The Religious A priori


Answer to Peter Kirby

Defending "No other Versions" Argument against Kirby

This is the refuation of one of my historical Jesus arguments by Peter Kirby, first appeared on Infidels.

The Orignal Argument is found here.

My argument says:

1) Mythology tends to proliforate:multiple story versions are common

2) When historical facts are known to a wide audience, people tend not to deny the basic facts of an event.

a) eye witnesses keep it stairght

b) People who try to invent new aspects of the event are confronted with the fact that most everyone knows better.

c) people know the story for a fact and just dont' bother to change it.

3) Story proliforations would probably influence further tellings, thus creating many more documents with different versions of the same story.

4) If a myth proliforates we would tend to find more versions of the same story, when there is only one version we can accept a degree of certainty that the story did not proliforate.

5) We do not find a proliforation of versions of the Jesus story in any sources we know of.

6) The most logical way to account for this single Jesus story is through p2, that everyone knew it was the case, there were too many eye witnesses to spread new versions.

a) It is illogical to assume that everyone just liked it so they didn't add to it.

b) There was no canonization process in place in the early period, and the single unified verison existed from the earliest trace of the story.

7)Therefore, we can assume that it is probably the case that the masses were familiar with the story of Jesus because the story reflects events known by all to be factual.

The main thing that myths do is change. Given enough time, a myth will transmography until the names of the heroes are different, how they died is forgotten and retold so many times, there came to be multiple versions of their death. Myths change over time, but history does not. People remember a basic event they know its real, they don't forget it. Herclues has two deaths, in one he's poisaned, in another shot with an arrow. There are about 14 versions of the Tamuz myth. But there is only one way for the guys at the Alamo to die, there is only one death for Arthur, and there is only one way that Jesus Christ is ver portrayed as dying, that's by the cross. Why? Because that's how he really died. No one could deny it, so no one ever propossed another method.

I have made the argument, on message boards, that there are no alternate versions of the basic Gospel story. The point being, there are many versions of most myths. The fact that with tons of "other Gospels" not a one of them before the fourth century gives an alternate account of Jesus life, death, burial and resurrection is a good indication that everyone knew the basic facts, they were public knowledge because they were history; these things happened before the community of Jerusalem, the whole community was a witness and no one could deny it.Now skeptics have responded that certain alternate Gospels deny the resurrection. They name the Apochraphon of James. This is not true. As will be seen from what I quote below James does mention the resurrection. Some of the latter Gnostics denied the theology of the Virginal conception, but they still allude to the story. They denied that Jesus' death was real, but they do not deny that it happened, only that he was not a flesh and blood being and so could not die. What they accept is that the illusion of a flesh and blood man lived on the earth and was taken for a real person why all who saw him.

That is a fundamental mistake of Dohrtey (the champion of the "Christ-myth" theory), he thinks all the action originally was set in a heavily realm, that is not the case. The Gnostics generally accepted that the illusion of a man was seen on earth and seemed to be living among men. So they just spiritualized the history of Jesus.Below I will quote from several "other Gospels" to show that they affirm the deity of Christ, the resurrection, that they include references to many of the stories and periscopes in the canonical Gospels, and that they assume the general outline of the story that we call "fact."

In summarizing Kirby's refutation, observe two major overall facts:

(1)he never shows any other versions of the story.

He doesnt' dow hat he sets out to do. His evidence incidates deniel of the story (the only story there is) or it seeks to expalin and re-interpirt, but he never presents a different story; the major outline (as indicated by my 11 points) is always assumed.

(2) Most of the examples he uses come from after the cut off date

my orginal argument asserts that within the first 400 years there are no other versions. Most of Peter's examples are getting up there near the 400 year mark or over it.

One other point:

(3)That's an arbitrary mark, because the basic logic of the argument still works by a 200 year cut off date too. I chose it arbitrarily. Peter wants to be legalistic and assert that one counter example beats the argument, I think that runs counter to good sholarhsip and the pursuit of truth. IF he would take the argument seriousy he would see that what matters is really the first century when everything was set in stone, but the futher we move form the time the more set it stone it becomes.

Now here begins Peter's refutation:

A rebuttal to an argument for a historical Jesus. by Peter Kirby (May 22, 2003)
This is an argument made by Metacrock for a historical Jesus:

No Alternate versions of Jesus' story

Kirby:All of these mythical figures change over time, but not Jesus. There is basically one Jesus story and it's always the same.

1) Jesus lived on earth as a man from the beginning of the first century to AD 33.
2) That his mother was supposed to be a Virgin named "Mary."
3) Same principal players: Peter, Andrew, Philip, John, Mary Magdalene.
4) That Jesus was known as a miracle worker.
5) He claimed to be the son of God and Messiah.
6) He was crucified under Pilate.
7) Around the time of the Passover.
8) At noon.
9) Rose from the dead leaving an empty tomb.
10) Several women with Mary Magdalene discovered the empty tomb.
11) This was in Jerusalem.

There were hundreds of sources, different books and Gospels and Acts, that never made it into the New Testament. The Jesus story is re-told countless times from early days (around AD50 first written) to the fourth century, before there was ever a major alteration in any of these basic details. Even after that time, no one ever disagreed with these points listed above.

So, the claim is being made that the story of Jesus is told over and over again without significant variation, at least up through the time of the fourth century. As a definition of what it means to have the same story without variation, Metacrock offers a list of 11 basic details that never change in the telling.

Over against this argument, I contend that there is at least one document from the fourth century or earlier that reveals that some people did not agree with at least one of the basic details above. I will show my contention by actually pointing out disagreement with each of the eleven. But note well that only one of the eleven has to fail in order for the claim to be false that these basic details were unalterable. It is as though I am firing eleven cannon balls, and only one has to hit to sink the No Alternate Versions argumentative ship.

Meta: But I think we will find that all of Kirby's refutations fail to meet the criteria I speicifed. They must alternate versions that came after the fourth century. Now I don't think I should be held to that in a strict way. After all, 200 years after the events is a long time. So if they come in AD233 that's a long time and doesnt' really present a serious challenge.

We also find that there are veriations, but none of them present a truely differnt story. None of them show Jesus being hung rather than curcified, none of them show that his mother's name is Louise or Zelda, rather than mary.

Now Kirby argues that if only one poit fails the calim is false. That's just too legalistic. The past logic of the argument stands even if some of the data is a bit off. But it wont be! I don't think any of them will fail.

I'll tell you now I'v refutted this several times on Boards, this version is no better. The Sec Webers assume Kirby's victory hands down, but I dont' think so!

Kirby: 1) Jesus lived on earth as a man from the beginning of the first century to AD 33.

Note the ambiguity in the first part of this statement. There are two basic pieces of data about the time of Jesus' birth in the Gospel of Luke, one of which is that it was before the death of Herod (circa 4 BCE) and the other is that it was during the census of Quirinius (circa 7 CE). There are ingenious attempts to harmonize this data, usually by placing Jesus' birth before 4 BCE. But we see already the tendenz of this list of eleven major points: it was designed so as to avoid mentioning details that actually disagree with each other in our sources (rather than simply picking out important claims). I intend to show that, despite this design, the list fails.

Meta: So what if the figure "33 years" is off by four or seven. who cares? The point is he was a concrete historical figure. That sort of shilly shallying that is transforming Biblical schoalrship into cheap polemics, farnky I thought Peter was beyond that short of thing. Sorry to see that he's not.

In anyway, I think Sir William Ramsy put to bed thsi shollow nonsense about the census, and other more recent scholars have noted Quarinius was in twice. So this is all to read about on my Luke page:

Doxa: Luke

kirby: From the data provided by Josephus, we estimate that Pilate was prefect of Judea from 26 to 36 CE. The canonical Gospels do tell us that the crucifixion of Jesus was under Pilate and that its day was in some relation to the Passover, which after much puzzling over calendrical systems has produced the dates of 30 and 33 as the most popular years for scholars to place the death of Jesus. (Meier's A Marginal Jew, vol. 1, is a good source for this scholarship, with a favored year of 30 CE.) But none of the canonical Gospels give us data that would allow us to fix the date at 33 CE precisely. The closest thing to an absolute reference for dating in the Gospels is in reference to the start of John the Baptist's ministry in "the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar" (Luke 3:1) which may be 27 or 28 or 29 CE depending on the method of calculation of the regnal years. Even if there were no data that contradicted a date of the death of Jesus as being 33 CE, there is no ancient source that says this in the first place, so it shouldn't be on the list.

Meta: He's trying to shift the focuss to his turf. He can't come up with an alternate version of the Jesus story, so he has to quibble with dates. let's say he's right and we can't establish 33 AD. But every version of the Jesus story in the houndreds of documents says that Jesus was crucified under Pilate. So that gives us a rough window for when the evetns transpired. Kriby's obfuscation not withstanding, he offers no alternate version with Jesus being hung, stabed, exiled or killed in any other way, or in any time period.

kirby: But there is a fourth century tradition that Jesus was executed long before 33 CE. Maximin Daia published an "Acts of Pilate" (around 311 CE) that bear a date of circa 20 or 21 CE. F. F. Bruce writes: "These 'Acts', which were full of outrageous assertions about Jesus, had to be read and memorized by schoolchildren. They were manifestly forged, as Eusebius historian pointed out at the time; among other things, their dating was quite wrong, as they placed the death of Jesus in the seventh year of Tiberius (AD 20), whereas the testimony of Josephus' is plain that Pilate not become procurator of Judaea till Tiberius' Twelfth year (not to mention the evidence of Luke iii. 1, according to which John the Baptist began to preach in fifteenth year of Tiberius)." (The New Testament Documents) It would be interesting to know what else was contained in this document, but no copy survives.

Meta: Just doesnt' fit the criteia. First, I said I'm dealing with the first four centuries, this is form the foruth century. So that's out of the time preiod anyway. Secondly, it doesnt' deal with chaning anything, it's not an alterante version, it just bothers the tiem frame a bit, but not sigifnicantly.

kirby The following statement is made by Epiphanius (Haer., xxix. 3): "Now the throne and kingly seat of David is the priestly office in Holy Church; for the Lord combined the kingly and high-priestly dignities into one and the same office, and bestowed them upon His Holy Church, transferring to her the throne of David, which ceases not as long as the world endues. The throne of David continued by succession up to that time - namely, till Christ Himself - without any failure from the princes of Judah, until it came unto Him for whom were 'the things that are stored up,' who is Himself 'the expectation of the nations.' For with the advent of the Christ, the succession of the princes from Judah, who reigned until the Christ Himself, ceased. The order [of succession] failed and stopped at the time when He was born in Bethlehem of Judaea, in the days of Alexander, who was of high-priestly and royal race; and after this Alexander this lot failed, from the times of himself and Salina, who is also called Alexandra, for the times of Herod the King and Augustus Emperor of the Romans ; and this Alexander, one of the anointed (or Christs) and ruling princes placed the crown on his own head. . . . After this a foreign king, Herod, and those who were no longer of the family of David, assumed the crown." Although Epiphanius elsewhere places the birth of Christ in the forty-second year of Augustus (about 2 BCE), this passage places the life of Jesus around 100 BCE. There is an analysis of this and similar Jewish traditions in G. R. S. Mead's book reproduced here: Did Jesus Live 100 B.C.? So, while we might regard these alternative traditions about the period of Christ's life as dubious, we cannot argue as if there is universal agreement on the dates of his birth and death.

Meta: who says we need universal agreement on the date of his birth? that wasn't the nautrue of my argument. he's created his own argument to answer the way he sees fit. It doesnt' match the argument I made. Moreover, I would argue that the passage is misunderstood; otherwise, Epiphanias own contradictions disqualifyit as a valid source. But it doesn't constute another version of the story. I never said the exact date is what I had in mind when I spoke of "verions of the story.

Kirby: 2) That his mother was supposed to be a Virgin named "Mary." I am not aware of any tradition in which the mother of Jesus is given a name other than Mary. But there is disagreement on whether Mary was a virgin when she conceived Jesus.

Meta: Of course there is, because the anti-missionary factions spread propaganda. That's not another version of the story, it's not put over as another version because it palys off of the version we know, the one and only version. It's just re-interpriteing the only version there is, and for obviously self intrested reasons!

Kirby: Origen quotes the Jewish interlocutor of Celsus in Contra Celsum 1.32: "when she was pregnant she was turned out of doors by the carpenter to whom she had been betrothed, as having been guilty of adultery, and she bore a child to a certain soldier named Panthera." This is a tradition that denies the Virgin birth.

Meta: The info we have from Celsus is the same as that of the Mishna. Obviously it seems the Celsus used the Mishna. This plays off the only story we have, and it confirms that that story was around in the frist century.

Kirby In fact, there is disagreement on whether Jesus was born at all. Hippolytus of Rome writes in his Refutation of All Heresies, book 7, chapter 19: "Marcion, adopting these sentiments, rejected altogether the generation of our Saviour. He considered it to be absurd that tinder the (category of a) creature fashioned by destructive Discord should have been the Logos that was an auxiliary to Friendship--that is, the Good Deity. (His doctrine,) however, was that, independent of birth, (the Logos) Himself descended from above in the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar, and that, as being intermediate between the good and bad Deity, He proceeded to give instruction in the synagogues. For if He is a Mediator, He has been, he says, liberated from the entire nature of the Evil Deity. Now, as he affirms, the Demiurge is evil, and his works. For this reason, he affirms, Jesus came down unbegotten, in order that He might be liberated from all (admixture of) evil."

Meta: (1) My argument makes allowed for Gnostic veriations. this is clealry one. The idea of being born was anathema to the Gnsotics.

(2) Marcion was a couple of centuries after the events, so it's getting up there toward the end of the time frame. As Gnstoicism begins to sperad we can expect Gnstoic verisatoins on the story. But the basic story is already set in stone.

Kirby: 3) Same principal players: Peter, Andrew, Philip, John, Mary Magdalene. Here is some data on the "principal players" mentioned in early Christian writings.

1 Clement mentions Peter and Paul.

The Ignatian Epistles mention Peter and Paul as well as Mary.

The Gospel of Thomas mentions Thomas, James the Just, Simon Peter, Matthew, Mary, and Salome.

Meta: I never said those were the only three, we can expect the casts to very. leaving one out in some peice is no proof that person wasnt' part of the doings. but the strong inclusion of Peter and mary indicates they must have been historical figures.

no one doubts Paul's historicity.

Kirby: The Gospel of Peter mentions Mary Magdalene, Simon Peter, Andrew, Levi the son of Alphaeus, and most likely others in the lost portions of the text.

The Apocalypse of Peter mentions the twelve disciples but not by name.

The Secret Book of James mentions the 'twelve disciples' as well as James, Peter, and John.

The Preaching of Peter mentions the 'twelve' as well as Peter.

The Gospel of the Egyptians mentions Salome.

The Gospel of the Hebrews mentions James the Just and Simon.

The Gospel of the Ebionites mentions Simon Peter, John and James the sons of Zebedee, Simon, Andrew, Philip, Bartholomew, James the son of Alphaeus, Thomas, Thaddaeus, Simon the Zealot, and Judas the Iscariot.

The Gospel of the Nazoreans mentions Simon.

The Traditions of Matthias mentions Zaccheus whom they call Matthias, the tax collector.

The Apology of Aristides mentions the 'twelve disciples'.

The epistle of Polycarp mentions Paul and 'the rest of the apostles'.

Papias mentions Andrew, Peter, Philip, Thomas, James, John, Matthew, and Judas.

The Gospel of Mary mentions Mary, Peter, and Andrew.

The Dialogue of the Savior mentions Judas, Matthew, and Mary.

Second Clement mentions Peter.

The Epistula Apostolorum mentions John, Thomas, Peter, Andrew, James, Philip, Batholomew, Matthew, Nathanael, Judas Zelotes, and Cephas as well as Joseph and Mary.

I have also written an essay on the tradition of The Seven Apostles.

It is apparent, then, that the main players are not fixed in early Christian literature. Indeed it is one of the most fluid variables.

Meta: Observe:

(1) the same basic three in every list he mentions; Peter, Mary M. and Andere or Johbn.

(2) most of the sources include most of the names of the 12,

(3) only the more obsrue members very

(4) someone like Bartholemew beign mentione din Epistel of the Apotels and not in Apochropon of JOhn is not indiative of fluidity in membership of the inner cirlce, nor it is another version of the story.

(5) in the lists of women, MM and Mary the mother are mentioned in almost everyone, none fo them are absenet MM, and most that include a third woman or more include Salome.

It's not indicative of fulidity because there are at least 200 members to choose from. We know Christ sent out 70 preachers at one time. We know women traveled within at one ponit, we know his groupies grew over time, and he progbalby had a couple of hundred in his ontoroge when the rode the donkey into Jerusalem. So it's absurd to think every single source woud just mention every single follower. But the most prominmat and stable and present in almost every source Kirby meintions. i thin that stengthens my argument a lot. i have to thank Pete for helping.

Kirby has added such good documentation backing my argument on this point I think I will quote it in the orignal argument!

Kirby: 4) That Jesus was known as a miracle worker. This point I may have to concede, if only for the reason that anyone could be a "miracle worker" in ancient times, and the rules of riposte dictate that the refutation of a claim to miraculous powers is the charge of magic or devilry. These two charges are found frequently enough, expressing disagreement over who Jesus was and what he did.

On Jesus being in league with the devil, we need look no further than the canonical four (Mark 3:22 etc.). On Jesus as a magician, the Jewish Encyclopedia notes:

According to Celsus (in Origen, "Contra Celsum," i. 28) and to the Talmud (Shab. 104b), Jesus learned magic in Egypt and performed his miracles by means of it; the latter work, in addition, states that he cut the magic formulas into his skin. It does not mention, however, the nature of his magic performances (Tosef., Shab. xi. 4; Yer. Shab. 13d); but as it states that the disciples of Jesus healed the sick "in the name of Jesus Pandera" (Yer. Shab. 14d; 'Ab. Zarah 27b; Eccl. R. i. 8) it may be assumed that its author held the miracles of Jesus also to have been miraculous cures. Different in nature is the witchcraft attributed to Jesus in the "Toledot." When Jesus was expelled from the circle of scholars, he is said to have returned secretly from Galilee to Jerusalem, where he inserted a parchment containing the "declared name of God" ("Shem ha-Meforash"), which was guarded in the Temple, into his skin, carried it away, and then, taking it out of his skin, he performed his miracles by its means. This magic formula then had to be recovered from him, and Judah the Gardener (a personage of the "Toledot" corresponding to Judas Iscariot) offered to do it; he and Jesus then engaged in an aerial battle (borrowed from the legend of Simon Magus), in which Judah remained victor and Jesus fled.

The accusation of magic is frequently brought against Jesus. Jerome mentions it, quoting the Jews: "Magum vocant et JudÃ?i Dominum meum" ("Ep. lv., ad Ascellam," i. 196, ed. Vallarsi); Marcus, of the sect of the Valentinians, was, according to Jerome, a native of Egypt, and was accused of being, like Jesus, a magician (Hilgenfeld, "Ketzergesch." p. 370, Leipsic, 1884).

Meta: that's just padding the argument. Come on, he's not saying anything. we should expect his enemies to make propagandistic stamtents. We can't regard that as another version of the story, because it's just a matter of the way you look at one of them major elements; his followers say he was a wonder worker, his enemeis say he was a devil worker. Doesnt' amount to another version.

Kirby: Now, we might say that the sources agree in Jesus working "apparent miracles" and that the cause was interpreted variously. But, then, I cannot think of a single example in ancient literature in which it is denied that a person worked "apparent miracles." That would become an issue with the rise of naturalistic inquiry during the Enlightenment.

Meta: Holding documents that Tacitus had a hobby of exposing false resurrections. Apollonias of Tyanna was said to have forged his miracles. I am not sure of the source, but there had to be a report from someone of that era to know the secrets.

but i'm not sure what this as to do with anytying. My argument was not that reports of Jesus' mriacles prove that he really worked miracles, but just that this is another stable charactoristic which we find in all versions of the story. taht's all I said. Its' an obvious one that doesn't prove anything along, fine. But it's still stable from one telling to the next. There are not other versions of it, except propaganda by his enemies.

They didn't have to quibble with the concept that miracles can be done, to argue that Jesus himself did not do them.

Kirby: The ancients denied the power of Jesus by accusing him of working magic, which was a regular profession in ancient times. It would make no more sense to say that Jesus didn't perform "apparent miracles" than it would to deny that he was a carpenter. Consider the statement of Julian the Apostate: "Yet Jesus, who won over the least worthy of you, has been known by name for but little more than three hundred years; and during his lifetime he accomplished nothing worth hearing of, unless anyone thinks that to heal crooked and blind men and to exorcize those who were possessed by evil demons in the villages of Bethsaida and Bethany can be classed as a mighty achievement." Consider also the statement of Celsus as reported by Origen:

But after this, Celsus, having a suspicion that the great works performed by Jesus, of which we have named a few out of a great number, would be brought forward to view, affects to grant that those statements may be true which are made regarding His cures, or His resurrection, or the feeding of a multitude with a few loaves, from which many fragments remained over, or those other stories which Celsus thinks the disciples have recorded as of a marvellous nature; and he adds: "Well, let us believe that these were actually wrought by you." But then he immediately compares them to the tricks of jugglers, who profess to do more wonderful things, and to the feats performed by those who have been taught by Egyptians, who in the middle of the market-place, in return for a few obols, will impart the knowledge of their most venerated arts, and will expel demons from men, and dispel diseases, and invoke the souls of heroes, and exhibit expensive banquets, and tables, and dishes, and dainties having no real existence, and who will put in motion, as if alive, what are not really living animals, but which have only the appearance of life. And he asks, "Since, then, these persons can perform such feats, shall we of necessity conclude that they are 'sons of God,' or must we admit that they are the proceedings of wicked men under the influence of an evil spirit?" You see that by these expressions he allows, as it were, the existence of magic. Granting this lack of contradiction, though, the appearance of the miracle tradition is not universal. In particular, the Gospel of Thomas presents over 114 sayings of Jesus without mentioning any of his miracles. It would not be far-fetched to suppose that the authors had no belief in Jesus as a miracle worker.

Meta: At this point Peter is bending over backward to deny anything he can. Because, first he doesnt' really deny the point. Secondly, I dont' try to claim it's that importnat by tiself. Thirdly, his point about Thomas is just argument from silence. Just becasue not every source talks about Jesus' mircles, we cannot take that as deniel of them! Moreover, Thomas does speak of Jesus coming down from heaven in the flesh; one might take that to be a miracle.

Kirby: 5) He claimed to be the son of God and Messiah. The medieval Gospel of Barnabas has Jesus saying, "I am not the Messiah." It is rather ridiculous to imagine that is historical, of course, unless it played out like a scene in the Life of Brian, with would-be devotees forcing an unwilling man to be the Messiah (and they should know, they've followed a few).

Meta: A pretty long time after the 400 year cut off date for my argument.

Kirby: Even Celsus had Jesus return from Egypt, puffed up by magical prowess, claiming to be a son of God. Paradoxically, the type of people who would circulate the idea that Jesus didn't claim to be the son of God would only be those who respected what Jesus said and thought Jesus wasn't supernatural. I am not aware of any such people until modern times, with the possible exception of the Ebionites. The Ebionites did say that Jesus was only a man, and they are recorded in the second century on that count, but I am not aware of a specific passage in which the Ebionites said Jesus didn't claim to be the Messiah.

Meta: Pete is the only guy I know who can contradict himself in mid sentence and make it sound like a srength. The Ebionites contraict his argument.

Moreover, one might observe the return form Egypt, Jesus leaning magic in egypt and so forth are things Edersheim quotes from Heberw sources. So this backs up my theory that Celsus used the mishna as his source. He dug into the richest vein of anti-Jesus propaganda, so if we read it backwards, to take out the negatives, we find it is good hisorical evidence supporting Jesus historicity in the first century.

Kirby: Again, though, we do have documents that are silent on any messianic claims made by Jesus, including the collection of sayings known as the Gospel of Thomas. If these people thought Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, why wouldn't that be important enough to include in their collection?

Meta: Good evidence for a late date to Thomas. In fact since Thomas is an early says source core within a latter Gnostic framework, we can expect that the Jewishness has been taken out.

Kirby: 6) He was crucified under Pilate. This is three factoids in one: Jesus died between 26 and 36, Jesus' execution was ordered by Pilate, and the manner of his execution was crucifixion. The first factoid is touched upon in the first item of the eleven; the second two will be addressed here.

Unlike the other gospels, in the Gospel of Luke and in the Gospel of Peter, Herod Antipas plays a role in the trying of Jesus. Robert Price writes about this in Deconstructing Jesus, p. 249:

Jesus' connection with the Roman governor Pilate on one end of his biography need be no more historical than his connection with the Roman governor Quirinius on the other. Even greater doubt is thrown on the matter by the parallel tradition, still extant but just barely, that Jesus was executed under Herod Antipas! The Gospel of Peter has Herod consult with Pilate but see to the execution himself. And, as Alfred Loisy noted long ago, Luke seems to have had access to a version of the Passion in which it was Herod who had Jesus killed, not Pilate. [The Origins of the New Testament, p. 192] This becomes evident when one examines the cumbersome and improbable sequence involving Jesus being tried before Pilate, then Herod Antipas, then Pilate again. No one has ever come up with a plausible reason for Pilate remanding Jesus to Antipas, as Luke has him do. Once Jesus gets to Herod's court, it is Herod's troops who mock him, not Pilate's as in the other gospels, implying that Luke was trying to harmonize the Markan Pilate-Passion with another set in Herod's court and had to choose between mockings. The most flagrant mark of indelicate editing is Herod's acquittal of Jesus--then sending him back to Pilate! It is clear Luke must have had one Passion story in front of him, Mark's, in which Pilate ordered Jesus' execution, and another, like that in the Gospel of Peter, in which it was Herod Antipas who condemned him. To use both, he had to change Herod's verdict from guilty to innocent (otherwise, as in the Gospel of Peter, he must have Herod send him to the cross). But instead of having Herod let Jesus go in peace, as an acquittal surely would demand, he has Herod send Jesus back to Pilate--for what? And if Pilate awaited Herod's verdict, why did he not let him go, too, since Herod had acquitted Jesus? Luke has too many cooks in the kitchen, and the stew is spoiled.

Meta: Again, Pete plays his most effective card, when you have nothing else to say, force them on to your turf and make the issue something you have a lot to say about. This actually has nothing to do with my arugment. It doesn't prove he wasn't crucified. he can't offer a single version that claims he was killed in any other manner, he's basically arguing about the date or the invovlement of Herod. It really has nothing to do with the argument. He's actually quibbeling over whose authority it was that grounded the execution, not the manner of exicution or its historical fact!

when I say he was crucified "under Pilate" I mean just that, in the reing of his administation, not necessary at his hand.

Kirby: But the key question is, if Jesus was known to have been crucified quite recently in dramatic public circumstances, at the behest either of Pilate or of Herod, how on earth could uncertainty over who killed him ever have arisen?

Meta: the answer to that one, my dear fellow, is very very easy. It never really arose until guys like you arose it. We have second or third century work the Acts of Pilate, or the testimony of Nicademus, where the two talk years latter, they both take "credit" and guilt for it, they are both chrsitians. I'm sure that's not historical but the point is, the author doesnt' raise near the issue whith authority that modern day scholars do. The schoalrs you quote are modern, they are not from the days, ti's modern skpetical people who riase issues like this because they have to knitt pick at something.

Kirby: If either Herod or Pilate had recently executed him, how could any belief about the involvement of the other have come about? But, on the other hand, if both were merely educated guesses as to who killed Jesus, we can easily see how the confusion arose.

Meta: that argument doesnt' really make sense. it seems to assume that soneone would have consulted Herod of Pilate. Probably the common people would be left out of the loop on such an issue and no one would ask Herod or Pilate and neitehr would care to tell.

Kirby: And was it always said that the manner of Jesus' death was crucifixion? Apparently not. Here is what is written in Baraitha Bab. Sanhedrin 43a:

On the eve of Passover Yeshu was hanged.

Meta: Peter..Peter, ...Peter, you should know better. To be "hanged" was a ephamism for crucifiction. See Raymond Brown, Death of the Messiah.

Kirby: For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, "He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Any one who can say anything in his favour, let him come forward and plead on his behalf." But since nothing was brought forward in his favour he was hanged on the eve of the Passover! - Ulla retorted: Do you suppose that he was one for whom a defence could be made? Was he not a Mesith [enticer], concerning him Scripture says, Neither shalt though spare, neither shalt thou conceal him? With Yeshu however it was different, for he was connected with the government for royalty [i.e., influential]. Our Rabbis taught: Yeshu had five disciples, Matthai, Nakai, Nezer, Buni, and Todah.

Meta: I have to admit, here is an orignal list of side kicked. Although Matthai, might be derivative of Matthew, I can't say much for Nezer, Buni, or Toah but they sound like characters from the Wizard of Oz. "Todah, I don't think we are Kansas anymore."

Kirby: I used to think that "hanged" in this passage was a euphemism for crucifixion. But that cannot be. The passage clearly states that Jesus is going forth to be stoned. And, of course, the prescription for those stoned included hanging after death. To read crucifixion into this passage is to Christianize a fully Jewish account of Jesus, one in which Jesus is stoned by Jewish authorities for violating Jewish laws and leading Israel astray.

Meta: How do you know they didn't stone bfore crucifiction too? That's of course assuming the acuracy of the article. When was sanhedrin 43 penned? All the Minshic sources merely draw upon first century sources, but none of them were written then.Does he give us any real reason to think the euphemism would be wrong?

the passage usually sited, that mentions him being hung, is from the middle ages and most scholas see it as worthless.

One thing that I find amuzing is that when the Talmudic passages are used as histoircl evidence for Jesus existence, the sketpics go to great lengths to show that they are not good, the composition of the Talmud is too late. They are of doubious historical acurracy. The composition of the Talmud was basically in the fifth century, well after he cut off date for my argument. Although I beileve the material in the Mishna is from much ealier, its been mixed up with other things and changed over the centuries.

Here's an atheist website, the point of which is to debunck the Bible. Here we see the date for the Talmud is too late to make any historical difference. Of cousre when it would help them to claim that the compoisition is ealier, then the Talmud is a trustworthy history:

1)The Talmud The Talmud (literally, 'learning' or 'instruction') contains inconclusive evidence of Jesus. The Talmud is a massive compilation divided into two parts, the Mishna and the Gemara. The Mishna was codified by Rabbi Jehudah ha-Nasi circa 200 CE but was not actually committed to writing until the fifth century; it discusses numerous subjects, including festivals, sacred things, etc. The Gemarawas completed in the fifth century and is really a commentary on the Mishna.

The Talmud is often cited for evidence of the historical Jesus: (i)The Babylonian Talmud (Sanhedrin 43a) refers to Jesus being hanged on the eve of Passover. However this passage cannot be fixed at a definite date within the Tannaitic time-area and the value of this passage as independent confirmation of the historicity of Jesus is therefore uncertain. (ii)The Talmud's makes references to Jesus as 'Ben Pandera (or 'Ben Pantere')' and 'Jeshu ben Pandera'. However, as Herford observes this passage 'cannot be earlier than the beginning of the fourth century, and is moreover a report of what was said in Babylonia, not Palestine'. (Charles Herford, Christianity in Talmud and Midrash (1903, New York: KTAV Publishing House, 1975), p.41).

non bibical evidence for Jesus historical existence

Here is an article on no less Vinerable a site than that of the Internet Infidels, which uses the Apologist Habermas (not the Frankfurt school guy) to document the early inflences of material in the Mishna, but the late date of composition:

Tyler Wunder: An Inquiry Into Davis' Account: Support for the Core Facts

Habermas notes the Talmud's most reliable information about Jesus would be from its earliest period of compilation, AD 70-200. He finds a quotation from just this period -- Sanhedrin 43a:

On the eve of the Passover Yeshu was hanged. For forty days before the execution took place, a herald went forth and cried, "He is going forth to be stoned because he has practiced sorcery and enticed Israel to apostasy. Any one who can say anything in his favour, let him come forward and plead on his behalf." But since nothing was brought forward in his favour he was hanged on the eve of the Passover! (Habermas, p.203; citing The Babylonian Talmud, trans. I. Epstein [London: Soncino, 1935], Vol. III, Sanhedrin 43a, p.281).

While there are other references to Jesus in the Talmud, the remainder either do not deal with Jesus' crucifixion or, as Habermas admits, are from later periods of history and are therefore "...of questionable historical value" (p.204).

Tol'doth Jeshu is an anti-Christian polemic which relates the following about Jesus' death:

The body was taken down while it was still the eve of the Sabbath...and immediately buried. A gardener, Yehuda, removed the body from the tomb and cast it into a ditch and let the water flow over it. The disciples discovered that the body was not in the tomb and announced to the Queen that Yeshu had been restored to life. The Queen, believing the story, was tempted to put to death the Sages for having killed the Messiah. Indeed, all of the Jews mourned, wept and fasted, until Rabbi Tanchuma, with the help of God, found the body in a garden. The Sages of Israel removed it, tied it to the tail of a horse and paraded it in front of the Queen so that she could see the deception (Hoffmann, pp.52-3).

Habermas reveals that this document was not compiled until the fifth century AD, but also claims that it reflects early Jewish tradition. It is indeed likely that Jews expressed this sort of stolen-body explanation of the resurrection as early as the time in which Matthew was written (see Mt.28:11-15), which Habermas seems to take as suggesting that this text could perhaps date from as early as that time (p.205).

Meta: one other thing to observe. The Sanhedrin 43a says it was on the Eve of passover he was "hung." So the little detail of being on or around passover is still clining to the story, not matter how warped the other details become. Why would that be? Becasue it' just one of the facts that were set in stone from the begining. that doesnt' happen with myth because myths don't happen. It can only happen with a historical reality. Now some may argue it was on Passover, some may argue it was the night before: doesnt' matter. No one every says it was in June.

Kirby: But we don't have to turn to Jewish traditions to find those who disagree that Jesus was crucified. This is found in the Apocalypse of Peter in the Nag Hammadi Library:

When he had said those things, I saw him seemingly being seized by them. And I said "What do I see, O Lord? That it is you yourself whom they take, and that you are grasping me? Or who is this one, glad and laughing on the tree? And is it another one whose feet and hands they are striking?"

The Savior said to me, "He whom you saw on the tree, glad and laughing, this is the living Jesus. But this one into whose hands and feet they drive the nails is his fleshly part, which is the substitute being put to shame, the one who came into being in his likeness. But look at him and me."

Sure, this passage says that some substitute was placed on the cross instead of Jesus, but is that the best we can do? The fundamental bedrock is that someone, which some people thought to be Jesus, was crucified under Pilate, even if the real Jesus could have been laughing at the whole affair? It strains credulity to say that this is the same story that is always told by Christians everywhere. The difference is significant, which is why the church fathers objected. Hippolytus, in a tract formerly attributed to Tertullian under the title Against All Heresies, writes of the second century Basilides:

Meta: Here again, it admits to the original story. Its' palying off the original story. It's a late source, Nag Hammadi stuff was fourth century, so its out of the boundaries I set up for the arugment. It's Gnostic, so of cousre they have to change the orignal enoguh to weasal out of their abhorance with flesh. So its' just mockneying with the orignial story, it's not an alternate version.

Kirby: Afterwards broke out the heretic Basilides. He affirms that there is a supreme Deity, by name Abraxas, . . . Christ, moreover, he affirms to have been sent, not by this maker of the world, but by the above-named Abraxas; and to have come in a phantasm, and been destitute of the substance of flesh: that it was not He who suffered among the Jews, but that Simon was crucified in His stead: whence, again, there must be no believing on him who was crucified, lest one confess to having believed on Simon. Martyrdoms, he says, are not to be endured. The resurrection of the flesh he strenuously impugns, affirming that salvation has not been promised to bodies.

Meta: None of this theological backfilling defeats the argument in any respect.

Kirby: The difference is crucial: according to these, Jesus was not crucified, and those who worship one crucified are in error. So it clear that even the matter of the crucifixion of Jesus under Pilate is not a uniform trait of ancient accounts of Jesus.

Meta: This is not an alternate version. It alludes to and accepts the fact of the orignal. It is not another story. It doesnt' say Jesus died by stabbing or hanging, it says he given to appear to be crucified, as was factually known to the gernal public, but that fact is theolgically interprited to fit the crazy theology of the Gnostic group.

Kirby: 7) Around the time of the Passover. Here the bias of this collection of eleven main points about Jesus is clear, as it is clearly constructed with an attempt to avoid contradiction, using the vague language of "around the time of the Passover." But there is a contradiction nonetheless. According to the synoptic gospels, Jesus shared the Passover meal with his disciples and was executed on the day of the Passover. According to the Gospel of John, Jesus was crucified at noon on the day before Passover, at the same time that the lambs are being slaughtered in the Temple (for the Passover meal). It is telling that only ambiguous language can force a point of agreement out of these disparate accounts.

Meta: Knitt picky bullshit! that's jut obfuscation. Obviously it's around the time of passover. there were several little Jewish groups that celibrated passover at different times, so if they used Qumran calender or the Temple clander it would change the time by a coupel of days. But no version of the story has him dying at chrismass, or in the summer or any other time of the year. it's all around passover by two or three days. So that means there are no other versions that do it differently.

Kirby: 8) At noon. Here again there is a discrepancy between the synoptics and John. According to the Gospel of John, Jesus was still not crucified until noon. John says: "About the sixth hour . . . they shouted, 'Take him away! Take him away! Crucify him!'" (John 19:14-15 NIV) People in the ancient Roman empire reckoned daytime from 6 A.M. In the Gospel of Mark, Jesus is already crucified at 9 A.M.: "And it was the third hour when they crucified Him." (Mark 15:25) The most common way to reconcile these accounts--and it's a stretch--is to say that the Gospel of John is counting from midnight, and thus that these crowds are shouting at 6 A.M. Not only does this go against the standard reckoning of time, but it would still contradict Metacrock's point: Metacrock has the crucifixion timed at noon. Of course, if Metacrock is saying merely that the period of crucifixion extended through the noon hour, then this would apply to almost all crucifixions. It was (usually) a slow death.

Meta: At that point it just doesn't make much difference. in all stories the death is associated with noone. No story has Jesus dying at 12 midnight or 6 in the morning.

Kirby: 9) Rose from the dead leaving an empty tomb. I have a brief section on the burial traditions as part of my empty tomb essay on the Secular Web. Note especially the Secret Book of James. It is known from a copy in Coptic found at Nag Hammadi. The setting of the work is a post-resurrection encounter with the risen Lord. The summary description of the hardships undergone by Jesus includes that Jesus was buried "in the sand." This Coptic phrase is sometimes translated nonliterally to mean "shamefully," but it should be made clear that the very reason why the burial is shameful is that it is a burial in the sand. To be wrapped in a new linen cloth and placed in a rock-hewn tomb is not the description of a shameful burial. Thus, the Secret Book of James reflects a tradition that Jesus was buried in the sand or, to speak generally, in a dishonorable makeshift shallow grave instead of in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.

Meta: You can't estabish any validity for that soruce before the foruth century. Like all Nag Hammadi stuff it's a late source nothing historical there.

Kirby: Of course, most non-Christians contended that Jesus didn't rise from the dead at all. The hallucination theory can be traced back as far as Celsus (Origen, Contra Celsum, Book II, Chapter 60):

Meta: that's not a version of the story. its' not a telling it plays off the telling. It's a refutation of the one and only version of the story. There are no other verisons. There are people who doubted the orignal, and it's a late srouce.

Kirby: In the next place, as if this were possible, viz., that the image of a man who was dead could appear to another as if he were still living, he adopts this opinion as an Epicurean, and says, "That some one having so dreamed owing to a peculiar state of mind, or having, under the influence of a perverted imagination, formed such an appearance as he himself desired, reported that such had been seen; and this," he continues, "has been the case with numberless individuals." But even if this statement of his seems to have a considerable degree of force, it is nevertheless only fitted to confirm a necessary doctrine, that the soul of the dead exists in a separate state (from the body); and he who adopts such an opinion does not believe without good reason in the immortality, or at least continued existence, of the soul, as even Plato says in his treatise on the Soul that shadowy phantoms of persons already dead have appeared to some around their sepulchres. Now the phantoms which exist about the soul of the dead are produced by some substance, and this substance is in the soul, which exists apart in a body said to be of splendid appearance.146 But Celsus, unwilling to admit any such view, will have it that some dreamed a waking dream,147 and, under the influence of a perverted imagination, formed to themselves such an image as they desired. Now it is not irrational to believe that a dream may take place while one is asleep; but to suppose a waking vision in the case of those who are not altogether out of their senses, and under the influence of delirium or hypochondria, is incredible. And Celsus, seeing this, called the woman "half-mad,"-a statement which is not made by the history recording the fact, but from which he took occasion to charge the occurrences with being untrue.

Meta: that would seem to be a naturlaistic deniel of some supernatural element, but on the miracle section above Peter assures us that that coudln't happen back then.

kirby: Celsus goes on to argue, "if Jesus desired to show that his power was really divine, he ought to have appeared to those who had ill-treated him, and to him who had condemned him, and to all men universally." The resurrection of Jesus must have been disbelieved by many others besides Celsus who had heard about Jesus.

Meta: How do you know he didn't? WE don't have a list of who all he appeared to. We are told he appered to one skeptic who was the persecuting enemy of his followers; Saul of Tarsus, who became St. Paul. We also learn form second century sources that Pilate became a Christain latter. Not very realistic, but we don't know who he did and did not appear to.

Kirby: 10) Several women with Mary Magdalene discovered the empty tomb. And the women named vary in each account.

Gospel of Matthew: Mary Magdalene and the other Mary
Gospel of Mark: Mary Magdalene, the mother of James, and Salome
Gospel of Luke: Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James, and other women
Gospel of John: Mary Magdalene
Gospel of Peter: Mary Magdalene and her women friends
Epistula Apostolorum Coptic: Three women, Mary, she that was kin to Martha, and Mary Magdalene
Epistula Apostolorum Ethiopic: Sarrha, Martha, and Mary
Gospel of Nicodemus: Unnamed women

Meta: In Alost every source he mentions Mary Magealene is present, and Mary the Mother as well. The next most represented is Salome, she's in almost all sources that mention three or more women. We have to strat getting into obscure and latter Gnsotic works before we find a profussion of other women. Epistula Apostolorum is pretty darn obscure.

Kirby: Of course, in the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Peter, the guards are the first to discover the empty tomb.

Meta: they are not the first discover it after he's gone, they were part of the orignal emptying. so they already knew, they weren't discovering it.

but the piont is he women and the empty tomb. Peter is so good at knitt picking he loses sight of the spirit of the argumetn competely.

Kirby: 11) This was in Jerusalem.
At first I thought that this one was unassailable, but by chance I crossed a reference that could show the contrary. Revelation 11:8 says, "Their corpses will lie in the main street of the great city, which has the symbolic names 'Sodom' and 'Egypt,' where indeed their Lord was crucified." The Jerome Biblical Commentary, vol. 2, p. 481, states: "the great city: This expression is constantly used in the Apocalypse for Bablyon, i.e., Rome (14:8; 16:19; 17:5,18; 18:2,10,21), and it is difficult, in spite of the following characteristics, to see Jerusalem in this passage." As the "following chracteristics," the JBC refers solely to "where their Lord was crucified: Some commentators consider this detail a gloss, and although it seems to clinch the argument that the 'great city' is Jerusalem, such an interpretation would contradict the beginning of the verse. The most acceptable of many different interpretations is the one that universalizes the entire passage. Both Rome and Jerusalem furnish details that John applies to the terrestrial city of evil, i.e., the pagan world inimical to God and his people. This city is eager to annihilate the Church; it continues to crucify Christ in his faithful." Of course, the only necessity for such a universalizing interpretation is the axiom that the Lord was crucified in Jerusalem and not Rome. If this axiom is removed from our system of thought, the conclusion is permitted that Revelation speaks of the Lord being crucified in the 'great city' that is the object of its attacks throughout the document, namely Rome. Although I have argued against the identification, perhaps it is right to think of the Jews in Rome acting up under Claudius, as Suetonius reports, at the instigation of Christ!

Meta: I dont' know of any case where Egypt stands for Rome. Babylon stands for Rome. Revelation never uses Egypt for Rome But Babylon. So logically Egyt should be soemthing else, but to identiy if as the city where he was crucified assuems they would have know to begin with, that is' the tag to show what city is meant, not vice versa. So it should be clear that it's the commonly accept place.

kirby Although others are free to draw their own conclusions, I have not catalogued these variant stories about Jesus in order to form an argument against the historicity of Jesus. I am responding to a positive argument for the historicity of Jesus, specifically that a non-historical Jesus would have resulted in multiple versions of the Jesus story. Although what it would mean for there to be multiple versions was not defined in a general way, the specific claim was made that no ancient account goes against eleven points enumerated of the Jesus story.

Meta: First of all he's wrong in saying that I don't specify what it means to have multiple versions becasue I do so exaclty. What I do not do is get legalstic about times like noon or passover or the time of birth or whatever. When I say crucified around passover I mean no story has jesus being killed in June, it may be before or after or during passover by two or three days. that's unimportant. I find that Peter's arguments on this kind of picky nature the whole way through.

Kirby: Even though this list was specifically designed to avoid contrary stories, there are still traditions that vary on these very points.

Meta: No, I'm afriad not! You have not presetned a single tradition. Prapagandisttic refutaions are not traditions in the sense of tramissing a story. You need to show more than one source that reiterates such a detail before you can claim it as a tradition. We might be able to argue for a tradition that Jesus was older, based upon Iraneus statement that he was 50 and some of the things you have said. But none of that changes the basic story line. that is the point of my arugment, not the picky detials, but the basic fact that there is one version of the story. You do nothing to change that. Kirby: If a list of major points were drawn up without attention to possible contradictions, we would have seen even more discrepancies, such as the matter of whether the Temple cleansing occurred at the very start or near the end of Jesus' ministry. And, naturally, there is the unproven premise that a non-factual story will always have wildly variant versions (which could be disproven if a definition of "multiple versions" were provided). No evidence for the historical Jesus is found in this argument.

Meta: YOu see what he's saying? "if we the list were drawn up with more details we would find more discrpencies." He's into the details. I am not into detials. i don't think the details proove the argument. What proves the argument is the overall sturcutre of the story.

Good Jewish boy from hinkerlands things the Messiah, works miracles, get's crucified raises form the dead. I did notice that a bunch of the details are always consistant like His girls friend is always Mary Magdelin. His side kick is always Peter. But be that as it may, my argument does not turn on the silly details such as was it on Passover or the day before passover.

the simple fact of the matter is, there are no other versions of the story. There is one Jesus story. People paly with it, the refute it, they revile it, they deify it, but no one every offers another one. If it was myth they would, becasue they always do. Its' only when the events are facts and no one can denty them that a story takes on a rock solid structure.

the criteria that I use I pulled off the top of my head. I did not sit around cuallculating what eleven points I could use that would give the appearnce that the argument works. I really did just pull down my best impression as to the things I felt I saw in the these srouces over and over again.

Peter is the one who is callculating arguments to gain the advantage of illusory ideas. What if I said there are no other versions within 200 years of the events? Then Peter would have no expamles at all! It gist of the argument is that the major outlines of the story were set in stone ealry on, and if they were just myth there should be many different stories with radically different outlines. that there are not indicates a high probalbity that some of these events were actually histirical. It's not fool proof but is a good indication.

the bottom line is there are no other Jesus stories! There are those who deny the one and only story we have, others admiting to the content, expalin it differently, but there are no others.

Kriby does' nothing to change that fact!

The Religious A priori