A Critique Of Rosa RubiCondior's Argument For The Christ Myth

Rosa RubiCondior wrote a blogpost trying to argue that Jesus never existed. Here’s a link to the article below. http://rosarubicondior.blogspot.com/2012/08/the-historical-evidence-for-jesus.html

And here is a refutation of what she said:

Regarding the Josephus document, the article writer says “"The problem with this is that it was written some 60 years after the supposed death of Jesus and cannot be considered a contemporaneous account, and not even the Testimonium Flavianum makes a claim to be the report of an eye-witness." – So? Josephus was born in A.D 37! This was in the lifetimes of the majority of people who were around at the time that most scholars think Jesus was crucified (AD 33). Josephus grew up in the same area and at the same time as the people who were walking around at the time Jesus got crucified. So even though Josephus wasn’t alive before Jesus’ crucifixion, He’s still an early enough source to be relevant. Even though he wasn’t an eyewitness, He obviously could have and probably did interview eyewitnesses who could have attested to His existence and what happened to Him.

The thing about Josephus and Tacitus is that even though they weren’t alive during Jesus’ lifetime, they were living within the lifetimes of those who DID know Jesus and could tell them about Him. I have used the analogy of me reporting about Ronald Regan. Even though I was born after he died, I'm still close enough to the events to be relevant. After all, I'm growing up in a time where adults who DID know Regan are still around and they could tell me about him (pretending there's no such thing as videos and recordings, Josephus didn't have these to go on). Are you saying my testimony about Ronald Regan would be invalidated because I wasn’t a contemporary of him, even though I have parents and grandparents and friends of my parents who were contemporaries of Regan whom I could have gotten my information from? Absurd. My point is, they’re still close enough to the events to be relevant sources and almost all scholars on the subject accept their testimony of valid evidence for Jesus’ historicity, including those who aren’t Christians.

Moreover, Surely you're aware of the fact that historians don't require contemporary accounts for accepted history? (If you think they do, then you'd have to rewrite much of history) They accept both first hand and secondary accounts, among other factors. While your info may seem to be impressive to the uninformed laymen, it doesn't stand up to the scholar's/historian's criteria and scrutiny. This is really a pitiful argument. 

The article writer wrote “The other problem with the Testimonium is that it's very probably either a total forgery; an interpolation added later, or a later elaboration of a brief original mention of an anecdotal account of an execution of a man called Jesus.” – Although most historians and historical scholars agree (even the Christian ones) that there have been some interpolations, most agree that the account is generally reliable. They believe that the parts such as “He was Christ” and “He appeared to them alive on the third day as the prophets had foretold” are interpolations by a later Christian scribe but that the majority of the passage is indeed reliable because much of it is written in Josephus’ characteristic style and vocabulary.

For example “Now, there was about this time Jesus, a wise man” that sentence is taken to be actually written by Josephus because Christians don’t usually refer to Jesus merely as a “wise man”. Christians mostly refer to Jesus as “God” or “The Lord” or “The Messiah”, but not “a wise man”. This sounds like something Josephus would have actually wrote. But then the next verse says “If indeed one aught to call him a man”. This is taken to be an interpolation because this implies Jesus was more than human. The next passage says “For he was a doer of wonderful works”. This is taken to actually be written by Josephus because this is not the kind of language Christians typically use to refer to Jesus’ actions. Josephus is not referring to Jesus’ miracles, but rather, Josephus is referring to good deeds. When referring to miracles Christians usually use the term “signs and wonders” or “miracles” or “acts of God” not merely “wonderful works”. So for this reason, the vast majority of both atheist and Christian scholars think this part of the passage is genuine.

“a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles” scholars take this passage to be genuine as well.

“He was Christ” this is taken to be an interpolation because Josephus was not a Christian so he would not explicitly say that Jesus was the messiah.

“And when Pilate at the suggestion of the principle men among us had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him first did not forsake him.” – This is taken to be genuine. The next passage mentioning the resurrection is believed to be an obvious interpolation.

Well, this issue came up in a talk by Dr. Timothy MgGrew. He pulled up a photo of the Mona Lisa. The Mona Lisa had a mustache, and he compared the interpolations of the Josephus passage about Jesus to the mustached Mona Lisa. He said

“This is not a paining by Leonardo Divinchi and if the lightings not too bright, you may be able to see the reason why. It looks a bit like the Mona Lisa…but,…it’s got a mustache and a little goatee beard. Should we conclude that there was no original painting? Or should we conclude that there was and that something has been added to it…by another hand? What should we do with a mustache on the Mona Lisa? Well, fortunately in 1971, Shlomo Pines published some work he had been doing some work on an Arabic manuscript that contains this passage.”

And here in this Arabic text is what we find; it’s the passage without the ham handed bits that look like Christian interpolations.

“At this time there was a wise man called Jesus and his conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. And many people from among the Jews and other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to be crucified, and those who were his disciples did not abandon their loyalty to him. THEY REPORTED that he had appeared to them 3 days after his crucifixion. Accordingly they believed he was the messiah as the prophets had told wonders”

Do you see the difference? My guess is (and this view of the majority of scholars) is that the passage was originally written by Josephus much like we have in this Arabic text…and then some Christian scribe couldn’t resist the impulse to come put a mustache on the Mona Lona. He didn’t realize that he was doing would cause doubt over the authenticity of this report of this genuine passage and that of Josephus himself. Just as with the Mona Lisa, our inference is that there really was an original and it was not done by the person who added the mustache and the beard. Our best bet regarding the testimony is that Josephus really wrote it and that it was interpolated. And fortunately we’ve discovered a text that shows us which most scholars think is more or less the way it originally was.

For these reasons, most scholars take the position that the Josephus passage on Jesus was “Authentic, but edited.” Later of course, we see the passage mentioning Jesus’ brother’s martyrdom, and there Josephus refers to Jesus as the “so-called” Christ. This is taken to be genuine. Actually the entire passage about Jame’s martyrdom at the hands of the Sanhedrin is not disputed unlike the earlier passage.

Now, later, the article makes some points by an atheist named Dan Barker as to why the entire passage was a forgery. His arguments are plagued with problems.

To critique Dan Barker’s 1st Point:
"The paragraph is absent from early copies. Origen, who vigorously defended Christinity and quoted widely from Josephus but never referred to this paragraph. The paragraph suddenly makes its appearance in the 4th century when it was first quoted by Bishop Eusabius, an ally of Constantine, who is recorded as saying it is permissible ‘medicine’ for historians to create fiction."

This sounds like warmed over Dan Barker. Here's something Dr. Timothy Mggrew wrote up on his similar attack:

It is quite common in the atheist literature, particularly on the internet, to find the Testimonium Flavianum dismissed as a wholesale Christian interpolation. There is a good deal of nonsense written about this topic, such as this bit from Dan Barker’s book Godless (Berkeley: Ulysses Press, 2008), p. 255:

"The paragraph is absent from early copies of the works of Josephus. For example, it does not appear in Origen’s second-century version of Josephus, in Origen Contra Celsum, where Origen fiercely defended Christianity against the heretical views of Celsus. Origen quoted freely from Josephus to prove his points, but he never once used this paragraph, which would have been the ultimate ace up his sleeve."

There are no “early copies” of Josephus; our earliest manuscripts containing even a substantial part of the Antiquities date back only to the 9th century. Origen’s response to Celsus is not a “second-century version of Josephus,” and not merely because Barker places Origen’s adult lifetime in the wrong century. Origen mentions Josephus only four times in eight books (Contra Celsum 1.16, 1.47, 2.13, 4.11). Since Celsus did not deny the existence and death of Jesus, it would have been of no value to Origen to quote the authentic (uninterpolated) Testimonium against him, as anyone may verify by consulting the passages in question. As far as textual attestation is concerned, the Testimonium is found in every manuscript of the Antiquities complete enough to contain book 18 at all. Since other atheist writers (e.g. Victor Stenger, The New Atheism (Prometheus Books, 2009), p. 58) are now blindly following Barker’s lead, it is important to get the facts right.

Barker goes on to make a number of other outrageous claims in this passage, e.g.,

* “Many are convinced that the entire paragraph is a forgery, . . . Many scholars believe that Eusebius was the forger and interpolator of the passage on Jesus” (255-56)

* “Christianity did not get off the ground until the second century.” (256)

* “[E]ven Christian scholars widely consider this [Antiquities 20.9.1, about the death of James, the brother of Jesus] to be a doctored text.” (258)

Each of these claims, taken in its most natural sense, is demonstrably false. Barker is not a reliable guide to the scholarly consensus on Josephus—or, in truth, to much of anything concerning Christianity or its history. Caveat lector!

Here is a link where you can see a list of our early manuscripts of Josephus's Antiquities:

Here is a link to Origen's Contra Celsus:

I’ve already refuted Dan Barker’s 2nd point earlier in this post.

Point 3 is the old “out of context “argument.
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] James Patrick Holding has said “I can agree: As one with a background in language and literature, were I to give Josephus a grade for composition, it would be something around the level of a C-minus.”

Even so, the "out of context" charge carries very little weight. An exposition by Mason will be helpful here. 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.

Wells responds to Thackery by noting that Josephus often uses phrases that indicate that he is aware that he is digressing:

"When a writer digresses, and confesses to doing so, this does not make him a 'patchwork' writer from whom we must expect any kind of irrelevancy."[Well.JesL, 51]

Wells is simply missing the point here. Confessions of digression indicate a "patchwork" writer who is conscious of his flaws in this regard. Nor may it be appropriately said that the reference to Jesus is "any kind of irrelevancy." If it was a significant event in the reign of Pilate, even in retrospect as it would be in this case, then it is quite relevant.

"4: The phrase 'to this day' shows this is a later addition. There was no 'tribe of Christians' in 90 CE since Christianity did not take off until the second century." – What? Where is this guy getting his information? Yes, the 27 documents that make up the New Testament weren't comprised until the late 1st to early 2nd century, but that doesn't mean there weren't people who believed Jesus' messianic claims back in the 30s, 40s, 50s, etc. The phrase “to this day” also doesn’t infer that a long time has passed. For example, we could say “The tree in my backyard was planted in 1996 and it still stands to this day”. “To this day” means 17 years later, which is just about 2 decades. Not a century. “To This day” is subjective. It basically means X happened or was established at some time in the past and still remains up to the present time.

Dan Barker’s 5th point is nothing but an argument from silence, which is a logical fallacy. Just because Josephus didn’t mention the names of any of the gospels does not mean he didn’t know about them or that they weren’t circulating at that time.

His 7th point is just not true. Much of that passage IS written in Josephus’ characteristic style and vocabulary. Only a few sentences here and there appear to be interpolations (e.g “He was Christ” and “He appeared to them alive the third day as the divine prophets had foretold wonders”)

And then he goes on to say "In all of Josephus’ voluminous works, there is not a single reference to Christianity anywhere outside of this tiny paragraph. He relates much more about John the Baptist than about Jesus. He lists the activities of many other self-proclaimed messiahs, including Judas of Galilee, Theudas the magician and the Egyptian Jew Messiah, but is mute about the life of one whom he claims (if he wrote it) is the answer to his messianic hopes." – But this is just another argument from silence. Moreover, John the Baptist was very popular, and Josephus is heading into a description of Herod Antipas's defeat in a border war with King Aretas IV that was, in the popular mind, blamed partly on Antipas's execution of John the Baptist. Why *should* Josephus spend even roughly the same amount of time talking about Jesus as he did talking about John the Baptist? That is a ridiculous way to make a historical argument.

As far as the critiques on Justin Martyr and Tertullian go, those are nothing more than ad hominem arguments (ad hominem is a logical fallacy). Just because they’re Christians doesn’t mean they’re unreliable sources.

It's not a bad article for an atheist on the subject, but as usual she simply doesn't know what she's talking about. For example, she notes that Justus of Tiberius who she claims never mentions Jesus, but wait his writings are lost! So we cannot know if he mentions Jesus or not.

She also doesn't understand that these "non-contemporaneous" historians used sources! Apparently, she assumes that these guys just write based on their own knowledge. A growing number of scholars are beginning to argue that both Luke and Josephus used the same or similar sources.

As far as Rosa’s claims on Tacitus, 

Tacitus lived in the 60s; he was born in 56 and would have been eight years old at the time, old enough to hear people talking and to ask a few obvious questions. He studied rhetoric in Rome as a young man, within the decade following the events of the year 64.

His direct statement that there was a great multitude of Christians in Rome at the time of the fire is uncontested in the primary source literature; there is absolutely no historical evidence to the contrary, so Rosa's contrary claim has no factual basis.

According to the book of Acts, the word "Christian" was first used in Antioch in the early 40s. (Acts 11:26) There is absolutely no reason to say that the term "Christian" was not in use in the year 64 -- more fabricated facts.

The fire of AD 64 did of course take place. Rosa's statement ("despite the legend") is unclear, but whether Nero was in fact responsible for the fire, he certainly did need a scapegoat, as he was suspected of having ordered it to be set.

The rest of course is a bunch of unscholarly stuff that I don't have time to go over right now. I might edit this post at a later date and refute the rest. 


  1. >Rosa RubiCondior wrote a blogpost trying to argue that Jesus never existed.> What a shame you felt you had to open with a false claim. The blog simply dealt with the existence or not of eye-witness accounts demonstrating the historicity of the biblical Jesus. There was no claim nor attempt to prove, that Jesus never existed.

    It must be so embarrassing not being able to be truthful.

    1. Could you perhaps stop accusing those who disagree with you of being deceitful? Perhaps people actually believe what they're saying? Perhaps they're mistaken. It could be as simple as that. You've accused me and many others of being liars on numerous occasions.

      I thought the post was to disprove the existence of Jesus. Or at the least, to remove any epistemic warrant for believing that He existed. Now that I think of it, the latter might have been what you were trying to do. If I misunderstood you, I apologize. I do my best to accurately represent peoples' views, but being human, sometimes I misunderstand what someone is trying to say.

    2. I liked the way you tried to pretend that something written about by someone who wasn't alive at the time could still be regarded as an eye-witness account because he might have met someone who claimed to have seen something. Is this mental gymnastics par for the course in Christian apologetics?

    3. Now look who's being dishonest. I never said that Josephus, Tactitus, or any of the other extra-biblical accounts were eyewitness accounts, just that they weren't worthless in determining the historical existence of Jesus of Nazareth (or Pontius Pilate, King Herod, John The Baptist or any of the other figures mentioned in these non-biblical works).

    4. Actually I was kidding about the dishonest remark. I actually think you just misunderstood what I wrote (it's too bad you can't give me and others that same courtesy). :P


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