Monday, September 29, 2014

An Open Letter To Michael Paulkovich And Free Inquiry

[PS, 31. December 2014: I'm a mythicist: I'm not at all sure whether or not Jesus existed. I mentioned that at the end of this post. I'm saying it again here because people don't always read other people's blog posts all the way to the end, and because it's the reason I wrote this: I wrote it because I'd like to see quality research being done on the question of Jesus' existence. It's not being done, because the experts, the academics, aren't doing it.]



It seems that your article in Free Inquiry is open to subscribers only. [PS, 31. December 2014: It's been moved to the public part of Free Inquiry's website. ] But I can see the header on the Free Inquiry website:

If the story of Jesus were true, ancient writers should have commented on it—yet 126 (and counting) who might have done so, did not.

And I would just love to see a list of those 126 (or more) writers. You see, I've been studying ancient history and literature for a long, long time, and had been under the impression that the number was more like 0. You obviously have a huge brain and know many things which I do not. I've found some of the 126 on a website which quotes you as having said "in a recent interview,"

"Emperor Titus, Cassius Dio, Maximus, Moeragenes, Lucian, Soterichus Oasites, Euphrates, Marcus Aurelius, or Damis of Hierapolis. It seems none of these writers from first to third century ever heard of Jesus, global miracles and alleged worldwide fame be damned"

Great, I finally found the names of some of the 126 (or more) writers whose failure to mention Jesus is downright strange. Okay then, let's take a look at those 9:

Titus. Okay, good: Titus was actually in Judea, he led Roman troops against the Jewish uprising, which he successfully crushed in AD 70. Is it strange that we kind find no mention of Jesus in his writings? Well, no. Because, you see, none of Titus' writings are known to us. Which means that what's strange here -- in my humble opinion -- is that you're talking about examining his writings. Very strange. The primary sources of information about Titus are Josephus (who mentions Jesus), Tacitus (who mentions Christians), Suetonius (ditto), and the 2nd name someone claims you listed off in an interview,

Cassius Dio. Actually, I've more often heard him referred to as Dio Cassius, but why rag on that and imply that you got all this off the back of some cereal box? Let's just call him Dio for the sake of brevity. (And so that people who are familiar with his work, if any such are reading along, will know what we're talking about.) Dio writes a couple of lines about Titus and the Jewish War, in which he makes no mentions of any Jews alive at that time, let alone decades before during the supposed time of Jesus, or Pontius Pilate either. In fact the only near-contemporary mentions of Pilate known before the 20th century, when an inscription was found which seems to have been made by him, are in the New Testament, and the Jewish authors Josephus (mentions Jesus) and Philo, and Tacitus (mentions Christians). But yeah, it's strange that Dio doesn't mention this one particular Jewish preacher who had 12 whole followers.

Maximus. There's a 2nd-century Athenian philosopher named Maximus. Show me he had ever heard of Judea or Galilee, and then we can talk about why it would be strange for him not to have written about Jesus. The other people I've heard about named Maximus are even more ridiculous in this discussion. (Do you mean the general and gladiator Maximus, who killed Commodus? You know that Maximus is entirely fictional, right?)

Moeragenes. Never heard of him.

Lucian. Now here we have an ancient author from whom an unusually-large volume of work has survived. The closest any of his works come to Jerusalem or Nazareth is that Adversus Indoctum mocks a Syrian book-collector. What the fuck, Michael? (What the fuck, Free Inquiry? You don't have any fact-checkers?)

Soterichus Oasites. A Soterichus who lived around AD 300 wrote poems about Alexander the Great and Dionysus. Hm, yeah, very strange that he didn't toss any mention of Jesus into those.

Euphrates. That's a river, not a writer.

Marcus Aurelius. He was relatively friendly toward Jews. This may be the strongest straw you have to grasp at. (Why should the religious be the only ones who can grasp at straws and take rhetorical short-cuts?)

Damis of Hierapolis. A Damis was a pupil of Apollonius of Tyana. None of this Damis' work has survived, and none of this Apollonius' either, but Apollonius has sometimes been compared to Jesus so I can see how you got confused.

I'm not a Christian, I'm not picking on you for theological reasons. I'm an atheist, and I'm far from certain that Jesus existed, and I think it's shameful the way that the vast majority of mainstream Biblical scholars avoid any suggestion that there could ever be any reasonable doubt that Jesus existed, and I'm picking on you because I take history seriously, and I've read some ancient literature untranslated, and I don't go around talking out of my ass like you do, and it's embarrassing that some people think of me in the same breath as clowns like you, because of my doubts about whether Jesus existed and the way the academics treat the subject and therefore frame the discussion.

PS, 29. September, 3:50 PM: I found the list! Of all 126, or is it more by now? 3/4 of the way to the bottom of the linked page: The Silent Historians, he calls them. Stayed tuned, readers. This is gonna be fun.

114 comments:

  1. Dear Steven Bollinger,

    Thank you for your interest in this area of research. Free Inquiry is available at your local Barnes & Noble if you would care to read the article. My prime point is that the Bible makes claims of global miracles, and world-wide fame of Jesus. For example Paul claims his words went "unto the ends of the whole world" (Romans 10:18) and there is a claim of 3-hour darkness at mid-day.
    Now to address some of your comments:

    "Euphrates. That's a river, not a writer." - Yes, it is a river, thanks for that observation. But he was indeed also a writer, Euphrates of Tyre, stoic philosopher in the middle of the first century CE. Caius Musonius Rufus was his teacher, and Pliny the Younger was his friend.

    "None of this Damis' work has survived, and none of this Apollonius' either" - wrong. We have many letters of Apollonius, to and from him, and Eusebius in his fourth century Preparation for the Gospel wrote of Apollonius, quoting his work "On Sacrifices." Surely if Damis had written anything of Jesus, Christian copyists would have preserved and propagated it. Apparently they did not, strong evidence that Damis was unaware of Jesus.
    When Philostratus wrote his extensive biography of Apollonius in the 3rd century, surely he should have mentioned the strong resemblance to the Jesus stories. Since he did not, surely it seems he was unaware of Jesus of Nazareth.

    Regarding Titus you wrote "Is it strange that we kind find no mention of Jesus in his writings? Well, no. Because, you see, none of Titus' writings are known to us" - this is not true. As one example, we have some of his letters to Apollonius. In one letter Emperor Titus wrote: "... I have indeed taken Jerusalem, but you have captured me."

    "Moeragenes. Never heard of him." - that does not seem like an impressive argument against his inclusion in my list. At any rate, to help you, it is sometimes spelled Meragenes or Moiragenes. See Philostratus, Vita Apollonii I.3 (Μοιραγέυει).

    "Josephus (mentions Jesus)" - no, he did not. The two places where he seems to mention Jesus are proven interpolations. I treat Josephus in detail in my first book, pp. 191-198.

    "Tecitus (mentions Christians)" - if you mean Tacitus, then no, he did not. As I state in my book: "...non-contemporary of Jesus, Tacitus, lived from 56 to 117. It appears his Annals were never quoted by other authors until many centuries afterward. The one passage Christian apologists use to 'prove' Tacitus wrote of Jesus, 15:44, is clearly forged. The word 'Christ' is interpolated only one time; in other places his word chrestians refers to 'good people,' not 'followers of Christ' (nor followers of "Chrest"). Moreover it is completely out of character for Tacitus to refer to a man who he says 'suffered the extreme penalty' (executed) as a christ, a messiah."

    You mention Maximus. I'm referring to Maximus Tyrius - Greek rhetorician, writer, and philosopher of the second century CE. Again, if Jesus' fame and miracles were anywhere near as vast as claimed in the Bible, Maximus surely would have been aware, and somewhere he would have written about Jesus. He did not.

    Philo Judaeus is among the most damning. He lived during Jesus' supposed time and even visited the temple in Jerusalem a few times. Philo wrote of other Jesus contemporaries Flaccus, Caligula, Pontius Pilate, Bassus, Tiberius and Sejanus. He apparently never heard of Jesus or the miracles.

    Here be dragons. It would behoove you to read the article before attempting to refute it, and even do some research. That's how I came up with the list of silent writers and evidence against claims that Josephus and others wrote of Jesus: research.

    Michael Paulkovich, September 30, 2014.

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    1. This is spectacularly absurd. Here is someone who clearly possesses no formal training or scholarly credibility, who has assembled a slapdash piece of anti-Christian conspiracism, and people pay attention because...why, exactly? So, based on a strained reading of Romans 10:18 (go read it in context) and an inflated sense that New Testament texts claim that Jesus was world famous (which they do not, and in fact the Book of Acts is the story of what is clearly construed as a very small number of people who know about Jesus slowly spreading the word to a slightly-smaller number at the end of the book -- not to mention the Gospel of Mark, which is relentless in describing how few people knew about Jesus), Paulkovich examines a bunch of authors who have no business mentioning Jesus, in fact many of which have no extant texts, finds they have no referenced Jesus, and pretends this is surprising? In the meantime he discounts the New Testament texts themselves, because of course they're biased (news flash: practically every ancient source is biased, practically every modern source is biased, but that doesn't mean they cannot have historical value), discounts the scores of non-canonical books, asserts very conveniently that every actual reference to Jesus by an ancient historian is a later Christian interpolation (some specific claims may be interpolations, but there's no consensus on this, much less that these texts never mentioned Jesus at all), throws in a veritable Mt. Everest of arguments from absence, and...presto! All those millions of people who have concluded that Jesus existed, and actually know this material far better than him, were wrong! Thank goodness Paulkovich is around to set us straight.

      The "presumably if he *had* written something about Jesus, Christians would have preserved it, so clearly he wrote nothing about Jesus" is about the worst bit of argument-from-absence I've ever seen. It's an argument from silence several layers deep, with all sorts of assumptions built in. Because, you know, ancient texts were never destroyed or anything, if those all-powerful Christians got their hands on them.

      Then he gets into the usual the-Jesus-story-is-a-pastiche-of-other-myth-stories claptrap. Never mind that this has been addressed by any number of reputable scholars, including many scholars who would be delighted to conclude that Jesus never existed, and dismissed repeatedly. It falls apart on careful examination. When you get to know the stories better, few of them actually resemble the Jesus story (I've even seen the Jesus Mythers call the birth of Athena a "virgin birth" analogue because she sprang from the head of Zeus) in detail, fewer still have plausible lines of influence on the gospel writers, and, well, what would it prove anyway? If I can find some fables that seem to resonate with my life story, does that mean I never existed?

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    2. I haven't gotten to the end, so I'm not sure where this leads. Is it the argument that a very small batch of people got together and pieced together a life story for a fictional character from other myths, propagated this story in an area where countless people would have known if they were lying, and then went about dying (persecuted by Romans and Jews -- yes, later Christians were the persecutors, but that's a non sequitur at this point) because they refused to admit that they had lied? Or is the argument that this was a Roman concoction to control the masses, even though Rome tried to stamp it out for a couple hundred years?

      Ugh. As someone who spent 16 years researching and teaching these things at major universities, I can tell you that there are -- and have been for many generations -- thousands of scholars who would love to make their careers by demonstrating that Jesus never existed. The fact that no scholar has been able to do so with a straight face should tell you something.

      Jesus probably existed. That doesn't mean you have to believe he's the Messiah or the Son of God. But you're just making yourself look ridiculous.

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    3. Hello Mr. Michael Paulkovich. And what about the ideia about Issa (Jesus) in the Tibete and India. it seem's that jesus went to India and Tibete in is 30's years of age. There are many ancient buddhist monk's who know's that. Thank's.

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    4. "My prime point is that the Bible makes claims of global miracles, and world-wide fame of Jesus. For example Paul claims his words went "unto the ends of the whole world" (Romans 10:18)"

      Red-herring. When talking about the Historical Jesus, the supernatural claims made about him are irrelevant.

      Euphrates the Stoic was a philosopher. He didn't write about history or any of his contemporaries outside of philosophy.

      As for Damis, we only have his notebooks which aren't historical records. In "Philostratus: The Life of Apollonius of Tyana, the Epistles of Apollonius and the Treatise of Eusebius" it's even believed that his notebooks could have been an invention and that they didn't belong to him and that it's possible Damis didn't exist at all so I don't think you should be referencing a man whose own historicity is doubt and whose only reference as existing comes from one source and no other.

      "It has been argued that the work of Damis never really existed, and that he was a mere man of straw invented by Philostratus. This view was adopted as recently as the year 1910 by Professor Bigg, in his history of the origins of Christianity. But it seems unnecessarily sceptical. It is quite true that Philostratus puts into the mouth of the sage, on the authority of Damis, conversations and ideas which, as they recur in the Lives of the Sophists of Philostratus, can hardly have been reported by Damis. But because he resorted to this literary trick, it by no means follows that all the episodes which he reports on the authority of Damis are fictitious, for many of them possess great verisimilitude and can hardly have been invented as late as the year 217, when the life was completed and given to the literary world. It is rather to be supposed that Damis himself was not altogether a credible writer, but one who, like the so-called aretalogi of that age, set himself to embellish the life of his master, to exaggerate his wisdom and his supernatural powers; if so, more than one of the striking stories told by Philostratus may have already stood in the pages of Damis." ~ introduction, page vii

      Point is, Damis shouldn't be called upon for history for other contemporaries in his time.

      Your claim on Josephus isn't factual either. It's alleged that those mentions of Jesus were added later but not proven and his mention of James as the brother of Jesus is considered completely genuine and unaltered.

      As for Tactius, you're making stuff up now. Unless you have evidence to prove that his verse on Jesus is "clearly forged" then you have no case here considering its validity and authenticity is accepted by most historians who have studied his writings in-depth. You're really using fallacies for your argument that his writing was forged especially with the invention of "Chrestians" meaning "good people." I don't find any academic sources backing this unless you care to cite some? I find one book mentioning this and that's "Finding the Historical Christ" by Paul William Barnett which disputes this and says that "Rather, Tactius (with utmost economy) says Christians derive their name from the man named Christ." on page 57.

      Please do some proper research Mr.Paulkovich instead of making things up. It is indeed embarrassing to see such poor and classical debunked arguments being re-used for yet another attention seeker. Come back when you have an actual case and academic sources and references for your claims.

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    5. Does anyone have a bio of Paulkovich? Where did he go to school, what his degree is in, how long has he been a writer, that kind of info? He's getting the kind of press that a respectable scholar might get, and that might just be some publishing trick being used to drive up the sales of the book by presenting him as more of an expert than he actually is. That is academic fraud, and I don't see anyone asking that very relevant question.

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    6. "We must not omit one event which enhances the fame of a venerated man. For, it is said, Aurelian did indeed truly speak and truly think of destroying the city of Tyana; but Apollonius of Tyana, a sage of the greatest renown and authority, a philosopher of former days, the true friend of the gods, and himself even to be regarded as a supernatural being, as Aurelian was withdrawing to his tent, suddenly appeared to him in the form in which he is usually portrayed, and spoke to him as follows, using Latin in order that he might be understood by a man from Pannonia: "Aurelian, if you wish to conquer, there is no reason why you should plan the death of my fellow-citizens. Aurelian, if you wish to rule, abstain from the blood of the innocent. Aurelian, act with mercy if you wish to live long." Aurelian recognized the countenance of the venerated philosopher, and, in fact, he had seen his portrait in many a temple. And so, at once stricken with terror, he promised him a portrait and statues and a temple, and returned to his better self. This incident I have learned from trustworthy men and read over again in the books in the Ulpian Library, and I have been the more ready to believe it because of the reverence in which Apollonius is held. For who among men has ever been more venerated, more revered, more renowned, or more holy than that very man? He brought the dead back to life, he said and did many things beyond the power of man. If any one should wish to learn these, let him read the Greek books which have been composed concerning his life. I myself, moreover, if the length of my life shall permit and the plan shall continue to meet with his favour, will put into writing the deeds of this great man, even though it be briefly, not because his achievements need the tribute of my discourse, but in order that these wondrous things may be proclaimed by the voice of every man.

      Legamen ad paginam Latinam After thus recovering Tyana, Aurelian, by means of a brief engagement near Daphne, gained possession of Antioch, having promised forgiveness to all; and thereupon, obeying, as far as is known, the injunctions of that venerated man, Apollonius, he acted with greater kindness and mercy. After this, the whole issue of the war was decided near Emesa in a mighty battle fought against Zenobia and Zaba,94 her ally. When Aurelian's horsemen, now exhausted, were on the point of breaking their ranks and turning their backs, suddenly by the power of a supernatural agency, as was afterwards made known, a divine form spread encouragement throughout the foot-soldiers and rallied even the horsemen. Zenobia and Zaba were put to flight, and a victory was won in full. And so, having reduced the East to its former state, Aurelian entered Emesa as a conqueror, and at once made his way to the Temple of Elagabalus, to pay his vows as if by a duty common to all. But there he beheld that same divine form which he had seen supporting his cause in the battle. Wherefore he not only established temples there, dedicating gifts of great value, but he also built a temple to the Sun at Rome, which he consecrated with still greater pomp, as we shall relate in the proper place."-Historia Augusta, The Life of Aurelian

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    7. One of Josephus' references is probably heavily edited, but the other is considered legitimate by the vast majority of scholars. Sorry to burst your bubble.

      Also, Lucian mentions Jesus.

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  2. "My prime point is that the Bible makes claims of global miracles, and world-wide fame of Jesus. For example Paul claims his words went "unto the ends of the whole world" (Romans 10:18) and there is a claim of 3-hour darkness at mid-day."

    How does this prove Jesus didn't exist? I note your post is long on assertion; Damis would 'surely' have written of Jesus had he known of him, Philostratus would 'surely' have mentioned Jesus and since he didn't it 'surely' seems he was unaware of Jesus, Maximus 'surely' would have been aware and would have written of Jesus. In fact your entire argument is based on what you assert 'surely' to be the case.

    On the matter of Titus, you wrote this.

    "As one example, we have some of his letters to Apollonius. In one letter Emperor Titus wrote: "... I have indeed taken Jerusalem, but you have captured me.""

    Do we really have "some of his letters to Apollonius"? Or do we actually have some statements attributed to Titus by the 3rd century Philostratus, in his biography of someone else entirely? Can you list specifically how many letters of Titus we have, to whom they were written, and the subject matter of their content?

    I'm also interested in all the writings of Apollonius, Damis, and Moeragenes that you've read. Which ones are they? Do we actually have their writings, or do we only have statements attributed to them by much later writers? What percentage of their authentic writings is available to us?

    Tacitus was not using the word 'christus' to mean 'messiah', but as a personal name; he does not say he 'was the christus', he calls him 'Christus' as a personal name. Is it out of character for Tacitus to refer to people by a personal name? What has been the scholarly reception of your views on Josephus and Tacitus? Have you made any impact on the existing academic consensus?

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    1. Thank you, Socrates, for making some points I was too weary to make.

      I suspect that in most of these 126 cases, when Paulkovich says he's "studied" a writer, it means he's read a mention of that writer in the work of someone like Gellius, or Dio Cassius, or on a website like jesuneverexisted.com. (Where such an assertion would actually fly, as long as it's accompanied by a claim that proof has been found that Jeebus never existed.)

      When a serious scholar reads a chapter of Gellius in which a dozen people are quoted, he doesn't claim to have "studied the works of a dozen ancient authors." He says he's read a chapter of Gellius.

      Naturally, no serious scholar in Classics or Biblical studies or ancient history is going to mistake Paulkovich for a serious scholar. The annoying thing is wondering how many lay people, or serious biologists like Dawkins or PZ Meyers, will.

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    2. Myers will be delirious.

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  3. Hi,

    I think there has been some confusion here in how we should be characterizing Jesus as an entity as separate from Jesus as a belief. The nature of the definition mythical seems to suggest a belief in a person or being that we acknowledge doesn't exist.

    Based on this I don't think that you can go ahead and characterize something as mythical objectively. I think it's sufficient to have a belief in Jesus existing to believe in a character from fiction and not mythical.

    To illustrate, we cannot prove the existence of our ancestors beyond our anthologies of them and yet we acknowledge their existence. We trust those anthologies to act as reputable sources of information to support our belief in our ancestors existence but they do not imply that they existed, rather supporting the belief. On this interpretation we can say, whilst our knowledge of the existence of our ancestors is fictional, that does not imply that they are mythical, and from that fiction we derive the belief that they existed.

    To that end Micheal Paulkovich cannot just state 'Jesus is mythical'. He might state that of the fiction, the Bible, his belief in Jesus is mythical and to that end it is invalid for him to assert another persons belief in Jesus to be either true or false, rather it's just how they take the fiction forgranted.

    Ultimately, I'd rather say it's possible he didn't exist AND whether or not you want to take him as a myth based on the evidence (the bible 'fiction') is up to you.

    I just feel that this nuance, earlier described, is utmost important to have when trying to discuss texts like the Bible, for the reason that it allows me to state, Jesus might not have existed, but that by no means invalidates people's beliefs in the text.

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  4. Steven

    "Paulkovich" pretty much nailed you on that Euphrates thing. After you blowing a cork about lack of fact checking, you then say: "Euphrates. That's a river, not a writer."

    And when Paulkovitch calls you on it, you ignore him. And then you say stay tuned this is gonna' be fun? WTF?? How fun is it going to be if you don't know the writer Euphrates from the river, and if you ignore valid criticism? Anyone with a keyboard can be an online Sean Hannity.

    Dude, it takes 10 seconds to find Euphrates of Tyre on Wiki. You have pretty well and pretty thoroughly discredited yourself, IMO.

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    1. You say he nailed me because I goofed on 1 name out of 126. I say, if you're right, that means I'm ahead 125 to 1.

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    2. Oh, and also, I think I'm ahead of you 1 to 0 on spelling Paulkovich's name.

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    3. And also: Wiki sez that Euphrates is mentioned by Philostratus, Stephanus, Pliny the Younger, Epictetus, Marcus Aurelius and Dio Cassius. What's missing? Anything written by Euphrates himself. So, you see, we both goofed: I hadn't heard of Euphrates, and Paulkovich claimed to have read his work.

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    4. Hold on .. hold on. Wikipedia? That's the source of truth?

      Humanity is doomed.

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    5. Steven

      "Wiki sez"? So you're a wiki-scholar? Does it occur to you that the total amount of research in the world on a given subject might not be found on wiki? If it did, we could probably close the universities right now. Your derogative style, your argument that you could type Paulkovich's name correctly (is that really an argument??), your obvious lack of knowledge of the sources etc. disqualifies you as a serious critic.

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    6. No, Steven, he nailed you on one out nine names, a considerably higher percentage. Mentioning that you got Paulkovich's name right only makes you look about 12 years old. And Paulkovich's full list is available with the article @ Addicting Info. You could look it up.

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    7. We are taught to never quote from wiki in uni. It is an automatic fail if we do so. As for the 126 i have looked into who they are and what they wrote about. i would strike a lot of them off the list.

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    8. "We are taught to never quote from wiki in uni."

      Why exactly?

      For a printed work which will remain same shape, it is of course a good idea to look at wiki's references, and quote these. But for a blog post, I can't see what is wrong with it, since a wiki fault can be corrected later, like in comment section.

      Unless it were because wiki allows you to be better than your professors with very little effort, many, but not all times.

      "It is an automatic fail if we do so."

      Too bad.

      Here we are dealing with subjects where it is very little probable that someone would disfigure or vandalise a wiki article.

      "As for the 126 i have looked into who they are and what they wrote about. i would strike a lot of them off the list."

      Which ones did you NOT strike off the list? The ones you can get no reference for beyond wiki, so far?

      I am striking ALL of the list, motivating each strike, generally, with a wiki quote.

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  5. As a Christian believer, it's refreshing to read both the letter and the comments here. Too often, both believers and non-believers fail to engage in meaningful ways, preferring instead to rely on unsound arguments and sketchy sources. I appreciate the rigor involved here...keep it up!

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    1. It's also refreshing to encounter a commenter who is nice. Clearly, I'm not always nice myself, but I appreciate it. Thank you!

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    2. As someone raised in the church, taught the "miracles" and the humanitarian nature of Jesus, and as a skeptical but currently active member of a church, I agree. I believe in God. I think there is a complex simplicity to the universe that cannot (yet) be explained by science, so I call it God. I often tell my atheist friends to read a book on Phi, the Golden Ratio, and tell me that it isn't the fingerprint of God.

      More importantly I believe in the teachings of Christ. Love thy neighbor. Don't kill, steal or lie (especially for the government) and forgive us for our sins. Please forgive our sins, because we gotta lotta sins!

      Jesus preached love- no matter their religion, their sexuality, their prior crimes- and THAT is why I'm proud to call myself a Christian. I don't need supernatural miracles to understand and embrace a system that urges caring for EVERYONE, and being a good steward.

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  6. Steven, you have clearly been schooled. Give it up.

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    1. Seeing as Michael Paulkovich neglects to address the historians who did mention Jesus directly I don't see why we should take him seriously. He dismisses them because they were born a few years after 33AD but shouldn't these people know better of the 1st century than Michael and the rest of us who each exists 2,000 years later in the future?

      I'm pretty sure the greatest Roman historian of his time (Tactius) and the other Roman historians who mentioned Jesus would have got their facts straight otherwise they would have referenced Jesus as a man who was made up and yet they all refer to him as a real person. The myth that humans had shorter life spans back then is refuted so eyewitnesses to Jesus would still have been around for historians such as Tactius to affirm that Jesus did exist.

      The christ-myth theory isn't just garbage but it's a nutty conspiracy theory.

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    2. Gon, as you can see in my blog post which followed this one, in which I listed all 126 of Paulkovich's supposed sources, Tacitus, and Josephus, and Suetonius, and Pliny the Younger are all on the list of 126. Paulkovich claims none of them mentioned Jesus.

      "He dismisses them because they were born a few years after 33AD"

      No, that can't be it, because the names on his list include people who wrote as late as AD 300.

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  7. Are there churches? Yes.

    Why are there churches? Because these people called apostles (James and John of zebedee, James of alphaeus, Simon Peter, Simon the zealot, Andrew, Bartholomew, Matthew, Philip, Thomas, judas son of James)from Jerusalem brought the message of Jesus Christ to the known world. Paul, matthias, Silas, too. They were the students. There are no students without a teacher. That teacher was Christ. Some (Paul)never met Him in the flesh. However they spread the Gospel. None is that would have happened without the Teacher.especially not from uneducated teenage fishermen.

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    1. This is the most suggestive argument. How could a mythical non-person have sparked a revolutionary religious movement. That there's not written evidence isn't surprising. How many documents, scrolls, books were lost over the centuries in wars and natural disasters? Why do people think the past is like The Library of Congress?

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    2. read the history of Rome. The general population were growing tired of bloodshed shows and found Christianity to be a likeable idea , where you loved and respected people. So the religion caught on. It could have very well been totally made up or it could have had some kernel of truth. The sad fact is that there are no real references to Jesus within the first century and this really lowers the probability that he was real. That is statistics. We live our lives based on probability , lets face it. Constatine was the first christian emperor and he had big meetings with the christian leaders of the time and there were encouraged to invent history to make the new " Christian" religion likable to all sides.

      http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/biblianazar/esp_biblianazar_40.htm

      The First Council of Nicaea and the "missing records"


      Thus, the first ecclesiastical gathering in history was summoned and is today known as the Council of Nicaea. It was a bizarre event that provided many details of early clerical thinking and presents a clear picture of the intellectual climate prevailing at the time. It was at this gathering that Christianity was born, and the ramifications of decisions made at the time are difficult to calculate.

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    3. Wouldn't people and the authorities back then have checked out at least the basic truths or facts about Jesus...it's hard to imagine an empire or populations not having a big refutation via whistle blowers of such a man and related events if everything was fake. And why would people, even among the many fervent conspirators, be willing to die for such lies? At least the authorities would have investigated and put in writing a condemnation of such lies that were " mind controlling" the masses, no?

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    4. Hello Anonymous July 3, 2017.

      "it's hard to imagine an empire or populations not having a big refutation via whistle blowers of such a man and related events if everything was fake"

      You may be making one of the same mistakes as Paulkovich: overestimating the amount of historical writing which survives from that time. Other than the New Testament itself, we have very little writing about the entire region around Jerusalem from the 1st century. Or, I should, say, other than parts of the New Testament, because some of it was written in the 2nd century.

      There may have been some investigations and whistle-blowers. But most of what was written in the 1st century in the Roman Empire is gone. Just like 40-some of the authors on Paulkovich's list of 126, we can't study most of what was written then, because we don't have it. We know many of the most well-respected writers of the time only by name. Who knows how many good writers there may have been, whose names we do not even know?

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  8. As a non-Christian New Testament scholar, I was interested in Mr Paulkovich's assertion that the Testimonium Flavianum had been "proven" to be a complete fake. I would ask - by disproved by whom? The vast majority of reputable scholars accept that the kernel of the Testimonium Flavianum is likely genuine.

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    1. Paulkovich seems to live in a mythicist echo-chamber and to care little about what reputable scholars have to say.

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    2. Michael PaulkovichOctober 1, 2014 at 8:59 PM

      David Staveley - you wrote "The vast majority of reputable scholars accept that the kernel of the Testimonium Flavianum is likely genuine" - yes, CHRISTIAN scholars. You need to read the Testimonium yourself and compare to the rest of Josephus. It sticks out like a sore thumb, completely out of place and clearly an interpolation. For more evidence, as I mentioned in responses in this blog, I defeat and treat Josephus in detail in my first book, pp. 191-198. See also Frank Zindler's "The Jesus the Jews Never Knew" p. 48.

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    3. WTH is a non-Christian New Testament scholar?

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    4. Exactly. Paulkovich is making money hand over fist peddling his sensationalist book - especially now that both reputable scholars (such as yourselves) and popular websites (like The Blaze, which links to Mr. Bollinger's page) are giving him publicity. He's aiming all of this publicity to drumming up sales among the "internet infidels", I suspect to establish himself as a "leading light" among the Brights.

      His "scholarship", it seems to me, has an agenda, his definition of "contemporary" is defective (as he seems to think that Fox News and CNN had bureaus in Roman Judea), that unless you were a King, General, Statesman, or Philosopher, historians wouldn't find your life important enough to write about in the first place, and Jesus - an itinerate religious figure from a hated minority living in a backwater part of the Empire who died a criminal’s death, well.....the fact Roman historians even mentioned Him at all was pretty amazing, much less mention him a total of 18 times within 100 years.

      I do think that once I find a teaching gig, I might use his article in a class setting... to show what bad scholarship looks like.



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    5. @Michael Paulkovich - Gazer Vermas is a Jewish scholar, and he accepts the Testimonium as genuine. Obviously, as a Jewish scholar, he has not agenda to fulfil in accepting it.

      Vermes argues that, once the obvious Christian interpolations are removed, the wording and phraseology is wholly consistent with Josephus' Jewish nature and the rest of his writings. He reconstructs the Testimonium thus:

      "At about this time lived Jesus, a wiseman ... he performed astonishing feats (and was a teacher of such people as are eager for such novelties) . He attracted many Jews and many of the Greeks ... Upon an indictment brought by leading members of our society, Pilate sentenced him to the cross, but those who had loved him from the very first did not cease to be attracted to him. The brotherhood of the Christians, named after him, is still in existence."

      As for you saying I need to read the Testimonium myself, I have - in the original language, as I read classical and New Testament Greek quite well. I am in agreement with you that the Jesus of miracles and wonderment is wholly fictitious. My only grip is with the idea that Jesus never existed as a person. This to me just goes too far, and is completely unnecessary. As such, I see no reason to reject the Testimonium as reconstructed by Vermes.

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    6. @ Anonymous - there are plenty of professional New Testament scholars who are not not Christians. Belief in Christianity is not required in order to study an ancient document like the New Testament, just like there are Egyptologys that don't accept the Ancient Egyptian notions of mummification and life after death.

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    7. David, a Jewish ethnicity does not guarantee the absence of a Christian-friendly viewpoint. Vermes was a highly-respected scholar, but in terms of religious sympathy and "agenda" he was more Christian than Jewish.

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    8. Steven - I knew Gaza Vermes personally. He helped me while I was writing my doctoral thesis on the relationship between some of Paul's sayings and a document from Qumran named 4QMMT. So, I knew him quite well. And I can tell you, he was very Jewish! But he was also a scholar with great integrity. If he had believed the Testimonium was a Christian forgery, he would have said so. But he didn't think it was, and he rejected arguments that said none of the phraseology in the Testimonium was compatible with how a Jew would write and think.

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  9. Speaking from a strictly historical perspective, silence on a subject isn't evidence... its a lack of evidence... and is indeed the weakest of all arguments. At a very minimum this work lacks academic integrity.

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    1. Michael PaulkovichOctober 1, 2014 at 6:15 PM

      You don't understand the purpose of the effort. In 1909 John Remsburg listed 41 writers who should have written of Jesus, but did not. I simply was interested in whether his research was exhaustive, and I uncovered some 80 or so more writers of the time and general locale who also should have written something about Jesus but apparently did not - thus adding to Remsburg's effort. The more we look, the less we find of a historical Jesus of Nazareth.

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    2. Anonymous understands your purpose very well. It is you that doesn't understand him: for you continue to make arguments from silence. This is illegitimate reasoning. If, for example, the sectarians at Qumran do not mention Jesus (as you assert), this does NOT warrant you to draw the conclusion that they had never heard of him. The only conclusion you can legitimately draw from this is that they simply fail to mention whether or not they did. Anything else is illogical. You need to learn that lesson. It undermines your whole thesis.

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    3. "The more we look, the less we find."

      Not really .... I think you have a desire for it, but if you look in a corner and you do not find anything, you did not find "less", you found nothing. You remains at ground zero. What you have is a lack of evidence, no more evidence of inexistence!!!! Search with the desire to find nothing can be incredibly effective [and extremely creepy for a respected scholar.]

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    4. Why "should" they? According to whom? Could have is more like it. And seriously, if Jesus were mythical, I would expect that the Babylonian Talmud would have said exactly that, rather than mentioning his crucifixion and more. Unless you think those references were added conspiratorially by someone else.....

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    5. But did you look to see if those writers wrote about subjects that would have made a reference to Jesus relevant to them? WHY would Columella write about Jesus? His subject was agriculture, so tell the rest of us why Columella would mention an obscure failed rabble rouser from the proverbial Roman "sticks"?

      No, Mr. Paulkovich, you DIDN'T research very carefully, because you failed to ask the relevant question "why would they write about Jesus", just as John Remsberg failed to ask before you came on the scene. And don't try to claim its hard to know what each writer would write about; Christian apologist JP Holding has a rather complete list of "contemporaries" and their subject matter, complete with a self-made animated cartoon about the subject. http://www.tektonics.org/qt/remslist.php

      You also have a different definition of “contemporary” than what’s used by actual historians. You seem to means at the exact same time as Jesus’ life and ministry which does not factor in variables such as time needed to the story to spread, the distance it had to cover, and literacy rates of a people struggling to survive in a hostile world.

      Historians view something as contemporary if it appears within two generations of the event. This means that the record is set for public consumption within the lifetimes of those who could and/or would want to dispute the account were it not factual. This is the standard academic definition; to expect the kind of instantaneous reporting of even worldwide miracles is to BADLY misunderstand how the ancient world worked, and one need only look at how long it took for the event at Mt. Vesuvius to be reported to verify this.

      There are actually more extra-textual references to Jesus than His social position in the Roman world would warrant, given by Roman standards He was nothing more than a country bumpkin member of a hated minority living in a back water section of the Empire. In addition to Josephus, there are references to Jesus by Lucian, Mara bar-Serapion, Pliny the Younger, Seutonius, Tacitus, Thallus, and numerous references in the Talmud. And all of these references come EXACTLY as we would expect them to; as the "Jesus movement" grew and became a blip on the Roman social radar commentators would discuss the movement, and not one second before.

      Con't

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    6. Extra-biblical literature comprises Jewish writers (Josephus, the Rabbinics, and other Jewish traditions embedded in non-Jewish lit) and Greco-Roman writers (most of whom were hostile to Christianity at the time they wrote) and "Christian" sources, such as Church Fathers and NT Apocrypha, where there is some warrant for believing the data was not derived from the canonical tradition.

      Each of those references have striking similarities.The Greco-Roman writers who discuss Jesus' life in any detail are unanimous in treating Him as a miracle worker.

      John Meyer, in his book A Marginal Jew – Rethinking the Historical Jesus, writes: “Josephus first gives Jesus the generic title of "wise man" (sophos aner). Then he unpacks that title by enumerating what would be its major components in the eyes of a Greco-Roman audience: (1) Jesus worked "startling deeds" (paradoxa), a word Josephus also uses of the miracles worked by the prophet Elisha (Ant. 9.7.6 §182). (2) Jesus taught people who were searching for the truth. (3) Jesus' miraculous deeds and powerful teaching attracted a large following of both Jews and Gentiles. In short, Jesus was a charismatic leader whose special powers of miracle-working and teaching were acknowledged and ratified by his followers. Apart from the idea of attracting many Gentiles during his lifetime, this bundle of assertions gives exactly the same configuration of Jesus' ministry as do the Gospels. Rarely does attestation of Gospel tradition by multiple literary witnesses reach out to encompass so many different sources, including a non-Christian one. But such is the case here, and the attestation includes a reference to Jesus' alleged miracles."

      Then there is the Rabbinic tradition of claiming Jesus' miracles are the result of magic, which we first meet in rebuttal in the Dialogue with Tripho, later reaffirmed in the Talmuds. And lets not forget that Celsus, Porphyry, Hierocles, and Julian the Apostate, all write hostile accounts that nonetheless accept Jesus as a miracle worker.

      We also have extra-Biblical references to individual miracles; Julius Africanus rebuttal of Thallus' lost reference to the darkness at the time of Jesus' death, and two independent, non Gospel-based traditions concerning the feeding of the 5000 in the Sibylline Oracles and the Qur'an(read Richard Bauckman's article in Gospel Perspectives: The Miracles of Jesus, Vol 6. David Wenham and Craig Blomberg (eds.). JSOTpress:1986.)

      And you claim there is no written evidence for Jesus. Here is your ass. Wash the platter when you give it back.

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  10. Michael PaulkovichOctober 1, 2014 at 6:11 PM

    Socrates,

    At the Library of Congress: Eilhard Lumin, Ex Officina Commeliniana has a Greek copy of Apollonius' letters by a copyist of the year 1601, Epistolae Apollonii Tyanei, Anacharsidis, Euripidis, Theanus, aliorúmque ad eosdem. Heidelberg: Ex officina Commeliniana, 1601. See LC Control No. 2008570706, call number PA3487 .E4 1601, Jefferson Collection (Rare Book/Special Collections Reading Room [Jefferson LJ239]).

    See also:
    Penella, Robert J., The Letters of Apollonius of Tyana (Leiden: Brill, 1979)
    and
    "An Unpublished Letter of Apollonius of Tyana to the Sardians." London: Harvard Studies in Classical Philology, Vol. 79, 1975. pp. 305-311.

    Penella's book indicates the to/from of every letter (there are about 80 letters as I recall).

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    1. Michael, I note you are 'doing a Carrier' and not actually answering my questions. I will repeat them here.

      1. Do we really have "some of his [Titus'] letters to Apollonius"? Or do we actually have some statements attributed to Titus by the 3rd century Philostratus, in his biography of someone else entirely?

      2. Can you list specifically how many letters of Titus we have, to whom they were written, and the subject matter of their content?

      3. I'm also interested in all the writings of Apollonius, Damis, and Moeragenes that you've read. Which ones are they?

      4. Do we actually have their writings, or do we only have statements attributed to them by much later writers?

      5. What percentage of their authentic writings is available to us?

      Your hastily Googled citations (is this what you mean by 'research'?), do not answer any of these questions. Have you actually read any of the works you cited? For example, the book by Penella spends some time explaining why we can't trust the existing body of alleged letters by Apollonius, and how we can know that many of them are totally spurious.

      'We lack adequate and sure information on the historical Apollonius. There is no canon of Apollonius' writings of certain authenticity to compare stylistically with the letters. For most of the letters we must be content with stating probabilities and setting forth tentative lines of argumentation.' (p. 24)

      'So long as Apollonius's friendship with Musonius Rufus, Demetrius the Cynic, and Dio Chrysostom remains suspect, so do the letters to those three individuals (Epp. Apoll. 42b-e, 77e; Philostr. VA 5.30; cf. Epp. Apoll. 9, 10, and 90). The letters referred to and quoted at Philostr., VA 4.27 (cf. Epp. Apoll. 42a), are tied to the spurious tale of Apollonius's stimulation of a moral reform at Sparta in the middle of the first century. Few will believe that Apollonius wrote to emperors and near emperors or that they wrote to him (Appendix 10, 11, 15, 16; Epp. Apoll. 42h, 773, 77f).

      Finally, all letters tied to the Philostratean account of Apollonius's eastern travels merit no more credence than does that account iself (Appendix 2, 4, 7; Epp. Apoll. 77b-c; cf. Epp. Apoll. 78).' (p. 25)

      Are you aware that there is a general agreement among scholars that Damis never existed and is instead a literary fiction of Philostratus?

      'Grosso, "La 'vita di Apollonio di Tiania," is the last extended argument for the historicity of Damis, whose fictionality seems to be a matter of general consnsus at the moment.', Richter, 'Cosmopolis: Imagining Community in Late Classical Athens and the Early Roman Empire', p. 200 (2011).

      So you dispute the historicity of Jesus (despite the scholarly consensus that he existed), by appealing to the writings of Damis (despite the scholarly consensus that he did not exist). This is irony indeed. And this is what you call 'research'?

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    2. the irony of a person who believes the Bible are factual without an original copy of the Bible is then calling for original documents to believe what was written 2000 yrs ago.

      please, "socrates" use your own burden of proof on your beloved document.

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    3. That is false. I have made no request for original documents. I have also cited scholarly consensus. I note this has not been addressed.

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    4. Anonymous -

      The original writings from any ancient authors simply do not survive. We have no original documents from ANYONE from history. No Socrates originals, no Plato originals, no Markus Areliues, No Homer originals, no original anything! The fact of the matter is, all of our ancient authors are preserved in manuscripts or papyri which are from a very later date. So, asking him to confine himself to originals is asking the impossible.

      However, when it comes to documents which are nearest to their original authors, the New Testament is the most attested ancient document in the world. It has literally thousands of extant manuscripts and papyri attesting to it. Indeed, the oldest extant New Testament papyrus from a canonical document is Rylands P52, which is dated 125 CE. This contains lines, front and back, from John's Gospel. That's within 80 years of the John's original writing!

      Then there is the Chester Beatty biblical papyri P46, containing most of Paul's letters. This is dated with a "95% confidence interval" between 150-175 CE. Again, that is within 100 years of the original Pauline writings!

      No other ancient writers have extant documents dated this close to their original copies. In this, the New Testament is unique.

      The science of Textual Criticism was invented around the study of New Testament manuscripts and papyri. It is one of the most rigorous sciences in the world. Hundreds upon hundreds of books have been written about it, and the work of reconstructing the original texts to as close to the original authors' hands still goes on today by the scholars working for the British and Foreign Bible Society.

      So, when a modern person picks up a copy of the New Testament in their own language, he can have confidence that, whether or not what the text says is true or not, the words on the page are as close to their original authors as it is possible to get.

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    5. Off topic, but related to the proximity of copies to autographs, I am expectantly waiting for the suppose 1st century Markan fragment to finally be published. At the least I am eager to know if the details released well over a year ago (not sure the date, but it was before Nestle-Aland 28 came out) are actually true. Don't know if you are much aware of it, or have heard anything at all about the publishing date of the document. I believe Dan Wallace had a hand in it's find...

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    6. taylormweaver, sorry, I don't have any details about when the fragment will be published. Daniel B Wallace made the fragment famous in 2012 when he mentioned it in 2012 in a debate with Bart Ehrman and predicted it would be published in 2013. So apparently he at least knows some of the people involved in the discovery. Wish I knew more.

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  11. Very interesting arguments. All I know is that if I believe in Christ and I'm wrong...so what. But if I do believe in Christ as my Savior...awesome! Why even spend your time debating if Jesus existed or not? What do you care? Or maybe you do care.

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    1. Michael PaulkovichOctober 1, 2014 at 8:08 PM

      "All I know is that if I believe in Christ and I'm wrong...so what" - so what? Then Allah will damn you! Or perhaps Krishna will. You are using Pascal's Wager, nothing but a logical fallacy. And think of this: what if the real god values intellectual honesty instead of "I believe, JUST IN CASE" - a cop-out.
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QLw7lgmR0M0

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    2. Because why spend time, effort, emotion, and money on something that might not be true? And why continue to propagate that untrue thing when we can nip it in the bud instead of subscribing to ages old superstitions? Your challenge is a lazy one. "If I believe and it's not true, oh well, but if I believe and it's true, yay! Heaven for me!!" It might feel good to think that way, but use your grown up brain and imagine someone saying that to you out loud. And then admit that it sounds pretty silly.

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  12. Many ancient secular writers mention Jesus and the movement He birthed. The fact that they are usually antagonistic to Christianity makes them especially good witnesses, since they have nothing to gain by admitting the historicity of the events surrounding a religious leader and His following, which they disdain.

    According to Professor Gary Habermas, "Cornelius Tacitus (circa A.D. 55-120) was a Roman historian who lived through the reigns of over a half dozen Roman emporers. He has been called the 'greatest historian' of ancient Rome, an individual generally acknowledged among scholars for his moral 'integrity and essential goodness' " (Habermas, VHCELJ, 87).

    Tacitus's most acclaimed works are the 'Annals' and the 'Histories'. "The Annals cover the period from Augustus's death in A.D. 14 to that of Nero in A.D. 68, while the Histories begin after Nero's death and proceed to that of Domitian in A.D. 96" (Habermas, HCELJ, 87)

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    1. If I may point out that the Tacitus source is not without it's challenges. There is clear scientific evidence of Christian tampering with the manuscripts, changing a letter "e" to a letter "i". Then, there is the fact that Tacitus calls Pontius Pilate a "procurator" and not a "prefect". This has lead to suspicion that the whole passage is a later Christian interpolation. Most scholars still accept the general historicity of the passage, but it has cast doubt on the matter.

      BTW - be very careful when using Habermas. He tends to be non-scientific a lot of the time, even going so far as to claim that the Turin Shroud proves the resurrection! Much better would be Robert E. Van Voorst's "Jesus Outside the New Testament". He is far more scientific.

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    2. David Staveley, do you have a reference for further reading re: the "e" to "i" alteration?

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    3. Jamie Robertson

      Here is a link to a scholarly article (2009) about the changes made to the oldest extant manuscript for Tacitus' Annals - MII:

      http://www.textexcavation.com/documents/zaratacituschrestianos.pdf

      It concludes that the "i" in the word "Christianos" is not original, but a skilful change from a letter "e", as is revealed under a Wood's Ultraviolet light.

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  13. Writing of the reign of Nero, Tacitus alludes to the death of Christ and to the existence of Christians at Rome. Says Tacitus:

    "But not all the relief that could come from man, not all the bounties that the prince could bestow, nor all the atonements which could be presented to the gods, availed to relieve Nero from the infamy of being believed to have ordered the conflagration, the fire of Rome. Hence to suppress the rumor, he falsely charged with the guilt, and punished with the most exquisite tortures, the persons commonly called Christians, who were hated for their enormities. Christus, the founder of the name, was put to death by Pontius Pilate, procurator of Judea in the reign of Tiberius: but the pernicious superstition, repressed for a time, broke out again, not only through Judea, where the mischief originated, but through the city of Rome also." (Annals XV. 44)

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    1. Michael PaulkovichOctober 1, 2014 at 8:11 PM

      Who is "Christus"? It's not a Roman version of "Christ." Tacitus did not write of Jesus of Nazareth. And he wrote about 100 years after the supposed birth of Jesus - so if he DID write of Jesus, what does that prove? That he had read Mark, or Q, or Matthew? Why did nobody write of Jesus until generations after the non-events described in the Bible?

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    2. "Tacitus did not write of Jesus of Nazareth" - well, it seems he wrote about a man who founded a weird sect known as "Christians", before being executed by Pilate in Judea at a particular time, and whose sect later spread as far as Rome. If that's not Jesus of Nazareth, who the f*@# is it?!

      "Why did nobody write of Jesus until generations after the non-events described in the Bible?" - Gingerly side-stepping the truly colossal begged question in this statement,
      1 - writing was regarded as an inferior method of communication than the spoken word; mainly because so few people could read or write, but also because oral testimony could be traced and interrogated more easily.
      2 - Our interests and priorities are not the same as those of ancient writers. Point in fact - Vesuvius was the greatest natural disaster in Europe of its day, and happened almost at the heart of the roman empire; yet we have ONE solitary eyewitness account, from Pliny the Younger. And even that was written 30 years later, and then only because his namesake uncle was killed in the eruption and Pliny was communicating the circumstances of his uncle's life and death.
      3 - Many of the 126 writers wrote about subjects not even remotely related to Jesus, eg Columella's farming book. You might as well say that 9/11 never happened because my immunology textbook doesn't mention it.
      4 - Jesus didn't do things that many ancient historians were that interested in - no political treatises, no rebellions, no activity whatsoever outside a supersticious roman backwater. Contrast this with the likes of Judas Maccabeus or Simon Bar Kochba, whose disturbances and subsequent engagement of troops were far more likely to register on a historian's radar.
      5 - As someone crucified, and thus shamed and degraded as much as possible, Jesus would have been viewed by outsider historians as dishonourable and not worth their time and ink. Snobs existed in that time, too - especially in the upper echelons of roman society!
      6 - Much literature from that time is likely lost to us. Ancient writings degrade and decay, and what we have left is small in volume. It is entirely possible that writings mentioning Jesus (or Gamaliel, or Bar Kochba, or Pilate, or the apostles, etc etc etc) were made which simply haven't survived because, hey, thats' what happens to most fragile things that aren't meticulously looked after for 2000 years!!!

      None of these points are controversial or new - these facts are agreed on by secular scholars without a pro-religious axe to grind. So Michael, why should we believe them and not you?

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  14. Norman Anderson sees a possible allusion to Jesus' resurrection in this account: "It is distinctly possible, that, when he adds that 'A most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out,' he is bearing indirect and unconscious testimony to the conviction of the early church that the Christ who had been crucified had risen from the grave" (Anderson, JC, 20).

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  15. F.F. Bruce points out another interesting sidelight about this passage from Tacitus: "Pilate is not mentioned in any other pagan document which has come down to us....And it may be regarded as an instance of the irony of history that the only surviving reference to him in a pagan writer mentions him because of the sentence of death which he passed upon Christ. For a moment Tacitus jobs hands with the ancient Christian creed: '...suffered under Pontius Pilate' " (Bruce, JCOCNT, 23).

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  16. Cambridge lecturer Markus Bockmuehl notes that Tacitus' s comments provide us with testimony by the leading Roman historian of his day, "independent confirmation that Jesus lived and was formally executed in Judea in the reign of Tiberius and during Pontius Pilate's office as procurator (technically still a prefect, A.D. 26-36). That may not seem like much, but it is actually surprisingly useful in discounting two different theories which are still sometimes advanced: first, that Jesus of Nazareth never existed; and secondly, that he did not die by the duly administered Roman death penalty" (Bockmuehl, TJMLM, 10, 11).

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  17. The clearest reference to an historical figure outside of the New Testament is made by Josephus (the "Testimonium Flavianum"), where he mentions Jesus' death at the hands of Pontius Pilate. Some have cast doubt on the mention of the name "Jesus", citing it as a Christian interpolation, or an entire Christian invention. However, Josephus mentions the name "Jesus" in another place, and it is this which leads most scholars to accept the basic historicity of the name: when Josephus later mentions James, the brother of Jesus, in talking about the death of James in this passage, Josephus contradicts the bible's version of James' death (by sword, Acts 12.2) by saying that the Jews stoned him. If this reference to Jesus were a Christian interpolation, it would have tried to harmonize the 2 sources; not make them different.

    On this basis, there is very broad scholarly consensus that, whereas the entire passage of the Testimonium Flavianum is not historical (there having been later interpolations), there is a kernel which is undoubtedly so. And most scholars are confident that we can know with a high degree of certainty what the original passage looked like.

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  18. Michael, you believe what you want to believe but don't fail to notice that Christianity exists. It exists because on the day of Pentecost when Jesus appeared to his disciples alive, risen from the dead, he propelled them forward to every corner of the known world to preach his Gospel. All twelve save one suffered horrible tortuous deaths refusing to recant their preaching and they suffered and died alone. Their preaching and their deaths founded a religion that has thrived for over two thousand years and that religion, the Gospel and Jesus himself deserves more respect than you have given them.

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    1. Prove it. Prove ANY of the supernatural claims you have just made with anything that isn't the bible.

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    2. Michael PaulkovichOctober 2, 2014 at 3:33 PM

      Anonymous, Christianity "exists because on the day of Pentecost when Jesus appeared to his disciples alive" - no, it was a very minor cult even in the 4th century and would have faded away by the 5th if Emperor Theodosius had not made Christianity the only legal cult of the empire in 391, under pain of death. The whole post-crucifixion appearance was not in the earliest and best copies of Mark, which ended at 16:8. The rest was added late in the 2nd century.

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  19. Surely a reasonable test of the argument is whether the 126 (or more) writers mention other Jewish messianic claimants? If they don't, then why think they'd mention Jesus?

    I don't know the answer to that question. But this blog post suggests only one of these writers mentions figures such as Athronges, a Samaritan prophet, Theudas or a Jewish prophet from Egypt (all of whom attempted serious armed rebellion), and that one is Josephus, the very same writer who mentions Jesus (twice).

    If these facts are true, then it seems that Michael Paulkovich's argument from silence is on very shaky ground. No wonder he goes against the scholarly consensus that significant parts of Josephus are genuine! So does anyone know if the "facts" above are indeed factual?

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    1. You make a point that I myself would have made: do these sources mention all the notable people from history? No, they do not. Let me take an example - Philo Judaeus. Mr Paulkovich argues that if Jesus had really lived, Philo would have mentioned him. This is an invalid conclusion to draw, as Philo omits to mention lots of notable people. For example, Philo was contemporaneous with 2 notable Jewish figures - Rabbi Shammai and Rabbi Hillel. Yet, Philo makes no mention of them. Does that mean they did not exist? No, of course it doesn't. It simply means they were not of interest to Philo for whatever reason.

      Such is the validity of drawing conclusions from silence on a matter.

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  20. Seriously.Believe what you want. I Choose to work for a living.

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  21. I don't know if this Paulkovich person realizes this or not, but his argument can be inverted. Many of the people on that list reference myths, fiction, and legends at least as often as they mentioned real people. Why would an ancient Greek writer mention nymphs and wood spirits, but never mention Jesus and the Holy Spirit?

    The central claim is, "If Jesus were a real historical person, these 126 people SHOULD have written about him. But they didn't. That means he wasn't a real historical person."

    So if I could meet Paulkovich, I would just invert the argument. "If Jesus were a myth or fiction, these 126 people SHOULD have written about him. But they didn't. That means he wasn't a myth or fiction."

    You see, if Jesus were a fiction or a myth, he would most certainly be the most controversial fiction ever created. No government would spend the better part of 200 years trying to wipe out the Harry Potter fan base. Why go to all the trouble to wipe out the Jesus Christ fan base, if Jesus wasn't real?

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  22. The only thing necessary to prove the existence of Jesus is this:

    Christianity exists as a religion & idea. Religion & idea's only come from individuals. Therefore the individual who possessed the essential virtues required to have been the creator of such a religion & idea that is CHRISTIANITY, is Jesus. It doesn't matter what his real name is.

    Stop using SECONDARY....correction.....TERTIARY SOURCES!!!! to back up your agenda as an Atheist.

    I am Deist. I love the oringal nature of things. I try to abide by the Linear-Minimalist Standard, which is Cause & Effect in Isolation & Creation in Loneliness. For the existence of really anyone, I cite THE PRINCIPLE OF ARCHETYPES & TRUTH OF THE PATTERN, which states: that for everything we observe in this world, there is a First, & the pattern continues, until a BREAK in that pattern occurs, & even then, the Break itself has the pattern of decay, which is exactly what Evolution is.

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  23. Richard Dawkins agreed with John Lennox regarding the validity of the historical nature of Jesus of Nazareth during their wonderful debate. I wonder why it's so difficult for others to agree.

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    1. Richard Dawkins also referred to Biblical authors as "Bronze-Age goat herders," when there's no evidence of anything written in Hebrew before the onset on the Iron Age, and plenty of evidence that the Pentateuch was compiled in the center of Jerusalm, by Temple scribes.

      Dawkins is not an expert on ancient history. Far from it. VERY far from it. He should stick to biology.

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    2. Paulkovich , may God have mercy with you, as you serve to Satan. Jesus cries for you right now.

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  24. Paulkovich sounds like a college student trying to write a research paper using only Google and Wikipedia sources (without actually reading the sources) while loaded with two red bulls and a Starbuck's coffee the night before the paper is due. You're arguments are neither convincing, nor do they sound overly intelligent. The only sense of confidence you project towards those reading is that of your desire to prove that Jesus of Nazareth did not exist.

    Allow me to give you the definition of evidence since you don't seem to understand that. According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the full definition of evidence is thus: an outward sign (inidication); something that furnishes proof (testimony); one who bears witness, especially.one who voluntarily confesses a crime and testifies for the prosecution against his accomplices.

    And since you were doing research to look for the absence of evidence (I will get to that a little later on) allow me to also give you the definition of the Scientific Method upon which all research should be based. The Scientific Method, according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, follows: principles and procedures for the systematic pursuit of knowledge involving the recognition and formulation of a problem, the collection of data through observation and experiment, and the formulation and testing of hypotheses. When done correctly, you do not come across as an fool. You must first recognize and formulate a problem, then gather your data (in this case ancient writers), and THEN formulate a hypotheses. In your scenario, your problem is that there are people that say Jesus of Nazareth really existed. From this point forward, you decided to look for the ABSENCE of EVIDENCE of Jesus of Nazareth within your collection of data (the ancient writers) in order to loosely support your hypothesis that Jesus of Nazareth was made up by the Roman Empire to control their citizenry, and to also enhance the Cult of Christianity.

    The main problem with what you did is that you ignored all the examples of real evidence within your collection of data, and instead looked at the 126 examples that did not show that evidence. This is not how research nor science should be done. You don't go out and IGNORE the evidence is there. If you have ever done a science fair project, and done one well, you would know this. In those 126 samples that did not display that evidence you just assumed that because there was no evidence, then it (Jesus of Nazareth) must not exist. That is incorrect. You would further study as to why that evidence was not there. What were the conditions? Why would there be no evidence?

    In this case, as previous comments have pointed out, the evidence was not there because they wrote about completely different subjects, or were not even historians. At one point I saw you cited a PHILOSOPHER as proof that since he did not write about Jesus that Jesus therefore does not exist. A PHILOSOPHER is NOT a HISTORIAN. HISTORIANS write about and record history. Your data set is flawed as a result.

    When you are doing research and start to make assumptions about your data set, you are no longer presenting facts and a conclusion, you are now just conjecturing. What is conjecture you may ask? According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary yet again: an opinion or idea formed without proof or sufficient evidence; to form an opinion or idea without proof or sufficient evidence; to arrive at or deduce by surmise or guesswork.

    You offered no PROOF using viable EVIDENCE that Jesus of Nazareth did not exist, you conjectured that since SOME writers did NOT mention Jesus AT ALL, then Jesus must not have been real.

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  25. "Tacitus, lived from 56 to 117. It appears his Annals were never quoted by other authors until many centuries afterward." Considering that all your sources exist because Christian monks preserved them, why would they choose a marginal (according to you) historian like Tacitus? They were free to interpolate anything they wanted. You would find Jesus everywhere if their aim had been to deceive. Also, in the Germania of Tacitus, he never mentions the Saxons, yet 50 years later Ptolemy includes them.Does this mean Ptolemy invented them, or that they didn't exist at the time of Tacitus? Of course not. For some reason, Tacitus didn't mention them. It means nothing regarding the veracity of either Tacitus or Ptolemy. Consider this is an entire tribe and not an individual. What say you?

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    1. Somebody said that Tacitus was not quoted by other authors until many centuries afterward?! [...] Yep, Paulkovich actually said that. (First Comment above.) Thank you, chonodomarius, for bringing this to my attention. This is an example of the hopelessness and pointlessness of trying to actually debate someone like Paulkovich: his huge mistakes pile up much more quickly than any one person could even keep track of them all. All that an individual can do is point out a few of the most tremendous whoppers, and hope that onlookers gradually get the idea.

      Between the 6th century -- right smack dab in the middle of the Dark Ages -- and the 14th century there are only a handful of mentions of Tacitus in the writings currently known to us. Before and after that, from Tacitus' lifetime until the 6th century, and from the Renaissance until now, Tacitus was and is a big hit. The 2nd most well respected ancient Roman historian, after Livy, until a couple of centuries ago, when he became the most well-respected of them all.

      So, you know, his reputation is not in dire need of Paulkovich's respect.

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    2. chonodomarius

      The Achilles heel of Paulkovich's entire thesis is the inappropriate use of the argument from silence. He uses it again, and again, and draws the same illegitimate conclusion from silence again and again.

      As a professional academic myself, who has to mark term papers from students all the time, if Paulkovich were one of my students, I would be forced to fail him for such slip-shod argumentation. His work is, the words of the younger generation, an Epic Fail!

      I would also point out that, the publisher of his works is not reputable either. I have tried to trace Spillix, LLC. Other than having a Post Office Box number in Ohio, USA, nothing is known about them. No phone numbers, no nothing! I would hazard a guess and say it is a Vanity Publisher. Paulkovich probably paid to have his own books published himself.

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  26. Again, regarding Tacitus, I take it that Paulkovich is claiming Christians didn't exist in Rome at the time of the fire, that Nero didn't blame them and have them executed? "The only other historian who lived through the period and mentioned the fire is Pliny the Elder, who wrote about it in passing. Other historians who lived through the period (including Josephus, Dio Chrysostom, Plutarch and Epictetus) make no mention of it in what remains of their work." Symes So that must mean the fire is a myth, never mind that the results of the fire can be seen in Rome today.

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    1. (Your comments make me wish that there were "Like" buttons on the comments.)

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  27. I am not as educated a many of you, just a simple BA in Biology. But I do note that this author seems to be saying that since nothing was written of Jesus by these ancient authors there for he did not exist. So by his account all that these authors wrote were 100% accurate and would have encompassed all that was happening in this region. Do they cover the names and stories of every person tried and executed by the Roman Empire and leaders of this time? We know many were killed, why didn't they document every execution? Would there be a story behind these undocumented executions? There must not be because they were not written about. I ask is it possible, I am just saying possible than a man named Jesus was put to death for his words and beliefs at this time? That the teacher of a bunch of lower class followers was not "news" worthy? So not having the time, because I have a 6 & 4 year old, I would like to also know are there any "mistakes" these authors made in their writing or are they infallible? Not saying it means what they have written doesn't have truth in it, but does it mean what they don't write has no truth? Because that is what it seams you are saying to me. Please take no offense when I say God Bless.

    John

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    1. Give yourself some credit, you seem pretty well-educated to me. You obviously have a much better grasp of the realities of life and writing in the Roman Empire than does Michael Paulkovich.

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  28. The more profound evidence for an authentic Christ, and for authentic scriptures, is prophecy. Scores of fulfilled details tucked away in Old Testament books were fulfilled in the Gospels. Only a lousy analyst could appraise New Testament authors as the shrewdest of conspirators. They were not. It doesn't work. The announcements didn't make sense in their contemporary context. See Psalm 22, Psalm 69:21 (comp Matthew 27:34, 48), Isaiah 53. There are many others. It takes Someone outside of time to pull this off.

    But even if a person has the peculiar ability to ignore the obvious, the futurists still have the day. A restored Israel (Isaiah 11:11) is still the centerpiece of an ancient covenant, and there is much more to come as the times of the Gentiles ends. None of it good news to those involved in willful ignorance, and there is simply no place to hide from the forecast.

    There is so much happening, and right on schedule, as history grinds towards a conclusion recorded many centuries ago.

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  29. Atheists have been trying to debunk Jesus since his birth and death. Everything notably written since that time has suffered one way or another because of translations from one ancient language to another. NO ONE can PROVE or DISPROVE his being on earth as the son of God. But amazingly, if a myth - it sure is the greatest one ever told and has lasted all this time. What is going on here is giving this man a platform to sell his book - yet another atheist's account of no Jesus. I bet God is a myth too. Stay tuned for his sequel on "God is ?"! Am sure it will be coming to a book store near you soon.......

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  30. Two small comments that raises doubt over the integrity of Paulkovich, or his willingness to pronounce on things that he knows nothing about, or perhaps is quite happy to just make up. (By way of clarification my PhD is in Philo of Alexandria and Stoicism)

    "Philo Judaeus is among the most damning. He lived during Jesus' supposed time and even visited the temple in Jerusalem a few times. Philo wrote of other Jesus contemporaries Flaccus, Caligula, Pontius Pilate, Bassus, Tiberius and Sejanus. He apparently never heard of Jesus or the miracles."

    Philo is only recorded as going on pilgrimage to Jerusalem ONCE. Not several times. Unless it relates to Jewish legal rights Philo does not chronicle contemporary Jewish history. It just does not interest him at all. Aside from specific events such as his embassy to Gaius he barely gives us any information about his own life or the events surrounding it (what we do know you can find helpfully collated by Dorothy Sly's "Philo's Alexandria"). None of the myriad of important religious and cultural leaders, figures and movements that Josephus mentions are recounted in Philo's work. Nor does he even mention the Pharisees or the Sadducees! Paulkovich is, again, either being intentionally deceptive, or he only has a passing knowledge of Philo. In his interview that was linked by the Daily Mail (who talked about his "report") he even emphasized that Philo lived in the levant. He did not. He lived several hundred miles from there! Again, either this is because an extreme lack of knowledge of something he is setting himself up as an authority on, or it is blatant deceit. Either should preclude him being given the oxygen of attention.

    As for Euphrates of Tyre- none of his writings exist. Paulkovich cannot have studied have, or have any idea of what he wrote about. Again a blatant distortion. He likely just lifted his list from some catalogue of ancient writers and pretend to have read them all.

    This is not a good example for the free-thought community...

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  31. Also you state:

    "Marcus Aurelius. He was relatively friendly toward Jews. This may be the strongest straw you have to grasp at. (Why should the religious be the only ones who can grasp at straws and take rhetorical short-cuts?)"

    Perhaps, but we only have a few letters from Marcus Aurelius that were made during his youth (that touch on no topics that would naturally lead on to talking about people from Jewish history), and his Meditation, which are a technical philosophical diary on Stoicism. At no point would the inclusion of a discussion of Jesus, or any comparable historical figure make any sense. The only time he mentions Christians [Med. 11.3] is when he notes his respect for their resolve to be martyred, but he argues that they do so out of madness. So, again, hardly one we would expect would be inclined to start listing the miracles of Jesus...

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  32. Paulkovich argues from silence. I'm reminded of Gould and Eldredge promoting an idea that doesn't interpret the evidence. It only contends with the problem of not having any.

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  33. How does this article fit into the conversation?
    http://worldnewsdailyreport.com/newly-found-document-holds-eyewitness-account-of-jesus-performing-miracle/

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    1. About as well as a National Enquirer article entitled "I Had Bigfoot's Baby!" would fit.

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    2. Actually, now that I think about it, it fits perfectly well, because Paulkovich's article in Free Inquiry is about as ridiculous as anything to be found in WNDR or the Enquirer. That's really the story I've been covering here: not Paulkovich, because there's nothing unusual about someone pulling a hairbrained assertion about Jesus out of their butt and claiming it's serious scholarship. The story is that Free Inquiry, by publishing Paulkovich, has reached the level of journalistic seriousness of the Enquirer. (Their names even sound the same. Free Inquiry should go tabloid and try to get onto those supermarket checkout shelves next to the other tabloids. Ka-CHING!)

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    3. http://www.snopes.com/media/notnews/miraclewitness.asp

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  34. "It was a very minor cult even in the 4th century and would have faded away by the 5th if Emperor Theodosius had not made Christianity the only legal cult of the empire in 391, under pain of death." From Mr. Paulkovich's last post. I think it's telling that he had no response to the historical points, but waited to pounce on a religious statement of faith. If Christianity was as weak as he claims, the efforts of Julian would have been successful, or Diocletian's. He really has no historical grasp of the era, which is evident even to an undergraduate such as myself. He needs a survey course in Roman history.

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    1. I agree, he needs some education, needs it very badly. Unfortunately, he seems to regard everyone who disagrees with him as either ignorant, or part of The Plot. That sort of attitude makes learning difficult.

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  35. Michael, If Jesus is a fictional character what about the Lost Tomb?

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  36. Repent and be saved Paulkovich whilst you still have the breath of life.

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  37. It seems not all that improbable that many writers of the time - other than Josephus - would have chosen to not acknowledge a politically unpopular "rabble rouser" whose teachings defied established tenets. Discrimination and prejudice of the kind happen today in all fields (political; literary; scientific; journalistic; etc.), all over.
    Under the political climate of the times, it would have been quite a conceit and challenge for the apostles to have concocted a deceit such that would make the Christian faith and evangelization grow so steadily. Christianity seems unlikely without the deep conviction of the apostles in the existence of a real person.

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    1. I agree with your first point, about the writers whom Paulkovich includes in his list of 126 having had little incentive to write about Jesus even if they had heard of him. In discussions with people who, like Paulkovich, find it strange that this wandering preacher with 12 disciples, living in a hinterland which many if not most Romans of the time might have had difficulty finding on a map of the Empire, was so little mentioned by ancient pagans, I have often compared Jesus to Spartacus, who led an army of tens of thousands of slaves and occupied large parts of the Italian peninsula, where most of the ancient Latin writers we know today lived, and came very close to the city of Rome. There's no doubt that during his own lifetime, Spartacus was very well-known to the people who made the written records of the late Roman Republic which we have today.

      And yet the written records about Spartacus are rather sparse. Both Spartacus and Jesus were crucified. Typically a crucified person's body was left on the cross until it was all gone, eaten by birds and other wild animals or rotted away. Part of the point of crucifixion was to obliterate a person. They were supposed to be forgotten forever, not talked about and certainly not written about.

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  38. Mr. Bollinger, I finally decided to write a more formal response to your Open Letter. See http://nomeek.com/bollinger/

    Michael Paulkovich

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  39. Mr. Bollinger, I finally decided to write a more formal response to your Open Letter. See http://nomeek.com/bollinger/

    Michael Paulkovich

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  40. If Jesus was wandering around Pilates area of control for up to three years, performing such stupendous miracles that his fame spread far and wide, even unto Syria, why is Pilate unaware of who Jesus is, which is evident when he asks Jesus in John 19:9, "where are you from? Also, if Jesus entered Jerusalem to the acclaim of huge multitudes, why has Pilate, who was in Jerusalem at the time, never heard of him? Why was Jesus unknown to Pilate if he had caused a huge ruckus in Jerusalem by clearing the Temple? Passover was a time of heightened tension between Rome and the Jews, and surely these incidents would have been investigated and reported to the Emperor and Senate in Rome1 That they appear in no recorded Roman history of that era is proof positive that they never happened, and they never happened because Jesus the god-man never existed, except in the fertile minds of xtians years later. There may have been some skinny-assed little Jew who actually existed and got himself crucified by the Romans for stirring up the people, but a half man half god there never was, and there never was because god does not exist, he is a human construct by dishonest priests in order that they can gain wealth and power for themselves by convincing gullible and ignorant fools that they can intercede with this non-existent being to ensure they live forever. All that is required is to give these priests money in return. No bigger scam has ever been foisted on the minds of gullible humans, and the Catholic Church, the most successful and largest criminal organization in the world is glaring proof of this. Religion; all religion is bullshit and lies.

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    1. I agree, but didn't read this until after I posted.

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  41. You blokes can argue until the cows come home, about evidence etc. The bottom line is that Joshua, Jesus or whatever you want to call him, was probably married, wasn't trying to start a new religion, didn't rise from the dead, wasn't born of a virgin and, like thousand of others during 4 centuries of the Roman Empire, suffered crucifixion as a result of his opposition to the Roman occupation. Mind you of the 60 or so historians who lived during the 1st century CE, only about 4 make any reference to him, Josephus, being the most influential. Personally, I think he was made up, like Robin Hood and King Arthur. Christianity only gained a foothold after Constantine converted to it around 312 CE. That's a fucking long time for the myths to gain credence. And no, he's not coming back to save anyone. Even some of my Catholic friends don't believe that shit.

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    1. In anything resembling a serious mythicist/histoticist debate, neither side believe in any of the supernatural nonsense like virgin birth or resurrection. It's just a debate over whether some non-supernatural person named Jesus wandered around Galilee and Judea preaching, got himself killed by Pilate, and formed the basis for all of the myths in the NT, or whether it's all myths, including that person's existence.

      Plenty of Jewish men were unmarried. Then as now, many people who were religious abstained from sex -- and just in Judaism. See for example the Roman Vestal virgins.

      60 1st century historians? Really? http://thewrongmonkey.blogspot.com/2014/10/heres-some-real-info-about-ancient.html

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  42. Paulkovich ... did you REALLY put Velleius Paterculus on the list?

    His Roman History ends formally in 16th year of Caesar Tiberius. BUT, all he says in the last chapters about Tiberius is like namedropping (Seianus is mentioned, the one whose protégé Pilate was) and how good and perfect and "Messianic" things are under Tiberius.

    Seriously, if you read him and included him, you are stupid.

    Could it be you just lied about having read him?

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    1. Who knows? Paulkovich also claims to have studied several letters of the Emperor Tiberius, and many other things the rest of the world hasn't discovered. I go into more detail about Paulkovich's list of 126 names in this post: http://thewrongmonkey.blogspot.com/2014/09/126-writers-who-according-to-michael.html

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  43. Let's make the post clickable, shall we (or link to it clickable):

    The Wrong Monkey : 126 Writers Who, According To Michael Paulkovich, Should Have Mentioned Jesus If Jesus Existed
    http://thewrongmonkey.blogspot.com/2014/09/126-writers-who-according-to-michael.html


    Anyway, it seems Paulkovich, though he commented here, has not replied to my question. Did you block him or is he scared?

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    1. No, I haven't blocked him. But this post has been up for over a year, so perhaps he's moved on.

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