Further to this post. Honestly, I’d never given much thought to “the historicity of Jesus” before. Even when I was an atheist, the existence of an actual person called Jesus of Nazareth, who — though his words and deeds were heavily mythologized — made more or less recognizable versions of the claims the Bible said he did, seemed logical. Though I only read his book after my conversion, I thought about the historical Jesus more or less like Reza Aslan does — one of many wandering prophets who mistakenly thought himself the Biblical Messiah, and convinced a group of zealots to rebel against Rome because of it.
I never realized that there are lots and lots of folks out there who claim Jesus didn’t exist at all. Now, I’m not going to do a fisk on that whole article. There are literally two thousand years’ worth of apologetics to draw on, and I’m sure C.S. Lewis, to say nothing of a thousand lesser lights, can knock out a Professor of Religious Studies (!!) who claims God doesn’t exist in about five pages. But I do want to explore the “question” of the historicity of Jesus a little bit, as I think it sheds some light on sperg psychology (and thus might be of some use in understanding Our Betters, the liberals).
Here’s an example of the kind of thing I mean:
These early sources [the Gospels], compiled decades after the alleged events, all stem from Christian authors eager to promote Christianity – which gives us reason to question them. The authors of the Gospels fail to name themselves, describe their qualifications, or show any criticism with their foundational sources – which they also fail to identify.
Spergs can’t process context, so this sounds convincing to them. Problem is, this criticism applies to almost every other source in the ancient world. Not to mention just about every source in the medieval world and the early modern world, all across the globe. The author of the Gesta Francorum is anonymous and obviously biased in favor of the Crusaders, but we don’t dismiss him out of hand because of it. The Nihon Shoki is anonymous, biased, and shows no inclination to critique its sources, and ditto. Indeed, I would challenge anybody, anywhere, to name an ancient source in which
- the author identifies himself by name,
- describes his qualifications,
- critiques his sources, and
- displays no overt bias.
Hint: It don’t exist, because those are the desiderata of modern history, which dates (at best) to the Renaissance.
Forget methodological context; that demand doesn’t even make sense in historical context. The apocalyptic Jewish messianism of the 1st century AD, of which Jesus (if he existed) was at minimum a significant part, would soon explode into the first of three enormously destructive rebellions against Roman rule. Can we really expect an author of a pro-Jesus tract to identify himself under those conditions?
But again, spergs can’t process context, and because of this, they display a very peculiar attitude towards evidence. We’ve all noted the online Left’s word fetish — they seem to think that the dictionary is the One Ring, and they certainly act as if naming a thing calls it into being (of course the Affordable Care Act makes healthcare affordable; it says so right in the name of the bill!). They will do this regardless of context, logic, or methodological rigor. I think we can see the process at work here. Basically, it amounts to an unnatural fixation on detail (one of the key traits of autism, of course). Like so:
Let’s say that they’re building a parking lot somewhere in southern Britain, and in the process they’ve unearth a cache of Roman-era artifacts. Stashed away in one of the pots is an account by an anonymous author that tells the tale of a certain soldier, a centurion by the name of Miles Nonexisticus. This man, who served with the legion II Adiutrix Pia Fidelis, thought he was the earthly incarnation of the god Jupiter, and he soon attracted a cult following. The paper, Manuscript A, is carbon-dated to about 80 AD.
Archaeologists and historians would consider this a major find. It’s unquestionably authentic (that is, dated to c. 80 AD), and that’s rare enough, but we almost never get info like this on folk beliefs. Now, the pros can’t do a whole lot more with it — it’s only one source, however intriguing — and so it’ll get written up, and field specialists will take note of it, but that’s about all.
But then, a few months later, there’s another document, Manuscript B, unearthed in a different part of Britain. This one, also anonymous, tells a version of the same tale. Some of the details are different — it doesn’t name the man, and refers only to “a soldier” of the legion IX Hispana — but the main story is the same. It’s carbon-dated to about 100 AD.
Again, professional historians would go nuts. From two independent sources, writing at different times, we have a tale of a Roman legionary who built a cult following around himself as the incarnation of Jupiter. His rank is different in both versions, he’s only named in one, and the later one has him in a different outfit, but both II Adiutrix and IX Hispana were unquestionably in Britain in that timeframe. The pros would conclude that, at the very least, there was a story about a crazy cult leader going around Roman Britain in c. 80-100 AD. That alone would warrant a mention in any discussion of popular religion in the Roman Empire. We might not have to rewrite the books just yet, but it’s unquestionably important.
Except… spergs wouldn’t see it that way. Manuscript B clearly contradicts Manuscript A on some crucial points. B doesn’t even name the guy, and it has him in a whole other unit, which was halfway across the island! One or the other of them is probably lying. Far from being proof that one Miles Nonexisticus got himself a cult going sometime around 80 AD, this is just more evidence of the unreliability of all archaeological evidence.
But then there’s a third source, Manuscript C, found during the auction of an old, decrepit peer’s estate. This one is a register of events in the Roman province. It’s carbon-dated to around 110, and it mentions in passing that in the author’s youth, he witnessed the provincial legion commander (alas, unnamed) executing one of his junior officers for stirring up some kind of religious mania among the troops.
Professional historians see this as corroboration. It’s looking increasingly likely that there was a centurion, probably named Miles Nonexisticus, who was in the grip of a religious delusion sometime around 80 AD. Not spergs, though. Correlation isn’t causation, after all!! We simply can’t conclude with any degree of confidence, they think, that these two legionaries are one and the same guy.
A bit later, Manuscript D is discovered. This one is much later — carbon-dated to around 200 AD — and it tells the complete tale of Miles Nonexisticus, the incarnation of Jupiter, and all his words and deeds. The author of Manuscript D is anonymous, unfortunately, but he’s clearly convinced that Miles Nonexisticus was Jupiter, and that when the ungodly commander of IX Hispana had him killed, he actually executed Jupiter, and that’s why Britannia is experiencing so many trials and tribulations right now.
At this point, the pros really do have to rewrite the history books. It’s fairly likely that there really was a soldier called Miles Nonexisticus, possibly a centurion, and almost certainly a member of IX Hispana. This man thought he was the incarnation of Jupiter, and he caused quite a stir — so much so, that his cult still had at least one proselytizing disciple more than a hundred years later.
But apply the Raphael Lataster / Richard Carrier standard, and what do you get? Nothing useful, that’s for sure. None of our sources is named, and none of them is in the least bit critical of their info. In fact, none of them reveals just how he came by his information, and one guy, the religious fanatic who penned Manuscript D, is clearly trying to gain converts. Instead of proving that Miles Nonexisticus was a real person, these documents actually show that he wasn’t. They don’t hardly have any details, and the ones they do list contradict each other. Isn’t it likelier that the author of Manuscript D is trying to scam the local religious by making up some story about a miracle-working Roman legionary from the remote past?