Sarah Silverman has a point about gender-fluid Jesus

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Comedian Sarah Silverman poses at The Hollywood Reporter's Annual Women in Entertainment Breakfast in Los Angeles, California on December 9, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

Comedian Sarah Silverman poses at The Hollywood Reporter's Annual Women in Entertainment Breakfast in Los Angeles, California on December 9, 2015. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Danny Moloshok

The seminal analysis the medieval use of female language for Jesus

The seminal analysis the medieval use of female language for Jesus

While I wouldn’t want to argue that my co-religionist Sarah Silverman is a learned theologian, her tweet about Jesus being “gender fluid” has some pretty good precedents in Christian thought. Now, Bill Donohue, I know this may make your head explode, but some very orthodox Christians in the Middle Ages liked to describe Jesus in feminine terms.

Here, for example, are the words of a 14th-century monk named Farne:

…little ones…run and throw themselves into their mothers’ arms…Christ our Lord does the same with us. He stretches out his hands to embrace us, bows down his head to kiss us, and opens his side to give us suck; and though it is blood he offers us to suck and we believe that it is health-giving and sweeter than honey and the honey-comb [Psalm 18:11]. Do not wean me, good Jesus from the breasts of thy consolation [Isaiah 66:11]

And then there’s the famous English anchoress Julian of Norwich, who wrote, “Jesus Christ therefore, who himself overcame evil with good, is our true Mother. We received our ‘Being’ from Him ­ and this is where His Maternity starts ­ And with it comes the gentle Protection and Guard of Love which will never ceases to surround us.”

Of course, it can be argued that such language is “merely” metaphorical. And indeed, medieval writers were not suggesting that Jesus of Galilee was anything but a physical male.

The Grammy-nominated comedian had tweeted to her 7.5 million followers 'MERRY CHRISTMAS! Jesus was gender fluid!' on December 25

But beginning in the 12th century, Western Christians conceived of Jesus in increasingly human terms — as a person whose footsteps needed to be followed, whose sufferings could be taken on. And as a nurturer who functioned in a maternal way towards his devotees. This point, made by the great medieval historian Caroline Walker Bynum  three decades ago in a collection of articles titled Jesus as Mother, is uncontested by scholars these days.

Jesus is not simply a person who lived once upon a time. For Christians, he remains a living member of the Trinity. And in the same way that a physical male — one of the characters in the movie Tangerine, say — can manifest himself as a woman, so it’s clear that, for some Christians over the centuries, Jesus has manifested in feminine terms.

In other words, Silverman’s intuition is correct.

  • “can manifest himself as a woman, so it’s clear that, for some Christians over the centuries, Jesus has manifested in feminine terms.”

    This is how we invent Gods and opine them into whatever we want them to be. The raw materials for creating gods is so cheap it is a wonder they are valued at all.

    Sarah Silverman is an Atheist. She does not believe in a real Jesus at all.
    If she can blurt out wild bon mots about Jesus and have them stick to “valid theology” then there is no valid theology.

  • Jack

    Atheist Max, you’re so fanatical, you seem incapable of discussing the question of whether Jesus was ever portrayed by orthodox Christians as having feminine as well as masculine qualities.

    Mark shows the answer is yes.

    I’d quibble with Mark on one thing, though: The reason Christians were able to paint Jesus as being nurturing as well as masculine is not their belief in His humanity, but in His deity. If they focused on His humanity, it would’ve been more difficult, and less socially acceptable, to do so. What made it possible was the belief that God, having created both male & female in His image, had feminine as well as masculine traits. This is supported in a number of verses in both the Old and New Testaments, where the qualities depicted are unmistakably feminine, not just masculine.

    That doesn’t make God a “she.” But it show that God can more readily be depicted as having both male & female traits than a human male can.

  • Jack

    As far as Sarah Silverman is concerned, she’s simply a left-wing version of Donald Trump. Both thrive from the attention they garner by being deliberately and gleefully controversial.

    Of course, it’s always whose ox is being gored. The same lefties who blast Trump defend Silverman; and the same righties who castigate Silverman rally behind the Donald.

    I think they each deserve each other…..When they come before their Maker on judgment day, He could well decide to throw them together with one another for eternity, so each gets a taste of their own medicine.

  • @Jack,

    “You are so fanatical….God can more readily be depicted as having both male & female traits than a human male…”

    I thought God was Unknowable?

    What is this gender nonsense about? God cannot have a penis. Nor a vagina. Nor a pair of eyes. Nor hair glinting in the sun. Nor a beard which grows and must be shaved. You have ‘depicted’ a nothing which does things – even decides things! According to you and your say so.

    Yet the Imago Dei says humanity is in God’s Image (whatever that means) so God is male and female – however this third sex is not for earthlings! So we are not in his image after all!

    Besides, Paul’s letters were not inspired by an earthly Jesus (“I was taught these things by no man”) and later, Mark’s Fan Fiction was a plagiarism of Homer’s Odessey. There is no *good* reason to believe a real Jesus ever existed.

  • samuel johnston

    The Church has invented another new god (Mary), so the problem is solved.
    They could have portrayed god in animal form, and nobody would have blinked.
    Such is the maliable nature of the subject.

  • Jack

    After reading your post, Max, cynics could accuse me of bribing you to play a cartoon-character stereotype of an atheist. I plead innocent to the charge. You’re just being you, without my providing a dime of material incentive.

    My favorite part of your latest exhibition of buffoonery is the statement, “there is no good reason to believe a real Jesus ever existed.” Besides being a colossal non sequitur, given the topic, it’s also laughably false, so much so that few historians of any stripe that it seriously. A few drooling imbeciles, sure, but mainstream historians put such nonsense in the same category as Holocaust denial or those disputing the reality of the moon landing or Bin Laden’s responsibility for the 9/11 attacks.

    Why? Because, as I’ve said a thousand times, when a document from the past speaks of a particular character, the rules of historical evidence tilt in favor of that person being historical until proven otherwise.

  • Jack,

    “Jesus…a colossal non sequitur”

    How? Sarah Silverman was referencing a MALE Jesus *IF* he existed. The very point of the commentary.

    “the rules…historical until proven otherwise..”

    And this has happened! There is no evidence of Jesus – NONE.
    Paul was the first writer of Christianity and his Jesus was an apparition in the heavens and he said so.

    Mark’s Gospel (he was neither a Jesus ‘disciple’ nor an ‘Apostle’) was the first fictionalized account of a character named Jesus written 30 years after Paul.
    We know Mark’s Gospel is fiction because it lines up 100% with Homer’s Odyssey and Illiad. In some places word for word!

    The later gospels (there are about a hundred) are conflations in the extreme incorporating other myths from the middle east.

    The Male/Female question is just another made up bit of nonsense.

  • “A few drooling imbeciles…same category as Holocaust denial or those disputing the reality of the moon landing or Bin Laden’s responsibility for the 9/11 attacks.”

    I reject conspiracies. The Holocaust, Moon Landing, 9/11 are all supportable claims.

    However the conspiracy about god is rampant nonsense. There is no evidence of God and no evidence of Jesus.

    Furthermore, there is no evidence the Zombies of Matthew 27:52 actually rose out of the ground, no evidence of a resurrection of a man named Jesus, no supportable evidence even of the tomb which was claimed to be empty.

    And we have near conclusive evidence Mark’s Gospel is a rewrite of Homeric Epics (fictions) – right down to the Greek historical provenance of the earliest gospels.

    As for Yahweh, he was listed among the many other gods in the Greek pantheon. He isn’t original. If Zeus is invalidated, so is Yahweh.

  • I’ve noticed in the Bible text that all the feminine images for God are similes, while the masculine and inanimate ones (“Rock”) are metaphors. Remember high school English to know the difference.

  • Fran

    Male and female being created in God’s image means they are both able to reflect the many qualities of their Heavenly Father’s personality such as love, wisdom, justice, and mercy.

  • …and genocide, slavery, torture and rape:

    “Burn your daughter alive” – Yahweh (Lev. 21:9)
    “Any who curse parents must be killed.” (Lev. 20:9)
    “kill homosexuals” – (Lev. 20:13)
    “Kill those with a different religion.” (Deut. 17:2–7)
    “Anyone who dreams anything against God must be killed.” (Deut. 13:5)
    “He who has no penis shall be damned” (Deut. 23:1)
    “Hate them” – Jesus (Luke 14:26)
    “Save the virgins for rape” (Num 31:18)
    “Kill without mercy” (Jer 15:1-7)
    “enslave he who surrenders” (Deut. 20:10)
    “whip slaves severely” – JESUS (Luke 12:47-48)
    “Make slaves of those around you” (Lev 25:44-46)
    “I shall NEVER forgive you” – JESUS (Matt. 25:46)
    “Kill your loved ones for me” – God” (Judges 11:30-1, 34-5)
    “Women, be raped to save your husbands” (Judges 19:25-28)
    “Kill your son for me” – GOD (Gen. 22:2)

  • Doc Anthony

    I don’t believe this. Yet ANOTHER accurate assessment from Atheist Max!

    Better be careful Max, because sometimes, (despite your atheism), you suspiciously talk like a solid common-sense Christian.

    You wouldn’t want your atheist pals to come after you with pitchforks and torches, would you?

  • Doc Anthony

    Just a small clarification:

    I’m specifcally referring to Atheist Max’s post of “Dec 28, 2015 at 3:41 pm”.
    THAT one, was a good post on Max’s part.

  • Garson Abuita

    Yahweh was never part of the Greek pantheon. Canaanite, maybe, if you consider that Israel’s worship of Yahweh is related to the Canaanite worship of El.

  • Jack

    Max, what you posted on whether Jesus existed is a silly non-sequitur because we are discussing the character of Jesus as portrayed in the NT. Whether the character is real or fictional has zero to do with the question at hand — whether his portrayal in the text can be or has ever been portrayed as having feminine traits.

    As for the evidence that Jesus existed, reading comprehension is apparently not your strong suit, but we knew that already. Again, when it comes to issues of historical evidence, such as this one, the burden is always on nay sayers to prove a given figure did not exist than that he did. For the zillionth time, it is the presence of contradiction, not the absence of corroboration, that is required to refute a textual assertion. This is a basic rule of historical evidence, and is similar to the rules of legal evidence: A witness is presumed to be asserting the truth until proven otherwise. Corroboration is nice, but unnecessary.

  • George Nixon Shuler

    It’s funny how it’s the advocates of so-called “Muscular Christianity” who so easily get their fee-fees hurt. Donahue is a charlatan who defends Catholicism as it was supposedly practiced fifty years ago as if it was always practiced that way and uses nothing but argentum ad hominem to oppose social change.

  • Jack

    Max, if you reject conspiracy theories, you will believe Jesus was nonfictional. The NT writings represent Jesus as such, and in order to say they were lying, you have to assert a conspiracy to convince people otherwise. Given the NT specificity as to Jesus, his disciples, the names & places, and even distances between places mentioned in these writings, you have to assert that a group of people concocted the story for contemporaries. Of course, some of the more zany conspiracy theorists say the story was written a century after the fact, but manuscript evidence has refuted that notion. In the 1930s, a manuscript fragment of John’s Gospel was discovered, with scholars dating it no later than 110 AD/CE. That of course would mean the preceding original was written and published in the first century.

    Either Jesus was a real person or there was a conspiracy of some kind. But conspiracy-land is a bad place to be. It violates Occam’s Razor.

  • samuel johnston

    Jack,
    I submit that the Catholic Church is, and has always been, a conspiracy.
    It was certainly in existence prior to 140 C.E. when Marceon of Sinope was excommunicated. Jesus is a Greek name, etc. Unless he spoke Greek, we have none of his words, and we have no written witness testimony as to any of his statements. We do not know where he was born, nor do we know where he lived as a child (Nazarath merely being a guess for an unrecognizable word). The problems just go on and on. Most damming of all, the Church has a subsequent history of systamatic, fraud, selective distruction of records, forgery, and employing magical stories. Even as we speak, they are in the process of creating demigods (Saints) with certified magical actions. Brother Occam, would be appalled!

  • Jack

    Samuel, the word, “Jesus” is the Anglicized version of the Greek translation of the Hebrew word, “Yeshua.” The New Testament was penned in Greek, the lingua franca of that time & place.

    As to Jesus’ words, we have many of them. Read Mark, Matthew, Luke, and John. From a historian’s perspective, there’s nothing off-limits about them. They are all first-century writings that can be subjected to appropriate scrutiny. The fact that their intent is a religious one doesn’t prevent a competent historian from applying the same rules of evidence to them as to any other documents. There is no magical taint on them by dint of their religious assertions. To think otherwise is oddly superstitious.

    Based on reading these documents, we find that Jesus was born in Bethlehem, grew up in Nazareth, and died in Jerusalem. You can contest any of this, but don’t expect to be taken seriously if you violate the cardinal rules of historical evidence while doing so.

  • al taglieri

    I once read a book called “My Jesus”. It was a sad effort to create an idol out of imagination. Christians, and by that I mean those who have repented of their sin and believe in Biblical Jesus, are supposed to have their minds transformed by the scriptures. So, when the scriptures say X, we believe X. Here’s a verse to ponder: “And when eight days had passed, before His circumcision, His name was then called Jesus, the name given by the angel before He was conceived in the womb.”
    Huh? Who knew Jesus was a male baby and underwent circumcision? Now the hypostatic union may indeed be a mystery, but I don’t see any license in scripture to assume that the “fully man” confession is undermined by any other scriptures no matter how badly interpreted by middle age scholars

  • Jack

    Max, one of your problems is that when you say “there is no evidence” about a matter, you have no understanding how rules of evidence work.

    You think, for example, that if the Hebrew Bible is the sole source for the existence of Moses, that means Moses’ existence is in doubt.

    Wrong….

    On mundane matters such as the existence of a character in a purportedly nonfiction piece of literature, the operative assumption is that the person exists until proven otherwise. It is not the absence of corroboration but the presence of contradiction which refutes the claim of existence. So long as nothing within the Bible and no contemporaneous document or bit of knowledge outside of it calls into question Moses’ existence, Moses is presumed to have existed.

    I don’t know how many times this has to be repeated for you to comprehend it. I don’t make the rules of historical evidence, nor do you. They’re what they are. But they’re common-sensical.

  • Ben in oakland

    Moses may be presumed to have existed, but that’s another issue.

    And whether the books of the OT were written by him is another issue still. since he wrote about his own funeral, one may presume that he did not write the books attributed to him.

  • Ben in oakland

    Well of course he was circumcised. The Byzantine empress gave Charlemagne a foreskin of Jesus as a present for his coronation as Emperor. It was a most thoughtful gift.

    There are no less than seven foreskins of Jesus known to exist in rome alone, if I recall. And, though I realize he was god and everything, having more than two foreskins seems excessive.

  • Jack

    Ben, nobody is saying that Moses was the author of words about his own funeral….that’s a red herring.

    Rather, the question is whether corroboration — a second source — is necessary for establishing that someone written about in a text really existed.

    And the short answer is no, it is not necessary. The person is deemed to have existed. What’s needed to refute that contention is contradictory material calling into question that person’s existence. The material could reside within the text itself or in some other contemporaneous source. An example would be Egyptian records of the time which reference the Hebrew Bible and then contradict it. Since there’s nothing within the Bible nor such records outside of it that have yet been discovered, the conclusion is that Moses likely existed.

  • Jack

    Well, Ben, now I know whom to turn to as the foremost expert on the various candidates for the coveted prize of “foreskin of Jesus.”

    Seriously, thanks for your wry humor in the midst of these debates. Have a happy new year.

  • Jack

    Actually, Max, the “male/female question” is hardly “nonsense.” In a way, it’s thought-provoking. It upsets your apple cart, for some reason, but it’s unsettling to more traditional understandings of God as well.

    It is interesting, for sure.

  • Jack

    Wrong, Max. First-century religiously observant Jewish fishermen from Galilee were not likely consumers of Homer’s fiction, nor were they likely to endure subsequent persecution for asserting their own supposed fiction to be fact. Mark Twain doesn’t willingly die for Huckleberry Finn.

    As for the later “gospels,” most were penned by gnostic writers. If you know anything about Gnosticism, you’d realize why they never made it into the New Testament. Gnosticism believed the material world was either an illusion or an evil creation by an evil demigod. In contrast, the New Testament writers accepted the Old Testament claim that the material world was quite real and a good creation by a good God.

    In addition, unlike the four gospels, all of which were first-century writings, none of the gnostic writings were. Every one of them was written long after the apostles were dead. This is significant because they weren’t around to contest them.

  • Jack

    Garson is correct. Some of the titles for the God of the Bible are related to the titles for the old Canaanite gods, not the Greek gods. While the Philistines were probably descended from Dorian Greeks, the old Canaanites gods were worshipped long before the Philistines arrived.

    The difference, of course, is that the God of the Bible was considered a lone God, not a god among gods or even the chief god in a pantheon of gods.

  • Jack

    Also, in relation to Garson’s point, while the Jews likely adopted some of the names the Canaanites used in referring to deity, the Jewish god was considered the only real God, and the Jewish God condemned in no uncertain terms the horrifying & gruesome practices of the Canaanites, which made the depredations of Caligula in Rome 15 centuries later look like Mister Rogers Neighborhood by comparison.

  • Ben in Oakland

    my pleasure, Jack. Same to you.

  • Jack

    Wrong about the empty tomb, Max. Again, your problem is you don’t understand how historical evidence is assessed.

    There is a very high likelihood that the tomb of Jesus was empty soon after his death and his body being placed inside.

    All the authorities would have had to do to stop the Gospel in its tracks was produce the body. The fact that the Gospel swept through Jerusalem and elsewhere, and even made it to Rome testifies to the likelihood that the body was not in the tomb. The fact remains that to this day, there is no natural explanation for how the body was not in the tomb. Every natural explanation thus far has been debunked rather soundly.

    Face it….the tomb was empty. For the past 20 centuries, the debate has been how it became empty. And again, no natural explanation has stood the test of time. A skeptic might say that there is one out there. But thus far, it has yet to be discovered.

  • samuel johnston

    Did Jesus speak to the illiterate multitude in Greek? Unlikely. Did he not die around 30 C.E.? Best guess even for for Q is 70/80 C.E. Who were the witnesses to these events described in the gospels, which were written in the Second Century, all possible witnesses being long dead. Almost every scholar not in the employ of the church (and may who are/were), understand that the Bethlehem myth was created to support the so called prophecies of the O.T. The Nazareth mistranslation is well known. The archeological digs in the old village show that Nazareth was uninhabited during the time in question. The list goes on and on. Believers may swallow the whole story, but to maintain that Modern historical scholarship supports these claims of the N.T., is simply untrue.

  • @Samuel Johnston,

    “The archeological digs in the old village show that Nazareth was uninhabited during the time in question.”

    Excellent.
    It is so refreshing to see someone else around here has a proper education on the historicity questions of Jesus.

  • @Jack

    “Max….you have no understanding how rules of evidence work.”

    Excuse me?
    YOU CLAIM hundreds of Zombies rose out of their tombs. And whoever wrote this drivel (it wasn’t Matthew) is somehow the source of YOUR EVIDENCE?!

    “And the many zombie saints and prophets woke from their death and visited Jerusalem…” (Matthew 27:52)

    You call this EVIDENCE? Proof?
    You are completely disqualified from discussing the meaning of evidence. Whatta ridiculous thing.

  • @Garson,

    EL is brother to the Greek Gods Bethel, Dagon.
    El is also the father of Persephone and Athena (Anat).
    EL is a precursor to the Greek Gods.

    Pantheon of Canaanite Gods:
    Anat, Athirat, Athtart, Attar, Baalat, Ba’al Hadad, Baal Hammon, Dagon,
    El Elyon (EL), Eshmun, Ishat, Kotharat, Kothar-wa-Khasis, Lotan, Marqod, Melqart, Molech, Mot, Nikkal-wa-ib, Qadeshtu, Resheph, Shachar, Shalim, Samayim, Shapash, Sydyk, Yahweh, Yam, Yarikh.

    Elohim, El, Elijah, Jo, Jehovah, Zeus and Jupiter are the same God in many stories.
    Persephone, Athena and Jesus would be related as children of El.

    Yahweh supposedly made it clear that none of the other gods should be worshipped. Yahweh never said they didn’t exist!

    “Let US make him in our image..” – YAHWEH and Others

    Modern people should have no use for any of it.

  • samuel johnston

    Addressing the reliability of ancient documents: A recent archeological dig in Israel by Israeli experts, unearthed many stunningly beautiful and sophisticated art objects (according to expert opinion) originating from the Philistines, of David and Goliath fame. The slander of the Philistines is honored today by the use of the term in our language to indicate the opposite of sophistication, proving once again that stories without cross references, are always suspect. Some great “victories” depicted on the walls of Egyptian temples, have been demonstrated to be false, by the decoding of detailed Sumerian diplomatic correspondence. The Masada legend has not been supported by the digs at that site (no human remains). The list of ancient falsefications in the Middle East is as endless as those of our own time. “If you want to understand the past, look about in the present (it is still going on).

  • Garson Abuita

    Max, yes the Greeks might have borrowed Anat, and Anat was the daughter of El, but that doesn’t make El part of their pantheon and it doesn’t mean Zeus and El are the same deity.

  • Ben in oakland

    From a historians viewpoint, Jack, these cannot be considered historical documents. There are too many conflicts, historical and theological, in the four gospels. There are obvious additions and interpolations. For example, there is the uninspired tampering in mark with the retelling of the feeding of the multitude that was told much better in the sixth chapter.

    And all of the myths about Jesus have no reference in the earlier letters of Paul. He neither knew nor cared about the choirs of angels, the virgin birth, the transfiguration, or the annunciation. And all of those stories were common to nearly every religion that came out of the east. Paul himself said that he had the only true gospel, and that all others were bound to be lies, indicating that the theological disputes among early Christians were already in full flower long before the 4 gospels were written.

    Believe as you wish, but don’t claim historicity as your support.

  • Jack

    Samuel, has anyone said that Jesus spoke Greek? I haven’t. He likely spoke Aramaic and Hebrew. Greek being the lingua franca of that part of the world, though, it makes sense that the Gospel writers, in order to get their message out beyond one particular country, ie Israel, would have used Greek for that purpose. That’s why the NT was written in Greek and that’s how the name “Jesus” arose, again, as an Anglicization of the Greek translation of the Hebrew word, “Yeshua.”

    As for your claim that the Gospels were written in the 2nd century, you’re at least a half century behind the times in terms of scholarship. William Albright, the dean of biblical archeologists, long ago wrote that not only the four gospels, but every other book of the New Testament was written well within the first century. And since Albright, an avalanche of scholars have concurred. It appears you’re reading the Donald Trumps of biblical scholarship, the kooks on the fringes.

  • Jack

    Ben, there’s nothing wrong with analyzing a document for material inconsistencies, either within itself or compared to other documents. That’s fair game. Agreed. It’s the “presence-of-contradiction” method and it’s how historians test veracity.

    What I object to is the “absence-of-corroboration” argument that says that because document A says something and there is no corroborating document, it must be false in what it asserts.

    We can debate whether and to what extent key claims in the Bible do or don’t contradict themselves or anything outside of it. Again, that’s fair and that’s how historians work. What isn’t fair is to deny a document’s credibility or veracity simply because no other document exists to corroborate it.

    Again, legal evidence works similarly, If a witness is the sole witness, that alone doesn’t impeach his or her testimony. We need more….we need a material contradiction within that person’s testimony or beyond it.

  • Jack

    As to whether the Gospels are “historical documents,” Ben, you’ve read one side, that of Bart Ehrman or like-minded writers. Also read Blomberg, a friend of Ehrman, who disagrees (agreeably).

    I concur with Blomberg and others that radical skeptics, including Ehrman, are making one big mistake. They’re playing “gotcha” games, abandoning the normative textual approach which tries to give a writer the benefit of the doubt when possible contradictions arise. Benefit of doubt is the standard that fair-minded people use when interpreting each other. If you say something that may contradict what you previously said, the honorable thing to do is to ask you to clarify. If you’re an ancient writer who’s dead, the next best thing to do in your absence is try your best to reconcile the apparent contradiction. Shouting “a ha, gotcha!” is a skeptical approach, but hardly an objective one. There’s a big difference here between skepticism and objectivity.

  • Jack

    The other thing, Ben, is that to designate the writings concerning Jesus as “myths” presumes mutual agreement on the very thing we’re debating — whether they are or are not myths. It presumes that the matter has been settled, when clearly it has not. World-class scholars are found on all sides of the issue, and the honest ones acknowledge the existence of those on the opposite side.

    As to claiming historicity as support, obviously I do or I wouldn’t believe what I am saying. As I’ve said, Ben, you have read one side of scholarship or of writers who popularize what that side is saying. If you read both or all sides, you’d realize it’s nowhere near as simple or as settled as you claim.

    You need to read all sides.

  • Jack

    There’s a fine line, Ben, between skepticism and the weaving of elaborate conspiracies, and the problem with much of the skeptical (as opposed to objective) approach is that it requires the reader to believe a host of conspiracy theories, ie this person lied to that one who conspired with a third person who was part of a group of liars who tried to put it over on these people who pretended to be writing a century earlier than they actually were, etc, etc.

    This is the sort of methodology that no serious historians would accept when analyzing any other texts. It’s subjective and speculative on the extreme, and it contradicts how the history profession normally operates.

    Moreover, the approach is outdated. It’s over a century old and finding after finding, from archeology to linguistics to modern biblical studies, have put major dents into its speculations. There are dozens if not hundreds of books which deal with this problem.

  • Jack

    The Nazareth speculation is the “argument-from-silence” mistake….a close cousin of the “absence-of-corroboration” error.

    A dearth of material about first-century Nazareth hardly proves there was no first-century Nazareth.

    Rather, the mere mention of an inhabited Nazareth in the first-century documents known as the Gospels leads any competent scholar to assume there was a Nazareth until proven otherwise, even if there were no other first-century mention of it. The reason is commonsensical: People have better things to do than make up imaginary habitations. And since every one of the Gospels was written in the first century, it would be the height of folly to expose one’s self to the ridicule of contemporaries or their offspring if no such place was inhabited.

    As to the archeological evidence, again, read all sides, not just the one purporting to support your own views. Most scholars believe Nazareth was inhabited during the first century.

  • Jack

    Samuel, you’re right about the Philistines; they were anything but knuckle-draggers in terms of culture and civilization. Again, they were likely descended from sea-faring Dorian Greeks. But cultural sophistication and unrelenting cruelty and brutality are not mutually exclusive. Human sacrifice is one example. Worship services that involved torturing of war captives, including children, for the amusement of the worshippers was another.

    Throughout the ancient Middle East, great civilizations emerged. But nearly every one was unspeakably depraved in terms of ethical conduct. Nearly every one of them sacrificed infants to the gods.

  • Jack

    Ben, reread your post….too many arguments from silence. That’s a no-no to historians and other scholars.

  • Jack

    Thanks for unwittingly highlighting my point, Max.

    To say that “there’s no evidence that Jesus existed” is to shift burden of proof from you to the text that mentions him and his life. Once a person is mentioned in any context in any work which attempts to be nonfictional, the burden rests on others to contradict it, not on supporters to corroborate it. Again, that’s Historiography 101.

    While there is in fact corroboration beyond the Gospels that Jesus existed, even if there was nothing of the kind, it’s your burden to prove he did not exist. That’s how historical evidence works. You need to find something affirmative from the first century that directly challenges the claim that Jesus was a real person.

    No such thing exists. Good luck in finding one.

  • Jack

    Max, to confuse the wild speculations you cite with sound scholarship is like equating witch doctors, shamans, and blood letters with medical researchers at the Cleveland Clinic or Johns Hopkins.

  • FlowerPower1234

    Oh… if ever there was a god, SHE was most certainly a SHE. All humans are at least half female. Women have XX (female female) chromosomes and men have XY (female male). And Adam and Eve? Piffle! No god of any gender would plunk a man made from dust and thin air down on earth, penis and all, then have to create a woman for him as an after thought, AND have to use that man’s body to make her! Utter fairy tale.

  • FlowerPower1234

    Well, that’s mighty convenient then (as usual in Christianity) that your character is invisible.

  • Garson,

    “Greeks might have borrowed Anat, and Anat was the daughter of El”

    This is becoming a mess.
    Yahweh (as named) is not in the Greek Pantheon. But Yahweh originated with Ja-ve, Jehovah, Jupiter and EL. Zeus is the same god as Jupiter which is the same god as Jehovah.

    In short, The Greek Gods of Olympus moved elsewhere whenever other cultures wanted them to.

    If you are a Christian you should examine this progression of Gods so you become a proper ATHEIST and know why this god stuff is nonsense.

  • FlowerPower1234

    “… their Maker,” Ah, ha, ha, ha, ha! Please tell YOUR maker thank you for creating a hate-filled world with hate-filled people made in his image, and tell him if he had any guts whatsoever he wouldn’t play games with people’s lives, or get his jollies by allowing war, terrorism, poverty, hunger, homelessness, crimes like rape and murder, disease and suffering. Tell him thanks a lot for sacrificing his made-up son, ask him if that was the only thing he could think of to erase his creation’s sins or if he just loves watching people die, and see if he actually thinks that has done a damn bit of good. Then tell him there is no such thing as judgement day because any god who would treat his children the way he has, who threatens, belittles, and forces them to hate their mothers, hate their fathers, hate their spouses and children and only love him, is a gigantic egomaniac and a downright ass.

  • Ben in oakland

    But Jack…

    Do you see what you did? You accuse me–moi!!!– of assuming that the various Christian miracles and theologies are all myths. I merely pointed out that Christianity in the gospels has a great deal of similarity to all of the miracles and theologies of all of these other religions, some of which are still extant in the world. In other words, you assumed that the Christian story is true, and all of those other religions are mythical. Sauce for the goose and all that.

    You’ve described the difference between an atheist and a true believer– one religion.

    The ahistoricity of the gospels is my point. Not the truth or falsity of Christianity. We know of additions, subtractions, interpolations, and contradictions of fact, not to mention, contradictions in theology. We know the gospels came after Paul, and did not inform his faith.

    For you, the choice is Jesus as madman or King. A practical person adds legend or business model.

  • samuel johnston

    Honest Scholarship requires disinterestedness before judgement.
    A lawyer knows when he is an advocate, and when he is a judge. He knows that with every case there will be an opposing advocate of comparable ability. He looks for evidence, but he also looks for bias. Successful impeachment consists of destroying the witness’ credibility. If a witness has a record of say -lying and forgery- the testimony may be discounted. Marcion was accused by the Church in Rome of forgery. He claimed to have a copy of Luke that was older than the one the Church was using at the time. Marcion was also opposed to incorporating the old testament into Christianity. After his excommunication, he founded his own Church which remained in existence for the next thousand years. We do not know if Marcion was truthful, but we do know that the Church has a record of destroying it opponents by fair means and foul, more viciously than any Mofia or other criminal organization. For good reason It has no…

  • Garson Abuita

    Yes Max, it’s messy but I appreciate the chance to clarify. Of course Zeus and Jupiter were the equivalent chief sky deity in Greek and Roman worship, respectively. But there’s no connection between them and Yahweh, other than being the chief god (or only god, after the Israelites finally adopted monotheism). In fact, the name Jupiter is derived from the Latin iu-pater — God the Father! But I hope you’re not saying that Jove (the anglicization of Iu) is linguistically related to Yahweh. It’s not.
    The Israelites’ worship of Yahweh may be connected to the Canaanite worship of El, their chief deity. Of course, Judaism today views “El” as simply a name of the one true God, not a separate deity.
    Yahweh, Jehovah, Ja-ve — these are all educated or uneducated guesses on how to pronounce the name YHVH as found in the Torah. There is no J consonant in Hebrew. No one alive today knows the correct pronunciation, as the Torah, like modern Hebrew general, is written without vowels.

  • samuel johnston

    For good reason It has no credibility.
    Jack says: “Benefit of doubt is the standard that fair-minded people use when interpreting each other.” But since when has the Church been fair minded? Since when is a committed advocate (a Christian) going to give the benefit of the doubt to that which does not support his position? When is Jack going to tell us what evidence it would take for him to change his mind? Even Max would agree to credit the supernatural, if it would unambiguously show itself. A Church that still declares new miricles (supernatural events) has no credibility to “fair-minded people”. I rest my case.

  • Jack

    Samuel, if your point is that the history of Euro-Christendom was in many way, a horror show, we agree completely. I’ve said so repeatedly. If your point is that Christians, however defined, can be some of the worst hypocrites on the planet, again we agree. I and people I care about, both Christian and non-Christian, can readily attest to what that means in real life.

    But if you’re attempting to use the hypocrisy of Christians and/or the Church as a pretext for violating every rule of fair play and scholarship when looking at Biblical texts, we obviously part company. Try that game with someone else. It doesn’t work with me nor should it work with any fair-minded person, irrespective of the content of that person’s beliefs.

  • samuel johnston

    Jack,
    I am not blaming the victims, as you seem to be alleging. “attempting to use the hypocrisy of Christians and/or the Church as a pretext for violating every rule of fair play and scholarship when looking at Biblical texts,” The facts show:
    1. The victorious sect of Christianity became the Roman Church. (Why Rome? Because the Romans lusted for power -always. Jesus did no preaching in Rome. Paul, a Roman never even met Jesus, the real man, and certainly took no interest in him.)
    2. For that Roman leadership, power was/and still is the principal goal.
    3. The “faithful” are mere victims of this criminal conspiracy.
    4. Roman Christians may have personal beliefs, but not if they conflict with Church doctrine or interests.
    5. Some of the Church leadership actually believe that they are doing “good”, that mankind needs to be governed, and they offer the best hope for a better world. Many of the leadership believe only in their own self interest.

  • samuel johnston

    Cont’d
    Just look at Joseph Ratzinger.
    6. The Protestant revolt was bloody and Protestants were well known for their intolerance and persecution of each other, as well as the Catholics.
    7. Doctrinally the Protestants were in a bind. They tried to go around the Roman Church
    but were unable to obtain information independently of the Romans, so they invented this myth of pristine early Christianity and interpreted the highly processed and unreliable writings which the Roman Church put together in 419 C.E., as if they were endorsed by the Christian God. The Roman Church never took any such position, since they held that their group itself had been given the final authority by God. To consider these writings as anything but Propaganda (look up the history of that word) is naive in the extreme.

  • samuel johnston

    F.P.
    Yours is a worthwhile question. If their god is all powerful, he can fix it- so why doesn’t he, and more to the point – why did he make such a mess in the first place?

  • Ben in oakland

    Question 1: Free will. Ours.

    Question 2: Free will. hIs.

    Question 1: we’re so awful we made god kill himself.

    Question 2: he is sort of like Tom Sawyer. He could fix it if he wanted to, but he doesn’t want to, because we,re so awful we….

  • gord

    sorry but Jesus was male, that is quite clear in the Scriptures. After reading this I guess I have a good reason for not sending my kids to Trinity.

  • “After reading this I guess I have a good reason for not sending my kids to Trinity.”

    What more?

  • John Hobson

    Thank you for that meaningless selection of contextless and dubiously translated snippets of sentences. All you are doing is showing that you are an atheistic bigot.

    There are genuine and meaningful attacks one can make on religion in general and Christianity in particular. But you choose not to make them. Nor do you choose to address the topic.

  • John Hobson

    In Catholicism at least, one of the arguments made against the ordination of women is that they cannot present a proper imagio Christi. See the Vatican position paper on the subject, Inter Insigniores. That Christ is both man and woman shoots a major hole in this, to go along with the other major hole: That Christ was incarnated as male is more important than that he was incarnated as a human being — what we lay people call “sexism”.

  • Larry

    Well that was nasty in an inappropriate manner. Typical Jack. There is a big difference here. Silverman is a comedian. She tells jokes and doesn’t expect people to take her seriously. Trump expects people to take him seriously and is a living joke.

    There is nothing funnier than seeing you frothing at the mouth here. Jack, there is no objectively credible evidence for anything in the Gospel. There wouldn’t be. Most writings at the time which were not preserved by Romans would not survive. Even the Gospels say that Romans didn’t really pay much attention to Jesus and pals.

    “The fact remains that to this day, there is no natural explanation for how the body was not in the tomb”

    Other than the site being called “the tomb” long after the fact. The devout “tramp stamping” the location.

    There is a site in modern day Cadiz that used to be considered the Tomb of Hercules dating back thousands of years. No body is found there either. Explanation, Hercules ascended to…

  • Dr. Noah Body

    How hypothetical of anyone in the western world to get upset over a comedienne’s comment about a religious icon. What was our reaction to the terrorists who murdered Charlie Hebdo staff in Paris because they published cartoons portraying the prophet Mohammed? We condemned them outright for having no sense of reasonableness or humanity. Sarah Silverman makes a crack about Jesus? If you don’t like it, try not to lose sleep over it and don’t read any more of her stuff…..but for Crisakes (see what I did there?)….move on!

  • Dr. Noah Body

    ummm I meant how hypocritical…not hypothetical. My bad.