Historicity of Jesus
Misunderstandings of historical method are rife in Francis Beckwith’s chapter in the book ‘In Defense of Miracles,’ and these are typical of all modern apologetics. Historian Richard Carrier gives a professional overview of why ancient miracle accounts cannot be so trusted as to be the foundation of any religion.
Brunner’s Gottkoenigs & the Nativity of Jesus: A Brief Communication (2004) (Off Site) by Richard Carrier
Discusses the relationship between the famous Luxor Inscription (from ancient Pharaonic Egypt) and the Nativity Story of the Gospels. Finds that there is no significant connection.
Can the Historical Jesus be Made Safe for Orthodoxy?: A Critique of The Jesus Quest by Ben Witherington III (1997) (Off Site) by Robert J. Miller
Critique of some details of William Lane Craig’s reiteration of his Empty Tomb argument, and Habermas’ defense of the Post-Resurrection Appearances of Jesus, in the book In Defense of Miracles, dealing especially with two issues: whether we can ascertain historicity from a purely literary analysis of the New Testament, and whether hallucination is a plausible explanation for some miracle reports, particularly the resurrection of Jesus.
Price does not see how one can get around the simple truth of Socrates, when he admonished his disciples to “think not of Socrates, but think of the truth.” Any idol which is raised up to a level equal with truth will soon eclipse the truth, and the truth will become lost in its shadow. Price believes that has long since happened with the idol of Jesus Christ and Christianity.
It is indisputable that Luke dates the birth of Jesus to 6 A.D. It is also indisputable that Matthew dates the birth of Jesus before 4 B.C., perhaps around 6 B.C. This is an irreconcilable contradiction.
This is a critical review of Earl Doherty’s The Jesus Puzzle: Did Christianity Begin with a Mythical Christ? Challenging the Existence of an Historical Jesus
During the 19 years that he preached the Gospel, the resurrection of Jesus was the keystone of his ministry. Every Easter he affirmed the Apostle Paul’s admonition: “If Christ has not been raised, then our proclamation has been in vain and your faith has been in vain.” But now he no longer believes it. Why?
The First Coming: How the Kingdom of God Became Christianity by Thomas Sheehan (originally published 1986; electronic edition 2000)
How did Jesus of Nazareth live? How was he raised from the dead? How did he become God? These questions are raised and answered by Professor Thomas Sheehan of Stanford University in this original and provocative narrative of Jesus and first-century Christianity. Sheehan argues that Jesus thought of himself not as God or Christ but as God’s eschatological prophet proclaiming God’s kingdom, that the resurrection had nothing to do with Jesus coming back to life, and that the affirmation that Jesus was divine first arose among his followers long after his death. Employing the best of contemporary historical-critical scholarship, Sheehan paints a plausible picture of a very human Jesus who came to reform Judaism rather than to found Christianity, who met a tragic end at the hands of the Roman Empire, and who in a matter of decades was proclaimed by his followers to be Christ, Lord, and God. This is an electronic reproduction of the Random House book by the same name.
From Jesus to Christ (1998) (Off Site)
Transcripts of the entire television show broadcast by PBS.
“Although McKinsey occasionally raises some good points concerning the Resurrection and the extrabiblical references to Jesus, they are often hidden within many more objections that are either irrelevant, fallacious, or both. Moreover, there are many important issues related to the historicity of Jesus and the Resurrection, which McKinsey ignores. … Given these shortcomings in the sections on the historicity and resurrection of Jesus, I can’t help but wonder what deficiencies exist in the rest of McKinsey’s Encyclopedia. I do not recommend skeptics rely on McKinsey’s scholarship without first independently verifying his claims in a reliable source.”
An interesting consideration of the central thesis of Stephen Davis’s Risen Indeed, that “both the supernaturalist’s belief and the naturalist’s doubt in the resurrection can be rational given an awareness of the best cases for both sides”. Wunder compares and contrasts Gary Habermas’s core facts in support of the Resurrection with the arguments of Wells and Martin in support of the Mythicist hypothesis.
Is there a 1st century papyrus of the gospel text? (1999) (Off Site) by Dr. J.K. Elliot
A book review of The Jesus Papyrus by Carsten Thiede and Matthew d’Ancona addresses this claim in detail, finding that it is groundless. The papyri in question all date from around 200 C.E. The U.S. edition of this book is called Eyewitness to Jesus. The review is by Dr. J.K. Elliott, Professor of New Testament Textual Criticism at the University of Leeds, England.
Osiris and Pagan Resurrection Myths: Assessing the Till-McFall Exchange (2002) (Off Site) by Richard Carrier
As a degreed expert on ancient history, Carrier assesses the ongoing debate between Mark McFall and Farrell Till regarding the influence of the pagan resurrection myths on Christianity and finds that both are right–and wrong.
Many New Testament scholars have presented their personal reconstruction of the historical Jesus, laboring to painstakingly separate fact from myth. Unfortunately, in the absence of a rigorous methodology, religious beliefs have doggedly militated against their best efforts, and E. P. Sanders’ The Historical Figure of Jesus is no exception to this tendency. In this review, Jacob Aliet outlines what he takes to be the five main weaknesses of Sanders’ scholarship, some philosophical, some methodological, as revealed in The Historical Figure of Jesus.
This is an incredible book that must be read by everyone with an interest in Christianity. Dennis MacDonald’s shocking thesis is that the Gospel of Mark is a deliberate and conscious anti-epic, an inversion of the Greek “Bible” of Homer’s Iliad and Odyssey, which in a sense “updates” and Judaizes the outdated heroic values presented by Homer, in the figure of a new hero, Jesus (whose name, of course, means “Savior”). His evidence is surprisingly solid and pervasive, and the implications for the historicity of Christ are profound.
For those convinced that Christianity was founded by the disciples of a charismatic rabbi called Jesus of Nazareth, Gerd Lüdemann’s Jesus After 2000 Years offers a plausible sorting of fact from fiction. The book is accessible, but difficult to evaluate, as it largely represents Lüdemann’s own verdict on which actions and sayings attributed to Jesus are authentic, mentioning other scholars’ verdicts only in passing. Moreover, Lüdemann merely outlines how he sorts authentic from inauthentic history in the Gospels, using at least one criterion this reviewer finds dubious. The main problem, however, is how Lüdemann attempts to get from “it could have happened this way” to “it did happen this way.” Finally, some readers might find Jesus After 2000 Years wanting for failing to offer grounds for believing that a historical Jesus ever existed in the first place, or if he did, for believing that any of the sayings or actions attributed to him had anything to do with anything he actually said or did.
Your search for the historical Jesus begins here! Excellent introduction to the current scholarly quest to find the historical Jesus buried beneath the layers of post-Easter legends that were later attributed to Jesus.
Kirby evaluates the arguments for and against the authenticity of the references to Jesus in Josephus.
A preliminary essay outlining important facts about Thallus (or Thallos), a pagan chronologer of unknown date who is occasionally mentioned in the works of Christian apologists, modern and ancient, as a 1st century pagan witness to the gospel tradition of a “darkness” at the death of Christ. Concludes that he either is not such a witness, or else wrote in the 2nd century.
Introduction to the ancient sources and evolution of the Jesus movement from its humble beginnings in the oral tradition to the developed canonical gospels of the late second century.
There are many reasons that I am not a Christian. I am an atheist for reasons more fundamental than anything to do with particular religions, but the arguments in favor of the Christian creed as opposed to any other are ubiquitous and always center around the historical claim that Jesus was raised from the dead. As an historian with a good knowledge of Greek, I am now very qualified to make a professional judgement in the matter. This essay explains why I find the Resurrection to be an unconvincing argument for becoming Christian.
Julie’s River Run: On Comparing the Rubicon to the Resurrection (2005) by Robert Turkel (Off Site)
Turkel discusses an analogy used by some apologists to compare the resurrection of Jesus to the crossing of the Rubicon by Caesar as well as skeptical critiques of that analogy, including Carrier’s critique. Turkel contends that "the evidence for the Resurrection is as good as, or better than, that for Caesar crossing the Rubicon."
Against Carrier’s argument in the Main Argument of Why I Don’t Buy the Resurrection Story, James Holding claims (in “Julie’s River Run: On Comparing the Rubicon to the Resurrection“) that we have as much evidence that Jesus rose from his grave as we have that Julius Caesar crossed the Rubicon. There are numerous errors in Holding’s argument. Carrier’s rebuttal responds briefly to the most important issues. In the end, Carrier’s claim remains unchallenged: we have more evidence that Caesar crossed the Rubicon than we have that Jesus rose from the grave. Therefore, the claim that this resurrection is “as well attested” as the Rubicon crossing is still false.
In “No Miracles Today Implies None Then,” a section of the “General Case for Insufficiency” of “Why I Don’t Buy the Resurrection Story,” Richard Carrier develops an argument against the reliability of historical account of miracles. In response, Amy Sayers argues that negative analogies from the present to the past are logically invalid. But, as Carrier shows in this rebuttal, Sayers herself commits the fallacy of false generalization in arguing against negative analogies. Moreover, she incorrectly formulates Carrier’s argument that the current absence of miracles implies none in the past–an argument which is deductively valid when formulated correctly.