Mod+ 241. JOSEPH ATWILL RESPONDS TO CAESAR’S MESSIAH CRITICS

Discussion in 'Skeptiko Shows' started by alex.tsakiris, Mar 25, 2014.

  1. Ian Gordon

    Ian Gordon Ninshub Member

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    Alex, I know you've asked to have a scholar come on and debate Atwill's ideas. Maybe Joel Watts would accept? He's the author of Mimetic Criticism and the Book of Mark**, and his blog, Unsettled Christianity, presents him as an an informed believer who is open to being "unsettled" and discussion:

    Unsettled Christianity is a way to meet the challenges presented in our current world. From theological differences, cultural changes, and biblical studies, Christianity faces difficulties in remaining centered on Christ. Further, we have become too settled in this world, and in large ways, are experiencing a resurgence of modern-day Constantinism – pleading with the Government or other culture structures to give us peace and to cover us with their cloaks of protection! We settled for a seat at the table in post-modernity, when instead, we have a voice which should be at the door, heard loud and clear.

    My Christianity has been unsettled due to biblical studies, theology, science, and culture. I am not secure in my Christianity, but my faith is more assured.

    This blog started as a small and feeble attempt to rid myself of words and thoughts that needed expressed. It was my feeble attempt to do something for the Kingdom of God. It has grown beyond my original intentions. I will focus on doctrine, on helps, and of course on bringing you news that interest me. I like to study. I like to know. Further, I like to know why and what I study and what and why you study what, well, you study. I want to learn more about what I believe, and why I believe it; if I find that my beliefs need to be changed, I will change it. My writing is not the most developed because this is a blog. For me, it is about getting points across and maybe not always fully. But, again, it is a blog.

    I enjoy a good debate and will often post things just for discussion. The one thing that I do not like is debating with the witless. Please do not come to a discussion with some special insight or revelation. I seek to engage atheists, agnostics, pentecostals, or any one really. (...)

    I am blogging to understand my faith and to defend the Faith. I enjoy deep theology, believing that if a theological precept cannot be proved by the Scriptures, it must be abandoned forthwith.


    http://unsettledchristianity.com/about-1/
    Sounds like he's got the Skeptiko spirit. ;)

    ---
    **What if the story of Jesus was meant not just to be told but retold, molded, and shaped into something new, something present by the Evangelist to face each new crisis? The Evangelists were not recording a historical report, but writing to effect a change in their community. Mark was faced with the imminent destruction of his tiny community--a community leaderless without Paul and Peter and who witnessed the destruction of the Temple; now, another messianic figure was claiming the worship rightly due to Jesus. The author of the Gospel of Mark takes his stylus in hand and begins to rewrite the story of Jesus--to unwrite the present, rewrite the past, to change the future.

    Joel L. Watts moves the Gospel of Mark to just after the destruction of the Temple, sets it within Roman educational models, and begins to read the ancient work afresh. Watts builds upon the historical criticisms of the past, but brings out a new way of reading the ancient stories of Jesus, and attempts to establish the literary sources of the Evangelist.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2015
  2. Ian Gordon

    Ian Gordon Ninshub Member

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    I don't know how, or if, this relates to the discussion here. I'm just looking into Josephus.
    I'm not sure if what is being stated here is that Josephus is completely reliable as history. I've just listened to a lecture about Josephus that makes it sound (c. 41:50 to 44:00 and onwards) that he was somewhat into self-mythologizing, like making his battle at Jotapata sound like the later Masada siege.

    Lawrence H. Schiffman, a professor of Jewish and Hebraic Studies, says this about Josephus:

    There are some important things to keep in mind about Josephus as a historian. First, he did not in fact author most of what his works preserve. The great bulk of it comes from various sources, including Jewish materials, documentary evidence (some forged), and some of the best-known historians of Antiquity, which he compiled, sometimes even slavishly, ignoring contradictions with his own words or with his other sources. Second, he had a specific ax to grind. He sought to demonstrate to the Jews that life under Rome was not so bad as long as religious freedom was guaranteed. He also wanted to show the Romans that the war had been brought about by a minority of the Jews and had not reflected the attitude of the people at large. This was certainly one of the main functions of his Jewish War, written toward the end of Vespasian’s reign, between 75 and 79 C.E. He also attempted to relate the story of the war as if he had not been among those to blame for its failure.

    https://lawrenceschiffman.wordpress.com/2008/11/09/josephus-plagiarism-and-the-great-revolt/

    This professor of Hebrew Bible characterizes Josephus as a "prophetic" writer:

    (T)he self-attribution of inspiration, scripture learning, and dream interpretation all imply that Josephus views himself as a prophet. Scholars observe that in his writings Josephus draws parallels between his own experiences and those of the canonical prophets. 1) His experience at Jotapata (War 3.351-354) appears to be portrayed as a prophetic call experience. 2) He proclaims Vespasian emperor in the same way that some prophets proclaimed and anointed kings (War 3.399-408). 3) He stresses the differences between himself and the false prophets of that age, for he correctly predicted the fall of Jotapata in forty-seven days (War 3.400). 4) In his speech before the walls of Jerusalem he acts like a pre-exilic prophet of judgment (War 5.362-419), who seeks to lead his people to repent and save themselves. 5) In his later task as historian he is successor to the old biblical prophets. 6) In his writings Josephus portrays biblical characters to remind the audience of Josephus’ own personal experiences. He draws parallels between the fall of Jerusalem in 586 BCE and again in AD 70, for he was the prophet of the latter era, as Jeremiah and Ezekiel had been for the former era.

    Josephus’ prophetic role as historian merits special attention. He rewrites the history of the Jews in a fashion comparable to works such as the Genesis Apocryphon, the Book of Jubilees, and the Biblical Antiquities of Pseudo-Philo in the opinion of some scholars (…) As a priest Josephus is a custodian of his people’s traditions, and by continuing that history in the Jewish War and subsequently by rewriting it in the Antiquities, he is a prophet. For Josephus prophets and historians preserve the past and predict the future, and he has picked up the mantle of creating prophetic writings. Perhaps, in his own mind he is the first since the canonical prophets to generate inspired historiography.

    Robert Karl Gnuse, Dreams and Dream Reports in the the Writings of Josephus: A Tradition-Historical Analysis, p. 26-27.

    This article looks into different variations of Josephus' texts and possible later edits, including regarding his encounter with Vespasian:
    https://rogerviklund.wordpress.com/...ar-of-the-jews-a-guest-post-by-david-blocker/
     
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  3. Ian Gordon

    Ian Gordon Ninshub Member

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    A section of this site devoted to Josephus seems to go into the different (seemingly exhaustive) specific parallels with the NT (which are especially Luke's books), if people want to read and compare. The website author comments on, and analyzes, the similarities and differences for the various parallels.
    http://www.josephus.org/ntparallels.htm
     
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  4. Alex

    Alex New

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    this is great stuff, Ian. You've defiantly given me a lot to think about. I'd love to get Joel on the show with the condition that you help me co-produce the show. what do you say?

    even if Joel doesn't do it we can still go back to Joe with these questions and see what he has to say. are you up for starting a private conversation and trying to shape some of this material into a series of questions we might try to tackle?
     
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  5. Does this support or contradict Atwel's thesis? How?

    Thanks
     
  6. Ian Gordon

    Ian Gordon Ninshub Member

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    Sure Alex. Of course, know that I'm just curious and know relatively little here, all I can do is try and come up with questions - maybe if someone here knows more about the Bible, Antiquity, they could volunteer and also help.

    I'll wait for your PM.
     
  7. Ian Gordon

    Ian Gordon Ninshub Member

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    I've only perused it, Jim, and not gone through it exhaustively. It seems to be a site devoted to Josephus, and this is just a part of the site. (I don't think it mentions Atwill; in the podcast Atwill himself said other scholars have noted the parallels before.) This is what the "author" states at the onset:

    It is Luke's writings, both the Gospel and the Book of Acts, that have the most points of contact with Josephus, particularly the Antiquities. Most notable are the numerous references in Luke to events and persons that are also discussed, and are explained more fully, by Josephus. Luke is clearly concerned with embedding the story of Jesus in a firm historical context, thus helping not only to date the story but also to persuade the reader of its genuineness.

    More subtly, the vocabulary of Luke/Acts bears a greater resemblance to Josephus than does any other work in the New Testament (as Steve Mason once pointed out). A study of each author's style seems to indicate that they at least learned Greek from teachers with similar backgrounds.

    These connections have raised some possibilities that have been the focus of much attention by scholars. The weightiest question has been, did Luke read Josephus' Antiquities and use it as the basis for the historical references in his work? Did Luke, perhaps, even know Josephus in Rome, as Thackeray suggested? But there are discrepancies between Luke and Josephus -- particularly the census of Quirinius -- which suggest Luke used a different source. Was he perhaps genuinely handing down the traditions of some of those who knew Jesus?

    And the similarities of language -- do they imply the two authors wrote in a similar place at a similar time?

    The answer to these questions would help to tell us how and when Luke composed his works. If Luke read Josephus' Antiquities, he could not have written his gospel before the 80's CE, when the Antiquities was a work in progress, or the early 90's, when it was published. The same conclusion can be drawn from language similarities. This happens to agree with the dating of Luke most often surmised by scholars; but some think he wrote much earlier, in the 50's and 60's for Acts and perhaps much earlier for the gospel, while others argue that Luke is a very late writer, circa 120 CE.

    A reliance on the Antiquities would suggest also that Luke's gospel is not constructed solely of authenticate reports about Jesus from the apostles and others who knew him. It would mean Luke combined some information from original Christian sources with other materials. It would thus be left to readers to determine which is which.

    At first glance, the parallels seem like material to investigate whether Luke read Josephus, or in some cases possibly used another source that the other gospel writers didn't, but it doesn't seem there's much that connects specifically with Mark and Matthew, who were earlier.
     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2015
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  8. Ian Gordon

    Ian Gordon Ninshub Member

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    Here's a non-neutral, i.e. Christian-skeptic site that summarizes and makes a case for Luke relying on Josephus:
    http://www.rejectionofpascalswager.net/lukejosephus.html

    Of course, there's the Carrier article I linked to earlier about Luke and Josephus, that is more detailed.

    This "Biblical Hermeneutics" webpage opens by referring to the Carrier article, and analyzes the potential connections:

    Richard Carrier summarizes an argument made by Steve Mason in his book Josephus and the New Testament that Luke knew of Josephus' Jewish War (79 CE) and Jewish Antiquities (94 CE). At it's core, the argument stems from a similar purpose behind the writings of Josephus and the Luke–Acts history buttressed by general and specific parallels between the authors.

    Looking at the list of parallels, there don't seem to be any smoking guns. Any of them could arise because both men are telling the history of the same times and place. The strongest evidence seems to be the mentions of Judas the Galilean (Acts 5:37; JW 2, JA 18), Theudas (Acts 5:36; JA 20), and "The Egyptian" (Acts 21:38; JW 2, JA 20). Mason makes a case for Luke misunderstanding the relevant history, which Josephus provides in greater detail.

    But the heart of the argument is that both Josephus and Luke made parallels between Greek schools of philosophy and Jewish sects in order to make either Judaism or Christianity palatable to Romans. Was this a tactic both authors could reasonably be expected to innovate separately?

    http://hermeneutics.stackexchange.com/questions/1328/did-luke-use-josephus-as-a-source
    These are the questions the last page raises and seeks to answer:

    Was Luke-Acts written in the late first or early second century?
    Did Luke know the works of Josephus?
    Did Luke cut and paste material from Josephus into Acts?
    Are similarities between Luke-Acts and Josephus coincidence?


     
    Last edited: Jul 12, 2015
  9. Michael Larkin

    Michael Larkin Member

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    All these arguments about Christianity--is it hogwash, is it not, did Josephus have a hand in crafting it and all the rest.

    I'll tell you what: I recommend people read Bernardo Kastrup's Meaning in absurdity to see how it doesn't matter. It isn't a question of whether the Christian story is true or false: it belongs to a different category that doesn't depend on simple truth/falsehood bivalence. The story has enormous power and appeals to a lot of people: whether or not it is true is neither here nor there. As Bernardo says:

    The calls of the absurd – with their simultaneous contradictoriness, symbolism, and physical reality – have led us to review some of the latest, groundbreaking results coming out of experimental physics. These results, among which one finds the experimental confirmation of quantum entanglement and the correlation between global mind states and physical events, have exposed the untenability of realism. As such, the world ‘out there’ is not independent of the thoughts ‘in here.’

    In examining the implications of the defeat of realism, we have concluded that we must abandon logical bivalence as well; that is, the idea that things must be either true or false. Indeed, without realism there is no correspondence theory of truth to substantiate bivalence. Things can indeed be true
    and false, real and imaginary, so long as we construct them to be so...reality is the outcome of a coherent mental construction...

    So we are now left with a worldview where logic is itself a construction of the mind, not a strongly-objective truth lying in a platonic realm. Rationality is a thin, limited crust around an unfathomable core of the unformed; the meaningful irrational; the realm of the imagination. Yet the word ‘irrational’ must be read with care: here it does not denote foolishness – that is, the lazy neglect of logic – but the very transcendence of the limits of logic. The irrationality of our worldview exceeds and goes beyond logic.

    We all instinctively look for solid references to ground our thoughts, judgments, and decisions. We need neutral and reliable foundations to build our lives on. Some of us find these foundations in ethics and morals; others, in science and rationality; yet others, in religion or mythology. Still, we all seem to, implicitly as it may be, rely on logic as the ultimate glue holding these various foundations together. Hence, when acknowledging that logic is itself a construct of our imagination – a self-created set of limits – we may feel as though the rug were pulled from under our feet. What references are we then left with to tell meaning from foolishness?


    [emphasis in original text]
     
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  10. Ian Gordon

    Ian Gordon Ninshub Member

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    If one looks at the Wiki article on the Gospel of Luke, it seems to be recognized that he used Mark, the Q source sayings collection, and a third source exclusive to him as a Gospel writerr: "a collection of material called the L (for Luke) source; the most probable date is around 80-100 CE, and there is evidence that it was still being substantially revised well into the 2nd century".

    L Source article:
    Streeter%27s_the_Four_Document_Hypothesis.PNG
     
  11. Ian Gordon

    Ian Gordon Ninshub Member

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    If people want to watch it, the documentary made about Atwill's book (with other mythicist scholars included) can be found here. I have a few problems with it, but I think the point worth investigating is the Josephus-gospels (mostly Luke) parallels.

    Meanwhile, here's a video by Atwill that more specifically spells out his own thesis (the "Flavian Signature") about those parallels:
     
    Last edited: Jul 18, 2015
  12. Ian Gordon

    Ian Gordon Ninshub Member

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    Just in the interest of providing more info here.

    I'm finally watching this video where Atwill details the parallels he observes between Josephus and the gospels, and he makes the case about one specific subset of parallels (starting at 17:00) which he says is "clearly proof" that Jesus is a fictional character. These are the specific parallels between what Jesus says, does and what happens to him in the gospels, and what happens with a character also called "Jesus"/"Jeshua" in Josephus' War of the Jews.

    This website puts these specific parallels side by side, and they are parallels between Josephus and the Gospel of Mark (now considered the earliest gospel), and not the later Luke:
    http://vridar.info/xorigins/josephus/2jesus.htm
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2015
  13. Ian Gordon

    Ian Gordon Ninshub Member

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    Of course, even if the gospels-Josephus parallels show an influence of Josephus on the gospel writers doesn't mean 1) that the Romans invented Jesus, or 2) that Jesus was not a historical character. The critiques of Atwill's thesis I'm finding online all seem to make this point, among others.

    E.g.
    http://www.holybibleprophecy.org/2013/10/22/we-invented-jesus-christ/
    http://vridar.org/2013/10/12/so-this-was-kick-joe-atwill-week/
    https://tomverenna.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/no-joe-atwill-rome-did-not-invent-jesus/
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wwjtd/...-proven-that-jesus-was-made-up-by-the-romans/

    Tom Verenna wrote this, specifically:
    https://tomverenna.wordpress.com/2012/09/25/no-joe-atwill-rome-did-not-invent-jesus/

    Verenna also writes:
    Here's the work of Joel Watts - studying how Mark used the Roman poet Lucan as a stylistic source - I mentioned earlier in this thread, cited by this blogger:
    http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wwjtd/...-proven-that-jesus-was-made-up-by-the-romans/

    I would still be interested in hearing an NT expert discuss the parallels found between Mark and Jesus re: the character of "Jesus"/"Jeshua" in Josephus' War of the Jews.
     
    Last edited: Aug 4, 2015
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  14. Jägermeister

    Jägermeister New

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    Why not? Josephus first wrote shortly after the Jewish revolution, one that he took part in on the opposing side. And we can see from Mark that his invented history was on the face of it pro Roman, probably because it was politically expedient to do so at a time when Judaism would have been regarded in a suspicious light.

    The author of Luke does have this problem, probably being written a few decades later. But by this time Christianity had probably evolved away from Judaism (as John Tells us), so Luke has a different motive for this tactic. He is selling his Christianity to a gentile audience.

    Why does it suggest that? Despite his claim to the contrary in Luke1:1-4, Luke is not writing a history, which in those days followed a format not matched by this gospel. So Luke is theologically free to use his material as he sees fit.


    You are presuming Luke does not trust Josephus. Perhaps the author of Luke changed the order for other reasons, such as hiding the fact he used Josephus. Or maybe he just vaguely remembered what he had read in Josephus.

    Based on what? What other sources do we have apart from Josephus and Luke/Acts?

    Because the author of Luke/Acts is not writing a history of those times, so he is not relying heavily on Josephus. The gospel of Luke is using Mark and Matthew as its primary source, and Acts is in part responding to Galatians.

    The Testimonium Flavium does not mention James, the Testimonium Flavium is chapter 18.3.3, and both mentions of Jesus are most likely later Christian interpolations. The grammatically odd James reference appears to be a second century insertion, and the Testimonium Flavium not only changes subject from Pilate, but statistically is closer to the fourth century Eusebius, and also differs grammatically from Josephus (despite the oft repeated claim that the TF is in the style of Josephus).​
     
  15. Jägermeister

    Jägermeister New

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    He tells us he knew John the Presbyter, it's only presumed this John is the same as the alleged apostle. A reading of the text suggests it is a different John.

    Yes, there were many claims of people living a long time, such as Polycarp and John the apostle, amongst others. But how do we know this is factual? Why not a necessity to try and link a second century Christianity finally finding it's feet with books written 30 - 50 years earlier, that were talking about people who allegedly lived 40 years before then.

    And I'd almost agree with him on that one, even though I find his whole theory untenable. The first gospel written, Mark, from it's content, suggests the author was a Pauline Christian, a gentile. And Paul was anti Jewish law, in contrast to the "thee pillars in Jerusalem", James and Cephas and John. And who are the three main apostles in Mark? James and Cephas and John. Mark uses irony in his text, and rewriting the three pillars in the role of the three main apostles, who in Mark are all stupid, would possibly have amused the author. So while I believe the three actually lived, I think the gospel accounts of them are fictional.
     
  16. Alex

    Alex New

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    would love to hear more... e.g. what parts of his theory do you disagree with and why:
    - Josephus's version of history influenced the gospel writers... and he was a tool of the Romans.
    - Flavians were running a psy op... or at least a vanity game. Atwill may not have all the details, but has captured the big picture.
    - Constantine was brutal and used religion as an instrument of control.
     
  17. It is not credible that the Gospels were written by the Flavians as a vanity game because in the Gospels, the full prophesy (not just the part quoted by Atwill) warns against false messiahs and says the true messiah will come down from heaven accompanied by angles. How did Titus fulfill that prophesy? Why didn't Christians accept Titus as the messiah?
    http://www.skeptiko-forum.com/threa...aesar’s-messiah-critics.611/reply?quote=67093

    Paul's letters defeat the argument that Christianity (with Jesus as the messiah) was invented by the Flavians because they were written before Josephus's work and refer to Jesus as the Son of God.

    The Gospels and Epistles were written long before Constantine ruled.
     
    Last edited: Aug 5, 2015
  18. Alex

    Alex New

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    this is a perfect example of how these discussions get off track... let me elaborate:
    - Josephus's version of history influenced the gospel writers... and he was a tool of the Romans. this doesn't mean that J, or the Flavians wrote the whole thing, but it's silly to not acknowledge the influence.
    - Flavians were running a psy op... or at least a vanity game. Atwill may not have all the details, but has captured the big picture. So, you can argue that point 1 doesn't lead to point 2, but I would argue that it's quite likely given what we know about the Romans.
    - Constantine was brutal and used religion as an instrument of control. Again, this is a fact... so you can argue that Constantine shouldn't be viewed as part of this linage of deceipt and manipulation by means of religion, but I think the facts are against you.

    So, it really comes down to point 1... and that's why I think Atwill's work is so important (even if I don't buy into all of it). The parallels between Josephus and the Gospels is the decisive element to the story.
     
  19. The Gospel of Mark was written at least 5 years before the Wars of the Jews.

    Mark was written in 70 AD (http://www.bc.edu/schools/stm/c21online/resources/birthofjesus/intro/the_dating_of_thegospels.html) (66-70 AD https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gospel_of_Mark)

    The Jewish War was written in 75 AD (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Jewish_War) (78 AD http://sacred-texts.com/jud/josephus/)
     
    Last edited: Aug 6, 2015
  20. Ian Gordon

    Ian Gordon Ninshub Member

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    Although, just using the Wiki links:

    Mark: The book was probably written c. AD 66–70 (...)
    Joephus: The book was written about 75 AD (...)
     

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