My Photo

The Out Campaign

Atheist Blogroll

Blog powered by Typepad
Member since 05/2005

« The Joy Of Theoretical Non-Monogamy: The Blowfish Blog | Main | Is Religious Faith Irrational? »

Comments

Harold Ennulat

Regarding the first source, Philo, you correctly point out quoting from Edon “Yet none of his works contain any mention of Jesus or Christianity.” Not knowing who Philo is or what he wrote about I found this web site. (I tried to pick a theistically neutral one)
http://www.utm.edu/research/iep/p/philo.htm#H2
Some relevent findings that you can examine at the web site above:
“The major part of Philo's writings consists of philosophical essays….”
“The third group includes historical-apologetic writings: Hypothetica or Apologia Pro Judaeos which survives only in two Greek extracts quoted by Eusebius. The first extract is a rationalistic version of Exodus giving a eulogic account of Moses and a summary of Mosaic constitution contrasting its severity with the laxity of the gentile laws; the second extract describes the Essenes. The other apologetic essays include Against Flaccus, The Embassy to Gaius, and On the Contemplative Life. But all these works are related to Philo's explanations of the texts of Moses.”
So I have to ask, What reason would he be writing about Jesus or Christianity? Let alone about any kind of current history? Philo is a Greek Jew interested in merging Greek philosophy with his Jewish religion. Does he mention anything from current events? Does he name any contemporary rulers mentioned in the Bible if not by name by role such as the chief priest, the Roman governor, the Jewish ruler in Jerusalem, etc? It would appear not.
Or do I need to go through the rest of the list?
I am new to this level of study and it is hardly exhaustive, however if this is confirmed then Ebon (or where ever he is getting this) is blowing a lot of smoke. He knows that the average person could not possibly examine each point. So instead of quality (which is looking more and more like he does not have) he is compensating with quantity. I mentioned from the outset when looking at the Skeptics Annotated Bible that he is shot gunning any thing that looks suspicious and not examining things critically himself, (unless it is convenient to make his argument). This seems like yet another example.
Greta I think its your turn to look at some of the remaining so called sources that should have recorded something about Jesus or the earthquake, or the darkness, or the killing of infants. Find even a casual mention of Herod who did the killing.. Or how about say any mention of current rulers by contempory writers. My impression is that even that will be quite thin if you limit it to the same list that you site even from Edon. Find an example of any mention of the weather or a narrative about anything they saw that was contemporary.

Greta Christina

First, I should say: I'm not a historian, and I don't have these facts at my fingertips. That being said, here's what I dug up with just a little Googling.

What reason would he be writing about Jesus or Christianity? Let alone about any kind of current history? Philo is a Greek Jew interested in merging Greek philosophy with his Jewish religion.

You just answered your own question. Christianity is, among other things, a merging of Jewish religion with Greek philosophy. If there had been a popular Messsianic figure who was also attempting to do that, it seems likely that Philo would have been interested.

But more pertinently:

Find even a casual mention of Herod who did the killing.

You're really barking up the wrong tree on this one. Herod the Great's life is pretty well documented -- primarily by Josephus -- and even Christian theological and historical scholars mostly agree that the slaughter of the innocents almost certainly did not happen.

Find an example of any mention of the weather or a narrative about anything they saw that was contemporary.

You're kidding, right? Of course contemporary writers wrote about the weather. It was hugely important to their lives -- to agriculture, to military operations, etc. There is, for instance, an entire book, based on contemporary sources, solely on the topic of Floods of the Tiber in Ancient Rome. And here's a quote from Tacitus's Life of Cnaeus Julius Agricola: "Thule too was descried in the distance, which as yet had been hidden by the snows of winter. Those waters, they say, are sluggish, and yield with difficulty to the oar, and are not even raised by the wind as other seas. The reason, I suppose, is that lands and mountains, which are the cause and origin of storms, are here comparatively rare, and also that the vast depths of that unbroken expanse are more slowly set in motion. But to investigate the nature of the ocean and the tides is no part of the present work, and many writers have discussed the subject. [emphasis mine] I would simply add, that nowhere has the sea a wider dominion, that it has many currents running in every direction, that it does not merely flow and ebb within the limits of the shore, but penetrates and winds far inland, and finds a home among hills and mountains as though in its own domain."

And, I would like to point out, a major earthquake and three hours of unexplained darkness around the world hardly qualify as "weather." The latter especially would qualify as a very freaky phenomenon.

Or how about say any mention of current rulers by contempory writers.

Again... you're kidding, right? You don't think contemporary writers were writing about Augustus, Tiberius, etc.? Here's a reasonably good list of contemporary writers who wrote about, among other things, current rulers and military leaders.

And what about the points raised by Bruce Gorton -- the inaccuracies of the New Testament census story and of the "clemency to a prisoner" story? Stories that run completely counter to what we know about Roman law of the time? You haven't mentioned those yet.

You seem to think that contemporary writings documenting the period of roughly 0 C.E. to 40 C.E. are almost non-existent. They're not. They're not as common as we would like... but they do exist. And not one of them corroborates the stories told in the New Testament -- and some of them flatly contradict those stories.

Oh, and by the way: It's Ebon, not Edon.

Harold Ennulat

Greta you wrote: "and some of them flatly contradict those stories."

Which contemporary sources contradict events in the new testament?

In checking out the 2 links you offer, I could not figure out when these writers actually lived and wrote compared to the history they are recording… It does look like many of the references are histories from what I can tell. They also appear to cover a much larger period of time then what we are talking about. Finally, pointing me to a large list in one case and an Amazon.com web page really is not very helpful.

I hear you maintain there is a lot of contemporary information from this period 0 – 40 CE, but you are not producing any evidence we can actually look at.

You inserted a narrative but don’t mention when this occurs, and when it was written. Tacitus wasn’t even born till around 56AD from my Google search. He was hardly contemporary with Jesus time. Please don’t cloud the issue. If you are claiming there should be contemporary sources, shouldn’t you provide a contemporary source?

We were trying to examine Philo who appears to have the largest body of writing during this period as Edon appears to agree with. Did he mention Herod or any of the leaders even in the current Jewish establishment?

If Philo doesn’t mention leaders from his own faith what possible reason would we then expect him to mention Jesus or Christians?

You sound surprised that I would ask the question about contemporary writers writing about contemporary leaders during the first century. It just seems like a logical next question. If the references you cite show this, you’ll (we’ll) need to get a bit more specific. We need the writers name, date of writing or of the authors life, contemporary figure name and dates of his service or life and of course the source of this data. If this can not be provided then it would seem clear that we don’t have much information about this period from contemporary authors.

Just to be clear, so far we have not produced even one (1) fragment about any contemporary event by a contemporary writer for the years 0 – 40 CE (AD).

Sorry to press you on this, but we need to stop accepting what we’ve been told and see if any of this holds up! I don’t even blame you for blowing smoke at me and make me go down some of these rabbit holes. It’s what probable has been adequate in the past and you’ve never had to “look under the hood” so to speak about where your information is coming from…. Lets see if we can shoot a little straighter with other….

Harold Ennulat

Ebon, Ebon, Ebon.... OK, I think I got it. Thanks.

Harold Ennulat

You mentioned Herod, Here is an interesting tidbit about Herod and the historian Josephus whom you cited as contemporary.

http://wiki.answers.com/Q/Who_wanted_to_kill_baby_Jesus
Concerning our knowledge about Herod this article says “We have this information from Josephus, who was not born until some 40 years after Herod's death. Josephus relied heavily on the writings of Nicolaus of Damascus, who was Herod's close friend and long time advisor, and who tended to gloss over some of Herod's worst atrocities and maximise his accomplishments.”

Josephus is not contemporary. Even the life of Herod did not come from first hand information.

Greta Christina

Harold, let's shift gears here for a minute, as I'm in the difficult position of (a) being asked to prove a negative (i.e., that something did not happen 2,000 years ago), and (b) being asked to find contemporary sources when I'm not a historian. I thought the sources I found responded well to your requests -- you said "Find a contemporary writer writing about the weather," I did; you said "Find a a contemporary writer writing about other current leaders," I did. But it seems increasingly clear that nothing I say on these three topics -- of the slaughter of the innocents (which again, almost all historians, even Christian ones, agree almost certainly did not happen) and of the earthquake and three hours of darkness at Jesus' death -- is going to convince you of their implausibility.

So let's talk about what I think are even better examples. Let's talk about the examples Bruce Gorton gave in this comment -- the examples of the census supposedly taken at the time of Jesus' birth, and the Roman clemency of prisoners supposedly made available to Jesus but given to Barrabas by the Jews.

It's not just that there's no other contemporary historical citation of these supposed events. It's not just about proving a negative in this case. It's that these events run directly counter to known facts about Roman law of the time. It's not just that we have no independent corroboration of them happening -- it's that we have independent corroboration that they almost certainly did not happen, as they would have been completely contradictory to known laws and practices.

And again, what about the other errors I keep mentioning? The errors Jesus himself made about science and medicine and history and his own eventual return? The internal inconsistencies within the story, places where it contradicts itself -- not just about moral teachings, but about factual claims?

I'll try to dig up some more contemporary sources for you on the stuff we've been talking about. (If I have time -- as much as I'm enjoying this conversation, I've already spent way too much time on it.) But these three questions we're stuck on are very far from my only reasons to think of the New Testament as unreliable, and while I don't concede these points, I'm about ready to drop them for the sake of argument and move on.

Harold Ennulat

Since we are stepping back a bit. I think it would be good to at least attempt to establish a ground rule. It gets back to what would it take to get you to believe. If it is Theist's Guide to Converting Atheists, then I’m not seeing how I can convince any atheist. There is no way I could possible address every supposed factual error to your satisfaction. So far you remain unconvinced about even something that is fairly factual. How much evidence is there for contemporary writers?
So far it appears that if there is even one “error” in the Bible, it must all be thrown out. Actually according to the “Theist Guide… “, even that would only be considered circumstantial evidence.
After having read the “Theist Guide….” My conclusion was that it was not possible to convert an atheist using this criteria. The standard for belief can not be dealt with by presenting evidence, so why bother.
Actually, doesn’t this guide sounds rather “tongue in cheek”? It really does not have an objective ring to it. When a theist prepared a list of what it would take to convince them that atheism is true the author (Andrew?) makes an equally “tongue in cheek” response Atheist's Guide to Converting Theists. The theist response was deemed to strict by the atheists, but somehow no one observed that he was applying an equally “high” standard.

What I think would be objective is to look at it like a court of law where evidence is presented and it is examined using reason, in an attempt to make a judgment. In our case we are trying to make a judgment about God and about Jesus by examining the evidence in the new testament. On one level, we are each the lawyers making our case. On another level we are weighing this in our own minds.
If this is not agreeable you might be able to persuade me, but I could never hope to persuade you. However I want to know if my faith is based on evidence that would hold up in the “court of reason”.
As for the Bible being “inerrant” or “the inspired word of God”, these things are judgments that people have made. Also that the Bible is “choke full of errors” is also a judgment. For the sake of this discussion these type of judgments need to be suspended as we weigh the evidence.
Neither one of us has answers to all the questions anyway.

Does this seem like a more reasonable way to evaluate evidence?

Harold Ennulat

“Can Theistic Faith Be Based Only On The ‘Secular Faith’ Definition?”
These commentaries actually got started to claim that my faith is not any different then secular faith. The discussion about the evidence for “this and that” is to show that at no point am I applying a “leap of faith” to my faith. I’m using the evidence and reason model, that I suggested we both adopt in my previous comment.
Since we have stepped back, I thought it would be a good time to review this. Do you agree that a theist could have faith that is like faith in the chair holding us up 1 second from now? If you do not agree, please point out where I’ve taken a “leap of faith” or exercised “blind faith” of the type you discuss in your article.

Harold Ennulat

Greta: To now respond specifically to comments made in your last post:

"I'm in the difficult position of (a) being asked to prove a negative (i.e., that something did not happen 2,000 years ago), and (b) being asked to find contemporary sources when I'm not a historian."

That was the point about “arguments by omission” not proving anything. I do agree that it may be reason to look further, which is what we are doing, but it does not prove anything one way or the other by itself. If there is only one source that says something happened, why not just take it at face value? Is it only because the claims are so incredible?

I’m not a historian either. However if you accept Ebon as a source for “many contemporary writers during the time of Jesus who should have written about him or the earthquake…” etc, and then upon looking deeper in the same source and find a thin list of contemporary writers who really had no reason to write about such things, then doesn’t this call the source into question? Why would he not back up his own claim? I think there is only one logical conclusion.

For my part, I am willing to put this on hold. The ball is in your court on this one however.

The difficulty with moving on is that we need to reach agreement to be able to move on to other items, even if it is just tentative. The reason for this is that this is actually a fairly easy issue to address. If we can’t agree on “not enough contemporary writers during the time of Jesus life”, then we are just going to do the same thing for every other argument you don’t have an answer for.

I think I’ve been up front with you right away with saying I don’t know something. I’d like you to do the same. BTW, where is that verse about the judgement or the kingdom of God coming in the life time of those who heard the voice of Jesus. I know the verse you are talking about, I’m having a little trouble finding it….

"I thought the sources I found responded well to your requests --"
Seems like you missed or ignored my response. You actually did not find even a single reference to the weather or a general observation about the land during the time of Jesus by a writer that lived during this time. That’s what I’m talking about. How can I convince you of anything if you don’t examine the evidence that countered your “reason” and now you just reaffirm your reason without comment about my concerns about your intial reasons. I must propose that being unreasonable and exercising blind faith is something that is not reserved for Theists. You certainly seem to be confirming that atheists have this problem too.

Should this really be a surprise? What I was surprised about was your Post on Faith claiming that Atheistic faith was not a faith. I don’t get that. If you believe God does not exist or I believe that he does doesn’t sound so different to me.

This kind of leaves us stuck…. Or at least it seems a bit unfair….

"So let's talk about what I think are even better examples. Let's talk about the examples Bruce Gorton gave in this comment -- the examples of the census supposedly taken at the time of Jesus' birth, and the Roman clemency of prisoners supposedly made available to Jesus but given to Barrabas by the Jews."

OK we can add these to our active discussion, but these are also “arguments by omission” and by themselves don’t prove anything….

Harold Ennulat

Greta: here is Bruce Gortons comment on the census you wanted to discuss:

”The census story doesn't make logical sense - why would the Romans even care where Jospeh's pre-Roman ancestors came from”?
“And there are no copies of it. If you ground an entire province's economy to halt in order to get this information (Which is what the Biblical account would have entailed) then there should be some record of it somewhere. “

How is this argument any different from the “no evidence for an earthquake, or darkness over the area when Jesus died” argument? If there are no contemporary writers how could this possibly be verified. Help me to understand.
Even the “logical sense” doesn’t make sense. Certainly taking a census is not being questioned. Only the why would they go to their ancient home is in question. Asking a question and drawing a conclusion just because a question is raised is totally illogical. If I’m missing something, please, share it!

Harold Ennulat

Concerning

“clemency of prisoners supposedly made available to Jesus but given to Barrabas by the Jews…. we have independent corroboration that they almost certainly did not happen, as they would have been completely contradictory to known laws and practices.”

I see the claim, but no evidence, so why should we consider this?
My question is “How much latitude did the local Roman governor have in executing justice?” The Bible reports that the roman governor actually did not want to execute Jesus as “he found no fault in him.” The charge against him was that he claimed to be the “king of the Jews”. When Jesus was questioned this Roman governor realized that Jesus did not claim to be an earthly king and so he did not see him as a threat to Rome. And yet he executed him. This would have been against Roman law as well…
It seems clear from the Biblical account that the local Roman rulers had at good deal of latitude in exercising their rule. In fact, if you read the history of Herod you will find he did a lot of things on his own initiative that Rome likely did not agree with. I think I just read about him going to war with some neighboring king and killing members of his own family without trial. Roman law was clearly not what we think of as rule of law where we have built in accountability...

Of course why should we now believe any History of Roman Law. Has this been reported by contemporary writers?!

Let me know when you think I've proven the point that much of what we know from ancient times is not known from contempory sources but historians who are at least somewhat removed from the events they report.

Harold Ennulat

Greta: from you Dec 16th, 5:20 comment, you write

”And I have to say that I'm impressed with your willingness to take this seriously”

This cuts both ways. I've been very direct wanting to focus on the points that are being made. You have not allowed this dialogue to deteriorate into name calling and such. The focus has been on the points being put forward. It is a lot of work to even get one major point addressed to its logical conclusion. I hope we stick to it however till we draw a common conclusion based solely on the evidence and our reasoning (not on evidence we think is or should be there), or at least agree why we continue to disagree.

Harold Ennulat

Greta, from you Dec 12th 3:02pm comment you wrote:

“And maybe most importantly: Jesus predicted that the Judgement Day would come within the lifetime of people listening to him -- a prediction that clearly has not come to pass”
The verse you are referring to I believe is this one:
”Matt. 16:28 Verily I say unto you, There be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. ”
I had also taken this verse to mean his second coming and that is why I said that I don’t know the answer to this one. However in looking at the sentence there is a somewhat strange pair of words to my thinking at least, and that is the phrase “coming in”. My thought immediately thinks “coming again” and I therefore also think of the second coming (or judgment day as you put it). However in just reading the text, he is not talking about “coming back to earth” rather he is talking about “coming in to his kingdom”. Commentators say this is either talking about his resurrection or the transfiguration which is a story told immediately after this one.

The phrase “there be some standing here, which shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom” I thought meant that most will die before they see him “coming in his kingdom”. In light of the observation that he was talking about going into his kingdom it seems he meant that only some of those alive will see him coming into his Kingdom. In the case of the transfiguration there was only Peter, James, and John. In the case of the resurrection there were perhaps 500 people who saw him alive after his death and a number of people were standing around when he ascended according to Acts.

Greta Christina

Harold: Just letting you know that I'm not ignoring you, but I probably won't be able to get back to you on any of this for a few days. I'm very slammed with deadlines right not, not to mention the holidays, and while I'm enjoying this conversation, I really don't have time to pursue it right now. I'll get back to you as soon as I can.

Harold Ennulat

On the subject of Scientific Evidence for Answered Prayer
The Theist Guide to Converting an Atheist lists double blind scientific studies that prayer works to be convincing evidence that God exists. If prayer works, it should be easy to demonstrate, right? I certainly thought so, however here is a tidbit from a web site that does show that prayer does make a difference in scientific double blind studies, but suggests a difficulty in controlling for prayer in a scientific study…
A quote from http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/prayer.html#xzXpc9VkaeCb

‘One problem with studied prayer in Human beings, is, how do you get a sufficiently controlled, control group? If you divide people into two groups, one that is being "officially" prayed for and one group that is not being "officially" prayed for, how to you eliminate "UNofficial" prayer? Even if you divided people up by religious beliefs as well as by similarity of health problems, what rules out friends and relatives from praying for the supposedly nonprayed for control group? How do we rule out subconscious prayer?’

Harold Ennulat

The quote in my previous comment actually came from this web site/page.

http://www.proofgodexists.org/scientific_study_of_prayer_under.htm

Sorry about that...

solomon

Bibles are re written by man, one book that could not be the reference for truth. Qoran is the book of truth, apart from Torah & Injil.

Nathanael

Late comment but this was really interesting.

Greta, for reference, one deconversion I know was triggered by the thought "If there is an omnipotent God, he's not someone I want to know or worship, because he sure made things suck. Perhaps there just isn't one."

After that she needed to deprogram herself using _Leaving the Fold_, but the key was the fundamental dissonance between "God is omnipotent and loves you" and "Good grief, life sucks in totally arbitrary ways".

But then this was someone who had a strong rational streak and was simply brought up brainwashed. She was only staying in the religion because of "cognitive loops" (self-reinforcing circular reasoning embedded in the brainwashing) which she didn't recognize, and learning what they were broke her out of it. I think only people previously inclined to rationality can really go "Wait, I believe in the Bible because I believe in God, and I believe in God because I believe in the Bible... but that doesn't make sense!"

There are much more subtle and pernicious loops, such as "Non-believers are less happy". When someone who's been brainwashed with this deconverts, the stress and upset they feel makes them unhappy, and this idea planted in their head appears to be reinforced, and makes them go back. In fact the unhappiness is from the change and will wear off if they stick with non-belief, but it's a powerful brainwashing trick.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Subscribe/ Donate to This Blog!

Books of mine

Greta on SSA Speakers Bureau


  • Greta Christina is on the Speakers Bureau of the Secular Students Alliance. Invite her to speak to your group!

Your email address:


Powered by FeedBlitz


Powered by Rollyo

Some Favorite Posts and Conversations: Atheism

Some Favorite Posts and Conversations: Sex

Some Favorite Posts: Art, Politics, Other Stuff