I was a guest on the GeekNights podcast again. We recorded this back in September, so I can’t remember exactly what we covered, but apparently I speak very quickly.
“Tonight on GeekNights, we end the year with a discussion we shared with the incorrigible Luke Burrage on the historical legitimacy (or lack thereof) of the Christian Bible. Of particular interest is the Documentary Hypothesis and a solid book on the subject (The Bible with Sources Revealed).”
Hi there. I started listening to your podcast a few months ago, starting at around episode 100 and working my way backwards for a while. Then I went back to your recent podcasts. I really enjoy your reviews, and especially the way you criticize books of otherwise favorite authors that you do not like – somewhat rare in internet review circles.
I recently listened to your Geeknights podcast about the historicity of the bible. It is a bit jumbled, and a great deal of it I don’t have any issue with, but I think I would recommend you to reconsider your position on the historicity of Jesus (as a historical person, not a magical saviour that can turn water into wine). I come to this from a historical position, not a religious one, and it is my understanding that the “Jesus as Myth” hypothesis isn’t widely accepted – among modern historians. My main problem with this issue is that if the stringency and hyper-critical evaluation of sources in examining the historicity of Jesus was to be applied broadly to ancient history, we would pretty much wipe it out as a field of study – our sources on a lot of the ancient world are extremely sparse.
A fellow named James Hannam (a specialist on the field of premodern natural philosophy that has taken an interest in the debate since he is a catholic himself) once wrote a fairly accessible four-part article that got rehosted recently:
…and which broadly cover many of the problems of the Jesus as Myth position. If you really have a lot of time, you can look at this horrible thread:
…in which Tim O’Neill, atheist internet commando with a long interest and online debate career on the matter, deals with a lot of the issues as well. He is very abrasive when people start to recycle arguments or start to argue from a position of belief (which sadly is all too common amongst of many of the “Rationalists” of today), but he is very well read on the issue.
The aforementioned Hannam has set up a forum:
…where a lot of people interested in these matters (religious and atheist) congregate for well-informed and polite debate. O’Neill doesn’t take prisoners there either, but since people are more interested in discussion and argument rather than polemicism, he comes off as less frothing at the mouth.
Personally I do not partake much – my work is mainly on the natural science side (but in the historical community as I work as a objects conservator) and this subject is very peripheral to my main historical interest, but I fear that modern atheism/skepticism has gone out on an occasionally self-damaging tangent in the historical fields in recent years. It would be sad if we have learned nothing from the mistakes of the late 19th/early 20th century:
…in which cooler heads did not prevail and ideas that are completely contradictory to what we can read from historical sources were – and still are – given wide credence.
Oh, my bad – I notice I had the wrong link to Hannam’s fourth article. Here is the right one, I found a link to it on his website:
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