December 30th, 2010


It's not my morning

Trying to respond to a post by Austin Cline this morning and having no luck. I've trimmed by comment back to 1800 characters and I'm still getting an error: your comment must be between 10 and 2000 characters.

Fuck it. I'll post it here. He's talking about the historicity of Jesus. I cut it from my comment, but let me be clearer now that I don't have the space limitations. Anyone who pretends that Socrates didn't exist (or that reputable scholars say he didn't) is an idiot. I'm sorry, but it's true. Atheists like to trot this out and they don't know what the fuck they are talking about.

Socrates is attested by 3 contemporary writers who knew him: Aristophanes, Xenophon + Plato. He is far better documented. Jesus has no contemporary records whatsoever. What scholars do say is that it’s Plato’s philosophy, not Socrates’. I hear this often, but no reputable scholar would claim Socrates didn't exist.

When viewing the Bible in the context of classical literature, it proves to be much more equivocal as a source than any of the 3 I mention for Socrates (esp. Xenophon who is an early Greek historian). Histories in classical times (esp. during the Roman era) are notorious for taking a kernel of truth + embellishing it: filling in supposed details to make the story more readable + believable (completely aside from hearsay). This is done consciously + in print. Given such a context, it makes it difficult to know what was true & what was made up. Many Apocrypha were rejected for theological reasons, + present even more radically different depictions of Jesus. Nor should we pretend they are necessarily the least doctored. This is what classical scholars look at. Maybe there was someone upon which this story was based, maybe. The issue here is that we are forced to conclude only "maybe" and not "oh, obviously", rather like King Arthur. I am reminded of St. Christopher, who was later shown to be a myth. It's impossible to be completely objective about the matter. Christians have a vested interest in his existence, + we are not immune from wanting to tear down the foundation of Christianity, to the bare existence of the Bible's central character. We must acknowledge that impulse to go beyond "it's impossible to tell" to "he clearly didn't exist" even in some watered-down version of a random itinerant preacher because nothing is so clear. It makes things easier when faced with religious rationalizations + fence moving to make a stronger claim, but it isn't necessary. The divinity of Jesus is based on his miracles, etc., + just showing that those certainly didn't happen is enough. One needs only to rationalize that they are symbolic in some way and they are back in business. We should not allow Christians to keep moving the bar.