|Answering Brian Flemmings "The God Who wasn't there"|
This is a recent attempt by the hyperskeptical community to advance the thesis that Jesus never existed. In this review, Mike Licona takes a look at their case.
The God Who Wasn't There
by Brian Flemming
Beyond Belief Media, 2005
Movie running time: 62 minutes; including special features: 259 minutes
Reviewed by Mike Licona
Table of Contents
1. Introductory Comments
2. Christian Morality
3. The Gospels & Paul Criticized
5. Folklore & Urban Legend
6. An Interview w/Earl Doherty
7. From Village Christian to Village Atheist
8. An Interview w/Richard Dawkins
9. More Failed Accusations
The God Who Wasn't There is the latest attempt by the hyperskeptical community to advance the thesis that Jesus never existed.The DVD includes a main video, which is approximately one hour in duration and several ancillary files available to the viewer.These files include extended interviews from which Flemming selected portions for his main work, commentaries in audio format that mainly include interviews with Earl Doherty on his book The Jesus Puzzle (approximately one hour) and a second commentary, which is primarily an interview with Richard Dawkins with shorter interviews with Richard Carrier, Robert Price, and the Ranting Atheist.Flemming regards these interviews as the documentary evidence for the claims he makes throughout his main video.One can also watch a PowerPoint type presentation with further comments, most of which are reiterations of what was presented in the main video.Finally, biographies of Flemming and his guests are presented.
Flemming is an amateur film producer.It will become obvious to all viewers that he is embittered against Christianity.However, his sourness extends to religion itself.In this review, I will comment briefly on the quality of the production and then move on to its contents.
The filming is poor.This is most likely the result of Flemming's working from a shoestring budget and either his inexperience or lack of gifting. The poor quality is sometimes distracting.For instance, in two interviews with Robert Price and David and Barbara Mikkelson, there is a distracting reflection of camera light and sunlight in their eyeglasses.In the interview with Price, the camera can even be seen in his eyeglasses, because it is directly in front of him.Changing the angle would have easily eliminated this.Flemming did not bother to straighten the tilted lampshade in his interview with Price.The quality of the filming reaches its low in Flemming's interview with Scott Butcher.Because of backlighting, Butcher looks very dark.Flemming uses only one camera throughout his interviews and asks his questions from behind the camera, producing the impression that one is viewing a homemade video rather than a professional production. The graphics are very repetitive, seldom change, and are of a low quality.Yet, as we shall see, the film's technical difficulties are the least of its problems.
The thesis of the film is that Jesus never existed.The first words that appear on the screen claim that the video is "a documentary."However, viewers expecting to encounter up-to-date scholarly research will surely be disappointed.With the exception of a telephone interview with Richard Dawkins, who is not a scholar on the historical Jesus and is, therefore, speaking outside of his field, no major or well-known scholars are interviewed.Additionally, Flemming finds it difficult to stay on topic.His video goes back and forth between arguing that Jesus never existed and pointing out atrocities committed in the name of Christ like the Inquisition.This flip-flopping between two theses is distracting, since his second and unstated thesis is unrelated to the first.It is as though Flemming is saying, "Jesus never existed and, oh, by the way, I hate Christianity and all religion."
We see this flip-flopping from the very beginning.Flemming launches his video with the statement that it was once believed that the sun revolved around the earth."Christianity was wrong about the solar system.What if it's wrong about something else, too?"In his interview with Earl Doherty, it becomes apparent that he is referring to the beliefs of the Catholic Church during the time of Galileo in the sixteenth century.From there, he proceeds to show a number of Christians who say they are happy because they know Jesus.He then says that Christianity also has a different face, and shows Charles Manson, Pat Robertson, Dena Schlosser who cut her baby's arm off for God, and Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins, the authors of the extremely successful Left Behind series.For LaHaye and Jenkins, he lifts what must be a citation from one of their books that says that Christians "look forward to the day when all non-Christians are thrown into a lake of fire, 'howling and screeching.'" (This statement is not found in the Bible.Indeed, with the exception of a few Calvinists, one would be hard-pressed to find Christians who would make such a statement.) He then mentions the 86 Branch Davidians who died in the Waco, Texas fire and comments, "So, I guess it's kind of a mixed bag."
Of course, none of this adds anything to the question of Jesus' existence.And one may answer Flemming by noting that a philosophy should not be judged by its abuse.One could make a similar apologetic against atheism by naming atheists like Stalin, Mao, and the Khmer Rouge who were responsible for the killing fields of Cambodia.Every one of these despots and brutal governments embraced atheism and oppressed people.One could easily produce a "documentary" showing Flemming and his guests smiling and happy with their atheism, then turn to photographs of Stalin who killed 7 million, Pol Pot who killed 1.2 million, and of course Mao who killed more than 70 million.This is certainly a mixed bag.However, this would do nothing to prove atheism wrong.
It is worth noting, however, that there is a major difference between showcasing Stalin as an example of an atheist and Manson as an example of a Christian.Manson acted contrary to the teachings of Jesus.Thus, one cannot fault Jesus or Christianity for the misdeeds of charlatans and lunatics who misrepresent him.On the other hand, one cannot say that Stalin acted contrary to the teachings of atheism, since atheism has no moral teachings intrinsic to its worldview.But neither can one claim that Stalin acted in a manner inconsistent with atheism.Atheists and theists alike usually agree that if God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.Those atheists who still claim to believe in objective morality simply fail to grasp the meaning of the word "objective." By "objective," I mean that something is morally right or wrong irrespective of the opinion of a person or society.This is not an argument for the objectivity of morals.Rather it is to say that if atheism is true, morals are not objective.The only standards are those set by individuals or societies.People can choose to abide by those standards or endure the consequences imposed by the society in which they live if they are caught breaking those standards.Individuals can vary significantly in their moral standards.But in a godless reality, no one is obligated to abide by the moral values of another individual.Given this, we may think that Stalin's brutal communist regime was morally deficient.However, in a godless reality, to say so is merely to state our opinion and nothing more.This is because we are using our moral values to judge his.In other words, his moral values are deficient when judged according to our moral values.But they are fine when judged according to Stalin's.We can provide reasons why we believe that our ethics are superior to Stalin's.However, while this may gain support from others in our global community, it can never establish that our ethics are intrinsically superior to Stalin's.We may defeat him in battle and force our moral standards upon him, but that only means we are stronger or more clever.It would not mean that we are right.
I want to be crystal clear at this point, since atheists are notorious for misunderstanding this argument, as Flemming certainly does in his video.I am not saying that atheists are evil due to the nature of their worldview.Since atheism has no moral code that is intrinsic to its worldview, if an atheist is kind, it is because he or she chooses to act in that manner, not because atheism possesses a moral code that requires or encourages it.In a similar manner, if an atheist chooses to act brutally, that person is every bit as consistent with the atheistic worldview as an atheist who chooses to act kindly.
To illustrate, let us suppose that Flemming feels morally justified in presenting false information in his video in order to promote his agenda of discrediting Christianity, whereas one of his guests Sam Harris does not think this would be a good thing to do, even if it serves to accomplish an end they both share.If atheism is true, one cannot judge between the ethics of Flemming and Harris.Harris may argue that his ethics serve to promote the greater good of both the individual and society.Flemming may reply that the achievement of his goal of discrediting Christianity is his chief goal to which all other objectives he may have must submit to it.If this were Flemming's ethical system, one could not say he is objectively wrong, given atheism.Most of us may agree with Harris' ethics.But, in a godless reality, one could only state that more people side with Harris than Flemming.That is different than stating that Harris is right.Thus, there are two major points to make here in reply to Flemming.First, despots like Stalin did not act in a manner inconsistent with atheistic beliefs, whereas Manson acted contrary to the teachings of Jesus.Second, ethics for atheists are subjective and, thus, there is no vantage point for people to adjudicate between ethics.When they attempt to do so, they are merely judging by their own ethics.But that is different from having an objective reference point to which one can appeal.
The Gospels & Paul Criticized
Flemming asks, "Why is it that Christians can be so specific about the life of Christ but they're vague about what happened after he left?Aren't Christian leaders telling them the story?"He then launches into a critique of the New Testament.Mark was written first "and the other three are clearly derived from Mark.Mark mentions the destruction of the Jewish Temple which happened in the year 70.So, the Gospels all came later than that; probably much later.There's a gap of four decades or more.Most of what we know about this period comes from a man who says he saw Jesus Christ come to him in a vision.He was the apostle Paul, formally known as Saul of Tarsus."
Flemming (in the main video) and Doherty (later in the 2nd Commentary) assert that all of the Gospels derived from Mark.This is far from the truth.Although it is granted by most scholars that Matthew and Luke used Mark as one of their sources, they had other sources as well.The hypothetical "Q" source which Doherty acknowledges may be one of those sources. Luke reported that many had written accounts of what Jesus said and did before he wrote his Gospel (Luke 1:1).Regarding John's use of Mark, the prominent New Testament scholar Larry Hurtado writes that
probably most (but by no means all) scholars nowadays hold that the author(s) of John (at least at the earliest stage of the process that led to our present text) either did not know of, and refer to, any of the Synoptic Gospels or, at the least, did not use them as sources in the way the authors of Matthew and Luke used Mark (and Q).
Moreover, most of today's scholars believe that much of the tradition in John is from one of Jesus' disciples, although there is no consensus about who that disciple was.Many believe the author was the apostle John or a minor disciple who traveled with Jesus but was not one of the twelve.Some details in John (e.g., Jesus' arrest & trial) actually cohere better with known historical conditions and are not related to John's theology, which lends credibility both to independence and historicity.John likewise contains very early tradition, although it is the last of the Gospels to be written.James Charlesworth of Princeton, who is no friend of evangelicals, states that nearly all Johannine scholars "have concluded that John may contain some of the oldest traditions in…the Gospels."
When were the Gospels written?In Flemming's PowerPoint presentation he writes, "The earliest possible date for Mark was used on this timeline [AD 70].In fact, the 40-year gap [between the death of Jesus (who never existed!) and the time in which Mark penned his Gospel] is probably much wider.Scholarship shows that Mark could have been written as late as 85-90 A.D."This position derives largely from Doherty who says the following in his interview: "The first Gospel wasn't written until almost the end of the first century. . . . The others follow over the next several decades."
Flemming is out of touch with scholarship and Doherty takes a radical position.Nearly all modern scholars hold that all four Gospels were written by the end of the first century.That is not "much later" than AD 70 as Flemming claims.The dating of the four Gospels is a very involved discussion and beyond the scope of this review.Arguments for particular dates for the composition of the Gospels can be found in New Testament Introductions or most scholarly commentaries.One would be hard-pressed to find a modern scholar who is convinced that the Gospels were written as late as Doherty and Flemming propose.Moreover, they seem unaware that even a gap of sixty to seventy years between the writing and the events they purport to describe is quite early compared to what historians work with when it comes to other ancient biographies.For example, historians obtain nearly everything they know about Alexander the Great (356-323 BC) from four sources: Diodorus of Sicily (60-30 BC), Quintus Curtius Rufus (?-AD 53), Plutarch (AD 46-c. 122), and Arrian of Nicomedia (c. AD 87-after 144).The bulk of our information on Alexander comes from Plutarch.Thus, the earliest source for Alexander used by modern historians is more than 260 years after his death and the most reliable source is more than 370 years removed.Flemming's attempt to get his viewers to regard the Gospels as unreliable because they were written 40-70 years after the life of Jesus would be laughed at by the large majority of modern historians of antiquity.
Referring to Paul's letters, Flemming states,
These documents represent almost all we have of the history of Christianity during this decades long gap.And here's the interesting thing: if Jesus was a human who had recently lived, nobody told Paul.Paul never heard of Mary, Joseph, Bethlehem, Herod, John the Baptist.He never heard about any of these miracles.He never quotes anything that Jesus is supposed to have said.He never mentions Jesus having a ministry of any kind at all.He doesn't know about any entrance into Jerusalem.He never mentions Pontius Pilate or a Jewish mob or any trials at all.Paul doesn't know any of what we would call the story of Jesus, except for these last three events.And even these, Paul never places [sic] Jesus on earth.Just like the other savior gods of the time, Paul's Christ Jesus died, rose, and ascended all in a mythical realm.
It is not true that Paul's letters are all we have about Christianity during the decades that occurred between the death of Jesus and the writing of the Gospels.The book of Acts is usually dated to have been written between AD 61-85.Even if we date Acts on the outer end, we have a document that is a history of the Church between AD 30-61.That is, it was written only 25-55 years after the events it purports to describe, given the outer limits of a critical dating.Most professional historians would rejoice at such a short gap.Another issue to consider is whether Luke's intention was to write a historical account.Most modern scholars including the agnostic critic Bart Ehrman believe that Luke's intention was indeed to write a history of the first decades of the Church.Although Ehrman believes there are fictional elements in Acts, he states that it is best to conclude that "Luke meant to write a history of early Christianity, not a novel."It is also interesting to note that the early kerygma indicates that there was an interest in the historical Jesus and that people already knew the stories of what Jesus did and what was done to him (Acts 10:34-43).
Flemming also states in his video that
Paul doesn't believe that Jesus was ever a human being.He's not even aware of the idea.And he's the link between the time frame given for the life of Jesus and the appearance of the first Gospel account of that life.This is why you don't hear many Christian leaders talking about the early days of Christianity.Because when you assemble the facts, the story is that Jesus lived, everyone forgot and then they remembered.But it gets even shakier than that.Allegorical literature was extremely common back then.
Contrary to Flemming, there are a number of reasons for believing that Paul was familiar with the historical Jesus.First, since Paul was a committed Jew, he would have been in Jerusalem during the Passover as Jesus would have been.Thus, there is a good possibility that both Jesus and Paul were in Jerusalem at the same time and that Paul even heard Jesus teach.Second, Paul declares that he opposed the Church to the point of persecuting its believers.Acts reports that Paul had heard the testimony of Stephen about Jesus just before Stephen was martyred.And surely others, both the persecuted and the persecutors would have shared information about the historical Jesus with Paul.Third, Paul wrote, "We have known Christ according to the flesh"(2 Corinthians 5:16).This seems to imply that he had some knowledge of Jesus' earthly life.Fourth, on three occasions in Paul's letters he shows that he is familiar with the sayings of Jesus (1 Cor 7:10; 9:14; 11:1, 2, 20-25).Fifth, Paul's words may indicate that he knew that the historical Jesus was meek and gentle (2 Cor 10:1) and that either he came from a poor family or lived a poor life, or both (2 Cor 8:9).Sixth, Paul reports that he went to Jerusalem to visit Peter.The word he uses for visit in Greek is histor?sai, from which we derive the English word history.Thus, as many scholars have noted, during Paul's first visit with the apostles as a new believer, he is certain to have asked them for details about the Lord he now served, details of both his earthly life and his teachings, the same information each of us would be interested in if we were now in Paul's place.Seventh, as Luke began to write his Gospel, he reported that others had previously compiled accounts of the things Jesus did.Paul could have been familiar with one or more of these.Thus, there are a number of good reasons for believing that Paul knew of the historical Jesus.This becomes especially strong when all seven reasons are considered collectively.The Australian New Testament scholar Paul Barnett writes, "There can be no doubt that, both before he was a disciple but also afterwards, Paul knew a lot about the historical Jesus.There can be no support for the idea that Paul was some 'Robinson Crusoe' figure cut off from historical knowledge and entirely dependent on 'heavenly revelation.'"
Let's look at a few more of Flemming's claims about Paul.
"He never quotes anything that Jesus is supposed to have said."This is easily debunked.In 1 Cor 11:24, Paul writes of Jesus that, "when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me."Paul is obviously aware of the Jesus tradition known by the Evangelists (Mark 14:22; Matt 26:26; Luke 22:19).As noted above, there are also a number of passages where Paul shows he is familiar with the sayings of Jesus (1 Cor 7:10; 9:14; 11:1, 2, 20-25; 2 Cor 5:16).Paul is familiar with Pilate and John the Baptist in his speech in Acts 13:25, 28.Colin Hemer argues that the speeches in Acts are probably summaries of what certain apostles taught on a specific occasion as does Craig Keener in his forthcoming commentary on Acts.He also knows that Jesus had a brother, indeed several, which places the historical Jesus within Paul's generation (Gal 1:19; 1 Cor 9:5).Flemming accepts Doherty's explanation that the term "brother of the Lord" probably referred to a specific group of Christians who named themselves "brothers of the Lord."However, no evidence is provided in support of this thesis and it does not fit well with other reports that Jesus had brothers (Matt 12:46-50; cf. Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21; Matt 13:55-57; John 2:12; 7:3-11; Acts 1:13-14). (See more on this topic near the end of this review.)
"Just like the other savior gods of the time, Paul's Christ Jesus died, rose, and ascended all in a mythical realm."This statement in the main video is supported by Robert Price in a later interview. (For the record, I've met Bob Price and have exchanged a few cordial emails with him in the past.I really like the guy and find him pleasant on a personal level.) Price says that
in the case of someone like Caesar Augustus, around whom many of the same myths clustered, we know there nonetheless was a Caesar Augustus, because he's intricately tied into the history of the time and many secular historians talk about him.You can't rewrite history without Caesar Augustus.But at the very two points that Jesus appears to be locked into history these stories are either still mythical like the slaughter of innocents arrived right out of the book of Exodus or they contain outrageous improbabilities, such as the Jewish supreme Council meeting on Passover Eve to get rid of this guy.It's just out of the question.Or Pontius Pilate letting go a known killer of Romans and insurrectionist, Barabbas, and just letting Jesus being thrown to the mob after, however, trying to get him off the hook, as if he has to have a vote on it.It just defies any kind of historical verisimilitude.And that when you realize, well, you know, there were other ancient Jews and Jewish Christians that believed Jesus had been killed a century before under King Alexander Janaeus or in the Gospel of Peter it says that Herod had Jesus killed.Well how could this be a matter of such diversity if it was a recent event that people remembered?It just begins to make you wonder is this man really part of the historical time stream or does it begin to look like someone has tried to put a figure originally mythical into a historical framework and made various stabs at it?
While the historicity of Herod's slaughter of the innocent and the Jewish trial of Jesus in the Passion accounts have been questioned, no decisive arguments have been presented against them.This is, however, not the place to provide a robust defense of the historicity of the biblical accounts.Flemming's video does not provide any more than assertions and, thus, I am not obligated to reply with a detailed refutation.I will comment that in the first century, Bethlehem was probably a small village.Thus, the number of infants under the age of two would probably have been quite small.Would an action by Herod that caused the deaths of a small number of infants in a small village in an unpopular section of the Roman Empire have caught the attention of a number of ancient historians?We do not know.However, we should not be surprised if only one source reports it, in this case Matthew.For a good case for the historicity of Jesus' trial by the Jewish leadership, see Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary, Volume Two, 1085-89.See also Raymond Brown's The Death of the Messiah, Volume 1,328-83.
While Price is quick to tell his viewers about the deaths of pagan gods, Martin Hengel of Tübingen lists a number of pagan gods who died violent deaths but notes how they differ from Christian reports of Jesus: "not only did all this take place in the darkest and most distant past, but it was narrated in questionable myths which had to be interpreted either euhemeristically or at least allegorically."The resurrection of Jesus is not reported to have taken place in the gray and distant past.Rather, it was linked (1) to the time of Tiberius and Pilate, (2) to a specific location: Jerusalem within Judea, and (3) to numerous eyewitnesses who were still alive, including Jesus' own family members.That the Jesus of whom Paul spoke is a contemporary rather than a mythic figure from an unspecified time in the past could not have been any clearer.Thus, the reports of Jesus were of a contemporary nature that could to some extent be checked at the time.Hengel goes on to point out that crucified gods can be tormented for a while, but can never die.Greek heroes "cannot on any account be allowed to suffer such a painful and shameful death—this can only befall evil-doers. . . . The hero of the romance is saved at the last moment . . .""In the romances . . . crucifixion made for exciting entertainment and sensationalism.Here the suffering was not really taken seriously.The accounts of the crucifixion of the hero serve to give the reader a thrill: the tension was then resolved by the freeing of the crucified victim and the obligatory happy ending."Thus, the contemporaneousness of Jesus to the reports about him and his fate distinguishes him from the mythical gods and heroes known to the people of that era.
"But it gets even shakier than that.Allegorical literature was extremely common back then."It is true that allegorical literature was common in antiquity.However, so was historical literature.The question to be answered here is what genre are the Gospels?Below we will see that they are historical rather than allegorical writings.
Flemming interviews Richard Carrier who says that the earliest Gospel Mark was not written as history: "Mark himself probably did not believe he was writing history.He was writing a symbolic message.He was writing a gospel, you know, the good news and symbolizing it using Biblical parallels, using parallels to pagan religions and so forth."Carrier does not support his assertion in the interview.However, he provides three reasons for his contention in his chapter "The Spiritual Body of Christ" in The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave.Let's look at these.
Psalmic Origins.Christians have long recognized that Psalm 22 appears to describe the crucifixion of Jesus.Carrier sees additional parallels relating to death and resurrection in Psalms 23-24.For him, this indicates that Mark invented the empty tomb and, thus, exploited these Psalms in order to "convey deep truths about the Gospel."A few points may be made in reply.First, there seems to be little dispute among historians of Jesus that he thought of himself as Messiah and that his followers regarded him in this manner.However, it is disputed whether Jews in Jesus' day thought of a suffering Messiah.The majority of today's scholars tend to think that most thought of Messiah in purely victorious terms.If this is true, which seems to be the case given the confused, even aghast response of the disciples when Jesus announced to them that he would soon be killed, then Jesus' death would have seemed terribly out of line with Messianic expectations.Jesus' resurrection would likewise have appeared out of place, given the Jewish belief that the resurrection would occur on the last day.Thus, Christians would have searched the Old Testament scriptures in an attempt to make sense of what had occurred to their Rabbi.Accordingly, we expect to find parallels between Jesus and the Old Testament.In the New Testament, Jesus is portrayed as the fulfillment of Old Testament promises regarding the Messiah.Paul wrote that "All the promises of God find their 'yes' in him" (2 Cor 1:20).We are not surprised, therefore, to find embedded in the kerygma that the early Christians viewed some of the Psalms like 16 and 22 as prophesying the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus.Since the kerygma predates Mark's Gospel, at best Carrier could argue that Mark went further in his rhetorical skills.However, this is not even close to justifying the hypothesis that Mark invented the empty tomb as Carrier contends.Therefore, his first point fails.
Orphic Origins. The ancient Gentiles believed that the body was a prison for the soul and, thus, viewed death as a liberation where the soul would become a disembodied spirit.Prior to Plato, the Homeric view dominated.The afterlife involved a gloomy existence, even for the righteous.Thus, it is not surprising that everyone wanted to put off death as long as possible.Plato and Philo introduced a new view that held that the righteous would have a blissful afterlife.Both held to disembodied existence, however.Carrier writes that "an empty tomb would therefore symbolize an empty body, representing the fact that the soul has risen (into a new body), leaving a mere 'shell' behind, which was its 'tomb' in life."He goes on to say that
[t]his is exactly what Paul calls a 'mystery,' and like all mysteries, it would not be written down in the cult's sacred story but explained through an oral exegesis, and only to initiates, while the outward appearance of the story would serve to conceal this mystery from the uninitiated.This could well be just what Mark was doing.
Thus, he believes that Mark may have encoded Gentile belief in a disembodied spirit in a symbolic empty tomb account in order to conceal what Paul regarded as a mystery from those who were not initiates.Carrier notes what he sees as a few parallels between Mark's empty tomb account and the Orphic cult, then concludes,
Thus, Mark's empty tomb story mimics the secret salvation narratives of the Orphic mysteries, substituting Jewish-Messianic eschatology for the pagan elements.Only in an understanding that Christ is not here (meaning: the land of the dead, but also the corpse) will the water of life be given.This is the fundamental underlying message of Mark's empty tomb narrative.
A few problems with this view immediately stand out.First, the early Christians were not Gentiles, but Jews.It is granted that Jews held a variety of views regarding the afterlife.But resurrection was a major view and it was very clear that resurrection meant a returning of the corpse to life, although this body would be transformed.
A second problem with Carrier's view is that when Paul spoke of resurrection, it is certain that he meant that the mortal body would return to life, although transformed.Carrier takes issue with this view in his chapter "The Spiritual Body of Christ."But his interpretation of Paul's Greek and thoughts elsewhere are severely flawed, as I noted in our debate.The point is that if Paul believed that resurrection entailed the corpse' return to life, he must have believed in an empty tomb.Thus, it seems implausible that Mark invented it, since he is later than Paul.
A third problem concerns Carrier's understanding of Paul's use of the term 'mystery.'When Paul used this term, he usually meant that it was now revealed that Gentiles were now included among God's people.Salvation was no longer available primarily to Jews.Gentiles had been grafted into God's kingdom.
A fourth problem with Carrier's "secret salvation narratives [in Mark]" hypothesis is that Mark's Jesus wants everyone to know the Gospel.In Mark 4:11, Jesus explains to his disciples that "to you is given to know the mystery of the Kingdom of God, but to those outside, everything is in parables."At first look, this seems like a cryptic gospel as Carrier contends.Unfortunately, there is no consensus among commentators concerning how this passage is to be understood.But a fuller understanding of Jesus' use of parables can be helpful.New Testament scholar R. T. France writes,
The focus throughout is not on the aim of the teacher so much as on the receptivity of the hearers. And the appropriateness of the parabolic method to this situation is that the parable, like the cartoon, is by its very nature adapted to elicit the appropriate and contrasting responses from the different kinds of hearer. Its challenge to think through the significance of the image, and to respond appropriately to its demand, will inevitably show up the division which already exists between those who are open to new insight and those who are resistant to change. Thus the same parable which to some brings an understanding of the secret of God's kingship will leave others cold. They are the ones who remain [outside], and for them there is nothing but parable.
It is also important to note that, immediately after making this statement, Jesus had to explain the parables to his disciples, the very ones to whom the parables were supposed to have been clear, given a secretive interpretation!He then adds that nothing will be hidden. Accordingly, although Mark's passage may not be clear to many modern readers, Carrier is mistaken in his insinuation of God's intent to hide the truth from those genuinely seeking truth.Carrier's second argument fails.
The 'Reversal of Expectation' Motif. Carrier notes nine examples in Mark's Gospel where readers expect one thing but get another.
Carrier's reversal of expectation motif is possible but unconvincing as evidence that the resurrection of Jesus is a legend, since he may well have employed the motif to illustrate examplesby which he was himself was fascinated. Moreover, we may employ our imagination and see a number of striking reversals in almost any story.For example, let's consider a future biography of John F. Kennedy:
With a little thought, we can probably find reversals in just about any story.The reader expects one thing to occur and instead is told something else.Life itself is filled with reversals.These are the cause of both disappointment and surprise.We want or expect something and get something else.If Carrier had demonstrated that the "reversal of expectation" was a common motif in first century Greco-Roman and/or Jewish literature—and he did not—this would have served to strengthen his case.If several of his nine examples had required less strain on the reader's part so that they clearly showed that Mark's intention was to illustrate a reversal of expectation, this would have provided us with a greater impetus for giving Carrier's hypothesis serious consideration.
Even if all of Carrier's examples stood, Mark could have modified a few of the data and employed a reversal of expectation motif in order to improve the quality of his story telling.On one or more occasions, all of us have altered stories of actual events we witnessed in order to emphasize a particular point or make the story more relevant to the particular person or audience to which we were speaking.Normally, we would not claim that a person doing this was being deceitful, unless an unreasonable amount of liberty was taken that distorted the facts to be contrary to what actually occurred.Thus, wholesale invention on Mark's part would at best be only an option.But it does not follow that it ismore probable than other options. In fact, given Paul's view, which predates the writing of Mark's Gospel, that the post-resurrection Jesus included his transformed earthly body, Carrier's hypothesis that Mark invented the empty tomb is not plausible.Thus, his third point is incorrect.
It is not uncommon for scholars to see all sorts of interpretations about what biblical authors reallymeant, rather than what seems plain on the surface.Carrier has provided a creative interpretation of why and how Mark invented the empty tomb account, and we have seen that it is quite problematic.Myriads of scholarly interpretations are sometimes interesting, but few are actually convincing.To illustrate, let us see what kind of interpretations we can come up with regarding Jesus and JFK.Of course, it would be anachronistic to claim that Christians patterned their account after the life of JFK.Thus, we will postulate that the year is 4005 and a few scholars are advancing the hypothesis that JFK was a mythical figure, since there are so many parallels with Jesus.How might those historians interpret JFK?
They may conclude that JFK was created as a type of Jesus.Many of the ideas held by Jesus were likewise held by JKF (after all, JFK was a Catholic).Anyone who holds these views will be persecuted.JFKs honorable burial in a tomb and the fact that others mourned him serve as signs that anyone who follows the ideology of Jesus will be honored.Therefore, the creator of the JFK myth must have invented him in order to make this ancient ideology relevant to mid-twentieth century Americans.
Let us try another interpretation.This time we will say that JFK is the antithesis of Jesus.The creator of JFK was anti-Christian, and wanted to show that a leader could be the antithesis of Jesus and still be effective.Kennedy was good looking, married, had children, cheated on his wife, came from a wealthy family, and achieved power with the help of bribes.Yet, he managed to be fairly effective and one of the most popular American presidents ever.Both of these interpretations (type of Jesus; antithesis of Jesus) are coherent and consistent with the facts.Both are mutually exclusive.And both are completely wrong.
These examples bear a close resemblance to much of what we observe in modern scholarship.Martin Hengel and Anna Maria Schwemer refer to this practice of imagining all sorts of interpretative constructs as "modern mythologizing."They add that in this type of New Testament criticism "everything seems possible."However, most of these interpretations are unprovable.I am not suggesting that none of the interpretations offered are correct.The scholar suggesting that a parallel or certain interpretation is true must make a case that it is the best explanation for all of the data.Rarely is this attempted.Many times no conclusive case can be made.When this occurs, the scholar should be humble and state that "'such and such' is a possibility, but that is as far as we can go."Instead, the message of the hyperskeptics featured in Flemming's work is "This is how it occurred and what it means."
Returning to Carrier, we have seen that he is mistaken when he says that Mark did not believe he was writing history.Indeed, his argument fails every step of the way.We could stop here since his argument is dead.But further flaws are revealed when we search for positive evidence against his thesis.So, is there any evidence that Mark intended to write history?The answer is definitely 'yes!'Prior to the 1990's, the consensus of scholarship was that the Gospels represented a sui generis, that is a genre unique to the Gospels and viewed as a type of mythology.Consider what the Jesus Seminar wrote in 1992: "[T]he gospels are now assumed to be narratives in which the memory of Jesus is embellished by mythic elements that express the church's faith in him, and by plausible fictions that enhance the telling of the gospel story for first-century listeners who knew about divine men and miracle workers firsthand.Supposedly historical elements in these narratives must therefore be demonstrated to be so." In other words, according to the Jesus Seminar at that time, the Gospels belong to a mythical genre and, thus, anyone making a claim to historicity bears the burden of proof.
If the Gospels belong to mythical genre, then it is true that claims of historicity bear the burden of proof.However, the converse is likewise true.If the Gospels belong to a historical genre, then claims of myth bear the burden of proof.What, then, is the genre of the Gospels?This is a question which has received much attention over the past twenty years, resulting in robust advances in our understanding of the issue.The consensus of scholarship has changed significantly from the opinion of the Jesus Seminar.This shift was initiated by Charles Talbert's book What is a Gospel? followed by the more influential and less problematic work by Richard Burridge, What are the Gospels? Burridge is a classicist who set out to disprove the thesis first proposed by Talbert and a few other American scholars that the Gospels belong to the genre of ancient biography.During the course of his research, he reversed his opinion.Graham Stanton of Cambridge University writes in the foreword to Burridge's book that "very few books on the Gospels . . . have influenced scholarly opinion more strongly" and that it "has played a key role in establishing that the Gospels were read in the early centuries primarily as biographies."He adds, "I do not think it is now possible to deny that the Gospels are a sub-set of the broad ancient literary genre of 'lives,' that is, biographies."Of Burridge's book, Talbert writes, "This volume ought to end any legitimate denials of the canonical Gospels' biographical character." Throughout the entire book, Burridge shows that ancient biographers were concerned with a number of issues pertaining to the person who is the subject, including their history, especially their death, their moral philosophy, their teachings, their political beliefs, stories told in tribute and praise, and they presented all of this in a narrative format.Although the Gospels do not possess all of the internal and external features of ancient biography, they do not differ from the genre "to any greater degree than other [works belonging to the genre of biography: bioi; bios for singular]; in other words, they have at least as much in common with Graeco-Roman [bioi], as the [bioi]have with each other.Therefore, the gospels must belong to the genre of [bios]."
Was ancient biography concerned with history?Burridge answers that it was "a flexible genre having strong relationships with history . . ."Craig Keener, a classicist and former atheist, who became a New Testament scholar, writes, "The central difference between biography and history was that the former focused on a single character whereas the latter included a broader range of events."David Aune who is a specialist in ancient genre writes, "While biography tended to emphasize encomium or the one-sided praise of the subject, it was still firmly rooted in historical fact rather than literary fiction.Thus while the [Gospel writers] clearly had an important theological agenda, the very fact that they chose to adapt Greco-Roman biographical conventions to tell the story of Jesus indicated that they were centrally concerned to communicate what they thought really happened."
That the Gospels belong to the genre of ancient biography seems secure.However, this does not rule out the possibility that the Evangelists were attempting to deceive their readers, which is an entirely a different question.Neither does it establish that they intended every detail in their biographies to be understood precisely in literal terms. Ancient biographical genre allowed for flexibility on the part of the biographer to interpret what the subject said and accomplished and encomium was often included.What is secure for our present purposes is that the Evangelists intended for their readers to believe that their story of Jesus had actually occurred.That is why they chose to write biography.Accordingly, Carrier's position that "Mark himself probably did not believe he was writing history" is grossly mistaken and exhibits an antiquated view of the Gospels, i.e. one that has been abandoned by the scholarly community.
I do not want to belabor the point.But there are reasons for believing not only that Mark wanted his readers to believe he was writing history but also that he himself believed he was writing history.Having combed through a number of ancient sources, Samuel Byrskog established that eyewitness testimony was of first-rate importance to ancient historians and that Mark demonstrates this concern in his Gospel.In 11:21 and 14:72, Mark seems to be reporting notes from Peter who has remembered things Jesus told him.This is entirely compatible with the early report of Papias that Mark reported what Peter had relayed to him.In 15:40 Mark reports the women as observers of the events.The women are at a distance, but they observe.The verb used is theorein, which means "to look at, observe.""Their function as eyewitnesses is further accentuated as three or four of them are singled out by name."The same occurs again in 15:47 where the women are listed by name and said to observe the burial (theorein).Then again at the empty tomb in 16:1, 4-5, the women appear by name and observe that the tomb is empty (theorein, horan)."Specifically named women are thus eyewitnesses of Jesus' death and of the location of his tomb, as well as of the empty tomb itself."Given the importance of eyewitness testimony, which Byrskog's research demonstrates, Mark's recurrent reporting of presumably eyewitness testimony in relation to the burial and empty tomb of Jesus clearly reveals his intent to report accurate history.
Carrier mentions the silence of the women after being commissioned to tell the disciples that Jesus had been raised.This passage continues to perplex scholars and the reasons provided for the silence of the women are legion.Carrier says that it is a reversal of the reader's expectation.Dunn says it is because Mark wants his readers to know that they are the witnesses and that they should therefore go tell what they know happened to Jesus. Byrskog thinks that Mark deliberately silences the women so that they will not be the primary witnesses: "The voice of the women was not permitted to be heard in its own right, but it was never entirely ignored or silenced."Hurtado holds that the reporting of resurrection appearances were neither necessary nor important.The empty tomb and the angel's announcement that Jesus had been raised are to be seen as announcing the fulfillment of Jesus' prophecies in 8:31; 9:9, 31; 10:34; 14:28)."Thus, for "readers who are to live with trust in God for their own vindication, it was sufficient to affirm that God has raised Jesus, the paradigmatic figure for their own lives and hopes."Hendriksen believes the women's silence refers only to the fact that they stopped and told no one until they saw the disciples.Other notable scholars such as Craig A. Evans and R. T. France hold that it is probable that Mark's ending has been lost.
We may never know with certainty why Mark reported that the women were silent or if a section reporting Jesus' post-resurrection appearances has been lost.Carrier's explanation that Mark is employing a "reversal of expectation"neither new nor convincing, since it requires belief that Mark was employing a "reversal of expectation" device throughout his Gospel and that this literary device was responsible for his invention of the empty tomb.Again, we have seen that Carrier's arguments for this are both strained and mistaken.
Throughout the DVD, Price, Carrier, and Doherty are preoccupied with parallels, seeing them everywhere.Most scholars have abandoned the religionsgeschichtliche or what was known as the "history of religions" school that regarded parallels as conclusive signs that Christianity was cut from the same cloth as ancient myth.Further research has revealed that many of the parallels to which they refer postdate the Gospels.Thus, it is most likely that those parallels were the result of other religions who copied the Christian story rather than the other way around.Second, no examples cited exhibit all of the points we find in the Gospels.Hence, a number of the parallel accounts must be combined in order to mirror Jesus.Third, no miracle-worker per se existed within two hundred years on either side of Jesus.Fourth, many of the parallels cited are weak.Fifth, parallels can be seen in just about anything. In less than an hour, I was able to put together two lists of parallels more numerous and exhibiting a closer similarity than those listed by Price, Carrier, and Doherty.Consider the following parallels between ancient Rome and the U.S.:
It would not take much effort to create a document filled with these parallels.Perhaps a thousand years from now someone will claim that a bulk of U.S. history was created to parallel the Roman Empire.But they would be grossly mistaken.One can likewise see striking parallels between the lives of Jesus and John F. Kennedy.
Here are eighteen parallels between Jesus and JFK that are more striking than those cited by Carrier.Some even seem too bizarre to be mere coincidence.Nevertheless, the entire comparison is true and no would conclude that it is too much to be a coincidence.Neither are we compelled to conclude that JFK was a myth, invented to embody Christian ideology in the 20th-century!
Consider the following often-cited parallels between Lincoln and Kennedy:
Barbara and David Mikkelson of Snopes.com, whom Flemming interviews in his video, explain on their web site that these "coincidences are easily explained as the simple product of mere chance. It's not difficult to find patterns and similarities between any two marginally-related sets of data" [ital. mine].
One can begin to understand why parallels have not persuaded the majority of today's scholars.It is not that parallels could not expose Christianity as a myth.On the contrary, if a number of religions contemporary with Christianity (and especially if they preceded it) had clear reports of their leaders experiencing a phenomenal birth, being miracle workers and exorcists, providing similar teachings, dying by crucifixion, and rising from the dead, we may have to give serious consideration to these parallels.However, such parallels are imaginary.They exist only in the minds of Jesus mythers.
Robert Price contends otherwise. He says that the idea that the son of a high God came down to earth happened many times in antiquity.
Alexander the Great, Augustus, and others were said to have been conceived miraculously; if not via a virgin birth, the husband was not involved.Then there is the child prodigy story, ancient and modern, where the child is a god and already knows everything.Asclepius was a major healer and Apollonius of Tyana did a lot of exorcisms.
Price appeals to Dennis MacDonald who suggests that Jesus' 'messianic secret' could be taken from the Odyssy when Odysseus comes home and tells everyone to keep it quiet.
Reversals as noted by Dundes where they hail Jesus on Palm Sunday then turn on him.The persecution of an infant by a tyrant is seen with Caesar Augustus, Moses, Krishna, Zoroaster.The Passion is like other stories of dying and rising gods.Standing before the authorities is like the story of Apollonius who stands before the emperor Domitian and miraculously gets out of it.Romulus disappears in battle and then reappears again as a god.Apollonius appears in a doubting Thomas story.Apollonius appears to him, though no one else sees him.
I have addressed MacDonald earlier.The story of Apollonius is interesting.But it is far from convincing.For Apollonius is thought to have died at the close of the first-century.The only account we have of him was written by Philostratus 120 years after his death and more than 200 years after the death of Jesus.Many believe that it was written in answer to Christianity.It is written in the genre of a romantic novel rather than biography.The story ends with the death of Apollonius.Then Philostratus adds a section he calls "stories."The story which a few like Price call a 'resurrection' is found in a single report of an appearance in a vision to a sleeping man that occurred 175 years after the death of Apollonius!And it isn't even a bodily appearance.So, it cannot be called a resurrection, which involved the corpse.Moreover, the report came from a man whose birthplace was supposedly Nineveh—a city that had not existed for 300 years!When we consider that Apollonius is normally showcased as the chief parallel in the case for the mythic Jesus, we see how weak the case actually is.
Price continues that "[t]here are other similar savior figures in the same neighborhood at the same time in history: Mithras, Attis, Adonis, Osiris, Tamuz, and so forth and nobody thinks that these characters are anything but mythical and their stories are so similar, most of them in fact having some kind of resurrection or other, sometimes even with celebrations after three days and so forth that it just seems like special pleading to say 'Oh, well, in this one case it really happened.'"At this point a quote from Justin Martyr appears that reads, "When we say that Jesus Christ was produced without sexual union, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended to heaven, we propound nothing new or different from what you believe regarding those whom you call the sons of Jupiter."
The screen then says, "Some Attributes of Previous Saviors: born of a virgin on December 25; Stars Appeared at Their Birth; Visited by Magi from the East; Turned Water into Wine; Healed the Sick; Cast out Demons; Performed Miracles; Transfigured Before Followers; Rode Donkeys into the City; Betrayed for 30 Pieces of Silver; Celebrated Communal Meal with Bread and Wine; Which Represented the Savior's Flesh and Blood; Killed on a Cross or Tree; Descended into Hell; Resurrected on Third Day; Ascended into Heaven; To Forever Sit beside Father God And Become Divine Judge."
No evidence is provided to show that these stories have a dating any earlier than 100 years after Jesus.No other savior stories contain all of the examples provided.Some of the points are dubious.For example, regarding crucified saviors, even the hyperskeptics of Infidels.org, several of whom appear in this video, have made the following comments:
Note: the scholarship of Kersey Graves has been questioned by numerous theists and nontheists alike; the inclusion of his The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors in the Secular Web's Historical Library does not constitute endorsement by Internet Infidels, Inc. This document was included for historical purposes; readers should be extremely cautious in trusting anything in this book.
The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors: Or Christianity Before Christ is unreliable, but no comprehensive critique exists. Most scholars immediately recognize many of his findings as unsupported and dismiss Graves as useless. . . . In general, even when the evidence is real, it often only appears many years after Christianity began, and thus might be evidence of diffusion in the other direction. Another typical problem is that Graves draws far too much from what often amounts to rather vague evidence. In general, there are ten kinds of problems that crop up in Graves' work here and there . . .
Notwithstanding, Flemming just drops the parallel on his viewers without support or caveat.
Doherty speaks of would-be messiahs and miracle workers "that plagued Palestine throughout the first-century."But there is a major problem with Doherty's statement:Other than Jesus, there were no messiahs or miracle workers in the first-century.Raymond Brown writes, "One encounters the affirmation that there were many would-be messiahs in Palestine at this time.In fact there is no evidence that any Jew claimed or was said to be the Messiah before Jesus of Nazareth (or until a century after his death)."Graham Twelftree, who is regarded by many to be the foremost authority on the miracles of Jesus, writes, "In the period of two hundred years on each side of the life of the historical Jesus the number of miracle stories attached to any historical figure is astonishingly small."To be certain, there are figures who may perform a single miracle or two during their lifetime.But there are no workers of multiple miracles within that 400-year period.Citing Werner Kahl's research, Twelftree states that
of approximately 150 miracle stories from antiquity that we know of only one other case in the entire miracle story tradition before Philostratus' Life of Apollonius (written after A.D. 217) of an immanent bearer of numinous or preternatural power (and then in only a singular version of his miracle)—Melampous, according to Diodorus of Sicily (writing c. 60–30 B. C.).
Doherty is, therefore, grossly mistaken in his assertion.
Regarding resurrections, there are no clear parallels of a resurrection that predate Christianity.One may site the account of Aristeas as a possible parallel.But the differences involved make it look little like what we see with Jesus.The first clear parallel does not appear until long after the life of Jesus, probably Adonis around AD 150.If imitation is occurring, it appears that it is pagans who are imitating the Christian accounts.
The statement by Justin is interesting.But when we note the weakness of the parallels Justin cites, and the context of his writing, which is to address the specific problem of Christian persecution, then his comments on parallels present no historical difficulty whatsoever.In our book The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, Gary Habermas and I write,
. . . since the details of the stories are vague and unlike Jesus' resurrection, today's scholars would not regard the stories as parallels. Justin mentions the deaths and risings of the sons of Jupiter: Aesculapius was struck by lightning and ascended to heaven; after dying violent deaths, Baccus, Hercules, and a few other sons rose to heaven on the horse Pegasus. Justin then mentions Ariadne and others like her, though unnamed, who "have been declared to be set among the stars." Finally, he mentions the account of the cremation of the Roman emperor Augustus, during which someone swore that he saw Augustus' spirit in the flames ascend toward heaven. 
Consider the context in which Justin writes.His First Apology was written to the Roman emperor entreating him to investigate the false charges of impiety and wickedness made against Christians. In chapter 11, he says Christians are not a threat to Rome because they are not looking for a human kingdom. In fact, Jesus taught civil obedience (ch. 17). Jesus taught a higher level of morality than other religions. For example, not only our works but even our thoughts are open to God (ch. 15). Christians are taught to love their enemies and pray for them (chs. 7–8). In chapter 20 Justin contends that many Christian teachings reflect the teachings of those whom the emperor honors. Accordingly, if on some points Christians teach the same things and on other points present an even higher morality, "and if we alone afford proof of what we assert, why are we unjustly hated more than all others?" Justin's objective is to demonstrate to the emperor that Christianity has a lot in common with other religions that enjoy Rome's approval.Therefore, the persecution of Christians should cease.These comments by Justin fail to support Price's contention that Justin recognized the problem of parallels.To the contrary, he attempted to make parallels by straining his examples in order to stop the persecution of Christians.
Price provides another argument in support of his point, a portion of which is not as easily answered.He says,
The early Church fathers understood [parallels] as a problem because they were already getting the same objections from pagans.They said, "What you say that Jesus we've been saying about Dionysus and Hercules all the time."What's the big deal?I mean they didn't believe in them either anymore.And so the Christian apologists the defenders of the faith would say, "Well, yea, but this one is true. And you see Satan counterfeited it in advance because he knew this day would come."Boy, I'll tell you that tells you two things right there that even they didn't even deny that these other Jesus like characters were before Jesus or they never would have resorted to something like that Satan knew it would happen and counterfeit it in advance?
The passage to which Price refers comes from Justin's Dialogue with Trypho (70):
"Be well assured, then, Trypho," I continued, "that I am established in the knowledge of and faith in the Scriptures by those counterfeits which he who is called the devil is said to have performed among the Greeks; just as some were wrought by the Magi in Egypt, and others by the false prophets in Elijah's days. For when they tell that Bacchus, son of Jupiter, was begotten by [Jupiter's] intercourse with Semele, and that he was the discoverer of the vine; and when they relate, that being torn in pieces, and having died, he rose again, and ascended to heaven; and when they introduce wine? into his mysteries, do I not perceive that [the devil] has imitated the prophecy announced by the patriarch Jacob, and recorded by Moses? And when they tell that Hercules was strong, and travelled over all the world, and was begotten by Jove of Alcmene, and ascended to heaven when he died, do I not perceive that the Scripture which speaks of Christ, 'strong as a giant to run his race, '? has been in like manner imitated? And when he [the devil] brings forward Aesculapius as the raiser of the dead and healer of all diseases, may I not say that in this matter likewise he has imitated the prophecies about Christ?
We may first note that the parallels cited by Justin are weak:
Jupiter's son Bacchus was the result of Jupiter's sexual intercourse with Semele.The story is that Jupiter (i.e., Zeus) cheated on his wife by having sex with Semele who is later destroyed.
Bacchus was torn in pieces, died, rose again, and ascended to heaven.The rising and ascending to heaven does not resemble what happened to Jesus.Bacchus was escorted to heaven on the horse Pegasus.There was probably the beginning of a disembodied existence for Bacchus, since this is the type of post-mortem existence that was believed by pagans.There is no indication that a resurrection of the body was being described.
Wine was involved in the Jupiter cult. But what about a parallel with Jacob as recorded by Moses?I could only find a few references to which Price could refer, none of which come close to being a parallel.
Hercules, another son of Jupiter, was strong, traveled the world, died, and ascended to heaven on the horse Pegasus.Again, the parallels with Jesus are very weak.Justin notes a parallel with Jesus in Psalm 19:5: "Which is as a bridegroom coming out of his chamber; It rejoices as a strong man to run his course."Justin has to strain hard to get a parallel from this.For Psalm 19 is not speaking of Jesus.
The heavens are telling of the glory of God;
The psalmist David is writing poetically that the sky speaks of God's glory.God has made the sky a tent for the sun, which is glorious, runs a course from one end of the sky to the other and impacts everyone.This is not a parallel to Jesus by any reasonable assessment.
Who was Aesculapius, "raiser of the dead and healer of all diseases"?He was believed to be the son of Apollo who had great skills in practicing medicine.His first teacher was a centaur named Chiron. He became so skilled that he could raise the dead.Hades, the god of the dead, became so concerned over this that he had Aesculapius killed with a lightening bolt.This story occurs in the foggy past with no marks of historicity.Is there a historical core of a man who was a skilled practitioner of medicine whose life was cut short when he was struck by lightening?We may never know.But this is hardly a strong parallel to Jesus.This example cited by Price is very poor.
Carrier says that many aspects of the story of Jesus' appearance to the Emmaeus disciples is almost an exact inversion of the Romulus story, the founding myth of Rome.Romulus was a god who became a man and was torn apart (executed) by the Senate, rose from the dead and appeared to his friend Proculus on the road to Albalonga from Rome.He says that it seems like Luke got this story from someone telling the Romulus story but placing Jesus in his place.Instead of a worldly empire, he's preaching a kingdom of God.The problem with Carrier's thesis is that the story of the appearance of Romulus was not a resurrection.There are significant differences of what occurred.For example, another story is that Romulus disappeared in battle then reappeared at a later date.There is no ambiguity in the story that he has returned from the afterlife.But is this a resurrection?I am not attempting to split hairs.'Resurrection' meant that the corpse that had died was returned to life and transformed into an immortal body.If we view every story of a post-mortem appearance as a parallel to Jesus, then we have to include every ghost story and grief hallucination, from past to present.
All of this eliminates the claim that the early Christian reports of Jesus' resurrection were cut from the same cloth as other stories of the period.Why?Because stories of post-mortem appearances are not limited to the Greco-Roman era.They have never stopped and continue today.If one of my sisters claimed that our dead grandfather appeared to her last night, I would not consider that as a parallel to the resurrection reports of Jesus.That there is a similarity cannot be denied.But is the similarity enough to demonstrate that resurrection reports and grief hallucinations and dreams are cut from the same cloth?And when one has to postulate inversions and alterations in order to hide the parallel, as MacDonald does, the impressiveness of purported examples declines even further.We are not surprised to find that the large majority of today's scholars do not use alleged parallels as a reason for rejecting the ancient reports of the resurrection of Jesus.
Folklore and Urban Legend
Closely related to supposed parallels is the claim that the stories of Jesus are folklore.Flemming interviews the late Alan Dundes, Professor of Folklore at UC Berkeley to make his point.Dundes says,
There are these other Gospels and there are the Apocrypha after all.There are apocryphal New Testament and apocryphal Old Testament stories that were frankly were too folkloristic and they got thrown out because people thought these couldn't have happened and therefore we got rid of them.But, of course, some of the apocryphal stories are as interesting as the regular Bible. . . . If you take away the folklore away from the Bible, you don't have a heck of a lot left except beget, beget, beget, beget.
In support, Dundes notes twenty-two points common to ancient hero traditions.He does not say how many points match with Jesus.However, he comments on remembering that Jesus shared a lot of them.Flemming then provides a chart on which he lists the twenty-two points of interest mentioned by Dundes, after which Flemming notes either a match or a no match.
Flemming adds up 19 matches out of a possible 22 and lists Jesus as coming in third place.My evaluation, given 2.5 matches out of generosity plus granting a match that Flemming did not, reveals only ten matches.Are ten matches of 22 enough to note a definite parallel?Greg Boyd has noted that William Wallace meets nearly every characteristic of a folk hero and yet we know Wallace was a historical person and that most of the points are true.Caesar Augustus was a historical person and a contemporary of Jesus.He has ten matches.That's the same as Jesus.But no one questions the existence of Augustus as a result.
Dundes provides a few examples of folktales such as the story of William Tell and claims these derive from the tale of Oedipus, who saw himself in competition with his father for his mother's attention.Is there any hint of this in the Gospels?Are the Father and Son vying for the attention of Mary?Such would seem to be a stretch.
Flemming also interviews Barbara and David Mikkelson, who run the aforementioned web site on urban legends: Snopes.com.Flemming asks them for an example of a story that started as fiction and then came to be regarded as real.Barbara responds that there are what are called "glurge" stories on snopes.com."Glurge" is a term coined by one of their viewers.These are stories that were written and posted as fiction, only to be referred to later by others as factual accounts.Now, of course, no one would deny that glurges and urban legends occur.But merely showing that they exist does nothing to establish that Jesus is the product of the making of an urban legend.A similar argument to what Flemming proposes is the following: Fiction movies exist."The God Who Wasn't There" is a movie.Therefore, "The God Who Wasn't There" is a fiction movie.
Flemming Interviews Earl Doherty
Flemming refers to Doherty as a "historian and classical historian" and "one of the most important figures writing on the Jesus myth."As the interview progresses, the viewer becomes increasingly aware that Flemming's presentation has been largely influenced by Doherty's work.Notice the following statements by Doherty seen earlier in this review: "The first Gospel wasn't written until almost the end of the first century. . . . The others follow over the next several decades." "It's almost impossible to believe that they were writing what they were presenting as accurate history.And we can tell by the fact that Matthew, Luke, and John; they rework Mark in ways which are just a wholesale change of the situation. The words that were supposed to have been spoken by Jesus.They wouldn't feel that they have the right to do that if they were presenting it to their readers as strict historically accurate accounts." "Paul never places Jesus' death and resurrection in an historical setting.He never identifies a time or a place."
I explained earlier in my critique of Carrier that it is not uncommon for scholars to see all sorts of interpretations about what biblical authors reallymeant, rather than what seems plain on the surface.Doherty shows he has creative skills in this area, too.Of the story of Jesus' multiplying of the loaves and fishes, he writes, "These are direct reworkings of the miracles of Elijah and Elisha."Doherty thinks of the New Testament as Midrash, a new way of seeing spiritual truth.He claims that the Evangelists went to the Old Testament and created a Jesus based on certain Old Testament passages.Thus, they were using Old Testament passages to create the story.Most scholars see things differently.They recognize that the New Testament writers attempted to make sense of Jesus by going back to the Old Testament to see what it may have said about him.Midrash was an attempt to take old stories and make them relevant to the people of the writer's own time and culture.But we can note that those writing the midrash believed the stories they were adding to.When we consider that a number of ancient non-Christian sources mention a historical Jesus, it is easy to know which option to prefer.No doubt Doherty will claim that these are all interpolations by later Christian editors or that their sources for this data were Christians.But the majority of Josephus scholars see good reasons for holding that Josephus knew of and mentioned Jesus is his writings and it is unlikely that a Roman historian such as Tacitus who had no respect for Christians would rely on their reports about Jesus for his own writing of history.
Doherty questions whether the apostles died as martyrs: ". . . there is no evidence in the early record that any of the apostles were actually martyred.Paul makes no mention of any of the one's that he knew as being killed, even when he speaks about the hardships that he and others had to endure.That's a much later Church tradition and it was a popular myth in itself."He says that Paul was not aware of any of the disciples who had died.But this seems unlikely.Paul said that he had consented to the executions of Christians.Luke reports that Paul consented to the death of Stephen (Acts 7:57-8:3; 9:1).The speeches attributed to Paul by Luke very clearly say that Paul was aware of Christians who had been martyred and was involved in the process (Acts 22:4; 26:10).Scholars are divided as to whether Paul uttered these speeches or if Luke is reporting early Church tradition in narrative format by placing these traditions about Paul in the mouth of Paul himself.Few believe that the content of the speeches was invented by Luke.Either way, we have early tradition about Paul.
What does Paul himself say?In two of Paul's undisputed letters, he makes statements that are compatible with what Luke reports he said (1 Cor 15:9; Phil 3:6).Moreover, Paul may have been one of the first apostles to die.In this case, he would not have reported the deaths of other apostles.His martyrdom is attested by no less than seven ancient sources, the earliest of which is Clement of Rome (c. AD 95) who was most likely a disciple of Peter who died around the same time as Paul.
That Christians were being executed by the middle of the first century is certain.The Roman historian Tacitus reports that in the time of Nero, a "multitude" of Christians suffered martyrdom: "Covered with the skins of beasts, they were torn by dogs and perished, or were nailed to crosses, or were doomed to the flames and burnt, to serve as a nightly illumination, when daylight had expired" (Annals 15:44).Many scholars believe that Peter and Paul suffered martyrdom during the Neronian persecution.
The reports concerning the individual martyrdoms of most of the disciples are late.However, in the case of Peter, Paul, and James, they are not.And we have multiple reports regarding the willingness of the disciples to suffer continuously and even die for their conviction that Jesus had been raised.Only the hyperskeptics to whom we are responding question the sincerity of the apostles' claim to have seen the risen Jesus.After all, if you do not believe that Jesus ever existed, you must likewise deny that a historical Jesus had apostles who saw him die and who were transformed when they saw him alive again.
Doherty attempts to dismiss the dual passages in Josephus that mention Jesus by claiming they are both interpolations.But this is not as easy as Doherty imagines.I have answered a similar attempt by an amateur scholar to dismiss Josephus as an authentic first century source who mentions the historical Jesus.(See both critiques of the book by Acharya S, The Christ Conspiracy: The Greatest Story Ever Sold at http://www.answeringinfidels.com/content/category/5/73/49/.)By far, most scholars hold that Josephus knew of Jesus and mentioned him twice in his works.
Doherty believes there was a Q community that did not believe in the death and resurrection of Jesus.The Jesus in Q is not considered a Savior figure, but bears a strong resemblance to the Greek cynics of the period.Doherty thinks the documentary record shows that today's Christianity is a combination of the Christianities of both the Q community and Paul and that this combination took place in the Gospel of Mark.It is not a mix of oral tradition that Mark has tied together.
In Larry Hurtado's recent work on Christology, which is quickly becoming the major work on the topic, he interacts with John Kloppenborg's work on Q.Kloppenborg seems to agree with Doherty that Q's failure to note any passion narratives or redemptive interpretations of the death of Jesus indicates that Q does not know them.But Hurtado points out that it is "not credible to imagine these Q people as somehow remaining ignorant, while all about them interpretations of Jesus' death as redemptive, and belief in Jesus' resurrection as well, were circulating among followers of Jesus."Paul is clear that what he preaches is essentially in agreement with what was coming out of Jerusalem (Galatians 2:1-10).Moreover, the Semitisms in some of the oral traditions found in his letters likewise seem to point to a Jerusalem origin.We know that the Jerusalem apostles and Paul were preaching the death and resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor 15:11).Thus, if there was a Q community, and this is questioned today, we must ask why this document, if it was a document rather than an oral tradition, did not mention the death and resurrection of Jesus.We may postulate a few options.First, it could be that, for reasons unknown to us, Matthew and Luke preferred to use other sources when it came to these stories.Second, it could be that Q was composed during the lifetime of Jesus.In this case, we would not expect passion and resurrection narratives.The bottom line is that Q may or may not have existed and there is far more skepticism over the "Q community", to which Doherty refers to as fact, than there is for a Q source.If Q indeed existed, the absence of a passion and resurrection narrative is curious.But I have presented two possibilities for why this may be so.Moreover, if Mark used Q as one of his sources, we must ask how we may detect this in his Gospel.After all, scholars identify Q by tradition common to Matthew and Luke but not found in Mark! Thus, Doherty's argument that Mark combined Q and Paul does not make much sense.
Doherty says he has two "smoking guns" when it comes to shooting down the position that Jesus was a historical person.His first is comprised of two passages in Hebrews (8:4; 10:37). Hebrews 8:4 reads, "If Jesus had been on earth, he would not even have been a priest" (Doherty's translation).Doherty comments, "'if Jesus had been on earth' . . . Now those words in the context convey the clear implication that he never was."He then cites a scholar who says that the normal interpretation of those words allow this interpretation.But since this would mean that Jesus never existed, we should prefer other options."This shows you the kind of thinking and interpretation of texts that goes into regular New Testament scholarship.It just doesn't allow you to see what the texts are actually saying."
Does the text actually imply that Jesus never existed?Let's look at how it fits into its context.In 7:14 the author says that Jesus came from the tribe of Judah and then offered himself as a sacrifice (7:27).Being from the tribe of Judah ties Jesus to an earthly life.In 8:1 he says that Jesus is a high priest who took his seat at the right hand of God.In 8:4, the verse under consideration, he says Jesus would not have been a priest if he had been on earth.In 8:6 he says, "But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, by as much as He is also the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises" (8:6).
In context, the author of Hebrews is saying that if Jesus had continued to be on earth rather than going to heaven, he would not be serving as a priest as he now does.Instead, he sacrificed his life in order to inaugurate the new and heavenly covenant and serves as our priest in heaven.
When this verse (8:6) is considered in its context, Doherty's interpretation is very awkward.But there is another reason for rejecting Doherty's interpretation that weighs even more heavily.Elsewhere, Hebrews presents Jesus as one who lived on earth (2:9, 14, 17; 5:7; 7:14; 10:5, 10; 12:2-3; 13:12).Thus, it seems very unlikely that he would speak of the earthly existence of Jesus on a number of occasions, then contradict himself by speaking of his non-existence on two other occasions.This is why New Testament scholarship will never adopt Doherty's interpretation.
Doherty mentions a second passage in Hebrews as part of his first smoking gun: 10:37.He translates it, "the one who is to come will come and soon," then comments
by saying that the Messiah is coming soon, this shows very clearly that the writer has no knowledge of him already having already been here in the person of Jesus.Now Christian commentators have to do a bit of twisting to deny the same meaning of that passage.But they do that all the time.They've developed a real proficiency in obscuring what the texts are really saying.
Once again, it is very clear that Doherty does not bother to read the context.Nor does he seem familiar with the ancient Christian belief that Jesus would return from heaven very soon.In context, the author is encouraging Jewish Christians, who have begun to be persecuted by imprisonment and having their property confiscated.He encourages them to remain steady in their faith and that they will be rewarded.It is in this immediate context that he then writes, "For in a very little time, the one coming will come and will not delay."It is just like encouraging an injured car accident victim by saying, "Hang in there!The ambulance will be here very soon!"Doherty has totally missed the meaning of these verses.As we saw, the author of Hebrews is familiar with a historical Jesus.Thus, Doherty's two bullets in his first 'smoking gun' have backfired.
His second smoking gun is found in an apology by Minucius Felix, which is a debate between a pagan named Octavius and a Christian Minucius.The Anchor Bible Dictionary dates this works sometime between the late second and early third-centuries.Octavius provides a list of accusations he has heard about the Christians, such as, they adore the head of a donkey, have secret and nocturnal rituals, worship the genitals of their priests, are incestuous, worship a wicked and crucified man and his cross, kill an infant, lick its blood and divide its limbs, etc.He thinks there is probably some truth to the accusations but does not know. Felix denies it all and says that Christians are not even allowed to hear of such horrible things, much less do them.He adds, "For in that you attribute to our religion the worship of a criminal and his cross,? you wander far from the neighbourhood of the truth, in thinking either that a criminal deserved, or that an earthly being was able, to be believed God."In other words, Felix says that Christians neither worship a criminal nor his cross.For a criminal is unworthy of worship and an earthly being cannot be thought of as God.By no means is Felix saying that Christians believe Jesus was a criminal or that he was merely a human—or that he never existed.
These are Doherty's two "smoking guns."But they are nothing more than a child's capgun.It makes noise, but it cannot deliver what it threatens.I strongly recommend that Doherty stay away from gunfights.
Flemming compares Doherty's work with that of Galileo.Galileo presented evidence that the earth revolves around the sun rather than the other way around, yet others refused to look into the telescope.In a similar manner, Flemming claims that people won't look at Doherty's work because it will destroy the assumptions of biblical scholarship over the past 1900 years.Doherty says the idea has been around for 200 years and that he has contributed only a few new ideas to it.He adds that avant-garde scholarship is perhaps 10-15 years away from giving serious consideration to the idea.
He also says he is not the only one writing on the subject.There are others.But he admits that these writings are found on the internet by amateur scholars, a community with which he identifies himself.He defines an amateur scholar as one who has not come up through the established ranks but has done private research.Flemming butts in and says this is not a problem, since Galileo was an amateur.(Flemming is mistaken.Galileo received formal education in physics and mathematics.He made a number of notable inventions, including the pump and the telescope.Anyone with a grandfather clock in their home can also thank Galileo.He was appointed Professor of Mathematics at the University of Padua.)
When Flemmings asks Doherty if there have been any attempts to refute The Jesus Puzzle,Doherty answers that there have not been any attempts to refute his work on the internet by recognized scholars.While he is correct that recognized scholars have not given his work any attention, he and Flemming are incorrect that no attempts have been made.A number of good critiques are posted online.While it is true that Doherty would label most if not all of these as "amateur scholars," why should he or Flemming balk at that?Just a few minutes earlier they attempted to justify Doherty's status as an amateur scholar.This is doubletalk on the part of Doherty and Flemming.They seek recognition for the work of amateur scholars while refusing to recognize the work of amateur scholars who offer critiques of Doherty's work.
While professional scholars have paid no attention to Doherty's work, they have certainly responded to the hypothesis he proposes, namely, the idea that Jesus never existed.
Günther Bornkamm: "to doubt the historical existence of Jesus at all…was reserved for an unrestrained, tendentious criticism of modern times into which it is not worth while to enter here."
Rudolf Bultmann: "Of course the doubt as to whether Jesus really existed is unfounded and not worth refutation.No sane person can doubt that Jesus stands as founder behind the historical movement."
Michael Grant: "To sum up, modern critical methods fail to support the Christ-myth theory.It has 'again and again been answered and annihilated by first-rank scholars'.In recent years 'no serious scholar has ventured to postulate the non-historicity of Jesus'—or at any rate very few, and they have not succeeded in disposing of the much stronger, indeed very abundant, evidence to the contrary.
Paul Maier: "the total evidence [for the existence of Jesus] is so overpowering, so absolute that only the shallowest of intellects would dare to deny Jesus' existence.And yet this pathetic denial is still parroted by "the village atheist," bloggers on the internet, or such organizations as the Freedom from Religion Foundation."
Michael Martin: "Well's thesis [that Jesus never existed] is controversial and not widely accepted."
Robert Van Voorst: "Contemporary New Testament scholars have typically viewed their [i.e., Jesus mythers] arguments as so weak or bizarre that they relegate them to footnotes, or often ignore them completely."
Flemming and Doherty need to realize that professional scholars spend their lifetime in research.This involves interacting with the works of other professional scholars who both agree and disagree.Interacting with amateur scholars is not a good use of their time, unless a particular work has become influential.This is not at all to claim that amateur scholars do not produce good work.To the contrary, several amateur scholars have distinguished themselves as very sharp thinkers.However, unless an amateur scholar or one or more of their contributions have become influential to a wide audience, why should professional scholars feel obligated to interact, especially if an adequate reply has been provided by another amateur scholar?
There comes a point when a conspiracy theory has been investigated and rejected so many times that one cannot be expected to open a new investigation every time someone cries 'conspiracy,' unless there is a good amount of new information that accompanies that claim.Doherty himself says that the hypothesis that Jesus never existed has been around for 200 years and that he has only contributed only a few new ideas to it.Thus, since scholars have totally rejected the Jesus myth hypothesis again and again and little new information is offered, we are under no obligation to give it new consideration.
This ends Flemming's case for the non-existence of Jesus.
From Village Christian to Village Atheist
Flemming goes further than merely attempting to make a case against the existence of a historical Jesus of Nazareth.He also attacks religion in general. "For thousands of years, humanity has been obsessed with blood sacrifices.Is it an accident that the story of the crucifixion of Jesus gave Christians a suffering hero whose flesh they could eat and whose blood they could drink?Of course Christians today aren't obsessed with blood sacrificing.Except that they are."Clips from Mel Gibson's movie The Passion of the Christ are then shown."For many Christians, The Passion of the Christ was the single most powerful experience of their lives."He notes that this movie made "$370 million and still counting."
Flemming turns to Carrier and says, "Let me propose something: Religion does no harm at all."Carrier laughs then comments,
Well of course the evidence of history and even contemporary events refutes that.Even if we set aside the obvious conflict violence that has always plagued society and has gotten particularly worse under the Judeo-Christian religions, even if we set that aside, we have ordinary everyday things that are gone wrong.The sort of dehumanization and mistreatment of homosexuals for example is a prominent example and it's getting worse in this country actually.It was getting better for a while but now there's this backlash and that's bad, that's bad for humanity.And religion that encourages or even allows that is wrong.
Later he says,
I do have serious concerns. . . . I'm seeing more and more the attitude of Christians toward secular humanists and atheists is very, very similar to the attitudes of pre-war Nazis to Jews.And it's almost as if atheists are the new Jews. And the classic example of this is this book by Benjamin Wiker called Moral Darwinism, that is essentially Mein Kamph, except he just took out 'Jew' and put 'atheism' in its place. . . . What's going to happen when we have like another depression, like we had right before World War II in Germany where the economy collapsed.Who's gonna get blamed?When we have these Christians in power, who really think atheists are responsible for everything that's wrong, persuasion doesn't fix the problem, society is going south, the economy is going south . . . Who are ya gonna kill?Well, the same people that Hitler killed, which is the Jews. . . . If we get into a situation where Christians like Bush basically gain a permanent foothold in power in society like they have now. . . if that stays that way and then something really bad happens . . . what's going to happen is that atheists are going to end up on the $@!# end of the stick.
Carrier conveniently forgets that the greatest slaughters in our world's history have come from atheist regimes.They were not religious wars.Consider Stalin, Mao, and the killing fields of Cambodia.These alone add up to more than 80 million people killed by atheists in the twentieth century, when they came into power for the first time.This does not include those killed by the aggressive governments of North Korea and North Vietnam who were actually attempting to eliminate religion and even now continue to work toward that end.Thus, it seems that if anyone should be concerned for their safety, it is those who maintain religious beliefs, rather than atheists.In his interview with fellow radical atheist Richard Dawkins, Flemming himself comments, "Often what atheists are after is an intolerance of religion and it's very hard to get across."
I like Richard Carrier, respect him, and regard him a friend.But he appears paranoid here.During the Great Depression or the recession of the 70's or even our very recent recession, was there a serious effort to blame atheists for the economic problems in the U.S.? Has Bush whom Carrier fears hinted that atheists are to blame for our country's woes?There are certainly a few Christians who say that God is trying to get our attention and is, thus, responsible for disasters like 9/11 and Katrina.But these are a minority and most Christians are rightly embarrassed by them.So, let us stop with the alarmist rhetoric.
Carrier finds Lee Smolin's arguments persuasive that there are multiple universes and that we happen to live in the one where everything is in place for life.(See David Wood's decisive critique of Carrier's use of Smolin: A Carriocentric Universe)He then says that if the design argument employed by theists works, it would actually prove that God built the universe for black holes, not for humans.He continues by arguing that if Christianity were true, the universe would be as Paul and other early Christians believed: only one solar system, not zillions of galaxies billions of years old.There would be tons of evidence that the universe was created 6,000-10,000 years ago.We wouldn't have any evidence for evolution.We wouldn't need all the physical constants or subatomic particles.We would only need the five particles which Paul and Aristotle thought there were.The earth would be the center of the universe, since it is the center of God's attention and the purpose for which everything else was created.Why would he make it any other way?Thus, the universe we have is not the universe we would expect if Christianity is true.
Even if Paul believed that the sun revolves around the earth, that there is only one solar system rather than the nearly one trillion galaxies now thought to exist, and that the universe is only 6,000-10,000 years old instead of around 15 billion years old, why would this disprove Christianity?Paul is, in fact, silent on these matters.Today's Christians debate the age of the universe and earth.Many, if not most, of today's Christian philosophers and scientists have no problem holding that the universe is 12-15 billion years old and that the earth is probably 4.5 billion years old, and they see no tension with the biblical record.So, one does not need to be committed to a certain age of the universe in order to be a Christian.
Carrier says that if Christianity is true, then we would not have any evidence for evolution.As we noticed previously with interpretations, data can be interpreted in a number of ways and evolutionary theory is no different.I am not at all persuaded by arguments for macroevolution.Not only do I find them highly problematic, but also the crusades by evolutionary activists like Richard Dawkins have persuaded me that the issue is more related to one's worldview than to the scientific data.Dembski, Behe, Gonzalez/Richards, and others have provided a compelling case based on science that an intelligent Designer is the best explanation for the observable data.Atheists like Carrier apparently recognize the strength of their case.Otherwise, there would be no need to postulate undetectable multiverses.It is the appearance of design and the extreme unlikelihood of life in the only universe known to us that forces this sort of hypothesis.
Carrier then argues that the human brain has to be large in order to perform the function of consciousness.In fact, it is so large that, without modern medicine, it has to kill one in five women who give birth to children.(I cannot understand how this relates.)The brain is very inefficient and very vulnerable to injury.It's not what a god would design.God could have just given us a mind without a body, since he is a mind without a body.Thus, if a god exists, we would not need a brain that kills its mothers and requires so much energy and be so vulnerable to injury.If it is impossible for a mind to exist without a brain, then it follows necessarily that the only way to have a conscious being is to have a brain.Thus, if we assume that there is no disembodied mind, it necessarily predicts that the only way that we could have a mind is to have a brain.We need brains if atheism is true.Thus, "the existence of large brains is positive proof that atheism is true, because the Christian God would build something differently."
Let's dissect Carrier's argument and see what it looks like:
If we have large brains, atheism is true.
This is a standard modus ponens argument.The logic is valid.Thus, if Carrier's premises are true, we have an airtight deductive argument for atheism.Having stated his argument, Carrier says that it may not be "proof or settle the issue, but it is evidence for the truth of atheism."However, since this is a deductive argument, if any of his premises are incorrect, his argument fails.
Let's look, then, at Richard's premises.According to his first premise, if we have large brains, atheism is true.In order to support his view, he argues that the brain is very inefficient and very vulnerable to injury.It's not what a god would design.God could have just given us a mind without a body, since he is a mind without a body.Thus, his supporting argument can be stated as follows:
Necessarily, a perfect being creates a perfect product.
The problem with Carrier's argument is that there is no reason for holding his first premise, that a perfect being must always create a perfect product.We might imagine a number of reasons why this may not be the case.For example, when a restaurant prepares a meal for a patron, it does not prepare it for a long shelf life.The cook has no intention of making the food so that it lasts past the night.What if a perfect being, for reasons unknown to us, did not want for humans to live forever?Or what if he had originally intended for humans with free will to live forever but allowed sin to result in eventual death for our benefit?Such a possibility is implicit in the Christian view and, thus, is not ad hoc.Let's also suppose that God had created us with far greater abilities.Would we use them wisely or would we strip the planet by now?Imagine a world with an eternal Hitler, Stalin, and Mao.Given a world of free beings, there may have been very good reasons for why God imposed time-limits on our lives.
Accordingly, there are no sound reasons for accepting Carrier's first premise and, thus, his argument falls to pieces, even apart from considering whether his second premise holds.Remember that if Carrier's argument fails, then his evidence for atheism fails.
Flemming turns to the Inquisition:
If the Bible is right, aren't the stakes as high as they can be?If a little suffering here on earth saves more souls for all eternity, isn't that a good thing?The Inquisition was not a perversion of Christian doctrine.The Inquisition was an expression of Christian doctrine. . . . Imagine if you killed your own child like the father and the people you [sic] that you did it for didn't recognize your sacrifice.Of course you wouldn't hear their prayers.Mel Gibson was right to portray the Jews as evil.These must be the most despicable people on earth unless this book [the Bible] is wrong.And if this book is wrong, what the hell is moderate Christianity?Jesus was only sort of the son of God?He only somewhat rose from the dead?Your eternal soul is at stake but you shouldn't make a big deal out of it?Moderate Christianity makes no sense.Is it any wonder that so many people choose the Christian leaders who actually have the courage of their convictions?
Here is Flemming's argument broken down:
If the Bible is right, then the Inquisition & Christianity are just.
This is a modus tollens argument and follows the same logic of the moral argument for the existence of God.
If God does not exist, then objective moral values do not exist.
In both arguments, the logic is valid.Thus, the strength of the premises determines the strength of the argument.The weakness of the moral argument lies in the difficulty of proving the second premise: objective moral values exist.Most people believe that there is something intrinsically wrong with rape and torturing babies for the fun of it.Yet, we cannot prove this to be true.Thus, to the extent that one believes that morals are objective, i.e. that some things are really wrong irrespective of what others or a society thinks, one will find the moral argument persuasive.
What about Flemming's argument?His logic is valid.But once again, his first premise is incorrect, since a great strain is required in order to interpret Jesus' teachings in a manner that is compatible with the Inquisition.It was Catholic leadership that had gone way off track that brought about the Inquisition and the Crusades.One cannot find any teaching of Jesus stating that torturing a person atones for their denial of Christ.Accordingly, since the teachings of the Bible would not support the Inquisition or the Crusades, there is no reason to believe that if the Bible is correct that the Inquisition and Crusades were justified.Thus, Flemming's argument from the Inquisition fails.
Flemming turns to a discussion of issues of eschatology.He interviews Scott Butcher of RaptureLetters.com who describes his beliefs in a pretribulation view of the return of Christ and adds that he believes this will occur during his lifetime.Atheist Sam Harris says this interpretation is "maladaptive" regarding avoiding global conflict, which is the precursor to the return of Christ.It is a "terribly dangerous state of affairs" when Christians of this conviction are electing our state officials.
Throughout the video, Flemming exhibits immense sarcasm that makes his work seem more like an impassioned justification of his atheism than a documentary about Jesus.One such statement appears in his interview with Sam Harris when he says, "When people stop believing in God, they tend to have sex with sheep."Harris presents some sobering thoughts that relate to problems caused by Muslims who desire to be martyred.He asks how we can be neighbors with this mentality?Flemming asks Harris if we are doomed.Harris answers that "It's hard to see a basis for real optimism."This concludes Flemming's case that religion is bad for society.
He then provides a short account of his past as a fundamentalist Christian in a Christian school named Village Christian School.He states that for the Christian, hell is a real place where you really go if you do not have salvation from Jesus.Jesus will forgive you from anything, except blasphemy against the Holy Spirit, the unforgivable sin (Luke 12:10; Mark 3:29).
And as luck would have it, the Holy Spirit is the easiest thing in the entire doctrine to doubt.God is out of your reach. Jesus was two thousand years ago.But the Holy Spirit is with you right here, right now.So, you better really actually feel the Holy Spirit.You can't deny it in your thoughts, because Jesus is in your thoughts.And if your mind starts to wander to the fact that there's no more evidence for the existence of this Holy Spirit than there is for the existence of unicorns, guess what you may have done? The greatest crime in fundamentalist Christianity is to think.And when I was at Village Christian I was terrified that I had actually done this.
Flemming's definition of blaspheming the Holy Spirit is bizarre.For him, if I question in my mind the existence of the Holy Spirit, I have committed the unpardonable sin.Most exegetes recognize that Mark 3:30 provides clarity of what it is to blaspheme the Holy Spirit.The scribes who came to destroy Jesus were attributing to Satan the works of the Holy Spirit done through Jesus.Thus, in essence they were insulting the Holy Spirit by calling him Satan.It is not the mechanical words by which the sin is committed.It is because they come from a heart that has hardened itself to the authority of Jesus, a complete rejection that caused people to want to destroy him.This is the precise opposite of the statement that "Jesus is Lord" that results in salvation (1 Cor 12:3).The words are not a magical formula that results in salvation by its mere recitation.It is only when they are the result of a heart that has submitted to Christ as Lord that the words carry meaning.
Flemming goes back to Village Christian School and asks the current school superintendent Ronald Sipus some questions.He reads a few of the school's doctrinal statements.The infallibility of the Bible, the nature of God's existence in three persons, and the belief in the resurrection of believers to eternal life and nonbelievers to eternal judgment are stated.Flemming then asks, "Tell me, what hard scientific evidence do you have that the world works this way?"Sipus answers that there is good evidence for the truth of Christianity, such as the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus.But ultimately it is a matter of faith.Flemming jumps on him for the "faith" part and exhibits a misunderstanding of the matter as his interview with Sipus continues.Sipus is clear throughout that he thinks there is good historical evidence for the truth of Christianity.Fleming replies that earlier he said there was no evidence for it and that it was a matter of faith.Sipus says, no, he thinks there is evidence.But Fleming replies that he had said when it comes to matters of the future resurrection and judgment of the dead that it's a matter of faith.Sipus answers that he agrees.But Fleming asks why he is then teaching that this is the way the world operates.Let's look at it another way:?
Flemming: Do you think there is any scientific evidence for your theological statements?
Sipus: There is scientific evidence for the truth of Christianity.But theological statements are a matter of faith.
Flemming: Then why are you teaching that Christianity is scientifically true, when you say it is a matter of faith?
Sipus: You misunderstood what I said.I'm not saying that I have scientific proof for theological statements.
Flemming: But you said a moment ago that it's (the "it" is where the switch occurs) a matter of faith.So why are you teaching theological statements as the way the world operates?
Sipus: I'm not.
Sipus is claiming that theological matters, such as the triune nature of God and future resurrection and judgment cannot be tested scientifically and are accepted on faith.I agree with him.We can examine the scientific evidence for an intelligent Designer and the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus and many of his sayings.But scientific arguments do not apply to matters of doctrine.Sam Harris who is another of Flemming's authorities answers by saying that if one cannot provide justification for one's convictions, you're laughed out of the room.I agree.But this would be a misunderstanding of Sipus' statement.If you were to ask him for a justification of his convictions, he would answer that Christianity has some very good scientific and historical evidence in its favor, which establishes the truth of Christianity.The Bible is a trustworthy source and, thus, the Christian is rationally justified in accepting truths of faith precisely because there are truths of reason.
Flemming then asks Sipus if he believes the Bible should be interpreted literally.He answers that there are certain parts of the Bible that may not be taken literally.Nearly all Christians would agree with him.Jesus taught in parables.Were the stories and persons mentioned in the parables meant to be understood as historical figures?We may almost certainly answer "no."The personification of wisdom in the book of Proverbs is an obvious rhetorical device.Sipus notes that there are a number of interpretations of Genesis, ranging from a creation of everything within six, 24-hour days to believing that these days represent very long periods of time.He says that these are things upon which Christians debate and he is correct.The ages of the universe and the earth are not fundamental doctrines of Christianity.
In an interesting turn of events, Sipus graciously requests to ask Flemming a question off camera. Flemming refuses.Sipus charges Flemming with being dishonest in setting up the interview because Flemming was not discussing what he had originally communicated to Sipus. Instead, Sipus seems to believe that Flemming is there to make himself feel better about the discipline Flemming underwent while attending the school, perhaps trying to get some payback.It becomes apparent that Sipus wants to discuss this privately with Flemming, rather than to present it to Flemming's viewers.Flemming refuses, and Sipus ends the interview.
Flemming goes to the chapel where he says he received Jesus three times, holds the camera up and says "Here in this chapel where I first accepted Jesus as my personal savior, I just want to say one thing: I deny the Holy Spirit."The main video ends on this note.
An Interview with Richard Dawkins
In an interview with Richard Dawkins in his second commentary, Dawkins makes the following statement: "Science, scientific reason, the Enlightenment, rationalism, are in their way powerful weapons against religion and all other forms of superstition.Those people who are well enough educated to understand science and reason tend to be the ones who have dropped religion.And so, by spreading science and rationality we would be combating religion and all other forms of superstition. . . . it's worth noticing that if you take the elite of American scientists, and one measure of that that's [sic] being taken as those being elected to the National Academy of Sciences, these are the cream American scientists, more than 90% of them do not hold any supernatural religious belief.So, among the best American scientists, religion is almost dead.And that's a very encouraging sign."This is strong rhetoric from Dawkins who is on a crusade against non-atheistic science.Elsewhere Dawkins comments, "It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid, or insane (or wicked, but I'd rather not consider that)."
The facts speak contrary to Dawkins' grandstanding.Evolution is in a period of serious crisis and it is becoming apparent to all who remain informed of the issues that there is a closed-mindedness, even an anti-intellectual climate, embedded in the communities in which Dawkins roams.Evolution is not the self-evident axiom that Dawkins and others like him preach.Consider the following small sampling from a plethora of comments by prominent scientists:
"[There] is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all.?The impression of design is overwhelming."
"Astronomy leads us to a unique event. A universe which was created out of nothing,?and delicately balanced to provide exactly the conditions required to support life.?In the absence of an absurdly-improbable accident, the observations of modern science seem to suggest an underlying, one might say, supernatural plan."
"An honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense, the origin of life appears at the moment to be almost a miracle, so many are the conditions which would have to be satisfied to get it going."
"I'm a person who says in this book [Human Diversity] that we don't know anything about the ancestors of the human species.All the fossils which have been dug up and are claimed to be ancestors--we haven't the faintest idea whether they are ancestors. . . . Despite the excited and optimistic claims that have been made by some paleontologists, no fossil hominid species can be established as our direct ancestor."[85
"We paleontologists have said that the history of life supports [the story of gradual adaptive change], all the while really knowing that it does not.""No wonder paleontologists shied away from evolution for so long.It never seems to happen. . . . Evolution cannot forever be going on somewhere else.Yet that's how the fossil record has struck many a forlorn paleon-tologist looking to learn something about evolution."
"Indeed, again and so far as I know, no one has yet produced a plausible conjecture?as to how any of these complex molecules might have evolved from simple entities."
"Is Archaeopteryx the ancestor of all birds?Perhaps yes, perhaps no: there is no way of answering the question.It is easy enough to make up stories of how one form gave rise to another, and to find reasons why the stages should be favoured by natural selection.But such stories are not part of science ?for there is no way of putting them to the test."
"The known fossil record fails to document a single example of phyletic [gradual] evolution accomplishing a major morphologic transition ?and hence offers no evidence that the gradualistic model can be valid."
"We conclude-unexpectedly-that there is little evidence for the neo-Darwinian view:its theoretical foundations and the experimental evidence supporting it are weak."
Michael Behe, Ph.D., Dept. of Biochemistry, LehighUniversity, points out that the Journal of Molecular Evolution is run by a board of more than fifty prominent scientists in the field, a dozen of them members of the National Academy of Sciences.Over 2,500 papers have been written on various aspects of molecular evolution since the journal was started in 1971.Behe writes, "none of the papers published in JME over the entire course of its life as a journal has ever proposed a detailed model by which a complex biochemical system might have been produced in a gradual, step-by-step Darwinian fashion."
Physicists Dyson, Kleban, and Susskind of Stanford and MIT wrote a paper in 2002 titled "Disturbing Implications of a Cosmological Constant."In it, the scientists discuss the extreme difficulties of having life anywhere in our universe aside from a miracle.They conclude that our understanding of physics must be wrong.
The Discovery Institute has a list of more than 400 scientists who maintain serious doubts over evolutionary theory.It is clear that attempts by Dawkins and others to state simply that educated people accept evolution and reject religion are unfounded.
More Failed Accusations
Robert Price falls short of saying that Jesus never existed.But he comes very close when he says, "Jesus may not have existed."He also comments, "The hidden assumption is they [i.e., Christians] say that we might be dealing with a God who is an ornery theology professor and one day when you die and go up there, you're called to the office of the professor, he says, 'Well, I got your test back for you and I'm afraid you got an F.You're going to hell because your opinions were incorrect.'And that's what they think God is.You don't have the right answers? You're damned.And so they don't dare think for themselves, because they might make mistakes. . . . That seems to me an obviously silly and childish view of God."
I agree with Price that his perception of the Christian view of God is "silly and childish."But I don't think that he presents the Christian view of God.Price's view is that if you don't have the right answers, you're going to hell.This seems to me to be a distortion of the Christian view.The Christian view is that man is in a state of estrangement from God, and that this will inevitably result in eternal separation from God.God does not want this and did what was necessary in order to make it possible to have a relationship with him.This relationship is made available to all.Thus, if one rejects this relationship, God gives him what he wishes.C. S. Lewis said that God honors the choices of individuals. A famous statement in his book The Great Divorce is, "There are only two kinds of people in the end: those who say to God, 'Thy will be done,' and those to whom God says, in the end, 'Thy will be done.' All that are in Hell chose it."
Two issues arise in reply: What about those who have never heard and what about those who want evidence but just do not think it is there?What about those who have never heard?This is a fair question that has a number of possibilities.For what I consider to be a sufficient answer, please see my article (forthcoming).
What about those who require evidence but do not think a sufficient amount is there for belief?I think this is also a fair question.Atheists should be prepared to answer how much proof is required for belief and whether their burden of proof is reasonable.Few have thought through these questions, much less justified their answers to them.Of course, this failure is not limited to hyperskeptics.Few professional historians have thought through the process of how they come to know something (i.e., hermeneutics) and the mechanics by which they get there (i.e., historiography).
David Wood has demonstrated quite convincingly that the burden of proof held by many hyperskeptics is unreasonable.See his comments on "Shermer's Last Law." Shermer renders belief impossible by the criteria he provides.What this line of thinking does is to rule out a priori the possibility of having evidence that would overthrow metaphysical naturalism.This is not reasonable scholarship.It is hyperskepticism.
The Secular Web is filled with examples that reflect the view that all that is needed to reject a supernatural explanation is a possible natural one, no matter how unlikely.In other words, a possible natural explanation, even if unreasonable is to be preferred over a supernatural one.This would be reasonable if we knew that God does not exist or that deism is true.However, this is not the case.As a result, we see all sorts of liberties taken in order to explain away data.For example, note what Doherty does to explain the multiple reports that Jesus had brothers:
Josephus' mention of James the brother of Jesus (Ant.20:200) is a Christian interpolation.
"brothers of the Lord" referred to a "Jewish 'brotherhood' of apostles of the spiritual Christ, located in Jerusalem, the one referred to in 1 Corinthians 9 and 15. As a sect they may have been known as 'brothers of the Lord'"
Regarding the first, that this passage is a Christian interpolation is a fringe position.
This is not the place for a detailed discussion of this passage.May it suffice to say at the moment that today's leading Josephus scholar Louis Feldman writes, "The passage about James [Antiquities Book 20, Sections 197-200] has generally been accepted as authentic." Elsewhere he mentions this text and "the authenticity of which has been almost universally acknowledged." Another Jewish scholar, Zvi Baras, states that this passage "is considered authentic by most scholars." Edwin Yamauchi comments, "Few scholars have questioned the genuineness of this passage." Robert Van Voorst writes, "The overwhelming majority of scholars holds that the words 'the brother of Jesus called Christ' are authentic, as is the entire passage in which it is found."
Regarding Doherty's interpretation of "brothers of the Lord," this seems to me an example of amphiboly, where one exploits a slight ambiguity.Take for example a man smoking a cigarette in front of a sign that says "No Smoking Allowed."When asked why he is not respecting the order, he answers, "I am respecting it.If someone does not want to smoke, that is allowed here.But that does not forbid me from smoking.I'm justified in interpreting the sign as I have because if they were really concerned about forbidding people to smoke here, they would have made it clear."The same is occurring with Doherty's "brother(s) of the Lord" explanation.He takes an interpretation that seems obvious, finds a small loophole and exploits it in order to form a different hypothesis that is anything but obvious.
However, when making historical decisions, the historian looks for the best explanation for the facts. This is determined by a number of criteria, such as
All four Gospels and Acts report that Jesus had brothers and sisters and Josephus reports that Jesus had a brother.Consider the following passages:
Matthew 12:46-50 (cf. Mark 3:31-35; Luke 8:19-21): Notice that Jesus here contrasts father, mother, brother, and sister by birth with those by spiritual association.Matthew is very clear here that Jesus had brothers.
Matthew 13:55-57: That his mother, brothers, and sisters were part of his own household is interesting.
John 2:12: Here his brothers are distinguished from his disciples.So, the explanation that Paul's reference to James as a "brother of the Lord" and the phrase "brothers of the Lord" in 1 Corinthians 9:5 refer to a group of disciples will not do.
John 7:3-22: Here again the brothers of Jesus are distinguished from his disciples.Moreover, it is difficult to call the "brothers of the Lord" disciples when it says that they didn't believe in him!They would have to be a group of pious Jews waiting for Messiah.But then it is curious that they are not mentioned anywhere else, such as by Josephus.
Acts 1:13-14: Those present include the closest disciples of Jesus, the women disciples, his mother Mary, and his brothers.
Also see 1 Corinthians 9:5 where the "brothers of the Lord" are distinguished from the apostles and Peter.Thus, the explanation that "brothers" is here used as the equivalent "Christians" is mistaken.
It is also a strain to define the Greek word adelphos as "cousin,"since the Greek word is not employed in this manner.In fact, "cousin" is not listed as a possible meaning in either of the two major Greek lexicons (BDAG, LS).Moreover, elsewhere Paul uses anepsios (cousin), not adelphos. Chances are pretty good that he would use anepsios when speaking of James in Galatians 1:19 and 1 Corinthians 9:5 instead of the typical adelphos (brother), if James was Jesus' cousin.Furthermore, there is no evidence anywhere of a group referred to as "brothers of the Lord."The theory that Jesus had brothers better explains all of the references to Jesus having a brother in all four Gospels,Galatians 1:19, 1 Corinthians 9:5, and in Josephus (Ant 20:200). The "cousin" theory has to strain and come up with a number of subtheories in order to explain it.So, it's not the simplest.Therefore, the "brother theory" passes all four criteria easily while the "cousin theory" fails criterion 2, 3, and 4.Granted,the "brother" position isnotairtight.Few historical positions are. But the historian should embrace the best historical position rather than one that is merely possible.It is clear that the best historical position is that James was the brother of Jesus.
I want to issue a call to realism. Christians have been so spoiled by the good evidence for the truth of Christianity that it is easy to be drawn into accepting the burden of proof demanded by hyperskeptics: "Unless Christians can prove it beyond all doubt and without any other explanation having even the slightest possibility, I won't believe."If Flemming, Doherty, Carrier and others in their camp want to embrace this sort of burden of proof, they are free to do so.But this does not obligate those of us who are more prudent in our thinking to embrace their burden of proof.As responsible historians we are looking for the best explanation.
This unreasonable burden of proof on the part of hyperskeptics seems to me an act of the heart that says "I don't want to believe" rather than a critical mind willing to consider the extant data with integrity.God values free will and is not required to go beyond reasonable evidence.If a hyperskeptic wants to find a reason for rejecting the data, he will, even if it means distorting data and forming logically flawed arguments in order to do it.The DVD we are here considering is a prime example of this attitude and the method that accompanies it.
This film is a rehashing of the same hypercritical skepticism that has failed to convince even most skeptical scholars for decades.The Jesus mythers wonder why no scholars want to interact with their work.It is because little new material in terms of data or arguments is being presented in their case, a case that has been decisively refuted time and again.It is far weaker than the conspiracy theory concerning who shot Kennedy.As mentioned earlier, there comes a time when conspiracy theorists no longer command an audience when they rehash the same old arguments.The few new arguments presented in this DVD are unconvincing.Bultmann and others had no respect for the arguments of Jesus mythers and neither should we.These arguments strain data and historical method to the extent that scholarly discussion with Jesus mythers becomes impossible.
 That Hitler was an atheist is debatable.For an interesting article that can be viewed online that has a number of interesting quotes from Hitler, see http://homepages.paradise.net.nz/mischedj/ca_hitler.html.
 A number of scholars are now questioning whether Q existed.For a good statement of the contrary view, see Mark Goodacre and Nicholas Perrin, Questioning Q: A Multidimensional Critique (Downers Grove: IVP, 2004).
 Larry W. Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003),355-56.
 More scholars including conservatives such as Witherington and the late Raymond Brown hold that the eyewitness testimony in John is probably from a minor disciple.However, strong cases for Johannine authorship have recently been proposed by Craig S. Keener in his massive two-volume commentary on John, The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2003) and Craig L. Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of John's Gospel (Downer's Grove: IVP, 1998).
James H. Charlesworth,"Scrolls & Gospel," in Exploring the Gospel of John: In Honor of D. Moody Smith, R. Alan Culpepper and C. Clifton Black, eds. (Louisville: Westminster John Know, 1996), 66.
 Bart D. Ehrman, The New Testament: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings, Third Edition (New York: Oxford, 2004), 49.
 Ehrman (2004), 134.
 By kerygma I am referring to what scholars recognize as certain remnants of the teaching of the apostlesembedded in the oral traditions found in Paul's letters, several of the sermon summaries in Acts (especially from the earlier chapters), and a few verses in the Gospels.Since the word kerygma refers to a formal and official proclamation, we may think of kerygma as the official and formal proclamation or teaching/preaching of the apostles.Accordingly, kerygma is thought to be pre-redaction content.
 Paul Barnett, Crux, September 1994, Vol. XXX, No. 3, 4.
 Colin Hemer, The Book of Acts in the Setting of Hellenistic History (Winona Lake, Indiana: Eisenbrauns, 1990), 418-26.
 Martin Hengel, Crucifixion (Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977), 5-6.
 Hurtado (2003), 266.
 Hengel (1977), 81-82.
 Hengel (1977), 88.
 See also Flemming's interview with Doherty who says, "It's almost impossible to believe that they were writing what they were presenting as accurate history.And we can tell by the fact that Matthew, Luke, and John; they rework Mark in ways which are just a wholesale change of the situation. The words that were supposed to have been spoken by Jesus.They wouldn't feel that they have the right to do that if they were presenting it to their readers as strict historically accurate accounts."
 Robert M. Price and Jeffery Jay Lowder, eds., The Empty Tomb: Jesus Beyond the Grave (Amherst, NY: Prometheus, 2005), 105-231, esp. 158-165.In my 2004 debate with Carrier, he provided three additional reasons.He includes his point about Jacob's well in his first point in his chapter under Psalmic Origins.In that debate, I noted that his theory seemed heavily influenced by a book he had endorsed by Dennis MacDonald: The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark (Dennis MacDonald, The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark [New Haven, CT: Yale, 2000]), a thesis that has many problems.Carrier denied his endorsement or that it had influenced his position.Thus, it is interesting that he writes on this very topic in this chapter that "Mark may have had some inspiration from Homer" (Carrier, 158).In the endnote to that statement he writes, "That Mark emulated and 'transvalued' Homer is demonstrated by Dennis MadDonald, The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark" (Carrier, 219).Carrier denied endorsing the book when I noted a number of major flaws in MacDonald's thesis.But note his comments written prior to our debate: "MacDonald's case is thorough, and though many of his points are not as conclusive as he makes them out to be, when taken as a cumulative whole the evidence is so abundant and clear it cannot be denied. And being a skeptic to the thick, I would never say this lightly. Several scholars who reviewed or commented on it have said this book will revolutionize the field of Gospel studies and profoundly affect our understanding of the origins of Christianity, and though I had taken this for hype, after reading the book I now echo that very sentiment myself" (See http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/homerandmark.html).My criticisms of MacDonald included the following: Many times, MacDonald has to strain and contort the text to find his parallels, especially when he comes to the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus. In the Iliad,Hector's body is burned and his tomb holds his remains forever, while Jesus body is resurrected three days later.Resurrection is mentioned three times in the Iliad; twice regarding its impossibility and once as a metaphor for Hector's survival [avoidance] of certain death.Moreover, Mark differs in many ways from Homer.In order to account for this, MacDonald claims that "Mark hid his dependence by avoiding Homeric vocabulary, transforming characterizations, motifs, and episodes, placing the episodes out of sequence, and employing multiple literary models, especially from Jewish scriptures" (170).In other words, MacDonald is claiming that all of the characteristics the historian would look for in order to show a borrowing are absent because Mark changed everything intentionally to keep from being detected!
 Carrier, 161.
 Carrier, 162.
 Carrier, 162.
 Carrier, 163.
 See N. T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Minneapolis: Fortress, 2003).
 April 14, 2004 at UCLA for the Veritas Forum.800 attended.
 Following is every use of the term 'mystery' in the Pauline corpus: Romans 11:11-26, esp. 25 (where 'mystery' refers to the Gentiles now being in the body of Christ); 16:25-26 (where 'mystery' refers to God's being made known to all the nations); 1 Corinthians 2:7 (where 'mystery' probably refers to knowledge not achieved by human intellect alone); 15:51 (where 'mystery' refers to the fact that some Christians who are alive at the Parousia will have their moral bodies transformed into immortal resurrection bodies without going through death); Ephesians 1:9 (where 'mystery' refers to our having an inheritance in Messiah); 3:3-9, esp. 6 (where 'mystery' refers to the Gentiles being fellow-heirs); 5:28-33, esp.32 (where 'mystery' refers to members of the Church as being one with Christ just as a wife is one with her husband; 6:19 (where 'mystery' of the Gospel is not explained); Colossians 1:26-27 (where 'mystery' refers to Messiah being available to Gentiles); 2:2 (where 'mystery' refers to all treasure and knowledge being in Christ); 4:3 (where 'mystery' is not explained); 2 Thessalonians 2:7 (the 'mystery of lawlessness'); 1 Timothy 3:9 (the 'mystery of the faith' is probably that same as the 'mystery of godliness' in a few verses later, since it is in the context of a godly life), 16 (an oral tradition that speaks of the story of Jesus being the 'mystery of godliness').
Comments on Mark 4:11 in R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark : A commentary on the Greek text(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002).
 Carrier, 164.
 Carrier, 164-65.
 Support for "reversal of expectation" motif is not found in his chapter "The Spiritual Body of Christ" where he employs it in making his formal case that the empty tomb was an invention of Mark.Price notes "Reversals as noted by Dundes."Perhaps Carrier received his idea from Dundes.
 Martin Hengel and Anna Maria Schwemer, Paul Between Damascus and Antioch: The Unknown Years (London: SCM ,1997), 147.
 Hengel and Schwemer (1997), 119.
 Funk, Hoover, and The Jesus Seminar 1993, 4-5.
 The most significant contributions have come from Charles Talbert who was first to suggest that the Gospels belong to the genre of Greco-Roman biography (What is a Gospel? The Genre of the Canonical Gospels, Philadelphia: Fortress, 1977).Other significant contributions have come from David Aune, Philip Shuler, Robert Guelich, and Albrecht Dihle.The most recent and most influential by far is the contribution of Richard Burridge, What are the Gospels? A Comparison with Graeco-Roman Biography, Second Edition (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2004).
 "Fifty years ago we were drilled in the critical orthodoxy of the form-critical school which insisted that the gospels were not to be seen as biographies, but since then there has been a massive swing in scholarly opinion on this point, and increasingly sophisticated study of the nature of biographical writing in the ancient world has led to a general recognition that, for all the distinctiveness of its Christian content and orientation, in terms of literary form Mark's book (and those of Matthew, Luke and John) would have seemed to an educated reader in the first century to fall into roughly the same category as the lives of famous men pioneered by Cornelius Nepos and soon to reach their most famous expression in the 'Parallel Lives' of Plutarch" (R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark: A commentary on the Greek text(Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002).
 Burridge (2004), 101.
 Burridge (2004), viii-ix.
 Talbert, "Review," 715, cited by Keener, 12.
 Burridge (2004), 250.Keener writes, "The Gospels are . . . too long for dramas, which maintained a particular length in Mediterranean antiquity.They also include far too much prose narrative for ancient drama" (Keener, 10).However, Keener adds in agreement with Witherington that John is probably a biography using the mode of tragedy (10-11).
 Burridge (2004), 67.
 Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John, Volume One (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2003), 12.
 David Aune, Biography, 125.
 Papias is now believed to have written during the first decade of the second century.His writings are no longer extant.However, they have been preserved in fragments.On the topic we are considering, see Eusebius' Ecclesiatical History 3:39:16.Here Papias is quoting an even earlier authority who is probably John the apostle.
 Samuel Byrskoog, Story as History: History as Story: The Gospel Tradition in the Context of Ancient Oral History (Boston: Brill, 2002), 76-77.
 Byrskog, 78.
 James D. G. Dunn, Jesus Remembered (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 833.
 Byrskog, 82.Dunn agrees in Jesus Remembered, 830.
 Larry Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 311n138.
 Hurtado (2003), 311.
 William Hendriksen, Exposition of the Gospel According to Mark (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1975), comments on Mark 16:8.
 Craig A. Evans, Mark 8:27-16:20 in WBC, Volume 34b, comment on Mark 16:8; R. T. France, The Gospel of Mark in NIGTC, comment on Mark 16:8.Also see N. Clayton Croy, The Mutilation of Mark's Gospel (Nashville: Abingdon, 2003) who argues that both the beginning and the end of Mark's original Gospel have been lost.
 Graham H. Twelftree, Jesus: The Miracle Worker (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1999), 247.
 See note 15 above.
 Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to the New Testament (New York: Doubleday, 1997),820n6.
 Twelftree, 247.
 Twelftree, 247.
 Gary R. Habermas and Michael R. Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2004), 90.
Roberts, A., Donaldson, J., & Coxe, A. C. 1997. The Ante-Nicene Fathers Vol.I : Translations of the writings of the Fathers down to A.D. 325. The apostolic fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. Logos Research Systems: OakHarbor.
 Gen. 27:25-28; Deut. 33:28.
 According to Suetonius, the circumstances of Augustus' conception were very unusual.His mother Atia was in the temple of Apollo at midnight and fell asleep.Apollo took the form of a snake, crawed into Atia and impregnated her (1.0 match). Thus, as Son of Apollo, Augustus is thought to be a Son of a god (1.0).He was foster parented in another country in the sense that his great uncle Julius Caesar took him made him his heir probably in his mid-teens and took him to war with him (0.5 match).We are told little of his childhood (1.0 match). Upon obtaining manhood, he returns to his future kingdom (1.0 match). Although he did not have a victory over a king, giant, or dragon, his victory over Mark Antony was huge. Antony was a much stronger opponent with the authority and backing of the Senate behind him (0.5 match).He became king (1.0 match).He reigned uneventfully.The Pax Romanos or glory days of Rome occurred during the reign of Augustus (1.0 match).He prescribed laws (1.0 match).His child was not his successor.Rather his son in law Tiberius succeeded him (1.0 match).His body was cremated rather than buried (1.0 match).
 Larry Hurtado, Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2003), 230.
 Mark Goodacre and Nicholas Perrin, Questioning Q: A Multidimensional Critique (Downers Grove: IVP, 2004).
 These biblical citations are from the NASB.
 Anchor Bible Dictionary, Volume 4, page 842.
 The Octavius of Minucius Felix in The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume IV, chapter IX.
 The Octavius of Minucius Felix, chapter XXIX.
 See (in alphabetical order) Bede and Christopher Price: http://www.bede.org.uk/jesusindex.htm; Bernard Muller: http://www.christianorigins.com/doherty-muller.html; Christopher Price: http://www.christiancadre.org/member_contrib/cp_doherty.html; Doxa website: http://www.geocities.com/metacrock2000/Myth/Jpuzzell1.htm; J. P. Holding: http://www.tektonics.org/doherty/dohertyhub.html; Patrick Narkinsky: http://www.theism.net/authors/pnarkinsky/jesusmosaic.html; http://www.preventingtruthdecay.org/jesuspuzzle2.shtml.At least the last of these reviews was unavailable at the production time of Flemming's video.
 Jesus of Nazareth, 28.
 Jesus and the Word, 13.
 Michael Grant, Jesus: An Historian's Review of the Gospels (New York: Collier Books, 1992), 200.
 The Case Against Christianity, 67.
 Jesus Outside the New Testament, 16.
 That Hitler was an atheist is debatable.For an interesting article that can be viewed online that has a number of interesting quotes from Hitler, see http://homepages.paradise.net.nz/mischedj/ca_hitler.html.
 At the end of the video, Sipus rightly notes that evolutionists share the same problem.While scientific evidence exists for microevolution, evolutionists make a metaphysical leap when they claim that all life is the result of macroevolution.In other words, microevolution plus a lot of time will produce macroevolutionary changes.As many have pointed out, there is a paucity of scientific evidence in support of macroevolution, which is defended with a vengeance.
 Craig's description of Aquinas' bifurcation between truths of reason and truths of faith is helpful.See William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith (Wheaton: Crossway, 1994), 20-22.
New York Times, 4/9/89, sec. 7, p. 34.
 For a good example of censorship of a peer-reviewed scientific journal article written by a Cambridge educated biologist, see http://www.4truth.net/site/apps/nl/content3.asp?c=hiKXLbPNLrF&b=784461&ct=982987.
 Paul Davies, The Cosmic Blueprint: New Discoveries in Nature's Creative Ability to Order the Universe (New Jersey: Simon & Schuster, 1988), 203.
 H. Margenau and R.A. Varghese, eds., Cosmos, Bios, and Theos. (La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1992), 83.
 Francis Crick,Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature (New Jersey: Simon & Schuster, 1981), 88.
 Harper's, 2/85, 61.
 Richard Lewontin, Human Diversity (New York: W. H. Freeman and Company, 1995), 163.
 Time Frames: The Rethinking of Darwinian Evolution and the Theory of Punctuated Equilibria (New Jersey: Simon & Schuster, 1985), Appendix.
 Niles Eldridge, Reinventing Darwin : The Great Debate at the High Table of Evolutionary Theory (Wiley, 1995), 95.
 Antony Flew, In a personal letter to Gary Habermas.
 Harper's, 2/85, 49.
 Steven Stanley, Macroevolution, Pattern and Process (W. H. Freeman & Co., 1980), 39.
 H. A. Orr and J. A. Coyne, "The Genetics of Adaptation: A Reassessment," in American Naturalist, 140, 726.
 Michael J. Behe, Darwin's Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution (New York: The Free Press, 1996), 176.
 C. S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (New York: MacMillan, 1946), 72.
 See Doherty's comments: http://pages.ca.inter.net/~oblio/supp10.htm#Here%20in%20summary.
 Louis H. Feldman and Gohei Hata, eds., Josephus, Judaism, and Christianity (Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1989), 434.
 Ibid., 56.
 Ibid., 341.
 Edwin Yamacuhi, "Jesus and the Scriptures," 53.
 Robert Van Voorst. Jesus Outside the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000), 83.