Kristi Winters on the Historical Jesus: Part 2

Yesterday I pointed out the defects of Kristi Winters’ YouTube case for the historicity of Jesus in 2015. Her case then, mostly, was at least respectably mainstream and just uninformed about a lot of things. But then in 2016 and 2017 her videos on this subject became more stalwartly ignorant and erroneous (links to all her vids are in yesterday’s article). She continues to commit the same skepticism 101 fail: she only reads one pop-market defense of historicity, and completely ignores the latest peer reviewed case against it. So all she ends up doing is build wild and inaccurate assumptions out of Bart Ehrman’s Did Jesus Exist? Which, unlike many of his other works, is neither a peer reviewed study, nor a pop-market summary of any peer reviewed study. It’s also full of errors. (There actually hasn’t been a specific peer reviewed defense of historicity published in about a hundred years; and that one, by Shirley Jackson Case, is no longer applicable to the current state of the field: see OHJ, pp. 592-93.)

Jesus Existed Because [Insert Slander]

It must also be pointed out that by 2016, Winters has descended into slander as a tool of her rhetoric. (Technically libel, but you know what I mean.)

I suspect Winters is the “social scientist” commenter who completely hosed facts and logic on Bart Ehrman’s blog a while back, which I discussed in Two Lessons Bart Ehrman Needs to Learn about Probability Theory. Occurring in late 2016, if I’m right, it demonstrates Winters still had never read any peer reviewed literature challenging the historicity of Jesus, or even on the methodology of the field. And appallingly, rather than do that, she outright lies about what it contained—demonstrating she never even read it. Yet she makes assertions about what that literature says as one who has definite knowledge of it. Which is indeed lying. That comment on his blog is also literally defamatory (it makes several demonstrably false claims that aim to disparage me by name, and displays a totally reckless disregard for the truth of those assertions). The only thing saving her from a lawsuit is that no one of any sense would believe what she says, when it’s so plainly contrary to the fact of what is actually argued in my books. But that Winters must resort to slander to defend the historicity of Jesus, demonstrates how impossible it is to honestly defend the historicity of Jesus.

I already exposed the slander there as the shameless immoral lying it is in my article on it. So I needn’t rehash that here. But it’s telling if she did that, because in comments on her videos, she piles on more of the same.

For example, here she says:

I’ve read Ehrman’s review of Carrier’s substandard scholarship in DJE. For instance, Carrier uses only English translations because he can’t read ancient Greek or Hebrew. Carrier makes a lot of mistakes because of his inability to do the scholarship properly.

First, Ehrman never says that. Anywhere. So to imply he did, is slandering both of us. Indeed, Ehrman never questions the quality of any of my scholarship in DJE. He hardly even addresses any of it. The only claim he has ever made that comes anywhere near that was his complaint once that I concluded the earliest Christians believed Jesus was divine, which he lambasted as ignorant. Then he published a whole book arguing I was correct about that. Go figure. Worse, the only work of mine he ever addresses in DJE is Not the Impossible Faith. A popular market book which throughout presumes Jesus existed. Ehrman has never read, nor ever responded, to my case for Jesus not existing.

Second, Winters’ claim is slanderously false. I have a B.A. in history from UC Berkeley with a minor in Classical Civilizations, which required and thus included numerous courses in ancient Greek and Latin, including New Testament Greek. I have an M.A., M.Phil., and Ph.D. from Columbia University in ancient history, for which I took several more years of coursework in those languages and had to pass elaborate translation competency exams in Latin and Greek. Those years of coursework included ancient Greek dialects and linguistics, paleography (the reading of manuscripts and study of textual transmission), and papyrology (under Roger Bagnall, one of the foremost papyrologists in the world). And in OHJ I frequently include and discuss the original language behind my translations. I do not translate Hebrew or Aramaic (and never claimed to), but I always rely on the expert literature when I make any point from those languages; and Ehrman has never said anything I did in that respect is incorrect.

This kind of slander is illustrative of Winters’ irresponsible, illogical, and fact-challenged approach to this subject. She asserts beliefs with total confidence, based on premises that are demonstrably false, and which she should know were false. That makes her wholly unreliable as a source on this subject.

Jesus Existed Because [Insert Falsehood]

Other than that pile of slanders, there are only a few new things in Winters’ videos of 2016 and 2017. They do also just rehash the same mistakes of her videos in 2015. Which I already analyzed. So do read that, too, if you want a full rebuttal, since I won’t be re-examining those same arguments here. Here, I only address the few new things she adds, which are actually old things, but she doesn’t know that. Because she has never read any peer reviewed literature on this debate.

One new thing is how she expands on her earlier points about methodology. And on this she’s quite right. She just screws the pooch when it comes to applying her own methods. But more importantly, she is simply repeating the very same points I myself made about the appropriate methodology, and that under peer review (in both PH and OHJ). A methodology, BTW, that her favorite author Bart Ehrman doesn’t ever coherently deploy.

Winters says a good theory should be parsimonious. That’s something I also point out, and articulate a formal model of for historians, in Proving History (index, “Ockham’s Razor”). The concept is actually Bayesian. Its originators just didn’t know that, because the formal logic underlying it hadn’t been discovered yet. And most people who use the concept, never think to ask by what logical formula it is even capable of being valid as a criterion of theory-soundness. I then show why minimal Jesus mythicism (OHJ, Ch. 3) is just as parsimonious as minimal Jesus historicism (OHJ, Ch. 2), owing to the role of background knowledge in parsing the possibility space (OHJ, pp. 53-55). It’s also so owing to the vast pile of hidden assumptions defenders of historicity keep having to sneak in to rescue the theory. I’ve discussed all this before, in response to the only professional attempt to argue for historicity from parsimony (also evidently completely unknown to Winters), by expert Fernando Bermejo-Rubio.

Likewise, Winters calls upon the importance of explanatory breadth: good theories explain more things, with fewer ad hoc assumptions. But as I point out in OHJ, mythicism explains more weird things than historicity does (e.g. Chs. 8 and 11; and to all that one can add the fact that Jesus was bizarrely so extensively mythologized so quickly, a phenomenon highly unusual for historical persons, and inexplicable on the theory that there were so many eyewitnesses around to prevent it: e.g. Ch. 6). And none of the assumptions in minimal mythicism are ad hoc. To the contrary, they rest on established facts and background knowledge of the period (Chs. 4 and 5; and, e.g., Ch. 11.9). Winters also calls upon explanatory power: good theories make what we observe more probably what we would observe, than bad theories do (what she means by “accuracy of predictions”). Lo and behold, the entire argument of OHJ is that minimal mythicism does that. (Which principle is simply restating what Bayes’ theorem entails: good theories have a favorable likelihood ratio; see Proving History, and in particular its Bayesian analysis of the Inference to the Best Explanation, which is what Winters is describing, in Ch. 4.) And, of course, falsifiability. Hence the conditions that would falsify mythicism are laid out in nearly every chapter of OHJ.

And Winters doesn’t know any of this. Because she has never read any peer reviewed literature on this debate.

But methodology aside, Winters also wades into factual debates wholly ignorant of how those debates have actually played out in the peer reviewed literature. Here I think she is just gullibly trusting Bart Ehrman, foolishly expecting him to inform her that a lot of what he says is widely debated or contested in his own field (and some, IMO, has been outright refuted). And since he fails to do that, she assumes no such contention and debate exists, that what he says is the mainstream consensus. Because, how could he leave out something as important as the fact that it’s not? How indeed.

For example, Winters repeats Ehrman’s now well-refuted Argument from Aramaic. All dedicated peer reviewed studies of the methodology employed in Jesus studies that analyze this approach have declared it logically invalid (see PH, pp. 185-86), and indeed it’s demonstrably incapable of arguing for historicity (OHJ, pp. 383-85, 408-10). I’ve summarized the problem before. The only scholars who defend it, violate all the same methodological principles Winters insists they should follow (see, for example, the defects in its defense by its leading proponent, the late Maurice Casey, here and here). So if she were consistent, even she should agree this method is invalid.

Moreover, if Winters would act like a responsible skeptic and actually read the peer reviewed literature on this, she would know mythicists don’t need to explain how Aramaic got imported into the legends of Jesus: the historicity-defending professors she lauds have already given those explanations (again, see PH, pp. 185-86 and OHJ, pp. 383-85, 408-10, where I repeatedly cite them doing so). Because, ahem, a lot of them already argue those things don’t come from Jesus. Mythicists simply agree with those experts. They have no need to come up with any new theory of their own. Numerous experts in the peer reviewed literature, all historicists, have already done that. Why doesn’t Winters know that?

A different example is when Winters complains that “another big problem I have with mythicism is that from literally the 1st century of the common era until 1791, it didn’t occur to anyone anywhere that Jesus might not have been a historical figure.” This is literally false. There were actual Christians who denied the earthly historicity of Jesus, during the same exact span of time the canonical Gospels were written in (OHJ, Ch. 8.12). We have evidence there were non-Christian Jews who did so as well, although by the time any are speculatively quoted on the matter, none would really have been in any position to know. Likewise any pagan critics, who also came so late to the game, they had no way of knowing either. And after that, historicists destroyed all literature that questioned it.

For example, the mythicist Christian sect the letter of 2 Peter was forged to denounce, is never again heard of outside of that fake letter: all their literature, all references to them, even the name of their sect, was purged from history. We even have a Gospel from one of the lost mythicist Christian sects, composed around the same time as the canonical Gospels, that we can now confirm was later outright doctored, removing the unpalatable theology, and “inserting” a historicist creed in its place (OHJ, Ch. 3.1). And for a thousand years we can be fairly certain the Church would have coerced or killed anyone who even attempted to revive the idea—simply judging from how they burned and murdered and tortured even mild heretics. Although by the Middle Ages, no one had the skills, methods, or access to documents to even investigate the matter usefully anyway; that required an Enlightenment, which led to the reinvention of rational historical and textual methods, and the centralized accumulation and publication of documents. And of course by then, nearly all the actual evidence we’d need to really test these theories, had long since been destroyed (and that’s not conjecture; we know for a fact it was destroyed: OHJ, Ch. 8.3-4 & 8.12; and Elements 21 & 22, Ch. 4).

Yet another type of error Winters makes is not understanding the reasons Gospel authors compose their stories as they do. For example, Winters notes that, in accord with Paul, “Mark also has an adoptionist view of Jesus, but he alters the timeline as to when that happened,” moving it from the resurrection to the baptism. Note that there is an obvious reason why Paul can’t have taught that it occurred at his baptism: if Jesus didn’t exist, there was no baptism. But the reason Mark is depicting it at baptism is that the scene he draws is a model of Christian baptism: as Paul says, Christians become adopted by God as his sons when they are baptized. Mark thus invents a scene of Jesus undergoing that same process, as a model to explain the ritual ongoing in his church (Jesus being “the firstborn” of God’s adopted sons, and all baptized Christians now his brothers: OHJ, Element 12, Ch. 4). Mark is not trying to claim historically that’s what happened. Mark is uninterested in the literal truth of his stories (Mark 4:9-13). To the contrary, Mark deliberately builds a symbolic parallel between the baptism and Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection, to communicate exactly what Paul did, that that’s what the Christian baptism was: a symbolic crucifixion and resurrection (OHJ, pp. 99, 421-23). This is true even if Jesus was historical.

Winters also keeps contradicting her own preferred source (Bart Ehrman), evidently unaware that he disagrees with her. Yet she insists no scholar does. In fact, dozens in the field do, not just good old Bart. The most prominent example: one of Winters’ main arguments is that Jesus was not regarded as divine until “in the end of the 1st century and the start of the 2nd century, [when] Jesus has been transformed into a divine being.” I already addressed in Part 1 what was wrong with this claim: the very first Christian literature, the authentic Epistles of Paul (and Hebrews), written in the early 1st century, already establish Jesus was a pre-existent divine being, who became incarnate so he could die, and was then re-exalted to divine status; and we can tell this was believed to be so by the first Christians even before Paul. In fact, Paul is unaware of any other understanding of Jesus. He never mentions one. He is never defensive about this detail. And so far as we can tell from him, none of the competing gospels he combats argued anything else (they appear instead to have been arguing for different versions of a divine Jesus or different teachings from him rather than about him). Bart Ehrman fully agrees. As do dozens of other leading experts in the peer reviewed literature of the field (whom both I and Ehrman cite).

Similar to that gaffe, Winters says clueless things like:

The problem with having multiple mythical Jesus theories, is that each author will provide a different answer to the same questions, based on whether or not they think that the Jesus movement was ‘Paul experiencing a celestial being through revelation’, or ‘Jews who were influence by Stoicism and Philo’ or ‘a minimally historical Jesus fused with the Christ of Christianity’.

If that’s what she has a problem with, then she has a problem with historicists. Because all of those theories were invented by proponents of historicity, and still principally defended in the peer reviewed literature by proponents of historicity. For example, that the crucifixion story was adapting narrative material from another Jesus, Jesus ben Ananias, and fusing it to the Christ of Christianity, first arose and is still commonly cited from the peer reviewed literature by prominent historicists in the professional community—including Theodore Weeden and Craig Evans (OHJ, p. 429), the latter an actual evangelical Christian of all things. It did not come from mythicists. And it’s regarded as plausible or correct by a lot of historicists.

Likewise, the idea that Paul’s Christology and soteriological metaphysics is heavily influenced by Stoicism and Philo (or Jewish traditions also influencing Philo) originated from, and is still defended among, prominent historicists in the professional community—including Stephen Finlan, Troels Engberg-Pedersen, Stephen Hultgren, and Hugh Anderson; even John Levinson and John Barclay grant this influence and only disagree on how much (OHJ, pp. 173-75; cf. pp. 158, 203 n. 127, 212, and 448). These ideas did not come from mythicists. And they are regarded as plausible or correct by a lot of historicists.

Likewise the belief that Christianity originated from Paul (and the first Apostles) “experiencing a celestial being through revelation” is a widespread position among historicists, who argue the historical Jesus never taught such things, that they originated only in those post-mortem visions (real or pretended), encounters with Jesus now in the heavens as a celestial being. Other historicists debate how much that’s the case, some thinking maybe Jesus did teach some of those things. But that dispute remains unresolved.

So if Winters thinks it’s a problem for mythicists to disagree on these things, then she must now have a problem with historicists, because they all take conflicting positions on these exact same things! Meanwhile, plenty of historicists and mythicists agree with all these things (they are not competing ideas).

That Winters doesn’t know that, and thus tells her audience exactly the opposite, makes her an almost worse disseminator of misinformation as the cranks she is rightly against. It also demonstrates her reasons for embracing historicity are uninformed and unsound.

Spawn of Straw Man

Even though Winters is recording these videos a whole two to three years after On the Historicity of Jesus was published under peer review, and (as commenters on her videos attest) she clearly knew my book exists, she still never introduces any peer reviewed mythicist theory to compare with her theory of historicity. And this is obvious from her latest video (of 16 September 2017), where she says the “only” way she can see mythicists explaining the evidence is if the Gospel narratives (of a Galilean preacher) were taught from the very beginning and for thirty more years as myth, and then misunderstood as history. Which I don’t believe any mythicist worth a salt has ever argued. It’s certainly not the theory I outline and test in On the Historicity of Jesus, which holds that those earthly stories were only invented to allegorize the faith a lifetime later, after all known witnesses to the real origins of the faith were dead. That’s not necessarily the case; but it’s what the evidence indicates.

There is certainly no evidence such stories were known to Paul. Even the one narrative element he ever references (Christ’s inauguration of the Eucharist), he says he learned by revelation, and describes as a mystical speech delivered to future believers and not to present Disciples, whom Paul never mentions ever being there (OHJ, Ch. 11.7). Paul likewise never mentions any witnesses to the crucifixion or burial—he only cites ancient scriptures as his source for that information. Paul also never mentions there ever being any witnesses to any other event in or fact of Jesus’s life. The first time anyone ever sees Jesus, in any account given by Paul, is in revelations, after the Christ’s death (OHJ, Ch. 11.2 and 11.4). So it’s clear no myths of an earthly Jesus had been invented yet. And Paul is writing twenty years after Christianity originated. 1 Clement and Hebrews likewise were most likely written before the mid-60s A.D., yet they also never mention anyone seeing Jesus on earth (OHJ, Chs. 8.5 and 11.5).

The first time any such notion appears in extant literature, is Mark’s Gospel, written decades after even Paul was dead, and citing no witnesses in support, and which Mattew and Luke simply redacted, likewise never citing any witness as a source (and in her videos Winters repeatedly agrees John is not historically reliable enough to cite in defense of historicity; indeed, he is simply rewriting the Gospel the Synoptics had contrived: OHJ, Ch. 10.7).

Winters also keeps repeatedly saying her theory (the apocalyptic preacher model) is the one taught by “all” professors in the field; unaware of the fact that actually, all professors are hugely divided on that point, and actually teach an enormous array of contradictory and competing theories of historicity—a fact so well-known, prominent professors have repeatedly complained about it (see Proving History, Ch. 1, where I demonstrate this). Moreover, hers is a rather elaborate and over-speculative theory of historicity—one could trim it quite a bit and still have a viable and more parsimonious theory (as I show in Ch. 2 of OHJ). Nevertheless, it’s a credible theory, one I think is entirely possible. But after summarizing it, Winters says:

We therefore have our theory of the historical Jesus. Will I now be presenting a mythical Jesus theory in this video series and evaluate both of them against each other? Uuummm I-I really can’t. Because unlike professional historians, mythicists disagree on what the word ‘myth’ means, and mythicists also disagree with the way that the concept of Jesus relates to the idea of myth. Instead, I think it makes a lot more sense if I allow mythicists to state their theories and present them in the same way that I laid out earlier. Have them explain the who, what, where, when, why and how of their theoretical account. And to just prove that it’s really not going to be possible for me to present a comparative mythical/historical Jesus theory across the series in depth, the second video I will make is going to review the various and contradictory mythical Jesus ideas that exist out there.

None of which are the only theory of mythicism to pass peer review. What is a straw man argument? Ignoring the only successful peer reviewed theory. And instead only rebutting the theories of cranks and amateurs. Spanning, BTW, hundreds of years (yes, as we find out later, she is including centuries-worth of mythicists in this statement; yet just as illogically does not compare that with centuries-worth of historicists). What’s unconscionable here is lying to your viewers by claiming that’s not only the best there is, but all there is. Misinformation 101. But more importantly, Winters falsely characterizes this debate as a divided bunch of mythicists (actually, she means only a divided bunch of cranks and amateurs—there is no significantly divided view among peer reviewed mythicism; there is so far in fact only one such theory) against a field-unified theory of historicity. But as I just noted, in fact the field of historicity is just as divided, disagreeing on nearly every particular of the historical Jesus, with so many competing and contradictory theories as to bewilder even their advocates. Experts have even noted that this has gotten so bad, it entails a crisis in the field.

When discussing mythicism, Winters mostly addresses the theories of amateurs and cranks, or scholars from a hundred years ago or even two! She rarely even discusses any contemporary mythicists who are actual professional historians (neither myself, nor Price, nor Thompson, Brodie, Avalos, Droge, or Noll). And on the rare occasions she does, she never correctly describes any theory they’ve advanced in the matter (for example when she mentions me, she only mentions one element of my theory, and never quotes my peer reviewed academic study on it). What she says about the centuries old, the crank, and the amateur writing about mythicism is largely correct. But moot. If she doesn’t address any peer reviewed case for mythicism, she is only addressing a straw man.

For example, at one point Winters complains: “What exactly was the first theology taught under this mythical Jesus religion? It had to have some perspective on the nature of Jesus relative to God. Was Jesus co-eternal with God? Was he adopted by God? I would like to know, but nobody seems to be able to say specifically what the original theology of the mythical Jesus community was.” Funny. She would know. If she would read the one peer reviewed theory there is in the professional literature. This is all covered in OHJ (e.g. OHJ, Elements 10 & 12, Ch. 4)

Winters also doesn’t study very carefully even the mythicists she does analyze. For example, she includes J.M. Allegro among the mythicists whose theories she mentions, an actual modern achaeologist and paleographer. In fact Allegro was not a mythicist. He was of the camp that Jesus actually lived and died under Alexander Jannaeus a hundred years before Pontius Pilate and is therefore the Teacher of Righteousness referenced in the Dead Sea Scrolls. That’s actually a version of historicism, albeit a weird one—though not without evidence: the early Talmudic Jews outside the Roman Empire knew of no other version of Christianity than one indeed teaching Jesus was executed under Alexander Jannaeus (OHJ, Ch. 8.1). Which is a difficult thing for historicists to explain. How could an early Christian sect have been teaching that? How indeed.

Likewise Winters falsely claims, “We don’t see intellectual progress being made in this area. There is no progression of ideas. Each author simply comes up with their own, usually his own, version of events and they’re in contradiction to all the other accounts.” Funny. That’s exactly false. Of the one peer reviewed theory of mythicism there is. My academic monograph is very clear on how it builds on the work and theories of Earl Doherty—as well as hundreds of other scholars, relying on so much peer reviewed literature for the construction of its conclusions and ideas as to fill over forty pages of straight bibliography. And Doherty was building on and correcting the flawed but insightful work Arthur Drews, who in turn was doing the same with Bruno Bauer. If you ignore all the sidelines of cranks and amateurs and popularizers, and just focus on the one thread of study that actually led to a successful peer reviewed argument for mythicism, you see exactly what Winters wants: a gradual building and improvement and development.

Illustrating her bizarre conflation of amateurs and professionals, Winters complains (though without giving a single example of what she means):

Sure you can quote Carrier all you want, but Wells disagrees with Carrier about whether or not Paul knew a historical figure, so if your so-call experts disagree on pretty much everything except their agenda to undermine the evidence for a historical man named Jesus, well then I can’t really take anything that they say seriously.

G.A. Wells had no degrees in ancient history or biblical studies. He was a professor of early 20th century German literature. Nothing he wrote on the historicity of Jesus passed peer review in any field. Bless his heart, but he was an amateur. Why is Winters comparing an amateur, with a fully qualified professional, an actual historian of antiquity, whose historicity study passed peer review? Does it make any sense to say, “Well, this unqualified amateur disagreed with the peer reviewed literature in Jesus studies, so I’m going to reject the peer reviewed literature in Jesus studies”? If no, then her argument about me and Wells, is equally illogical.

And that’s even before we get to the fact that Winters could say exactly the same thing of actual qualified professionals defending historicity. They all disagree with each other on nearly everything to do with historicity. Was Jesus a pacifist or a whitewashed zealot? Was he a miracle worker or only a preacher? Did he ever really perform exorcisms, or was that projected onto him because his later Christian followers did that? Did he think he was the messiah or in any sense divine, or was that idea pushed onto his memory after his death? Was he a Rabbi or a commoner? Was he actually a Hillelite Pharisee (as his teachings, as represented in the Gospels, match theirs pretty closely), or an Essene, or a disciple of John the Baptist, or all of the above, or something else entirely? How many of the stories in the Gospels reflect things that really happened? Was Jesus baptized by John the Baptist? Was he betrayed by one of his own crew? Did the Gospels construct their stories of him as a reaction to Homeric heroes? Did Q exist or not? Does the Gospel of Thomas date to the early first century or a hundred years later? Did Jesus get himself killed on purpose to trigger the apocalypse? Or was his execution a surprise even to him? Why was he killed at all? Did he establish the religion that continued after him (complete with Eucharist theology and ritual and an expectation of replacing temple Judaism with a new system of salvation), or did he have no idea of that even being a thing, and it was invented by his highest ranking students after he died? You will find professional historicists disagreeing on all these things. And a hundred other things besides. So will Winters now reject historicity “because all of its proponents disagree with each other and argue contradictory things”? Or is that just not a rational way to react to history as a field of study? I’ll let you figure that one out.

So when Winters concludes one of her videos by declaring…

My problem with mythicists is the amount of false information published by authors in defense of a mythical Jesus. The lack of serious scholarship by the authors of these books. The focus on attacking ancient texts instead of trying to understand them. [And] the lack of any meaningful contribution to historical scholarship in nearly 300 years of work.

…we have what may well be the worst straw man ever constructed:

  • She identifies no false information in my peer reviewed study of the subject. She conflates false information in the writings of scholars two hundred years ago, and of unqualified amateurs today, with the actual state of the field, in the actual peer reviewed literature of that field. Fallacy.
  • She conflates amateur and crank books that “lack serious scholarship” with a treatise that actually passed peer review at a well-respected biblical studies academic press, something that by definition can never plausibly be accused of lacking in serious scholarship. Fallacy.
  • She conflates amateur and crank hyperskepticism (“attacking ancient texts”), with the legitimate process of vetting the textual and historical reliability of sources, which throughout even the mainstream literature also frequently consists of correcting, questioning, and debunking texts: identifying forgeries, interpolations, edits, errors, fabrications, mistranslations, misinterpretations, gaps, are all standard, legitimate, and essential tasks carried out by all professional historians (indeed, Bart Ehrman’s own career consists primarily of doing this). Fallacy.
  • She completely overlooks the significant work contributing to the field (Doherty, Thompson, Brodie, Droge, Noll, Carrier) including actual peer reviewed contributions (I’ve published three journal articles and a whole book on the subject, in standard professional venues; and yet another peer reviewed book on method), and then claims there has been no “meaningful contribution to historical scholarship” in three hundred years. False.

This is just not competent skepticism. What she is presenting is illogical and ill-informed, and grossly miseducates the public on the issue she is attempting to tackle. One can only hope she learns to do much better than this. But so far, nothing she has produced on the topic is reliable enough to be of any use.


  1. junegoes September 25, 2017, 9:32 am

    I tried to respond to some of her videos in 2016, pointing out some of the points you bring up about the many crises in biblical studies, including links to articles, books and videos as supporting evidence (BTW, the YouTube comment section is a miserable platform to have a detailed discussion within.)

    I also asked her why she would wade into a field that is so fraught with conflicting motives, emotions and bad methodology when she has obviously not done even basic reading on the subject. No response to me except for getting angry at a self-deprecating comment I made that she misinterpreted. When I aplogized for any misunderstanding and explained what I meant, she never acknowleged that post. She mostly gave combative, insulting, and nonsubstantive reponses to a couple of other people who tried to engage.

    I gave up and quit watching the videos. She has no new insights and isn’t interested in actually discussing the subject in a reasonable, scholarly manner.

  2. John MacDonald September 27, 2017, 4:58 pm

    Proof from the above post that historical Jesus studies are one big fat mess:

    “They all disagree with each other on nearly everything to do with historicity. Was Jesus a pacifist or a whitewashed zealot? Was he a miracle worker or only a preacher? Did he ever really perform exorcisms, or was that projected onto him because his later Christian followers did that? Did he think he was the messiah or in any sense divine, or was that idea pushed onto his memory after his death? Was he a Rabbi or a commoner? Was he actually a Hillelite Pharisee (as his teachings, as represented in the Gospels, match theirs pretty closely), or an Essene, or a disciple of John the Baptist, or all of the above, or something else entirely? How many of the stories in the Gospels reflect things that really happened? Was Jesus baptized by John the Baptist? Was he betrayed by one of his own crew? Did the Gospels construct their stories of him as a reaction to Homeric heroes? Did Q exist or not? Does the Gospel of Thomas date to the early first century or a hundred years later? Did Jesus get himself killed on purpose to trigger the apocalypse? Or was his execution a surprise even to him? Why was he killed at all? Did he establish the religion that continued after him (complete with Eucharist theology and ritual and an expectation of replacing temple Judaism with a new system of salvation), or did he have no idea of that even being a thing, and it was invented by his highest ranking students after he died? You will find professional historicists disagreeing on all these things. And a hundred other things besides.”


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