Wish I Had Said This

If you want, you can read this article  which suggests that Jesus didn’t actually exist.

Yawn.

Now, you can read one of the best comments ever posted into a blog space.

I do not know who wrote this excerpt of awesome so I’ll tip my hat to the anonymous author.

It’s right underneath the article but in case you don’t read comments…

…I’ve copied it below.

Sorry, but reading this I cannot wish this to be disseminated further.

For a start his list is obviously lifted from some resource that uncatalogued ancient writers. Unbeknown to him though 1/3 of the people he claims to have read through have left no writings that survive. Don’t believe me? Google Euphrates of Tyre, Titus, Damis of Hierapolis (etc…) You will see for yourselves. As for the rest, most of their writings are about botany, metaphysics, farming techniques, or were written before Jesus. Quite simply it should never have been published, or be getting attention. It does not help aid the integrity of Free Inquiry or the Council for Secular Humanism.

Lets give some broad comments though regarding this silly, and repeated, amateur internet skeptic suggestion that because Jesus is not mentioned by contemporary historical sources that this indicates that he does not exist some extended consideration. (In a debate with Zeba Crook, the leading mythicists scholar, Richard Carrier has stated that this argument should not be given the weight it often is).

We need to realize that any person in antiquity who would not likely be recorded about in physical assets such as coins, epigraphs (etc…), that we are dependent upon literary documents to know about their existence. These are extremely rare from antiquity. We probably have less than .001% of all literature from Classical period currently extant. Apart from a few examples, and most of these during specific events such as the Athenian-Spartan conflict, the Second Punic War, or the upheavals during the fall of the Roman Republic, we do not have sources from the time on people in Classical history. We have almost nothing written from the time about dozens of Roman Emperors who ruled one of the largest and most literate societies pre-enlightenment Europe. We only hear of great generals, such as Scipio, decades after the event. Perhaps we might suggest that he didn’t exist too? Great philosophers who mingled with Emperors, politicians and business men, who would have had infinitely more influence (and connections with literate people) than the itinerant failed messiah figure Jesus in rural Palestine with twelve regular followers! How much do we know of them from the time of their lives? Practically nothing.

People like the founders of Stoicism and Epicureanism; their writings were part of every educated Romans’ libraries and had followers (like Christianity) in every major city. So there must be thousands of copies of their writings? No. Apart from three letters of Epicurus almost nothing. Alexander the Great who conquered the whole known world. Well, we must have thousands of reports about him from Nope. We can fit it on about half a page of A4. Consider the “Loeb Classical Library” that has been published by Harvard University Press for over a hundred years. It translates and publishes all the major works from Classical Antiquity. Over 1,000 years of writing, during which time the West enjoyed its first Golden Age of literature. How large is this corpus of material? It can fit into two bookcases (!)- and they are double the size they need to be: each volume supplies the Latin/Greek as well as an English translation.

Read Professor Robert Garland’s “Celebrity in Antiquity: From Media Tarts to Tabloid Queens” and Graham Anderon’s “Sage, Saint and Sophist: Holy Men and Their Associates in the Early Roman Empire”, try to note down in a spreadsheet how close the extant records we have for apparently well-known people in antiquity (including actors, philosophers, religious charismatics etc”) are. All are pretty much written about decades, mainly hundreds of years after their lives, and are almost always only referenced in one solitary source. Look at the Jewish historian Josephus’ works. He lists many Jewish leaders who were equal to Jesus in fame. Who else records them? No one, just Josephus. (by the way no-one mentions Josephus, supposedly this BIG Jewish commander and how client of the Emperor himself, he must never have existed a well!). The destruction of Pompeii, a large city, completely destroyed. An event comparible in terms of shock to 9/11. This must be recorded EVERYWHERE. Only no. It isn’t. Only one source from near the the time talks about it. So perhaps it, and all these other figures, are just made up too because none of these 126 ancient writers talk about them, or perhaps people like these non-trained activists like Michael Paulkovich need a new argument.

One interesting exercise to show how ancient fame vis-a-vis ancient literary records works is to compare Jesus with Cato the Younger. Cato was probably the most famous person by the time of Christ. We even have two classical authors saying they are fed up having with having stories of his live being constantly recollected by everyone. Now how many biographies of his life now exist? One, by Plutarch who wrote it over a hundred years later! This is a very good indicator of that this argument from silence needs to be put to bed, not given the oxygen of media attention- especially by free-thinkers(!!).

Lets not be ignorant about this. They would have a field day producing books, blog posts, and having their readers high-fiving them if it served the atheist cause to turn their “methods” to question such ancient figures and events’ existence – yet they think that historians are only wrong about this one figure. It is online amateur activism parading itself as reasoned scholarship.

The fact that Jesus is talked about by a dozen pagan references within a hundred years is remarkable. But this is a narrative that is sidelined, and just as illegitimately so as when Christian apologists sideline the evidence of competing traditions within the Gospels, or when creationists try to explain “show me the missing links” Both are reprehensible, and both show complete ignorance of how to properly approach and understand the field. (And by the way a recent find in the Talmud by the leading British expert on it, and also new scholarship Mara bar Serapion do provide evidence that Jesus was talked about during his lifetime, but, well, that can wait for another day).

5 thoughts on “Wish I Had Said This

  1. John,
    Good stuff. Nice find. Hope you don’t mind that I reposted your post written by someone you don’t know. I mean, you don’t know me either so…
    Like your show. You make us laugh.

    • John Branyan says:

      Didn’t mock anyone. Just copied the well reasoned reply to the article. It’s such a thorough rebuttal to the article, I’m shocked that it wasn’t deleted. You should get a literate friend to explain it to you. Then, you can delete your post before someone smarter than you sees it.

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