• The circularity of believing the New Testament

    So here’s the thing. The Christian seems to historiographically rate the NT over and above the other biblical books so that the Gospels have hermeneutic priority over any other book. My last book (The Nativity: A Critical Examination), and my subsequent radio debate with Randal Rauser, showed that the only time the Gospels are verifiable – that they intersect with known facts and verifiable incidents – is during the nativity accounts of Matthew and Luke. In every single claim they make of these events, the two are verifiably wrong. Both with themselves and extra-biblical sources. So the question is, if the only time that they are verifiable, they fail, on what epistemic basis do you have to believe that the Gospels are truthful?

    You see, the accounts are written by unknown people, in unknown times and places, with utterly unknown sources and with pro-Jesus ex post facto agendas! This we know. We can guess at some of these, but we are pretty much in the dark. We also know there are interpolations (casting the first stone in John, the end of John based on recent MS findings). So what epistemic right does the believer have? Well, it usually comes down to faith. But here’s the rub. That faith is derived primarily from the Bible (for without that, what is Christianity?). But if you need faith in the Bible to believe the Bible (as opposed to evidentialist approaches) then you have a circular argument.

    Category: Biblical ExegesisEpistemology

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    Article by: Jonathan MS Pearce

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    • Andy_Schueler

      We also know there are interpolations (casting the first stone in John, the end of John based on recent MS findings).

      When I first read the NT (at a time when I had no idea about the historical context in which the NT was written and knew nothing about NT research), the gospel of John was the first indication for me that there is something seriously wrong with this book.
      Almost everything in John was just so different from the other three gospels that I could not understand how anyone could believe that these 4 books present an accurate account of the life and teachings of Jesus.

      Edit: No, now that I think about it… that was the second indication for me. The first one was Mark 6 (the “Is this not the Carpenter” stuff), where the people that knew Jesus best (the people that allegedly grew up with him in his hometown), didn´t believe in him and where Jesus thus “could do no mighty work”. If he can only do “mighty work” in front of people that already believe that he has this powers, that´s a very honest signal that he actually has no special powers at all.

      • I think the synoptic problem is a huge headache. Not only is the theology utterly different, but so to the claims differ more strongly.

        • Daydreamer1

          Indeed. It feels alot like people are looking for reasons for this to be true above all else. I haven’t seen a compilation of all these historical references by Josephus etc. I have seen comments that there are not too many though. Is it not possible to put them all in the same place so we can see what they really say?

          Also, out of interest (since I am thinking about creationism at the moment) perhaps we could take a lesson from the creationists (perhaps we already have) and seriously concentrate on sowing doubts. This seems to have been quite successful for tobacco and global warming denial, and creationism, for quite a while. We could do with a very solid method of presenting doubt in Jesus and his work (it seems that Jesus has had quite a light time of organised skepticism in the public consciousness). Much like all the numerous sources and arguments presented around the net complied into something more directed and powerful. What do you think?

          • I think there is validity to what you say. However, I think it is already being done. The internet has all the information needed for every ‘side’ to win. The problem is making the other side interact with the other side. Confirmation bias is prevalent on both sides and there is a real risk of only ever reading and interacting with the ‘evidence’ which supports your thesis.

            • Daydreamer1

              Confirmation bias is indeed prevalent and there may be little difference in it as a metal phenomena, but boy do the worldviews change in their ability to explain comprehensive phenomena. Every side may well have its sites designed to do little other than appease the troops, but it is the reality and quality we know differs so widely. I have learn’t so much that simply is not told to people in a very short space of time. You can live 30 years in our culture and never come across Biblical skepticism. You will hardly make it to 4 before you are told that Jesus performed miracles. Markian priority, the synoptic problem, accounts of Jesus’ miracles that look no different to modern charlatans etc etc – we are simply not exposed to it. And of course I hardly need to draw upon conspiracies to explain why. It is not a conspiracy once it is widespread and open. This stuff is simply not taught to people. The same goes for ID and creationism. Without a more right wing approach to education that is willing to teach children facts about worldviews and state that one is better than another we’ll keep hitting this. The best we can do is make our voice felt on the net and in the media. There seems to be an increased push to address science as not just a list of facts, but as ‘the’ philosophy for understanding. That would no doubt help. The fact that the vertical transmission of religion has been so abruptly affected will too, no doubt.

    • . . . the only time the Gospels are verifiable – that they intersect with known facts and verifiable incidents – is during the nativity accounts of Matthew and Luke.

      Why do you say the Infancy Narratives are the only place where the Gospels intersect with known facts and verifiable incidents? It seems to me the people and places in the rest of the Gospels are just as verifiable.

      We also know there are interpolations (casting the first stone in John, the end of John based on recent MS findings).

      The manuscript evidence (I believe you are are referring to) for John 21 is hardly unambiguous.

      • Hi Jayman. Long time no speak.

        Where else are they particularly verifiable? The only other place would be, in my mind, Pontius Pilatte. And even then, Jesus trial is not verified. Temple records do not verify either (though in all likelihood would have been destroyed in 70CE).

        • Andy_Schueler

          What about historians covering first century jewish sects? Philo of Alexandria mentioned many wannabe-messiahs living at that time but never mentioned Jesus.
          His works are not completey preserved afaik – but wouldn´t this still be a potential confirmation of the claim that there was a first century jewish preacher called Jesus, who interacted with John the Baptist and allegedly performed many miracle healings before he was put on trial?

          • What about historians covering first century jewish sects?

            Jesus and Christians are mentioned by Josephus. Tacitus mentions Christians in Rome. Pliny mentions Christians in Asia Minor.

            Philo of Alexandria mentioned many wannabe-messiahs living at that time but never mentioned Jesus.

            Philo was more of a philosopher than an historian. In what passages does Philo mention so-called Messiahs?

            • Andy_Schueler

              Jesus and Christians are mentioned by Josephus. Tacitus mentions Christians in Rome. Pliny mentions Christians in Asia Minor.

              Re Josephus, see my earlier comment.
              Re Tacitus and Pliny, both are not contemporary to the events that are described in the NT and both do not cover any specific event described in the NT and contain no biographical information about Jesus (correct me if I´m wrong) which would mean that they could at best be used as sources to support the claim that there were people in the 1st century that worshipped a “Christ”.

              Philo was more of a philosopher than an historian. In what passages does Philo mention so-called Messiahs?

              My mistake – I was thinking about figures like Simon bar-Giora, Jesus ben-Ananias, Jonathan the weaver etc., but that´s Josephus, not Philo.

            • Re Tacitus and Pliny, both are not contemporary to the events that are described in the NT and both do not cover any specific event described in the NT and contain no biographical information about Jesus (correct me if I´m wrong) which would mean that they could at best be used as sources to support the claim that there were people in the 1st century that worshipped a “Christ”.

              If Tacitus and Pliny are generally accurate on historical matters then their accounts are of importance. Tacitus does mention biographical information about Christ:

              “Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace. Christus, from whom the name had its origin, suffered the extreme penalty during the reign of Tiberius at the hands of one of our procurators, Pontius Pilatus, and a most mischievous superstition, thus checked for the moment, again broke out not only in Judæa, the first source of the evil, but even in Rome, where all things hideous and shameful from every part of the world find their centre and become popular. Accordingly, an arrest was first made of all who pleaded guilty; then, upon their information, an immense multitude was convicted, not so much of the crime of firing the city, as of hatred against mankind”.

              I mentioned Pliny the Younger (Ep. 10.97) because he notes Christians in Asia Minor and how he persecuted them. This shows the impact of Jesus’ life but not biographical details. It also supports certain NT allusions to the possibility of persecution (e.g., 1 Peter, Revelation).

            • Read Catholic scholar Candida Moss’ book on martyrdom and you will see that that Tacitus passage is unreliable – propaganda against Nero.

        • Where else are they particularly verifiable?

          Some examples:

          – Josephus corroborates the basic outline of the careers of John the Baptist and Jesus.
          – The archaeological find of the Pool of Bethesda.
          – The distribution of the names of NT figures corresponds to the distribution of names found in other sources.

          And even then, Jesus trial is not verified.

          You are correct in the sense that Jesus’ trial is not narrated in an early, non-Christian source. But Josephus’ reference does mention Pilate’s hand in Jesus’ crucifixion.

          • Andy_Schueler

            Josephus corroborates the basic outline of the careers of John the Baptist and Jesus.

            I´d agree that this is a potential corrobation of the NT account. But note that Richard Carrier´s argument that the references in Book 20 were never originally about Jesus Christ or christians in general has recently been accepted by the Journal of Early Christian Studies:
            http://muse.jhu.edu/login?auth=0&type=summary&url=/journals/journal_of_early_christian_studies/v020/20.4.carrier.pdf
            And the longer reference in Book 18 has been widely considered to be an interpolation by a christian scribe for a long time already, see for example:
            http://jsp.sagepub.com/content/7/13/59.full.pdf+html

            • But note that Richard Carrier´s argument that the references in Book 20 were never originally about Jesus Christ or christians in general has recently been accepted by the Journal of Early Christian Studies

              That sounds like an uphill battle.

              And the longer reference in Book 18 has been widely considered to be an interpolation by a christian scribe for a long time already

              The majority of scholars also believe Josephus did mention Jesus in that passage. With the interpolations removed the text looks like so:

              At this time there appeared Jesus, a wise man. For he was a doer of startling deeds, a teacher of people who receive the truth with pleasure. And he gained a following both among many Jews and among many of Greek origin. And when Pilate, because of an accusation made by the leading men among us, condemned him to the cross, those who had loved him previously did not cease to do so. And up until this very day the tribe of Christians (named after him) has not died out.

            • Andy_Schueler

              That sounds like an uphill battle.

              Maybe, there are no published refutations of his argument so far that I´m aware of.

              The majority of scholars also believe Josephus did mention Jesus in that passage.

              That seems to be true. I still find the TF to be dubious at best, because it has definitely been doctored with and there is considerable evidence that the author of Luke and Josephus either used the same sources or alternatively, that a christian scribe introduced the TF and modelled it after Luke:
              http://www.josephus.org/GoldbergJosephusLuke1995.pdf

            • I think there is good support for total interpolation. But even given partial, this at most shows a knowledge of gospel writings or gospel claims through other sources who knew the gospels.

              Josephus also mentions Pilate in Jewish War but neglects to mention Jesus.

              Even at total best it claims Jesus was put to death by Pilate. I would personally accept that on the Gospels alone. That he was God and conducted THE most amazing miracles int eh universe. Now THAT is crucial in its absence from all other sources.

              How many people saw a miracle of his? Feeding of the how many? And not one, not one single reference outside of the Gospels. Not one inscription, artifact. Nothing.

            • But even given partial, this at most shows a knowledge of gospel writings or gospel claims through other sources who knew the gospels.

              It’s strange that you don’t even consider the possibility that Josephus could have learned about Jesus independently of the Gospels.

              That he was God and conducted THE most amazing miracles int eh universe. Now THAT is crucial in its absence from all other sources.

              By definition, a non-Christian source is not going to endorse the worship of Christ. But Pliny does mention that Christians worshiped Christ as a god.

              How many people saw a miracle of his? Feeding of the how many? And not one, not one single reference outside of the Gospels. Not one inscription, artifact. Nothing.

              Jesus’ miracle-working abilities are mentioned by Josephus. Seeing as the NT and Josephus are the main sources for first-century Jewish history the lack of more references is not surprising.

              Read Catholic scholar Candida Moss’ book on martyrdom and you will see that that Tacitus passage is unreliable – propaganda against Nero.

              I’m not convinced Moss’ take on the matter is authoritative. I think I found the relevant pages with an Amazon book search (pp. 138-9). Her argument appears very weak:

              (1) Tacitus wrote 50 years after the fire. So what? He still wrote within living memory of the event.

              (2) It is unlikely Christians could have been picked out as a distinct group at that time. But Acts 11:26 and 1 Peter 4:16 suggest we should not be so sure. It’s not as if Moss can point to a specific date and say that this is when Christians were an identifiable group.

              But even if we accept that Christians were not persecuted by Nero for the fire, it is still the case that Tacitus mentions biographical facts about Jesus.

            • I think the most interesting claim is that Nero would not have persecuted or blamed Christians at the time since the term ‘Christians’ was not used. No Christian until Eusebius even references this early persecution.

              Tacitus claimed this:

              “Consequently, to get rid of the report, Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace.”

              Which, given it happened in 64CE, this is simply not true. 30 years after his death, and in a different country, a whole class of believers are big enough to be classed and blamed for a great fire; they can be categorised as abominations?

              No, not at all. But, given TACITUS’ hatred of them when he actually wrote (115CE), then this polemic fits into his ideal.

            • JohnM

              Jonathan : Which, given it happened in 64CE, this is simply not true. 30 years after his death, and in a different country, a whole class of believers are big enough to be classed and blamed for a great fire; they can be categorised as abominations?

              It’s a historic fact that Christianity spread that fast. And the Roman historian Suetonius mentions the punishment of Christians under Nero.

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suetonius_on_Christians
              The Nero 16 passage refers to a series of rulings by Nero for public order, one of which being the punishment of Christians. These punishments are generally dated to around AD 64, the year of the Great Fire of Rome. In this passage Suetonius describes Christianity as a superstition (superstitio) as do his contemporaries, Tacitus and Pliny.

            • Listen to this:

              http://freethoughtblogs.com/reasonabledoubts/2013/04/19/episode-113-the-myth-of-martyrdom-part-1-with-guest-candida-moss/

              No religion could spread that fast in 30 years that it would move, in an age of slow transport, to another city in another country and have big enough presence that they would be called abominations, and be blamed for the great fire.

              As Moss claims, “The evidence points to this story of Nero scapegoating the Christians as coming from the second century. How could he have scapegoated “Christians,” when they still were known as Jews at that time in Rome? It is clear that Roman sources condemned Nero for the fire and Nero did try to scapegoat others, but it just doesn’t make sense that he specifically named “Christians.””

              You need to understand the rulings against Christians were not against Christians per se, and were really just a re-codification of existing imperial rules.

            • JohnM

              If neither Suetonius, nor Tacitus, nor Pliny can cure your unbelief, then I don’t know what will..

              Furthermore, the road system and sea-trading-routes of the Romans are famous. How do you think that the Romans in Caesarea kept in contact with their superiors in Rome? They were running an empire. That requires one to be able to move information back and forth in a timely manner.

              The same transport system, was used by the Christians to spread Christianity. If you look at the different letters written by Paul, those cities are all there, part of the Roman transport network.

              So no, it’s not a matter of slow transport. It’s a matter of the dull movement, that some people call Christianity today, would stand no chance of accomplishing that feat.. And that is where your unbelief comes from.. But what you must realize, is that the early Christians were a radical different movement.

            • Andy_Schueler

              And that is where your unbelief comes from.

              I thought he does believe but suppresses the “truth” because of his “wickedness”?
              Oh right, I forgot – you are making this shit up as you go along.

            • JohnM

              I’ve now listened to the podcast and read a few reviews of the book, and I must say that I find her work to be rather ignorant. She’s trying to rewrite history..

              “No no it wasn’t prosecution, it was only a law that happened make sure that every Christian that would not sacrifice to the Roman gods, were killed.”

              Furthermore, according to the reviews that I’ve read, her work contains many other errors. One of which is that she supposedly states in the book, that Acts ends before Paul gets to Rome. If that’s actually in her book, then she never read Acts.

              It’s ridiculous.. She’s the new Robert M. Price. It’s that crazy!! She’s calming that the following link contains nothing but a myth: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Christians

              If that’s where you people are getting your information, its no wonder that you’re so ignorant about Christianity.

              He’s a “secular” documentary about early Christianity, aired on the national geographic tv channel. Now I don’t agree with everything in it, but it’s far the best documentary that I’ve seen, and they do make use of scholars and historians to tell the details.

              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_fdwyAprd6g

            • Brilliant.

              “ignorant”.

              A trained New Testament Scholar:

              2008 Ph.D., Yale University (New Testament)

              2004 M.A., M.Phil., Yale University (New Testament)

              2002 M.A.R., Yale Divinity School (Biblical Studies)

              2000 B.A. University of Oxford (Theology)

              Ignorant. Yeah. She is even more likely to be objectively correct given that her research goes against some of the tenets of her own beliefs.

              It is also supported by historians.

              It is only Christians with a reliance (think US here, particularly) on the persecution approach to their own beliefs who have such a beef with it.

              If you have read JP Holding’s review, which it sounds like, you are deluded. The man produced a poor review and is about the most dishonest guy out there.

              I suggest reading what peer historians would have to say.

              I love you are calling me ignorant, one who UTTERLY continues to show fundamental ignorance in basically every claim and discipline you make and pass comment on!

              You get your info from conservative sources entirely, and then throw in a Nat Geo programme to make you sound objective.

              When the majority of New Testament scholastics is done by ex post facto committed believers, you have to worry.

              This is something Crossley himself, as a secular biblical scholar, has brought up before.

              I would definitely read Avalos’ excellent “The End of Biblical Studies”.

              Until you have something substantial to say about here work, I would suggest not commenting.

            • JohnM

              It’s funny how you accuses me of getting my information from “conservaive sources only”, and then goes on to promote one of the most extremely biased and un-scholarly sources, motivated by pure hate.. Also know as Hector Avalos

              What a joke.

            • Andy_Schueler

              goes on to promote one of the most extremely biased and un-scholarly sources

              Says the guy who believes the Bible is 100% true. Btw, accusations of “bias” and bad scholarship should be coupled with evidence to support these claims, but you don´t give a fuck about evidence do you?

              motivated by pure hate

              Hector Avalos doesn´t believe that you, or anyone, deserves to be tortured for eternity – he has an infinitely better opinion of you, and any other christian, than you have of him.

            • Crossley unscholarly. Really? I amena really? He is soooo scholarly. In fact, that book is so scholarly it is too dry! He knows more about Jewish law and practices than anyone else I have ever known.

              I own the book. IT is here in front of me. Don’t call out someone incorrectly on something you know nothing about.

            • Sorry, you were meaning Avalos.

              Still, the book is great. I have read it. Have you?

            • JohnM

              No, I haven’t read his books. I only know of Avalos from debates and different discussion.

            • Andy_Schueler

              I only know of Avalos from debates and different discussion.

              Which would be “Expelled” (i.e. one of the most ridiculous pieces of defamatory propaganda ever released).

            • JohnM

              Ah that’s true.

              But no, I was thinking about his debate with WLC. And articles about him, describing how he enjoy attempting to humiliate his students that don’t see eye to eye with him, and so on.

            • Andy_Schueler

              And articles about him, describing how he enjoy attempting to humiliate his students that don’t see eye to eye with him, and so on.

              Why didn´t you say that earlier?? Then it obviously MUST be true!

            • JohnM

              William Lane Craig on Hector Avalos
              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aM0KcIt_pXw

            • Andy_Schueler

              So you don´t read his books and don´t watch his debates but WLC doesn´t like him, so he just must be an asshole, obviously.
              http://debunkingchristianity.blogspot.de/2008/01/dr-hector-avalos-comments-on-his-debate.html

            • JohnM

              I have watched that debate. And I was merely trying to tell you, why I consider Hector Avalos to be an extremely biased and un-scholarly sources, motivated by pure hate…

              And yes, I do think that WLC’s critique of him is devastating. And yes, it does come from multiple sources. There was a huge uproar on the internet about what WLC did in that debate, and I did spent some time looking into Hectors background, during the time that it all played out.

              And yes, I’m very familiar with John W. Loftus. I’ve spent several years listening to him complaining about “Why won’t WLC debate me”, on other websites. It’s not like I started following these things, yesterday.

            • Andy’s point still remains. You glean ad hominem attacks on him from his enemies, and this colours your perception of his scholarly work.

              Do you realise that WLC has a fallacious approach to science? Is he the paragon of cirtue you seem to think? Do you realise that he uses a neo-Lorentzian approach to special relativity which allows him to support the impossibility of ex nihilo creation without God, which gets him to KCA and concludes that God exists. But on what basis does he believe in NLSR? Well, he uses God to support that thesis.

              So God is used to conclude a premise which is used to conclude an argument that God exists. This is circular.

              So he uses a non-consensus unfalisfiable approach to science (NLSR which cannot be empirically evidenced by its own admission) in a subject in which he appeals to consensus science (the BGV theory, eg).

              Let’s look at another example. A vs B theory of time. B theory is what most physicists and cosmologists adhere to, given its coherence with laws of relativity.

              But Craig, in his scientific acumen, appeals to the non consensus A theory. Why? Because it supports his God hypothesis (see closertotruth). ie presupposing God allows him to conclude a theory which he uses to conclude for God. Circular again.

              I could go on. WLC, eh?

            • JohnM

              I don’t see how any of that refutes what WLC is saying about Hector Avalos.

            • Andy_Schueler

              I don’t see how any of that refutes what WLC is saying about Hector Avalos.

              You didn´t even mention ANY argument that WLC puts forth that you agree with! Let´s start with the first – WHAT exactly was “dishonest” or “poor debate style” about Avalos asking Shelly to identify p66 and p75?

            • JohnM

              Come on Andy, that’s been discussed a gazillion times on who knows how many blogs.

              And WLC himself actually explains that in the debate.. Have you watch the debate?

            • Andy_Schueler

              And WLC himself actually explains that in the debate..

              And Avalos took the high road and focussed on the subject instead of WLC´s defamation strategy. But since several people parroted WLC´s remarks without doing any research, he wrote a post to respond to these accusations.
              So, let´s go through the arguments – number one: why do you think that the reasons Avalos gave for bringing up p66 and p75 are invalid?

            • Andy_Schueler

              I´m waiting… Avalos explained himself and you allegedly followed this feud between WLC and him. You think Craig was right that it was an asshole-move to bring up p66 and p75 and disagree with Avalos´ explanation for why it was completely appropriate to bring them up.
              Why?

            • My point is that you rely on WLC for accusing Avalos of being unscholarly, so I am pointing out that the person you are using to evaluate Avalos is himself unscholarly in his approach.

            • JohnM

              No, I’m not saying that Avalos is unscholarly “because WLC said so”. That would be the authority fallacy. I’m looking at the things that WLC has put forward about Avalos, and finding myself reaching the same conclusion.

            • Andy_Schueler

              Again, Avalos responded to those accusations – where exactly do you disagree with him and why?

            • I need to know why the End Of Biblical Studies is unscholarly.

            • I also need to know why Candida Moss’ book is unscholarly and why she is ignorant. That is a MASSIVE claim.

            • JohnM

              Does she claim that the book of acts ends before Paul arrives in Rome?

            • John, given that she may have made one factual error, does that invalidate the rest of her work? Do you know who actually pointed out that fact? Do you know where it came from? Because I imagine you are quoting Holding. The actual source reviewer who pointed that out also said, “There is a great deal of valuable material in Moss’ work”.

            • JohnM

              I first found it on this blog:

              http://earliestchristianity.wordpress.com/2013/03/12/review-the-myth-of-persecution-candida-moss/

              And yess.. She made “a mistake”.. What’s the problem? Well, she’s a New Testament Scholar. I’m not, and even I knew that she was wrong on that one… How can such things even get published, without being fact-checked? Pretty damaging.

            • JohnM

              I was talking about Hector Avalos.

              I haven’t read his book that you’re talking about. So I don’t know.

              But I would be very happy to discuss, if all the people who are in that National geographic documentary talking about the so-called “myth” of early Christianity, are as deluded as me?

            • Andy_Schueler

              I was talking about Hector Avalos.

              And you accuse him of being a bad scholar, biased and motivated by pure hate because WLC says so – yet you never bothered to even read what Avalos had to say to defend himself.

              There was something about “not bearing false witness” in a book you like very much – but we already saw that you prefer a pick-and-choose approach.

            • Early Christianity is not a myth. Early persecution IS, IMHO, ramped up and not factually correct, and Tacitus’ claim of Nero blaming the Christians is historical projection. THAT is what I claim.

            • JohnM

              You are free to claim that Persecution of early Christianity is a myth, on the basis of nothing.

              But you do have at least 3 Roman sources against you + the gospels + Jewish sources, on Nero alone.

              And you can read about the prosecutions of Christians under Nero, Domitian, Trajan, Aurelius, Thracian, Decius, Valerian, Diocletian, Galerius and Julian the Apostate here:

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Christians_in_the_Roman_Empire

            • I NOWHERE claimed it was a total myth. I claim it is over-egged. They were persecuted, just not to the extent Christians think.

              You can straw man me all you want, but it doesn’t make you look good.

            • JohnM

              That’s good. But her book is still called “The Myth of Persecution”. And judging by her interview on the podcast, she seems to defend that..

              “No no it wasn’t prosecution, it was only a law that happened make sure that every Christian that would not sacrifice to the Roman gods, were killed.”

              I’m paraphrasing her, but it’s not far off.. It’s downright ridiculous how she attempts to redefine the word Persecution to serve her cause. That is NOT a serious scholarly way of approaching the topic.

            • Firstly, you don’t seem to have a clue what her thesis is or what she concludes (hint, it is more to do with death ideals from Greco Roman contexts; adaptation of these ideas in Christian passages and claims; the main point that there is a contradictory notion that Christians want their stories to be both unique and like the heroes of the past, that martyrdom is somehow a Christian ideal which validates historical Christian claims etc).

              Also, rather than slag someone off, perhaps you could ask HER why she had the sentence about Acts. I did. Here is part of her email reply:

              “It was something that dropped out in the editorial process. The sentence was originally a lot clunkier and included references to his trial (which was the point of the sentence) but one of the copyeditors removed that. Leaving the mistake. i should have caught it, but I didn’t. I hardly think it destroys the argument of the book.

              I did see that review and I noticed that the author made a lot of false statements about scholarship and about my book. In fact the criticism that persecution is often equated to deaths is one that I make in the book. The author does not engage the later chapters at all.”

            • JohnM

              Oki, cool that you wrote her :)

              Then let’s focus on the argument of the book. Now, I haven’t read the book. Granted.

              But far as I understand her project, she’s trying to say “Christians are not and never were prosecuted. Relax you American commentators..” Right?

              And then she goes on attempting to show, how she thinks that Christians never really were prosecuted, or only were on a little.. And how she thinks that everyone attempts to over-egged it.

              But if that’s really her project, then it’s a fools errand. Why?

              Because even if one granted that the persecution was limited of the early church , one can just point to the persecution of the Anabaptists:

              http://uctaa.net/articles/meds2/images/burning_of_18_anabaptists.jpg

              The united states were largely founded by Christians fleeing religious persecution of The Catholic and Lutheran Churches in Europe. And what is she going to do then? Challenge that as well?

              Furthermore, there are many many modern examples of persecution of Christians. From Iran, to India, to China to Russia. People are still getting killed for merely preaching the gospel. And it’s always been like that.

              So if one thinks that persecution of Christians is a myth, then one is very ignorant about what’s actually going on in the world.

            • Wrong.

            • JohnM

              Wrong? eh ok.. Then what is her project ?

              And why is the title “The Myth of Persecution”, if she’s not trying to tell us, that persecution of Christians is a myth?

            • Andy_Schueler

              ??? FFS, read the comments you reply to!

            • Andy_Schueler

              And why is the title “The Myth of Persecution”, if she’s not trying to tell us, that persecution of Christians is a myth?

              This is really unbelievable… Jonathan claimed that christians EXAGGERATED the persecution they encountered in EARLY christian history. No comment in this entire thread states or implies that christians NEVER were persecuted – that is entirely your fabrication (and has been corrected by Jonathan several times!).

              Re the content of the book – the subtitle would have been a hint:
              “The Myth of Persecution: How Early Christians Invented a Story of Martyrdom

              So would have been the summary at Amazon:
              “In The Myth of Persecution, Candida Moss, a leading expert on early Christianity, reveals how the EARLY church exaggerated, invented, and forged stories of Christian martyrs and how the dangerous legacy of a martyrdom complex is employed today to silence dissent and galvanize a new generation of culture warriors.”

              What the fuck did you do? Go over to Amazon and skim the first 1-star review you can find while ignoring everything else?

            • JohnM

              http://www.readthespirit.com/explore/the-candida-moss-interview-debunking-a-dangerous-myth-of-persecution/

              Article : We just had a case of Fox News commentators accusing NBC of persecuting Christians because of a Saturday Night Live skit they didn’t like.

              See!! THAT IS HER PROJECT! That’s the reason why she’s writing the book. Just like I said. At least read the articles yourself. And stop saying that I’m wrong, when I’m right.

              Article : the persecution of Christians was limited to no more than a handful of years.

              That’s a lie. I’ve already linked the names of multiple Roman rulers that persecuted Christians.

              Article : There are a number of problems with the Nero myth.

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suetonius_on_Christians
              The Nero 16 passage refers to a series of rulings by Nero for public order, one of which being the punishment of Christians. These punishments are generally dated to around AD 64, the year of the Great Fire of Rome. In this passage Suetonius describes Christianity as a superstition (superstitio) as do his contemporaries, Tacitus and Pliny.

              Article : Nero died in 68. The famous claim about Nero and the Christians comes from Tacitus, who was born in 56 and didn’t publish his writing until the end of the first century and the start of the second century.

              Hello… Aren’t you forgetting a few important sources? Or do you just not know that they exist?

              Article : In your book, you write: “The reason these Christians invented martyrdom stories and saw their history…

              Oh.. The were no martyrdom stories to tell. Because there were no persecutions. And therefore they had to invent them.. Riiight.

              Article : To this day, you can find Christian children playing imaginary games of Christians vs. Romans.

              Romans or the Roman catholic church? What’s the difference?

              Article : Roman Catholics still celebrate martyrs’ feast days

              No no. Christians does not celebrate days which their brothers were murdered. Why would they? Those days are ancient pagan feats, that the Catholic church celebrates under a new name.

              Article : What’s interesting about Foxe’s book is that it shows this isn’t just a Catholic thing. Protestants are also invested in the history of martyrdom.

              Foxe’s book of martyrs documents the crimes of the Roman Catholic and Lutheran churches.

              Article : We can wind up using martyrdom as a sign of our moral superiority.

              What’s the alternative? Whitewash and forget the crimes of the Catholic and Lutheran Churches?

              Do you know how many of my forefathers burned at the stake because of them?

              Article : “The view that the history of Christianity is a history of unrelenting persecution persists in modern religious and political debate about what it means to be Christian.”

              There you have it. She’s trying to rewrite history..

              Article : It creates a world in which Christians are under attack

              And we are not? Hello.. How ignorant are you about what’s going on in the world? Do you have any clue what it’s like being a Christian in China? In Iran? In India? In certain parts of Russia?

              Article : it endorses political warfare rather than encouraging political discourse;

              That’s not true. People going peacefully to a stake, to be burned for what they believe in, does not in any way endorse or encourage violence. It gives us an example to follow.

              Article : It is precisely because the myth of persecution continues to be so influential that it is imperative that we get it right.

              There you have it. The persecution of Christians is a myth, according to her..

              If you believe that, I dare you.. I dare you, to watch this video, then say that again.
              http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E7qFUIpOQSc

            • Yawn.

              Her ‘project’ is to show that the reality of Christian persecution is far from the claims made by people like you, including, but not restricted to, the Nero account.

              If you actually listened to the Reasonable Doubts podcast that you claimed to have done., you would know all of this. The idea that Christians NOW claim they are persecuted like the Christians of old because, say, prayer is not in the classroom. It is ridiculous for two reasons:

              1) Because the original persecution claims were exaggerated or erroneous
              2) Because that does absolutely no justice to the term persecution

              As the podcast stated, there are Christians in Sudan and Pakistan who are REALLY being persecuted.

            • JohnM

              The American so-called Christians are ridiculous. And what’s being said about persecution on Fox news is ridiculous.

              But that is not what we’re talking about. We’re talking about fox’s book of martyrs, specifically mentioned by her, and how she’s trying to white-wash the catholic church.

              There’s a reason why she doesn’t feel persecuted you see. And that’s because she’s on the side of those who have always been persecuting their so-called brothers. The catholic church is DRUNK with the blood of the saints.

              And she’s trying to re-write that, claiming that the persecution of Christians is a myth. It’s disgusting.

              Furthermore, her attempts to redefine words, and her leaving out important sources, and lying about the extent that Christians were prosecuted by multiple succeeding Roman rulers, is disgusting.

            • Andy_Schueler

              From the article:
              We just had a case of Fox News commentators accusing NBC of persecuting Christians because of a Saturday Night Live skit they didn’t like.

              JohnM´s first response to that:

              See!! THAT IS HER PROJECT! That’s the reason why she’s writing the book. Just like I said. At least read the articles yourself. And stop saying that I’m wrong, when I’m right.ridiculous. And what’s being said about persecution on Fox news is ridiculous.

              And JohnM´s second response to that:

              The American so-called Christians are ridiculous. And what’s being said about persecution on Fox news is ridiculous

              And again, JohnM has become a parody of himself.

              and how she’s trying to white-wash the catholic church.

              And how exactly does she try to do that?

              And she’s trying to re-write that, claiming that the persecution of Christians is a myth

              Are you simply too stupid to realize that “either ALL persecution stories about christians are true or NO persecution stories about christians are true” is a false dichotomy which has nothing to do with her book?

              Furthermore, her attempts to redefine words, and her leaving out important sources, and lying about

              You can accuse someone of being a liar as often as you want, as long as you have no evidence, you are doing nothing but showing off that you are a dick.

            • JohnM

              How many true stories do you need, for it to stop being a myth?

            • Andy_Schueler

              How many true stories do you need, for it to stop being a myth?

              How long do you need to understand the concept “false dichotomy”?

            • JohnM

              You only need 1, Andy. And if I can find one, she’s a liar for calling it a myth.

            • Andy_Schueler

              If you want to demonstrate that you are a moron with no reading comprehension, be my guest (you don´t have to look for it though because she actually talks about real persecution herself).

            • Listen to Andy. It is not whether it happened or not, but the scale. Amongst other things.

            • JohnM

              If there were no persecutions, it’s a myth.

              If the scale is wrong, it’s an exaggeration.

              What was the title of the book again?

            • This is what she (in the early pages of the book) references as representative of modern day ideas of the ‘persecuted church’ (Bishop Jenky):

              “For 2,000 years the enemies of Christ have certainly tried their best. But think about it. The Church survived and even flourished during centuries of terrible persecution, during the days of the Roman Empire.

              The Church survived barbarian invasions. The Church survived wave after wave of Jihads. The Church survived the age of revolution. The Church survived Nazism and Communism.

              And in the power of the resurrection, the Church will survive the hatred of Hollywood, the malice of the media, and the mendacious wickedness of the abortion industry.

              The Church will survive the entrenched corruption and sheer incompetence of our Illinois state government, and even the calculated disdain of the President of the United States, his appointed bureaucrats in HHS, and of the current majority of the federal Senate.

              May God have mercy on the souls of those politicians who pretend to be Catholic in church, but in their public lives, rather like Judas Iscariot, betray Jesus Christ by how they vote and how they willingly cooperate with intrinsic evil.”

              What the ‘myth’ is is that (and I told you this) Christians think this is unique to them. Persecution is not unique to Christianity. In fact, there is precedence in the cultures that Christianity draws on.

            • JohnM

              That’s spoken from a Roman Catholic Perspective. They have never experienced real persecution. They were the ones burning their so-called brothers at the stake, for refusing to participate in their pagan rituals. “Oh my, everone is hating on us because of our pedophile priests. It’s so unfair”.. They have no clue what it means to be persecuted.

            • Enter stage right the No True Scotsman fallacy.

              She is after all a Catholic Scholar working in a Catholic university.

            • JohnM

              Trying to white wash the Roman catholic church.

            • She also references “Persecution: How Liberals Are Waging War Against Christianity” by David Limbaugh as the sort of ideal that modern Christians adhere to.

            • JohnM

              Sure, liberals and society in general are waging war against a Christian faith true to the bible. But that’s not persecution as such.

            • Andy_Schueler

              Sure, liberals and society in general are waging war against a Christian faith true to the bible.

              By “true to the Bible” you mean “what I believe” and by “waging a war” you mean “disagreeing with me”.

            • JohnM

              Nobody can claim that the bible does not speak out against homosexuality. Therefore when so-called Christians claim, that homosexuality is “OK” with their bible, it’s not an interpretation. It’s them “forgetting” to read certain parts of the bible.

            • Andy_Schueler

              Nobody can claim that the bible does not speak out against homosexuality.

              Just replace “homosexuality” by “slavery” and you´ll see how it works.

              Therefore when so-called Christians claim, that homosexuality is “OK” with their bible, it’s not an interpretation. It’s them “forgetting” to read certain parts of the bible.

              Again, just replace “homosexuality” by “slavery” and you´ll see how it works.

            • Do you eat shellfish?

            • JohnM

              I’m not talking about the old testament.

              1 Corinthians 6 : 9-10
              Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men, nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God

            • Andy_Schueler

              Interesting, so you obviously think it was wrong to abolish slavery because the NT clearly states:
              “Slaves, obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord.”
              Colossians 3:22

              “All who are under the yoke of slavery should consider their masters worthy of full respect, so that God’s name and our teaching may not be slandered.”
              1 Timothy 6:1

              We should reinstate slavery, right?

              Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men

              Be a dear and look up the koine greek word for “men who have sex with men” (hint: there is none, this translation is a guess).

            • JohnM

              The new testament talks about how slaves who become Christians should behave towards their masters. It’s completely silent when it comes to whether or not we should have it. Same thing with democracies and monarchies..

              The new testament is not a guide to how we should govern and run society. It’s a guide to how Christians should behave towards others in whatever society that they are in.

            • Andy_Schueler

              It’s completely silent when it comes to whether or not we should have it.

              It clearly says that slaves should obey their masters. Abolishment = slaves not obeying their masters, ergo, abolishing slavery was unbiblical.

              I thought you take the Bible seriously? But you obviously pick and choose like everyone else.

            • JohnM

              If the masters set their slaves free, and they obey.. then slavery is gone. How would one reintroduce it?

              Furthermore, the kind of slavery that we think about, was never an option in the first place. That kind of slavery was based on STEALING human beings from their families in Africa. Stealing is condemned by the bible. And therefore that kind of slavery has always been condemned by the bible.

              The only legal kind of slavery, was taking prisoners of war, and then releasing them after a while, like we did with the germans after the second world war.. Who were used to clear minefield before sent home..

              Or the kind of slavery where one sells ones workingpower, for an amount of money for a limited period of time.. And that kind of slavery is still in use.. Today we call it contract-work.

            • Andy_Schueler

              If the masters set their slaves free, and they obey..

              They didn´t, there was actually a big civil war fought over this issue and they were forced to set them free (thus clearly violating the NT suggestions re slavery).

              Furthermore, the kind of slavery that we think about, was never an option in the first place. That kind of slavery was based on STEALING human beings

              Biblical slavery was either bondship (for jews) or based on abducting (hint: you can´t “steal” humans, you can only abduct them) and selling people from neighboring nations. This was ok in OT, never condemned in the NT – and not obeying their masters was clearly condemned by the Apostle Paul.

              The only legal kind of slavery, was taking prisoners of war, and then releasing them after a while

              Someone has not been reading his Bible…

              Or the kind of slavery where one sells ones workingpower, for an amount of money for a limited period of time..

              If you are not being dishonest here, you really have no clue about slavery in the Bible. The OT has different regulations for jews and foreigners, and what you describe ONLY applies to jews – foreigners were abducted, sold and inherited from a master to his heir.

              You don´t take the Bible seriously on slavery, but condemn other for not sharing your interpretations re homosexuality – and what does that make you? (hint: it starts with an “h” and ends with “crite”)

            • JohnM

              You’re confusing it with slaves who accepted the offer to become permanent servants. And you’re confusing taking prisoners of war, with stealing people in Africa. The European slave ships were not “taking prisoners of war”. They were stealing human beings. And they refused to pay them. And they refused to release them.

            • This old worn-out chestnut. Fail.

              I suggest you read Stark, page 165 onwards. NOW.

              Here for free:

              http://thomstark.net/copan/stark_copan-review.pdf

            • Andy_Schueler

              You’re confusing it with slaves who accepted the offer to become permanent servants.

              ??? I thought you had read the Bible? You clearly didn´t. You are confusing the regulations regarding jews (which were kept as bondservants for a finite amount of time until their debt was paid of) with the regulations for gentiles, which were abducted, sold, could be kept for life (even inherited from master to his heir), and could be legally beaten to the brink of death!
              One of the key passages is in Leviticus 25:

              39 “‘If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and sell themselves to you, do not make them work as slaves. 40 They are to be treated as hired workers or temporary residents among you; they are to work for you until the Year of Jubilee.41 Then they and their children are to be released, and they will go back to their own clans and to the property of their ancestors. 42 Because the Israelites are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt, they must not be sold as slaves. 43 Do not rule over them ruthlessly, but fear your God.
              44 “‘Your male and female SLAVES are to come from the nations around you; from them you may BUY SLAVES. 45 You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your PROPERTY. 46 You can bequeath them to your children as inherited PROPERTY and can make them SLAVES FOR LIFE, but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

              Did you really not know that? You might want to read the OT again…

              And you’re confusing taking prisoners of war, with stealing people in Africa. The European slave ships were not “taking prisoners of war”. They were stealing human beings.

              They were ABDUCTING and SELLING them, which is completely ok according to the OT, never condemned in the NT, while a slave disobeying his master (and by implication the abolition of slavery since this constitutes a case of slaves disobeying their masters) was condemned by Paul.

              You don´t take the Bible seriously re slavery, but condemn others for not sharing your interpretation regarding homosexuality. Hypocrite.

            • JohnM

              Why are you guys suddenly quoting the old testament? We were discussing Paul and the new testament.

              Claiming that I should be in favour of re-inroducing slavery, “if I take the bible serious”, based on what we read in the old testament, is pretty ignorant.

              Don’t you know, that Gentile Christians are not under the law? Those verses only applies to one nation, and that is the Jewish nation of Israel.

            • Andy_Schueler

              Claiming that I should be in favour of re-inroducing slavery, “if I take the bible serious”, based on what we read in the old testament

              No, based on what Paul wrote in the NT – which makes it clear that the abolition of slavery, which constitutes a massive case of slaves not obeying their masters, was unbiblical (as in fact thousands of christian slave owners argued).

              Don’t you know, that Gentile Christians are not under the law? Those verses only applies to one nation, and that is the Jewish nation of Israel.

              This is not a fact, this is your interpretation which millions of christians disagree with (especially because of Matthew 5:17-18). Which is irrelevant in any case because the NT is sufficient to provide biblical justification for a christian slave owner.

              You don´t take the Bible seriously on slavery, but condemn those that disagree with you re homosexuality. Hypocrite.

            • JohnM

              Andy said : the abolition of slavery, which constitutes a massive case of slaves not obeying their masters, was unbiblical

              A slave-rebellion would have been against what Paul wrote in his letters.

              But Slave-owners abolishing slavery ( putting an end to slavery ), by setting their slaves free, is not.

            • Andy_Schueler

              But Slave-owners abolishing slavery ( putting an end to slavery ), by setting their slaves free, is not.

              Irrelevant since this is not what happened.

            • JohnM

              Abolitionism was a movement to end slavery, not by violence but by passing laws and talking slave-owners into setting their slaves free. And Christians played a major role in the abolitionist movement.

            • Andy_Schueler

              Abolitionism was a movement to end slavery, not by violence but by passing laws and talking slave-owners into setting their slaves free.

              Irrelevant, since legal and even military force (in the USA) was needed to end slavery. The vast majority of slave owners wanted to keep their slaves and argued, based on the Bible, that they had every right to do so.

              And Christians played a major role in the abolitionist movement.

              Since there were virtually no non-christians at that time in europe or the USA (not counting native americans and the slaves themselves of course) this is irrelevant.

            • Andy_Schueler

              Btw, you are now at a state where you are only trying to defend the claim that it would have been acceptable, on biblical grounds, that slave owners voluntarily set their slaves free.

              This however is completely irrelevant for the original argument.
              I claimed that we rightfully outlawed slavery (and even ended it by military force in some cases), which was an anti-biblical move, but the overwhelming majority of christians now (not back then when we actually ended slavery) agree that this was indeed the right thing to do.
              You are no longer trying to attack the claim that the Bible did not provide justification for the slave owners that did not want to set their slaves free, meaning that you effectively yielded this point.

              And now, all that remains for me to do, is to point out that the question of the moral status of homosexuality is conceptually the same problem for christians. Just like christians who wanted to abolish slavery had to sweep leviticus and Paul´s comments regarding slavery under the rug, and instead focus more on the “God / Jesus loves all of us” stuff – christians who support LGBT rights are doing the exact same thing, pretend that Leviticus doesn´t exist and ignore Paul, and instead focus more on the “God is love” stuff…
              There is conceptually no difference.

            • JohnM

              Andy said : The vast majority of slave owners wanted to keep their slaves and argued, based on the Bible, that they had every right to do so.

              That’s true. They did try and argue for the preservation of their slave-empire, based on what we read in the old testament. They really thought that they were Jews, living before the time of Christ, under the Law of Moses.. That’s how stupid they were.

              Or.. Maybe they weren’t so stupid? Maybe they were immoral men motivated by greed, perverting the gospel to try and save their slave-empire? Did you ever consider that possibility?

              Andy said : And now, all that remains for me to do, is to point out that the question of the moral status of homosexuality is conceptually the same problem for christians.

              Not at all. You would have to be pretty ignorant about what we read in the bible to think that.

              As if the passages condemning homosexuality wasn’t enough, the bible also states that God created them Man and Woman, so that they could become one flesh. And one flesh is how the bible defines a marriage. So homosexuality is not only adultery, because it’s sex outside of marriage, it’s also rebellion against God’s creation.

              The bible leaves the reader in no doubt as to the “moral status” of homosexuality.

            • Andy_Schueler

              That’s true. They did try and argue for the preservation of their slave-empire, based on what we read in the old testament.

              The NT is and was completely sufficient as justification for christian slave owners.

              They really thought that they were Jews, living before the time of Christ, under the Law of Moses..

              And again, you demonstrate that you simply pick and choose.

              “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved.”
              -Matthew 5:17-18

              And everyone who picks and chooses differently is obviously wrong while you are obviously right.

              Not at all. You would have to be pretty ignorant about what we read in the bible to think that.

              Dude, you are ignorant about the Bible. You didn´t even know the difference between slaves and bondservants in the OT until two days ago, but think you can actually lecture people who did read this piece of crap?

              The bible leaves the reader in no doubt as to the “moral status” of homosexuality.

              The same is true for slavery – the Bible has no problem at all with it and quite clearly condemns the way we actually did end slavery.
              Which means that the Bible is completely useless as guidance to settle any moral questions because it got an easy question like slavery completely wrong.
              But for those poor misguided fellows that still insist on looking for “biblical justification” for their actions, they can simply ignore the stuff they don´t like because all christians do that.

            • JohnM

              Andy said : Matthew 5:17-18

              That’s right. The law is still there. Jesus did not abolish the law. It still serves a purpose.

              But that does not mean, that we as Christians are under the law.

              Romans 6:14
              For sin shall no longer be your master, because you are not under the law, but under grace.

              Christians are not under the law, but under grace.

              Mkkay.. So why do we have it? What’s the purpose of the law?

              Romans 4 : 14-15
              For if those who depend on the law are heirs, faith means nothing and the promise is worthless, because the law brings wrath. And where there is no law there is no transgression.

              The purpose of the law is to proclaim that which is wicked. Without a law, there would be no “illegal” actions.

              Romans 3:19
              Now we know that whatever the law says, it says to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be silenced and the whole world held accountable to God.

              Because there is a law, and because everyone has broken that law… Nobody will be able to say to God: “I didn’t know”. All those who go to God, not under grace, but under the law, will stand guilty as accused. They will have no excuse. That is the purpose of the law.

            • Andy_Schueler

              What do you want to demonstrate by ignoring Bible verses based on your personal preferences and instead picking those that you like and interpret them to mean whatever you want them to mean?
              We already know that you do that.

            • Lincoln was effectively secular and nonreligious when he set out on his political career, defining his abolitionist and egalitarian stance. He became more religious over his life (I think particularly as a result of the death of his son). I am no expert on Lincoln, but I think that is the case.

              Andy is right – the whole world was religious in the time of slavery, so of course many abolitionists were Christian. But the bible was used to defend it.

              Interestingly, as soon as society started becoming more secular after the enlightenment, it also started becoming fairer and less elitist. Human rights and equality seemed to blossom out of secular philosophy.

              At the end of the day, any vicious act and tyrannical regime can support their actions from any number of despicable events in the OT.

            • JohnM

              Jonathan said : But the bible was used to defend it.

              Yes. And the bible was used to burn my forefathers at the stake, because they preached the gospel, instead of pagan catholic dogma.

              The bible has been used to “justfy” almost anything. Why? Because people generally haven’t got the slightest clue what we read in the bible.

              So what’s your point? Because the slave-owners said so, it must be so?

            • Andy_Schueler

              Yes. And the bible was used to burn my forefathers at the stake

              They must have been evil then and deserved this fate – both catholics and lutherans said so after all, and you previously defended the view, that murderers calling their victims “evil”, is all the justification necessary for murder to be righteous.

            • Andy_Schueler

              Why are you guys suddenly quoting the old testament?

              Your complete and utter lack of shame and honesty never ceases to amaze.

              Your first strategy to sweep Paul´s comments re slavery under the rug was:

              Furthermore, the kind of slavery that we think about, was never an option in the first place. That kind of slavery was based on STEALING human beings from their families in Africa. Stealing is condemned by the bible. And therefore that kind of slavery has always been condemned by the bible.

              And now, after it has been demonstrated that this was exactly the kind of slavery that the Bible allowed for – you just pretend that you never said this and we brought it up.

              Your dishonesty is disgusting.

            • JohnM

              I was talking about Europeans stealing people in Africa. You then quoted an OT verse about buying people in neighbouring nations.

              How did buying suddenly become stealing?

            • Andy_Schueler

              For the third time now, you can´t “steal” people, you can only abduct them. And the form of slavery that the OT allows for, is exactly the same as the one practiced by europeans and americans at a later time.

            • JohnM

              No, stealing people in Africa, is condemned by the bible.

            • Let’s have a look at what you originally said before editing:

              !No, stealing people in Africa, is condemned by the bible. Every fool knows that.”

              Of course, Christians used the Bible to countenance slavery (think Curse of Ham) for about 2,000 years. So, either they were all fools, or not everybody did know that.

              Incidentally, have you read Thom Stark yet? This whole conversation is pointless if you don’t read what is pivotal to the argument:

              http://thomstark.net/copan/stark_copan-review.pdf

              P.165 onwards.

            • Andy_Schueler

              No, stealing people in Africa, is condemned by the bible.

              1. You are a lying piece of shit.
              2. This has been debunked three times already.
              3. You are a lying piece of shit.
              4. You can´t “steal” humans.
              5. You are a lying piece of shit.
              6. The Bible enthusiastically endorses this practice.
              7. You are a lying piece of shit.

            • Cue claims of ignorance and unscholarly work (Johntalk for conclusions he disagrees with).

            • Andy_Schueler

              Re 1 Corinthians 6:9

              You should look up several translations. Before the NIV, this was not translated to “homosexuals” or “men who have sex with men”, but rather to “abusers of themselves with mankind”. It is actually unknown what the correct translation is because koine greek has no word for “homosexuals”. Many scholars believe that this word actually refers to men who procure the service of male prostitutes (especially underage ones).

            • JohnM

              Before the NIV, this was not translated to “homosexuals”

              NIV – 2011
              Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men

              ESV – 2001
              Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,

              NASB – 1995
              Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals,

              but rather to “abusers of themselves with mankind”

              That’s the King James Version. And that’s the same thing. Males who abuse each other.. The bible consider homosexuality, males who take turn rape’ing each other.

              And the Greek means the same thing “male lying with a male”.

              Many scholars believe that this word actually refers to men who procure the service of male prostitutes (especially underage ones).

              And by “many” you mean the gay scholar J. Boswell.

              And his views has been demonstrated to be false.

            • Andy_Schueler

              Hint: the translators for the NIV did their work in the sixties, before that, this was never translated to “homosexuals” or “men who have sex with men”.

              That’s the King James Version. And that’s the same thing. Male who abuse each other..

              ….
              And the Greek means the same thing “male lying with a male”.

              Prove it (and publish your work, this has been puzzling translators for many decades – they´ll be glad that you finally figured it out).

              The bible consider homosexuality, males who take turn raping each other.

              Prove it (btw, why should anyone take the Bible seriously if it indeed would say this? We don´t take the OT stuff about rape seriously because it is clearly monstrous to any civilized human being – and your interpretation here is exactly as vile and disgusting (not only to homosexuals, this is also an insult to all rape victims)).

              And by “many” you mean the gay scholar J. Boswell.

              No, the one I was thinking of was actually Dr. Mel White. But this translation has always been controversial – ask any greek scholar.

              And his views has been demonstrated to be false.

              Wrong.

              Btw, I take your silence on the slavery issue in the NT as an approval that slavery should indeed be reinstated since it´s abolishment was clearly unbiblical.

            • Andy_Schueler

              Oh btw, while you are obviously free to express your views in this way, I´d still strongly recommend to never express your views re homosexuality (“men taking turns raping each other”) in front of a woman, an ex-prisoner, or any other member of a demographic group that is likely to have experienced actual rape…

            • Andy_Schueler

              If there were no persecutions, it’s a myth.
              If the scale is wrong, it’s an exaggeration.
              What was the title of the book again?

              And again, you don´t understand how words work. Imagine I would say the following about the movie “Expelled” – “Expelled is a complete lie because there are christian scientists that were not expelled” – you would realize that this would be an incredibly stupid claim to make, wouldn´t you? Now think about this for a second and maybe you realize why your comment is exactly as stupid as my hypothetical critique of “Expelled”.

            • “Furthermore, her attempts to redefine words, and her leaving out important sources, and lying about the extent that Christians were prosecuted by multiple succeeding Roman rulers, is disgusting.”

              THAT is disgusting. HOw you can say such claims of a book you have not read. You haven’t even read excerpts. You have read JP HOlding and then when called out on not having read the source comment, you google and find the article! Man, you are desperate!

            • JohnM

              Does she not attempt to define persecution in such a way, that the law of required sacrifice is not to be seen as persecution?

              Does she not repeatedly fail to mention Suetonius, when talking about Tacitus and Nero?

              Does she not claim that the persecution of Christians was limited to no more than a handful of years?

            • Er, what do you know what she says?

            • JohnM

              One of those is from the podcast. The other 2 are from the article that you linked.

            • “As we will see, the traditional history of Christian martyrdom is mistaken. Christians were not constantly persecuted, hounded, or targeted by the Romans. Very few Christians died, and when they did, they were often executed for what we in the modern world would call political reasons. There is a difference between persecution and prosecution. ”

              Now we know for a fact there were shed loads of forged martyr stories (see the story of Heribert Rosweyde).

            • JohnM

              You forgot the last part:

              Although prejudice against Christians was fairly widespread, the prosecution of Christians was rare, and the persecution of Christians was limited to no more than a handful of years.”

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persecution_of_Christians_in_the_Roman_Empire

              How many Roman emperors does that article talk about?

              There is a difference between persecution and prosecution

              So if there’s a law, it’s not persecution? Seriously, what kind of brain-dead argument is that?

              It doesn’t matter if it was because of a Roman law or not. Reality is, that they were put to death, for believing in Jesus Christ, and refusing to sacrifice to the Roman gods.

            • Andy_Schueler

              So if there’s a law, it’s not persecution? Seriously, what kind of brain-dead argument is that?

              Ok, lets do a quick consistency test – was it persecution if bronze age jews killed people, in their OWN communities, because they violated mosaic law (e.g. worshipping a different God or working on the Sabbath).
              Was this, or was this not, persecution?

            • Andy_Schueler

              What you don´t seem to grasp is, that it can simultaneously be true that some christians are or were persecuted, while other christians lie about persecution they allegedly face or grossly exaggerate it.

              The book is about early christianity, but this is still relevant today, especially in the USA and europe. Christians are indeed persecuted in many african and asian countries, but there is no such thing in the USA or in europe – despite thousands of christians constantly lying about it.

              Examples:
              – US-christians lie about being persecuted because “their children are not allowed to pray in school” (truth: they can pray, but teachers cannot force all children, christian or not, to pray with them).
              – US-christians lie about “not being able to put up displays of the 10 commandments or nativity scenes” (truth: they cannot put them up on public property (just like no other religion is allowed to do that), no one is stopping them from putting them up on private property).
              – Christians lie about being persecuted in academia (see for example “Expelled”)

              Christians have a persecution complex, that´s a simple fact – just as it is a fact that christians actually are and were persecuted. This matter seems to be to complex for your black and white worldview.

            • JohnM

              You’re right. A lot of so-called Christians have a “persecution complex”. And that is because Jesus said the following:

              John 15 :18-25
              “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. Whoever hates me hates my Father also. If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’

              Jesus said, that the messenger would be hated. And so, If one is not hated, one is not preaching the gospel. And that’s basically what’s going on in America.. The prosperity gospel. “God is love.” Nobody is preaching “Gloom and doom” these days. They are all about mega churches, and not upsetting their audiences. It’s pure entertainment, and nothing like what Jesus preached to his disciples.

              Matthew 7:19
              Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.

              When was the last time someone said that in a Mega-Church?

            • Andy_Schueler

              You’re right. A lot of so-called Christians have a “persecution complex”. And that is because Jesus said the following:

              So you find some stupid shit in the gospels which tell you to make up persecution stories even if you are not persecuted?

              Jesus said, that the messenger would be hated. And so, If one is not hated, one is not preaching the gospel.

              Bullshit. There is a very simple way to preach the gospel and not be hated – don´t be an ass. Example: the reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the most beloved characters in human history, because he was a kind, decent and brave man.

              Nobody is preaching “Gloom and doom” these days. They are all about mega churches, and not upsetting their audiences.

              WTF???

            • JohnM

              Bullshit. There is a very simple way to preach the gospel and not be hated – don´t be an ass.

              How do you tell a bunch of stubborn sinners, that they are going to hell if they don’t repent, and get them to love you for it?

            • Andy_Schueler

              How do you tell a bunch of stubborn sinners, that they are going to hell if they don’t repent, and get them to love you for it?

              1. You don´t understand what the word “repent” means.
              2. Not all christians share your view that the christian God is an infinitely unjust and vicious monster.
              3. You won´t be loved for spreading your message of hate, but I doubt that many people will hate you for it. It´s much more likely that people will respond with confusion and pity.

            • JohnM

              You won´t be loved for spreading your message of hate

              I’m merely saying to you, what we read in the gospel.

            • Andy_Schueler

              I’m merely saying to you, what we read in the gospel.

              1. Not interested. I can read for myself.
              2. What you are communicating is your particular interpretation of the Bible. And your interpretation leads to a worldview that happens to be transparently and spectacularly wrong (because you take Genesis literally) and unimaginably vile (although still better than Calvinism, but that´s not saying much given how Calvinism is the most thoroughly evil thought system ever developed).

            • JohnM

              No, it’s not an interpretation. I quote the bible, and you read what it says. That’s why I quote the bible so often. I don’t want you to be able to claim, that it’s my interpretation.

            • Andy_Schueler

              It is an interpretation. You pick and choose, you make decisions about what is literal and what is metaphorical – you interpret, and you have to interpret because the text doesn´t interpret itself.
              Your naive view that your particular interpretation is obviously the correct one (and indeed the view that there indeed is one coherent interpretation spanning the whole Bible, which is a very bold assumption and actually ridiculous on the face of it) is cute, but the world is actually more complex than that.

            • Andy_Schueler

              Dude, how often does Jonathan have to use the word “exaggerated” – NO ONE claims that christians never were persecuted.

            • Andy_Schueler

              motivated by pure hate

              Again, he has an infinitely higher opinion of you, and ANY other christian, than you have of him. If you think he is motivated by “pure hate”, we need a new word (for example “ultra-hate”) to describe what you are motivated by.

              And yes, I do think that WLC’s critique of him is devastating

              Because….?

              and I did spent some time looking into Hectors background, during the time that it all played out

              And you concluded that he is a bad scholar, biased and hateful because….?

              And yes, I’m very familiar with John W. Loftus.

              Loftus didn´t write that post, genius.

            • JohnM

              Jonathan : You get your info from conservative sources entirely, and then throw in a Nat Geo programme to make you sound objective.

              Who’s the real extremist here?

              The guy who claims that everything in that National geographic documentary is a myth?

              Or the guy who insist, that at least the majority of what’s being said by scholars and historians in the documentary, is true?

              I mean.. Just think about how extreme your position is.. You’re claiming that the were no Christians in Rome at the time.. And here we have a group of scholars and historians being interviewed, and they explain in great detail about what according to you, never happened.

              That’s pretty far out…

            • John

              Whilst those are all salient points, and the movement was helped by those factors, the time frame for Nero, as Emperor, to condemn a particular movement in a foreign country for a major catastrophe, which had only began in the backwaters 30 years previously, is too much.

              I have read, and indeed am presently reading up on the start of Christianity. James G Crossley (whom I have also interviewed) wrote a very good book (if sometimes dry) on exactly what you are talking about (Why Christianity Happened, Westminster John Knox Press). I am presently reading A New History of Christianity (Freeman, Yale Press) which is also interesting.

            • JohnM

              Too much? Says who?

              It’s just irrational unbelief, contrary to historical evidence provided by multiple sources.

            • Andy_Schueler

              It’s just irrational unbelief

              You are a young earth creationist who has fallen for some of the most ridiculous conspiracy theories in existence to boot. You referring to any belief as “irrational” makes you a complete hypocrite, by definition.

            • Andy beat me to it.

              Not only do you fail to show how it is irrational, but you are possibly the moat irrational person out there!

            • JohnM

              That’s a red herring. It’s completely irrelevant, what I believe about another topic.

            • Andy_Schueler

              That’s a red herring. It’s completely irrelevant, what I believe about another topic.

              No it isn´t. You are trying to have your cake and eat it too. Your worldview is based on denying >95% of science without any reason beyond “it contradicts my literal reading of the Bible” (i.e. you have no rational reason whatsoever).

              You cannot refer to ANY belief – not even flat-earthism – as “irrational” without being a complete hypocrite.

            • JohnM

              Even if I granted you that, it would be irrelevant. Right now we are discussing history.

            • Andy_Schueler

              Even if I granted you that

              You don´t have to grant anything – it is a fact. And you would be a complete hypocrite even if you were right about this particular issue.

            • JohnM

              Even if it was a fact, it would be completely irrelevant to this topic.

            • Andy_Schueler

              It is a fact and you are a complete hypocrite.

            • JohnM

              Whatever. Stop wasting time with this garbage, and focus on the topic please.

            • Andy_Schueler

              focus on the topic please

              Alright, I hope you don´t mind if I do that using JohnM-tactics:
              “here we have a group of scholars and historians being interviewed, and they explain in great detail about what according to you, never happened.”

              => LOL, argument from authority fallacy, EPIC FAIL!!11!

            • Suetonius wrote later than Tacitus and probably used him, so the point is moot. “Suetonius must have referred to Tacitus’ work and used it to help form his own opinions of the incident. ”
              http://wuhstry.wordpress.com/2012/12/09/the-burning-of-rome-the-contrasting-accounts-of-suetonius-and-tacitus/
              “Historians debate whether or not the Roman government distinguished between Christians and Jews prior to Nerva’s modification of the Fiscus Judaicus in AD 96. From then on, practising Jews paid the tax, Christians did not.”

              Sources: Wylen, Stephen M., The Jews in the Time of Jesus: An Introduction, Paulist Press (1995),ISBN 0-8091-3610-4, pp.190-192; Dunn, James D.G., Jews and Christians: The Parting of the Ways, 70 to 135, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing (1999), ISBN 0-8028-4498-7, Pp 33-34.; Boatwright, Mary Taliaferro & Gargola, Daniel J & Talbert, Richard John Alexander, The Romans: From Village to Empire, Oxford University Press (2004), ISBN 0-19-511875-8, p.426;

            • JohnM

              There’s Thallus, who describes the darkness that fell over the land at the time of Jesus’ death. He attempts to exlain it away as an eclipse. But that explanation doesn’t add up.

              http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thallus_%28historian%29

            • JohnM

              Jonathan : How many people saw a miracle of his? Feeding of the how many? And not one, not one single reference outside of the Gospels.

              Actually, the Talmud describes Jesus as a sorcerer, who performed miracles by the power of Satan.

          • I would hardly consider those three things as verifying historical claims of Jesus actions etc!

            You would have to be specific on ‘names’. Conan Doyle references real people in Sherlock Holmes. It’s whether outside historical accounts or artifacts reference Jesus (Sherlock) in any factual way.

            • I would hardly consider those three things as verifying historical claims of Jesus actions etc!

              Why is Josephus corroborating some of Jesus’ actions not count as verifying the Gospels to at least some extent?

              The other items were examples of things that support the historical accuracy of the Gospels.

              You would have to be specific on ‘names’. Conan Doyle references real people in Sherlock Holmes. It’s whether outside historical accounts or artifacts reference Jesus (Sherlock) in any factual way.

              Here is what I mean.

      • I remember reading that post. I also remember seeing reference to someone writing a paper on it. Do you have any links of such?

    • Jonathan:

      I think the most interesting claim is that Nero would not have persecuted or blamed Christians at the time since the term ‘Christians’ was not used.

      Except the references I gave indicate that the term Christian was used. 1 Peter was even written in Rome. Paul’s letter to the Romans further indicates that Christians were in Rome at the time. For some unknown reason we are to believe that Luke, Peter, and Tacitus were wrong but Moss is right.

      No Christian until Eusebius even references this early persecution.

      Arguments from silence are unimpressive. According to Wikipedia (“Great Fire of Rome”), historians who lived through the period (Josephus, Dio Chrysostom, Plutarch, and Epictetus) did not even mention the fire (it is mentioned by Cassius Dio and Suetonius).

      And the persecution of Christians by Nero is noted by authors prior to or around Eusebius’ time (Suetonius, Life of Nero 16; Tertullian, Scorp. 15; Lactantius, Mort. 2; Correspondance of Paul and Seneca [4th cent.?] 11).

      30 years after his death, and in a different country, a whole class of believers are big enough to be classed and blamed for a great fire; they can be categorised as abominations?

      Paul, Peter, and Acts all attest to the presence of Christians in Rome by the 60s. In fact, Paul and Peter were executed in Rome. 1 Peter, written in Rome shortly before the fire, hints at the dislike some non-Christians had for Christians (e.g., 3:13-17).

      No religion could spread that fast in 30 years that it would move, in an age of slow transport, to another city in another country and have big enough presence that they would be called abominations, and be blamed for the great fire.

      That’s just an assertion made in the face of contrary evidence. There is no law of nature that a religion can only spread so far or to so many people in a specific time period. As Paul’s letters make abundantly clear, people could cover a lot of ground and churches were popping up all over the Roman Empire.

      Of course, none of this talk about the fire changes the fact that Tacitus confirms biographical details about Christ.

      • What, 1 Peter written in Domitian’s reign and in, say, 90 (as according to Brown)?

        John H. Elliott writes: “An attempt to link 1 Peter and the Christian suffering it describes to a general persecution of Christianity initiated by Rome (Beare 1970: 28-38; Windisch-PreiskerKatholischen Briefe HNT, 76-77) has justifiably been rejected by the majority of scholars. 1 Peter speaks of Christians suffering ‘throughout the world’ (5:9) but the first general imperial persecution of Christianity did not occur until 251 C.E. under Decius. Earlier anti-Christian actions under Nero in 64-65 (Tac. Annals 15:44; Suet. Ner. 16:2), possibly Domitian in 93-96 (Suet. Dom. 10-17), and Trajan (Pliny Ep. 10:96-97) were limited in scope to Rome or Pontus and were the product of sporadic local incidents rather than of universal legal proscription. Nor is a state persecution envisioned where respect for the emperor and civil law is enjoined (2:13-17) and a positive outcome of good behavior is anticipated (2:11-12; 3:13-17). The nature of the hostility encountered—verbal abuse and reproach (2:12, 3:16, 4:14), curiosity concerning Christian hope (3:15), anger at the severance of former social ties (4:4)—likewise makes the theory of a state-sponsored persecution both improbable and unnecessary. Details of the situation point rather to social polarization and conflict which was local, disorganized and unofficial in character (Selwyn 1947; van Unnik IDB 3: 758-66; Reicke James, Peter, Jude AB; Kelly Peter HNTC; Best 1 Peter NCBC; Goppelt Petrusbrief MeyerK; Elliott 1981; Brox Petrusbrief EKKNT). As strangers and aliens belonging to a novel cult and exclusive minority actively seeking adherents, these Christians were the victims of the harassment and discrimination regularly experienced by those suspected of posing a disruptive threat to local peace and prosperity.” (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, art. “First Epistle of Peter”)

        or

        If the letter is inauthentic, it was likely written between 70 and 90 C.E., as argued by Elliott and Brown above. But some scholars such as W. G. Kümmel suggest the end of Domitian’s reign (90-96 C.E.), contemporary with Revelation’s supposed date (a time of persecution), while others such as N. Perrin believe it was written under Trajan (because Pliny’s letter attests to persecution against Christians in Asia Minor then). In reply, the majority of scholars contend that the Christians being addressed were not enduring widespread persecution under Roman authority but rather harassment and ostracization by their neighbors.

        http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/1peter.html

        So you could even date 1 Peter as much later. The fact that it refers to Christians can be said to preference a later date.

        • Jonathan:

          So you could even date 1 Peter as much later. The fact that it refers to Christians can be said to preference a later date.

          I argue for the traditional authorship and date of 1 Peter. Also note that your citations accept that Nero persecuted Christians in Rome and mention the tension between Christians and non-Christians.

          Assertion? Name me one other ancient religion that spread that far and wide in 30 years to the point of official recognition by a ruler as such

          Implicit in your question is that if no other ancient religion spread that fast then Christianity did not spread that fast. But that’s fallacious reasoning. Surely at least one ancient religion spread faster and further than all the other ancient religions. It just might have been Christianity. That in no way constitutes an argument against the spread of that religion.

          And, while it might not technically be an ancient religion, Islam did spread quite rapidly and was not merely recognized by rulers but created its own rulers. The transportation options available to the first Muslims were hardly better than those available to the first Christians.

          Christians would have been seen as Jews in this time. A Jewish sect.

          But this is also just an assertion. First, even if they were considered a Jewish sect, they could still have been identifiable (just as one could distinguish between Sadducees and Pharisees). Second, we don’t have explicit evidence of when and where (because it could differ by location) Judaism and Christianity were first considered separate religions. Third, the Tacitus passage might suggest that Judaism and Christianity were seen as different religions in Rome in 64. You are trying to fit the evidence to your theory instead of fitting your theory to the evidence.

          You and Moss need to point to actual ancient sources to support your assertions.

          • Tacitus has traditionally been thought of as accurate here (although Hochart thought it was fraud, in the 19th century). Moss’ point is that this is incorrect. It is not that it is an interpolation, but that it is projectionist. This would lead to a probability of a later date than a Nero dating.

            Interesting is the idea that Tacitus gets Pilate’s title wrong, indicating he was not using Roman records as sources.

            The fact is that Tacitus is used to prove that they were distinguishable, but this is ‘question begging’ because this is the very thing that is being questioned.

            • Jonathan:

              Moss’ point is that this is incorrect. It is not that it is an interpolation, but that it is projectionist.

              A point with nothing in its favor.

              The fact is that Tacitus is used to prove that they were distinguishable, but this is ‘question begging’ because this is the very thing that is being questioned.

              It’s trusting a source far closer to the events than you or Moss. In this case, that source is corroborated by other ancient sources.

              Suetonius wrote later than Tacitus and probably used him, so the point is moot.

              Hardly. Suetonius probably had other sources and it shows that, where he agreed with him, he found Tacitus accurate. On the one hand, you wondered why no one before Eusebius mentioned the persecution. On the other hand, when evidence to the contrary is produced, you deem it irrelevant. You aren’t following the evidence.

              Historians debate whether or not the Roman government distinguished between Christians and Jews prior to Nerva’s modification of the Fiscus Judaicus in AD 96.

              Note there is a difference between the Roman government as an institution and individuals in the Roman Empire. In other words, Nero or the populace could distinguish between Jews and Christians even if the government held no official position.

              But this quote proves my point. There is no evidence that Judaism and Christianity were indistinguishable in Rome in 64, otherwise historians would not be having the debate. The year 96 would merely note the latest possible date that the two religions were considered indistinguishable (in the Roman Empire).

              We know that Christianity was only formally recognised by Romans as being different to Judaism in 96CE. Yet if Tacitus on Nero is to be believed as you claim, this was already the case 50 years before! So Pliny actually supports my case.

              I don’t see how Pliny is at all relevant since he does not mention the fire in Rome or the Fiscus Judaicus. And Tacitus says: “Nero fastened the guilt and inflicted the most exquisite tortures on a class hated for their abominations, called Christians by the populace.” We aren’t dealing with official government designations.

            • It’s trusting a source far closer to the events than you or Moss. In this case, that source is corroborated by other ancient sources.

              So what we have here are three sources from the same time with the same agenda (they did not like Christians) writing about a time when we know for a fact was over 30 years before the society even recognised the group as separate from Judaism.

              You suggest that such a group, a mere 30 years after the death of its leader, managed to spread to another country and another city and have enough followers and apparent visibility to be blamed by its emperor.

              Hardly. Suetonius probably had other sources and it shows that, where he agreed with him, he found Tacitus accurate. On the one hand, you wondered why no one before Eusebius mentioned the persecution. On the other hand, when evidence to the contrary is produced, you deem it irrelevant. You aren’t following the evidence.

              ‘Persecution’ needs defining. And this is Moss’ point. Pliny refers to prosecution, that much is clear. Suetonius refers to ‘punishment’ in one very short sentence, which could mean anything, and one would be hard pressed to give that as evidence for persecution, and Tacitus claims Nero blames them for the fire.

              A rather dodgy version of Tacitus’ account shows up in the literature in the early 5th century (Sulpicius Severus’ “Chronica”) which does not mention Tacitus or Pilate. This casts doubt upon the Tacitus text since:

              “This was written in the early 5th century but not a word about Pilate, Tiberius, Judaea, or Christus. Nor does Severus cite Tacitus as a source. Moreover, when the word “christians” in the only extant manuscript of Tacitus’ work was examined it was shown to say “Chrestianos” ( followers of Chrestus)
              not Christianos ( followers of Christus.)
              1) The blame for Nero having started the fire seems to have missed the attention of every other ancient writer.
              2) Suetonius mentions trouble in Rome during the reign of Claudius at the
              instigation of “Chrestus.”
              3) Suetonius and Tacitus were contemporaries. Suetonius worked for Pliny the Younger who was a long time friend and correspondent of Tacitus’ yet Tacitus’ information on this cult seems to have been fleshed out if we are to accept the Annales passage as authentic.”

              So there are some arguments to say Tacitus’ passage is problematic.

              Talking of Eusebius, do you not find it strange that, even though 12 Christian writers before him mention Josephus (including the outspoken Justin Matryr), that no one until Eusebius’ 324CE reference mentioned the Josephus TF Jesus reference. Given this is early testimony of Jesus, and one would definitely expect mention, its absence is a correct use of the argument from silence.

              Incidentally, though Eusebius talks of persecution, he does not connect the fire or blame of fire to the Christians.

              Note there is a difference between the Roman government as an institution and individuals in the Roman Empire. In other words, Nero or the populace could distinguish between Jews and Christians even if the government held no official position.

              Sure, but this is a pretty useful indication and is over 30 years later.

            • Jonathan:

              So what we have here are three sources from the same time with the same agenda (they did not like Christians) writing about a time when we know for a fact was over 30 years before the society even recognised the group as separate from Judaism.

              I also mentioned Christian sources that confirm the earlier Roman sources. It is mere speculation on your part that society did not distinguish between Judaism and Christianity in 64. So what we have is all the ancient sources agreeing with me and against you and Moss.

              You suggest that such a group, a mere 30 years after the death of its leader, managed to spread to another country and another city and have enough followers and apparent visibility to be blamed by its emperor.

              I don’t merely suggest it, I note that the ancient sources said it happened. Your personal incredulity is not an argument.

              ‘Persecution’ needs defining. And this is Moss’ point. Pliny refers to prosecution, that much is clear. Suetonius refers to ‘punishment’ in one very short sentence, which could mean anything, and one would be hard pressed to give that as evidence for persecution, and Tacitus claims Nero blames them for the fire.

              The exact definition of persecution is unnecessary for my already tangential point. My main point being Tacitus confirms some of Jesus’ life. The tangential point being he accurately describes the persecution of Christians under Nero (at least in general).

              So there are some arguments to say Tacitus’ passage is problematic.

              Can you clarify whether all of your arguments are based on Sulpicious Severus’ writings or whether they are additional, separate arguments?

              Talking of Eusebius, do you not find it strange that, even though 12 Christian writers before him mention Josephus (including the outspoken Justin Matryr), that no one until Eusebius’ 324CE reference mentioned the Josephus TF Jesus reference. Given this is early testimony of Jesus, and one would definitely expect mention, its absence is a correct use of the argument from silence.

              I find the argument from silence in relation to ancient history to be unconvincing almost all of the time.

              Incidentally, though Eusebius talks of persecution, he does not connect the fire or blame of fire to the Christians.

              Let us suppose that Tacitus erroneously connected the persecution of Christians to the fire. So what? He still describes part of Christ’s life and persecution of some kind is mentioned by other sources.

              Sure, but this is a pretty useful indication and is over 30 years later.

              A useful indication of the government’s official position at the time. Nothing more.

      • I don’t contest Rome had Christians. I do contest it was a big enough movement then in 64 to warrant persecution on a citywide scale to the point that Nero would scapegoat them for a massive fire.

      • Assertion? Name me one other ancient religion that spread that far and wide in 30 years to the point of official recognition by a ruler as such,.

        Christians would have been seen as Jews in this time. A Jewish sect.

      • JohnM and Jayman

        Pliny is worrying about the rapid expansion of Christianity as is happening in 112CE (Backgrounds of Early Christianity by Everett Ferguson (Aug 19, 2003) pages 504-596). We know that Christianity was only formally recognised by Romans as being different to Judaism in 96CE.

        Yet if Tacitus on Nero is to be believed as you claim, this was already the case 50 years before!

        So Pliny actually supports my case.

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