Book Plunge: Keener’s Historical Jesus

Who does Keener say the Jesus of the gospels is? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

The Historical Jesus of the Gospels by Craig Keener is a massive work showing Keener’s highly impressive scholarship in the area of Historical Jesus studies. As with many of the books, the bibliography, indexes, etc. are about as massive as the book itself. In this case, I’d say about half the book is the last half listing all of these numerous references. If there’s one thing Keener cannot be accused of, it is not doing sufficient research.

Keener starts with a brief history of NT scholarship on the historical Jesus and then moves to modern ideas, dispensing at the start with one of the easiest to deal with, the idea of Jesus as a cynic sage. Keener deals with issues such as the life of peasants, the nature of the cynics, and the Greek problem. No stone is left unturned for Keener.

Keener moves on then to talk about the relationship of Jesus to Judaism, which is where the third quest has landed us. I, for one, anticipate a fourth quest soon that will look at the social context even more of Jesus and see how he fits into an agonistic society.

From there, he deals with the objection of other gospels and why it is that the four canonical gospels that we have are in fact the best sources for information about the life of Jesus. As you can tell, Keener has made it a point to deal with common objections today. In fact, if you are familiar with internet debates on Jesus, the ideas that others consider so powerful in refuting Christianity, Keener deals with in just a paragraph or a footnote with the idea of “This idea is so far out there it’s not even worth serious time.”

Next, we deal with the nature of the Gospels and in this case, Acts as well since Luke and Acts are seen as one volume. Keener lists the Gospels as Greco-Roman biographies with the possible exception of Luke which would be more historiography. Even if one says that, I would still contend there are Greco-Roman biographical tendencies within the work of Luke. The position of the gospels as Greco-Roman biographies is held by the majority of scholars today and is in fact growing. This further gives us evidence to treat the Gospels as serious historical works.

Keener also deals with the nature of them then by explaining how they would show their sources, which is not by modern styles today, and also how they would be read as works of rhetorical writing. This is not to say they’re all just word games, but rather they were written in a style to engage their reading audience and their listening audience since more people would hear the gospels rather than read them.

Speaking of the oral factor, Keener does deal with how oral tradition would be spread and why we should trust its reliability in the case of the NT. This is an important aspect for scholars and apologists both to grasp since in our world more modern analogies are drawn to ancient events when such comparisons really don’t fit.

At last comes the heart of the matter with the discussion of who Jesus was. The heart of this I leave to the reader who wants to find out more, but the reader will find the teaching of the Kingdom, how Jesus interacted with others, and Jesus as prophet, teacher, Messiah, and perhaps, something more.

The main body of the work concludes with a look at the historical events surrounding the death of Jesus and his resurrection, although there will not be a full apologetic for the resurrection. That has been written elsewhere.

After this main body, there are a number of appendices that deal with issues not fully argued for in the main text itself. These will provide helpful insight to the reader who wishes Keener had been fuller on some topics. (Whoever such people might be. It’s hard to imagine what more he could have said)

The only possible downside I can think of is that Keener does give a bit of how he came to Christianity by examining the arguments and hints about an experience that led to him becoming a Christian and abandoning atheism. This is all well and good, but my fear is that too many atheists would get to this part and say “Ah! Now I have a reason to just dismiss everything!” Of course, this would be fallacious to do as the arguments stand on their own independently of why one holds them, but I do see it as a possible reason some will give for discounting Keener’s work.

This book is definitely a must-read. If someone was wanting to start historical Jesus studies, it would be harder to think of a reason why a work like this would not be listed as essential reading.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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30 Responses to “Book Plunge: Keener’s Historical Jesus”

  1. Bunto Skiffler Says:

    [NPeters] “…These will provide helpful insight to the reader who wishes Keener had been fuller on some topics. (Whoever such people might be. It’s hard to imagine what more he could have said)”

    Excellent. So compared to a historical figure such as Julius Caesar/Alexander the Great, what is the hard evidence for Jesus existence?

    Sincerely,
    History, Forensics & Journalism for the last 50 years or so.

    God: A simple question and it’s lengthy non-answer [AUDIO]

  2. apologianick Says:

    Wow. So a backwater rabbi is being compared to the ruler of the known world and the guy who conquered the world in references. Yeah. That’s interesting.

    Tell you what, why not go and read Shattering the Christ Myth and Did Jesus Exist? and get some real sources on NT scholarship and then come back and we’ll talk about it. If you think those two works don’t provide an argument, then I expect to see a refutation.

  3. Bunto Skiffler Says:

    Hi Nick, thx for your quick response
    [NPeters] “….and get some real sources on NT scholarship and then come back and we’ll talk about it. If you think those two works don’t provide an argument, then I expect to see a refutation.”

    Uh-huh, what was that solid evidence again I must have missed it? As per the ‘backwater rabbi’ I’ll just leave that apologetic to David Fitzgerald’s excellent chapter entitled “Jesus was wildly famous – but there was no reason for contemporary historians to notice him…” (Nailed: Ten Xian Myths 2010)

    ps. real sources like Ehrman’s DJE?(oy!)… Keener isn’t as real as that one I’m guessing :)

  4. ClassicalTimeline (@CTimeline) Says:

    Bunto: You should realize that any person in antiquity who would not likely be recorded about in physical assets such as coins, epigraphs (etc…), that we are dependent upon literary documents. These are extremely rare from antiquity. We probably have less than .001% of all literature from Classical period currently extant. I dont mind atheist apologists mentioning the silence (apart from Josephus), but mention it in passing. The weight that they place upon it, and the nonsense they introduce it with is unwarranted. Apart from a few examples, and most of these during specific events such as the Athenian-Spartan conflict, the Second Punic War, or the upheavals during the fall of the Roman Republic, we do not have sources from the time on people in Classical history. We have almost nothing written from the time about dozens of Roman Emperors who ruled one of the largest and most literate societies pre-enlightenment Europe. We only hear of great generals, such as Scipio, decades after the event. Perhaps we might suggest that he didn’t exist too? Great philosophers who mingled with Emperors, politicians and business men, who would have had infinitely more influence (and connections with literate people) than the itinerant failed messiah figure Jesus in rural Palestine with twelve regular followers!

    How much do we know of them from the time of their lives? Practically nothing. People like the founders of Stoicism and Epicureanism (Epicurus, Chrysippus, and Zeno) –the two most popular philosophical schools in the late-Roman Republic/ Early Empire– their writings were part of every educated Romans’ libraries. They had students and followers (like Christianity) in every major city. So there must be thousands of copies of their writings… No. Apart from three letters of Epicurus almost nothing. Alexander the Great who conquered the whole known world. Well, we must have thousands of reports about him from the time? Think again. We can fit it on about half a page of A4.

    Professor Robert Garland’s “Celebrity in Antiquity: From Media Tarts to Tabloid Queens” (an unusual title, but a very interesting work) and Graham Anderon’s “Sage, Saint and Sophist: Holy Men and Their Associates in the Early Roman Empire”, trying to note down in a word document how close the extant records we have for apparently well-known people in antiquity (including actors, philosophers, religious charismatics etc…) are. All are pretty much written about decades, even hundreds of years after their lives, and are almost always only referenced in one solitary source. Look at Josephus’ works. He lists many Jewish leaders who were euqal to Jesus in fame. Who else records them? No one, just Josephus. So perhaps they all are made up. Read Graham Andersons’ “Saint, Saint and Sophist” he details antiquities most famous religious figures. Try and figure out, again, how many times they are mentioned by their contemporaries- hardly at all. We just do not get multiple records of people close to their time (apart from some notable politicians…). So either almost no one in antiquity was ever real or you need a new argument and approach when discussing ancient history.”

    • Bunto Skiffler Says:

      Discerning argument and approach towards licit Jesus evidence
      [CTimeline] “Try and figure out, again, how many times they are mentioned by their contemporaries- hardly at all. We just do not get multiple records of people close to their time (apart from some notable politicians…). So either almost no one in antiquity was ever real or you need a new argument and approach when discussing ancient history.”
      Interesting. So you are satisfied, as a scholar of ancient history, that their unaffiliated reporting apparatus of the time was simply unable to recount any contemporaneous facts about Jesus or, more interestingly, any of his miracles/spectacular events stated in the gospels?
      Or perhaps it was, but we could never know what happened with any satisfaction about Jesus the Miracle Man outside of scripture itself?

      • ClassicalTimeline (@CTimeline) Says:

        Bunto, Ironically the sources that we receive about Jesus far exceeds any comparable evidence for an equivalent person of his standing in antiquity. Both in time (so we have historians talking about him within 50 to 100 years of his life) and the number of them. Again study a book such as Professor Garland’s. Make a spreadsheet and note down how many ancient celebrities (including credited miracle workers) are noted by outside sources. After that then note down how many outside sources talk about each person, then record how long after their lives these sources talk about them. Either no-one (apart from politicians) was EVER famous in antiquity or this argument that numerous independent contemporary sources need to exist that online atheists (and amateur writers such as Fitzgerald) push fails to understand how fame and notoriety in antiquity worked. It also betrays a mistaken and anachronistic assumption that writing and the transmission of knowledge in antiquity works as it does today, and on a completely errant understanding of the availability of ancient sources. Once that is understood the force of the argument completely dissipates.

        One interesting exercise that I should probably do to show how ancient fame vis-a-vis ancient literary records works is to compare Jesus with Cato the Younger. Cato (though then deceased) was probably the most famous person by the time of Christ. We even have two classical authors saying they are fed up having with having stories of his live being constantly recollected by everyone. Now how many records of his life now exist? One; by Plutarch who wrote it over a hundred years after his life.

        As for what we can know about Jesus that is a rather large topic. I would recommend reading Le Donne’s “Historical Jesus: What Can We Know and How Can We Know ” or Helen Bond’s “The Historical Jesus; A Guide for the Perplexed”. Also you could try reading the Brill Handbook for the Study of the Historical Jesus that came out recently. But yes, if you through up enough sustain skepticism you can everything about the historical Jesus (and indeed pretty much anything in life.) I think this tells you more about the verve and the attempts to whip up certain controversies in contemporary atheism than it does about what historians actually think about the historical Jesus.

      • Bunto Skiffler Says:

        It’s just too removed from orthodoxy.
        [CTimeline] “I think this tells you more about the verve and the attempts to whip up certain controversies in contemporary atheism than it does about what historians actually think about the historical Jesus.”

        Thanks for your interesting response. Just to verify: You, as a scholar of history (Phd candidate), believe that the fundamental mythicist position of having skepticism towards the proof we have gathered so far of Historical Jesus should be considered as exercises in ‘Tabloid Journalism’ when expressed?
        Fitzgerald’s scholarship in ‘Nailed’ should merely be seen as sensationalistic… correct?

      • bona4tuna Says:

        ‘David Fitzgerald’s excellent’ work? Why don’t you try to get your information from actual historical scholars. Correct me if I’m wrong, but Fitzgerald does not have a PHD. Jesus mythers are akin to Holocaust deniers or alincolnists who deny that Abe Lincoln ever existed; they’re the laughing stock of actual scholarship, and that is probably why the majority of historical scholars do not deny that an actual Jesus Christ of Nazareth once lived. Can you name some actual historical scholars who believe that Jesus never lived, and who have had their work peer reviewed? You may want to name Robert Price, who started his own Journal of Higher Criticism, but it now defunct. I wonder why. It’s probably because most historical scholars want to be associated with such nonsense. Or you could try Richard Carrier, but the one book that he says was peer reviewed does not name the sources. Again, I wonder why. So, do you have any info from actual historical or NT scholars whose work has been peer reviewed?

      • Bunto Skiffler Says:

        [b4tuna] “So, do you have any info from actual historical or NT scholars whose work has been peer reviewed?”

        Sure do :) hence my research outside of the orthodoxy. BTW, nice site… anything come up since 2012?

      • ClassicalTimeline (@CTimeline) Says:

        Well it is best not to tar mythcism with one brush. There are respectable sides of it (as with Carrier, and Verenna), I still think they are wrong in their conclusions but they are genuine and careful scholars who subject what they are arguing for to scrutiny. Christians will have to learn to let go of the compulsion to just deride all mythicists are being ignorant fringe hacks. Fitzgerald’s work though I don’t know about sensationalistic, lets just say it would have been better if he had taken a few years out to learn some more ancient history and New Testament studies. But yes it matches the types of arguments I see internet atheists often use with regards to Jesus’ existence. I took a pencil to the work and marked down all the errors, both small and insignificant (i.e. confusing Greek words, getting the author of classical literature wrong) to larger ones (such as his discussions on Seneca, Philo etc…). I think on average about 2/3 of each page ended up being underlined. The best bit was the interview with Carrier about Josephus. It has made me wonder if Josephus did indeed ever record anything about Jesus- but that is Carrier’s work… I place his work in the same category as I would (and I hope this doesn’t get me into trouble here) with say Josh McDowell’s to give you an example from the opposite end of the creedal spectrum.

      • bona4tuna Says:

        Sorry about the name change. I’m still trying to navigate my way around. Crossan is a Christian who still believes in the historical Jesus, and Fox is an agnostic who also believes a historical Jesus once lived. And actually, I’ve already mentioned Price and Carrier. Hey, there’s a better site you will really like that has skeptics just like you! Check out http://www.facebook.com/alincolnism.

      • Bunto Skiffler Says:

        Now is a good time for my coda

        [b4tuna]“Sorry about the name change…blah blah blah…Hey, there’s a better site you will really like that has skeptics just like you! Check out…blah blah blah”

        My thema: “Excellent. So compared to a historical figure such as Julius Caesar/Alexander the Great, what is the hard evidence for Jesus existence?

        Sincerely,
        History, Forensics & Journalism for the last 50 years or so.”

        The most interesting parts to me were CTimeline contributions obviously. If I should ever actually meet Dr Carrier I will relay the puzzlement over why he fusses so much over Josephus.

        -bunto

        ps. Enjoyed. Oh, and as per providing hard evidence for the Historical Jesus, well…

      • bona4tuna Says:

        [Bunto Skiffler] “hard evidence….blah, blah, blah, blah blah.”

        It’s actually unreasonable for you to only accept ‘hard evidence’ on ancient historical accounts when that is not what historians use when deeming ancient accounts historical. I am actually going to go ahead and post long quotes because these are great examples of the use historical methodology in ancient times. Yes, it is true that ancient authors valued eyewitness testimony, but many Greek, Roman, and Jewish historical accounts are predicated upon _secondhand_ reports. The quotes are taken from this link (http://apologeticsuk.blogspot.com/2012/01/did-jesus-even-exist-problematic.html?mid=579) which cites the scholarly books they came from. Read all of it and see that good historians do not apply a restrictive 21st century historical methods to ancient literature.

        “W. Walbank notes that Greek historians typically did _not_ identify their sources. 1. Thucydides (460-404 B.C.E.) is one example. His exact date of death is unknown. M. I. Finley says, ‘All that we know about Thucydides is found in the few scraps he tells us about himself, and in a short, eccentric and unreliable biography from late antiquity credited to someone named Marcellinus.’ 2. Betty Radice relays, ‘For much of the period he describes The Peloponnesian War is the only source that survives.’ 3. Thucydides frequently relied on secondhand information and he never named his informants. Finley explains, ‘Unlike Herodotus, Thucydides never names his informants, and on only two occasions does he say that he was a direct participant: he suffered from the plague and he was a general at Amphipolis.’ 4.

        “Polybius’s (circa 200-118 B.C.E.) exact birth date is uncertain. 5. Polybius preferred to be an eyewitness himself to the events he records or to obtain his information from people who were eyewitnesses (Histories IV.2.2). Polybius, however, writes about events _pre-dating_ his time in the first two books of his work titled The Rise of the Roman Empire. 6. These two books briefly recount the events of the First Punic War, the subsequent war between Carthage and its mercenary army in revolt, and the construction of a Carthaginian empire in Spain. They also report on what occurred in Greece, such as Achaea’s rise and the war between the Achaean League and Cleomenes of Sparta, which led to Macedonia’s acquisition of southern Greece. 7. He claims that he consulted documents, naming some, and oral sources, but, nevertheless, all of these events predated Polybius. Moreover, historians no longer have access to Polybius’s purported sources.

        “Cornelius Tacitus was born circa 56 C.E. Tacitus’s version of events from the first century C.E., which he discusses in his Annals, (114-120 C.E.) likewise must be deemed _second_ hand_ reporting. Even though Tacitus was born around 56 C.E., he purports to narrate events that occurred in the years 14-54 C.E. in books One through Six and books Eleven and Twelve (the intermediary books are missing).

        Josephus was born in 37 C.E. but his date of death is unknown. 8. Books 1-17 out of the 20 books of Antiquities of the Jews pertain to events and people predating Josephus’s birth. Excepting the introduction section in which Josephus briefly introduces his reasons for writing The Jewish War, Book 1 of The Jewish War focuses on events and individuals that _predated_ Josephus’s time as well. Moreover, Josephus does _not_ identify any of his sources in The Jewish War. 9. Vita, which is attributed to Josephus, says Josephus came from royalty (Vita 1). The Jewish War also claims Josephus resisted the Romans in Galilee and that the Roman general Vespasian sought to capture Josephus, because Josephus had generated so much trouble for the Roman forces in Galilee (The Jewish War 3.340-347). Vespasian eventually became friends with Josephus, allowing Josephus to live within Rome to write Josephus’s books. Vespasian eventually became Emperor of Rome in 69 C.E.

      • bona4tuna Says:

        “Despite these impressive claims, including Josephus’s imperial tie to Emperor Vespasian, no other first century C.E. writer ever mentions Josephus or even the Jewish Revolt or “war” against the Romans. It is not until the next century that Roman authors even hint that there was a considerable struggle against the Jews in the first century C.E. Also, although archaeologists have recovered remains in Galilee suggestive of some battles, they have uncovered nothing to render the conclusion there was an actual war against the Romans.

        “Despite this lack of external contemporary written attestation to Josephus’s existence and the First Jewish Revolt’s reality, Josephus’s writings remain the only first century sources of data about the vast majority Judaea’s history as a whole. E. Mary Smallwood sums up the situation historians are left to deal with succinctly: ‘Thus not only for the war of 66-70 but also for the history of the province of Judaea, and for the story of the reigns of Herod the Great, his sons and his grandson, Josephus stands virtually alone, and must be judged on his own merits.’ 12

        “Despite the resounding silence of contemporary Jewish and Roman writers virtually _no_ historian_ disputes that Josephus existed and that the First Jewish Revolt occurred. Using the common Christ-Myth requirement for external written contemporary attestation, however, one must necessarily conclude that Josephus did not exist and that there was never really a First Jewish Revolt against the Romans. Moreover, those who adhere to this criteria must dismiss many of the events—not necessarily all the characters—that are described in 17 of the 20 books attributed to Josephus in Antiquities.” 13.

        “Due to the uncertain nature of a lot of history, such as the illustrations above, historians have devised some methodological principles that most historians agree should be applied to available sources. First, historians place preference on the earliest sources available, not necessarily contemporary sources. They strive to determine if the available sources reference or quote earlier sources as their informants, even though those sources themselves are not always available for analysis.

        “Second, whenever possible, historians frequently use the criterion of independent attestation. The general logic behind this tool is that an event or person mentioned in several independent documents is more likely to be historical than an event or person mentioned in only one (They cannot always take advantage of this criterion, though, in the cases such as the ones I mentioned above). Third, historians use the ‘criterion of contextual credibility’ in an effort to determine how well a described event or person fits into the historical context the document purports to describe.

        “Finally, historians apply the principle of embarrassment, trusting that a writer typically would not include details that could potentially be embarrassing for their case. Not all events and historical figures meet all of these criteria, but historians do not automatically throw out historical personages’ existence or events’ occurrences as long as they meet at least some of them. My method for examining history incorporates these criteria throughout the rest of this analysis. One can apply most of the above criteria to Jesus much more effectively than they can to many other religious teachers.

        “All available information concerning multiple other reputed ancient religious teachers, such as Confucius, Honi the Circle Drawer, Hanina ben Dosa, Rabbi Hillel, and Rabbi Shammai is rooted in _non-contemporary_ testimonies. There is _no_ surviving_ eyewitness_ account_ for any of these religious figures. All details pertaining to Confucius stem from possibly from his followers and, more probable, their followers. 14. The first biography of Confucius dates 400 years after his life. 15. Honi, Hanina ben Dosa, Rabbi Hillel, and Rabbi Shammai were Jews and only Jewish sources mention them later (100-300 years later). All of the data above is why the vast majority of scholars conclude Jesus existed.”

      • bona4tuna Says:

        Endnotes:

        1. Polybius The Rise of the Roman Empire, trans. Ian Scott-Kilvert, selected with an introduction by F. W. Walbank (New York: Penguin Books, 1979), 33.

        2. Thucydides History of the Peloponnesian War, trans. Rex Warner with an Introduction and Notes by M. I. Finley (Penguin Books, 1954, 1972), 9.

        3. Thucydides History of the Peloponnesian War, trans. Rex Warner with an Introduction and Notes by M. I. Finley, very first page.

        4. Thucydides History of the Peloponnesian War, 11.

        5. Polybius The Rise of the Roman Empire, trans. Ian Scott-Kilvert, selected with an introduction by F. W. Walbank (New York: Penguin Books, 1979), 12.

        6. Polybius The Rise of the Roman Empire, trans. Ian Scott-Kilvert, selected with an introduction by F. W. Walbank (New York: Penguin Books, 1979), 23, 32.

        7. Polybius The Rise of the Roman Empire, 11-12.

        8. Josephus The Jewish War, trans. G. A. Williamson, Revised with a new introduction, notes and appendixes, by E. Mary Smallwood (New York: Penguin Books, 1959, 1970, 1981), 9, 13.

        9. Josephus The Jewish War Books I-II, Loeb Classical Library, trans. H. St. J. Thackeray, ed. Jeffrey Henderson (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2004), xix.

        10. Mordechai Aviam, “Yodefat/Jotapata: The Archaeology of the First Battle,” in The First Jewish Revolt: Archaeology, history, and ideology (London and New York: Routledge, 2002), 130.

        11. Mordechai Aviam, “Yodefat/Jotapata: The Archaeology of the First Battle,” 131.

        12. Josephus The Jewish War, trans. G. A. Williamson, revised with a new introduction, notes and appendixes, by E. Mary Smallwood, 19.

        13. Josephus The Jewish War, trans. G. A. Williamson, revised with a new introduction, notes and appendixes, by E. Mary Smallwood, 13.

        14. A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy. Wing-Tsit Chan, Translator and Compiler (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1963), 19.

        15. Patrick S. Bresnan. Awakening: An Introduction to the History of Eastern Thought. Second Edition (Upper Saddle River, New Jersey: Prentice Hall, 2003, 1999), 127.

      • bona4tuna Says:

        Now, I would like for you to apply your 21st century historical methodology of ‘hard evidence’ to all the above accounts which historians actually deem as ‘historical’, and tell me why historians are wrong to deem them as such.

    • Margarita4 Says:

      Bunto, so, who are the scholars, and what are their works that have been peer reviewed?

    • Bunto Skiffler Says:

      Thx for asking
      [M4] “Bunto, so, who are the scholars, and what are their works that have been peer reviewed?”

      Oh quite a few actually. Some that come to mind are Robin Lane Fox & Crossan, Margaret Barker too. But I would like to say that I believe anybody who is honestly speaking upon biblical studies may do so. There is still an intense desire, when discussing the facts about Christ, to label a thing as heresy (curious that sentiment runs so strong within method).

      ps. Oh did I forget to mention Carrier & Price? Big favs :)

  5. ClassicalTimeline (@CTimeline) Says:

    Bunto: Fitzgerald’s chapter is full of holes and evidently shows his inexperience with considering and presenting historical evidence. Take one example (and you can do this with his discussion of Philo, Diogenes Laertius, Sextus Empiricus etc…)he discusses at length that because Seneca in his De Superstitione didn’t talk about Jesus. He is 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, this argument is useless. In fact it is fradulent. But there are other problems that arise that show just what quality his research has.

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

    Unless he is physic (but given your association with several skeptical societies I think not), or has secretly discovered Seneca’s lost essay he cannot know this 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 every known!) list of religions and sects might function to establish his argument’s relevance to audience, but it is bogus.

    He claims: “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 he says, would have presumably been delighted with the work and have just removed or redacted the section on Christianity. he even mentions a fact that should have precluded him from assuming that Monks destroyed it. Indeed, his 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) The argument that so anamolous is the lack of this work of Seneca that it is suspicious is a conspiracy of his 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 8) 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.” He scenrio he offers is just ludicrous.

  6. Robby Hall Says:

    Perhaps i should try to clarify Bunto Skiffler, what is your definition of ‘hard evidence’?

    • Bunto Skiffler Says:

      I give 7 examples of hard evidence plus 1 exception within the video.

      • Robby Hall Says:

        That’s not a clarification but an advertisement.

        So, Let’s take assertion #1 for what you deem ‘hard evidence’. You consider a photograph to be hard evidence. The irony being, that if you cannot directly contact a living subject, then you must take a consensus view that the photograph you are looking at is, in fact, of the subject in question. If you take Abraham Lincoln, for example, you must conclude that photographs purported to be of Abraham Lincoln are indeed of Lincoln.

        You could only accept this if you believe the historians of the time period to be accurate. However, one could argue that those historians were lying and that the photos of Abraham Lincoln were not of the subject. You could further argue that Lincoln himself was an American Myth and that historians of the time period were simply biased writers who were trying to perpetuate a myth of a 6′ 4″ freer of slaves.

        If I accept that those are indeed photographs of Abraham Lincoln and that he did exist based on the writings of historians of the time period, then I could also conclude based on writings of Tacitus, Josephus, Pliny, Eusebius, and the writers of the Gospels that Jesus of Nazareth did in fact exist.

        Assertion #2. Well audio or video would be a good piece of evidence if in fact I knew first hand the subject I was viewing. If I accepted this as hard evidence, I could also assume that bigfoot and the loch ness monster exist but I doubt anyone in the scientific community would agree with me.

        Assertion #3 Scriptures. Hmmm, I’m not sure what you mean by that as we have more examples of scripture referencing Jesus than we do of Alexander the Great – and within a shorter time period of the autographs.

        That’s just 3.

      • Bunto Skiffler Says:

        Let me guess what comes next… there is no spoon?
        [RHall] “If I accept that those are indeed photographs of Abraham Lincoln and that he did exist based on the writings of historians of the time period, then I could also conclude based on writings of Tacitus, Josephus, Pliny, Eusebius, and the writers of the Gospels that Jesus of Nazareth did in fact exist.”

        Please.

        MyTake-on-YourTake-Assertion #1: No way. Watch some CourtTV or read up on thresholds for ‘clear and convincing’ evidence (Jurisprudence being a bit more demanding).
        MyTake-on-YourTake-Assertion #2: Yes. So your earlier point about the consensus view (scientific) was?
        MyTake-on-YourTake-Assertion #3: Incomplete comprehension. Please take note of truth vector explanation which followed example #3 but precedes an actual advertisment of mine for Celsusblog.

        Thanx for watching :)

        -bunto

      • bona4tuna Says:

        You need actual photographs and audio or video of people or you won’t believe they ever lived? Well, I guess that none of the people in the ancient world mentioned in literature never existed (facepalm).

      • Bunto Skiffler Says:

        [b4tuna] “You need actual photographs and audio or video of people or you won’t believe they ever lived? Well, I guess that none of the people in the ancient world mentioned in literature never existed (facepalm).”

        pre – Thanx for watching :) – my entire vid.

      • bona4tuna Says:

        Bunto, read my long post up there and then tell me why historians are wrong in accepting the accounts mentioned in my post as historical. They do not apply your 21st century historical methodology of ‘hard evidence’ to ancient accounts.

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