Book Plunge: There Was No Jesus. There Is No God.

What do I think of this book? Let’s talk about it on Deeper Waters.

Raphael Lataster’s book is said to be a scholarly examination of the evidence for the existence of Jesus and God both, though most of the book does focus on the existence of Jesus. He starts off on the first page saying this:

Like many people, I just want to know if particular religious claims are true. And the truth is not a democracy, and certainly does not care about our feelings.

There will be no disagreement with a claim like this. Of course it doesn’t care about our feelings. If we find something is true, we should accept it as true and not let emotional reasons get in the way of accepting that truth.

One would hope that with a start like that, we would get a good look at the evidence, but while this book is many things, scholarly is not one of them. Aside from those already sold on Jesus Mythicism, it’s hard to imagine any NT scholar in the field being convinced by any argument in here. I found myself highlighting something on practically every page that was a great error.

To start off, let’s be clear that Lataster differentiates between the biblical Jesus and the historical Jesus. Yet is this not a problem at the start? What if it turns out that the biblical Jesus is in fact the historical Jesus?

Throughout the work, Lataster will make claims about how the gospels should not be trusted for having “supernatural” claims in them. Yet do we see an argument anywhere against miracles? No. I just did a quick search on the Kindle to verify what I was already sure of. Hume is not even mentioned one time. Sure. Hume’s argument has been dealt with time and time again, even by people who were his contemporaries, but you’d think there would at least be an attempt at an argument.

Let us keep in mind the rule of William James, not a Christian, made earlier.

a rule of thinking which would absolutely prevent me from acknowledging certain kinds of truth if those kinds of truth were really there, would be an irrational rule.

Suppose for the sake of argument that the historical Jesus did in fact do miracles and rise from the dead. If you come with a rule that says right at the start that miracles can never happen, then it follows that by your methodology you could never know the historical Jesus. Why not let the evidence decide if miracles can happen instead of beforehand saying “Miracles are highly improbable, therefore miracles cannot happen.”

As we move to the acknowledgments, we find part of the problem. There is appreciation given to Hector Avalos, Robert Price, and Richard Carrier. It is odd that in the book Lataster will talk about how often historicists will just cite each other and then be giving each other pats on the back.

Yet throughout the work, one will find Avalos, Price, Carrier, etc. quoted profusely. Want to see what Ben Witherington says? You won’t. Want to see a counter-argument from Gary Habermas and Mike Licona? You’ll be disappointed. Want to see the refutation of Richard Bauckham’s case that the gospels are eyewitness accounts? Bauckham’s name is not mentioned once. Want to note a reply to a scholar like N.T. Wright? The Bibliography fails to mention him. All we have is the sound of one-hand clapping.

A true scholarly work will interact with the best arguments on the other side.

On page 9, Lataster tells us that most biblical scholars are Christians. Considering that later on he considers himself and Bob Price Christians, despite being atheists, one wonders what kind of idea he’s talking about. In the sense of orthodox Christians, most are not Christians. Perhaps Lataster should go to an SBL meeting and see how many non-Christians he meets. On the same page, he also refers to secular scholarship as ‘real’ scholarship.

It’s nice to have that well-poisoning made so explicit isn’t it? One can’t help but wonder if Lataster has ever read any scholarship outside his circle. There are several Christian scholars who don’t hold to Inerrancy, for instance, but hold to essentials of the Christian faith.

He also then refers to John Dominic Crossan as a top scholar. Who gave this kind of judgment? We would love to know. This kind of terminology shows up regularly throughout the work. It’s just as wrong when evangelicals do it. Note that Lataster says he is a former fundamentalist Christian. Unfortunately, now he’s a fundamentalist atheist who just as uncritically accepts what non-Christian writers say as much as he did what Christian writers (If he read any) said in the past.

Also included as top scholars are Bart Ehrman, Robert Price, and Richard Carrier.

Of course these have done the hard work to reach their level, but who would refer to Price as a top scholar for instance? One would think a top scholar would be teaching at an accredited institution. Richard Carrier is popular in the world of internet atheists, but not so much beyond that. Beyond that, it’d be interesting to see if anyone knew his name.

On page 12, Lataster says that relying on scholarly opinions rather than the evidence is the fallacy of the appeal to authority. It’s a wonder that he says Carrier specializes in philosophy and yet Carrier apparently never showed Lataster what the appeal to authority is. If it is what he says it is, then Lataster is guilty for constantly appealing to Carrier, Price, and yes, *groan* Earl Doherty and Randel Helms.

The appeal to authority is fallacious when the person is not an authority in the related field. While Richard Dawkins is an authority on biology, he is not one on philosophy and history. While Mike Licona is an authority on history, he is not one on biology.

Note also that someone like Gary Habermas says in his talk on the minimal facts approach (Something Lataster never interacts with) that his argument is not “Scholars say, therefore it’s true.” It’s the point that if non-Christian scholars are willing to grant these claims about Jesus that they get no gain from, then there must be good reasons for accepting them.

On page 13, Lataster quotes Carrier to show that Craig Blomberg argues that one should approach a text with complete trust unless you have reason to doubt what they say. The citation for this is in Blomberg’s 1987 edition of the Historical Reliability of the Gospels on pages 240-254. One would think that for such a simple quote, one would only need one page, unless one is having the wool pulled over their eyes.

This news was quite a surprise to Blomberg when I mentioned it to him. Blomberg’s position is that one should give the text the benefit of the doubt unless one has reason to doubt. This is far from saying give the text complete trust.

On page 14, Lataster says we must hold ancient history up to modern standards. Professors of ancient history will be surprised to notice that Lataster then goes on to say “If that means historians can say nothing of the ancient world with certainty, then so be it!”

I really hope professors of ancient history become aware of this. It sounds like quite a move to say in order to have no real knowledge of Jesus, we’re going to throw out our knowledge of ancient history so that we can be certain of nothing in the field. Is that what it takes just to avoid belief in Jesus? I’m not even talking about belief in the Jesus who died and rose from the dead. I’m talking about just the existence of Jesus. Is that a worthwhile price to pay?

On page 15, Lataster says that “Possibly, therefore probably” is fallacious. I find this an amusing claim because Lataster will often make the same mistake himself throughout the book. For instance, why do we not have some works of ancient history, like some of Dio and Tacitus? Because Christians destroyed them since they didn’t talk about Jesus. Evidence of this? None whatsoever. But hey, it’s possible, therefore that’s probably what happened.

Of course, there’s also Bayes Theorem. I have strong reason to suspect that Lataster does not understand Bayes Theorem. I suspect instead that he’s simply going off of Carrier who I also suspect does not understand it, based on the interaction that Timothy McGrew of Western Michigan University has had. When I once asked McGrew for his credentials, I got the following:

I’ve been teaching epistemology and probability at the graduate level for nearly two decades. I’ve published work on applications of probability theory in major journals likeMind, The Monist, Analysis, Erkenntnis, and British Journal for the Philosophy of Science. I’ve given popular lectures on aspects of the subject for the Math department here, and Lydia and I presented work on the subject at the Formal Epistemology Workshop at Berkeley a few years back, and I’ve also given talks in this area at conferences at Notre Dame and in locations from Los Angeles to Leuven. I’ve published a paper (co-written with Lydia) on “The Credibility of Witnesses and Testimony to the Miraculous” in a book published by Oxford University Press, written (by invitation, but then peer reviewed) the article on “Evidence” for The Routledge Companion to Epistemology, and (also with Lydia, also by invitation, also then peer reviewed) the article on “The Argument from Miracles” in The Blackwell Companion to Natural Theology. I was asked to write a new article on “Miracles” for the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, one of the requests specifically being to discuss some of the issues arising from a probabilistic analysis of arguments for and against miracles. Two of my forthcoming articles in peer-reviewed journals deal with the application of probability theory to historical and theological arguments.

Hmmm. I wonder who I should trust on Bayes Theorem. McGrew has been teaching for two decades in probability. He’s been peer-reviewed numerous times. How about Carrier? What credentials could he show to demonstrate his expertise in the area?

Lataster regularly notes that the gospels are anonymous. This mistakenly assumes that because a name was not included on the document, that this means we cannot know who wrote it. There is no interaction with cases made that defend the traditional authorship of the gospels.

In fact, there is no methodology given for how one determines authorship. How does one know that Plutarch wrote Plutarch’s biographies? We could also ask about Tacitus. Well Tacitus’s writings have his name on them! Okay. The Pastoral Epistles have the names of Paul on them but that doesn’t mean scholars just stop and say “Well that settles it! Paul wrote them!” Are we to believe that if the gospels had the traditional names on them then that means Lataster would just roll over and accept them as being by those people? Not at all. The anonymous bit is just a smokescreen to say that because no name is explicitly on them, we cannot know who wrote them.

We eagerly await to see Lataster’s methodology for determining authorship of ancient documents. We also suspect that he does not have any.

On page 19, Lataster quotes Carrier saying “All we have are uncritical pre-Christian devotional or hagiographic texts filled with dubious claims written decades after the fact by authors who never tell us their methods or sources. Multiple Attestation can never gain traction on such a horrid body of evidence.”

To begin with, what scholars out there say the gospels are hagiographies? The leading majority now is saying biographies, but hagiographies as a genre did not exist at the time of Jesus. In fact, it is fallacious and unethical to have a later genre show up, like hagiographies, note some characteristics of them, then go to an earlier time when the genre was not around and say because this work also shares those characteristics, it is hagiography as well.

It is interesting to see Carrier say something like this also when he points to the reliability of Caesar crossing the Rubicon. This event occurred in 49 B.C. Who does Carrier appeal to? Let’s look at Carrier’s own words.

Fourth, we have the story of the “Rubicon Crossing” in almost every historian of the period, including the most prominent scholars of the age: Suetonius, Appian, Cassius Dio, Plutarch

Suetonius was born around A.D. 69 and lived on into the second century. Appian was born even later around 95 A.D. and lived about 70 years. Dio was born in the early part of the latter half of the second century and lived on into the third. Plutarch lived from about 45-120 A.D.

Question. How many of these people could have been eyewitnesses to the crossing of the Rubicon? None. How many of them wrote “Decades” after the event.” Answer: All. In fact, all of them wrote at least a century after the event. Carrier’s list does not include one contemporary historian.

By his own standards, we should not believe Caesar crossed the Rubicon.

Or could it be that Carrier presents this as a powerful argument when it is used on the gospels and ignores it for the rest of ancient history. Will Lataster be consistent then and reject this piece of ancient history? Note that while he does give four sources, multiple attestation cannot work. No eyewitnesses and the time span is too great!

Furthermore, yes. These are pro-Christian claims. What of it? If you want to know about any great teacher, their disciples are likely to be the ones to write the most about them. Do we learn about Socrates the most from people who are anti-Socrates?

Lataster can complain about bias, but is it not just as much bias to treat a source differently just because it’s in favor of a position? It would be a wonder to see what would happen if we tried that in our legal system!

Lataster goes on to refer to Stephen Law saying a religion could make embarrassing and untruthful claims and points to scientology as an example.

Really? To begin with, how much money is involved in scientology? Answer: Plenty! Try getting an auditing session! It will cost you a bundle! Second, this is a modern society as opposed to an agonistic society. What did the apostles have to gain for making up a lie? Answer: Persecutions, shaming, being cut off from YHWH, estrangement from family and society, and sometimes death. What did they have to gain? Nothing.

Lataster will repeatedly say the gospels are not by eyewitnesses. Unfortunately, he gives no arguments for this claim. Will you see any interaction going on with Richard Bauckham’s massive work of “Jesus and the Eyewitnesses.”? Not at all. It’s doubtful Lataster even knows it exists. Will you see any interaction with any scholarship making a case that the gospels are eyewitnesses. No. All you get is the sound of one hand clapping.

Lataster also says a fictitious work could have the details one sees in the gospels, much like Harry Potter has many details about London. Indeed! And what genre is Harry Potter? We will get into this more later, but the gospels are more and more being seen as the genre of Greco-Roman biography and should be read in that light.

Also, Lataster often makes comments about biblical Inerrancy, every word of the Bible being true and divinely inspired, and literal interpretations. This is just a hang-up from Lataster’s fundamentalist days that he still uses to understand the Bible. Lataster is unaware that for most of us, if we were shown an error in the Bible, we’d have to change our view of Scripture some, but we would not pack up everything and go home. The Bible is not an all-or-nothing game. Neither is any other ancient document.

Lataster also says to use the gospels is circular reasoning. Not at all. It would be circular reasoning to say all the gospels say is true, therefore Jesus existed. The gospels are a source like other sources. Lataster has this rule that biblical claims can only be validated if they are backed by non-biblical sources. Do we see the same done with Josephus? Tacitus? Plutarch? Nope. Not at all.

On page 27, Lataster brings up genre again saying

There is still not complete agreement over what genre the Gospels belong to, an issue that is explored later on.

Complete agreement? No. Yet if Lataster is saying we should only accept claims where there is complete agreement, he’ll be waiting. Would it be fine with him if I pointed to YECs and said “Therefore, since there is not complete agreement, the issue of the age of the Earth is still to be debated in science.” Would he do the same if I pointed to those who are skeptical of evolution? Now I have no dog in that fight. I really don’t care about evolution. Yet I suspect that Lataster would be sure the Earth is old and evolution is a fact despite lack of complete agreement. He could just say “Well the secularists all agree.” Oh good. Then this gets us to his quote of Richard Carrier in this page. Carrier assesses the way scholars use sources and says in his description that they are

producing standard answers constantly repeated as “the consensus” when really it’s just everyone citing each other like robbing Peter to pay Paul.

I suspect a number of Christian scientists might say the same thing about secularists. In reality, scholars point to others to show they are not just tooting their own horn. It’s amusing also to see a claim like this in a book that relies heavily on quoting mythicists profusely. Physician! Heal thyself!

Note also Lataster’s disdain for believing Bible scholars who he says are “often seen as lay people with a few letters after their name by ‘real scholars.’ “

We eagerly await to see who the people are who think N.T. Wright, Richard Bauckham, Larry Hurtado, and Ben Witherington are just lay people. Does anyone say the same about Craig Keener and Craig Evans? It’s no wonder that Lataster says scholars agree with him when he discounts at the start any scholars who disagree with him.

Lataster points out that Meier says that multiple attestation properly used would back miracle claims. At this point, I do think there is much inconsistency in much scholarship today, but Lataster says I would object if the claims were made by rival religions.

Why? I have no problem. If you can give me good evidence that someone from another religion did a miracle, well I’ll accept it! I have no rule that says “All miracles that are true must be miracles in the Christian religion.” If Lataster thinks there is a better case out there, let him bring it.

Lataster goes on to say that Ehrman in a debate with Michael Licona (Someone Lataster never interacts with in this book) that

Historians must try and determine the most probable explanations, while miracles by definition are the most improbable explanations. They are considered to be miracles because they overturn scientific laws.

Tim McGrew disagrees giving this definition.

A miracle (from the Latin mirari, to wonder), at a first and very rough approximation, is an event that is not explicable by natural causes alone.

Nothing said about probability whatsoever. If someone wants to object that I used a Christian like McGrew, then please realize that that definition can be found by anyone who checks the article on the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy web site. If they have a problem, please let them contact the web site and express their discontent.

Lataster does not give an argument against miracles beyond overturning scientific laws. One has to wonder how stupid he thinks ancient people were. Ancient people knew what it took to make a baby. That’s why a virgin birth was a miracle. Ancient people knew that people don’t naturally walk on water. They knew bread does not naturally multiply instantly. They knew water does not naturally instantly turn into wine. They also knew that dead people stay dead, and these people quite likely saw dead people far more often than we do.

Is it really rational to say that because we are so much more advanced scientifically that we know better? They knew better too! That’s why they recognized these as miracles! No one said “Oh look. Jesus is walking on water. Well I guess that happens.”

Lataster goes on to cite Ehrman who says the best evidence would be accounts that are numerous, independent, contemporary, coherent, and fairly disinterested accounts.

To begin with, the gospels are independent. If one wants to say they used each other, okay. No problem. They also each used their own sources of information, hence the major differences between them. It’s amazing that the same skeptics who complain about the gospels copying each other complain about them contradicting each other. One would think if such copying was going on they’d get the story straighter.

Furthermore, you could discount any historical claim this way. Perhaps the story of Caesar crossing the Rubicon was all just copied from an original source. Any differences later on? They’re just fabrications. It’s all just one story being repeated by others.

As for disinterest, that sounds good to us, but not to an ancient. You needed to have someone who was interested in what they wrote about. In fact, today we all write about what we’re interested about. I, for instance, won’t write about what plays were made in a football game because I frankly don’t care about football. I will write about a controversy involving Tim Tebow and religion possibly because I do care about religion.

Lataster banks much on the argument from silence saying on page 37 that “There are no extra-Biblical references to Jesus that are contemporary and by eyewitnesses.”

What of it?

Seriously. What of it?

What Lataster needs to convince me of is why anyone writing at the time would really care to mention Jesus.

“Well Jesus was the Son of God going around Judea doing miracles!”

Has Lataster ever been to Lourdes to verify any miracle claims there? Doubtful, though those are miracle claims that are regularly taking place. Does he investigate the claims of Benny Hinn or numerous claims that show up on TBN or on Pat Robertson’s show?

If not, why does he think that historians in Rome would do the same with Jesus. Let’s consider some information about Jesus.

Jesus was not a political figure. He never held office at all. He did not travel internationally. He was living in a world that had beliefs that were considered deviant but were tolerated. To make matters worse, he was crucified, which meant that he died a traitor to Rome (And for a Jew, a blasphemer to YHWH). Why on Earth would someone want to write about this? They would have seen him as a crackpot who got what he deserved.

It will not work to say that today we know he was the basis for the largest religion of all. That was not known then. It does not amaze me that so few people outside the Bible mention Jesus. It amazes me that anyone does! What Lataster needs to learn is that where we would expect silence anyway, the argument from silence is weak.

Furthermore, much of ancient history has been lost over time. For something to have survived to this day, there must be three things happen.

First, it must be noticed.

Second, it must be recorded.

Third, that recording must last.

Let’s suppose that 100% of people notice an event in the past. Then 100% of authorities in the area say something about it. Then, 15% of those survive. What are the odds we will have a record of this event? If you said “15%” move to the head of the class.

And this is with everyone noticing and writing about it, improbable in itself! (Keep in mind only one contemporary mentions the eruption of Vesuvius and he doesn’t mention the towns being destroyed!

Also, keep in mind that in the ancient world, if you wanted to get word out about something, writing was not the best way to do it. Writing was in fact seen as less reliable than the oral tradition. Where most people could not read, the way to reach them was not to point to a book. It was to talk to them yourself. In our post-Gutenberg society, we think we should write everything down immediately. Writing was expensive, timely, difficult, and it was just a lot easier to use oral tradition. (Of course, there will be no interaction with scholars like Ken Bailey or Richard Bauckham on the reliability of oral tradition.)

Lataster also says that Avalos says that the texts that we have are from the medieval period allowing plenty of time for creative editing.

Of course there is time for editing. There was also time in between my starting this blog and the point that I’m at now to go murder my neighbors next door. Does that mean then that there’s a basis for thinking that I have done so? To say there is time for something to happen is not the same as to say there is reason to think that it did. Avalos would need to present some textual evidence to show that the texts have been tampered with. It will also need to be convincing to scholars of other sources in question, such as Tacitus and Josephus.

Lataster says that the earliest copies we have of the Bible are far removed from the originals. Far less removed however than any other ancient work. This is especially the case if Dan Wallace’s claim about a copy of Mark that’s possibly 1st century is in fact true. We can be sure that Lataster has never read anything on textual criticism beyond just Bart Ehrman.

Lataster also says that Socrates’s record is also not so good, but billions don’t proclaim his divinity. At this point, Lataster is guilty of, oh, what’s the word, oh yes, bias! Jesus is to be treated differently because he makes a different claim.

Remember boys and girls. Bias is wrong when Christians are at the wheel. It’s okay when secularists are.

Lataster tells us that Philo doesn’t mention Jesus. What of it? Why should he? Philo was not interested in mentioning Jesus. What about Seneca. Seneca writes much about crucifixion but does not mention Jesus. Why should he? Jesus died as a traitor to Rome. Why would Seneca care?

Lataster tells us that Seneca and other writers wrote about everything from bizarre ways to die, how they brushed their teeth, and how people went to the bathroom, but they did not mention Jesus and His miracles.

Nor did they mention Vesuvius interrupting save one. So what? Again, we are not given a reason why they should want to mention Jesus. He was a leader of a deviant movement that had strange beliefs that would surely die out quickly. Does Lataster think Jesus should be treated seriously because he claimed to be the Son of God? Will Lataster go to an insane asylum now and start treating people there who make the same claim just as seriously?

On page 43, we are told that the argument from silence single-handedly does considerable damage to claims about Jesus.

No it doesn’t. We expect silence anyway. As we have said, Lataster gives no reason whatsoever to think that people would want to treat the claims of Jesus seriously. In fact, we have every reason to think that they would not.

Lataster then writes about Paul saying Paul got his information through divine revelation. His basis for this is Galatians 1:11-12.

What Lataster does not mention is that Paul is comparing himself to Jeremiah describing his call to be a prophet. It is certain Paul had some knowledge of the gospel! He was persecuting the church after all! He would have to know something of what they believed to be persecuting them. Unfortunately, Lataster goes on to apply the same to 1 Cor. 15:3-4 adding in that the OT was Paul’s other source.

Lataster makes no mention of the fact that scholarship, including the Jesus Seminar, agrees that 1 Cor. 15 is an early Christian creed that highly pre-dates the epistle and the terminology of “What I received I passed on” is the language used of passing on oral tradition, of which Paul, a Pharisee, would know. This is amazing in light of the fact that Lataster says Paul specifically dismisses human sources. The Galatians claim is meant to show the gospel has divine origin. It it not meant to show that it is only transmitted through divine sources.

As for the Old Testament, this is meant to show that what happened was part of the eternal plan of God and was thus a fulfillment of the promises of the OT. It was not saying that Paul just sat down with the OT one day and came up with a new belief system.

Much of this comes from Doherty. It is not a shock that Lataster did not find scholars sharing this idea. They don’t. Consider the Hebrews passage used. Hebrews 8:4 speaks about Jesus and says “If He were on Earth.” The author regularly has spoken about Jesus’s earthly existence beforehand. There was no need to spell it out. What the author is saying is Jesus serves now at the heavenly sanctuary and thus not being on Earth, does not have to repeatedly offer sacrifices as the earthly priests do.

Even more amazing is the Philippians 2:5-11 text where we are told that the name Jesus was given to Jesus later. No. What it is is a message of vindication. Jesus would be the name everyone bows to because of what He did on the cross and in rising again. It is hard to imagine how any serious exegete could come to the bizarre interpretations that Lataster does.

Lataster also holds the Testimonium Flavium to be an interpolation entirely and thinks Eusebius was the culprit, especially since he says Eusebius is a well-known defender of pious fraud citing Eusebius’s claim in the church history that

Hence we shall not mention those who were shaken by the persecution, nor those who in everything pertaining to salvation were shipwrecked, and by their own will were sunk in the depths of the flood. But we shall introduce into this history in general only those events which may be usefull first to ourselves and afterwards to posterity.

Where is the fraud? Eusebius admits that some fell away by their own actions. He just says it is of no benefit to talk about them so he’s not going to do it. That’s not pulling the wool over anyone’s eyes. Lying about it would be saying “No one ever fell away so there’s no need to mention anything about that.” It is a way of shaming those who fail away and honoring those who stood faithful.

In speaking about Josephus’s other mention of Jesus, Lataster says “The Jesus mentioned need not necessarily be Jesus of Nazareth.” Lataster says there are several Jesus’s mentioned in Josephus and Jesus was a common name. While this is true, it is noteworthy that this Jesus is known as the brother of someone else, not a common methodology to use unless your brother was famous, and no description would indicate that Josephus is pointing to a prior reference, the one Lataster denies. Lataster thinks it’s more likely that it’s Jesus bar Damneus, mentioned later on in this same section. Why should we think that? No reason given.

Lataster also says we should be suspicious of Josephus due also to his references to Hercules. He gives page numbers, but unfortunately, he never looked them up.

One is in Against Apion in 1.18. What does it talk about? It talks about the building of the temple of Hercules. Another is in War of the Jews reference 2.16.4. It speaks about the Pillars of Hercules. The third mention is in the Antiquities in 1.15. How much of this relates to any Hercules is questionable, though it is not implausible to say there was a man named Hercules that had myths built up about him. The fact that two of these claims point to something no one would deny the existence of shows that Lataster did not bother to check the sources. (Indeed, this is not the first time I have seen such a claim. Some atheist site out there is no doubt propagating a myth that the faithful accept blindly.)

In fact, to make matters worse, Lataster tells us that by modern reckoning, Josephus was not that great a historian. It is a wonder this was allowed in what is supposed to be a Master’s thesis. If any school passed this, their credibility is called seriously into question. And why is Josephus questionable? Because he mentions miracles.

No bias here. None whatsoever.

Moving on to Tacitus, Lataster says it’s unlikely that a non-Christian would call Jesus “Christ.”

Why?

Beats me.

Christ became such a common way to speak about Jesus that it would not be a surprise to see that some people thought it was a name. (In fact, today, there are people who think Christ was Jesus’s last name, as if he was the son of Mary and Joseph Christ.) He also says Jesus is not specified.

Yes. Well he’s free to try to find another Jesus who was called Christ who was crucified under Pontius Pilate (Tacitus’s only reference to Pilate by the way) and who had a mischievous superstition (In Tacitus’s eyes) rise up about him that had reached all the way to Rome in Tacitus’s day and whose followers were persecuted by Nero.

Any takers for that Lataster?

Lataster also says many scholars dismiss this passage as Christian hearsay. Who are these scholars? We don’t know. They’re never named. He also says there is question over Tacitus’s reliability since he calls Pilate a procurator instead of a prefect. Interestingly, Lataster himself says Pilate could have been both! (And if that is the case, why say Tacitus was inaccurate?) Who are these scholars who think Tacitus is unreliable? If anything, he’s our most reliable Roman historian!

It’s also in fact entirely possible that Tacitus was using an anachronism since he was using the equivalent term his readers would understand. It would be like speaking about Constantinople in ancient history but using the name Istanbul.

Finally, we have the paranoia of Lataster kicking in as he says that most of book 5 and the beginning of book 6 is missing. Why is this? Because according to Robert Drews, it had to be pious fraud. Christians destroyed the text because it covered the relevant time period and made no mention of Jesus.

History gone amuck. You can make any claim you want to by pointing to theories. It’s amazing that someone who goes after Ehrman for using sources we don’t have will himself point to theories we have no evidence for when there’s any number of reasons a work would be lost over time. Lataster says the same about Cassius Dio not having information on the years 6 B.C. to 2 B.C.. Since there was no birth of Jesus, obviously the Christians destroyed them!

When it comes to Suetonius, we are told on page 65 that Chrestus is a Greek name meaning “The Good.”

I would like to see one source that says this! In fact, to make sure I wasn’t missing anything, I contacted others who are quite scholarly in Greek. One wrote back to say “No. It is a Latin term.” Lataster does not cite a Lexicon for this claim. His only source is Doherty.

On page 72, Lataster says there is no complete agreement over what genre the gospels actually fall into. Ironically, his citation for that is Richard Burridge’s “What Are The Gospels?” Had Lataster actually read that, he would know it is an argument that has changed the tide in convincing scholars that the gospels are indeed Greco-Roman biographies. Instead, he thinks it more likely that they fit the Mythic Hero Archetype. (Not noticing that such a claim has been applied to even Abraham Lincoln)

On page 75, Lataster tells us that NT scholar Jerome Neyrey says that John was structured to be persuasive in portraying Jesus as worthy of praise and the same applies to Matthew and Luke.

Well there’s your smoking gun right there! The gospels were written to be persuasive! We all know true historians never wrote works to be persuasive! Every single person who wrote a biography was writing to persuade the audience about the virtue of the person that they were writing about. It’s not a shock the gospels did the same thing! For Lataster, this calls into question their status as sober and objective historical biographies.

In fact, Lataster even suggests that maybe Luke’s source is also the same as what he thinks Paul’s source is, which is just divine revelation. Never mind Luke tells you his methodology. Luke must obviously be lying! He doesn’t fare much better with Mark saying it’s described as good news in the first verse rather than an accurate and objective historical account.

Lataster says that perhaps we should take all of Mark as allegory using the first parable in the gospel as an example while saying the version found in the Gospel of Thomas could be an older version.

Once again, there is a reason NT scholarship does not take this seriously….

Moving back to Paul, in 1 Cor. 15, Lataster says Paul does not mention any before-death appearances of Jesus. Why should he? His audience was questioning the possibility of resurrection and not questioning the existence of Jesus. Note also that Lataster tries to say a passage like this is from divine revelation because of the language of receiving tying it into the 1 Cor. 11 passage about what Paul says he received from the Lord.

Lataster is ignorant of the fact that a number of rabbis would speak about revelations they received from Sinai that were known to be part of the oral tradition that supposedly went back to Sinai. To say they were from Sinai then was to say they were the source, whether or not that claim was correct. To say Paul received the Lord’s Supper message from the Lord is to say that Jesus is the source, which makes sense since Jesus was the main figure at the Last Supper and spoke the words there. Paul does not say that in 1 Cor. 15 because he received no statement that finds its source in Jesus about the appearance of Jesus. Instead, the source is oral tradition as is practically universally agreed on in scholarship.

Lataster mentions several times where Paul could have cited Jesus but didn’t. The first is dietary laws in 1 Cor. 8. The issue is not dietary laws there but rather eating meat sold in the marketplace that was offered to pagan idols. This was never an issue Jesus dealt with.

What about celibacy in 1 Cor. 7? This was about the relationship between a believing spouse and an unbelieving spouse and what to do when a believer is abandoned by an unbeliever. Jesus did not recommend celibacy in the passage in Matthew 19 but said some were eunuchs for the Kingdom. Note that in the passage in 1 Cor. 7, Paul does in fact cite some of the Jesus tradition.

What about when discussing circumcision? Jesus said nothing on if circumcision would have been required for salvation. What difference would it make to say Jesus was circumcised? What about paying taxes. Paul is making a longer talk about the relation of Christians to government which as a whole Jesus did not address. Did Paul forget what the Romans did to Jesus? No. Paul is making a general statement. In general, it’s best to obey the authorities. What about Jews demanding miracles in 1 Cor. 1:22. What good would it do to say Jesus did miracles? He was crucified so the Jews would reject him. It would do no more good to say Jesus did miracles than it does to tell Lataster that Jesus did miracles.

Lataster also says that Paul believed Jesus was a spiritual being based on 1 Cor. 15. Absent is any looking at the work of Gundry and Licona in this regards. Absent is any mention that in 1 Cor. 2 the spiritual man judges all things, which does not mean the immaterial man. Are we to believe Paul thought Adam was immaterial since he refers to him as a living soul? Lataster along these lines also speculates letters of Paul we no longer have access to taught a cosmic Christ so the Christians disposed of them.

Yes. Orthodox Christians would have kept around the letters of someone who they deemed to be heretical and kept them in the NT. Lataster just has an intense paranoia with always assuming that if something is missing in ancient history, it must be the fault of the Christians! They must have destroyed all the references to Vesuvius interrupting as well!

Lataster also says since Paul referred to the twelve, he forgot about Judas dying.

Those who are into football often tell me about the Big Ten, a group that does not consist of Ten! Obviously every sports fan out there has forgotten this fact! We eagerly await Lataster’s contacting ESPN to get them to change their referencing of the group.

Lataster also questions the Galatians reference to the brother of Jesus citing Origen. Well good for Origen. Why should I think that he’s right? He also cites Hoffman saying that Since Paul is not interested in the historical Jesus, it’s unimaginable he would point to a biological relationship here.

Somehow, it seems quite imaginable to NT scholarship the world over. Incredulity is not an argument.

Lataster also says Clement of Alexandria had hints of Gnosticism saying “The Gnostic alone is holy and Pious.” Had Lataster done five minutes of research, he would have found that Clement is mocking the Gnostics saying they do not truly know. The Christians know and the Christians are the true gnostics then since they have real knowledge of the only real God. It is lazy research like this that calls into question Lataster’s methodology of study.

Of course, no work like this would be complete without the copycat theory going around. Jesus was just a copy of other mythical stories before him!

We are also told Philo spoke of a person named Jesus much like Jesus in a look at Zechariah 6:11-12. Most often, this is referring to “On The Confusion of Tongues.” I eagerly desire to see where this Jesus or Joshua is in this book. Doing a search through the book reveals no mention of Jesus or Joshua. Could someone please give a reference to this?

Thus far, I see no real arguments.

Moving on, we have Bayes Theorem, but I see no reason to think Lataster is competent in Bayes Theorem. As someone like Lydia or Tim McGrew would say, who are both skilled in this area, it goes beyond “Extraordinary Claims Require Extraordinary Evidence.” The prior probability has to always change based on evidence. Indeed, an agnostic like Earman lambastes Hume’s argument against miracles in “Hume’s Abject Failure” using Bayes Theorem saying that Hume’s argument would destroy science as well since it does away with marvels too. I will say nothing more about it at this point leaving it to authorities like the McGrews.

Now we move on to God’s existence. Lataster first wants to deal with a posteriori arguments which he says rely on empirical evidence, that is, science. Unfortuantely, while all that is scientific is empirical, not all that is empirical is scientific. Empirical simply means relying on sense experience. I do not need to use science to know that the world exists outside my mind, and indeed I cannot. In fact, if one goes to dictionary.com, this is what is found under empirical.

em·pir·i·cal [em-pir-i-kuhl]
adjective
1.
derived from or guided by experience or experiment.
2.
depending upon experience or observation alone, without using scientific method or theory, especially as in medicine.
3.
provable or verifiable by experience or experiment.

Lataster is just giving us a scientism. It is a wonder that science is said to admit its mistakes and correct itself while at the same time being the best methodology for truth. If it gets the truth so well, why does it have so many mistakes to admit?

Lataster says God denies moderns evidence of his existence since we are less superstitious and gullible. Absent is any interaction with Craig Keener’s “Miracles.” Has Lataster even bothered to research one miracle claim in that one? You know the answer to that one already. The problem is not lack of evidence but being unwilling to look at the evidence one has. Lataster’s claim throughout is that we need to see God come down Himself and speak to us in a dramatic way. (You know, the way he already did which Lataster would require have to have happen again and again regularly since no one should believe unless they personally experienced it.) Lataster has this idea that if God is real, God is supposed to serve him and make himself known or else Lataster has no obligation to believe. Perhaps it could just be that that is not the kind of belief that God wants.

Lataster also says historical arguments fail because history cannot prove miraculous claims. Evidence of this? None. Argument for it? None. It is just an assertion. Perhaps since Lataster at one point quotes Christopher Hitchens, I should do the same. “What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence.”

Note also that in speaking of arguments like the Cosmological argument, Lataster says that while many would call them a posteriori arguments since they rely on some sort of scientific evidence or concepts, he calls them a priori anyway. Why? None of the evidence is direct and exclusive.

And if you call the tail a leg, a dog has five legs then….

Philosophers around the world will also be amused to hear Lataster refer to their work as lazy. He says they only come about by thinking (Page 150) and not scientific evidence. No need to do actual work. In his words

These arguments are lazy, ambiguous, speculative, discriminatory, and often appeal to our ignorance (our not knowing something). Such arguments only make inferences. They prove nothing.

It would be amusing to see Lataster get pounded into the ground by someone like Edward Feser….

The main theistic arguments Lataster deals with are Craig’s, and even these dealings with them are ramshackle. Hardly a page if that much is dedicated to an argument. For instance, in looking at the moral argument, Lataster claims it’s circular. Most notably because Craig says it’s obvious that objective moral values exist. Some have disputed this of course, but Lataster does not. If so, what source does he give for morality? Answer. None.

It was hard to imagine doing even worse than Lataster did for Jesus, but somehow he did it for God.

Christians should hope, however, that books like those of Latester will keep coming out and become the bread and butter of the atheistic community. Such works will only further lower their intellectual standards. In the meantime, we’d best be building up ours all the more. Lataster’s work will help those who are already convinced, but only further cement them in their ignorance.

In Christ,
Nick Peters

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36 Responses to “Book Plunge: There Was No Jesus. There Is No God.”

  1. Toasty McGrath Says:

    Reading through this, I am just amazed at the author’s level of amateurism. The tangents he extrapolates from minor points (while ignoring the collective argument in a very juvenile fashion), the dismissive language he uses for things he clearly does not understand, the ridicule he heaps upon people hopelessly more qualified than him. I mean compare this to Richard Carrier, who has a PhD in Ancient History from Columbia, while Mr. Peters has a fake degree in what basically amounts to “Fairy Tale-ology” from ‘Bible School’. All of this comes off as childish, with unwarranted condescension.

    Meanwhile he does this while extolling the credentials of fake scholars. His worship of the fraudster Keener, for example, who has no medical credentials whatsoever and wrote a book akin to a collection of UFO sightings. I mean come on, trying to call Tim McGrew an expert on ancient historical matters? The guy espouses 19th Century ideas like “undesigned coincidences” in the Gospels that no serious NT scholar accepts. If this was written as a joke, it would make sense. But it wasn’t.

    A real scholar doesn’t invest pages and pages to talk crap like Mr. Peters does. I’m beginning to see why his performance was so disappointing in his recent debate. Mr. Peters needs to start informing himself instead of talking down to people who are clearly more educated and informed than he is. And more importantly he needs to grow up a bit more before trying to tangle with the real experts. Get a real education, gain some maturity, and then you can sit at the big kid table, and not a second sooner. Arrogance does not grant authority, not by a long shot.

    • TheRyuzaki3 Says:

      Toas

    • TheRyuzaki3 Says:

      Toasty! My man!

      So, can you show me your degrees in ancient history? You know- so we can all see that you have the “authority” to reply to Nick.

      Otherwise, your complaints are quite… Double standard-ish.

    • Nonbeliever Says:

      This “review” is the ranting of a complete and utter lunatic. But that’s what one gets when one is a brainwashed fool for Christ.

      Who is actually reading such infantile drivel? With defenses like this one, Christ is doomed to the dustbin of mythology.

  2. Ditchard Says:

    Toasty, so I take it you don’t believe begging the question is a fallacious method of reasoning?

  3. Raphael Lataster Says:

    Greetings Nick,

    I thank you for your interest in my book, ‘There Was No Jesus, There Is No God’ and am pleased that someone so close to Mike Licona is aware of it. I’m disappointed with your review, but I suppose attention can only be good thing. Given the numerous problems with your review, the best response I can provide is to suggest that your readers simply read my book. It astounded me just how much you misrepresented and misunderstood my book. You also failed to mention the major points of my book, focussing on, as the other commenter (Toasty McGrath) noted, tangential issues (which I often criticized myself, which is what an objective scholar does). Here are a few points I wish to quickly address, including a brief overview of my book’s key issues, which you pretty much ignored:

    Overall theme: uncertainty. Not only for Christian evidentialist claims, but the claims of alternative religions, and even my own claims, which I encourage scepticism over in the conclusion. The point is that we really don’t have certainty over issues such as the existence/non-existence of God or Jesus (be it the Christ of Faith or the so-called Historical Jesus) and it is hoped that this uncertainty leads to humility and religious tolerance.

    My university: your comments about my university are disgraceful, and ironic. Despite your disrespect, I do not wish to respond in kind. Nevertheless I will point out that The University of Sydney is world-class, being among the world’s top 50 universities, while the academic institutions you attended somehow don’t seem to make an appearance in the top 200.

    ‘Real scholars’: my comment about ‘real scholars’ refers to objective scholars that honestly seek the truth, and will go where the evidence leads. This clearly does not describe scholars such as yourself who are presuppositionalist and unlikely to change your mind (though it clearly is possible, as I am an example). You already ‘know’ the truth before you start the research. This concept was articulated to me by a fellow scholar, is agreed upon my many such ‘objective scholars’, but I take ownership of it, and apologise for any offence it causes.

    Philo: your comments here astounded me. You ask for references that I already gave, and mischaracterised what I said. I actually acknowledge that Philo does not directly call the Logos, Jesus. I give a reference from On The Confusion of Tongues where Philo, in discussing his logos figure, refers to a figure mentioned in Zechariah. And the name of that figure, in the Zechariah passage, seems to be Jesus.

    Part 1, Jesus: your focussing on how Jesus ahistoricity theories are generally rejected and your comments about my many points therein is ironic, fallacious and unfair. For example you criticise my talk of the dreaded ‘mythic parallels’ which I admit in the book could merely explain exaggerations in the story (the mainstream critical view) and do not prove that some form of ‘mundane Jesus’ didn’t exist. Your early comment about my differentiating between the Biblical Jesus and the Historical Jesus is bizarre as that’s exactly what historical Jesus researchers do. You also fail to properly acknowledge my ‘evolution of the story’ segment, and my biggest point, which is that I acknowledge the possibility of some sort of Historical Jesus and do not claim that he certainly couldn’t have existed. I point out problems with the sources and with many of the methods used, which are actually widely acknowledged by Biblical scholars themselves, and conclude that uncertainty and doubt is justified – certainly for the Biblical Jesus and even for the Historical Jesus. Rest assured that if there is convincing proof that a Historical Jesus existed, I would happily go with it and it wouldn’t affect my non-belief in the slightest. Unlike scholars such as yourself, I am not committed to such views, and really will go where the evidence guides me.

    Interlude/Bayes/history: your citing of the McGrews as authorities on Bayesian reasoning is truly bizarre. I have a peer-reviewed article (available free on my site, http://www.PantheismUnites.org ) that explains how they fail to use BT properly (on Jesus’ resurrection) by failing to acknowledge the many alternative explanations and prior probabilities and by giving so much trust to the Gospels; points they themselves admit! Their admission does not grant them free reign though, as these points are crucial to Bayesian reasoning. About history, you seem to fail to understand what history is and the role played by probability. Maybe Jesus did walk on water, but historically we shouldn’t say so, as the sources claiming this are highly problematic and we ‘currently know’ that walking on water is basically impossible. You might claim that miracles aren’t improbable, that they involve the supernatural and/or God (concepts that are unproven), but fail to see the effect this has on prior probabilities. If we have 1,000,000 claims of a ‘miracle healing’ and only 1 is genuine (the Christian one, obviously!) we can deduce in this scenario that claims of miracle healings, while not necessary impossible, are overwhelmingly false (this hints at another key point of the book – the problem of religious pluralism). 1/1,000,000 equals what? A probability. A very small one in fact. See how simple and irrefutable this is? Even if we grant that miracles are possible, and conceded that God exists, it is still undeniably correct to say that miraculous claims are unlikely to be true (based on the number of ‘obviously false’ miraculous claims) and that the inherent unlikelihood of any particular miraculous claim’s being true is extremely low. So whatever you want to claim about how a miracle ought to be defined (though it is clearly not an everyday occurrence), the fact is that the truth of miraculous claims is inherently unlikely, which when applied to Bayesian reasoning, must be supported by extraordinary evidence.

    Part 2, God: again you misrepresent me and ignored the main point of religious pluralism and the massive problem this causes believers who think they have evidence of their religion’s truth. I acknowledge that my treatment of the philosophical arguments is very brief and provided two reasons for this: Firstly, I am working on a follow-up which deals with such arguments more thoroughly. Secondly, lengthy refutations of these arguments are actually unnecessary, when considering the claims of apologists like Craig who argue for the existence of a specific God. Craig himself acknowledges that these arguments only get you to a generic god. Given the number of gods that could fulfil the role, I am quite justified in ignoring them (though I do point out critical errors with all of them) and focussing on Craig’s (keep in mind he is the main focus) only truly relevant argument, which revolves around Jesus’ resurrection. You unfortunately fail to mention my absolute demolishing of Craig’s resurrection argument and my wonderful ‘even if’ segment which shows just how much can be conceded by the non-believer and still remain justifiably unconvinced that we have here the exclusive proof of a specific god’s existence. It’s noteworthy that you don’t really mention my important point of religious pluralism, when you gleefully attack my interpretation of the various forms of evidence. You also fail to mention my comments about pantheism and its relative plausibility, compared with monotheism.

    Conclusion: it is unfortunate that you fail to mention that the book argues for uncertainty about everything, basically. Your religion, your neighbour’s religion, my lack of religion. We all could be right and we all could be wrong. Therefore, we should respect each other, in the spirit of humility and tolerance. Surely that is a very positive message that you should have mentioned?

    As I said, there is much more wrong with your review but I don’t have the time to address them all. To do so is basically to re-write the book, so I encourage your readers to actually check out my book and see for themselves how respectful, objective, and positive it actually is.

    In good faith,

    Raphael Lataster
    PhD Researcher at the University of Sydney
    Author of There Was No Jesus, There Is No God

    • apologianick Says:

      Raphael: I thank you for your interest in my book, ‘There Was No Jesus, There Is No God’ and am pleased that someone so close to Mike Licona is aware of it. I’m disappointed with your review, but I suppose attention can only be good thing. Given the numerous problems with your review, the best response I can provide is to suggest that your readers simply read my book.

      Reply: Well let’s see how many of those problems or pointed out and how many of my questions asked are answered.

      Raphael: It astounded me just how much you misrepresented and misunderstood my book.

      Reply: I would like to say I was astounded by how much NT scholarship on the other side was misrepresented, except they weren’t represented at all. I heard the sound of one-hand clapping. Again, numerous authors and scholars were not mentioned.

      Raphael:You also failed to mention the major points of my book, focussing on, as the other commenter (Toasty McGrath) noted, tangential issues (which I often criticized myself, which is what an objective scholar does).

      Reply: So your problem is I did what someone objective does? An odd complaint. Also, no. I did not focus on tangential issues. I focused on points you made that call your research capabilities into question.

      Raphael: Here are a few points I wish to quickly address, including a brief overview of my book’s key issues, which you pretty much ignored:

      Reply: We shall see.

      Raphael: Overall theme: uncertainty. Not only for Christian evidentialist claims, but the claims of alternative religions, and even my own claims, which I encourage scepticism over in the conclusion. The point is that we really don’t have certainty over issues such as the existence/non-existence of God or Jesus (be it the Christ of Faith or the so-called Historical Jesus) and it is hoped that this uncertainty leads to humility and religious tolerance.

      Reply: And I suspect you are certain of this. No. I do have certainty. At the same time, I also have religious tolerance since I let people believe what they believe but do try to give reasons for my own view. I cannot force someone to agree with me. I can only make the case. That’s the exact same thing you did. As for humility, I am aware that I always have more to learn. It’s why I never stop reading.

      The goal for all of us is certainty. I do have certainty in the historicity of Jesus and in the existence of God. Who else has certainty? “Top scholar” John Dominic Crossan.

      “Jesus’ execution is as historically certain as any ancient event can ever be but what about all those very specific details that fill out the story? (John Dominic Crossan http://www.huffingtonpost.com/john-d…_b_847504.html)”

      Raphael: My university: your comments about my university are disgraceful, and ironic. Despite your disrespect, I do not wish to respond in kind. Nevertheless I will point out that The University of Sydney is world-class, being among the world’s top 50 universities, while the academic institutions you attended somehow don’t seem to make an appearance in the top 200.

      Reply: To which you did reply in kind. Amusing. But I mean what I said. Why would any institution let a Christ-myth Master’s thesis through when it’s a joke to the world of NT scholarship. Also, a good case presents the best of both sides and then refutes the wrong side. You did not present the other side except for Ehrman. No Bauckham. No Wright. No Habermas. No Keener. Nothing.

      Raphael: ‘Real scholars’: my comment about ‘real scholars’ refers to objective scholars that honestly seek the truth, and will go where the evidence leads. This clearly does not describe scholars such as yourself who are presuppositionalist and unlikely to change your mind (though it clearly is possible, as I am an example).

      Reply: If you had done some checking into me, you would have found I am strongly anti-presuppositionalist. It’s the only apologetics methodology I’ve gone after on this blog in a series even debating with those who hold it. You could have also found out that Gary Habermas is a critic of the view as well in a book such as “Five Views on Apologetics.” Also, you have this assumption that if someone follows the evidence where it leads, then they won’t be a Christian. Did you consider some of us are Christians because we find the evidence that convincing? I recognize real scholars not by their conclusions, but rather by their methodologies.

      Raphael: You already ‘know’ the truth before you start the research. This concept was articulated to me by a fellow scholar, is agreed upon my many such ‘objective scholars’, but I take ownership of it, and apologise for any offence it causes.

      Reply: And you have started off already “knowing” that miracles can’t happen before you do the research. If you really want to research miracles, read Keener. If you think miracles can’t happen, then read Keener and write a response to him.

      Raphael: Philo: your comments here astounded me. You ask for references that I already gave, and mischaracterised what I said. I actually acknowledge that Philo does not directly call the Logos, Jesus. I give a reference from On The Confusion of Tongues where Philo, in discussing his logos figure, refers to a figure mentioned in Zechariah. And the name of that figure, in the Zechariah passage, seems to be Jesus.

      Reply: A name that does not show up at all in “On The Confusion of Tongues.” What he speaks about is the rising part, the East. Joshua is tangential to the whole thing. The point was about the East. It’s about rising.

      Raphael: Part 1, Jesus: your focussing on how Jesus ahistoricity theories are generally rejected and your comments about my many points therein is ironic, fallacious and unfair. For example you criticise my talk of the dreaded ‘mythic parallels’ which I admit in the book could merely explain exaggerations in the story (the mainstream critical view) and do not prove that some form of ‘mundane Jesus’ didn’t exist.

      Reply: THe mainstream view is also rejection of the copycat theory. Jesus’s resurrection is different as it’s a one-time deal located in a specific time and place.

      Your early comment about my differentiating between the Biblical Jesus and the Historical Jesus is bizarre as that’s exactly what historical Jesus researchers do.

      Reply: No. That begs the question. Could it be the gospel writers got it wrong? Sure. That needs to be shown and not assumed. That’s rather presuppositionalist of you.

      Raphael: You also fail to properly acknowledge my ‘evolution of the story’ segment, and my biggest point, which is that I acknowledge the possibility of some sort of Historical Jesus and do not claim that he certainly couldn’t have existed. I point out problems with the sources and with many of the methods used, which are actually widely acknowledged by Biblical scholars themselves, and conclude that uncertainty and doubt is justified – certainly for the Biblical Jesus and even for the Historical Jesus.

      Reply: Evolution of the story is problematic since those like Bauckham and Hurtado have pointed out that the earliest Christology is the highest Christology. Now why would that be?

      Raphael: Rest assured that if there is convincing proof that a Historical Jesus existed, I would happily go with it and it wouldn’t affect my non-belief in the slightest. Unlike scholars such as yourself, I am not committed to such views, and really will go where the evidence guides me.

      Reply: Which is why I’m a Christian. That’s where the evidence guides me. Speaking of evidence, got any that Chrestus is a Greek word meaning “The good”? Got any evidence that Christians destroyed the lost books of Tacitus and the lost parts of Dio? Got any evidence that others should have mentioned Jesus? Have you yourself ever been to Lourdes or investigated famous miracle claims?

      Raphael: Interlude/Bayes/history: your citing of the McGrews as authorities on Bayesian reasoning is truly bizarre. I have a peer-reviewed article (available free on my site, http://www.PantheismUnites.org ) that explains how they fail to use BT properly (on Jesus’ resurrection) by failing to acknowledge the many alternative explanations and prior probabilities and by giving so much trust to the Gospels; points they themselves admit! Their admission does not grant them free reign though, as these points are crucial to Bayesian reasoning. About history, you seem to fail to understand what history is and the role played by probability. Maybe Jesus did walk on water, but historically we shouldn’t say so, as the sources claiming this are highly problematic and we ‘currently know’ that walking on water is basically impossible. You might claim that miracles aren’t improbable, that they involve the supernatural and/or God (concepts that are unproven), but fail to see the effect this has on prior probabilities. If we have 1,000,000 claims of a ‘miracle healing’ and only 1 is genuine (the Christian one, obviously!) we can deduce in this scenario that claims of miracle healings, while not necessary impossible, are overwhelmingly false (this hints at another key point of the book – the problem of religious pluralism). 1/1,000,000 equals what? A probability. A very small one in fact. See how simple and irrefutable this is? Even if we grant that miracles are possible, and conceded that God exists, it is still undeniably correct to say that miraculous claims are unlikely to be true (based on the number of ‘obviously false’ miraculous claims) and that the inherent unlikelihood of any particular miraculous claim’s being true is extremely low. So whatever you want to claim about how a miracle ought to be defined (though it is clearly not an everyday occurrence), the fact is that the truth of miraculous claims is inherently unlikely, which when applied to Bayesian reasoning, must be supported by extraordinary evidence.

      Reply: I’ll be leaving this one to Tim to reply. I have a rule to not speak where I do not know.

      Raphael: Part 2, God: again you misrepresent me and ignored the main point of religious pluralism and the massive problem this causes believers who think they have evidence of their religion’s truth.

      Reply: Everyone should think they have the truth. IF you don’t think you have truth, then you would end up not believing anything. THe goal of the search is to find truth. It’s not to keep searching.

      Raphael: I acknowledge that my treatment of the philosophical arguments is very brief and provided two reasons for this: Firstly, I am working on a follow-up which deals with such arguments more thoroughly. Secondly, lengthy refutations of these arguments are actually unnecessary, when considering the claims of apologists like Craig who argue for the existence of a specific God. Craig himself acknowledges that these arguments only get you to a generic god.

      Reply: This is something that has always been the case. The medievals knew it. You can know that God exists by reason alone. You cannot know YHWH exists unless He specifically reveals Himself. What you can know is that the God known by natural reason is consistent with a God like YHWH or one like Allah or some deist version. You can rule out polytheistic and pantheistic deities with arguments such as this.

      Also, I happen to reject some ways of Craig as well. I don’t think the first and second ways are conclusive. I stick instead with the ways of Aquinas.

      Raphael: Given the number of gods that could fulfil the role,

      Reply: It’s actually quite limited. There are certain qualities the ultimate must have as is shown in a work like the Summa Theologica.

      Raphael: I am quite justified in ignoring them (though I do point out critical errors with all of them) and focussing on Craig’s (keep in mind he is the main focus) only truly relevant argument, which revolves around Jesus’ resurrection.

      Reply: Critical errors weren’t pointed out. They were straw men all the way. Note also that for the argument on morality, you treated the argument as if Craig’s premise of objective moral values exist was wrong. If it is wrong, then we have no need to talk about tolerance and humility. If you think we should have tolerance and humility, then you have objective moral values and need an explanation. You didn’t give one.

      Raphael: You unfortunately fail to mention my absolute demolishing of Craig’s resurrection argument

      Reply: Absolute demolishing?

      Weren’t you saying something about humility earlier?

      What absolute demolishing? I have no reason whatsoever to trust your research abilities in relation to the NT. Consider as I pointed out that you said there was not a consensus on the genre of the NT citing Burridge. Had you read Burridge, you would have known he has changed the tide by making the powerful case for the genre of the gospels being Greco-Roman biography. Also, hagiography showed up later and it’s unethical to claim a later genre existed earlier and throw it back to a past time.

      Raphael: and my wonderful ‘even if’ segment which shows just how much can be conceded by the non-believer and still remain justifiably unconvinced that we have here the exclusive proof of a specific god’s existence.

      Reply: I didn’t because it isn’t wonderful. Maybe you should stop tooting your own horn and practice that humility you want everyone else to.

      Raphael: It’s noteworthy that you don’t really mention my important point of religious pluralism, when you gleefully attack my interpretation of the various forms of evidence. You also fail to mention my comments about pantheism and its relative plausibility, compared with monotheism.

      Reply: Because assertions do not count as arguments. If you want to give an argument for the truth of pantheism, I await it.

      Raphael: Conclusion: it is unfortunate that you fail to mention that the book argues for uncertainty about everything, basically. Your religion, your neighbour’s religion, my lack of religion. We all could be right and we all could be wrong.

      Reply: No. We cannot all be right. It could be when you die you become worm food. It could be you go to Nirvana. It could be you get absorbed into Brahman or reincarnated. It could be you go to Heaven or Hell. It cannot be all of them.

      It cannot be that God is a Trinity and God is not a Trinity. IT cannot be that God is everything and God is not everything. We could all be wrong, but we can’t all be right and where we have contradictions, some of us are right.

      Raphael: Therefore, we should respect each other, in the spirit of humility and tolerance. Surely that is a very positive message that you should have mentioned?

      Reply: No. I choose to focus on the arguments. You see, I’m not interested in how people feel but in the evidences.

      Raphael: As I said, there is much more wrong with your review but I don’t have the time to address them all. To do so is basically to re-write the book, so I encourage your readers to actually check out my book and see for themselves how respectful, objective, and positive it actually is.

      In good faith,

      Raphael Lataster
      PhD Researcher at the University of Sydney
      Author of There Was No Jesus, There Is No God

      Reply: I suspect the problem is not that but rather that it would be difficult to back some of the claims. (Where is Chrestus listed as a Greek term for “the good.”)

      • Bunto Skiffler Says:

        [NPeters] “I would like to say I was astounded by how much NT scholarship on the other side was misrepresented, except they weren’t represented at all. I heard the sound of one-hand clapping. Again, numerous authors and scholars were not mentioned.”

        Teach the Controversy is written on the Dark side of the Moon

        There is a lost parable of the book of Mark that will be revealed to the general public very soon, although it has been circulating within critical scholarship for decades now. Kept hidden in a Vatican vault unknown to everyone except those of the highest authority within the Church, it is THE greatest biblical find of the last century. In it, Jesus describes an enlightened tribe of Israel that prospers within our Moon’s deepest craters. They are called the Lunar-Levites, according to the son of God. As they traverse the dark side of the Moon in long caravans, Jesus tells us that they are quite ascetic in dress & strict in observance of high sabbath laws. Their women are not allowed shoes to wear and no one shall interrupt or miss a sermon upon their own lunar ‘mount of olives’, especially those given by the Christ himself.

        When scientist say that it is difficult, if not impossible for this to be true, since there is no oxygen on the moon for humans to breathe, there arose a great cry from a certain league of NT scholarship. “It must be possible since it is written as so in the Holy Bible!” – “Man has already been on the lunar surface, are you denying that as well?”- “We protest! It is unfair to disallow all the credence due to our side!”. And so forth it goes.

        Yet the support for this latest revelation not only is quickly solidifying, but grows daily. The day when the Lunar-Levites become generally known to the public is greatly anticipated by these particular apologists. Though they make it quite clear that, despite this anticipated skepticism towards the newest entry into biblical lore, their own point of view is just as valid in the face of any scientific fact & higher criticism.

        And deliciously challenging as well!

        -bunto

      • Raphael Lataster Says:

        Nick, I think my continual involvement in this discussion is pointless, as I am clearly not dealing with critical scholars. Your comment that you do have certainty of God’s existence seems to support this, as does your surprising comment “everyone should think they have the truth”. You continue to mischaracterise my position and continue to ignore great points that I have raised and re-raised. When I mentioned this, you don’t deny it and your response sounded like ‘well you do it so I can too’ which isn’t particularly scholarly or mature.

        You constantly assert that I claim that miracles are impossible. Once again, I do not. I even provide you with a great example that you ignore. Even if we accept that God/supernatural/miracles are possible, and beyond that, actual, it is still the case that genuine miracles are rare and therefore the inherent likelihood of the truth of a miraculous claim is extremely low and needs to be propped up with great evidence. Surely you can’t reject the notion that a miracle is rare and also seemingly impossible? That is where the power of a miracle to convince and convert comes from! And it is this that allows the historian and the Bayesian to be doubtful when it comes to any particular miracle claim, as the vast majority of them are bogus or at least unproven. You also ignore the part of my book that says perhaps ‘unique, one-off events’ (like miracles) have actually happened in the past and yet we are still justified as historians in doubting them – this is a limitation of history and we shouldn’t claim that such scholars are biased; we just need to accept this limitation as mature adults and move on. Funnily enough you basically admit your ignorance here as you invite Tim to comment on this history/Bayesian aspect as you “do not know”.

        In asking me for arguments or proof of pantheism, you act as if I have made a claim or assertion, when really I have only pointed to an alternative possibility. And you have done this constantly in your review. You ask for proof and arguments when I suggest other possibilities, when all I have done is simply point out that there are other possibilities, and I do not declare that any of them is absolute truth. Can you not see how unreasonable you are being? You don’t seem to understand how deductive reasoning works, and how incredibly difficult it is to produce a sound deductive philosophical argument. For example, in my discussions on Craig’s case for God’s existence, I note that Craig simply assumes monotheism, without proving that it is the only valid god-conception, and without disproving all others, such as pantheism. You ask me for proof of pantheism, which shows that you completely misunderstand the issue. Without Craig having proven that monotheism is the only valid god-conception, the onus is on him (and anyone who thinks likewise) to demonstrate how pantheism, deism, etc. are all impossible. No theist has ever done this. Adding to your ignorance here, I actually did provide some reasons why I think pantheism is more plausible than monotheism, which you completely ignored.

        In a related issue, every time I point out that one of Craig’s premises is unproven, you seem to take it that I’ve declared that it’s wrong (see your comment about objective morality), and indicate that I need to come up with the evidence for this ‘assertion’. Saying that something is unproven and saying that it is wrong is not the same thing, and for you think so, reveals your ignorance when it comes to philosophical logic and critical reasoning, and indicates to me the pointlessness of this discussion.

        I have no desire to continue this discussion when you constantly mischaracterise my position and ignore my many important points. You constantly put words in my mouth. I would be happy to debate with you (or better yet, your father-in-law) in public, but pursuing the discussion here is not interesting to me.

        Best Regards,

        Raphael Lataster
        PhD Researcher at the University of Sydney
        Author of There Was No Jesus, There Is No God

    • Tim Says:

      Raphael,

      You write, in part:

      I have a peer-reviewed article (available free on my site, http://www.PantheismUnites.org ) that explains how they [the McGrews] fail to use BT properly (on Jesus’ resurrection) by failing to acknowledge the many alternative explanations and prior probabilities and by giving so much trust to the Gospels; points they themselves admit!

      I take it that the article you refer to is the one here from Journal of Alternative Perspectives in the Social Sciences 5 (2012). In that article you say (p. 288) that “the researchers admitted that their work relied on the unproven assumption that God exists.” The point is apparently important to you, since you continue: “Such an assumption has massive implications on prior probability, so arguably, the McGrews are not utilising Bayes’ Theorem at all.”

      This statement puzzles me, for two reasons. First, from the fact that you disagree with someone’s priors, it does not follow that he is not using Bayes’s Theorem. I do not see why you would think the point is even arguable.

      Second, there is no such “admission” on p. 595 even anything that looks like an assumption of the existence of God. Can you provide the quotation you had in mind?

      On p. 289 you go on:

      They also overestimated the reliability of the Gospels (630) assuming, erroneously, that in all ‘natural matters’, the Gospels are accurate, and ignored the high probability of outright fabrication.

      The statement on p. 630 is that “in matters other than the explicit claims of miracles, the Gospels and the book of Acts are generally reliable — that they may be trusted as much as any ordinary document of secular history with respect to the secularly describable facts they affirm.” That is a summary of the conclusion of the argument spanning pp. 597-604, an argument with which you do not engage. And that is itself only a brief sketch of what may be said on the point of the historical trustworthiness of the Gospels, as the works of scholars like Eddy and Boyd, Bauckham, Evans, Keener, Blomberg, and Wright amply demonstrate.

      As for “failing to acknowledge the many alternative explanations,” I have to wonder whether you read the article at all, as it engages quite explicitly with they hypotheses of fabrication by the women, hallucination, the wrong tomb, moving or theft of the body, the swoon theory, and fraud on the part of the disciples, among others. The consideration of alternative explanations is in fact a central part of the article. (See pp. 605-06, 620-30.)

      So although you mention the article, it seems that the specific claims you made about it are in several cases demonstrably false. When those are set aside, your complaint boils down to the fact that you disagree with the article. That is undoubtedly true. But it does not rise to the level of engagement with the argument, and it does not begin to justify your claim that Nick’s “citing of the McGrews as authorities on Bayesian reasoning is truly bizarre.” That is an epithet that would be much better bestowed on the citation of someone else.

  4. Richard Porter Says:

    We should ignore theistic arguments because they don’t necessarily point to a specific Deity. Ummmm. What? Statements like that don’t particularly make me look forward to reading your ‘lengthy’ responses to Craig’s arguments.

  5. Andrew Cropper Says:

    Hi Raphael. Just doing some fact-checking (in the interests of thorough, objective study :P ). Regarding the McGrews, you say: ‘…explains how they fail to use BT properly (on Jesus’ resurrection) by failing to acknowledge the many alternative explanations and prior probabilities and by giving so much trust to the Gospels; points they themselves admit!’ Could you provide a reference for them saying this? :)

  6. J. P. Holding Says:

    When someone says, “Just go read the book,” they’re

    1) trying to sell it
    2) can’t answer the arguments, which is why they always throw it back in the reader’s lap and make it their responsibility. That way they can always blame the reader for being an idiot.

  7. Ditchard Says:

    “We should ignore theistic arguments because they don’t necessarily point to a specific Deity.”

    Did he seriously say this??

  8. apologianick Says:

    Ditchard. This is what was said

    “Part 2, God: again you misrepresent me and ignored the main point of religious pluralism and the massive problem this causes believers who think they have evidence of their religion’s truth. I acknowledge that my treatment of the philosophical arguments is very brief and provided two reasons for this: Firstly, I am working on a follow-up which deals with such arguments more thoroughly. Secondly, lengthy refutations of these arguments are actually unnecessary, when considering the claims of apologists like Craig who argue for the existence of a specific God. Craig himself acknowledges that these arguments only get you to a generic god. Given the number of gods that could fulfil the role, I am quite justified in ignoring them (though I do point out critical errors with all of them) and focussing on Craig’s (keep in mind he is the main focus) only truly relevant argument, which revolves around Jesus’ resurrection. You unfortunately fail to mention my absolute demolishing of Craig’s resurrection argument and my wonderful ‘even if’ segment which shows just how much can be conceded by the non-believer and still remain justifiably unconvinced that we have here the exclusive proof of a specific god’s existence. It’s noteworthy that you don’t really mention my important point of religious pluralism, when you gleefully attack my interpretation of the various forms of evidence. You also fail to mention my comments about pantheism and its relative plausibility, compared with monotheism.”

  9. Mike Says:

    I think Bunto here serves as an example of just who will take this book seriously. Raphael, you’ve lamented that Religious Departments in the West are far too Christianized, but if you intend to reverse this, you had better start producing something with a lot more substance- otherwise get used to your marginal status amongst the ranks of Carrier, Price and Doherty drones.

    • Bunto Skiffler Says:

      [Mike] “I think Bunto here serves as an example of just who will take this book seriously.”

      True. Sorry to say I still don’t believe the xian evidence that they’ve found Noah’s ark on Mount Ararat very credible as well. Although that recording of the sounds of Hell that Siberian xians found while digging a deep well might have something to it.

      -b
      ps. Did you hear that they’ve found dinosaur tracks & human footprints together in Texas!

      • Mike Says:

        Hey Bunto, it’s cute that you presuppose I’m a Christian because I’m not defending Raphael, and that there is just no way I could ever be an actual atheist who finds deplorable books like these an embarrassment to those who take them seriously.

        Go back to your sandbox, the adults are talking.

      • Bunto Skiffler Says:

        Look atheist, I didn’t mean to get your panties all up in a wad here…sorry.

        -b

        ps. Oops, I hope your not a feminist either… Mike = Micheala? Oy, these thin-skinned 21st century PC-ers!
        pss. sorry if you’re Jewish too. Everybody says “oy” nowadays. Sorry again, k? (gulp)

      • Mike Says:

        Hey Bunto, it’s cute that you presuppose I’m an atheist because I pointed out that you presupposed I was a Christian because I pointed I could have been an atheist who disagreed with Raphael. Are you trolling or are you just legitimately this stupid?

      • Bunto Skiffler Says:

        [Mike] “Hey Bunto, it’s cute that you presuppose I’m an atheist because I pointed out that you presupposed I was a Christian because I pointed I could have been an atheist who disagreed with Raphael. Are you trolling or are you just legitimately this stupid?”

        Hey Mike, your pretty sharp at cut-downs. Hmm, Mike = Mike Licona, right? No wonder!

        -b

        ps. Your style of apologetics gave you away.

      • Mike Says:

        Of course, I mean Michael is such a rare name, it HAS to be Michael Licona.

        And would you mind pointing out where I used apologetics in my posts?

  10. apologianick Says:

    Raphael: Nick, I think my continual involvement in this discussion is pointless, as I am clearly not dealing with critical scholars.

    Reply: You mean you have to deal with people who disagree with you. Yep. You sure do. Hard for the self-obsessed to deal with.

    Raphael:Your comment that you do have certainty of God’s existence seems to support this,

    REply: Yep. That’s because I’ve spent years studying the subject matter. You study so you can find truth. Not so you can just wander around being ignorant.

    Raphael: as does your surprising comment “everyone should think they have the truth”.

    Reply: Yeah. They do. After all, if you don’t think your viewpoint is the truth. Why share it? You sure seem certain there is. Look at your title. “There was no Jesus. There is no God.” Dang it. I would have thought those sounded like truth claims! Maybe you should have called it “I think there was no Jesus and I think there is no God but I’m not certain.”

    Raphael: You continue to mischaracterise my position and continue to ignore great points that I have raised and re-raised.

    Reply: Gotta love that humility that’s being practiced.

    Raphael: When I mentioned this, you don’t deny it and your response sounded like ‘well you do it so I can too’ which isn’t particularly scholarly or mature.

    Reply; You’d need to show a point mischaracterized.

    Raphael: You constantly assert that I claim that miracles are impossible. Once again, I do not. I even provide you with a great example that you ignore. Even if we accept that God/supernatural/miracles are possible, and beyond that, actual, it is still the case that genuine miracles are rare and therefore the inherent likelihood of the truth of a miraculous claim is extremely low and needs to be propped up with great evidence.

    Reply: Got that evidence right here. All you’ve given me is arguments from silence along with the claim that if something is missing in history, the Christians did it! I suppose the Christians destroyed the Lost Wonders of the World and also destroyed the Ark of the Covenant and everything else out there. Right?

    So if you don’t think miracles are impossible and you really want to say you’re open, have you read Keener’s works yet? If not, why not?

    Raphael: Surely you can’t reject the notion that a miracle is rare and also seemingly impossible?

    Reply: Rare? Yes. Impossible by natural means. Not necessarily. There are two kinds of miracles. Some miracles are natural events. Suppose for the sake of argument that the event in Joshua with the Israelites crossing the Jordan River and it stopping and starting again in its flow so they could cross is historical. This is also at the same time, a natural event. That water has stopped before. It’s extremely rare, but it has. What makes it a miracle? What is miraculous is that it happened when it happened. This is not the same with the resurrection which is only done by the power of God. Your definition of a miracle depended on it being improbable. The problem with that is it won’t differentiate between a miracle and a marvel. See Earman’s book “Hume’s Abject Failure.”

    Raphael: That is where the power of a miracle to convince and convert comes from! And it is this that allows the historian and the Bayesian to be doubtful when it comes to any particular miracle claim, as the vast majority of them are bogus or at least unproven. You also ignore the part of my book that says perhaps ‘unique, one-off events’ (like miracles) have actually happened in the past and yet we are still justified as historians in doubting them – this is a limitation of history and we shouldn’t claim that such scholars are biased; we just need to accept this limitation as mature adults and move on. Funnily enough you basically admit your ignorance here as you invite Tim to comment on this history/Bayesian aspect as you “do not know”.

    Reply: No problem. I have no problem admitting I don’t know Bayes. Therefore, I call in someone who does. Do you have a response to him? If not, then it is you who likely does not understand Bayes which makes it even worse because you are claiming to know. I can only look at the evidence to see if one occurred. I do not claim to do the math.

    Raphael: In asking me for arguments or proof of pantheism, you act as if I have made a claim or assertion, when really I have only pointed to an alternative possibility.

    Reply: If you give a possibility but give no evidence, I have no reason to take it seriously.

    Raphael: And you have done this constantly in your review. You ask for proof and arguments when I suggest other possibilities, when all I have done is simply point out that there are other possibilities, and I do not declare that any of them is absolute truth.

    Reply: You can suggest possibilities until you’re blue in the face. I just ask that you provide reasonable evidence for them. YOu don’t.

    Raphael: Can you not see how unreasonable you are being?

    Raphael: I understand someone doesn’t like being questioned.

    Raphael: You don’t seem to understand how deductive reasoning works, and how incredibly difficult it is to produce a sound deductive philosophical argument. For example, in my discussions on Craig’s case for God’s existence, I note that Craig simply assumes monotheism, without proving that it is the only valid god-conception, and without disproving all others, such as pantheism.

    Reply: Perhaps you should have watched when I said that I do not defend Craig’s arguments and where I do somewhat, I present them differently. I’m a Thomist. Craig isn’t. I just show where your critiques of him fail.

    Raphael:You ask me for proof of pantheism, which shows that you completely misunderstand the issue.

    Reply: I asked for proof or an argument. Do you have any of those? if not, then I can disregard any reason to treat pantheism seriously.

    Raphael: Without Craig having proven that monotheism is the only valid god-conception, the onus is on him (and anyone who thinks likewise) to demonstrate how pantheism, deism, etc. are all impossible.

    Reply: I’m not here to demonstrate Craig’s arguments. I’m just showing your critiques don’t work. Showing you’re wrong does not show Craig is right.

    Raphael: No theist has ever done this.

    Reply: Then I can only contend that you have never read the great writers who came long before us who critiqued each view.

    Raphael: Adding to your ignorance here, I actually did provide some reasons why I think pantheism is more plausible than monotheism, which you completely ignored.

    Reply: Feel free to name them here if you’re so sure.

    Raphael: In a related issue, every time I point out that one of Craig’s premises is unproven, you seem to take it that I’ve declared that it’s wrong (see your comment about objective morality), and indicate that I need to come up with the evidence for this ‘assertion’. Saying that something is unproven and saying that it is wrong is not the same thing, and for you think so, reveals your ignorance when it comes to philosophical logic and critical reasoning, and indicates to me the pointlessness of this discussion.

    Reply: No. You dealt only with one premise of the argument and claimed it did not work. The result is that in the end, you yourself uphold an objective morality and yet do not give a basis for it. What would work is to show that objective morality does exist but does not require a deity for its basis. Any attempt to do that?

    Raphael: I have no desire to continue this discussion when you constantly mischaracterise my position and ignore my many important points. You constantly put words in my mouth. I would be happy to debate with you (or better yet, your father-in-law) in public, but pursuing the discussion here is not interesting to me.

    Best Regards,

    Raphael Lataster
    PhD Researcher at the University of Sydney
    Author of There Was No Jesus, There Is No God

    Reply: Oh Mike won’t debate you at all until you have a PH.D. so don’t expect it. If you want to debate me in a public place, go to TheologyWeb.com and try the debate forum where we can debate on the existence of Jesus.

    I’ll be waiting….

  11. apologianick Says:

    By the way, should you come to debate, I hope you’ll bring that reference of where Chrestus means “The Good.” I’d love to see it!

  12. Bunto Skiffler Says:

    [NPeters] “You mean you have to deal with people who disagree with you. Yep. You sure do. Hard for the self-obsessed to deal with.”

    Some wisdom there.

  13. abuntoist and araphaelist Says:

    I admit I am a general skeptic.

    1) I have never met either Bunto or Raphael, face to face.
    2) Anyone can create a fake email account and a fake facebook account, and thus have a fake identity.
    3) Pictures are little to no help in establishing identity — there are lots of imposters and people who dress up as others (cosplayers, Elvis impersonators) and can be photoshopped.
    4) Fake ids are plentiful. Ask college students underage.
    5) Lots of people use various handles on different sites.
    6) People even change their names (surnames, from first to middle as identifier, going by a handle like Eminem, etc.)
    7) I don’t even have a unique identifier like Social Security Number for either of them.
    8) Besides, there is rampant fraud (people have taken SSNs for even children).
    9) There are no critical scholars who argue the existence or lack of existence of ‘Bunto’ or ‘Raphael’ 10) There are no top scholars who even discuss the existence of ‘Bunto’ or ‘Raphael’.
    11) Should I look for a lost book of Bunto? Oh wait, but there is plenty of anonymously-composed (e.g., “Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics” attributed to Kant) or pen-named composed (“George Eliot”) works, so that could rule out that the real person’s name is ‘Bunto’.
    12) Scientific people (not primitive people) have far less likelihood of naming their kids after Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles or an online flash game. Not like these are very popular names. There are any number of generic scholars who could fulfill these roles and pose in alternate handles.
    13) Ancientfaces.com records 5 people of the “Lataster” and they’ve all since passed away. A moment of silence please.
    14) There are no Skifflers on ancientfaces.com
    15) As we know watching spy movies including the Bourne series or the movie “Eraser”, people can have new identities created by being part of Witness Protection or because they were involved in some government agency.

    Now if I apply the Bayes Theorem (perhaps using the general discrete form), the likelihood of them existing, based on all arguments above, is nil. I’ve decided to be an abuntoist and an araphaelist.

    I think what might convince me would be: meeting them in person, birth certificates, SSNs, credit cards, bills, correspondences, university records, professor remarks, papers, passports, credit histories, auditing credit databases, policemen or attorneys or notary publics who would attest, having records in ancientfaces.com, critical scholarship that could prove the existence (or lack thereof) of ‘Bunto’ ‘Skiffler’ and ‘Raphael’ ‘Lataster’.

    Although I do find them to be very entertaining personages (and one of them to be quite verbose), if I really wanted to talk with imaginary figures, I don’t need to employ the internet, I could use one of my socks as a sock puppet and entertain kiddos. At least it would be funny.

  14. Really Recommended Posts 9/20/13- Apologetics, Textual Variants, Evil, and more! | J.W. Wartick -"Always Have a Reason" Says:

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  15. Derek Says:

    Raphael,

    Let’s assume, arguendo, that Nick has mischaracterized your position.

    You aren’t very tolerant of this. Why not? It is not like it is going to matter when everything is said and done.

    It’s not as if you had any credibility before this, writing on the Aramaic primacy of the NT:

    http://www.aramaicpeshitta.com/

    Your whining about people getting along and stuff like this:

    “which is that I acknowledge the possibility of some sort of Historical Jesus and do not claim that he certainly couldn’t have existed.”

    is betrayed by the very title of your book: There WAS no Jesus, There IS no God.

    You’re one very confused egg

  16. Gary Says:

    Wondering if Bayesianism could refine historical knowledge in your opinion, Nick. Don’t divine logos and secular logic have more in common than innate realistic opposition? The prospect of a logical non theist and a logical Christian apologist working together in trust and rationality to attempt the negotiation of objective and subjective probabilities sounds intriguing. Too stupid of an idea to consider in your opinion? I think the ontological divide might be daunting, but insurmountable? What is your basis for disrespecting Carrier other than an honest difference of opinion? I wonder if it would be beneath the dignity of Prof Tim McGrew to offer a joint peer reviewed paper with Carrier on a Bayesian approach to the historicity of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection. Or is it just a matter of grace and predestined faith rather than non scientific justified true belief in your ontological opinion? :-) Best Regards and Blessings

  17. apologianick Says:

    Gary: Wondering if Bayesianism could refine historical knowledge in your opinion, Nick.

    Reply: I am open to the idea entirely. I don’t think Bayes Theorem should be the only part of our investigation, but it does play some part.

    Gary: Don’t divine logos and secular logic have more in common than innate realistic opposition?

    Reply: I see only one system of logic out there really. Reality works the same way for all of us. Of course, it is rooted in God.

    Gary: The prospect of a logical non theist and a logical Christian apologist working together in trust and rationality to attempt the negotiation of objective and subjective probabilities sounds intriguing. Too stupid of an idea to consider in your opinion?

    Reply: Only if both are logical, and sadly both sides have great representatives of people who are not logical.

    Gary: I think the ontological divide might be daunting, but insurmountable?

    Reply: No. In reality, we should all be partners in truth. In actuality, that does not happen that often.

    Gary: What is your basis for disrespecting Carrier other than an honest difference of opinion?

    Reply: Because I see him as someone who gets his claims wrong quite often in research and when I go back and look at what he says, it is not the case. I see him using the worst resources often and going with the fringe opinion as well as his heightened view of himself.

    Gary: I wonder if it would be beneath the dignity of Prof Tim McGrew to offer a joint peer reviewed paper with Carrier on a Bayesian approach to the historicity of Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection.

    Reply: To quote someone from the atheistic camp, it would look good on Carrier’s resume, but not that good on McGrew’s.

    Gary: Or is it just a matter of grace and predestined faith rather than non scientific justified true belief in your ontological opinion? :-) Best Regards and Blessings

    Reply: I don’t fit into the Calvinistic mode at all and of course not all my opinions and beliefs are scientific.

    • Gary Says:

      Thanks for your reply. I wonder if there is an honest, rational, trustworthy non theistic Bayesian out there in the wide world who would look better on McGrew’s resume. I think Carrier is an honest seeker for truth, but I am probably a naive novice in this debate re non-scientific, evolutionary epistemology. Thought you might like to question this quote re biological truth from Ernst Mayr: “I have heard there’s a field called evolutionary epistemology. They use a very simple Darwinian formula that can really be stated in a single sentence. If you have a lot of variation, more than you can cope with, only the most successful will remain. That is how things happen. In epistemology and countless other fields. Variation and elimination.” http://www.edge.org/3rd_culture/mayr/mayr_print.html
      Believing one has truth and certainty on one’s side can contribute to hubris and being full of oneself. Being aware of the logical inconsistencies in one’s belief system is also quite problematic. I like the quote from the physicist Richard Feynman “The first principle is that you don’t fool yourself and you are the easiest person to fool” or something like that.
      Would you read this sermon and give me some personal feedback based on your beliefs? http://www.gty.org/resources/sermons/80-409/an-appeal-to-charismatic-pretenders-john-macarthur
      Best Regards and Blessings

      • apologianick Says:

        It’s really difficult for me to take MacArthur seriously and I’ve been wanting to not speak on this issue really. I first off do affirm miracles including exorcisms take place. I think Keener’s work “Miracles” has established that thoroughly such that to just say all of it is false is quite a position of faith.

        I also freely admit there are people in the charismatic movement doing more harm than good. I oppose entirely the so-called prosperity gospel and definitely the oneness heresy. On the other hand, every group has those that embarrass it and those that don’t. This includes not just religious groups but any other group, including atheists.

        Meanwhile, I also know people in the charismatic movement who are growing to be fine disciples and scholars. I think it’s quite wrong for MacArthur to just say there are no real miracles or exorcisms in their midst. That would require extensive research and I have no reason to think that MacArthur has done that.

        I also while being orthodox think MacArthur could use some N.T. Wright with the New Perspective on Paul. I don’t think his picture of Judaism with following the law to attain salvation is accurate. Of course, I hold that all salvation comes through Christ, but I don’t think MacArthur has the right approach. For us today, it’s often all about salvation, when that was really just part of what Jesus was teaching along with Paul and the other apostles.

        I’d say more, but frankly, I just find the whole thing sensational. I have no desire to paint all charismatics with a broad brush.

        As for interacting with Bayes Theorem, the problem is that Carrier holds a position that in scholarship is seen as fringe just as denying the holocaust is seen as fringe.

  18. An Interesting Critic | Deeper Waters Says:

    […] of Chicago. He is commenting on my review of Raphael Lataster’s book that can be found here. His comment is that the first replies were devastating on Amazon and that I should have just […]

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