Debunking Christianity Historically

Debunking Christianity

For the Fourth Time Jesus Fails to Qualify as a Historical Entry In The Oxford Classical Dictionary

By Harry H. McCall at 6/03/2015

"For more than half a century, the Oxford Classical Dictionary has been the unrivalled one-volume reference work on the Greco-Roman world. Whether one is interested in literature or art, philosophy or law, mythology or science, intimate details of daily life or broad cultural and historical trends, the OCD is the first place to turn for clear, authoritative information on all aspects of ancient culture.

Now comes the Fourth Edition of this redoubtable resource, thoroughly revised and updated, with numerous new entries and two new focus areas (on reception and anthropology). Here, in over six thousand entries ranging from long articles to brief identifications, readers can find information on virtually any topic of interest–athletics, bee-keeping, botany, magic, religious rites, postal service, slavery, navigation, and the reckoning of time. The Oxford Classical Dictionary profiles every major figure of Greece and Rome, from Homer and Virgil to Julius Caesar and Alexander the Great. Readers will find entries on mythological and legendary figures, on major cities, famous buildings, and important geographical landmarks, and on legal, rhetorical, literary, and political terms and concepts." See: Oxford University Press

Under Josephus, Flavius, both the 1st (1948) and 2nd (1969) edition failed to mention any reference to Jesus ( note in 2nd, ed. , p.565), while a three page article on Jews (pp. 563- 565) also fails to reference either Jesus or the New Testament.

The 3rd. ed. continues the title: The Oxford Classical Dictionary: The Ultimate Reference Work on the Classical World includes more than 6,200 entries, but again fails to provide any entry on Jesus nor has it any use for the New Testament as a historical record. Although the entry on Josephus is expanded in the newer editions, the Dictionary dismisses the Testimonium Flavianum account on Jesus as reliable history in just one sentence: “The famous testimonium to Jesus is partly or even wholly an interpolation.” (p. 798)

Likewise, there are no entries on Gospels, New Testament, nor does the Dictionary list a single reference to any Biblical book under its section: Abbreviations Used in the Present Work A. General B. Authors and Books in its 75 pages.

The Dictionary does have an entry on Christianity, but concludes its four page history summation on the development of the Christian religion this way:

“Can we be sure about the scale of that development? It is impossible to judge the size of the Christian population at any one time. Surviving reports are marred by hyperbole, ignorance, and convention. Archaeology and inscriptions are statistically haphazard and impervious to individual sentiment, particularly in the east Christians formed sizable minority and occasionally even a majority in the late 3rd cent.. The difficult question is why. Breeding and friendship must have played a large part in the expansion of Christianity – perhaps always larger than that of convincing oratory. What remains textually of Christian address was not necessarily disseminated broadly. We know little more about the reception of the Christian message than we do about that of any ancient document. With the advent of toleration, it is likely that expediency, laziness, and fear played as much a part then as they do now. Talk of ‘superstition’ is misleading. Features of religious life supposedly attractive to a superstitious mind had always been available in traditional cults. The change of allegiance demands more subtle explanations.” ( p. 328)

In conclusion, while Christian apologists may find proof of Jesus as a historical figure in a few Classical authors, the professional Editors and Contributors of this long standing "Ultimate Reference Work on the Classical World" would strongly disagree!

Though other alleged divinities are referred to, Christianity isn’t? What reputable historical scholar agrees with this view? Is the “classical” world counted as everything BC, that might settle the matter ?So let’s find out who these editors are and why it is so.

Religion Causes Violence? audio

Life and Faith: Holy War?

· Simon Smart, William Cavanaugh, Miroslav Volf, Iain Provan, Natasha Moore

APRIL 17, 2015

One of the most frequent objections to Christian faith – or to religion in general – has to do with violence: that the Bible is full of violence; that Christian history is full of violence; that religion causes violence or is too often used to justify it.

In this episode of Life and Faith, Simon Smart and Natasha Moore bring together some of the many discussions of this topic in Centre for Public Christianity Australia (CPX) interviews over the years with Bible scholars, theologians and philosophers ( Iain Provan, William Cavanaugh, Miroslav Volf , John Dickson ) offers some ways forward through this thorny and profoundly important question.


For more extensive treatments of this subject, see the content listed under this ‘Big Question’ in the CPX library at

In defence of Christianity

An article in the Spectator (UK) written by Michael Gove former Conservative minister
for education in British Parliament.

Subject: In defence of Christianity

‘Jeremy Paxman was on great form last week, reminding us that when it comes
to being rude to prime ministers he has no peers.

Jeremy’s rudeness is, of course, magnificently bipartisan. However elegant
the sneer he displayed when asking David Cameron about Stephen Green, it was
as nothing compared to the pointed disdain with which he once asked Tony
Blair about his faith. Was it true, Jeremy inquired, that he had prayed
together with his fellow Christian George W. Bush?

The question was asked in a tone of Old Malvernian hauteur which implied
that spending time in religious contemplation was clearly deviant behaviour
of the most disgusting kind. Jeremy seemed to be suggesting that it would
probably be less scandalous if we discovered the two men had sought relief
from the pressures of high office by smoking crack together.

Praying? What kind of people are you?One philanthropist gave up his work
because his evangelical Christianity was under constant attack

Well, the kind of people who built our civilisation, founded our
democracies, developed our modern ideas of rights and justice, ended
slavery, established universal education and who are, even as I write, in
the forefront of the fight against poverty, prejudice and ignorance. In a
word, Christians.

But to call yourself a Christian in contemporary Britain is to invite pity,
condescension or cool dismissal. In a culture that prizes sophistication,
non-judgmentalism, irony and detachment, it is to declare yourself
intolerant, naive, superstitious and backward.

It was almost 150 years ago that Matthew Arnold wrote of the Sea of Faith’s
‘melancholy, long, withdrawing roar’ and in our time that current has been
replaced by an incoming tide of negativity towards Christianity.

In his wonderful book Unapologetic, the author Francis Spufford describes
the welter of prejudice the admission of Christian belief tends to unleash.
‘It means that we believe in a load of bronze-age absurdities. It means that
we don’t believe in dinosaurs. It means that we’re dogmatic. That we’re
self-righteous. That we fetishise pain and suffering. That we advocate
wishy-washy niceness. That we promise the oppressed pie in the sky when they
die… That we build absurdly complex intellectual structures, full of
meaningless distinctions, on the marshmallow foundations of fantasy… That we
destroy the spontaneity and hopefulness of children by implanting a sick
mythology in young minds…’

And that’s just for starters. If we’re Roman Catholic we’re accessories to
child abuse, if we’re Anglo-Catholics we’re homophobic bigots curiously
attached to velvet and lace, if we’re liberal Anglicans we’re pointless
hand-wringing conscience–hawkers, and if we’re evangelicals we’re creepy
obsessives who are uncomfortable with anyone enjoying anything more louche
than a slice of Battenberg.

Even in the area where Christianity might be supposed to be vaguely
relevant — moral reasoning — it’s casually assumed that Christian belief is
an actively disabling factor. When Paxo asked Blair about his praying habits
he prefaced his question by suggesting that the Prime Minister and the
President found it easier to go to war in Iraq because their Christianity
made them see everything narrowly in terms of good and evil, black and
white, them and us.

Far from enlarging someone’s sympathy or providing a frame for ethical
reflection, Christianity is seen as a mind-narrowing doctrine. Where once
politicians who were considering matters of life and death might have been
thought to be helped in their decision-making by Christian thinking — by
reflecting on the tradition of Augustine and Aquinas, by applying the subtle
tests of just-war doctrine — now Christianity means the banal morality of
the fairy tale and genuflection before a sky pixie’s simplicities.

How has it come to this?

The contrast between the Christianity I see our culture belittle nightly,
and the Christianity I see our country benefit from daily, could not be

The reality of Christian mission in today’s churches is a story of thousands
of quiet kindnesses. In many of our most disadvantaged communities it is the
churches that provide warmth, food, friendship and support for individuals
who have fallen on the worst of times. The homeless, those in the grip of
alcoholism or drug addiction, individuals with undiagnosed mental health
problems and those overwhelmed by multiple crises are all helped — in
innumerable ways — by Christians.

Churches provide debt counselling, marriage guidance, childcare, English
language lessons, after-school clubs, food banks, emergency accommodation
and, sometimes most importantly of all, someone to listen. The lives of most
clergy and the thoughts of most churchgoers are not occupied with agonising
over sexual morality but with helping others in practical ways — in proving
their commitment to Christ through service to others.

But Christian charity — far from being applauded — is seen by many as
somehow suspect. Again and again, as a politician, I have found that when
people who were open and proud of their Christian faith wished to help
others — in education, in social work, in prisons and in hospices — their
belief was somehow seen as an ignoble ulterior motive sullying their
actions. Their charity would somehow be nobler and more selfless if it weren’t
actuated by religion.

The suspicion was that Christians helped others because they wanted to look
good in the eyes of their deity and earn the religious equivalent of
Clubcard points securing entry to Heaven. Or they interfered in the lives of
the less fortunate because they were moral imperialists — getting off on the
thrill and power of controlling someone else’s life and impulses. Or, most
disturbingly of all, they were looking to recruit individuals — especially
in our schools — to affirm the arid simplicities and narrow certainties of
their faith.

This prejudice that Christian belief demeans the integrity of an action is
remarkably pervasive. And on occasion singularly vehement.

One of the saddest moments during my time as Education Secretary was the day
I took a call from a wonderfully generous philanthropist who had devoted
limitless time and money to helping educate disadvantaged children in some
of the most challenging areas of Britain but who now felt he had no option
but to step away from his commitments because his evangelical Christianity
meant that he, and his generosity, were under constant attack.

I suspect that one of the reasons why any suggestion of religious belief —
let alone motivation — on the part of people in public life excites
suspicion and antipathy is the assumption that those with faith consider
their acts somehow sanctified and superior compared with others.

Relativism is the orthodoxy of our age. Asserting that any one set of
beliefs is more deserving of respect than any other is a sin against the
Holy Spirit of Non–Judgmentalism. And proclaiming your adherence to the
faith which generations of dead white males used to cow and coerce others is
particularly problematic. You stand in the tradition of the Inquisition, the
Counter-Reformation, the Jesuits who made South America safe for
colonisation, the missionaries who accompanied the imperial exploiters into
Africa, the Christian Brothers who presided over forced adoption and the
televangelists who keep America safe for capitalism.

But genuine Christian faith — far from making any individual more invincibly
convinced of their own righteousness — makes us realise just how flawed and
fallible we all are. I am selfish, lazy, greedy, hypocritical, confused,
self-deceiving, impatient and weak. And that’s just on a good day. As the
Book of Common Prayer puts it, ‘We have followed too much the devices and
desires of our own hearts…And there is no health in us.’

Christianity helps us recognise and confront those weaknesses with a
resolution — albeit imperfect and fragile — to do better. But more
importantly, it encourages us to feel a sense of empathy rather than
superiority towards others because we recognise that we are as guilty of
selfishness and open to temptation as anyone.

More than that, Christianity encourages us to see that, while all of us are
prey to weakness, there is a potential for good in everyone. Every
individual is precious. Christianity encourages us to look beyond tribe and
tradition to celebrate our common humanity. And at every stage in human
history when tyrants and dictators have attempted to set individuals against
one another, it has been Christians who have shielded the vulnerable from
oppression. It was Pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer and the Christian-inspired
White Rose movement that led the internal opposition to Hitler’s rule. It
was the moral witness of the Catholic church in Poland that helped erode
Communism’s authority in the 1980s.

In his magnificent book Inventing the Individual: The Origins of Western
Liberalism, the Oxford academic Larry Siedentop shows how it has been the
Christian conception of God which has given rise to the respect for
individual conscience, rights and autonomy which underpin our civilisation.

In pre-Christian times, moral reasoning and full human potential were
assumed to be restricted to an elite. Greek city states depended on a
population of helots, the Roman Empire on the subjugation of slaves and
barbarians, to sustain their rule. Their achievements were built on a
foundation of radical inequality. Christianity, by contrast, like Judaism
before it, gives every individual the dignity of a soul, the capacity to
reason, the right to be heard and equality before the law. Because every
individual is — in the image of God — capable of moral judgment, reflection
and responsibility.

Belief in the unique and valuable nature of every individual should make us
angry at oppression, at the racism which divides and the prejudice which
demeans humanity. And it was deep, radical Christian faith which inspired
many of our greatest political heroes — Wilberforce, Shaftesbury, Lincoln,
Gladstone, Pope John Paul II and Martin Luther King. There should be nothing
to be ashamed of in finding their example inspirational, the words and
beliefs that moved them beautiful and true.’

Exodus and the Egyptian Plagues – how did it happen?

Hi Ian

Ten plagues in a row? I know Easter means a lot to you and Passover to the Jews, but really? Are those plagues in any way plausible? And what is it with a god who kills all the enemy first-born? Nice guy.


Hi Max

Good question, since these events launched two major historical movements, there must be some fire under the smoke. What is plausible? Here is one way to look at it, well three ways really. A naturalistic explanation, an historical and an anthropological approach. They are all theories with evidence. They could all be true together?! Or none? What does ‘plausible’ mean anyway – what assumptions frame your version of the word? See what you think.


Exodus in the Bible and the Egyptian Plagues

Can we make sense of the Biblical plagues?

Biblical Archaeology Society Staff • 03/01/2015

Read Ziony Zevit’s article “Three Ways to Look at the Ten Plagues” as it originally appeared inBible Review, June 1990. The article was first republished in Bible History Daily in July 2011.—Ed.

Was Jesus a Miracle Worker?

Was Jesus a Miracle Worker?

poted: 06 Mar 2015 06:00 AM PST


There continue to be liberal Christians, and even non-Christians, who really like the moral teachings of Jesus (e.g., “Love your neighbor”), but who set aside the accounts of his miracles (e.g., raising Lazarus from the dead). They chalk them up to legend or they insist that the miracles were not what his ministry was about. In their mind, a serious Bible student can ignore the miracle accounts in the Gospels and just focus on the Sermon on the Mount or Jesus’s other ethical discourses.

But are you a serious Bible student if you ignore the miracle accounts? Are the wonders Jesus performed peripheral to his mission, a sideshow that can be carved out?

Setting aside the issue of whether you believe miracles can occur, there is absolutely no doubt that Jesus and the people who witnessed his ministry thought that they could and did occur. Craig Keener, in his book Miracles: The Credibility of the New Testament Accounts (2 Volume Set) , teaches us that a modern person simply cannot ignore this part of the Jesus traditions.

Although limited in kind (i.e., no artifacts), the available evidence for Jesus as a miracle worker is substantial. Although the evidence is limited concerning most particular miracles, all of the many ancient sources that comment on the issue agree that Jesus and his early followers performed miracles: Q, Mark, special material in Matthew and Luke, John, Acts, the Epistles, Revelation, and non-Christian testimony from both Jewish and pagan sources. . . .

Most scholars today working on the subject thus accept the claim that Jesus was a healer and exorcist. The evidence is stronger for this claim than for most other specific historical claims that we could make about Jesus or earliest Christianity. Scholars often note that miracles characterized Jesus’s historical activity no less than his teaching and prophetic activities did. So central are miracle reports to the Gospels that one could remove them only if one regarded the Gospels as preserving barely any genuine information about Jesus.  Indeed, it is estimated that more than 31 percent of the verses in Mark’s Gospel involve miracles in some way, or some 40 percent of his narrative! Very few critics would deny the presence of any miracles in the earliest material about Jesus. (emphasis added)

Where is the consensus of historical scholarship on the issue of miracles in Jesus’s ministry?

It is thus not surprising that most scholars publishing historical research about Jesus today grant that Jesus was a miracle worker, regardless of their varying philosophic assumptions about divine activity in miracle claims. For example, E. P. Sanders regards it as an “almost indisputable” historical fact that “Jesus was a Galilean who preached and healed.” Using traditional historical-critical tools, John Meier finds many of Jesus’s reported miracles authentic. Raymond Brown notes that “scholars have come to realize that one cannot dismiss Jesus’s miracles simply on modern rationalist grounds, for the oldest traditions show him as a healer.” Otto Betz regards it as “certain” that Jesus was a healer, arguing “even from the Jewish polemic which called him a sorcerer.” The miracles, he notes, are central to the Gospels, and without them, most of the other data in the Gospels are inexplicable. Even Morton Smith, among the recent scholars most skeptical toward the Gospel tradition, argues that miracle working is the most authentic part of the Jesus tradition, though he explains it along the magical lines urged by Jesus’s early detractors.

Keener continues:

These observations do not resolve the question of individual miracle stories in the Gospels, but they do challenge one basic assumption that has often lodged the burden of proof against them: against some traditional assumptions, one cannot dismiss particular stories on the basis that Jesus did not perform miracles. One need not, therefore, attribute stories about Jesus’s miracles purely to legendary accretions. Nor should one expect that the church’s later Christology led them to invent many accounts of Jesus’s miracles; it may have influenced their interpretation and shaping of the accounts, but there was little reason to invent miracles for christological reasons. We lack substantial contemporary evidence that Jewish people expected a miracle-working messiah, and nonmessianic figures like Paul were also believed to be miracle workers (2 Cor 12: 12). Rather than Christology causing miracle claims to be invented, claims already circulating about Jesus’s miracles, once combined with other claims about Jesus, undoubtedly contributed to apologetic for a higher Christology. (emphasis added)

Where does this evidence leave us? It would seem that the miracles Jesus performed were an integral part of his ministry. The hope that historical Jesus can be separated from the wonders he performed is a lost cause. It’s really a package deal. Jesus loved his neighbors not by talking to them about good morals, but by miraculously healing them.