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-   -   Why Christopher Hitchens believed in The Historical Jesus (http://www.atheistfoundation.org.au/forums/showthread.php?t=30785)

SEG 7th December 2017 10:39 PM

Why Christopher Hitchens believed in The Historical Jesus
 
I'd like to make a comment on why the late, great, Christopher Hitchens believed in the historical Jesus. During his talk on his book, "Why God is Not Great", he makes these comments on why he believes that the Jesus of the Bible may have been a historical person:



Quote:

Now, there is on the historicity point, there're only two reasons to suppose that there may have been the figure of some kind of deluded rabbi present at that time.

The first is the fakery of the story. The fakery itself proves something.

The prophecy says this man must be born in the house of David, of David's line, in David's town. Means he must be born in Bethlehem.

Jesus of Nazareth is well known to have been born in Nazareth.

In order to get him to Bethlehem a huge fabrication has to be undertaken. A census is proposed by Cesar Augustus. No such census ever took place.

The people of the region were not required to go back to their hometown to be registered. That's never happened.

Quirinius was not governor of Syria in that year as the gospels say.

None of the story of the Nativity is true in any detail, and not one of the gospels agrees with each other on this fabrication.

But the fabrication itself suggests something

If they were simply going to make up the whole thing and had never been such person then why not just have him born in Bethlehem right there and leave out the Nazarene business.


So the very falsity of it, the very fanatical attempt to make it come right suggests that yes, there may have been a charismatic deluded individual wondering around at that time.

But which is most impressive to you?


The fantastic fabrications, the unbelievably inane and inarticulate preachments or the inconsistencies in the story?

You can mention another thing about the resurrection.

Most of the witnesses to this are women, illiterate, stupid, deluded, hysterical females, of a kind that to a Jewish Court at that time would have had about as much chance of being listened to as they would in Islamic court today.

What religion that wants its fabrication to be believed it's gonna say You've got to believe it 'cause we have some illiterate hysterical girls who said they saw this.

No, it's impressive to me that the evidence is so thin and is so hysterical and is so feable and is so obviously, strenuously cobbled together, because it suggests that something was going on, there was some character.


And I don't want therefore to profane those who think they know there must have been something.

This is not a whole cloth fabrication, but it is a very human and very intelligible and very pitiable practice of fraud, that may have worked on stupefied peasants in the greater Jerusalem area but should really have no power to influence anyone in this room
I'd like to comment on the 2 objections he said that I have bolded above.

1. If they were simply going to make up the whole thing and had never been such person then why not just have him born in Bethlehem right there and leave out the Nazarene business.

That was the case in Mark and Matthew. He had no birth story in Mark and Mathew had him born in a house in Bethlehem, not a manger. The Nazarene business had nothing to do with locality, it was probably referring to a cultic title.
Where he said;
Quote:

So the very falsity of it, the very fanatical attempt to make it come right suggests that yes, there may have been a charismatic deluded individual wondering around at that time.
This looks like a version of the criterion of embarrassment where the authors would supposedly not have gone out of their way to create a story that embarrassed its author. I think that a far more parsimonious explanation was that it was just made up in order to fulfill a prophesy in the OT.

2.
Quote:

Most of the witnesses to this are women, illiterate, stupid, deluded, hysterical females, of a kind that to a Jewish Court at that time would have had about as much chance of being listened to as they would in Islamic court today.

What religion that wants its fabrication to be believed it's gonna say You've got to believe it 'cause we have some illiterate hysterical girls who said they saw this.
I see the part about women being the witnesses as being an allegorical message of the reversal of expectation, as Carrier notes, that the least shall be first. In any case, in this location and era, women were apparently able to take others to trial and speak in court as witnesses.

This short video is probably a better explanation and is the motivation behind this post;


toejam 13th January 2018 01:26 PM

Re: Why Christopher Hitchens believed in The Historical Jesus
 
Here's a more effectively written form of Hitchens' point, from famed New Testament scholar C. H. Dodd's "History and the Gospel", 1938, p.60

Dodd:

"The early Church took over a large corpus of eschatological predictions from the Old Testament and the apocalyptic literature; and from a very early period its mind was bent upon showing how these predictions were fulfilled in the story of Jesus. The study of testimony books has led to the conclusion that the application of prophecy was probably the earliest form of Christian theological thought. To our minds, the methods of application often seem arbitrary and far-fetched, but the intention is clear - to show that in the life, death and resurrection of Jesus the eschaton, or ultimate issue of history, was indeed realized. We must admit the likelihood that certain elements in the developed story as we have it in the Gospel may have been imaginative products of the search for fulfilled prophecy. There is at least a prima facie case for such a conclusion, for example, in the Matthean stories of the Nativity and the Flight into Egypt, of Judas's thirty pieces of silver and the Potter's Field. The question is, how deeply has this process affected the tradition? Is it possible, as some have averred, that not merely details but the main tradition is largely the creation of an imagination fired by too ardent a study of prophecy and apocalypse?

In attempting to answer this question, we must observe that the New Testament writers, for all their anxiety to discover fulfillments of prophecy, and all their ingenuity in doing so, do not attempt to exploit the whole corpus of Messianic prediction. There are large sections of it which are not represented. It is not only the purely supernatural traits - the coming with the clouds of heaven, the portents in heaven and earth, the transfiguration of the elect, and the like - that are missing from the Gospel story. The whole conception of the Messiah as king, warrior and judge, the ruthless vindicator of the righteousness of God, is absent from the Church's presentation of the Jesus of history, though imagination working freely upon the prophetic data might easily have constructed a quasi-historical figure having these traits. There has been some principle of selection at work, by which certain sides of the Messianic idea are held to be fulfilled ,and others are set aside. What was the principle of selection? Surely the simplest explanation is that a true historical memory controlled the selection of prophecies. Those were held to have been fulfilled which were in general consonant with the memory of what Jesus had been, had said, had done and had suffered. The fulfillment of the rest was postponed to the future. By retaining a residue of the "futurist eschatology" of Judaism the Church kept its historical tradition from being completely transformed by eschatological ideas, since there was always a repository for unfulfilled expectations, in the hope of the Second Advent.

In fact those aspects of the Messianic idea which apparently bulked most largely in Jewish thought of the time, whether it followed the line represented by the Psalms of Solomon or the line represented by 1 Enoch and 4 Ezra, play little part in the tradition about the Jesus of history, but are applied to his expecting coming in glory. On the other hand the scriptures which are held to be fulfilled in the facts concerning Jesus are often those which, so far as our evidence goes, were not currently interpreted as Messianic at all."

Boris 21st January 2018 09:17 AM

Re: Why Christopher Hitchens believed in The Historical Jesus
 
No first century writer or Historian mentions Jesus or one word of that story

There were 2 there the whole time who saw nothing - Philo and Justus of Tiberius

So if nobody wrote about Jesus there was no Jesus

The absence of evidence is evidence of absence

Darwinsbulldog 21st January 2018 09:42 AM

Re: Why Christopher Hitchens believed in The Historical Jesus
 
Quote:

Boris said (Post 607587)
No first century writer or Historian mentions Jesus or one word of that story

There were 2 there the whole time who saw nothing - Philo and Justus of Tiberius

So if nobody wrote about Jesus there was no Jesus

The absence of evidence is evidence of absence

[My bold] Sure, but it is not proof of absence. You can say there is no evidence for Unicorns, that does not absolutely prove their non-existence. Your can operate on a working theory that they probably don't exist, and are therefore moot until/unless the evidence changes. To claim there are no unicorns appeals to omniscient knowledge. You can declare that there are absolutely no unicorns, but then you have to demonstrate omniscience, which is rather hard to do, even for god! :thumbsup::)

SEG 21st January 2018 03:57 PM

Re: Why Christopher Hitchens believed in The Historical Jesus
 
Quote:

toejam said (Post 606950)
Here's a more effectively written form of Hitchens' point, from famed New Testament scholar C. H. Dodd's "History and the Gospel", 1938, p.60

I don't know whether Hitch looked too closely into whether Nazareth actually existed either.

Darwinsbulldog 21st January 2018 04:14 PM

Re: Why Christopher Hitchens believed in The Historical Jesus
 
Quote:

SEG said (Post 607637)
I don't know whether Hitch looked too closely into whether Nazareth actually existed either.

I seem to recall [though I am pretty disinterested the whole topic of Jesus by now-the subject was discussed ad nauseam elsewhere] that the town of Nazareth was established long after the birth of Jesus.

SEG 21st January 2018 04:30 PM

Re: Why Christopher Hitchens believed in The Historical Jesus
 
Quote:

Boris said (Post 607587)

So if nobody wrote about Jesus there was no Jesus

The absence of evidence is evidence of absence

Sorry Boris, that doesn't necessarily follow. It seems very strange that no-one outside the Bible wrote about him, but there could be a whole heap of reasons why they didn't, for example;

1. He wasn't well known enough for people to write about him
2. The Christians or other people destroyed all the records

Christians believe that he was wildly popular, feeding 5,000 people and the whole city of Jerusalem cheering his entry. So the absence of evidence of nothing being written about him is very, very peculiar. But just because it was very, very peculiar, doesn't prove that he didn't exist.

Some people believe that he was far too obscure for anyone to write about him, but if he were that obscure, how did he ever get large numbers of people to follow him?

But we as atheists don't need to prove that he didn't exist, the burden of proof lies with the persons making the assertions. It's better to say that the evidence produced about the existence of Jesus is very scant, flawed and therefore unbelievable.

stylofone 21st January 2018 05:12 PM

Re: Why Christopher Hitchens believed in The Historical Jesus
 
I'm not passionate about this argument either, but I recall Bart Ehrman presenting a form of evidence based on textual analysis. There are certain traits of stories about real people and stories about completely made up people, and the Jesus story looks like one that came from a real person. That doesn't mean everything in the story is true. Ehrman also presents evidence of the Jesus story being embellished by presumably devout scribes - there are extant codices showing biblical texts before and after the reputation of Jesus was enhanced by a scribe writing hundreds of years after the fact. You can assume that the stories of huge crowds were also put in by Christian devotees exaggerating the story long after. Just like Trump's inauguration! The cult of Christianity was promoted - especialy by Paul, who talked about the "meme" of Jesus - after Jesus' death. That's when it got huge. It follows that he would have been a very minor figure when he was alive.

Darwinsbulldog 21st January 2018 05:50 PM

Re: Why Christopher Hitchens believed in The Historical Jesus
 
Quote:

stylofone said (Post 607644)
I'm not passionate about this argument either, but I recall Bart Ehrman presenting a form of evidence based on textual analysis. There are certain traits of stories about real people and stories about completely made up people, and the Jesus story looks like one that came from a real person. That doesn't mean everything in the story is true. Ehrman also presents evidence of the Jesus story being embellished by presumably devout scribes - there are extant codices showing biblical texts before and after the reputation of Jesus was enhanced by a scribe writing hundreds of years after the fact. You can assume that the stories of huge crowds were also put in by Christian devotees exaggerating the story long after. Just like Trump's inauguration! The cult of Christianity was promoted - especialy by Paul, who talked about the "meme" of Jesus - after Jesus' death. That's when it got huge. It follows that he would have been a very minor figure when he was alive.

Of course, when Flavius Valerius Constantinus adopted Xianity, and made it a state religion of the Roman Empire, that gave the cult a little leg-up also! :thumbsup::D

SEG 21st January 2018 06:23 PM

Re: Why Christopher Hitchens believed in The Historical Jesus
 
Quote:

stylofone said (Post 607644)
I'm not passionate about this argument either, but I recall Bart Ehrman presenting a form of evidence based on textual analysis.

Yes, but the evidence is mainly about what was asserted in the Bible and of the weakest kind. The "strongest" evidence lies in the assumptions that James was the biological brother of Jesus and was crucified by Pontias Pilate.

Carrier refutes this pretty well IMO. Ehrman was originally a committed Christian and his livelihood now depends on JC's historicity. From what I have read, he is mainly convinced from the "missing" hypothetical sources.

Quote:

There are certain traits of stories about real people and stories about completely made up people, and the Jesus story looks like one that came from a real person.
Really? Which ones? It all looks like fiction and allegory to me. I've heard others say that it doesn't mean everything in the story is true, and that there are kernels of truth, but what are the kernels?

Quote:

stylofone said (Post 607644)
Ehrman also presents evidence of the Jesus story being embellished by presumably devout scribes - there are extant codices showing biblical texts before and after the reputation of Jesus was enhanced by a scribe writing hundreds of years after the fact. You can assume that the stories of huge crowds were also put in by Christian devotees exaggerating the story long after. Just like Trump's inauguration! The cult of Christianity was promoted - especialy by Paul, who talked about the "meme" of Jesus - after Jesus' death. That's when it got huge.

Yes, I agree the stories were embellished. From Mark's pretty tame version and shortened finish, it just got wilder and wilder.

From what I have read it took centuries before it caught on and it didn't spread any faster than any other religion.

Quote:

stylofone said (Post 607644)
It follows that he would have been a very minor figure when he was alive.

That's the part that I don't get. If he was so obscure and had only a few followers, how did the religion get going in the first place? The people here that reject his historicity seem to struggle with the concept of a religion without a founder, but we have examples of religions and cults starting with fictitious leaders. I think that it is more parsimonious to believe that he was a classical fictional hero that was deified.


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