Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Historicity of Jesus Debate - In Summary!

Update: Audio recording now  available here.

I just got back from the debate between Dr Chris Forbes and Dan Barker on the historicity of Jesus. My oh my, it was funny!

In summary:

1. Copied from Pagan Gods.
  • Barker: Jesus was "cut from the same cloth" as every other Greaco-Roman God-Man. Like all these over deities/heroes  *insert name here of any character you have heard of*, Jesus was born of a virgin, had followers, died at the hands of the political elite,  physically rose again and ascended into heaven.
  • Forbes: Do you have any examples of this?
  • Barker: Many.
  • Forbes: Who?
  • Barker: Others.
 2. Evidence.

  • Barker: There is no evidence for Jesus' life outside of the NT in the first century.
  • Forbes: Firstly, the NT sources should count as evidence - but there are sources like Josephus. Although the larger passage shows evidence of later Christian changes.
  • Barker: So Christians were manufacturing evidence for Jesus as you yourself admit!
3. Philo

  • Barker: (In revisiting the evidence outside the NT). Philo doesn't mention anything about Jesus.
  • Forbes: Philo was not a historian nor was he writing a history, and I can't see why him not mentioning an obscure figure works against his historicity...
  • Barker: He was Philo the Judaean.
  • Forbes: Yes, but he was from Alexandria. Have you read Philo?
  • Barker: Very little...I rely on secondary scholarship.
When the video is available you will have something a bit clearer than this caricature.


    1. i wanted to come to the debate. too far away. was it recorded?

    2. I believe it was recorded (I saw someone with a camera at the back of the room) but I have no idea who that person was with. If I find out I'll leave another comment (probably subcribe to comments here??)

    3. Sounds like it would have been fun to be there

    4. It was actually a really fun debate. It was so hard for me to stay quiet. I think the best discussion was when Barker abandoned the topic and was talking about physical vs spiritual resurrection.

      And latest news, it was taped on behalf of the Macquarie University Atheist League and it will be "available if the quality of the recording permits it."

    5. Hey Ari, I've been poking around a little at your blog. Pretty interesting.

      Regarding the debate on the historicity of Christ, based on your statements I can see that Barker was taking a "Jesus myth" position. I do not understand why some skeptics (and I am a skeptic) take this position. No competent historian takes this view. James McGrath had some posting on this topic and he spent some time showing the parallels between Jesus mythers and young-earth creationists, I agree with him.

    6. Hey Anthony!

      The Christ Myth argument is just something I have trouble taking seriously. The same people who preach that we should take the most logical and simple explanation draw up elaborate hypothetical alternatives built upon just as shaky hypothetical alternative history to argue that the most obvious explanation is, in fact, farfetched.

      I am not quite sure why I spend so much time on it (e.g. http://sxcari.blogspot.com/search/label/christ%20myth)

    7. 'James McGrath had some posting on this topic and he spent some time showing the parallels between Jesus mythers and young-earth creationists...'

      In other words, he refuted the arguments of Jesus-mythers the way that evolutionists refute the arguments of young-earth creationists.

      IE He just called them names.

    8. Christ mythers have actual arguments now?!?!

    9. Lots of them.

      And as Christians think on Good Friday, mythicists bear in mind Paul's references that 'Consequently, he who rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.

      For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you.

      For he is God's servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God's servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.'

    10. Whatever you say, Steven.

      I should have the audio for this available later today!

    11. In case anyone missed the post, the audio is now available here: http://sxcari.blogspot.com/2010/04/jesus-man-or-myth-aka-dan-barker-v.html

    12. Hi Ari,

      I tried to listen to the debate, but the audio is a little difficult to tolerate. As one who does subscribe to *some* of the ideas that Barker puts forth here, I will say, judging by your commentary and by a debate he conducted with Dr. James White, that Barker really isn't the best face to put on the 'Christ Myth' theory. He is nowhere near as learned as Robert M. Price on the topic.

      I myself don't subscribe to the idea that a historical Jesus never existed; in fact, I find it more plausible that he did. However, I think there's a lot to be said for the notion that, after having been made a martyr, Jesus was deified and mythologized along the lines of contemporary mythemes, especially those of the Hellenistic and Mystery Cult variety. Even Dr. Price weighs the two possibilities:

      "The only remaining question, for me at least, has been whether Jesus Christ was a man transfigured into mythic proportions by the imagination of his admirers, or whether he began as an imaginary deity and was subsequently made historical in the manner suggested for the Greek deities already by the ancient Euhemerus."
      -Robert M. Price

      I suppose you could place me in the same category as Rudolf Bultmann and many others who have shared this view. Should you have any questions, or should anyone on this blog be interested in debate, I am game. This is a fascinating topic, to which I've dedicated a great deal of time--careful to follow the evidence only where it leads.