From: Brian Holtz []
Sent: Thursday, April 03, 2003 6:59 AM
Subject: RE: A question re: Turkel response
BH: To demonstrate which of two possibilities is the case: that you don't know very much, or that you cannot do   "your own research" to re-verify all the things you think you know.

D: But I haven't claimed that things written in the EB are things I know.

That would fall under the first of the two alternatives I identified. :-)
BH: What I care about is whether the assertions I believe are well-defended.

D: Interestingly, that is not something you have so far managed to establish.

Try asserting Jesus' ahistoricity in a peer-reviewed journal, or in a reference text with an academic editorial board, and we'll see whether the consensus for historicity gets defended well.
D: The only source you have offered
You apparently have mistaken me for someone trying to defend the thesis that Jesus was historical.
D: If the EB had, in fact, based their conclusions on the true scholarly consensus, they would have admitted that neither the date nor the location of Jesus' birth can be determined with any certainty but that a critical examination of the evidence from the Gospels seems to suggest that he was born in Nazareth.
That's what they say, as you even quoted me telling you:
BH: They discuss the conflicting evidence and conclude: "There is also historical evidence of a census carried out about 8 BC.   With all of this in mind, many sources estimate the year of birth as 7-6 BC. [..] They note: according to a very old, reliable   tradition, the village of Nazareth [..] was the hometown, and then certainly also the birthplace, of  the 'Nazarene'"
You continue:
Both Matthew and Luke's attempts to place his birth in Bethlehem are clearly motivated by a theological desire [...] makes several claims that are not supported by any non-Christian source [...] admits that Jesus' location of origin (i.e. Nazareth) was a source of  doubt regarding his identity [...]  Of course, if you truly cared about whether the assertions of your sources were well-defended, you would already know this.<bg>
I did know all of this, and in fact most of it is already in my book.
What I have questioned is the wisdom of relying on what you believe to be the consensus of scholarly opinion without making any effort to determine the basis for that consensus.
When one double-checks the basis for the scholarly consensus, one is not "relying" on that consensus.
We should, however, be cautious in accepting their CONCLUSIONS unless we understand the basis.
I  haven't  said anyone should be non-cautious.
BH: Truth is about consistency with the largest majority of the evidence, and part of the   evidence is the aggregate output of the academic process (as distinct from the   opinions of the rabble). Facile mentions of the bandwagon fallacy cannot magically make irrelevant the accumulated body of human scholarship.
D: True
Thank you.
but I've seen no evidence that you are even aware of the nature of that accumulated body of scholarship, let alone the evidence given in the Bible.
There's "no evidence" in my debate with Turkel that I'm aware of biblical scholarship?  There's "no evidence" in my book Human Knowledge: Foundations and Limits that I'm aware of the accumulated body of human scholarship?
Perhaps I have been mislead by your reference to "anonymous" letters attributed to Paul and your focus on the Paul described in Acts as though that was the best evidence of the historical individual.<bg>
You've indeed been misled: by your misunderstanding my referent for "Paul", and by your  uncautious assumption that I consider Acts to be "the best evidence" for Paul's historicity.
BH: you either don't know very much, or cannot re-verify the consensus you accept for all the things you think you know.

D: I'm not sure how you could possibly conclude this

Given what I mean by "know very much" and "re-verify", my statement is true of every human.
EB: many sources estimate the year of birth as 7-6 BC.

D: [..] I don't think you have to be a professional scholar to recognize the numerous flaws in such convoluted reasoning.

Feel free to imagine that you've identified any such flaws, or that the scholarly consensus for Jesus' birthyear is very far from 6 BC.
D: The vast majority of scholars conclude that the historical Jesus, assuming one existed, was most likely born in Nazareth.
D: You "cleverly" inserted another quote from me in reprinting my words (i.e. "The truth is not determined by a vote.") but you seem to have missed the point entirely. My reference to the conclusion of the scholarly consensus was not in an effort to establish the truth of the claim.
Are you denying that if Jesus existed, he was most likely born in Nazareth? My  point -- which you seem to concede -- was not about what you were trying to establish, but about what you implicitly considered to be persuasive support for the clause following your use of 'that'.  Or was it just random that you used 'scholars' instead of, say, 'babysitters'? :-)
My reference was an effort to point out your own inconsistency. For this subject, you have clearly NOT relied upon the scholarly consensus but on an encyclopedia entry.
You're confusing what I rely upon about the nativity details with what I've happened to quote to you as an example demonstrating the consensus of Jesus' historicity.
BH: They note: According to a very old, reliable  tradition, the village of Nazareth [..] was the hometown, and then certainly also the birthplace, of  the 'Nazarene'".

D: So you misquoted them before? If this is what they truly claim, then they have done a better job researching than it appeared when you initially (mis?)quoted them.

Or, perhaps the term 'Judaea' is not quite as precise as you think it is. Or, perhaps the initial one-line description of Jesus is intended to summarize the broad subject of an extensive EB article titled "Jesus: The Christ and Christology". None of these possibilities conflict with my original point that the scholarly consensus considers Jesus historical.
BH: Despite uncertainity over when/where Jesus was born, "the vast majority of scholars" conclude that he was born.

D: True

but, as I've suggested, Doherty makes an excellent case that this claim has been more of an assumption rather than a conclusion based on a critical examination of the evidence.
That Homer was born is an "assumption".  That Jesus was born is hardly a mere "assumption".  Anyone who disagreed with the historicity of anything could always make the facile claim that its historicity is an "assumption".
[Carrier] agrees that Doherty has revealed the majority view to be in serious need of better support and that his contrary thesis cannot be easily dismissed.
I don't doubt that Doherty's arguments should be addressed.  And they will be -- but not by me.
BH: By 'anonymous' I was contrasting your "single   individual [..] attributed to Paul" with Paul of Tarsus.

D: I still don't understand your use of "anonymous"

If all we know of a person is the name attached to his writings, then he is in a sense anonymous/faceless/unknown.
Your initial statement included no reference to either "Tarsus" or "Acts".
In discussions of the New Testament, 'Paul' means the figure who wrote the Pauline letters and is discussed in Acts.
you FIRST wrote: "If we discovered some new epistle that made odd statements about Paul, would you suddenly doubt Paul's historicity?"
Right -- I wrote "Paul", not merely "the author of the Pauline letters".
You didn't specify that you meant the Paul described in Acts until the letter dated April 1st
In discussions of the New Testament, 'Paul' means the figure who wrote the Pauline letters and is discussed in Acts.
BH: Do you claim that everything Acts says about Paul is ahistorical?

D: Not necessarily 

And thus my question about Paul indeed makes sense.

but it should not be taken over or against what Paul tells us in his own letters.

I never said otherwise.
if you had simply checked the website I offered, you would find that the first article begins with the exact quote from Behe's book
I indeed read it -- as you would have realized if you had simply read what I wrote about "a vague and generalized and contentious conclusion [..] quoted without any context".
"There has never been a meeting, or a book, or a paper on details of the evolution of complex biochemical systems." (pg. 179, 'Darwin's Black Box')

Perhaps a more kind consideration of this statement is that it is a significant exaggeration but I find it to be deliberately misleading at the very least.

It indeed leads people to a conclusion that you and I would agree is false, but this statement falls far short of "deliberately lying". Similarly, I wouldn't call your original statement -- that creationism is "reliant on deliberate falsehoods" -- itself a lie, but it is recklessly imprecise and misleading  (in the absence of you identifying a single clearcut "deliberate falsehood" by a first-rate creationist).
I stand by my conclusion no matter how undiplomatically it was worded.
Stand by it all you want, but you're standing there with no visible evidence near either of you. :-)
I'm tired of this tangent. My original statement about creationists deliberately making false claims was specific to the original, religiously motivated creationists and not intended to include the more recent ID incarnation.
I.e. your original statement was recklessly imprecise.
Again, I enjoyed your rebuttal of Turkel and only had a question about your "eminently conceivable" statement. You have answered that question to my satisfaction so I'll continue on in search of information that might weaken Doherty's case.
A big reason why I don't care to debate Doherty is that his thesis has no impact on my worldview. I estimate there's about a 4% chance he's right that Jesus never existed, but that's simply a subset of the much more important thesis that the gospels resulted from merely human phenomena.