Once again, since I am in a masochistic mood, and also since I was asked, we now have a look at another one of those wacky Christ-mythers, this time one Kenneth Humphreys, owner of "jesusneverexisted.com". No, there's nothing new here; all we really have is a lot of yelling and screaming of outdated, irrelevant, and just plain stupid arguments; so we'll pick three areas to work over to show just how incompetent Humphrey Dumpty is and how little attention he needs.
Fall #1: The Secular References. Nothing much here not already pounded to dust in our extensive series. We'll pair what we have from there with what Humphrey Dumpty offers here:
Humphey Dumpty also has a list of "anomalies" he thinks require a panic button, but all are based on an "all or nothing" view of interpolation as opposed to the "partial" interpolation theory held by the consensus. This though is false:
In fact, Josephus relates much more about John the Baptist than about Jesus! He also reports in great detail the antics of other self-proclaimed messiahs, including Judas of Galilee, Theudas the Magician, and the unnamed 'Egyptian Jew' messiah.
Huh? In English translations, which ought to be a decent gauge of the original, Josephus has all of 222 words about John, but Herod is a secondary character who makes the text longer. The TF, plus the second reference to Jesus, if we take out likely interpolations, has about 100 words. The description of Theudas has 124 words ("great detail"???). Judas himself gets 228 words. So what's this all about?
Also of course the old "out of context" objection, which has been done time and time again: This is a favorite objection, but it comes from people who obviously have not read very much of Josephus! As Thackery opined, Josephus was a "patchwork writer," one guilty of "inveterate sloppiness." [Meie.MarJ, 8] ... This is the outline of events under Pilate as given by Josephus [Maso.JosNT, 163-4 - using newer outline system for Josephus]: * 18.35 Pilate arrives in Judea. * 18.55-9 Pilate introduces imperial images in the Temple, causing a ruckus. * 18.60-2 Pilate expropriates Temple funds to build an aqueduct.* 18.63-4 The Testimonium appears.* 18.65-80 An event set in Rome, not involving Pilate directly, having to do with the seduction of a follower of Isis in Rome. * 18.81-4 An account of four Jewish scoundrels; also not directly involving Pilate. * 18.85-7 An incident involving Pilate and some Samaritans.* 18.88-9 Pilate gets the imperial boot. As can be seen, this is by no means a set of connected events. Pilate has a role in all of them; but it is not even certain that Josephus is giving these events in chronological order. Even Lowder has ditched this one, as has the Christ-myther Doherty.
Humphrey Dumpty also makes the odd claim that the use of "to this day" confirms that this is a later interpolation, because Christianity did not get off the ground until the second century! Humphrey Dumpty has other items just as wacky that argue for this premise, but we'll stick to the present topic.
Much more a credentialed expert, Humphrey Dumpty also dismisses the value of the "Arabic Josephus" version of the TF. Though Josephan and Biblical scholars universally hail this as positive evidence for an uncorrupted form of the TF, Humphrey Dumpty trumps them all with his sideline expertise, suggesting an unevidenced conspiracy to likewise interpolate in this version.
Finally, what of the shorter "Jamesian Reference"? It is quickly waved off because 1) "it is dependent upon the earlier (false) reference for explanation" – though in fact, a) this is actually proof of an authentic form of the TF being in existence, and b) a high-context society would not see such a dependence as needed; 2) because it actually refers to "Jesus, the son of Damneus, high priest"! Humphrey Dumpty arrives at this conclusion by means of a convenience that this passage too was interpolated, and so once again the theory is allowed to contrive with the facts when the facts will not cooperate.
Suetonius, the rabbis -- since we find little value in these references ourselves, we will not address Humphrey Dumpty's points here, other than some points re Suey that do affect Tacitus:
Christians in Rome during the reign of Nero (54-68 AD) ?
Would (could) Nero have made such a fine sectarian distinction – particularly since there was no identifying faith document (not a single gospel had been written) – so just what would 'Christians' have believed? Even St Paul himself makes not a single reference to 'Christians' in any of his writings.
Of course a sect hardly needed "identifying faith documents" (especially in an age when literacy was less than 10%) to be regarded as distinct; and at any rate, Humphrey Dumpty certainly won't be able to answer anything on the authenticity of the Gospels. Paul also does not need to use the word "Christians" -- his references to the Body of Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 10:16, Eph. 4:12, etc.) and his treatment of believers in Jesus as a differing social body (as in Romans) show that he did make an equitable distinction. Thus:
The idea that a nascent ‘Christianity’ immediately faced persecution from a cruel and bloodthirsty pagan Rome is an utter nonsense. For one thing, it is only in the last third of the 1st century AD, that Christ-followers emerged as a separate faction from mainstream Judaism. Until then they remained protected under Roman law as Jews. The irritation they caused to their more orthodox brethren meant nothing to the pagan magistrates.
...this is based on a false premise; and other than that, Nero, not instiutional Rome, is the one in view, and he was certainly lunatic enough to do the cruel and bloodthirsty things required. (Also, is Humphrey Dumpty oblivious to the fact that only 3 years later, those "protected" Jews began to be slaughtered in a war with Rome???) Which leads to:
Tacitus: Again, no shock here; Humphey Dumpty spins his shell in circles, claiming there was yet no "Christian" movement; there is also the usual canard about a "great crowd" we have answered: This is rather an empty objection that merely assumes what it sets out to prove! Even so, what does Tacitus mean here by a "great multitude"? 50? 100? 500? Is it a relative term for, "a great multitude, in respect to the crime committed"? (I.e., if we arrested 50 people for holding up a corner gas station, does that seem like a "great multitude" to arrest for such a relatively minor crime?) There is simply no force behind this objection, for it lacks specificity. But Humphrey Dumpty truly falls off the way by stumping for the idea that this passage from Tacitus is a forgery! -- a conclusion rebuked by every single historian and Greco-Roman scholar. Also hoisted is the "procurator/prefect" canard which we have answered, and noted that even infidels.org has dumped this one overboard: Meier notes [Meie.MarJ, 100] that in a "backwater province" like Judea, there was probably not much difference between the two roles. This assertion is backed up by literary evidence. Philo and Josephus were not consistent in the usage of the terms either: Josephus calls Pilate a "procurator" in Antiquities 18.5.6, the story about Pilate bringing images into Jerusalem. In practical terms, "both the procurators and prefects in Judea had the power to execute criminals who were not Roman citizens." [VanV.JONT, 48] Practically, in this context, "A difference that is no difference, is no difference." (For what it is worth, the Secular Web's Richard Carrier has now stated: "It seems evident from all the source material available that the post was always a prefecture, and also a procuratorship. Pilate was almost certainly holding both posts simultaneously, a practice that was likely established from the start when Judaea was annexed in 6 A.D. And since it is more insulting (to an elitist like Tacitus and his readers) to be a procurator, and even more insulting to be executed by one, it is likely Tacitus chose that office out of his well-known sense of malicious wit. Tacitus was also a routine employer of variatio, deliberately seeking nonstandard ways of saying things (it is one of several markers of Tacitean style). So there is nothing unusual about his choice here." [Also] Tacitus may have used an anachronistic term for his own reasons. The first reason may have been to avoid confusion. Sanders [Sand.HistF, 23] cites inscriptional evidence that the position held by Pilate was called "prefect " in 6-41 A.D., but "procurator" in the years 44-66, so he deduces that Tacitus was simply using the term with which his readers would be most familiar. (This is a far better point than we may realize: Being that Tacitus' readers were - like he had been - members of the Senate and holders of political office [Dor.Tac, 64] , we must suppose that this "error" escaped not only Tacitus' attention, but theirs as well! We may as well suggest that a United States Senate historian's error of the same rank would pass without comment!) The second reason for this use of terminology may be deliberate anachronizing on Tacitus' part. Kraus and Woodman [KrWoo.LHn, 111] note that Tacitus often uses "archaizing, rare, or obsolete vocabulary" and also "avoids, varies, or 'misuses' technical terms." They do not cite the prefect/procurator issue specifically, but it is worth asking, in light of this comment, if the usage might not have been simply part of Tacitus' normal practice. (In fact, Harris [Harr.GosP5, 349] does indeed suggest a conscious [or unconscious] anachronizing.)
It speaks for how badly out of touch Humphrey Dumpty is with modern scholarship that he quotes Gibbon as his primary source! Gibbon's idea that "Christians could have been identified as a group distinct from Jews at so early a date" is an absurdity that no present-day scholar of history or Biblical studies would stand for.
Fall #2: The Lost City of Nazareth Humphrey Dumpty stumps for the idea that Nazareth did not exist in the first century. Let us note first the positive rebutting data, as Miller provides:
"Despite Nazareth's obscurity (which had led some critics to suggest that it was a relatively recent foundation), archeology indicates that the village has been occupied since the 7th century B.C., although it may have experienced a 'refounding' in the 2d century b.c. " ([MJ]A Marginal Jew--Rethinking the Historical Jesus, (vol 1), p.300-301)...cites Meyers and Strange, Archeology, the Rabbis, and Early Christianity, Abingdon:1981. pp.56-57
Although I do not have the Meyers/Strange work, more detail from it is given by Paul Barnett[BSNT], Behind the Scenes of the New Testament, IVP:1990, p.42:
"Despite the Hellenization of the general region and the probability that Greek was known to many people it seems likely that Nazareth remained a conservative Jewish village. After the Jewish war with the Romans from AD 66-70 it was necessary to re-settle Jewish priests and their families. Such groups would only settle in unmixed towns, that is towns without Gentile inhabitants. According to an inscription discovered in 1962 in Caesarea Maritima the priests of the order of Elkalir made their home in Nazareth. This, by the way, is the sole known reference to Nazareth in antiquity, apart from written Christian sources... (next paragraph) Some scholars had even believed that Nazareth was a fictitious invention of the early Christians; the inscription from Caesarea Maritima proves otherwise."
The Anchor Bible Dictionary also reports evidence of Nazareth being settled at the time of Jesus in the form of Herodian tombs.
Humphrey Dumpty makes issue of Nazareth not being mentioned in the OT or the Talmud or by Paul, though he fails to explain why any of these ought to mention it, and why this is an issue (as if there were not dozens of comparable sites also not mentioned in any or all of these soruces; see here for an illustrative point). Humphrey Dumpty says, Josephus mentions 45 cities and villages of Galilee – yet Nazareth not at all. Yes, and so what? Galilee would have had literally hundreds of cities and villages; Josephus fails to mention all but 45 of them. Humphrey Dumpty makes much of that Josephus does, however, have something to say about Japha (Yafa, Japhia), a village just one mile to the southwest of Nazareth where he himself lived for a time (Life 52). Well, if Josephus had not lived there, we'd have only 44 villages mentioned and Humphrey Dumpty could argue for a "lost city of Japha". He is aware as well that Nazareth is argued to be a very small place, but creates objections for this out of his miseeucation:
Other than this, Humphrey Dumpty whinges about "a dearth of suitable evidence of habitation," though the typical rural habitation of this time would hardly be made of imperishable materials. Issue is also made of tombs in the area, and it is claimed that "Jews, according to their customs, would not build a village in the immediate vicinity of tombs and vice versa", which is true, but it is not shown that the tombs of Nazareth were "inside the line" with which Jews would find intolerable proximity. He also notes the inscription we have referred to above, but makes nothing of it, only implying, it seems, that this was the actual "founding" of the town (though it is not explained why pious Jewish priests, as above, would settle so close to tombs; and he wrongly dates the inscription to after Bar Kochba). Conveniently, it is also claimed that references to Nazareth in the Gospels were interpolated. The disgrace of these contrivances speak for themselves.
Fall #3 -- Jesus and Bob. A final section we will note, briefly, makes issue thus: Was there a Jesus? Of course there was a Jesus – many! Humphrey Dumpty names several people named "Jesus" from the ancient Jewish world around the first century, and then pretends this is some sort of strange thing, too strange "to be a coincidence!" It isn't, in fact -- it is an artifact of the fact that Jews of this day didn't have baby name books. Just a few names (Simon, Judas, Jesus, etc) were given to the bulk of the male population; they were more common than Bob and James are today among men. Likewise "Mary" was the name given to at least a fourth and possibly a third of Jewish women. Thus Humphrey Dumpty marvels at the spectre of his own ignorance here.
Offered as well in the same vein is a canard we have once addressed:
According to the Biblical account, Pilate offered the Jews the release of just one prisoner and the cursed race chose Barabbas rather than gentle Jesus. But hold on a minute: in the original text studied by Origen (and in some recent ones) the chosen criminal was Jesus Barabbas – and Bar Abba in Hebrew means ‘Son of the Father’! Are we to believe that Pilate had a Jesus, Son of God and a Jesus, Son of the Father in his prison at the same time??!!
Uh, yeah. For one thing, as noted, the name "Jesus" was as common as Bob today. For another, the name "Abba" (and therefore, "Bar-abba" as a patronymic) was a known, and indeed common, name among the Jews; it was even carried by rabbis (Samuel bar-Abba and Nathan bar-Abba are two examples; cited by Mann in his Markan commentary .) Brown [Brow.DMh, 799] even records a Talmudic joke about a man who enters a room "looking for Abba" to be told "there are many Abbas here." He then asks for "Abba bar Abba" and is told there are a bunch of those, too! In addition, a pre-70 burial records the name . (Also note that "Bar-abbas" actually translates as "son of father" -- there is no article (a, the) involved.) So, nice try; it's a coincidence, sure, but no more stunning than that Kennedy was assasinated while in a Ford and Lincoln was assassinated in Ford's theater.
In terms of showing the Gospel story an oddity, Humphrey Dumpty has little to throw off the wall: The old census issue is the first specific, and then after some vainglorious, non-specific and undocumented babble about alleged "copycat" practices (no names, dates or documents offered in support), a claim that the "Lord's Prayer" was a late invention, merely because "none of the Christian Apologists, for example, even mention it by name!" (Though it is never explained, of course, in what context it is lacking in any of those Apologists, where it ought to have neen mentioned.) Humphrey Dumpty does not even bother to check for allusions to the prayer in patristic works (he fails to see that the Didache is doing just this; that the Didache is not in the canon is interesting, but of no relevance, and it does not need to mention the virgin birth, etc. and Humphrey Dumpty does not explain why it ought to). A claim is made as well that "[o]lder Jewish devotions provide even earlier antecedents for the prayer" but no evidence is provided for an actual pre-Christian date; it is said that they were "according to tradition...composed during the Second Temple period (6th century BC - 70 AD)" but if we accept this, then why can't we also accept "tradition" that dates the Gospels early? Humphrey Dumpty wants to have his cake and eat it too. On the other hand, why ought not the Lord's Prayer by Jesus, a Jew, be different than a Jewish one like the Kaddish? What delusion leads him to believe that Jesus ought to have composed a completely original prayer just to make him happy?
Back to history; we are told that Many elements of the 'Passion' make no sense historically but examples are few and far between and generally useless:
And that's it. We have our Whitman's Sampler, and from it, we have a clear picture that Humphrey Dumpty is broken and won't be put together again.
Tekton Research Assistant "Punkish" alerted us that Humphrey Dumpty has offered a "reply" which, as expected, has all the credibility and detail of Jell-O brand pudding. Not surprisingly, Humphrey Dumpty ignores the numerous links and arguments and instead dawdles down to the standard issues of the frustrated Skeptic:
And that's basically it -- the usual exercise in projection of ignorance and insecurities from the Christ-myth crowd. It doesn't win a vial of wrath, but it does win a Golden Screwball Award, that's for sure.