Fiction of History?

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Dave Matson's picture


Who are these Bible scholars? They are people with a competent knowledge of the subject (usually a PhD) and are interested in what the evidence actually says rather than in defending some dogma. If you look at the recent volumes to the Anchor Bible (one or two volumes of translation/commentary per biblical book) you will find some of these scholars at work. Look also to the NOAB (New Oxford Annotated Bible). In its footnotes and especially in its introduction to various topics you will find a nice review of what serious Bible scholars know. Look even to the scholars of the Jesus Seminar. Although they had the rather wishful goal of ferreting out the real Jesus from all the accumulated garbage, most of them would be considered serious scholars. They produced a new translation of the Gospels called "The Five Gospels." (A 5th gospel was considered to be worthy of inclusion.) In that translation Jesus' words are color coded to indicate their likelihood of being uttered by Jesus. (Jesus was assumed to exist as a man of that time period.) That might be of interest to you given that many of his words would clearly not have been spoken by someone in his position. And, forget about the Fundie publications which are only interested in supporting various dogmas; the evidence is smashed to fit in.

The point is that with respect to the four Gospels it is now known that no one was writing historical narratives. Material was collected decades later and interpreted to fit the theological needs of those Christian centers responsible for the Gospels. The Gospels were never intended to be bunched together in a work called the "Bible." So your whole approach is off base! I can't explain the last 200 years of Bible scholarship to you in a simple post, nor do I have the time to go into it. You just have to put in some serious study, and the NOAB is a good place to begin. (Recently a new translation of the NOAB was rendered, but the old one will work just fine.) An older handbook "The Bible Handbook" by the scholar Edward Blair is another good source. He is very gentle with conservative views, even listing them side by side with the truly scholarly views, and he gives a very readable summary of what scholars have known for years.

jonthecatholic's picture
This is great! Thanks, for

This is great! Thanks, for this!

David Killens's picture
@JoC, I suggest you reference

@JoC, I suggest you reference Robin Hood. Delving into this story yields interesting information. His story is also a popular one. But even though the time and location was the 12th century and Britain, everything else is incredibly fuzzy. And when you take into consideration that the Robin Hood story is much more modern than the jesus one, that the crusades and other bad events in the middle east wiped out a lot of scholarly articles, I have to draw the conclusion that any tales of Robin Hood were closer to the truth than another folk tale from 1,300 years before Robin Hood.

Despite the fact that the Robin Hood story is closer in time to us, and there is good documentation existing to this day, there is still confusion whether this tale encompassed one or multiple people. Or even if it was accurate.

Lytil Jhon and Robyne Hude
Wayth-men ware commendyd gude
In Yngil-wode and Barnysdale
Thai oysyd all this tyme thare trawale.

A little difficult to read, but this was in English. And is was less than a thousand years ago. So just imagine how garbled the signal would be over two thousand years and of completely different languages?

The antiquarian Joseph Hunter (1783–1861) believed that Robin Hood had inhabited the forests of Yorkshire during the early decades of the fourteenth century. Hunter pointed to two men whom, believing them to be the same person, he identified with the legendary outlaw:

Robert Hood who is documented as having lived in the city of Wakefield at the start of the fourteenth century.
"Robyn Hode" who is recorded as being employed by Edward II of England during 1323.

We can also examine the work of Ranulf Higden. Or was it Hogdon. Here is an English chronicler and monk (c. 1280 – 12 March 1364). We don't even know what his true name was. Higden was the author of the Polychronicon, a long chronicle, one of several such works of universal history and theology. It was based on a plan taken from Scripture, and written for the amusement and instruction of his society.

Amusement and instruction.

We have to critically examine all ancient documents with the understand that we may not even know the purpose of creating any documents, and most important, the message. Because back then things had completely different meanings, people viewed the world in a completely different manner, and interpreted things differently.

If you doubt my last statement, read a translated copy of "Ranulphi Castrensis, cognomine Higden, Polychronicon (sive Historia Polycratica) ab initio mundi usque ad mortem regis Edwardi III in septem libros dispositum." Known as the Polychronicon.

jonthecatholic's picture
This is interesting but

This is interesting but totally beside the point. So someone was named Robyn Hode. But the character’s name was Robin Hood. There does exist a certain fiction type of writing which draws inspiration from real life people. But the fact that the author changed his name at all is already an indication that this is fiction.

Even Zelda was named after a Zelda.

David Killens's picture
You completely missed the

You completely missed the point and did not absorb my message. The point is that we have a lot more manuscripts and writings available from 12th century England than of jesus's time, yet even from the 13th century there are so many gaps and holes in knowledge we have difficulty ascertaining the author. So when you examine any writings from jesus's time, it was twice as far back in history, that many many documents and manuscripts were destroyed as a result of conflict in the middle east. Thus the reliability of hard evidence is incredibly weak.

The author did not change his name, time erased a lot of information and understanding on our knowledge of this era.

jonthecatholic's picture
So, 5,800 Greek manuscripts,

So, 5,800 Greek manuscripts, 10,000 Latin manuscripts and 9,300 manuscripts in other languages isn’t enough copies of the texts of the New Testament? These are all early copies, mind you. Compared to other ancient texts, the New Testament towers over everything else.

But I’m sure texts referecing a Robin Hood have more credence.

I do agree with you though that we do have a lot of gaps in our knowledge but this shouldn’t take away from things we know for certain given what we know.

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
@ JoC

@ JoC

Where on earth do you get these figures?

Early? How early?

You make endless claims as if you want an average person of average intelligence just to swallow them whole.

Evidence, citations and some ordinary common sense otherwise you are treating us like fools. And that we are not.

Fleeing in Terror's picture
No. I haven't seen too many

No. I haven't seen too many fools here. It is a nice change.

The numbers quoted above seem about right from other sources I remember. The Bible still outsells everything else, even today. The surprising thing is more the consistency in the text rather than the inconsistencies. Even the Dead Sea Scrolls agree with just about everything in the Bible. (I donated the book from the 50's & can't quote it.) So far, the scrolls have been patching a few minor - 'so that's what that word is' a few more esoteric passages. The core has been holding strong.

I think Gilgamesh varies more, but that is also pretty consistent The cores of the ancient stories hold pretty strong. Robin Hood and King Arthur, you can see the stories grow over time.

Old man shouts at clouds's picture


"The numbers quoted above seem about right from other sources I remember"
I am trying to train JoC and other random theists on here not to make unsupported claims as it is so easy to dismiss them.
They may or may not be true but why do I have to hare off in research to prove a point for them? It is only polite when making a claim to include a point of reference or citations.
Otherwise "Jesus wept " can be responded to with "bullshit" and both statements are equally correct. Nobody gets any wiser.

jonthecatholic's picture
I have quoted these things

I have quoted these things before, sir. I simply find it daunting to mention these things over and over and over again. While I agree this is an intellectual forum, most of the time, it really isn't and the few times I have put in my resources, they've been discredited without much reason. So I find it much much easier that if and when I do want to reference sources, I link to a website which cites said sources.

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
@ JoC

@ JoC

Most of the resources and citations you have produced ( and there are many occasions you haven't) have been comprehensively disproven as credible sources for you proving a point of faith. But yet here you are not 3 hours later faking the same response. That is not scholarship or research it is a pre emptive opinion that is based on a cognitive disorder.

When I am wrong or have my knowledge superseded, then I gladly admit my error or will update my opinion to include the latest research as I have with others here and elsewhere. You display none of that, you just keep repeating the same mantra as if by repetition you can make it so.
It will not happen Joc.

jonthecatholic's picture
You display the same hard

You display the same hard headedness you accuse me of actually. You simply say they’re not credible sources.

Though I do admit I’d have a hard time linking sources as I pluse my phone most of the time. Apologies.

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
@ JoC

@ JoC
Apology accepted. But not most of your sources.
Apologies in advance for a long post but a) it was my pet hobby. b) I cant compress 400 years of history into one paragraph and still make sense.

Blind Freddy can see Tacitus was relaying secondhand information. I am surprised you haven't brought up Suetonius 69CE – c. AD 122CE. Most misguided theists do at some point little realising (or reading) the context of the actual passage.
All either of them do is confirm the existence of a troublemaking lot of Jews who follow an obscure (chrestus) prophet and have extremely nasty habits. They both (Tacitus and Suetonius) are writing in historical (retrospect) reference to events about 64CE, although we can actually say that this nasty sect of troublemakers ( their words) were present in Rome in 64CE at the time we cannot prove or infer anything else at all.
They are not contemporary sources to your alleged prophet they were both historians writing about events 40 - 70 years in the past and at least 100 years after the alleged crucifixion of your Yeshua bin Josef.

Once you start accepting simple historical facts like this then we can have a rational and relatively civilised conversation.

I for one am really looking forward to the confirmation that the Codex Sinaiticus is the indisputably genuine article from the 4th century as it will shed light on the early 3rd and 4th Century evolution of the church and the veracity of the early texts used to compile and correct the gospel accounts, and how they chose to correct them The margin notes will be the key I am sure!

Fanging to compare them with the later English made bible of 692. ( long considered the first complete NT bible) and subject of Diotrephe's favorite conspiracy theory.

What does not change is that there is not one contemporary independent account of your prophet anywhere. The oldest document supposedly mentioning your saviour and his sayings isn't even in your bible. Surely you must be wondering about that?
Here you are:
Richard Valantasis writes:

Assigning a date to the Gospel of Thomas is very complex. Scholars have proposed a date as early as 40 AD or as late as 140 AD, depending upon whether the Gospel of Thomas is identified with the original core of sayings, or with the author's published text, or with the Greek or Coptic texts, or with parallels in other literature.
Valantasis and other scholars argue that it is difficult to date Thomas because, as a collection of logia without a narrative framework, individual sayings could have been added to it gradually over time. Valantasis dates Thomas to 100 – 110 AD, with some of the material certainly coming from the first stratum which is dated to 30 – 60 AD. J. R. Porter dates the Gospel of Thomas much later, to 250 AD

I suggest you actually read the "Gospel of Thomas" even though I suspect it may be on the Index, and with that read Valantasis's paper as well as J R Porters paper.

The synoptic gospel copies ( with some confidence) can be dated from about the start of the 150's CE ( the Ryland Fragment) with many errors and transcriptions, but whether they stem from a common document written earlier is still a matter of argument amongst scholars. The names assigned as authors to each gospel is a fiction, no proof of authorship is available.

The comparison of the codex sinaiticus with these earliest texts will be illuminating for the study of the evolution of the Catholic and Orthodox Churches and their eventual domination.

In no way will they ever be proof of a man's divinity. That is another discussion.

( edited for all sorts of reasons)

Sky Pilot's picture
Old man shouts ...,

Old man shouts ...,

FYI here's two links to articles about the Codex Sinaiticus.

When you page through the second link you will see that it's nothing but fragments without any English translation. In addition the fragments seem to have been written in the Modern Greek alphabet.

It's in everyone's interest to claim that it's legit but I'm calling bullshit. (I haven't watched the video)

And remember: it is not a real book but just tattered remnants of partial pages. There are countless links to if if you want to do some research.

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
@ Diotrephes

@ Diotrephes

I think I will rely on the guys at the four most prestigious museums and associated Universities in the world rather than your opinion and the ravings of the internet.

At the moment they all agree that it is 4th century. If the expert opinion with new evidence changes then, hey I am wrong, that does not make your assertions any more likely.
Cant wait to see the corrections to the texts and the margin notes translated. Some of them are already causing waves.

It is 1600 years old. I am not surprised that, after surviving wars, floods, and the catholic church that it is not pristine.

I know its existence spoils one of your totally unprovable conspiracy theories but..hey British Museum vs diotrephes? mmm. no contest.

Sky Pilot's picture
Old man shouts ...,

Old man shouts ...,

Some people believe that the Shroud of Turin was used to wrap Yeshua's corpse in the 30s A.D.

Think about it. If the Codex Sinaiticus manuscript is legit then it's the master copy for the Bible and there would have been countless copies of the Bible floating around. But guess what? THERE ARE NONE! The only legit early Bible in existence is the Codex Amiatinus from the 690s. That's the master copy.

BTW, don't forget that the con man admitted that he forged the Codex Sinaiticus.

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
@ Diotrephes

@ Diotrephes
Red herrings and straw men. The Shroud is a proven fake. Its not a matter of belief.

" If the Codex Sinaiticus manuscript is legit then it's the master copy for the Bible and there would have been countless copies of the Bible floating around."

No its a 4th century collation of the approved synoptic gospels plus John. Nothing odd about that at all.

The con man you mention admitted to all sorts of things, many of them fanciful. When it comes down to authentication I would rather have the British Museum and the other three Universities and museums conclusions rather than the unsupported argument of Diotrephes.

I'm sorry if the Codex breaks your hobby horse, but I suspect you will certainly be riding another half assed one over a precipice soon enough.

Sky Pilot's picture
Old man shouts ...,

Old man shouts ...,

As I've said before, some self-professed atheists defend the fairy tale more vigorously that some die-hard theists do.

Your delusion doesn't make sense. If we had a legitimate legible intact copy we could easily prove that it's a fake. But it's nothing more than tattered remnants of a poor quality fake that's being passed off as a 4th Century manuscript. I have to go, there's a stinky zombie at the front door that says that he's Lazarus.

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
@ Diotrephes

@ Diotrephes

"some self-professed atheists defend the fairy tale more vigorously that some die-hard theists do."

Not me old son. I will however keep an open mind and follow the evidence.

Its legible, Its been distributed to FOUR museums for safe keeping and study. All agree it is genuine. It has a provenance. It is written in Koine Greek by 4 scribes, later corrections are fascinating. Just one " original" verse in Matthew found in the Codex causes the whole interpretation and countless sermons and pontifications to fade into dust. It changes the very meaning of the passage.

Now, you can persist in your conspiracy theory or like any good researcher admit you could be wrong and study the evidence. Or go on hiding under the pillow screaming "I cant hear you" as loud as you can. In this, you have much more in common with the theists than you do the rational atheist.

Oh BTW Lazarus has really really bad breath. Take a hanky when you answer the door and check the knocker for actual fingers he's a bit messy like that.

Sky Pilot's picture
Old man shouts ...,

Old man shouts ...,

If you want to have some fun try this experiment.

Go to this site = You can select any passage you want to. Copy the passage and then go to a translator site such as

Paste the passage in the "Detect Language " box and you will get an English translation.

Now if you can find a verse from the Codex Sinaiticus that translates into a reasonable English Bible version translation will you please let me know so that I can duplicate the results?

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
@ Diotrephes

@ Diotrephes

Oh FFS. Are you stark staring bonkers? What on earth are you trying to prove?

The translation in German and English is given on the effing page with the text above it. It is a reasonable modern translation.if you do not believe me then copy the text and send it to the Bodleian Library in Oxford for a translation.

No, Google nor Babble or any modern algorithm based translator will construe Koine Greek with any accuracy. No one has used it for knocking on 1800 years.

You've got be a very special kind of special to think that it would. But full marks for pursuing an untenable position into the wilds of Narnia.

How was Lazarus? Not fixed up yet?

Sky Pilot's picture
Old man shouts ...,

Old man shouts ...,

I have to give it to you. You are a true believer, no doubt about it. Is Koine Greek pig Latin, Greek Eubonics, or just plain bull shit? Maybe some of the other readers will research it and have some laughs. I did a few verses and they are hilarious. So if anyone wants to have some good laughs it's worth spending a few minutes on it.

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
@ Diotrephes

@ Diotrephes

I actually did do as you suggested and you are quite right it is hilarious! Try Matthew 14....had me creasing up as I was also comparing it too the English translation provided by the British Museum Library...and the KJV. The passage about "leave your car" had me quite helpless with the giggles.

What will be most interesting is the serious Koine to German/English translation comparison with the Codex Vaticanus, Sinaiticus and your pet hobby horse the Codex Amiatinus.

A comparison with the Codex Alexandrinus (5th Century CE and in the British Museum Library) is under way and even more interesting corrections, margin notes and scribal errors are coming to light. Naturally mainstream churches are seeking to minimise the differences and maximise the historical (hysterical?) claims. Interesting times and a fascinating study.

And Koine Greek as you know is ""Koine" (Greek for "common") is a term that came to designate that broad, common form of mostly non-literary Greek used by Greeks in common speech among themselves and with other ethnicities, and used by various ethnicities in their communication with other ethnicities. I find it commonly used as a technical term for a period in history roughly designating the 1st century BCE and CE (BC and AD). But it covers the early centuries of Christian development."

A bit like common english compared to Oxford English.

As to being a "True Believer" I certainly am; in proof, corroboration, provable events and chains of custody. I have no patience with unfounded assertions, unproven conspiracy theories and fanciful conclusions.

On that note have you any names for that 'committee" you so assertively maintain wrote the CA? I asked for it before but you have not responded. Now, put up or shut up.

(Edited for Codex mix up)
(Edit: words added "serious Koine.German/English" for clarity)

Sky Pilot's picture
Old man shouts ...,

Old man shouts ...,

Regarding the Codex Amiatinus do you think just one guy raised 2,000 herd of cattle, slaughtered and skinned them, made vellum and ink, and wrote and illustrated three 75 pound books all by himself?

I don't speak Greek and don't know anyone who can speak and read it. Maybe you do. So what I have been thinking is if someone was to copy some random passages from the Codex Sinaiticus but keep the corresponding translations separate. Then have the Greek speaker translate the random passages and see if his translations match the approved translations from the site. It would be interesting to have three Greek speakers do this at different times independent of each other. The important thing is not to tell the person what the passage is from so that he won't become biased.

Old man shouts at clouds's picture
@ Diotrephes

@ Diotrephes

First it doesn't take a herd of 2000 "Cattle" it has been calculated that over the 5 or so years it took to prepare and copy the manuscript of the Codex Amiatinus "It has been calculated that about 515 calves shed their skin in order to provide the raw hide to prepare the vellum"
Not so many in a cattle orientated peaceful and prosperous society such as the Kingdom of Northumbria at the time of preparation. Even if that was 1800 calves required over the 3 years of copying that is a tiny fraction of the amount of available calf hides available in any year of 7th century Northumbria.
The Codex Amiatinus was a present for the Pope and all the resources of the kingdom and surrounds would have been called in to provide the raw material.

Actually in my school as in many others in the fifties, Classical Greek and Latin were the main subjects every morning for two long fekking hours of construe and discourse. The curriculum did not change in some schools until 1966.

We are not talking here of Classical Greek or even Classical Latin for the Codex.

The Codex Sinaiticus is written in Koine Greek, the Codex Amiatinus in Vulgate Latin, each very different versions of the languages from which they stem.

What you will need is a Koine Greek Reader (and they are few and far between) ( Any good university should have one or two) and a Vulgate Latin Reader ( call in at any Roman Catholic Church, much more common) and perform that exercise to satisfy yourself there isn't a world wide conspiracy stemming from the mid 7th Century.

Doesn't a conspiracy that you accuse, of that age and depth, even to you, sound a bit nonsensical? Especially now when there are so many libraries, scholars and countries involved in the study?

What you need to do for your extraordinary claims is to provide proofs that a "committee" in the Kingdom of Northumbria or even including Mercia or Wessex, was called together in about 650CE to 680CE to rewrite the Christian texts of the gospel . Names, venues and vellums would be acceptable, otherwise...well...I am sure you know the words "pure conjecture" and "conspiracy theory", also "absolute fucking bollocks".

Sheldon's picture
Well you've had a month and

Well you've had a month and 11 pages to produce the evidence you said you'd based your beliefs on. I'm wondering why all you've managed is subjective anecdotal claims and logically fallacious arguments?

These resources must be easily available to all anyway. The sites you have linked that I have seen are not remotely neutral. I am remembering your claim that a miracle occurred in the 8th century which was entirely underpinned by an anecdotal claim from an 8th century monk and despite no evidence for provenance some rather strident claims from the RCC claiming scientific validity.

David Killens's picture
We can not assert that the

We can not assert that the gospel writers were intending their works to be read as historical documents and not as works of fiction.

jonthecatholic's picture
When you read certain works,

When you read certain works, you’ll come across some markers which actually tell you, “This actually happened.”

Luke 1:1-4 actually tell you right off the bat, “Guys, this is something I worked hard to compile and verify.”

TheBlindWatchmaker's picture
It would hardly constitute

It would hardly constitute concrete evidence though.

Sheldon's picture
It hardly constitutes

It hardly constitutes evidence at all. Mere anecdotal conjecture, fanciful claims made by people who were wildly superstitious and woefully ignorant comparatively speaking.


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