Monday, January 17, 2011

NT Pod 48: Why Study the Historical Jesus?

NT Pod 48 asks "Why Study the Historical Jesus?" It is just over eleven minutes long.

NT Pod 48: Why Study the Historical Jesus? (mp3)
NT Pod 48: Why Study the Historical Jesus? (mp3) (Alternative location)

Feel free to leave your feedback below or on Twitter or on our Facebook page.

Thanks to Ram2000, Me and You, for the opening theme, released under a Creative Commons agreement.


  1. Did the Historical Jesus speak to Moses,as recorded in the biographies of the Historical Jesus?

  2. Steven

    Do you reject every historical thing that Josephus relates because he also relates miracles and supernatural events?

  3. You mean do I reject a person who was a primary source for many of the things he writes about, quotes and names his sources, and who we know he was?

    You didn't answer the question.

    Did the historical Jesus speak to Moses , as recorded in the biographies of the historical Jesus?

    If we take an ancient document, and remove the miraculous and supernatural, is what is left historical?

    To take another analogy, many stories have been written about President Obama's birth in Kenya.

    Historians agree these stories of a Kenyan birth were written with an agenda, are implausible, contain glaring anachronisms,and contradict each other.

    Nevertheless, biographers of Obama are studying the stories of him being born in Kenya to determine roughly when he was born.

    In the same way, students of the Historical Jesus regard the stories of him being born in Bethlehem as being written with an agenda, implausible, containing glaring anachronisms, and contradicting each other.

    But they enable historians to work out roughly when Jesus was born, just as future historians will use the fabricated stories about Obama being born in Kenya to determine his birth date, although they will readily concede that these Kenyan birth stories are fabricated.

    This is how history is done by historians, who use fabricated tales as sources, and sift the truth from the invention.

  4. Steven

    I’ll take that as a “no” then. You don’t reject Josephus because he “fabricates tales” of supernatural events; but you do reject NT documents because they “fabricate tales” supernatural events.

  5. Make another wild guess why I reject the NT 'documents'. You might get lucky next time.

    Or open a history book, and learn how scholars actually show that people like Judas or Thomas existed. They are in the Bible. Therefore , they existed, even if they lived as shadowy an existence as the Angel Moroni.

  6. Steven

    I see you’re trying to widen the issues now, but I’m sticking with the issue in your opening question. The fact that you have raised the issue of how historians operate though is relevant here, because I have never seen a historian ask another historian, say, “Surely you can’t believe anything that Josephus says is true, because he recounts miracles which are evidently false?”.

    But this is how I understand your opening question (“Did the Historical Jesus speak to Moses, as recorded in the biographies of the Historical Jesus?”). If you didn’t mean this, then what did you mean?

    This is after all your opening question, which you have chosen (amongst all the others that you could have chosen, and which you now seem to want to slip in). I thought I had understood the point you were trying to make (and I still suspect it was, despite your denials), and I’m just pointing out that this type of question is not one used by historians of this period anywhere. If you’ve seen a historian ruling out Josephus, Philo, Suetonius etc. on this basis, then please provide a citation.

  7. Why not simply answer the question I asked?

    Did the historical Jesus speak to Moses?

    It is a simple yes/no question.

    'then what did you mean?'

    I meant to ask the question 'Did the historical Jesus speak to Moses?'

    That is why I asked the question.Because I wanted to know the answer.

  8. Steven

    I don’t think anyone believes that’s why you asked the question. You see your reputation is well known for these very pointed questions; they are clearly not intended simply to elicit information as you now purport. You ask your pointed questions because you think they’ll make your point – you wait for someone to say “the wrong thing” (normally something in support of a historical Jesus) and then you pounce with your mythicist agenda.

    It’s a technique that, I have to admit, you have used elsewhere with forceful effect. But the problem is that everyone now knows how you operate. Teasing out your not-very-well-hidden agenda behind these questions is more useful for everybody.

    It’s all the more obvious here as you’ve selected a question from an area entirely unmentioned by the podcast.

    And, of course, whilst you did not intend to put that question to me (indeed you already know my response from our exchanges on other boards), I’ve already humoured you by intimating my answer above. Mark Goodacre might have a very different answer, I don’t know, and it’s really not as important as you make out.

    I think what has happened here is you’ve been caught in an error of strategy that you very rarely make. The aim of your very evidently pointed question was to use the supernatural in the gospels to discredit the gospels in their entirety. So your desire to get back to your script and get someone to answer your question is very understandable.

    You wish to avoid the consequences of your question; that it is perfectly normal for historical texts of this period to contain supernatural tales - almost all of them do, at least those of any length. In fact (perhaps with slight tongue in cheek) you could almost say this is a “criterion of authenticity”! If a historical text f the period did not include such supernatural tales, it would be highly suspicious.

    But trying to make out your opening question was entirely innocent and without your well-known agenda is not convincing. I don’t believe your line

    “That is why I asked the question. Because I wanted to know the answer.”

    because you already know your answer. It’s a scenario you’ve played out too often for people still to be taken in.

  9. What do you have to do to get people to answer a perfectly straightforward question?

    Ask a question and all you get is abuse, not dialogue.

  10. Steven and veryrarelystable,

    Thanks for commenting on the podcast. As veryrarelystable points out, Steven's question is unrelated to the podcast itself and the ensuing discussion is going nowhere. There are plenty of venues on the net where you can have this kind of discussion.

    veryrarelystable: please do not comment anonymously.

    Best wishes