Thursday, January 19, 2012

Nailed: Completely Brilliant or a Tragic Waste of Trees? YOU be the Judge...

2011: The Year in Review

All in all, 2011 was an awesome year, albeit a ferociously busy one. Nailed continues to garner more fans and accolades, and generate cranky hate mail. I was especially proud to see Nailed voted one of the top 5 Atheist/Agnostic Books of 2010 in this year’s Reader’s Choice Awards! It’s a real thrill to have my book honored alongside world-class authors like the late, great Christopher Hitchens, Stephen Hawkins and all the contributors of John Loftus’ awesome, paradigm-wrecking collection The Christian Delusion.

Thanks again to all of you who write in to express your appreciation for the book; your ongoing comments make my day on a regular basis, and I couldn’t be more pleased and grateful. And a huge shout-out to all the atheist groups and amazing Secular Student Alliance affiliates who hosted me this year - I’ve met so many incredible student activists on campuses all across the country, it truly gives me hope for the future. Rock on!

It’s also been a great year for the annual Atheist Film Festival here in San Francisco; this year we had first run Hollywood feature films AND Hollywood film directors here in person. The festival continues to get bigger and better every year - as does the fantastic, magnificent student-run Skepticon, which is hand’s down my favorite secular event of the whole year (and this coming from a secular event organizer!) Skepticon 4 had a powerhouse of fantastic speakers again this year, including PZ Myers, Richard Carrier, Rebecca Watson, Greta Christina, JT Eberhart, Jen McCreight, Julia Galef, the brilliant Sam Singleton, myself, and still more - if you can make it to Springfield, MO for this year’s, don’t miss it!

My fiction-writing alter ego Kilt Kilpatrick has also been busy with two new books: the first is UNDER THE KILT, a heretic-friendly collection of erotic short stories in many genres that has also landed an award - a Best Paranormal Romance Award of 2011 from The Romance (Woo hoo!). I’ve also co-edited (with the brilliant and fabulous Inara LaVey) DEMON LOVERS, a hot paranormal erotica anthology of Succubus and Incubus stories that has just came out this month.

Of course, all this atheist and erotica-writing goodness (not to mention that whole day-job thing which is such a time-suck...) has made it a tough year for blogging, though I did manage to post The Ultimate Christmas Quiz, a follow-up to my Ultimate Easter Quiz. Another tough setback to this year was the loss of my grandmother, who died this October after a long period of declining health. It’s been very hard to see her go; I was just very grateful to be able to spend time with her and the rest of the family at the end.

Anyway, so that’s what I’ve had on my plate this year... I expect that 2012 will be a better year for more regular blogging - but if it isn’t, it only means I’m busy working on the first books in my new series The Complete Heretic’s Guide to Western Religion. The first out will be on the Mormons (see my talk at Skepticon IV for a sneak preview), the second will be Jesus: Mything in Action, a follow-up to Nailed focusing more on the “Historical Jesus” vs. the “Jesus of Faith” and addressing some of the criticisms of Nailed. Speaking of which...

So, there have been several critiques of Nailed posted online. In a perfect world, I would respond to all of them individually, but with time at a premium, perhaps it’s best if I address the most relevant criticisms in one big post. To be painfully honest, most of the critiques are so, well... lame, I wonder if even other Christian apologists find them very compelling. One exception is my friend (frenemy?) Dr. James McGrath, who initially lambasted my talk at Skepticon 3 but whose subsequent correspondence with me has been much more congenial and constructive (and I have him to thank for bringing O’Neill’s post to my attention in the first place). While we continue to disagree on the Historical Jesus, I enjoy discussing lines of evidence with him.

As for the rest of the critical responses however, so far they seem to be the same stale mix of bluster, deliberate cluelessness and empty verbosity that we’ve come to expect from characters like J.P. Holding, Alpha & Omega, et al. They were so tedious it seemed completely unnecessary for me to bother with them; and besides no one seems to be reading them. But maybe I’m too close to the material to be impressed by their objections; if any of you come across any points in a critique that strike you as valid, please do feel free to contact me via e-mail (everybodylovesdave at gmail dot com) or Facebook and I’ll be happy to post a response here. (Feel free to leave comments on the blog too, of course; it’s just that I don’t usually discover my own blog comments until weeks or months later. I know, I know; I’m a bad blogger...)

And Then There’s This Guy...

That said, there is one review that I do want to respond to here; not simply because it’s almost completely wrong, but because it’s often so ass-backwards wrong in ways that actually prove the points I argue. (and because demonstrating all this gives a surprisingly high entertainment value) It’s the screed-in-book review’s clothing from an Australian blogger, Tim O’Neill. O’Neill calls himself a “wry, dry, rather sarcastic, eccentric, silly, rather arrogant Irish-Australian atheist bastard,” so you would think we would get along like a house on fire. Sadly, no. As George Bernard Shaw pointed out long ago, if you roast an Irishman on the spit, you can always get another Irishman to turn the crank...

True confession time: O’Neill hasn’t impressed me to date; I typically have run across him in the comment threads of atheist blogs, usually snarking around and defending himself against charges of being an abrasive douchebag. He often acts as if he’s spearheading a one-man quest for rationality and can’t understand why everyone else doesn’t listen to him. He also gets frequently carried away with his need to: A) be right all the time, even when he’s wrong; and B) castigate the errors of lesser beings with unusually high levels of bitchiness. For instance, he used to regularly show up on Richard Carrier’s blog doing his usual pissy, nitpicking schtick until of course he took it too far and Carrier actually caught him in a lie, which seems to have put an end to his antics on that blog. So in a nutshell, when I run across O’Neill nowadays, my first thought is almost always: what IS this guy’s fucking problem?

O’Neilled: Tons of Mistakes that Show Tim O’Neill Never Investigated Nailed at All

It seems to boil down to a weirdly obsessive vendetta against proponents of the Jesus Myth theory. This is the first of several vindictive straw-man generalizations that permeates O’Neill’s screed. Now, I’m the first to agree with O’Neill that there are plenty of crackpot alternative Jesus theories being promoted in truly terrible half-baked books by amateurs (Kersey Graves’ The World's Sixteen Crucified Saviors, Luigi Cascioli’s The Case against Jesus, Joseph Atwill’s Caesar’s Messiah, and Baigent/Leigh/Lincoln’s infamous Holy Blood, Holy Grail all spring to mind, and there are many more); in that respect we’re both on the same page. In fact, if anything, I dislike them even more than he does; the crackpots just make the job of legitimate Mythicists harder. But for O’Neill to lump together the crank theories with the serious scholarship being done by Doherty, Price, Carrier, et al. is just asinine.

When I first read O’Neill’s review of Nailed, I found it curious that he describes me as an atheist activist on the board of SF Atheists and “the founder of an atheist film festival,” all true enough - but which conveniently ignores any of my relevant credentials, like my degree in history, my association with CSER (The Committee for the Scientific Examination of Religion), or that I’ve been specifically researching the Historical Jesus question for more than ten years. And I knew there was something seriously flawed when he (rightly) mentioned that Nailed has certainly received high praise from prominent figures - but then identified Richard Carrier and Robert M. Price (who he misnames “R.G. Price”) as “atheist activists, amateurs and hobbyists.”

Atheist activists, amateurs and hobbyists? Price and Carrier both have relevant PhDs, both are multiply-published authors, academics, philosophers and biblical scholars, have been active on the scene for well over a decade, and are major contributors to some of the most important and ground-breaking biblical publications in recent years. Dr. Price is a professor of biblical criticism, a member of the Society of Biblical Literature as well as the Jesus Seminar, CSER, and edited the Journal of Higher Criticism. Dr. Carrier is the former head of the Secular web, and has repeatedly been recognized as one of the most influential atheist thinkers on the planet today. Tim O’Neill, I know Richard Carrier. Richard Carrier is a friend of mine. And you, sir, are no Richard Carrier.

O’Neill tries to stigmatize Nailed and Doherty’s The Jesus Puzzle and “most Myther books” for being “self-published” books - which only shows how little he knows about the realities of the publishing world today. Again, I do have sympathy for his suspicions (or I would, if he wasn’t being such a douche); but the truth is self-publishing isn’t just for vanity presses any more, as he’ll find out if he ever decides to go from being a blog gadfly and actually make the effort to publish something. Three different publishers were interested in publishing Nailed, but the decision to self-publish just made more sense financially. And oh yes, the manuscript was peer reviewed, beta-read, edited, line-proofed, corrected, formatted and re-formatted (as he might have known just by reading the 6 pages of acknowledgements!) His constant little jabs at denigration just come off as a mix of jealousy and desire for self-promotion.

Yet another grossly uninformed allegation is his ridiculous assertion that all “Mythers” are just out to push an atheist agenda, so they start with their conclusion, and spin half-baked ad hoc theories purely out of political motivations, like creationists. This would be laughable if it wasn’t so insulting and patronizing. My atheist activism has absolutely nothing to do with whether Jesus was real or not. I don’t need for there to have been a mythical Jesus; the bible fails on its own just fine with or without a genuine founder from Nazareth.

The truth is something O’Neill can’t seem to fathom: I never set about to be a “Myther” - in fact, it was quite the opposite. Like the overwhelming majority of atheists, twelve years ago it had never even occurred to me there might never have been a historical Jesus. Then one day (after reading Ken Smith’s brilliant Ken’s Guide to the Bible) I became curious to find out what Jesus really said and did, and how much was just legendary accretion. Once I began to look into the sorry state of the evidence for Jesus, I realized (as have so many others before me) that something is seriously flawed with the notion of a “Historical Jesus.”

Honestly, I get that the Myth Theory is still a hard sell for many, so I have sympathy for anyone with initial skepticism. We should be skeptical, especially of books by non-specialists in the field, like mine. And at the end of the day, it’s no skin off my nose if anyone else accepts it or not. I’m not dogmatic about it. I’m not a masochist or a contrarian. I defend the Jesus Myth theory for just one simple reason: I am sincerely convinced that it’s right. I’m certainly willing to reject it if it turns out to be wrong; indeed, there have been many supporting arguments and lines of evidence that I have discarded because they did turn out to be wrong. As I say in the book, if I’m wrong, I want to know. But so far, after more than a decade of personally subjecting the Jesus Myth explanation to the crucible time and again, I’m more convinced than ever that it remains the best answer to the problem.

Maybe if O’Neill could manage to understand that Mythicists like me actually have reasons for our position, and that the dominant historical opinion on Jesus is seriously flawed, we could have an actual discussion. But he doesn’t seem interested in real conversation; he wants a chew toy. In fact, I can’t shake the feeling that all O’Neill really craves is notoriety - to be the Perez Hilton of atheism.

O’Neill’s False “Fitzgerald’s False Dichotomy”

On to the specifics. Over and over, O’Neill gets his facts wrong; makes pronouncements with a Bill O’Reillyesque voice of authority when he clearly doesn’t know what the hell he’s talking about; twists my actual points into a ridiculous straw man, or, as we can see here, just makes things up that only exist in his head. Here’s O’Neill, complaining about how “I frame the debate”:

“So from the start Fitzgerald sets up an artificial dichotomy, with conservative apologists defending a traditional orthodox Jesus on one hand and brave "critics who (dispute) Christian claims" who don't believe in any Jesus at all on the other. And nothing in between. This is nonsense, because it ignores a vast middle ground of scholars - liberal Christian, Jewish, atheist and agnostic - who definitely "dispute Christian claims" but who also conclude that there was a human, Jewish, historical First Century preacher as the point of origin for the later stories of "Jesus Christ".”

I agree: That is nonsense, and this nonsensical “dichotomy” is O’Neill’s own creation, not mine. As I explicitly say in the first chapter (and repeat on the back of the book) the evidence has been gathered from all across the theological spectrum. What’s more, I frequently cite the work of the “middle ground of scholars” throughout the book -including several of the ones he claims I’m ignoring - by name. And whenever possible, I point out when I am presenting information that represents the majority opinion of all scholars. So where is O’Neill coming up with this “dichotomy” of his? The truth is, even if the ultimate conclusion in Nailed seems radical, the facts that support it are often considered not radical at all by the majority of Biblical scholars - many have been accepted as the majority opinion for centuries.

But that’s not the Real Jesus!

So much of what I argue should not sound controversial. O’Neill admits as much when he dismisses Myth No. 1 ("The idea that Jesus was a myth is ridiculous!") as “not really controversial” and that:

“After all, no-one except a fundamentalist apologist would pretend that the evidence about Jesus is not ambiguous and often difficult to interpret with any certainty, and that includes the evidence for his existence.”

He and I are in almost in perfect agreement here. What O’Neill doesn’t seem to grasp is that Nailed was written to highlight and address those very difficulties. Instead, he declares I’m confused and can’t keep the “Jesus of Faith” straight from the “Historical Jesus.” Is he kidding? Are there no Christians in Australia? Either O’Neill forgets that nearly one third of the planet (not just “fundamentalist apologists”!) believes in the Jesus as presented in the Gospels; or to him, the fact matters not at all. Worse, he somehow manages to think that addressing the issue of that Jesus’ historicity is a failing of the book. Unbelievable.

To O’Neill’s mind, none of that mere Christianity is of any interest. He constantly sniffs that the real Jesus remains untouched by the book - the Historical Jesus that he claims all real scholars accept: the “Jewish preacher (that was) the point of origin for the Jesus story simply because that makes the most sense of all the evidence.” First of all, as one might have guessed from the subtitle, or heard me say repeatedly in the book, Nailed was written to debunk the Christian myths that prop up the official story of Jesus. So perhaps O’Neill shouldn’t be too surprised that the main focus of the book is exactly that: the Jesus of rank-and-file Christianity.

And still, that’s not to say I don’t have anything to weigh in on the Historical Jesus! O’Neill should know that the “Historical Jesus” he touts as being the real Jesus is on no firmer evidentiary ground than the “Jesus of Faith,” something I do focus on in my upcoming book Jesus: Mything in Action. In fact, there is no single “Historical Jesus.” There are scads of various hypothetical and contradictory historical “reconstructions” of him - and none of them based on anything remotely like what an objective observer would consider reliable evidence. This wide variety of secular Jesuses and the problematic historical sources for all of them are symptomatic of the very predicament that prompted me to write Nailed in the first place. But more on that in my guest post on Freethought Blog, “Will The Real Jesus Please Stand Up?”

Who are the Biblical Historians?

Surprisingly, O’Neill takes objection when I point out something I didn’t expect anyone to have an issue with: that even though the majority of Biblical historians reject the idea that Jesus never existed, the majority of Biblical historians have always been Christian preachers, so what else could we expect them to say? O’Neill insists many scholars may well be Christians and allows that a tiny few (but not many) may be preachers, but “a great many” are definitely not.

I’d be willing to grant him that there are probably more non-Christian biblical scholars today than ever before, but that doesn’t change the fact that from the beginning, biblical studies have always been dominated by Christian clergy of various denominations - and remain so. One simply has to flip through a standard history of biblical studies, or take a roll call of the Society of Biblical Literature any time since its founding in 1880 to quickly see that not only do they freely admit that the entire field was originally an apologetic endeavor, but there has scarcely been a member who was not also a pastor, priest or rabbi.

Even in secular circles today, it is difficult to find a biblical scholar who does not come out of a religious background - even those without a divinity degree. Rabbi Jon D. Levensen, one of today’s most prominent Jewish biblical scholars, notes “It is a rare scholar in the field whose past does not include an intense Christian or Jewish commitment.” (The Hebrew Bible: The Old Testament, and Historical Criticism: Jews and Christians in Biblical Studies, Westminster John Knox Press, 1993, p. 30)

What’s more, as religious scholar Timothy Fitzgerald (no relation) notes in The Ideology of Religious Studies (Oxford University Press, 2000), even among former believers, theological assumptions are pervasive: “even in the work of scholars who are explicitly non-theological, half-disguised theological presuppositions persistently distort the analytical pitch.” (p. 6-7) Again, see “Will The Real Jesus Please Stand Up?” for a deeper examination of these fundamental issues.

Myth No. 2: Jesus Christ - Superstar?

Myth No. 2 (“Jesus was wildly famous - but there was no reason for contemporary historians to notice him ... ") looks at the back-pedaling apologists do when confronted with the total lack of contemporary historical corroboration for the events presented in the Gospels. Needless to say, O’Neill misses the entire point and asks why we should expect anyone at the time would have noticed Jesus - since to O’Neill’s thinking, the Jesus depicted in the Gospels - and the spectacular events surrounding him - aren’t even worth discussing, and in his judgment, the “real” Jesus was, in his words, “pretty small fry.” As he puts it:

Even if we take their accounts at face value, a chanting crowd greeting his

entrance to Jerusalem, a trial that no-one witnessed and a run-of-the-mill

execution are hardly big news.”

Except of course, if we actually take the gospels at face value, we get considerable more than that: political scandals; a massacre; an empire-wide census and taxation; Heavenly hosts of angels and a miraculous star announcing his birth; prophets declaring him the new messiah; the holy spirit descending from heaven upon him while the voice of God announces Jesus is his son; multitudes following Jesus and spreading news of his teaching and miracles throughout Judea, the Galilee, and beyond the Jordan as far as Syria and the Decapolis; his healing members of the households of the highest ranks of society, including temple leaders, Roman centurions, and royal officials; the prophets Moses and Elijah appear from heaven to speak with him; the entire city of Jerusalem acclaiming Jesus as the messiah, multiple (and illegal) trials before the entire Sanhedrin and many onlookers, the Tetrarch Herod Antipas and his war council, and the Roman governor, who engages with a huge crowd wildly clamoring for Jesus’ death before releasing a notorious rebel; crowds attending his scourging, his humiliating march up to Golgotha, listening to him give a speech, and his long, excruciating execution; followed by hours of supernatural darkness covering “all the land,” two major earthquakes in Jerusalem, the miraculous tearing of the temple curtain, a mass resurrection of famous saints who emerge from their supernaturally-opened graves en masse and wander the streets of Jerusalem, “appearing to many,” Jesus’ return from the grave and multiple appearances to his followers (for a day, or a week, or forty days, depending on who’s telling the story) before ascending to Heaven in front of many witnesses.

O’Neill thinks it’s naive to believe most of these spectacular events happened - Well, good on you, Tim! Neither do we - that’s the entire point. I agree it’s naive to believe the events in the gospels literally happened - but it doesn’t change the fact that over 2.1 billion people do, so it’s hardly a waste of time pointing out how ridiculous it is that there is no corroboration in the historical record for any of these spectacular occurrences. But with his 20-20 tunnel vision, all he can see is how none of this applies to his “historical Jesus.” And he isn’t even right about that.

When I provided the evidence that there indeed were contemporary commentators - along with the reasons we could expect each of them to discuss Jesus - O’Neill grumbles “Fitzgerald labours mightily to detail all the writers who he claims "should" have mentioned Jesus.” (Why is it if I don’t go into exhaustive detail on one point I’m either being sloppy or making shit up, but when I do take the trouble to provide the information, I’m suddenly “laboring mightily”? You can’t win with this guy - he has all the gusto of a Fox News pundit ragging on Obama) Despite it being right there on paper, O’Neill not only denies it - he goes on to inadvertently demonstrates my point. His Shrillness continues:

“Yet Fitzgerald again claims that these writers do mention other figures similar to Jesus. "In many cases", he claims, "these same writers have much to say about other much less interesting messiahs - but not Jesus" (p.42) In "many cases"? Which cases? Fitzgerald does not say. And other messiahs are mentioned? Which ones, where and by who? Again, despite this being a key point that should potentially back up and substantiate his creaking argument, he never bothers to tell the reader. The reason is simple - what Fitzgerald is saying here is absolute nonsense.”

Incidentally, perhaps this is a good time to mention the real reason I didn’t list them all out: Nailed was distilled down from a manuscript that was originally not 250 pages, but nearly a whopping 700 pages. So in fact, there’s a lot of information that I don’t mention, and many hard choices I had to make about what to include and what to leave out in a book that’s intended to be a reader-friendly intro to the subject... Just one other hard reality O’Neill will have to face if he ever becomes an author himself. As I cautioned in Ch. 1 (not the only caution of mine that O’Neill ignores...) the book is an all-too-brief thumbnail sketch.

Annnnyway, here’s where O’Neill makes my point for me. He proceeds to name a few would-be messiahs from the first century: Athronges (Athronges the Shepherd); the unnamed Samaritan Taheb/messiah; Theudas (also known as Theudas the Magician) who is mentioned anachronistically in the book of Acts; and “the Egyptian” another failed Jewish messiah also name-dropped by Luke. (Incidentally, he was probably called “The Egyptian” not because he was from Egypt, but to evoke Moses). In actuality, as I alluded to in the section he quoted, there are many more loser messiahs and messiah-like figures that he could also have brought up: Simon of Peraea, Judas of Galilee, John the Baptist, Simon Magus/Simon of Gitta, Yeshua ben Hananiah, Jonathan the Weaver, Apollonius of Tyana, Carabbas, Simon bar-Giora and still more. (And if you’re interested, I do go into more detail on many of them in “Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?”)

None of these failed messiahs, prophets and rabble-rousers succeeded anywhere near as well as our Jesus of Nazareth. But every one of these loser messiahs did beat Jesus on one crucial matter: all of them managed to leave a trace in the contemporary historical record - so why couldn’t Jesus? If O’Neill is right, the real Jesus was just “small fry” and his exploits and supposedly radical new teachings were ignored by history for his entire life - actually, for over a century. But if that’s so, O’Neill (or rather, those historians whom he’s parroting) can’t explain what for me is the central paradox of the Historical Jesus: Either: he did and said all these amazing, earthshaking things - and no one noticed. Or: he was just one more failed messiah of the early first century - and yet after his death, a fringe cult springs up, scattered all across the Roman Empire from Spain to the Egyptian Desert to Asia Minor, made up of bickering house churches that can’t agree about the most fundamental basics of his life and teachings. This oft-encountered “Stealth Messiah” approach to the problem simply doesn’t hold up.

By the way, O’Neill is also wrong when he weirdly (and irrelevantly) claims we have no contemporary sources for Hannibal - though (to his credit) he thanks a commenter for correcting his error by pointing out that we do have a fragment from Book IV of Sosylus’ The Deeds Of Hannibal - even if he does downplays the two passages as “a tiny fragment” that “seems to contain a few lines” - in fact, as you can see here, it’s a bit more than that; two paragraphs with just over a dozen lines. But besides that, O’Neill is unaware that we do have at least one complete and contemporary account of Hannibal in book three of Polybius of Megalopolis’ The Histories, where he not only discusses Hannibal at great length, he also mentions in passing the other authors who “who have dealt with Hannibal and his times” (3.6.1).

Myth no. 3: Forging Josephus

Myth No. 3 is where O’Neill really dials up his assholedom to 11. This chapter focuses on ancient historian Flavius Josephus and two disputed passages in his writing, the Testimonium Flavianum and the “James Reference,” both which are claimed to be references to Jesus. O’Neill starts out by begging the question, baldly asserting “that Josephus does mention Jesus - twice.” However, the Testimonium is so blatantly a forgery no scholars today still dispute the fact; the only debate now is how much of it is forged. Even O’Neill accepts that at least some of it is not original to Josephus and was added by Christian scribes later. Of course, as Jeffrey Jay Lowder has pointed out, the very fact that there has been any tampering with the text at all makes the entire passage suspect.

But not to O’Neill. He cannot conceive that my filthy Myther comrades or I honestly dispute the two passages; instead he gleefully and repeatedly paints us as wringing our hands in anxiety, desperate to say anything or pull any underhanded tactic just to make the damning text go away so we can wallow in our lies. Charming.

O’Neill rightly notes that the majority of scholars accept the passage as at least partially authentic, but what he fails to add (if he even realizes) is that the “Partially Authentic,” or Reconstuctionist camp is the largest camp simply because scholarly opinion is so divided over the extent of tampering; it is a very large tent with lots of room for disagreement - and there is ferocious disagreement. And there are many scholars in that significant (and I think, correct) minority who are convinced it is a complete forgery.

O’Neill, repeating a dreadfully tired old line from the Christian apologists he despises, adds “once the more obvious interpolated phrases are removed, the passage reads precisely like what Josephus would be expected to write and also uses characteristic language found elsewhere in his works.” This would all be very convenient – just take out all the incriminating parts and then it all works fine! But there are several things he and the apologists get wrong here. To be begin with, there is no consensus on what is “obviously interpolated;” the permutations of what’s considered genuine and suspicious differs from theorist to theorist). Secondly, Josephan scholars Steve Mason and Ken Olson have both pointed out that the passage does not use Josephus’ characteristic language. In fact, its non-Josephan vocabulary and misuse of terms are just two of several other strong indications that the entire passage is not just a partial, but a total forgery. As I note in Nailed, (pp. 52-54) here are a few (not all) of the others:

“Still another is that it barely relates to the rest of the chapter. The following paragraph starts by saying “About the same time also another sad calamity put the Jews into disorder.” Another sad calamity? But what sad calamity? Josephus has just presented a commercial for Jesus, not a sad calamity! This reference skips over the Testimonium entirely and points to the previous section. That passage, where Pilate sets his soldiers loose to massacre a large crowd of Jews in Jerusalem, certainly fits the bill as a sad calamity, but no versions of the Testimonium do, “reconstructed” or not.

Many commentators, including Doherty, G. A. Wells and Peter Kirby, have noted that without the Testimonium passage, the continuity between the passages flanking it flows seamlessly into each other. This fact alone is a tremendous indication that the passage is 100% entirely fraudulent.

Perhaps the major giveaway is that this passage does not appear until the 4th century. For the first 300 years of its existence, there is no mention of the Testimonium anywhere. This couldn’t have been simply because no one happened to read it; Josephus’ histories were immensely popular and pored over by scholars. For centuries his works were more widely read in Europe than any book other than the Bible. According to Josephus scholar Michael Hardwick in Josephus as an Historical Source in Patristic Literature through Eusebius, more than a dozen early Christian writers, including Justin Martyr, Theophilus Antiochenus, Melito of Sardis, Minucius Felix, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Julius Africanus, Pseudo-Justin, Tertullian, Hippolytus, Origen, Methodius and Lactantius, are known to have read and commented on the works of Josephus.

Origen in particular relied extensively on him; his own writings are filled with references to Josephus. But it is obvious Origen had never heard of the Testimonium. When his skeptical Roman opponent Celsus asks what miracles Jesus performed, Origen answers that Jesus‘ life was indeed full of striking and miraculous events, “but from what other source can we can furnish an answer than from the Gospel narratives?” (Contra Celsum, 2:33) In the same book (1.47), Origen even quotes from Antiquities of the Jews in order to prove the historical existence of John the Baptist, then adds that Josephus didn’t believe in Jesus, and criticizes Josephus for failing to mention Jesus in that book!

And no one else seems to have heard of the Testimonium for 300 years, either – it is never quoted until the 4th century, when the notorious Bishop Eusebius of Caesarea begins quoting it repeatedly.”

And where did Eusebius get his copy of Antiquities of the Jews? From Origen - who had never heard of the passage! There's simply no way around it: the Testimonium is 100% pure forgery, and it stretches belief that anyone but Eusebius is the forger.

But what about the Arabic Evidence?

O’Neill thinks he’s pulling out his trump card when he dredges up the Arab version of the Testimonium discovered by Israeli scholar Schlomo Pines, and the medieval Syriac Testimonium, which he claims preserve an original, uninterpolated Testimonium. He crows “So how does Fitzgerald deal with the Arabic and Syriac evidence? Well, he doesn't. He is either ignorant of it or he conveniently ignores it.”

Well, he’s half right. I am quite aware of, and did indeed ignore the Arabic and Syriac “evidence” - just as I ignored the Slovanic Additions “evidence” in the Russian and Rumanian manuscripts. Why? Because despite sensationalistic claims like O’Neill’s, none of them add anything to the debate. Nor is he (or the sources he’s relying on) aware that several years ago historian Alice Whealey conclusively proved both these claims wrong.

But since we’re here, let’s go down this rabbit hole:

The Arabic version of the Testimonium is indeed a paraphrase, preserved in the world history of a tenth-century Arab Christian, Melkite Bishop Agapius of Hierapolis, whose history is pithily entitled Kitab Al-Unwan Al-Mukallal Bi-Fadail Al- Hikma Al-Mutawwaj Bi-Anwa Al-Falsafa Al-Manduh Bi-Haqaq Al-Marifa, or: The Book of History Guided by All the Virtues of Wisdom, Crowned with Various Philosophies and Blessed by the Truth of Knowledge.

O’Neill neglects to mention (or simply doesn’t know) that the late Prof. Pines himself cautioned against claiming that the Arabic text represents Josephus' original version. Peter Kirby noted we can’t be sure Agapius was even quoting straight from a manuscript at all (he doesn’t even get the title of Josephus’ book correct, which suggests that he was working from memory, which would also explain any differences with the Greek version) And even if he was, it is certainly very late and corrupted, and thus practically worthless. What’s more, Pines freely acknowledged that there were several other explanations for the text; he personally believed that Agapius acquired his subject matter from texts in the care of - surprise! Eusebius, our prime suspect for forging the Testimonium in the first place! (see Gaalyahu Cornfield, The Historical Jesus: A Scholarly View of the Man and his World, Macmillan, 1982, p. 190) See where this is going...?

The medieval Syriac version of the Testimonium cited by Michael the Syrian in his World Chronicle traces back to some Syriac Christian; historians believe it is probably the seventh century James of Edessa. It reads differently from the Greek: Instead of "He was the Christ," it reads "He was believed to be the Christ," identical wording of a text of the Testimonium that Jerome possessed. The only plausible conclusion is that both had access to a Greek version of the Testimonium containing that variant. None of which prevented Eusebius from still being the original source for the Greek variant behind both Jerome’s late 4th century text (itself close to a century after the Testimonium first appears in Eusebius’ writings!) or the even later Syriac one.

So this was already the sorry state of evidence for both these writings before 2008, when Josephan scholar Alice Whealey made her rather conclusive case (see Alice Whealey, “The Testimonium Flavianum in Syriac and Arabic,” New Testament Studies 54.4 (2008) pp. 573-90) that even the once-much-touted Arabic version of the Testimonium actually also derives from... you guessed it - Eusebius, by way of an intermediary Syriac version, and so long story short, neither of these medieval Arabic or Syriac texts came from Josephus. Which is why I didn’t include any of this wild goose chase in Nailed. Which, if O’Neill really kept up with Josephan studies as much as he’d like us all to think, he should have known all along...

BTW, O’Neill also didn’t mention - sorry, I mean he is either ignorant of it or he conveniently ignores - the “evidence” of the so-called Slavonic Additions, but as long as we’re scraping the bottom of the barrel, we might as well drag in the beefed-up, blatantly counterfeit, Old Russian Testimonium found in a few fifteenth-century Russian and Rumanian versions of The Jewish War – That’s right, The Jewish War, not Antiquities – the forger didn’t even put it in the right book! The prevailing view is that it was added in about the 10th or 11th century, and no historians today defend its authenticity.

Origen-al Sin

O’Neill turns on the charm again:

“Not content with ignoring inconvenient key counter-evidence, Fitzgerald is also happy to simply make things up. He talks about how the Second Century Christian apologist Origen does not mention the Antiquities XVII.3.4 reference to Jesus (which is true, but not surprising -Note from Dave: Really?) and then claims "Origen even quotes from Antiquities of the Jews in order to prove the historical existence of John the Baptist, then adds that Josephus didn't believe in Jesus, and criticises him for failing to mention Jesus in that book!" (p. 53) Which might sound like a good argument to anyone who does not bother to check self-published author's citations. But those who do will turn to Origen's Contra Celsum I.4 and find the following:

Now this writer [Josephus], although not believing in Jesus as the Messiah, in seeking after the cause of the fall of Jerusalem and the destruction of the temple, whereas he ought to have said that the conspiracy against Jesus was the cause of these calamities befalling the people, since they put to death Christ, who was a prophet, says nevertheless-being, although against his will, not far from the truth-that these disasters happened to the Jews as a punishment for the death of James the Just, who was "the brother of that Jesus who was called Messiah",--the Jews having put him to death, although he was a man most distinguished for his justice.

So Origen does not say Josephus "didn't believe in Jesus", just that he did not believe Jesus was the Messiah (which supports the Arabic and Syriac evidence on the pre-interpolation version of Antiquities XVII.3.4) And far from criticising Josephus "for failing to mention Jesus in that book", Origen actually quotes Josephus directly doing exactly that - the phrase "αδελφος Ιησου του λεγομενου Χριστου" (the brother of that Jesus who was called Messiah") is word for word the phrase used by Josephus in his other mention of Jesus, found at Antiquities XX.9.1. And he does not refer to and quote Josephus mentioning Jesus just in Contra Celsum I.4, but he also does so twice more: in Contra Celsum II:13 and in Commentarium in evangelium Matthaei X.17. It is hard to say if this nonsense claim of Fitzgerald's is mere incompetence or simply a lie. I will be charitable and put it down to another of this amateur's bungles.”

First, I must confess that I never meant to imply that Origen said Josephus “didn’t believe in Jesus” in the sense of Jesus not existing - I certainly don’t think that’s the case. That was an unfortunate and very poorly tempered sentence on my part; and painful as it is to give such a douche a bone, I have to say I totally agree with O’Neill’s criticism of it. Origen is chiding Josephus here for being a Jew, not for denying Jesus’ historicity. In fact, Josephus shows no sign of ever having even heard of Jesus at all, which is the reason Eusebius inserted his forged Testimonium into Antiquities in the first place.

But on every other point here, O’Neill is dead wrong - he (or more likely, whoever his unacknowledged source is) is in fact, demonstrating that the opposite is true. To begin with, how can O’Neill deny that Origen is not doing exactly what I said he did: criticizing Josephus for not mentioning Jesus? Read it again - it’s right there in black and white:

“... he ought to have said that the conspiracy against Jesus was the cause of these calamities...”

It should also be noted that the quotation marks in the Contra Celsum passage above are not original to the text; in Origen’s time of course there was no such punctuation mark. They have been inserted there to give the impression that Origen is giving a direct quote here. But Origen is not quoting Josephus; not here and not in any of his other passages where O’Neill claims he does.

In fact, turnabout is fair play - let’s look at what these passages say. Here the first passage in question, Book 20, Chapter 9 of Antiquities of the Jews. Here, Josephus is describing the antics of a very unpopular high priest in Jerusalem, the unfortunately named Ananus ben Ananus. O’Neill claims Origen is quoting Josephus “word for word” here, and he is talking out of his ass. Origen does not even claim to be quoting Josephus here - and he isn’t. See for yourself:

"And now Caesar, upon hearing the death of Festus, sent Albinus into Judea, as

procurator. But the king deprived Joseph of the high priesthood, and bestowed

the succession to that dignity on the son of Ananus, who was also himself called

Ananus. Now the report goes that this eldest Ananus proved a most fortunate

man; for he had five sons who had all performed the office of a high priest to

God, and who had himself enjoyed that dignity a long time formerly, which had

never happened to any other of our high priests. But this younger Ananus, who,

as we have told you already, took the high priesthood, was a bold man in his

temper, and very insolent; he was also of the sect of the Sadducees, who are

very rigid in judging offenders, above all the rest of the Jews, as we have already

observed; when, therefore, Ananus was of this disposition, he thought he had

now a proper opportunity (to exercise his authority).

Festus was now dead, and Albinus was but upon the road; so he assembled the

sanhedrim of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was

called Christ, whose name was James, and some others, (or, some of his

companions); and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers

of the law, he delivered hem to be stoned: but as for those who seemed the most

equitable of the citizens, and such as were the most uneasy at the breach of the laws,

they disliked what was done; they also sent to the king (Agrippa), desiring him to send

to Ananus that he should act so no more, for that what he had already done was

not to be justified; nay, some of them went also to meet Albinus, as he was upon

his journey from Alexandria, and informed him that it was not lawful for Ananus to

assemble a sanhedrim without his consent. Whereupon Albinus complied with

what they said, and wrote in anger to Ananus, and threatened that he would

bring him to punishment for what he had done; on which king Agrippa took the

high priesthood from him, when he had ruled but three months, and made Jesus, the son of Damneus, high priest."

As you can see, Josephus nowhere calls this James “James the Just,” nor blames the destruction of Jerusalem on his death, nor is he even talking about the destruction of Jerusalem here. Most importantly for our purposes here, neither, as O’Neill insists, does he use the phrase “(Iakôbou tou Dikaiou hos ên) adelphos Iêsou tou legomenou Christou” - “James the Just, who was a brother of that Jesus who was called Messiah." The line in question is actually “ton adelphon Iêsou tou legomenou Christou Iakôbos onoma autôi”which means “the brother of Jesus (who was called Christ), the name for whom was James.” In fact, Josephus' somewhat tortured syntax here is a clue, but let's continue:

Further along in Contra Celsum (2:13) Origen uses the exact same line as before:

“Titus destroyed Jerusalem, on account, as Josephus wrote, of James the Just, the brother of Jesus who was called Christ, but in reality, as the truth makes clear, on account of Jesus Christ the Son of God.”

Origen claims Josephus wrote this, but not where - and again, he’s wrong; Josephus never wrote any such thing. And we get that exact same line in Origen’s third and final alleged Josephan quote, his commentary on the Gospel of Matthew:

“And to so great a reputation among the people for righteousness did this James rise, that Flavius Josephus, who wrote the Antiquities of the Jews in twenty books, when wishing to exhibit the cause why the people suffered such great misfortunes that even the temple was razed to the ground, said that these things happened to them in accordance with the wrath of God in consequence of the things which they had dared to do against James the brother of Jesus who is called Christ. And the amazing thing is that although he did not accept Jesus as Christ, he yet gave testimony that the righteousness of James was so great, and he says that the people thought that they had suffered these things because of James.”

So in short, in absolutely none of these cases is Origen quoting from Josephus.

In fact, as Richard Carrier has pointed out, the phrase found in Josephus has a peculiar and distinctive idiom (“the name for whom was James”) never found in Origen’s writings, so it’s even more apparent that Origen is not giving a direct quote in any of his writings. Incidentally, I am indebted to my friend Dr. Carrier for all the analysis of the Greek in this section of Nailed. For a thorough examination of the evidence that conclusively demonstrates the James Reference is an accidental interpolation or scribal emendation and that that passage was never originally about Jesus Christ but Jesus ben Damneus (The Jesus who is actually mentioned in the passage, and fits the context!), see his forthcoming paper “Origen, Eusebius, and the Accidental Interpolation in Josephus, Jewish Antiquities 20.200” in the Journal of Early Christian Studies 20.4 (coming Winter 2012)

James Reference, part II

At the risk of beating a dead horse, there’s still more in this small section that he has gotten horribly, horribly wrong. I know that O’Neill has an undue amount of ego invested in poo-pooing this book, but, please believe me when I tell you I’m honestly baffled that any reasonably bright, reasonably objective person can look at all the problematic features of the James Reference and still fail to find the solutions offered in this chapter thoroughly convincing. And it feels like in his withered little heart, O’Neill knows he’s in the wrong on this issue and is coming a bit unglued. Let’s watch.

“This second reference to Jesus is difficult for Mythers to deal with. Dismissing it as another interpolation does not work, since a Christian interpolator in a later century is hardly going to invent something as significant as the deposition of the High Priest just to slip in this passing reference to Jesus which, unlike the interpolated elements in the Antiquities XVII.3.4 passage, makes no Christian claims about Jesus.“

Hmmm... it can’t be a deliberate interpolation... why does all that sound familiar? Oh yes, it’s because that’s exactly what I say on p. 58! He piles on to this bad start, and that’s when it really gets fascinating - look what O’Neill does in this section: It’s a rhetorical hot mess: He flails away, his snarky rhetoric goes into high gear, substituting pissiness for facts with lines like: “But Fitzgerald falls back on one of the several gambits Mythers use to get their argument off this awkward and pointy hook;” or “While he declares this ingenious solution to his problem to be ‘the only explanation that makes sense,’ it is actually highly flawed,” or "The clumsy idea that Fitzgerald proposes is highly awkward in all respects.”

But when it’s time to back up all his smack talk with facts, his objections are piddling, goofy and random (“But this does not explain why Josephus would identify one son (James) by reference to his brother and the other (Jesus) by reference to their father”). Nor does he provide any evidence, only some truly ignorant statements like “This was in the mid-Third Century and long before Christians were in any position to be ‘tacking on’ anything to copies of Josephus.” He also puts on heavy-duty blinders, as when he declares:

“More importantly, neither Carrier nor Fitzgerald explain why an interpolator would "tack on" this reference to their Jesus.”

Except, of course, that we do explain, at length, for a considerable portion of this chapter (see pp. 59-60) that it is an accidental interpolation; a fact that eludes O’Neill. In fact, he seems so completely clueless to the fact, you have to wonder was he still reading by this point at all, or just skimming? Or is he taking some “La-la-la I can’t hear you” approach and hoping no one would notice? He continues to ramble on autopilot, arguing to no one over the same non-existent point before declaring victory. Truly bizarre behavior, an almost Donald Trumpian level of masturbatory ego-trip.

He really needs to read the whole section again - he simply ignores the answers the book already provides to his own rhetorical questions. Besides that, his “objections” are ludicrous, and his “explanations” explain none of the problems of the passage: Why does Origen say elsewhere that there are no references to Jesus outside the gospel (see p. 53 of Nailed - already cited here in the section for Myth No. 3) if he thought Josephus mentioned him here (or in the Testimonium, for that matter)? Why does he - or any of the more than a dozen other early church fathers that relied heavily on Josephus for three hundred years (again, see p. 53 of Nailed) - never discuss this as a witness to Christ in all their citations of Josephus? Why do none of the details of the death of this James match the details we have from any other account of the death of James the Just?

And why didn’t Luke know of this account and include it in the New Testament book of Acts? Why would the Jews be in an uproar over the death of a Christian leader when Christians are supposed to be a hated, if not outright illegal, sect at this time? Why would he use the term “Christ” here - a term he studiously avoids using in reference to all other messianic figures he discusses in the rest of his writings? And why would he do so without explaining what it meant to his pagan Roman audience? The questions just go on and on. And O’Neill & Co. have no answer for any of them.

But all of these serious problems and more suddenly make perfect sense if the passage was originally really about Jesus, the son of Damneus - the Jesus who is actually being discussed in the passage - and the text was accidentally “corrected” to read “who was called Christ” instead. O’Neill and those who insist otherwise are left wrestling with a tremendous number of baffling unanswered questions instead.

O’Neill has once again inadvertently proved the opposite of what he set out to prove. In the immortal words of O’Neill: “it is hard to say if this nonsense claim is mere incompetence or simply a lie. I will be charitable and put it down to another of his bungles.”

And on a personal level, I have to say it’s frustrating when naysayers like O’Neill seem perfectly oblivious to the real reason these two obviously doctored passages in Josephus are defended so stridently by most biblical historians: because without this pair of long-disputed, deeply problematic snippets, there is literally nothing else in the entire first century to corroborate the Gospels. The force of their objection has always been based on theological imperatives, not evidential strength.

Myths 4 through 7: Phoning it in

After this confused rant, O’Neill runs out of steam, and can barely work enough negativity to dismiss the next four chapters as “mere padding” with, yes, yet another tiresome pronouncement that none of this applies to the real Jesus. Apparently, in that part of Australia called Tim O’Neill Land, the fact that the Gospels were not written by eyewitnesses, present wildly varying depictions of Jesus, are riddled with historical and archaeological errors, and that we have not a shred of physical evidence for Jesus, are of interest to “absolutely no-one except the most clueless of Biblical literalists or naive traditional Christians.” Don’t you feel bad for not being as smart as Tim O’Neill? You should.

He does work up enough steam for one more jab:

“Though there are some howlers in it that, yet again, shows that Fitzgerald is an amateur who really needed an informed editor. At one point he writes:

Matthew has Jesus making a pun where he tells Peter "upon this rock I will build my church" (Matt. 16:18). Though if this had happened in reality, Peter would have scratched his head and asked, "Say Jesus - what's a church?" since churches hadn't been invented yet, and wouldn't be developed until many decades later. (p. 70)

The word translated as "church" in most English editions is κκλησίαν and it simply means "assembly, gathering, all of a given group", so it would be very odd for Peter to have "scratched his head" at what would have been a perfectly sensible and clear statement. Personally, I do not happen to believe Jesus said this at all and it seems this was something put in his mouth later by the writer of Matthew. But the naivete of Fitzgerald's English-based argument is indicative of his weak grasp of the material.”

“English-based argument?” Are you kidding me? The Historian in me is simply annoyed, but my inner Linguist is deeply offended. Once again, O’Neill misses the point because his pre-occupied knee-jerk snark reaction has him looking for mistakes that aren’t there. Of course I know the Greek for church is ekklêsía. But a statement like "upon this rock I will build my ekklêsía" is most definitely not “a perfectly sensible and clear statement” for an early first century Jew. For them, ekklêsía weren’t something that was built upon; as he needlessly points out, the word simply meant a gathering, actually a “duly summoned assembly”. No one at the time would have understood it in the context given here by the much-later author of Matthew, which is why it’s in the section on anachronisms in the first place. Curb your dog already.

Myth No. 8: Paul’s Jesus

By Myth No. 8, O’Neill has given up and just falls back on the same tired old arguments that prompted me to write Nailed in the first place. He starts with the understatement that: “Paul does not actually say much about Jesus' life and preaching.” In fact, it’s not just Paul - it’s the entire first generation of Christian writers. And it’s not that that he doesn’t say that much; he has nothing to say about his Risen Christ that seems to clearly refer to a life on earth, and again and again shows strange lapses about Jesus’ life, teachings, miracles, family, apostles, and the events of his ministry. Though he spends plenty of time in his letters having to remind his flock what he has taught them; he never bothers to tell them about what Jesus taught or did - or explain why he disagrees with the men who are supposedly Jesus’ family and disciples! Mythicists didn’t invent the “Silence of Paul” - that has puzzled and troubled biblical scholars for centuries.

Personally, I don’t know for certain if Paul himself believed in a purely spiritual Christ (along the lines of the savior in the original Ascension of Isaiah, who descends through successive layers of heavens by dying and rising again in each one) as Earl Doherty argues convincingly; or if Paul thought Jesus was on earth in some unspecified time in the past as a covert messiah, who “made of himself no reputation” (Phillip.2:7) and was unwittingly crucified by demons. But no matter how you slice it, it’s very obvious that Paul’s Christ is in stark contrast to the Jesus(es) in the Gospels - see pp. 129 -132 in Nailed for more details on those many differences.

And for a guy who keeps trying to nail me on linguistics points, O’Neill makes his share of blunders here, such as when he claims Paul states Jesus was executed by “earthly rulers” in 1 Cor. 2:8. In fact, the word used in that verse is not exsousia (εξουσια), the word the New Testament prefers to use when referring to earthly authorities like the Roman overlords or the temple leaders. It is archôn (ρχων; plural, ρχοντες, archontes); the same word for “rulers, powers” that we see in verses like Ephesians 2:2:

“You once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience…”

As any Sunday School teacher can tell you, “The prince of the power of the air” (ton archonta tēs exousias tou aeros, τον αρχοντα της εξουσιας του αερος) is Satan himself, the ruler of this world. Archon also can have the mundane meaning of earthly authorities, but we don’t see that in New Testament contexts like here, or in Ephesians 3:10, where the closely related word archai is used to talk about “the principalities and powers in the heavenly places,” or here in Eph. 6:12:

For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.”

The word translated “rulers” here is actually kosmokratoras (κοσμοκράτορας), literally “cosmic rulers.” So it’s very clear that in Christian usage, Archon is not being used to describe earthly authorities. In fact, in his genuine writings, Paul never mentions that Pilate, or Herod, or the Jewish leaders, or the Romans, or anyone else on earth crucified Jesus – in fact Pilate never even appears in the epistles except for a single mention in the much later forged Pastoral epistle 1Timothy (6:13). According to Paul, and all of the other epistle writers who wrote before the Gospels were written, there is never a hint of Jesus being crucified by any human person or government; it is the Archai or Archons, that is, Satan and his minions, who crucified Jesus.

Likewise, though O’Neill insists Paul says Jesushad a earthly, physical brother called James who Paul himself had met,” “an earthly, physical brother” is exactly what Paul does not say about James or any of the others referred to in the New Testament as the “Brothers of the Lord” (such as the 500 Brethren in 1 Cor. 15: 6); see pp. 144-145 in Nailed for further discussion, including the absence of any “consistent tradition” of James being Jesus’ brother - or anyone else being Jesus’ disciples (see Myth No. 9 for details).

And it’s ironic that O’Neill picked I Cor. 15:3-4; since in these verses, he tells us how he “knows” his Christ died and was buried, and it is for the same reason given in so many other places in Paul’s writings (and other Epistles) - because it was prophesied in the Hebrew scriptures:

For I delivered unto you first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures...

O’Neill takes exception to me noting that Paul disdainfully dismisses James as though he was a nobody in Galatians 2:6. In fact it’s not just at 2:6; Paul is dismissive of all the leaders of the Jerusalem church, and has nothing to say at all about them being disciples or kin to Jesus. He even accuses them of trucking with false believers! Don’t take my word for it - read Galatians 2 for yourself:

1 Then after fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and also took Titus with me. 2 And I went up by revelation, and communicated to them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to those who were of reputation, lest by any means I might run, or had run, in vain. 3 Yet not even Titus who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. 4 And this occurred because of false brethren secretly brought in (who came in by stealth to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage), 5 to whom we did not yield submission even for an hour, that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.
But from those who seemed to be something—whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God shows personal favoritism to no man—for those who seemed to be something added nothing to me. 7 But on the contrary, when they saw that the gospel for the uncircumcised had been committed to me, as the gospel for the circumcised was to Peter 8 (for He who worked effectively in Peter for the apostleship to the circumcised also worked effectively in me toward the Gentiles), 9 and when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that had been given to me, they gave me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles and they to the circumcised. 10 They desired only that we should remember the poor, the very thing which I also was eager to do.

And the very next thing, he’s opposing both Peter and James for not following the gospel - again, with not a single so much as a hint that they had any kind of relationship to Jesus!

11 Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; 12 for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. 13 And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.
14 But when
I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Peter before them all, “If you, being a Jew, live in the manner of Gentiles and not as the Jews, why do you compel Gentiles to live as Jews?

(and their clash continues for the rest of the chapter...)


O’Neill gives up long before the end of the book; not that I can see how he could find anything to argue against there, but I could be wrong about that... But before he pulls his most weakest, most chicken-shit maneuver of all - telling critics not to bother posting on his comment thread - O’Neill ends his screed predictably enough, with one final rant at “Mythers.” Mythers begin with their conclusion, they desperately want the Christ Myth to be true because they want to undermine Christianity, this book is weak, clumsy, confused, amateurish and represents everything that is hopelessly wrong about the “Myther thesis,” etc. etc.

So it seems that I will have to find a way to live without Tim O’Neill’s approval... which he seems to reserve to himself anyway. I’ll leave it up to the rest of you, Nailed’s readership, to be the final judge.

But I do take issue with his assertion that “the overwhelming majority of scholars, Christian, non-Christian, atheist, agnostic or Jewish, accept there was a Jewish preacher as the point of origin for the Jesus story simply because that makes the most sense of all the evidence.” In fact, it does not make the most sense of the evidence, which I defend in the essay “Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?” and in my forthcoming book, Jesus: Mything in Action, coming in 2012.


At Thursday, January 19, 2012 10:57:00 AM, Blogger Dana Fredsti said...

2011 WAS a good year, wasn't it?

I laughed, I cried... I laughed some more... and that was just reading this post. :-)

At Thursday, January 19, 2012 11:38:00 AM, Blogger Leigh M. Lane said...

There's always going to be someone who feels the need to take undue issue with what you write. Shine it on; it's good publicity. ;-)

At Thursday, January 19, 2012 1:03:00 PM, Blogger Lena Grey said...

If he thinks you are wrong, or didn't give it enough thought, time, effort, etc. it's because he doesn't know you like we do. Some people just want to take others down regardless of whether their ideas are justified. He's probably just jealous because you are so much more awesome than he will ever dream to be. Keep up the good work Dave. You're brilliant and don't let anyone tell you that you are not.

At Thursday, January 19, 2012 10:01:00 PM, Blogger Aratina Cage said...

Thank you for this, which was linked to from your guest post at WWJTD on Freethought Blogs. Quite a bit of penis talk there from Paul! Can we say "obsessed"?

O'Neill's criticism fits a pattern common to many of Christianity's defenders of quickly ceding the obviously silly ground (of which there is so much) but then hunkering down in their bunkers over the most trivial little details. So O'Neill may realize that Christianity is bunk, but you'll have to wrestle the barely shaped clay figurine of Jesus-the-person from his hands one finger at a time.

The labels mythicist and myther are pretty hilarious, too, no matter how nastily they are said since no amount of details will rescue Christianity and its Jesus character from being an oversold myth. The spittle wasted by people like O'Neill over this idea makes even less sense when you see them concede that the possibility that a single person never existed on whom the life and times of the character Jesus was based is a valid idea as O'Neill does. If it is valid (that is, if it has not been sufficiently disproven), then why the death grip on the idea that such a person did exist?

At Friday, January 20, 2012 4:31:00 PM, Blogger conkom said...

You have effectively rebutted O'Neill's diatribe. He does seem to have a pathological need to assert HJ. You would think as an atheist he would understand why there would be at the very least some doubt. And an informed one as well.

At Saturday, January 21, 2012 8:23:00 PM, Blogger Dana Fredsti said...

Conkom, I actually wonder if O'Neill is a faux Atheist (or a stealth fundamentalist) given the level of vitriol in his dealings with Dave, Richard Carrier, Robert Price and Earl Doherty.

At Saturday, January 21, 2012 9:02:00 PM, Blogger conkom said...

Dana, the thought did enter my mind as well. But there is something quite juvenile about his manner that suggests that he probably isn't sure himself what he believes in. I wouldn't label him a stealth fundamentalist - yet. Right now I think he is as confused as he is arrogant. Over time I suspect he will find God and denounce his atheism.

At Saturday, January 21, 2012 11:46:00 PM, Blogger Ignorance said...

Dave, do you have any references for Origen passing his copy on to Eusebius? I couldn't find any.

At Sunday, January 22, 2012 6:34:00 PM, Blogger Dana Fredsti said...

Conkom, I like the way you think. -:)

At Sunday, January 22, 2012 7:17:00 PM, Anonymous Dave Fitzgerald said...

Thanks all - I truly appreciate all the love! If you're on Facebook I hope you'll look me up.

Aratina, Dana and Conkom, you lot cracked me up!

Ignorance, Eusebius inherited his library from his master Pamphilus, who had in turn inherited it from his master Origen's personal collection of books.

I think it was Robin Lane Fox who documents this in Pagans & Christians; I'll have to do some more digging to give you the primary source, which I believe is either Eusebius' Life of Pamphilus or Church History...

At Sunday, January 22, 2012 11:49:00 PM, Anonymous unkleE said...

Dave Fitzgerald said:

"But I do take issue with his assertion that “the overwhelming majority of scholars, Christian, non-Christian, atheist, agnostic or Jewish, accept there was a Jewish preacher as the point of origin for the Jesus story simply because that makes the most sense of all the evidence.” In fact, it does not make the most sense of the evidence, which I defend in the essay “Will the Real Jesus Please Stand Up?” and in my forthcoming book, Jesus: Mything in Action, coming in 2012."

Dave, you may disagree with their conclusion, but the main part of Tim's quoted comment is actually a matter of fact and it is true - the majority of scholars of all persuasions do agree that Jesus really lived. And they are by no means mostly christian apologists as you suggest here - among the more eminent names, Michael Grant was a non-believer as are Bart Ehrman, EP Sanders, and even RL Fox. Most of them don't bother to address the Jesus myth hypothesis because they regard it as refuted, as for example, such diverse names as Ehrman, Grant, Charlesworth, Sanders, Wright and Van Voorst (among many others) make clear. You can find a summary of their reasons for this in Van Voorst's "Jesus Outside the New Testament".

Of course that doesn't make them right necessarily, but if their arguments seem right to the majority of scholars and the majority of readers, you will have to pardon those who continue to believe them rather than believe your arguments.

At Monday, January 23, 2012 12:06:00 AM, Blogger Ignorance said...

Thanks for the source, I'll try to find it too!

At Monday, January 23, 2012 12:35:00 AM, Blogger conkom said...

unklE, I think you might have misundestood Dave's comment. The point he was making is just because the overwhelming majority of scholars believe in an HJ, it doesn't mean that it is becasue they make the most sense in evidence. O'Neill is playing the numbers game to justify his position. Even among these non-believers their is a conditioning that one of the world's greatest religions had to have been inspired by an individual who lived. The issue is psychological not one based on evidence. None seem to understand the power of myth. Letting go of Jesus the Divine or Jesus the mortal is like asking a small child to let go of Santa.

At Monday, January 23, 2012 6:02:00 AM, Blogger Ignorance said...

Dave, did you perhaps have Eusebius' Church History, book 6, chapter 32 in mind?

At Wednesday, January 25, 2012 1:53:00 PM, Anonymous unkleE said...

Conkom said: "The point he was making is just because the overwhelming majority of scholars believe in an HJ, it doesn't mean that it is becasue they make the most sense in evidence."

But surely the fact that almost all scholars, believers and unbelievers alike conclude that the Josephus reference is partially genuine, gives impressive weight to that view, especially to anyone who does not have access to the original documents, cannot read the original languages fluently, and has not immersed himself in the culture?

The facts still seem to me to be:

1. David has not succeeded in convincing the experts, and I'm not even sure if he has tried - through the normal process of peer review. So how can I have any confidence in his arguments?

2. As a layperson, I am not expert in unravelling all the facts and nuances - I have to trust someone. Why would I trust David, who obviously has limited expertise and an agenda over the consensus of erudite scholars? The only reason I can see is if I already know what answer I want.

"The issue is psychological not one based on evidence. "

This is a big call! All the scholars from Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and a hundred other universities, critically reviewing each others' work (often in a very competitive environment), have somehow managed to miss the evidence and come to conclusions based on psychology?? To support David's conspiracy theory, you need to postulate a second, modern, academic conspiracy theory!! This sounds more like a young earth creationist than a rationalist response!

I think those who accept David against the rest don't really understand the implications. How would you respond?

At Wednesday, January 25, 2012 2:54:00 PM, Blogger conkom said...

This is a study in history unklE not quantum physics. Scholars believe in an HJ not because of a proper analysis of the very limited evidence available. Old habits die hard. It's called conventional wisdom.

And once upon a time and for a long time scholars also believed that the gospels were historical documents recording the miracles performed by the God-man.

Nor is mythicism a conspiracy theory promoted by a fringe element. It represents a slow shift of a very stubborn paradigm that has been in place for nearly two millenia.

You need to remember that the idea of a mortal Jesus or Yeshua is a relatively recent idea as well. It developed by some historians who rejected the miracles as impossible fancy. They are unwilling to take the next rational and logical step further and treat the entire Jesus narratives as part of a long line of ancient mythography.

So perhaps you might need to do a proper study of mythology and its influence on societal development.

Please don't compare mythicism to creationism. It is like right wing Republicans calling their liberal opponents Nazis. And hanging on to a few passages in Josephus as positive proof seems like a desperate last stand in the edifice that is HJ which is really the old religious temple only slightly remodelled.

At Thursday, January 26, 2012 4:17:00 AM, Blogger DEEN said...

@unklE:"Why would I trust David, who obviously has limited expertise and an agenda over the consensus of erudite scholars?"
Then what is this nefarious "agenda"? Promoting atheism? Does atheism really stand or fall depending on whether Jesus was a completely fictional character, or only mostly fictional?

Accusing someone of an "agenda" to dismiss their arguments isn't very rational either - especially when you haven't provided anything to back up your accusation, while the person you have accused has explicitly denied it.

At Friday, January 27, 2012 7:40:00 AM, Anonymous Erlend said...

Hi David,

I had posted this on the freethought blog, but think I am posting it here to avoid confusing it with our other conversation.

Part one

I have begun reading your book, and I have some issues with Chapter 1. One argument in particular strike me as exemplifying the types of flaws that I think besets it- your argument at p.44 on Seneca’s “suspicious silence.”

You seem unaware that a commonly assigned dating for Seneca’s De Superstitione is 31 C.E. [see L. Hermann "Seneque et la superstition" 1970 389-396; although others have suggested perhaps 41 C.E] So, depending on your dating of Jesus’ life, he had either just begun or just ended his ministry. Given that Christianity wouldn’t have had the chance to fledge into a religious movement when Seneca was writing, I find the rest of your argument, and flights of imagination about monks selectively removing books, rather superfluous. But there are other problems that arise in your discussion that I think deserve an airing.

You claim: “In his book on Superstition, Seneca the Younger took aim at every known religious sect of his time, pagan and Jewish.”

Unless you are physic (but given your association with several skeptical societies I think not), or you have secretly discovered Seneca’s lost essay you just cannot know what you just claimed. The text is heavily, heavily, fragmented (you can see the 14 remnants in F. Haase’s L. Annaei Senecase Opera quae supersunt III), and no writer tells us what its overview was. All we know is that he critized several foreign cults and the Jews- which was a common practice in Roman intellectual circles to pick a few groups and -rhetorically- spear them. Presenting Seneca as offering an extensive (indeed you claim every known!) list of religions and sects might function to establish your argument’s relevance to your readers, but it is bogus.

At Friday, January 27, 2012 7:41:00 AM, Anonymous Erlend said...

Part two:

You claim: “Remarkably, Augustine’s quotation is all that survives from this particular book. It is very curious that it wasn’t saved, since nearly everything else Seneca wrote was preserved. Christians should have loved a text that attacked Jews and pagans…It is also the only Sececan text we would expect to mention Christianity, the disappearance of this particular book out of well over a hundred surviving writings of Seneca seems suspiciously like the work of snubbed Christian monks.”

There are two rather blatant errors with this argument:

1) If you want to try and suggest someone who would have removed Seneca’s work the likely candidate would have been under someone like Emperor Julian, who would have objected to work, that any Christian, who, as you say, would have presumably been delighted with the work and have just removed or redacted the section on Christianity. You even mention a fact that should have precluded you from assuming that Monks destroyed it. Indeed, your argument seems to hang on assuming the medieval process of producing books. But if Augustine testifies in the early 400′s that his work didn’t include a section on Christian then this was still when the book trade and manuscript tradition was controlled by the a free market of book traders, public libraries, and scribes. You have to wait for centuries before the Church’s monks were responsible for preserving and producing of manuscripts.

2) “Your argument that so anamolous is the lack of this work of Seneca that it is suspicious is a conspiracy of your own making. The numerous lost works of Seneca include his 1) Aegyptiorum; 2) Exhortationes; 3) De Immatura Morte; 4) Libri Moralis Philosophiae, 5) De Matrimonio, 6) De Forma Mundi; 7) De Situ Indiae, while the De uita beata and the 9) De Otio are lacunosed. I mean there is even a book by Dionigi Vottero that collects the fragments from lost books from Seneca! Conte, Fowler, Most, and Solodow, in their history Latin Literature (p.422) even state: “a number of his [Seneca's] philosophical works that were most popular in antiquity have not survived.”

I also have real problems with the argument you make from Diogenes Laertius and Sextus Empiricus, but I think this suffices for now.

Erlend M.

At Friday, January 27, 2012 6:50:00 PM, Blogger conkom said...

Hi Erland,

In your attempt to find flaws in Dave's thesis you are exposing the flaws in your own position. You are not explicit as to what exactly your position might be as I am not part of the on-going dialogue you are having with Dave. But your dismissal of the quite valid proposition about Seneca's silence about Xian sects, from the limited evidence available, does suggest that you are arguing that their non-mention does not mean non-existance. It's sounds like the poem about the man on the stair who wasn't there.

Interestingly you choose to demonise Julian as the culprit who must have destroyed all documents that would testify to the witness of the cult. That says a lot about you. After nearly 1700 years the last Philosopher Emperor is still portrayed as the villain who tried to turn back a newly adopted creed that became the ideology of the military caste that took over the Empire.

We do know that the late fourth century there was a wholesale destruction by militant Xians of pagan writings and culture, especially in Alexandria - the intellectual centre of the era. They were the jihadists of the time. It had less to do with being a free market place. It was a violent clash of ideas in which the last light of pagan enlightenment was extinguished.

The preservation which you correctly identified came much later. But we also owe some gratitude to the Arabs and Moslems who for a short while became the guardians of Western thought.

At Saturday, January 28, 2012 3:51:00 AM, Anonymous Erlend said...


Thank for for the reply. You say David's position on Seneca's Superstitions is indeed valid. Great. But there is nothing in your post that argues for this- you just claim this and reference a poem about a man on stairs. So I am rather struggling to find anything to reply to.

Well I'm not sure if this discussion is best served by getting into any elongated discussion about the late 4th century world, but on Julian and his behaviour please see Adrian Murdoch's work on him. As for the idea of riotous militant Christians going around burning things in Alexandria please have a look at Watt's recent 'Riot in Alexandria: Tradition and Group Dynamics in Late Antique Pagan and Christian Communities' for some context.

Also I'd appreciate it if you could please stop trying to pretend to be able to physiologically evaluate me from my reply to David- you can't, and to be honest its a little bit disconcerting...

At Saturday, January 28, 2012 5:01:00 AM, Blogger conkom said...

Yes Erland, I can see why you would struggle with that allusion and why you might find some comments disconcerting.

I already get a sense about Watt's central premise about 4th century Xianity and the behaviour of its more militant adherents. It follows a long tradition of Apologetics. These days it's simply called denial.

At Saturday, January 28, 2012 5:23:00 AM, Blogger Ignorance said...

Conkom, you might want to check these pages on Christians destroying Pagan writings and culture; true when it comes to their religious writings and buildings but otherwise more dubious:

At Saturday, January 28, 2012 5:32:00 AM, Anonymous Erlend said...


Edward Watts is the expert of the intellectual world on late-antiquity Alexandrian, with already two books on the subject. But again you claim you can get a "sense" of the person and he must be an apologist and in denial.

This habit of not addressing any arguments, and just making inflammatory suggestions about people's personalities and their intentions when they point out what are basic historical facts is strange and unhelpful.

I assume that you are a pleasant person in real life, but that you are blind to how you are interacting with people on here. So please take a breath, go back, re-read my comments and your reply and assess whether you have made any substantive point, or whether your response to a position you don't like is to build an illusory account of their personalities.

If you wish to make a constructive point I will continue to interact with you as politely and courteously as I can. Please try and return the favour.

At Saturday, January 28, 2012 6:06:00 AM, Blogger conkom said...

Erland all I can reply to your comment is that we disagree. I can supply a bibliography of treatises which argue how destructive Xianity was in the 4th Century and you will take these no more seriously than I take Watt's thesis. It will end up being who said what. I am no more convinced Jesus existed than you are he didn't. Let's leave it at that.

At Monday, January 30, 2012 2:11:00 AM, Blogger Ignorance said...

Conkom, I'm a bit curious to the bibliography you refer to here. Could you please name a few books you'd recommend as reading matter on the subject?

At Wednesday, February 01, 2012 11:33:00 PM, Anonymous unkleE said...

Sorry about delay, I have been on holidays.

conkom said: "Scholars believe in an HJ not because of a proper analysis of the very limited evidence available. Old habits die hard. It's called conventional wisdom. "

So this is your belief - that all the scholars at Oxford, Cambridge, Harvard and a hundred other universities have all been so blind as to not recognise their own and each others' blindness and enslavement to "old habits" and "conventional wisdom"?

And you expect me to take you seriously?? Over and against all those scholars, many of whom I have read and have come to respect their integrity and scholarship???

If you have studied the history of HJ research over the past two centuries, you will know that old habits and conventional wisdom do not explain the scholars' present views. Scholarship went through several phases of high criticism, where leading scholars expressed doubts about knowing anything about the historical Jesus. But since about 1980, the tide has turned, due in part to non-believing scholars like EP Sanders, Bart Ehrman and Michael Grant. So far from being the conventional wisdom, the new confidence in our knowledge of Jesus originally went against the conventional wisdom.

So you have a conspiracy theory that is an insult to all the scholars working in the field, and is contradicted by the history of scholarship. You may not like the parallel to YEC, but both are conspiracy theories that attempt to explain away the consensus of eminent scholars and follow the views of non-scholars.

"So perhaps you might need to do a proper study of mythology and its influence on societal development."

This too has been done, again by people who know far more about it than I do, and the hypothesis linking christianity to ancient myths has been generally refuted. But I suppose you don't accept the scholars' views here either?

I think further discussion may be useless, because unless we can agree on the facts, there is nowhere to go. Best wishes.

At Wednesday, February 01, 2012 11:43:00 PM, Anonymous unkleE said...

DEEN said: "@unklE:"Why would I trust David, who obviously has limited expertise and an agenda over the consensus of erudite scholars?"
Then what is this nefarious "agenda"? Promoting atheism? Does atheism really stand or fall depending on whether Jesus was a completely fictional character, or only mostly fictional?"

So what is your answer to my question - why should I trust David over and against the consensus of scholars?

"Accusing someone of an "agenda" to dismiss their arguments isn't very rational either - especially when you haven't provided anything to back up your accusation, while the person you have accused has explicitly denied it."
Are you telling me that David has no personal opinion on the matter? That his metaphysical
views have not influenced him in any way in his historical conclusions? Yet conkom, and perhaps you, can conclude that the broad mass of scholars, individually and collectively, cannot remain impartial??? How does that work???

One of the problems with scepticism and conspiracy theories is that the sceptics can be selectively sceptical, and they can expect us to believe everyone else is conspiring against the truth but they are the lone ones not doing so. Do you see, as an outsider, how I might find that difficult to believe?

Do you perhaps see that the scholars you impugn, and I who broadly speaking trust them, might feel just as pissed off at your nasty allegations as you all seem to feel right now???

At Thursday, February 02, 2012 7:21:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To David Fitzgerald:

This is an amusing post I came across by pure chance, as I had never visited this blog before. The comment by its owner seems to describe some tactics used to amplify the impact of his negative reviews. Interesting.

Re: New Book Review Blog - Armarium Magnum
« Reply #90 on Jun 6, 2011, 6:35am »
Since I had to go back to the page for Nailed several times while writing my review, I couldn't help notice that he has received eleven 4-5 star reviews (by the clueless) and only a handful of 1 star ones that were largely of the "this book offends my faith" variety.

So I added a cut down version of my Armarium Magnum review.

It hasn't had enough "This review is helpful" votes yet, so it's sunk beneath the glowing reviews from the "this book confirms my prejudices" brigade, so if anyone here wants to head over to Amazon via the link above and give my review a boost that might help dent Fitzgerald's sales.
Link to Post - Back to Top Logged
Tim O'Neill
Undogmatic Atheist Medievalist

Armarium Magnum - Reviews of Books on Ancient and Medieval History and Culture

At Monday, March 19, 2012 12:11:00 AM, Anonymous Matthew S. North said...

Hello David,
Well it's March and Bart Ehrman's new book "Did Jesus Exist" just came out. I just placed my order for it at and I'm eager to read it, although I expect to be disappointed by it. He has a video posted at his website about it. From what I can tell from the video he intends to say in the book that many major historical figures like, Pontius Pilate, Julius Caesar, Mark Antony, like Jesus, left little historical evidence of their existence yet we don't question their existence. I've bought and read (and really enjoyed) your book and tend to think
Jesus was mythical but honestly I'm agnostic about a historical Jesus. I follow your's and Robert M. Prices's blogs and I've read Prices's books too. I'm commenting because I'm keenly interested in reading a careful review of Ehrman's book by you here. I know you will but, not only that, I hope to see you, R.M.Price or someone in the skeptical community debate Ehrman about the historicity of Jesus. Would you? Could someone set that up? In the last few years we've all been watching many debates between atheists and believers about, "is there a god", "did the resurrection happen" or "is the bible reliable". The same tired assertions by believers are thrown out always to be solidly countered by skeptics. A debate between a skeptic and Ehrman on the historic Jesus would be much more interesting though. Well, I loved your book Nailed and, like everyone, I love your Skepticon presentations especially Skepticon3. I've watched that one on YouTube about a fifty times.
Thanks M.S.North.

At Tuesday, May 01, 2012 11:04:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think that modern Christ Myth supporters are ignoring a key example of how valid their argument is: The John Frum Cargo cult.

Here you have the John Frum of the cult and the John Frum history records with the only real similarity being their name.

Cult John Frum: Appears in vision 1931, white literate US serviceman. In the Prince Philip Movement variant he is brother to Prince Philip a known historical person

Historical John Frum: Illiterate native named Manehivi takes up the name John Frum causes trouble and is exiled off the island in 1941

There was even an attempt at proving the cult John From was a myth in 1957 and it failed (Lal, Brij V.; Kate Fortune (2000) The Pacific Islands: an encyclopedia; University of Hawaii Press; ISBN: 978-0824822651; Pg 303)

This is taylor made for Christ mythers and disprove the apologists biggest claim that religious movements have to have a historical leader.

At Thursday, December 20, 2012 1:47:00 PM, Blogger Larry Jeffery said...

Yesterday I discovered your book and I could not put it down. A great achievement, thank you. Modern scholarship is explaining so much. It should be required reading in every bible college. Not surprised at the ONeil rant, for all the positives of modern communications it does give free access to all sorts of nasty people. Keep up the good work and thanks again.

At Sunday, January 20, 2013 10:07:00 PM, Anonymous Phil Robinson said...

I defend 'Nailed' by David Fitzgerald at Christ Myth Group and Christ Mythicists page on facebook along with the work of other mythicist authors/speakers.
I first defended it in my local freethinker group and the guy I debated has a signed copy.
I'm Dave's rw friend since Skepticon 5 & I hope to see him at Skep 6.

At Sunday, January 20, 2013 10:21:00 PM, Anonymous Phil Robinson said...

Christ Myth Group is currently listed in web search as
Come see and share with us about 'Nailed' & other interesting mythicist works including 'The Amazing Colossal Apostle'-Robert M. Price

At Sunday, December 29, 2013 6:50:00 PM, Blogger gbarrett said...

I have only recently stumbled on this debate and have read various sides. I find it interesting that defenders of the HJ theory, a very weakly supported theory, tend to overreact with emotional diatribes trotting out long beaten dead horses. Wouldn't it be more fruitful to engage in more rational rhetoric? Seriously, when you read about the defense of paradigms, you find that the old guard often throws just such stones from the crumbling walls (a couple of books that touch on this are Sway and the Signal and the Noise). I smell fear behind diatribes like O'Neill's.

At Tuesday, January 14, 2014 8:28:00 PM, Blogger Acefondu said...

"But before he pulls his most weakest, most chicken-shit maneuver of all - telling critics not to bother posting on his comment thread"

Isn't that something PZ Myers, Watson, and Carrier all do unabashedly? They even tout what great tools blocking comments are and how inhibiting dissenting opinion allows them to make their sites look how they's utterly embarrassing.

At Wednesday, December 03, 2014 2:12:00 PM, Anonymous Samson said...

Excellent riposte to Mr. O'Neill's incredibly intellectually weak criticisms. I read his post and kept shaking my head at how poor it was. He is as intellectually deep as a birdbath. Keep up the great work, Dave, and don't let the mental midget detractors get you down.

At Monday, April 13, 2015 10:38:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't be put off by that guy. Timmy's probably a tad jealous. Having read his responses to criticism elsewhere, it's safe to say that he's not all there. Reminds me a bit of Maurice Casey, but with less knowledge.

At Monday, June 22, 2015 2:05:00 PM, Blogger Roedy said...

you said a new book Jesus Mything in action would come out in 2014. How is it doing?

At Sunday, April 17, 2016 11:52:00 PM, Blogger marriert said...

Very well wrote, David! You like Carrier and Price are beacons of truth and reason in this dark world that finally begins to get brighter! The night of christian guilt is almost over! Bravo and I love your fiery zeal in your debates, your blogs, your character! I was raised Jehovah's Witness, 25 years! I cannot express the relief of my escape! The burden lifted! Above all, the responsibility towards my fellowman centered in me instead of ill-founded chaotic beliefs! Thank you my friend and we are here for you! Not faith, CONFIDENCE, DETERMINATION, TRUTH!

At Tuesday, April 19, 2016 7:26:00 AM, Blogger Larry Jeffery said...

When apologists claim the success of Christianity is a reason to believe it must be true ignores the fact that A) 2 thousand years of success compared to 200,000 years of human existence is negligible. B) It ignores Asia which is the majority of humanity and most of it is not Christian. c) What the actual common person believes is not what the theocrats believe. A huge majority have not read the bible and have little idea of what the religious leaders of the thousands of denominations claim. They accept the faith of their fathers. D) The fact that Europeans gained an advantage in science in the 15th century enabled them to become powerful and expand. It had nothing to do with Christianity. With out that Christianity would still be a small European based faith. E) Every year the evidence Christianity is merely a reworked religion that evolved out of Solar based religions and was never based on a single individual.

At Tuesday, April 19, 2016 7:32:00 AM, Blogger Larry Jeffery said...

A vast majority of western religious scholars are believing Christians does any one believe that fact does not taint their work. Believers in Islam or Judaism or Hinduism not surprisingly write books supporting their belief. Its only recently the internet has given voice to thinkers who don't have access to the vast amount of money wealthy believers provide fellow travelers.

At Thursday, July 13, 2017 10:22:00 AM, Blogger Turtles Galore said...

This is clear bunk. Aside from O'Neill's entire scathing debunking of this fanciful fiction;

There is also much fiction in this post that O'Neill did not take to task about Paul. The Greek word ἄρχων is always used in the New Testament in virtually every case (with a tiny exception I'm aware of in Ephesians 2) to refer to earthly, physical rulers. This includes Acts 7:27, Luke 14:1, John 7:48, Matthew 9:18, and in best parallel as well as in Paul's very own letters, Romans 13:3. I'm not even sure if David Fitzgerald thinks Paul wrote Ephesians, so it can be considered almost assured that Paul was strictly speaking of earthly rulers in 1 Corinthians 2:8, ending mythicism.

There is also no group in the New Testament called the "brothers of the Lord", this was simply applied to James because he was actually Jesus' brother (Mark 6:3; Mattew 13:55-56, Antiquities of the Jews XX.9.1). 1 Corinthians 15:6 doesn't refer to the "brothers of the lord", it just mentions "brothers and sisters".

Finally, Fitzgerald tries to dismiss Paul's references to Jesus' actual crucifixion and burial by saying Paul only believes this because it was "prophesied" -- however it's obvious to modern scholars that Christians didn't invent things about Jesus based on prophecies, but rather took Jesus' events and life and tried to manually look for prophecies to confirm them. And even putting this drawback from Fitzgerald's argument away, it still would not follow that "because the Old Testament prophesied it, therefore crucifixion in Paul's letters refers to the sublunar realm" -- a complete non-sequitur. In any effect, it would actually demonstrate that Paul believed in an earthly Jesus because the Old Testament doesn't prophecy anyone getting crucified and buried in the sublunar realm.

Fitzgerald makes a yawning attempt at the "Peter you're my rock and on you I'll build my church" (or something) quote, but Jesus symbolically refers to Peter as a 'rock', and hence it's clear Jesus symbolically refers to His group of followers as the 'church' on this 'rock' -- this phrase simply (and obviously) means that Peter will lead and expand Christendom (so to speak).

And mythicists genuinely can't believe scholars do not take them seriously. This is remarkable.

At Thursday, July 13, 2017 11:25:00 AM, Blogger Larry Jeffery said...

All of the finer details of religions are interesting to study but in the end irrelevant, the bottom line is if there were gods they wouldn't send messages through magic tricks.

At Wednesday, July 26, 2017 2:48:00 AM, Blogger Jerry Cornelius said...

A little off-topic but ...

I just purchased vol 1 of Mything In Action from the Australian Amazon site. The cost? $6.66. What more is there to say?

At Wednesday, July 26, 2017 2:24:00 PM, Blogger conkom said...

I've purchased all three volumes and I'm presently half way through the final book. I cannot recommend these enough

At Saturday, December 30, 2017 5:36:00 PM, Blogger orzel-W said...

I've been reading and enjoying Vol. 1 of Mything In Action lately. One item has me puzzled as to whether it's a typo, a parody, or literal. Around p. 284 there are about three instances where you refer to the "True Site of Cavalry" (rather than Calvary. Since it's in quotes, I don't know if the original source(s) actually wrote it that way.

At Wednesday, July 01, 2020 2:20:00 PM, Blogger Simmo said...

Wrote this for Dave's blog but think it's relevant for you too. Enjoy

Hi, I'm not sure exactly how to understand all the bible accounts of Jesus. But at some point when I was an agonostic I started experiencing Jesus talking to me especially through various scriptures (had bible drummed into me as kid). It was very clear and relevant, but I thought I must be going mad, one of the things I "heard" (in my mind) was "ask anything in my name and it will be done for you". So I asked if what I was experiencing was real then God would speak to me as a man to a man and not just through my mind. Shortly after I had such an experience of God - through all the shit in life this amazing experience (especially three words of the dialogue- "I love you" during which I experienced eternity in Gods presence have convinced me God truely is good - unlike the God of my childhood or the evidence and contradictions I often experience in my life. Shortly after this I still doubted who God really was and asked God to show me and take away my doubts once and for all. Immeadiately I heard the response "they pierced my hands and my feet" actually a quote from an OT psalm but one that really confirmed to me that God really did identify him/herself in the historical man Jesus of N. Again at my baptism I experienced a rushing wind around the room at the time like the Holy Spirit is described in Acts and lost a terrible fear I had of public speaking. Since then have not infrequently experienced this same voice guiding me in life at various times and have found it is always pretty reliable.

I often ask myself why me? I would so not believe what I do with all the apparent contradictions in scripture and church tradition and life were it not for these experiences. And if someone else hasn't had these experiences I can so understand especially in today's culturwhy the God man story seems so extraordinary and like a fairytale.

Anyhow my recommendation to everyone is keep searching for truth. Do it with love to those who don't have your understanding yet. I am more than convinced that my Good God was crucified for the sake of all of creation (fine with evolution lol) and will not fail to bring everyone of his/her children home. Truth and Love are two important ways we can experience God, and further the cause even if we haven't come to an understanding of God yet. He/she lives in all of us doing good whether we know it or not.

I find the historical analysis of scripture so fascinating. Firstly I found Tim's blog convincing, then I read Dave's response and it seems to me he's not nessesary as amateurish as I was expecting from him. Next gonna read Tims response to Dave response lol. Surely as the proverbs says "the first to speak seems right till another steps forward and questions him"

Anyhow blessing all. I truely believe God as our Father truely loved all and will not fail in revealing his love to each and everyone. I picture many atheists, agnostics etc who just sought truth, to love and do good being supprised on their death to receive a warm welcome and well done good and faithful servant, and those not immeadiately welcomed including many "believers" going through a preparation age of corrective discipline before also being welcomed in. The devil too eventually -assuming such a being is real - a very humbled and grateful devil welcomed back in. Everything brought into unity in Christ and Christ in everyone and everything :)

Walk with humility everything is not always as it seems.

Thanks Dave and all the other valuable contributors :)


At Tuesday, May 17, 2022 9:27:00 AM, Blogger Unknown said...

David. - you might like an interview with myself.
My most famous book is “Jesus, King of Edessa”.
An analysis of the historicity of Jesus, from an Atheist perspective.
And I think I have found him, as a king of Edessa (has the same name and life).
I cannot find any contact details for you.
My facebook is: ralphellis.144
Or try website: edfu-books dot com

Best regards,
Ralph Ellis


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