Proving a Negative.

“And now for something completely different…”

This isn’t in the vein of my usual topics of interest (history, security politics, immigration, with a dash of theology) but fringe history and archaeology have always been an interest of mine.

A great podcast and blog I’ve stumbled upon is Archaeological Fantasies, which discusses fringe/pseudo-historical nonsense like Afrocentrism, Norse hoaxes, and similar such blarney.

Which is why I find this post (and the two others like it) so fascinating. I stumbled upon it deciding to read through the blog from oldest to most recent.

While I don’t know if the author (who I believe is Serra Zander of the podcast) is still a Christ myth theorist (if no then forgive me for the rest of this quick write up), but nonetheless it is a useful example in contrast. The blog and podcast does an excellent job in poking holes into hoaxes, dismissing cargo cult science and defending the mainstream view of history, not because it is the mainstream but rather because of the integrity of the process of historical and archaeological research. Anyone who has an interest in potential pre-Columbian transoceanic contact, who is of faux-history shows on formerly educational television channels, or simply has a fascination in history in general will benefit greatly by from this podcast and blog. Nonetheless it seems even the most skeptical of minds will accept some fringe pseudo-history when it comes down to it.

And make no mistake. The “Christ myth theory” is, in fact, absolute fringe fantasy. I’ll admit I am not an expert in Near Eastern history of the Second Temple period or early Christianity (my academic background is a mere B.A in History with a pretty heavy focus on early modern Europe and the modern Near East). Furthermore, I’ll lay my ideological presuppositions on the table; I’m a fairly traditional Christian in the Anglican tradition who holds to the creeds of the early Church, namely that there was an actual man named Jesus of Nazareth who was literally born to a Jewish virgin woman named Mary, who literally died and literally rose from the dead, verifying his claims of divinity and thus authority. I realize Christ myth advocates blink at such claims and put them in a big bag along with Bigfoot, Celtic colonization of ancient America and giants.

You know who else thinks both sets of claims (my Christian belief and the Christ myth theory) are total nonsense? Dr. Bart Ehrman, a James A. Gray Distinguished Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Ehrman is no ally of the traditional Christian with such skeptical books like, Misquoting Jesus, God’s Problem, Jesus Interrupted, Forged, and How Jesus Became God. Even Ehrman thinks the Christ myth theory is fantasy. He puts it thus;

[T]here is not a single mythicist who teaches New Testament or Early Christianity or even Classics at any accredited institution of higher learning in the Western world. And it is no wonder why. These views are so extreme and so unconvincing to 99.99 percent of the real experts that anyone holding them is as likely to get a teaching job in an established department of religion as a six-day creationist is likely to land on in a bona fide department of biology.

Ehrman goes on to note that the historical record for such a (at first) minor religious figure is, “pretty astounding for an ancient figure of any kind.”

He concludes;

One may well choose to resonate with the concerns of our modern and post-modern cultural despisers of established religion (or not). But surely the best way to promote any such agenda is not to deny what virtually every sane historian on the planet — Christian, Jewish, Muslim, pagan, agnostic, atheist, what have you — has come to conclude based on a range of compelling historical evidence.

Whether we like it or not, Jesus certainly existed.

I mean no rancor to Zander (if I am forgetting a title there, again, forgive me) of whom I am a big fan. However it is a good cautionary tale: we all can don ideological blinders from time to time.

Archaeological Fantasies

Honestly, when it comes down to it, you can’t prove a negative. So why am I doing this? Ah…

Well I am caving a bit to my fans on You Tube. They’ve been asking for me to focus more on biblical archaeology, and there is a lot of that to do. There are lots of ways that archaeology is abused to move a creationist agenda forward or to simply validate lies. However, it also opens me to a huge argument I wasn’t sure that I wanted to join in on. I mean, people take their religion really seriously, and they get offended really easily when it comes to religion. There really isn’t a way to avoid talking religion if I touch on biblical archaeology, so I guess I need to bite the built.

So why Jesus?

I listen to Point of Inquiry regularly, and a few weeks ago Dr…

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