nothing I can do except perhaps wish you luck finding rationality by yourself.

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      • Physicsandwhiskey, you are evading the question. Propably not deliberately, but evading none the less. Besides, historicity of the resurrection is not based at all. Actually in comparrison to any other such mythical stories the only reason it has ever been accepted to hold a historical value is because of the allready held faith by some of the researchers. Such claims as that the one particular resurrection myth is true are all about circular reasoning and a giant leap of faith.

        If the historicity of the resurrection is evaluated with the same integrity as other myths we may observe, just as with other such myths, that there is not enough reliable data to deduce the miraculous story to be true. You may have faith that it is true, but it is making a bet on the less likely truth. Less likely by far.

        Even if the Jesus story was based on a real historical character, wich we by the way, are still unable to prove, even then, there could be a dozen non miraculous i.e. more likely explanations, that could explain the new cult to be born and how the events were seen as supernatural by the contemporaries.

        Why do you think that the contemporaries of Mohammed, or in Siddharta Gautama, or Laozi, or any other such characters saw in them the influence of supernatural, if it was not there?

        Religious fundamentalims refers to a firm FAITH (a belief held dispite the evidence) that the holy scriptures are infallible. However, what we are talking here, is about whose authority do we accept and on what grounds. We have no absolute knowledge about anything, we are only assessing whose guesses of the reality are more likely to be true.

        A religious fundamentalist might claim, that he believes the Bible because he believes the ultimate authority of a god, and in comparrison to that the professors of archaeology hold of course less authority. The problem is, that since it is only a claim made by the same scriptures, that they are infact representative of the authority of a god, then we have no reasonable reason to assume that this is so. To a reasonable person that can not possibly be enough. There has to be some additional info to support a particular scriptural claim, against the other contradicting and mutually exclusive scriptures, not to mention the reality that rarely supports any guesses made by primitive dudes who wrote the scriptures in the first place.

        In reality it is not the word of a god against the word of a scientist, but the word of an old book against a professional expert of the matter at hand and with our modern knowledge of the world. It is possible that the professors and their consensus of matters is incorrect, and that the book holds some inner truth to it. If I had to guess wether the modern day researchers with scientific integrity, or the iron age demagogues made a better guess how things really are, then it was an easy choise. Would not the same apply to you?

        For some reason gods hold their divine revelation from the modern scientists, when they all were all too happy to dish out these revelations to ignorant iron age people and pitting them and their religions against each other.

        Is it not rather convincing that we do have evidence of how this ultimate authority was concieved to provide authority for the demagogues in the first place? Is it not quite revealing how that same authority has been used ever since generation after generation by demagogues and rarely for anything positive? And how there never has been any interventions from any gods to help people see when they are betrayed by the appeal to this invented authority?

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      • “If the historicity of the resurrection is evaluated with the same integrity as other myths we may observe, just as with other such myths, that there is not enough reliable data to deduce the miraculous story to be true.”

        That’s the question, isn’t it? If we evaluate miracle claims using the same metric, we can expect to find one of the following outcomes:

        1. They all fall flat
        2. One claim or group of claims presents a consistent statistical outlier in terms of plausibility and probability
        3. Multiple mutually contradictory claims are seen to be plausible, leading to problems.

        Obviously, if we end up with (3), we have a problem: we’re too gullible. (1) and (2) are fine, though. It seems, however, that many atheists commonly assume that (2) is impossible….that any metric will either result in (1) or (3), and that all Christians simply use (3) along with special pleading to defend their beliefs. That’s not necessarily the case, though.

        “Even if the Jesus story was based on a real historical character, there could be a dozen non miraculous i.e. more likely explanations, that could explain the new cult to be born and how the events were seen as supernatural by the contemporaries.”

        I’m interested to know what you mean by this. Are you saying that these other explanations can be demonstrated to be more likely? Or are you saying that simply because they are nonmiraculous they are automatically more likely (probable)? If it’s the former, I’d be interested to know how; if it’s the latter, then that would be a case of special pleading and circular reasoning.

        “Why do you think that the contemporaries of Mohammed, or in Siddharta Gautama, or Laozi, or any other such characters saw in them the influence of supernatural, if it was not there?”

        All the typical reasons why supernatural claims and religious dogma exists. This, in fact, is a major part of why I find christianity plausible; the patterns surrounding the origin of Christianity don’t match the typical genesis of religion at all. If they did, I wouldn’t find it plausible.

        “Religious fundamentalims refers to a firm FAITH that the holy scriptures are infallible.”

        Perhaps. But as I am by no means a fundamentalist (you’ll have to look to John for a poster child of fundamentalism, albeit of the antitheistic sort), this isn’t really at issue here.

        Cheers!

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      • Physicsandwhiskey, there simply is no “2. One claim or group of claims presents a consistent statistical outlier in terms of plausibility and probability.” I am sorry. All religions claim theirs is it, but none have ever demonstrated this. Have they?

        I am saying both, that the other naturalistic explanations can be easily demonstrated to be more likely, than an actual miraculous resurrection and that non-miraculous explanations are also more propable because the miraculous explanation would be less likely.

        It seems to me, that you have created this straw man of an atheist who claims a miraculous event is an absolutely impossible event. When it is such an exeptional, extraordinary and rare event indeed, that it would need a level of very extraordinary evidence to backit up. The Jesus story simply does not cut it.Nor does any other miracle claim.

        You see, even if we would consider Jesus as an historical character, wich still remains to be demonstrated (as you know), and even if we thought that the miraculous resurrection is a possible explanation (it would still be rather unlikely, right?, the story supports any such claim made in the story only very weakly. The mere fact that the other characters in the story take it as true, is quite weak evidence. We know, that these other characters are motivated to take any extraordinary event as a miracle. We know, that they tried to explain it through some hazy prophecies and obviously the writers of the scripture pulled some mental gymnastics to fit the events in the story to resemble some of those prophesies. But these prophesies were so obscure they could have meant just about anything given the right kind of explanatory means. For example the Isiah prophesy could be just as well be talking about Che Guevara, as about Jesus.

        No one is even claimed to be present when the actual miracle happens and the so called eyewittnesses can hardly agree on anything about the circumstances. The writers of the story have hard time even to record wich people should be listed as the eyewittnesses. The fact that they seem to agree on the miracle having happened tells us nothing of the truth value of such a claim. It just tells us that the writers of the story agreed that this was the key plot of the story.

        I think it is very likely indeed that something historical and extraordinary happened that caused the new religious movement, but how extraordinary would it have needed to be, that a new end-of-the-world cult was born? Not so miraculous at all. How likely is it that this story is an accurate description of the events?

        The crucifixion of Jesus was an exeptional execution according to the story. He was on the cross only for one afternoon and his unbroken body was given to a rich supporter of his. For god’s sake the man bled just before he was taken down. Dead people do not bleed, do they? Some wittnesses claim that Jesus was put to a tomb, but than few days later the tomb was empty. The entire debacle about guards and seals at the tomb is obviously fabricated to fend of some contemporary dissbelief. It is no wonder how and why did his followers jump into the conclusion that he had resurrected, but to a modern man that should seem like a rather silly assumption. The fact that his buddies later met him would indicate that like some other men whose crucifixions were aborted soon enough (as we know from Josephus), he had survived. The fact that he conviniently disappeared only a little later should indicate, that he had not really conquered death. Should it not?

        A miracle would be a very extraordinary event indeed, would it not? An extraordinary claim requires extraordinary evidence, before it is accepted to be true. In historical research we dissmiss far less wondrous claims with far better evidence to back them up, than the resurrection of Jesus. Did you not know this? And there is a good reason why such extraordinary claims are dismissed. Because they are obvious myths and fables. We know people come up with all sorts of fiction. Reality check comes when wondrous claims are demonstrated not because they might be true. And as far as we know, no miracle has ever been demonstrated to be true. Have they?

        Are you not the lucky git, 😉 that you have been born into the right culture that your religious and cultural heritage just happens to be the right one and from your perspective your religion’s miracle claims make more sense than the ones of all the others? From the outside of religions where I have looked all my life none of the religions stands out at all. Infact this entire post was about how much made up fluf there is in your particular religion. Should that not sound the alarm bells?

        John is no fundie. You must know this, as you have read so much of his stuff. So, what kind of attempt to draw attention from the topic, is it to try to make the claim he is a fundie? Are you trying to fool yourself?

        Anybody reading this sees, that the facts John has laid out in this post should be just as shattering to any adherent to the Abrahamic religions as it to the fundies of these lots. The hard core fundies have not even given up on the creation myth, so they have no problem in dismissing any new information about other myths in the Bible, but for the rest of you, who have accepted that science might indeed reveal stuff that is not real in the Bible, it should be alarming, that the percentage of the Bible stories, that even seem reliable are slowly but inevitably diminishing into a very narrow strip. It seems like the book is not inspired by a benevolent god after all. Or that, if some portion of it was inspired by an all knowing god, why did that god let people believe all of it was? And how do you know wich part is true and wich is fable? In other such stories we usually tend to think that the supernatural and magical parts are the ones that are fiction. That is because all magic and supernatural remain to be demonstrated.

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      • “There simply is no #2.”

        That’s the question, isn’t it? Do we have one consistent statistical outlier or not? And, perhaps more importantly, what is the proper metric by which to measure?

        It’s troubling that you say a miraculous explanation is both demonstrably less probable and automatically less probable. Is it possible that your latter conclusion is informing your former one? Let me put it another way: if a miraculous explanation can be demonstrated to be less probable, why do we have to presuppose that it’s already automatically less probable? We shouldn’t presuppose a priori improbability if we can simply demonstrate ultimate improbability anyway.

        “It seems to me, that you have created this straw man of an atheist who claims a miraculous event is an absolutely impossible event.”

        It’s not a strawman when there are quite a few atheists who will assert that a miracle is impossible by definition. I addressed this claim here. But that’s not really what I’m focusing on in John’s claims.

        It’s this “exceptional, extraordinary, and rare” approach that I have a problem with. Is skepticism toward miracle claims warranted? Absolutely….but this skepticism should arise because we know that miracle claims have a tendency to arise from nonmiraculous events using specific logical pathways, NOT because of an a priori skepticism toward a particular class of events.

        If we can disregard miracle claims without treating them any differently than any other claims in history, why should we take the extra step of declaring them “extraordinary and exceptional”? It seems to me that we should avoid the appearance of special pleading if at all possible. Why can’t we debunk miracle claims the same way we debunk any other poorly-evidenced claims in history?

        I appreciate that you raise specific objections to the plausibility and reliability of the New Testament account concerning the resurrection. Those are definitely the sorts of questions I’m interested in. But those questions are pointless if we’re just going to presume at the outset that any miracle claims are automatically extraordinary and exceptional and improbable, don’t you think?

        “Are you not the lucky git, that you have been born into the right culture that your religious and cultural heritage just happens to be the right one and from your perspective your religion’s miracle claims make more sense than the ones of all the others?”

        If I was claiming that I was uniquely suited to possess this particular perception, then sure, it would seem quite suspicious. But I daresay that any Christian through history could have seen the same signature patterns, albeit less clearly. Even the literary structures and recorded information in the Bible itself displays this; we may have only characterized these structures in the past couple of centuries, but they would have intuitive appeal even before this.

        You can turn this question around quite easily, too. Why does the atheist demand a standard of evidence which has only been invented in the past couple of centuries, a standard that would be useless and inaccessible to the vast majority of human beings throughout all of history?

        “this entire post was about how much made up fluf there is in your particular religion. Should that not sound the alarm bells?”

        This entire post was a listing of discoveries which, when cleverly arranged, match a particular metanarrative John is advancing.

        Let’s take the “YHWH and his Asherah” inscription as an example. By itself, that inscription is wide open for interpretation. Was YHWH originally part of a cult involving the worship of YHWH and Asherah? Perhaps. Or was this particular inscription part of a cult which married Asherah to YHWH through a syncretic process? Equally probable. It’s only within John’s narrative that his preferred interpretation rises to the top.

        “John is no fundie. You must know this, as you have read so much of his stuff. So, what kind of attempt to draw attention from the topic, is it to try to make the claim he is a fundie?”

        John is not a fundamentalist Christian, but he is absolutely a fundamentalist. This black-and-white, literal-or-bust approach is textbook fundamentalism; all of his arguments and appeals depend on his audience having a fundamentalist mindset. As I’ve said before, fundamentalism isn’t a set of beliefs; it’s a way of thinking about evidence.

        Fundamentalists have a set of blinders that prevents them from looking at how presuppositions effect the interpretation of evidence. As a result, they sincerely believe that their own personal interpretation is the “simplest” and “plainest” interpretation, and they react to any critical analysis with a great deal of hostility. Critical analysis and the comparison of multiple interpretations just seems like apologetic wrangling to fundamentalists, because they simply don’t think about evidence in any other way. That’s exactly what John is doing.

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      • Physicsandwhiskey, there is actually a sort of a “metric” to compare the different religious claims in the research of religion studies. This is a scientific humanist method, that has made theology just as obsolete as astronomy has made astrology. It is a rather new field of research and not many hypothesis has been yet presented, at least in comparrison to more venerable fields of study. Within the methodology of religion studies there are two approaches the emic and ethic, to observe a cultural phenomenon from within, or from without. These are not seen as more, or less valuable ways of evaluating, but it is recognized that they yield different perspective. You are observing Christianity from within and other religions from whithout. This will naturally lead your conception to be different between your own religion and other religions. I lack your inside view, and may have overlooked some valuable information, but my outside view of different religions inevitably gives me more reliable data about comparing them between each other. Can you offer me the inside information, that is curcial?

        We should presuppose a miraculous explanation to be rare, exeptional and extraordinary, since it is easily demonstrable, that they indeed are rare, exeptional and extraordinary. If you can demonstrate that miracles (as in suprenatural interventions) are an everyday, usual and common events, then we would not require extraordinary evidence to back it up. Yes?

        But we have no demonstration of anything suprenatural ever influencing the material reality we live in. We have a lot of evidence that everything ever investigated, previously presupposed to be the result of supernatural involvement has never been proven to be supernatural. Yes?

        We have tales of dragons from all over the world, or tales we could interprete through our own cultural heritage to be dragons, but no dragons live anywhere do they? Not the magical semi-supernatural dragons at least. Every dragon ever found has been revealed to be a natural entity, or a phenomenon, or the product of fictious work of human minds and for all we know same applies to gods. Yes? This does not mean there could not be a magical dragon, or a god hiding somewhere out of the sphere of our experience, but neither does it warrant a belief in dragons or gods as likely entities. Does it?

        Yes, we actually do debunk miracle claims exactly like we debunk any other fictious claims in history. By comparing claims to what we have good evidence to be true, or to be fictious. It is typical to miracle claims, that they all fail this test. This applies to the resurrection of Jesus every step of the way. It is a very typical mythical story. The reason miracle claims hold that extra bit of extraordinary, wich demands extraordinary evidence (that we do not have for the resurrection of Jesus) in them, is that they are usually also demanding the physical laws of material reality to be altered. Now, since we have no evidence of this ever happening, but instead we have an abundance of fictious stories where this such alledgedly has happened, it sets the miracle claims among the extraordinary. Correct?

        There are miracle claims that are totally plausible, like the so called miracles supposedly performed by some saints, but to demonstrate, that these “miracles”, like someone’s boat being miraculously faster than a nother boat, were in any way caused by some supernatural agents would be silly. Miracle as a word demands to be extraordinary and therefore needs extraordinary evidence to back it up. Correct?

        Yes, I read your post about absolute denying of any miracle claims. Did you read the comments? The atheists in general are not speaking of any absolute knowledge (we usually leave that nonsense to the religious), but the highest most propables about information with any practical value.

        Why does the modern doctor demand, that we should use the standard of modern medicine when generations of people have had to do with superstitious nonsense? Because we now have the modern standards. Yes?

        There have been and at present there are an abundance of people who are not Christians. You do realize that? People who have been born into other sorts of cultures with different cultural heritage. Often a heritage, that differs so much from the Christian indoctrination and the many different claims made by Christians about what their faith demands from them, that these other people find Christianity either just alien, deplorable, detestable, or plain distastefull. Most often however, implausible. So, it really does not mean anything, if some Christians before, or after you come to the same conclusions about the faith you share with them. In any case, your god has either failed most other people (and the Christian fundies from your perspective) miserably, or your god simply does not even exist.

        Yes, I share your sentiment, that since the New Testament miraculous claims lack any evidence to back them up, the specific questions lose some of their glister, but as a researcher of history, I find them interresting and important never the less. Because, what is an important lesson to be learned from the Jesus story, as with other such myths, is the way how they take hold of the imaginations of people. So, that even thousands of years later educated people may believe such myths, and hold their morals as captive to the set of values from people far more primitive in their social organization, as if those tribal moralistic rules were indeed given as absolute moral standards by some creator entity of the entire universe. What we can learn from history, is not to repeat the mistakes made by our predecessors. Yes?

        Yes, there could be a lot of different interpretations from the material gathered by archaeologists and other researchers. They are in my book the very best people to evaluate that data. Especially so, when their interpretations go against their own cultural indoctrination. And particularly with me and John in that these interpretations by leading scientists are in fact supported by the bigger picture we hold. Do you have some information that sets the interpretations of the archaeologists mentioned at the topic post in questionable light and if not, how do you know what parts of the Bible are true and wich are just fable?

        Of course John is following his own narrative. There would be little point in being a blogist and a writer, if you did not present your own perspective to things. Would there?

        No, John is no more a fundamentalist, than you, or I. We are all people with our own perspective to the matter at hand. All of us have come to the conclusions we have by following several different indipendend paths and by making our own mind up about the shape of things. None of us has swallowed an agenda by an authority as a whole. That is what fundies do. The fact that John is as firm in his opinion as you are in yours does not make him a fundamentalist by any sense. Not by far.

        Nor does he represent some sort of literalist black and white interpretation of anything as you would claim. What is it, that he is interpreting literally? He is doing just the opposite. He is saying, that the book you hold dear, is not to be taken literally, especially the magical and supernatural claims in it, because we lack any evidence, that most of that book was ever anything but fantasy. And that we do actually hold evidence that most of it actually is fantasy. Especially the supernatural parts, for reasons mentioned abowe. It is not fundamentalist, but just a reasonable claim, that since most of the book is evidently fable, then the obvious fairy tale elements in the book should not be taken as literal descriptions of reality. This is not an all-or-nothing attitude, it is just a logical path taken to the final conclusion about what is most likely.

        if you think John is reacting with some degree of hostility to you, it may be that you are projecting something from your own emotions to his comments. To me it seems, he is only being playfull and humorous, though anybody might get a bit annoyed, if their jokes are repeatedly ignored. 😉 By the way it is good internet policy to assume people are being humorous, if they seem like hostile, because it just might be that they are being humorous, and by assuming that, you have not lost anything. A bit like Pascal’s wager, only used in a practical and sensible effect.

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      • Damn, Raut, that is one awesome reply! Thanks for having my back, but i think PeW was teasing with his fundie accusations. Well, he better have been 😉 Still, always good to know a man in armor is ready to throttle anyone on my behalf 🙂

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      • As long as I think you are right for the right reasons, I am ready to back you up John. 🙂

        Maybe I should take my own advice and assume, that such comments by pysicsandwhiskey are meant as humorous, because they kinda might be some form of sarcastic jokes. 😉 But for now, I think he is actually trying to find the truth of the matter and deserves to be taken seriously.

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      • Oh, he does take this all deadly seriously, which is precisely why i liked your observation of his observational bias of being ‘inside.’ The good thing about PeW is that he’s demonstrated he’s willing to think, arguments aren’t lost on him, and i appreciate you being a lot smarter (and more patient) than me in addressing his positions.

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      • “I am saying both, that the other naturalistic explanations can be easily demonstrated to be more likely, than an actual miraculous resurrection and that non-miraculous explanations are also more propable because the miraculous explanation would be less likely.”

        Jesus! You need to explain that. A “miracle” is less probable – under the best possible interpretation – than a naturalistic explanation. A extraordinary claim requires extraordinary evidence. I thought that stuff was common sense.

        Yahweh did miracles because Yahweh did miracles. Yahweh did miracles because Yahweh did miracles. Yahweh did miracles because Yahweh did miracles. Yahweh did miracles because Yahweh did miracles.Yahweh did miracles because Yahweh did miracles.Yahweh did miracles because Yahweh did miracles.

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      • Hahaha! I have never before been called Jesus, but since I am a blue-eyed blonde, I guess the mistake is easy to make. As we have all seen from Hollywood productions the son of THE god has the characteristics of a northern euripid, even though the mom was some Jewish girl.

        Yes, I thought it was pretty basic stuff, but it is only fair to assume it is not basic stuff to everybody, especially if they argue against it.

        Yahweh did miracles, and we know this because it says so in the Bible, and the Bible is all true (exept most of it) because Yahweh said in the Bible, that it is all true and we can trust the word of Yahweh, because everything Yahweh reveals in the Bible is true (exept that there never was a global flood, the genealogies do not reveal the age of the earth, burning a pidgeon does not heal the lepracy, stoning unruly kids and homosexuals nor owning slaves is not justified nor ethical in any society, the patriarchs are just imaginary characters, the Hebrews never made an exodus from Egypt, the prophesies including the ones Isaiah made did not come true, the sun emerged before the earth and vegetation, concepts of sin and soul are human inventions, and so on…)

        What is actually more likelier? That there is some creator entity, that keeps pet nations and lets us make a choise wether or not to believe in him, but rewards the people who have the right cultural indoctrination and punishes the ones with the wrong kind of cultural heritage? Because that seems to be the main division line about wether a person believes in this particular god, or the other. That a dude survived the crucifixion and haunted his superstitious buddies for a while after that and caused an end-of-the-world-cult to be born, or that the creator entity actually made it his purpose to be born as a human being to reveal his divine existance through supernatural feat of resurrection and bungled the entire event by resurrecting when there was nobody to even wittness the stunt being done?

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  7. “we are witnessing a fascinating phenomenon in that all this is simply ignored by the public.”
    Ignored willfully and purposely. They wish all these facts would just go away.

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    • I honestly don’t think most people even know. Professor William Dever (who said “Scholars have known these things for a long time, but we’ve broken the news very gently”) said it’s not the role of archeology to promote its findings, just publish them and then let society sort out the rest. So it seems our popular culture is simply ignoring it. It certainly doesn’t help when batshit crazy “History Channel” produces batshit crazy programs like “The Bible” which paints the Old and new Testaments as somehow real.

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      • I am all for popularization of history, because that is the way the information reaches people outside the ivory towers, but history channel is an embarresment to history.

        Reality is often more wonderfull than the fiction, as we say here in Finland. If I have learned something from trying to popularize history and telling people the truth about the popular myths, it is, that people do like to feel smart, and one of the cheapest ways some of them acheive this, is by reaffirming their preconceptions. If someone challenges what people believe, no matter how trivial, or for what reason they believed it, they are more likely to refuse to believe the new information, simply because accepting it would make them feel ignorant. If not for any longer, than for the moment they still remembered their previous delusion of the matter.

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      • That’s a good observation. There is a certain amount of pain in accepting new information if it categorically contradicts something you’ve believed in. Ignoring it, in this instance, is far easier. I think that’s why I said “Yahwehism surviving into the second half of this century.” It’ll take 2 generations (in my mind) to exorcise it through natural attrition.

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      • I hope you are right, but we have several instances in history, of a civilization crumbling and all previous knowledge being all but lost and in most of these historical turning points, it has all been about the critical mass of people turning to faith and saying, what is the use of researching the reality around us, when all we need to know is in this one book. And when people get into that mood, they tend to be rather violent towards anyone who dares to challenge the absolute truth in that book, what ever book it is.

        I have a funny, but totally off topic, example about previously held preconvictions. It is a widely accepted popular myth, that medieval armour was terribly heavy and cumbersome and that myth is based, like so many other myths on a bit of reality. The armour used in medieval times was made of metal and everyone intuitively knows that a kilo of steel is heavier than a kilo of feathers. The early research into medieval armour was based on the ideology that the medieval times were the dark ages and everything was horrible and of course people were stupid. Stupid enough to wear terribly clumsy metal gear even to battle. This was reaffirmed by the research of sporting armour made especially for the joust.

        Now, later study into the subject has shown that the armour was not only very flexible, but also rather light weight. Most full body suits were something like 25 kilos and that was evenly distributed along the body. They were often made to fit the wearer and so forth. The earliest source we have for a knight to be hauled on top of a horse is from Mark Twain’s comical book A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court.

        But no matter what the evidence is presented to counter, or what the experts in the field say, the myth that people learned from some adventure movie, or from a comic book and that has no real bearing in their lives, is so precious to some of them, that they will not let go of it. I have even heard people who witnessed someone wearing an original armour and even showing how easy it is to run, or to jump onto a horse wearing one doubt their eyes, because they “knew” armour was heavy. And typically they try to cling on to some other myth, like that the medieval people were really small, so even an armour that seems light to us, would have felt a lot heavier to the medieval miniature people…

        The further down history we go, the more we have contradicting mythical elements in the stories, that some people are taught from childhood to take at face value, and then they are ready to make just simply unbelievable mental gymnastics to defend their faith as having plausible reasons to believe in them. Even when most of them really found these myths plausible only because that is how they were presented to them originally. There is terrible power in the who gets to tell their version first, because that version is the base line of truth, against wich all other versions are to be tested and if it happens to be a religious ideal, of course it will seem like more plausible than any of the other ones, simply because of the emotional tie between the person and the myth.

        Science and research of history with scientific integrity are influenced by our previously held beliefs, but they are the only really reliable way of evaluating anything.

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  8. I get giddy when I see a new post of yours. That is the jest of my comment. Nothing much more to add, only I have to read this about 5 more times to truly understand it as I am not as well read as you. Damn you’re smart!

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  9. You would’t have to kill anyone. You only need to start a religion of your own… lets say you call it ‘reason’ or ‘logic’ … you get the idea. let the ideas compete. Teach that nothing exists if it is without credible evidence and so on. Perhaps give science a boost or early kick start. Let Constantine live but ensure he is a critical thinker who uses logic, reason, and science.

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  10. Recently I find your posts more interesting than usual because of all of the history I learn. I actually find it fascinating to watch how power relations shape pantheons and how many of them are related.

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  11. Just yesterday someone asked a question on the Mormon Stories FB wall about how church members avoid difficult information. It’s a lot more difficult to ignore skewed Mormon history, as it happened more recently, but people manage it. They cherry-pick sources that agree with their faith and make them feel good, and denounce anything that makes them feel negative about the church as “anti-Mormon” and “of the devil.”

    They even do it when presented with apologist theories, preferring their own rosy view.

    As for the issues with the Old Testament, they admit there are problems, but only as much as it allows them to cherry pick certain doctrines. It’s very convenient for them. What’s most bizarre is that they haven’t used it to excuse the amount of genocide that goes on, sticking to the story of, “They deserved it ‘cos they were evil.”

    The fact is that while church leaders will admit to larger problems within the Bible, or the sources of Christianity, or indeed anything that has been proven false concerning their religion, it gets published on “anti-religious” sites like these where Christians will never look, and then church leaders will continue teaching their congregations the exact same things and fail to tell them about any of the issues they’ve admitted are present!

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    • Precisely. It’s not a lack of information, or a hiding of the information as it’s all in the public domain, rather the problem is that our popular culture hasn’t come out and publicized it yet. The History (cough) Channel’s “The Bible” series was a perfect example of it. They actively went out of their way to present the OT and NT as real, ignoring the archeological consensus that it’s in fact entirely bunk. Goebbels would be so pleased… ordinary laymen don’t stand a chance in learning the truth if the lie is being promoted.

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  12. I can’t help but perceive these “story creators”, from Christianity to Islam, are some of the most ingenious business people to ever live and those that listened the most gullible. If we had not had creative minds that challenged the foundations of these imaginings, our progress would be so sorely lacking (there might still be people who believe the Earth is flat…oh wait, I live in the U.S., there are people who think that. *face palm of shame* sigh)

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      • I forgot to mention too because I was in such a rush that, like others here, I love the way you have laid all of this out John. I am always in awe of your persuasive ability to present this topic calmly and cogently that is often fraught with emotion and over-reaction.

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      • Take that back…. I was just going to reply to your latest post admitting i’m guilty (as charged) of all the negative info presentation you listed! 🙂

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      • Good title. Although the best film parody of religious politics ever made, in my mind, has to be Monty Python’s ‘Life of Brian’, even though it was as much a parody of english public schools. Their portrayal of the absurdity of religious semantics is genius.

        Tennis to rugby? That’s a shift. I’ve known tennis players and rugby players, very different fish! 🙂

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  13. Honestly, I have no idea how you fit all this stuff in your head. Bloody brilliant, I think it’s one of your best. This will be on file for future reference!

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      • Well, I’m looking forward to the book sized version of all these. You heard about that book, “Jesus Potter, Harry Christ”? I’ve got it on my kindle now but oyu can get PDF copies of it too for free. Haven’t started reading it yet but its about the myth of jesus. I’m sure you’ve done your research already, but might be something to interest you. 🙂

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      • I saw the name and cover pop up a lot last year when Derek was promoting it. Seemed to get some interest, which is good. The more material out there the better.

        Suppose i could slap all these into an ebook, but it’s pretty run-of-the-mill stuff just with some fart jokes thrown in. Not sure if anyone would buy it 😦

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      • I think the comedy and humor make it interesting, better than the dry philosophical arguments one usually reads. That’s no guarantee of success, but at least you can say you wrote a book. It impresses people 🙂 Vanity for the win!

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  14. YAHWEH LIVES

    Smörgåsbord of Gods

    You’re giving me indigestion
    With your suggestion
    It’s just out of the question
    That there’s more than one god

    You’re giving me constipation
    With your stipulation
    It’s just a fabrication
    That there’s more than one god

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  15. Brilliant post, my friend!

    Somehow, I don’t think those who cling to the fallacy of religious beliefs will listen to reason or facts, sadly, and I think part of the reason is that they’re terrified of self-responsibility, terrified that we’re our own ‘saviors’ and, perhaps more importantly, that the buck stops with us.

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  16. This is a response to Raut’s last comment to me; I’m putting it here so he can respond directly.

    Heya, sorry I didn’t see this before. It didn’t come in as a direct reply.

    “You are observing Christianity from within and other religions from whithout. This will naturally lead your conception to be different between your own religion and other religions.”

    I take issue with both of these assertions. First, I view Christianity very much from the perspective of an outsider; I’ve thoroughly distanced myself from the fundamentalism I was raised in, and I have a very critical approach to organized Christianity in general. I apply the same metric to the claims of Christianity as I do to any other religious claims.

    Moreover, even if I was an “insider”, I don’t think you can simply assume such a status would make me less capable of assessing the data. I understand your intuition here, but it’s the same as a homeopath telling a medical doctor “you’re on the inside” or a free-energy proponent telling a physicist “you’re on the inside”. Sometimes you HAVE to be on the inside to have a robust understanding of the whole issue.

    So I can’t let either of these points go unchallenged.

    “We should presuppose a miraculous explanation to be rare, exceptional and extraordinary, since it is easily demonstrable, that they indeed are rare, exceptional and extraordinary.”

    This is a rather tricky claim to dissect. But I think there’s an element of equivocation here. Many events (for example, a terrestrial comet impact) are “rare” and “extraordinary” from a statistical standpoint, but this rarity tells us about future likelihood, not prior probability. Just because we shouldn’t expect comet impacts to happen on a daily basis doesn’t mean a comet impact can’t be a good explanation for past evidence.

    There’s also an element of question-begging here, though I’m sure it isn’t intentional. If the god depicted in the Bible does exist, then miracles (while still rare) are not extraordinary in any ultimate sense, because they are quite consistent with reality itself. If the god depicted in the Bible doesn’t exist, then miracles are beyond extraordinary: they’re downright impossible (unless some other higher power exists). But since this distinction depends on the thing we’re trying to prove, it’s not helpful for proving that thing in the first place.

    All this should be immaterial, as I’ve stated, because we should evaluate historical claims equally. If they stand, they stand; if they fall, they fall. None of this anti-miracle-presuppositional business, because that runs the risk of cementing unfalsifiability.

    If we have an extreme presupposition that miracles are highly improbable, then we’ll be unable to recognize one even if it actually did happen.

    “Every dragon ever found has been revealed to be a natural entity, or a phenomenon, or the product of fictious work of human minds and for all we know same applies to gods. Yes? This does not mean there could not be a magical dragon, or a god hiding somewhere out of the sphere of our experience, but neither does it warrant a belief in dragons or gods as likely entities.”

    No, it doesn’t warrant belief, because every dragon ever found has not turned out to be a dragon. However, if a dragon was found that did turn out to be a dragon, it would warrant belief. And that’s the question, after all. We’re interested in finding the best interpretation of the evidence, not balancing presuppositions.

    Is a healthy skepticism toward miracle claims (or dragon claims) warranted? Sure. But if we let that skepticism skew our methods of reasoning, we’re committing a fallacy. Skepticism doesn’t say, “I can’t be convinced.” Skepticism says, “Here’s how you can convince me.”

    “This applies to the resurrection of Jesus every step of the way. It is a very typical mythical story.”

    I’m not so sure. I don’t think it has the typical elements of a mythical story at all. In fact, I think the only substantive things it has in common with myth is the inclusion of supernatural elements….but since those are the very things we’re trying to evaluate, it’s improper to use them as a defeater to the reliability of the account.

    “The reason miracle claims hold that extra bit of extraordinary in them, is that they are usually also demanding the physical laws of material reality to be altered.”

    No they aren’t. Not even a little bit.

    All physical laws remain exactly the same whether the resurrection happened or not. Every single one. The acceleration of a body is still directly proportional to net force and inversely proportional to its mass. All forces are still met with equal and opposite forces. Momentum, energy, and angular momentum are still conserved by all natural processes. The speed of light in a vacuum is still constant. Gravity and electromagnetism still have an inverse-squared action. The derivative of a constant is still zero. E is still equal to m*c*c. An increase in the speed of a fluid in inviscid flow still occurs simultaneously with a decrease in pressure or potential energy. PV still equals nRT.

    There is no physical law which would have to be changed if the resurrection had taken place.

    “there could be a lot of different interpretations from the material gathered by archaeologists and other researchers. They are in my book the very best people to evaluate that data. Especially so, when their interpretations go against their own cultural indoctrination.”

    While I can understand the intuitive appeal of favoring conclusions that seem to go against the researchers’ preconceptions, doesn’t this take attention away from method and move it to motive? That’s never a good thing.

    “No, John is no more a fundamentalist, than you, or I. We are all people with our own perspective to the matter at hand.”

    And fundamentalists don’t have their own perspective?

    “None of us has swallowed an agenda by an authority as a whole. That is what fundies do. The fact that John is as firm in his opinion as you are in yours does not make him a fundamentalist by any sense.”

    It seems you have an alternate definition of a fundamentalism, specifically “someone who swallows an authority’s agenda whole.” If we’re using that definition, then no, John isn’t a fundamentalist.

    But I don’t think that’s a useful definition at all, because it excludes the vast majority of fundamentalists. Like I said, fundamentalism isn’t about what you believe, but about how you approach the evidence. John approaches evidence in a very fundamentalist way.

    “What is it, that he is interpreting literally? He is doing just the opposite. He is saying, that the book you hold dear, is not to be taken literally.”

    ….and thus must be discounted entirely. Which is a completely fundamentalist thing to say. Fundamentalists believe that something must either be 100% literal or 100% phony. This is really silly.

    “if you think John is reacting with some degree of hostility to you….”

    Oh, I never said anything of the sort. 🙂 He’s not hostile toward me at all. The hostility, I said, is directed toward the methods of critical analysis. The all-or-nothing approach precludes textual criticism.

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    • While I’m not nearly as smart as you lot, I do have a question:

      You say fundamentalists see things in black and white, real or fake, but in the question of “is there a god?” Is there not just two answers, Yes or No? In that sense, every single person would be fundamentalists. I do understand that I’m being very reductive here and you speak more of a way of looking at evidence. To be honest, in my view of what is a fundamentalist, John does qualify. (Don’t hate me!). I see fundies as those who believe in something incredibly strongly and are very outspoken about their belief. Is that correct by definition, no, it’s just my experience.

      It’s 2am and I’ll start to ramble if I continue. Keep up the good work John!

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      • Ramble all you like, Mike… you never know what gems might flow 🙂

        If pressed i’d say i’m 99% certain there is no magical sky being. Absolutes are irrational, although based on observation and time one can be confident in that high number. Theists, particularly fundies, tend to be 110% certain a magical sky being exists, who just so happens to hate all the things they hate. Convenient!

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      • Fundamentalism is by no means dependent on the strength of belief or how outspoken a person is. If that was the case, Neil Armstrong would be a “fundamentalist” about having gone to the moon (now doesn’t that sound silly?). Simply having a strong position doesn’t make you a fundie.

        John isn’t being “black and white” about facts—that’s just common sense—but he IS being “black and white” about the interpretation of those facts. He believes the facts can only fit into his framework and nothing else. That’s what fundies do.

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      • Hey, i didn’t write the “framework,” didn’t pen the books and never tried to sell it… I’m merely pointing out (through the use of observed “facts”) its all hogwash.

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      • I think you have zeal but not according to knowledge. WHOOPS!

        Your preconceptions and expectations caused you to read that article incorrectly. The Codex Sinaiticus most certainly mentions the resurrection (plus, it’s not exactly a new thing; it was discovered quite a while ago). The article was referring to the fact that the CS lacks the extended ending of Mark 16 (which we’ve known was fraudulent for, well, ages). The first part of Mark 16 and the other three gospels in the CS are all substantively identical to the Majority Text, including mention of the resurrection.

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      • Sure would be surprising if it didn’t, though.

        I daresay that if we DID find a really early text with no mention of miracles or resurrections, I’d have to reconsider my estimate of the probability of the resurrection.

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      • Thomas is a sayings gospel; one would not expect a non-narrative work to discuss the narrative events of Jesus’s life.

        But perhaps I should have been more clear: if we were to find a really early text of the New Testament with no mention of miracles or a resurrection, THAT would likely unseat my assessment of the probabilities. Not the existence of a few gnostic sayings-gospels bandied about by second-century heretics.

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      • You say Thomas is a “sayings” gospel… I tend to think it’s actually an aboriginal text of the crisis cultists who invented the jesus narrative.

        Now, don’t try and skirt around the issue. You say the resurrection is the BIGGEST thing ever… EVER. And yet, here we have a document that simply fails to mention the BIGGEST THING EVER. Rather odd, don’t you think…. forgetting to mention the first ever supernatural event in human history.

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      • Okay, we’ve jumped from “here’s a related demonstration of falsifiability, just in case you were wondering” to “The Gospel of Thomas doesn’t mention the resurrection! If the resurrection happened, the Gospel of Thomas would have mentioned it!” I’m fine with the jump, mind you, but I just want to make a note of it in transit.

        If you don’t believe Thomas is a sayings gospel, you’re wholly entitled to your opinion, but I’ll go with the substantive body of scholarship myself. 😉 The fact remains that it’s simply not a narrative. It would be like expecting a description of the Great Wall to show up in the sayings of Confucius.

        And “first ever supernatural event” — whaaaa? Where does that come from? If the resurrection happened, it’s not the first miracle by ANY means. If it didn’t happen, then yeah, there probably aren’t any miracles at all.

        It’s as if you aren’t even considering the nature of metanarrative and presuppositional frameworks. We aren’t talking about whether there are facts to substantiate a particular event; it’s about which total presuppositional framework is the most complete, holistic explanation of all the evidence.

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      • I was being lazy and just cut right to the chase. It ruins all religious arguments. Plus, don’t forget, Roy is categorically insane. Did you jump in, or decided to stay out?

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      • Understood. And just to elaborate, Roy doesn’t listen as he’s off in his own little make-believe world. He used to haunt my blog back when i started.

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      • Damn, he’s an angry one. I don’t see the point though in getting cranky with all the nonsense… just pointing it out is enough. $30! That had me giggling. What was all this “nothing pre-250” bit? Is that true?

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      • Apparently he has a pet theory that the entirety of the Old Testament was forged in the 3rd century BCE, and that the entirety of the New Testament was forged after 180 CE (why he picked 180 CE is anybody’s guess). It flies in the face of clear and undeniable evidence….but no, it’s his faith and he’s sticking to it, evidence be damned.

        He keeps insisting that unless we can turn up a copy of the Old Testament that’s older than 250 BCE, it proves his pet theory right.

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      • Well, it has been suggested the OT was only penned in the time of the Maccabees, but i think the 700’s is more likely as it was used to justify the northern land grab. Whatever the case, it’s first drafts are about 1,000 years younger than claimed.

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    • Oh, good grief…
      To draw an analogy between yourself and a medical doctor in this context is laughable.
      Before you can challenge/ reject Raut’s assertions you first have to be honest and declare your bona fides…namely, you believe in the resurrection, you believe in Jesus.
      This immediately puts you ”left field”.
      In the face of the overwhelming evidence, Christians really have nowhere to hide.- neither Jews or Muslims for that matter.
      Christians have had over 2000 years. You lot haven’t managed to cut it in all this time, so what the hell makes you think you are going to suddenly get the picture now?
      Time to grow up and get over yourself. In the face of the evidence, what you cling to is untenable.
      It is simply a crock.

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      • I started then deleted a rant about that illogical doctor comparison too. PeW’s been steeped in deity belief from birth, and in fact continues with the SAME deity, and thinks he can see it objectively. Weird. But to think he can compare knowledge gained from baby to adult indoctrination of culturally specific superstitious beliefs, with knowledge gained as an adult on universally agreed scientific facts, is seriously silly. I was waiting to see what Raut would say, but he clearly sadly shook his head and took leave …

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      • There is no justification for his stance any more; arguing endlessly over issues of fundamentalism, etc ad nauseum. It is blind waffle, and he has pretty much lost all credibility.
        Raut put him to the sword and he just won’t admit that it he had been blown off one time too many.

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    • Sorry, I did not respond right away. I was out sailing. Physicsandwhiskey, I have the utmost respect for you having and been able to distance yourself from any fundamentalist upbringing. In my book, anyone who can and will distance them from the tribal moralisms religions push on people are OK. 🙂 I am a firm believer in the freedom of religion, and I do not care what particular superstition anyone finds appealing enough to hold faith in them, as long as they do not let the ancient (or modern) tribal moralism to dictate their actions. But I do confess, I find it curious why anyone in particular believes a particular myth to be true.

      To me the Bible represents a set of myths, but also a particular mythology in itself. This topic post was about how the respected expert researchers have found many of the foundation stories in the Bible to be mere myths and how the later prophets and sons of gods were seemingly oblivious to these facts. Wich naturally sets their alledged divine inspiration into a questionable light. Now, from my perspective this claim of divine inspiration was allready in question, because none of these claims have ever been proven (not as in any practical meaning of the word).

      To be clear, I did not claim a superior aspect to the matter at hand as such, and I did asked, if you could provide the insider information, that would make your case. I only tried to refer to the scientific method being used to evaluate religious data, in religion studies (and wich I have had the priviledge of studying a bit in my time in the university). I must wonder how do you see this issue, if you actually feel, that you have both the insider insight and the outsider view? I can only assign to the outsider view, since I have never even had the insight aspect. To any religion. But as I have never had the insight aspect to Islam or Buddhism either, I do believe my view is equal with their claims as it is towards the claims made in Christianity. Even the society from wich I hail, is very, very secular indeed. Still I recognize my own bias. We all have bias. To evaluate anything we need to recognize our own bias first.

      Comet impact does not cut as an analogy for any supernatural claims, simply because it is a natural and demonstrable phenomenon. Claims about supernatural causes for events in natural world are not exeptional as such, infact very many have been made throughout history. It is actually because they are so common, that makes any of them to be taken as an unlikely explanation. You see, none have been ever verified, nor given enough evidence, that they should be taken as more likelier explanation, than almost any possible natural cause to any events at all. The resurrection of Jesus is one of these.

      The events described in the Gospels could have a number of natural explanations starting from the assumption that they are infact fiction. To demand, that the supernatural explanation is true, would indeed be special pleading, because then just about any other claim of supernatural causes for historical events would be equally valid.

      The resurrection of Jesus is quite a typical mythical supernatural story in, that for the actuall supernatural event claimed by the story there are no wittnesses. Are there? It is of no different form of a myth in that sense from the food offered to spirits to dissappear when no one is looking, wich is one of the most common supernatural explanations people offer for what we in modern culture deem to be caused by natural reasons. Or should we take it, that it is equally justified to think the spirits ate the food, than that animals were responsible for it’s dissappearance? Of course not.

      If the resurrection was supposed to be the final evidence based on wich we (any human being dispite of their cultural heritage) should find it believable, that Jesus was a flesh and blood son of a god, why is it that nobody was there when he alledgedly did resurrect? Why should we presuppose the version of the story his followers wanted to tell us?

      Why is there no outside information verifying this miracle? The evidence to back up this particular resurrection is all circumstantial and told by people allready committed to this man being somehow exeptionally important. Just like the disappearing food is being assumed by those who believe in spirits to be eaten by the spirits and not for example mice.

      Is it not the laws of physics, that determine celldecomposition right after death in all organic things without exeption in this material universe? Is it not precisely because this is impossible, that a resurrection even might be a significant event. A comet impact might be rare, and it might be worshipped as a supernaturally caused phenomenon by a primitive culture, who do not understand the actual reasons for a comet to appear, but it really would not require a supernatural cause, would it? Besides, afterwards we would have the crater as evidence that we could research wether it was caused by the wrath of gods, or more likely by natural causes.

      There are literally dozens of resurrection stories from the ancient cultures, why would you see one of them more significant than the others? Is it not more likely that any particular resurrection story is the result of people with such cultural heritage, to interprete an event to be one, than that one actually did happen, especially since there were no wittnesses to the event? And even if there had been wittnesses, would it not be reasonable to question their judgement and ability to asses the situation, when we know their cultural indoctrination and heritage?

      If we are to exclude the questionable nature of all suprenatural claims, even then there is very little evidence in the Jesus story, to accept the supernatural explanation at face value as the likelies one. If we assume the story is based on actual events (by the way wich we can not verify) it is far more likelier for example, that Joseph of Arimathea bribed the Romans to give Jesus to him before he was actually dead, and only played out as Jesus had died to mislead the spies of his enemies (perhaps Joseph was distrustfull of the friends of Jesus – he would have had reason to be), then took him away, treated his wounds and clothed him. Is it not much more likelier story, than that this particular dude was the one and only flesh and blood son of the creator of the entire universe, who had come to reveal himself to all humanity by resurrecting from the dead when no-one was looking?

      There are several quite natural ways the Jesus resurrection story could have played out. The difference between for example conspiracy theories and miracles, is that conspiracies do constantly happen and they are often verified where as miracles just might happen but are never verified. Therefore it is more likelier, how ever unlikely, that the Romans decided to save Jesus in order to use their well known politics of divide and conquer on the protectoriate of Iudea. They knew that Jesus was not a real threat to the Roman empire at the time, but that the Jewish priests (who held the real political power in the region) felt Jesus was a threat to their religiously based authority. So, it was in the interrest of the Romans to create a rival Jewish religious cult within the area and support their growth within the troublesomely indipendend and unifiedly religious Jews. They had the motive and the means to save Jesus and cause this cult to be born around him. Do you want more possible non-miraculous reasons, that are infact much more propable than the idea that this particular resurrection was true?

      Do you see the problem here? The problem is, that we simply do not know what happened, but it takes a mighty leap of faith to think, that in this particular instance the most likeliest explanation is the one that survived as the traditional one, that not so miraculously also incorporates superstitious and supernatural elements.

      For example, where did Jesus get clothes after his alledged death? He was crucified naked as the soldiers took his clothes according to the story. Yet he was put in shrouds, and those srouds were found from the empty tomb. After his resurrection, did he run around naked, or was he given some celestial garb by the angels? Or is it simply more likely that he was taken from the tomb by some human being who gave him the clothes and who treated his wounds, that he still alledgedly bore when he met his less than loyal supporters?

      The Jesus story is a typical myth in that it depicts a special kind of man, who with supernatural powers does heroic feats to benefit others. It is precisely the supernatural powers that determine it is a myth. Otherwise it might be indistiguihable from reality. As there are and allways have been men who do help other men. It is not technically a historical story, because of these mythical elements and because it has no outside verification. So, it is indistinguishable from fiction. There are no contemporary sources supporting it. None. Nada. The only outside sources from a religious canon are later stuff by Josephus and Tacitus, that ackowledge, that such a cult exists and that they worship this character who was supposedly executed.

      It seems to me, that we are talking past each other a bit, as you are defending the possibility that Jesus resurrected, while I think it is just very unlikely, I do not deny that it could be possible. But I do think it is such an exeptional event (for it even to have any special meaning, it had to be), that it would require more solid evidence, than it actually has.

      What comes to fundamentalism, I think it is very hard to define who is and who is not a fundamentalist. I am willing to accept that a person is a fundamentalist, if that person declares to be one. From my perspective a fundamentalist believes one source without a doubt and often even contrary to his own experiences. However, I do not know any Christian fundamentalists who would actually support slavery as a good form of human conduct, though the Bible rather openly celebrates it. Even the most devout fundie “interpretes” the Bible to fit his/her own set of morals.

      John does not think, that the Bible is 100% phony any more than I do. I think we both believe there are a lot of true stories in the Bible. For example a city called Jerusalem exists and did allready when the Bible was originally written. A lot of events in the Bible are descriptions of what really happened, and even the myths had very real reasons why they were invented. It is just that the evidence for the miraculous stuff in the book is just about as good as in any other mythical story. That many of the stories in the book are based on actual events, though they are often twisted in folklore and propaganda purposes, but none of the supernatural stuff has ever been demostrated to be true. Right John?

      There are these books, that are either the word of a god as alledged, or they are invented by people. Correct? Now, wich do you, physicsandwhiskey, think the Bible is? Or do you think it is partly inspired by a god and partly just a fable invented by men? If that god let men invent and add additional stuff and call it the word of god, then how do we know wether any of it is actually inspired by a god? And if anything is, what parts then? If fictional stories invented by men are indistinguishable from divinely inspired ones, how are the divinely inspired stories in any way usefull to us? Does god condemn homosexuality or does he not and how do you know if that part about killing them on sight is just cultural bias of the writers, or an actual demand from a god?

      It seems that the parts of the Bible, that could be atributed to an all-knowing entity are getting less and less as our own knowledge of the reality grows. No, doubt there will allways be some room for wishfull thinking and projected dreams about how someone would want to read divine authorship into some parts of the book, but is that even reasonable?

      Now, it could be, that Jesus resurrected and that the professors of archeology in Tell Aviv university have missassesed the evidence of the historicity of the pathriarchs, but what reason do we -you and I – have to believe, that is more likely, than that this particular mythical resurrection claim is any more true, than the billions of other mythical and supernatural claims made by men none of wich have ever been verified, or that those even older mythical stories about the exodus and the patriarchs are infact descriptions of historical reality?

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      • Spot on Raut. The example i like to use is the book,The Hunt for Red October, which has plenty of real places in its pages. Moscow exists, so does Washington, as does most of the technologies and military hardware cited in the novel…. that doesn’t, however, make Tom Clancy’s story a work of non-fiction.

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      • My favourite would be the Iliad & Odyssey because these books are just about as old as the Bible in general and describe actual places and even some events, but we certainly do not think these descriptions to be accurate, nor do we think, that the supernatural events described in them have enough evidence to warrant a belief in Poseidon…

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      • “I was out sailing.”

        Color me jealous.

        “I find it curious why anyone in particular believes a particular myth to be true.”

        I can’t speak categorically for anyone else, but I am a Christian because I find it more plausible that Christianity is true than that Christianity is false. Pretty simple, really.

        “respected expert researchers have found many of the foundation stories in the Bible to be mere myths and how the later prophets and sons of gods were seemingly oblivious to these facts. Wich naturally sets their alledged divine inspiration into a questionable light.”

        I’d question whether this is, in fact, a questionable issue. Just because a prophet theoretically has special knowledge from God on a particular topic doesn’t make him or her generally infallible, let alone omniscient.

        “I recognize my own bias. We all have bias. To evaluate anything we need to recognize our own bias first.”

        This is very true indeed.

        “Comet impact does not cut as an analogy for any supernatural claims, simply because it is a natural and demonstrable phenomenon.”

        Natural, yes….but Christians would argue that God is “natural” in the sense that his providential involvement properly belongs in our world. And as no one has ever directly witnessed a terrestrial comet impact on the surface of our planet, it is hardly demonstrable.

        More esoteric examples could be used, like alien landings or even time travel. But the point is not to compare comet impacts with supernatural events, but to rather point out that future likelihood and prior probability are separate.

        “Claims about supernatural causes for events in natural world are not exeptional as such, in fact very many have been made throughout history. It is actually because they are so common, that makes any of them to be taken as an unlikely explanation. You see, none have been ever verified, nor given enough evidence.”

        I would argue that you can only group things together (e.g., claims about supernatural causes) if they share a series of essential attributes. Merely being labeled “supernatural” isn’t enough.

        For example, we rightly reject the existence of Pliny’s Monopods, though there is nothing intrinsically supernatural about those claims.

        “The resurrection of Jesus is quite a typical mythical supernatural story in, that for the actuall supernatural event claimed by the story there are no wittnesses.”

        I think we would all agree that witnessing an individual’s public execution and witnessing that same individual walking around and talking thereafter is sufficient to call it “witnessing a resurrection”, no?

        “Is it not the laws of physics, that determine celldecomposition right after death in all organic things without exeption in this material universe?”

        Certainly. And our understanding of those laws would in no way be required to change as a consequence of the resurrection being factual. Consider this excellent post for more on this topic. Of particular significance is the following portion (quoting Boundry):

        “Suppose the randomized controlled trial in American Heart Journal turned out to confirm the hypothesis of therapeutic efficacy of intercessory prayer. Though it may be ridiculous to speculate that anything of the sort would ever happen, as no alleged case of miraculous healing has even been authenticated scientifically, if it would, there is no obvious reason why the scientific enterprise would immediately and entirely collapse. The fact that some prayers actually do help people recover would admittedly cause a complete metaphysical revolution in science (imagine the enthusiasm of theologians), but if the range of action of this supernatural power turned out to be restricted, why would it endanger the rest of our scientific endeavours?”

        Make sense? That’s why the whole “breaking the laws of physics” business is vacuous.

        “There are literally dozens of resurrection stories from the ancient cultures, why would you see one of them more significant than the others?”

        Because they show the characteristic signs of myth and it does not?

        “it is far more likelier, for example, that Joseph of Arimathea bribed the Romans to give Jesus to him before he was actually dead, then took him away, treated his wounds and clothed him. Is it not much more likelier story, than that this particular dude was the one and only flesh and blood son of the creator of the entire universe, who had come to reveal himself to all humanity by resurrecting from the dead?”

        Perhaps. But here we get into the conflation of dependent and independent probability.

        The resurrection functions as the central figurehead of Christianity, both before and after it. Though the probability of a Divine Plan may be lower than the probability of coincidence for any one particular event, a Divine Plan has the benefit of dependent probability, which means its probability can be higher for all events taken together.

        Coincidences must, by definition, have independent probability. On the other hand, the elements of a Divine Plan have dependent probability. It’s the holistic picture in which the Divine Plan becomes more plausible.

        “The Jesus story is a typical myth in that it depicts a special kind of man, who with supernatural powers does heroic feats to benefit others.”

        That archetype is way too vague to serve as the basis of an argument. I discuss vague archetypes in this post.

        “It seems to me, that we are talking past each other a bit, as you are defending the possibility that Jesus resurrected, while I think it is just very unlikely, I do not deny that it could be possible.”

        What have I ever said to imply that I was merely defending Jesus’s resurrection as a possibility? I have done nothing of the sort. I find Jesus’s resurrection to be highly probable, not merely possible, and my arguments have reflected this.

        “I think it is very hard to define who is and who is not a fundamentalist.”

        Then let me help. A fundemantalist is an individual who holds a particular interpretive paradigm to be the only possible interpretation of the evidence and automatically considers any other interpretive paradigms to be ad hoc.

        “I do not know any Christian fundamentalists who would actually support slavery as a good form of human conduct….”

        I do, but that’s neither here nor there.

        “There are these books, that are either the word of a god as alledged, or they are invented by people. Correct?”

        False equivocation. The Bible can be written by people and subject to the cultural mores and beliefs of those people while still being intended by God to serve as a revelation of his interactions with humanity.

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      • Yes, yes, I agree it is really simple, physicsandwhiskey. I think everybody got it, that you think you have good reasons to believe in the resurrection of Jesus and that you think it is exeptional from other myths. I believe you have good reasons to think so. You have stated that several times allready. It is simple really, I do agree.

        By no means did I even try to imply you had little faith. 🙂 I only meant that the case you are presenting is for the possibility of a resurrection to have happened. That is, you really have not given any evidence why should the rest of us think so, other than your reasons to think how it could have been possible. That is fine too, because I can respect you believing in such a story as long as you can respect me not believing in it.

        But if you would like to present that overwhelming evidence, that keeps convincing you, I must admit I would be interrested. Perhaps you allready have, somewhere in your own blog? Or could you give some summary, so as to give a hint on these two main claims you have made?

        Holistic!?? How do you mean? To me it seems just circular argumentation.

        Christians would no doubt argue, that their god is “natural”, but they also deem their god to be supernatural wich is a state of existance yet to be verified, by any reliable means. Yes?

        Even, if the god of the Christians is actually “natural” and nature itself, then the “divine plan” is hardly anything exept projection of human hopes and fears on the observably indifferent nature.

        Comets are existing and observable (and indifferent) material objects, that have been researched. Many of them have trajectories, that pass our planet and we have several big craters. No supernatural is involved at all. Yes? Gods are figments of human imagination, that have been used to explain stuff people really had no way of understanding. Bit of a difference between these heavenly bodies, would you say?

        There would be nothing especially esoteric to suggest, that the Jesus resurrection myth was more likely born by an alien interference, than by a flesh and blood son of the creator of galaxies resurrecting. You see, it is the lesser wonder, that is more propable. Is it not? Still, even so, I think it is by far more likelier that one of the even less wondrous causes (than an alien interference), for example such as I allready presented in my previous comment, that begot the myth of a resurrected saviour to appear. In fact it might have been just as well, that the disciples did as the many of the contemporaries seem to have suspected and stole the body and spread out stories about Jesus appearing to them. We simply do not know what happened. There are later murders that remain unsolved though a lot of people have their own pet theories about who Jack the Ripper was and so on. I have even heard aliens being suggested as the purpetrator of those murders, but nobody has yet suggested that god did it. However, if someone would, they would have just about as much evidence to back it up as a claim that Jesus resurrected. Infact they would have more, because there is solid historical evidence that the events around “Jack” actually took place.

        Physicsandwhiskey, you wrote: “I think we would all agree that witnessing an individual’s public execution and witnessing that same individual walking around and talking thereafter is sufficient to call it “witnessing a resurrection”, no?”
        No! Not sufficient at all. That is much more likelier to be a wittnessing of a man being subjected to an execution method and then after obviously having survived the treatment being wittnessed to be walking and talking thereafter, or that the wittnesses have been mistaken about identity, or that the entire story was a fabrication or a multitude of other possibilities much more likelier than that an actual “resurrection” happened. I am sorry. It would be simply absurd to jump into the conclusion that a resurrection happened, but as we know, because of their cultural heritage and the personality cult around this particular rabbi, the followers of Jesus were infcat prone to think it might have been an actual resurrection. A bit like the modern day Christian who has been subjected to cultural and religious indoctrination could jump into that conclusion because of his/her cultural heritage and the personality cult build around this Jesus character.

        There was nobody present wittnessing the resurrection. If this was part of the “divine plan”, it seems the plan was allready flawed from the start. Or is there a reason why this most important event had to happen when no wittnesses were around?

        I do not see what the Monopods you refer to have to do with this, exept that they are not merely as fantastical suggestions as for example angels and yet in the lack of evidence we should not take either group of beings at face value. Nobody suggested that fiction does not include natural stuff. the point was just that all supernatural falls under the gategory of either fiction or we do not know, wich is indistinguishable form fiction. Though one could argue, that angels gods and other such entities are all very typical works of fiction. Though, often enough meant for the subject to believe in them as if they were true.

        Thanks for the link, I will look it up in time. As for the exert you presented, for now I will only say, that I fail to see, it’s relevance to the matter at hand. It seems to me that it only goes to say, that science does not yet explain everything and it would be ridiculous to claim that something supernatural happened even if there were a correlation between prayer and healing. There are a number of naturalistic reasons that are by far more likelier explanations to such a correlation if it were to be observed, like the emotional effects on hormonal balance, stress relief and what have you, but as you know god does not answer prayers when the results are examined statistically.

        Are you suggesting, that the resurrection of Jesus was not actually caused by supernatural miraculous forces, but that it was just an extremely rare natural event caused by the god that is nature? Or what? If it was an extremely rare natural event, then how do we know if there was any design, or intent, not to mention a grand plan behind it?

        To observe a divine plan in any given series of events requires presupposing the plan. Because the prophesies (for example in the Bible) are so vague, they could be interpreted to mean just about anything.

        I will look up your vague archeotypes post in time also. But vague arheotypes are what prophesies are all about and characters, such as Jesus, that are retrofitted into these prophesies often get to be rather vague. I also gave a nother type of typical archeotype the Jesus story fits in, with the disappearing food.

        Thank you for providing your view of what a fundamentalist is. I have heard other definitions. Your version is so vague, that you would fit in it, but I do not think you are a fundamentalist. 😉

        Again, how do we know what parts of the Bible are meant to serve as a revelation from god and wich ones are merely subject to human morals, ideals and innovation of a certain culture?

        If the Bible is an attempt by a god to contact humanity, it is either a rather feeble god, or a mighty god that usually does not botch it’s actions as it did so with this alledged attemt of contact, or it is a malevolent god, that deliberately made it’s message obscure for the most of us. Or perhaps that god did not take the entire matter too seriously and all that stuff about a belief as a requirement for anything is just innovative cultural fiction from a particular iron age culture.

        To claim that we simply can not undestand what god intended (and I am not saying you would) contradicts the idea of religions. If we do not understand the intentions of a god, what warrants us to say that god is “benevolent”, or for that matter project any human motives, emotions, or intentions on such a god. To even try to explain the will of such a god would be truly unintelligent. A god that is so great, that it is beyond explanations is impossible to explain and it would be ridiculous to make any assumptions about what the motives of such a god would be to make some of us believe, that this god has given some “revelations” about itself to us mere humans. How would we know? So, even if there acutually existed a god, wich by-the-way has not been verified by any means, what would be the point of trying to make a guess wich religion does this god favour? There would be no way of deducting this. Chances are you’ll get it wrong. And even if you get it right most of the people who do get it wrong are no more evil than you.

        And again, who gave clothes to Jesus after his resurrection, or did he go from the tomb but naked?

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  17. Pingback: Religion, Morality and The Greatest Deception Of All Time | My Heathen Heart

  18. @ PW
    passé
    Sorry, sorry, couldn’t resist.

    Sigh…so pedantic. Yes, I was aware of the missing accent. Unfortunately the auto correct doesn’t appear to work all the time. Talk to wordpress if you are upset.
    Again, another sidestep.
    Your untenable position has become so tiring, really.

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  19. “Without care or concern for script continuity…” is probably my favorite line describing the slap-dash rewriting of pretend history and hurried rearranging of imaginary deity family portraits in the galleries of Man’s imagination.

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  21. Reblogged this on paarsurrey and commented:
    Quoting a passage from your write-up:
    “Those are the facts, they’ve been in the public domain for over thirty years, but as Prof. Ze’ev Herzog of Tel Aviv University observed: “we are witnessing a fascinating phenomenon in that all this is simply ignored by the public.” For now that’s not too surprising, cowards often evade awkward things, and for Yahwehists it’s hard to fathom anything more uncomfortable than admitting there was no supernatural revelation (to anyone, at any time), and that Jesus (if he ever existed, which is doubtful) and Muhammad (who, regrettably, did exist) were both talking through their (un)inspired hats. If this were not the case both characters would have blithely let their audiences in on the little 6th Century secret and straightened out the historical farce once and for all. Neither, of course, did. Both, in fact, named the patriarchs on multiple occasions and by doing so revealed their own bumbling ignorance of basic regional history… a history one would naturally expect god-men to actually know.”
    Muhammad existed as you admit; he got Word of Revelation from God called Quran; it exists in verbal form as the name Quran suggests and also in the writing form both supporting one another; without any change.

    Thanks

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  22. I popped back for a visit after this had been re-blogged by your latest groupie and I noted the to and fro about the Gospel of Thomas and the Synoptics between you and P&W and his assertion that Thomas was merely a ”sayings” gospel and Gnostic to boot.as opposed to a narrative, like the Synoptics.

    This is worth noting…

    “The stories in Mark are woven together with simple stereotyped connectives, such as the use of kai euthus (” and immediately, ” “straightaway”),which may be thought of as a Semitic style (as a typical simple connective in the Old Testament narrative style)
    More likely, however, the redactor-compiler of Mark has used geography and people simply as props or scenes to be used as needed to connect the events in the service of the narrative.”

    Encyclopedia Britannica

    Little or no chronology…

    Thought you might find it interesting.

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    • Nice. As you pointed out, also no dates mentioned anywhere, nor a single physical description. This is patently absurd as there are (in total) 97 canonical documents about Jesus. NINETY-SEVEN separate stories and not one gives a date or mentions Jesus’ appearance.

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      • What struck me about the piece from Britannica -and I’ve read it a few times and its always nagged me to shit -is it seems to be suggesting just what I wrote:
        they had these ”sayings,” god knows from where, and they hung them on a story and inserted the story in a bit of ‘geography.’
        I swear, a writer like Stephen Donaldson ( Chronicles of Thomas Covenant) could have written this crappy story and made a better job.

        The more you think about it, the more you actually understand the way the text was put together the whole thing stinks like a pile of donkey turds. It is rubbish!
        I tell you , John, when I read P& W espouse his pseudo intellectual diarrhea I feel like barfing.

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      • This is what has led me to believe Jesus was a metafictional device… a literary tool to impart a gnostic sects doctrinal points. Know the sayings and parables and bingo, you have an easily transportable sermon. In Thomas the character Jesus isn’t even crucified which indicates that that element of the story was an embellishment added by other – much later – storytellers who despite using the same vehicle to relay the sect (or sects) teachings felt free enough in the metafictional medium to change the tracks of the story for creative effect.

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  23. Was doin g a bit of research n the virgin birth thing. I know you are a fan if Carrier, so this might prick your curiosity.
    This bit in the end notes about the Septuagint, especially the opening sentence, was fascinating. Enjoy

    http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/virginprophecy.html

    [6] The fact that the Septuagint text survives to us primarily through Christian custody creates an additional problem that I will only mention in this endnote: we can’t be entirely certain that parthenos was not a Christian alteration of the Septuagint, instead of the original word chosen by the Jewish translators. We have enough fragments of other ancient translations of the OT to know that neanis was used more regularly in Isaiah 7:14, even in many cases by Christian translators. Although Justin’s “Jew” concedes that parthenos was in the Septuagint that he knew, this is still a Christian author putting words in a Jew’s mouth. So this is not proof that parthenos in Isaiah was not in fact a later Christian interpolation, seeking to normalize the text to Matthew’s. However, I have not studied the evidence on this question enough to pronounce a conclusion. I only note this as something scholars need to consider more carefully before assuming anything one way or the other.

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