I debated the historicity of Jesus with the renowned Christian scholar Craig Evans back in 2016, and later analyzed that debate. But I didn’t notice Evans’ own post-debate analysis in the Christian Research Journal, nor its republication online years later as “Mythicism and the Public Jesus of History” published in March of 2018 by the Christian Research Institute, a ministry website of Hank Hanegraaf, which someone recently called my attention to. It definitely warrants discussion.
Is This Creation Science?
The oddest thing is that Craig Evans is a very skilled and expert historian; but as soon as we’re talking about his religion, all his skills and expertise vanish, and he acts like a Creationist defending the Garden of Eden. We see this happen already at the very first sentence of his synopsis:
Arguments for the nonexistence of the Jesus of history stumble over the public nature of much of the primary evidence. Jesus was observed by crowds of people, by friends and foes alike.
He starts by asserting there is very public primary evidence to stumble over. Then as examples he lists conjectures, not evidence. Was Jesus observed by crowds of people, friends and foes alike? We hear literally nothing from any of them. There is no public evidence of this. We only have wild myths written many decades later, in a foreign land and a foreign language, by persons who weren’t there and never mention getting any information from anyone who was. So where is this public evidence we are supposed to be stumbling over? It is precisely the poverty of that evidence that calls the historicity of Jesus into question.
Evans does try to punt to Paul, saying “The strongest evidence for the existence of Jesus is found in Paul’s letters to the Christians of Corinth and Galatia,” wherein, Evans says, “Paul describes his firsthand—and very public—encounters with two of Jesus’ original disciples, Peter and John.” No. Paul never mentions disciples. Not here. Not anywhere. These were the first apostles—the first to receive visions of Jesus. Paul never once ever says they sat at the feet of Jesus or ever met him in life. So Evans is inventing evidence. Not citing evidence. That he has to do that is precisely why we have doubts about the real existence of Jesus.
The same follows for Evans’ claim that Paul “describes his firsthand—and very public—encounters…with James, the brother of Jesus.” Paul never says that. There is no such phrase “brother of Jesus” anywhere in Paul. He says brother of the Lord. And the only Brothers of the Lord Paul tells us he knows about are baptized Christians: adopted by God, making Jesus “the first born of many brethren” (Romans 8:15 and 8:29; Galatians 4:5). Did Paul ever mean he knew biological brothers of Jesus? We don’t know. He never says. He never mentions such a category of brother, the way he does mention the cultic one. So even at best, all we have to go on tells us nothing as to which Paul means; and at worst, indicates Paul knew no other kind of brother. For if he did, he’d have to qualify to explain he meant a different kind of brother of the Lord than the only one he ever elsewhere describes.
Evans attempts another argument, that “critics of early Christianity never doubted the existence of Jesus” and “modern critics should follow their lead,” which is a bizarre thing for a modern historian to say. We should abandon all the knowledge and rational tools of modern history and just “believe” what late, ancient, uninformed authors thought? Only a Creationist would say such a thing. In any other field of history we would admit that critics writing a century after the fact who cite no sources other than sacred myths do not have relevant knowledge whether those myths were true or not. They should be the last people we trust in this matter. (It’s also not quite true that no critics doubted the earthly historicity of Jesus; there were even Christians who doubted it: see On the Historicity of Jesus, Ch. 8.12.)
Note that in every case above, the standard methods and procedures adopted in every other field and subject of history are abandoned, and replaced with Creationist-style apologetic rhetoric. Why? Is it because if we acted like historians, the evidence would not look so reassuringly good?
From Right to Wrong
That’s just the synopsis though. Maybe if we get into the article we’ll find Evans actually has sound arguments that are based on the historical methodologies employed by actual historians in other fields. Or not.
Evans gets right what the central question has to be: to be credible, “the existence of Jesus [must be] the best explanation of [the] evidence and of the rise of the Christian movement.” I find in On the Historicity of Jesus that it actually isn’t the best explanation of the evidence. Too much of the evidence is weird; and none of it what we’d need to be confident. Jesus just isn’t as well or clearly attested as other persons in history.
But you have to be comparing your theory to the best contrary theory, not a straw man. And this is where Evans fails as a historian, acting like an apologist rather than a scholar. He didn’t read my book, then the only peer reviewed challenge to the consensus he’s defending. It’s his moral and professional obligation to engage with the peer reviewed literature of his field. He didn’t. And that’s what tells us he is indeed, despite his protests, defending “an article of faith or a religious dogma,” not doing history.
Evans breaks the debate down into two claims in dispute; one he gets right, the other he doesn’t. The first is whether “the evidence for the existence of Jesus is weak and unimpressive.” The second is whether “there is good reason to believe that the stories of Jesus presented in the New Testament Gospels are constructs inspired by various pagan mythologies, especially those that speak of dying and rising gods.” The first is right: we are indeed saying the evidence is very weak and unimpressive. Especially compared to every other ancient person we are confident existed. And Evans has no real argument to the contrary—none that would survive review in any other field of history. The second, however, is completely wrong.
I did not argue in our debate, and do not argue in my book, that “the stories of Jesus” are pagan constructs or based on previous “dying and rising god” mythologies. To the contrary, in both I argued the stories constructed about Jesus in the Gospels mostly derive from Jewish mythology (principally transvaluing Moses and Elijah), and this is in fact a mainstream view in Jesus scholarship. It’s not some thing “only mythicists” argue. It’s a well and widely established conclusion in the peer reviewed literature. Even the pagan elements that were woven into these constructs (such as documented by Dennis McDonald) are well argued in the peer reviewed literature, but none of my conclusions depend on this.
The only story about Jesus that I argue derives principally from pagan precedents of dying-and-rising saviors is the story of his resurrection—though even there I note the components are nevertheless all built out of Jewish scripture. But no mainstream scholar believes that’s historical anyway. So how can arguing against its derivation from prior precedents help historicity? Evans seems deeply confused here. We are supposed to be debating the historicity of a Jesus who wasn’t miraculously raised from the dead. Not defending the resurrection of Jesus. Only Christian apologists do that.
Evans also is confusing stories with theologies. The idea of Jesus as a dying-and-rising savior did not begin with stories. There are none ever referenced by Paul; he references only creeds, revelations, and peshers, lists of discoveries extracted from scripture (Romans 16:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:3-5; Philippians 2:5-10). Rather, Christianity began with ideas: someone—probably Peter—whether deliberately or subconsciously realized Judaism has a dying-and-rising savior to claim, just as all other cultures by then did, and built a theology out of this, drawing its particulars out of Jewish scripture and ideology. This was no different than how the Jews “realized” Judaism has a doctrine of resurrection, an apocalyptic future, a dualist afterlife (of heaven and hell), and a monotheistic god and a divine adversary for him—all just as certain pagans they admired then did. As all those things did not come from Judaism. They came from the Jews’ Persian conquerors (for scholarship see Not the Impossible Faith, pp. 90-99).
But when it came time to construct stories conveying these ideas about the Jewish dying-and-rising savior-god, those stories were mostly built out of Jewish mythology (Jewish scriptures) and ideology (Jewish customs and concepts). Not pagan. To the extent pagan models were grafted in at all, they were intended to comment on those pagan parallels being insufficiently Jewish. They coopted those models and ideas, and Judaized them. As anyone who actually read MacDonald’s work on this would understand. But I make no significant use of that fact in OHJ. My argument there extends from the Gospels’ emulation of Jewish ideas and mythologies. Which is no fringe idea, but a mainstream view in the field of Jesus studies.
Evans would know this. If he would ever actually read the peer reviewed literature he claims to be responding to. That we can tell he still hadn’t by the time he published his response to our debate is demonstrated by his still citing Attis as a claimed parallel, though no peer reviewed defense of mythicism ever mentions Attis as a model that anything about Jesus was based on. The only other model he mentions is Osiris, but he shows no signs of even knowing what analogy Osiris is even proposed to be in OHJ.
The Evidence Sucks
Evans says we reject the historicity of the Gospels because they were written by biased Christians and “present a miracle-working Jesus who was resurrected after being executed” which is “surely…the stuff of myth, not history.” Wrong. These are not the reasons we discount them as sources. Those are good reasons to question their claims about Jesus, but would not alone be sufficient to doubt their claim to there being a Jesus. To the contrary, we discount the Gospels as at all reliable on standard historical methodologies that would produce the same result in every other field:
- They’re late, post-dating any evident witness known to still be alive;
- and written in a foreign land and language;
- by unknown authors of unknown credentials;
- who cite no sources, and give no indication they had any sources;
- and never critically engage with their material but only credulously (e.g. they never discuss conflicting accounts or reasons to believe their information, unlike rational historians of the era);
- and about whose texts we have no reactions, critical or otherwise—whatever people were saying about these Gospels when they came out, we never get to hear, not for many more decades, by which time we see those reacting have no other information to judge them by;
- all the earliest of which texts just copy their predecessors verbatim and change and add a few things;
- and which contain in every pericope patent implausibilities or wholly unbelievable stories (from a random guy splitting the heavens and battling the devil and wandering out of the desert and converting disciples to instantly abandon their livelihoods after but a few sentences, to mystically murdering thousands of pigs, miraculously feeding thousands of itinerants, curing the blind, calming storms, and walking on water; from having a guy arguing against Pharisees with arguments that actually were the arguments of the Pharisees, to depicting a trial and execution that violates every law and custom of the time; and beyond);
- which stories have obvious and rather convenient pedagogical uses in later missionary work;
- and often emulate and “change up” the prior myths of other historically dubious heroes, like Moses and Elijah;
- and often contain details that can only have been written a lifetime later (like the Sermon on the Mount, which was composed in Greek after the Jewish War; or prophecies of Jerusalem’s destruction, likewise; or Mark’s emulation of the passion of Jesus ben Ananias or Luke’s confused cooption of The Antiquities of Josephus; and so on).
- and for none which do we have any prior corroboration.
There is no field of history—absolutely none—where such sources as these would be trusted as history at all. So why are we not acting like a historian here? What’s Evans up to? Apologetics. Just as none of the methods fabricated by Christian apologists to try and “extract” history from these dismal sources would be recognized as valid or validly applied in any other field of history. Which even many Jesus scholars now admit (see my survey in Chapter 5 of Proving History).
Evans says we find no evidence for historicity in Paul because “Paul is not to be trusted either, or at least it should not be taken as in reference to a real person of history” but rather “a celestial being, whose birth and death were in the heavens.” To be more precise: nothing Paul says actually tells us he wasn’t talking solely about a celestial being known only through “revelation and scripture” exactly as Paul repeatedly says (again: Romans 16:25-26; 1 Corinthians 15:3-5; Galatians 1:11-16).
By contrast, Paul never conversely says any of what he talks about took place in earth history, that anyone ever met Jesus before he was risen, that Jesus was executed by anyone on earth, that Jesus was “born” in any normal way. So why should we assume Paul ever means that? We can’t tell. And that’s what the evidence leaves us with. It’s of course even worse than that—that Paul never references Jesus’s earthly life is actually really weird. And thus not well explained by the theory that Jesus had very recently had one. But that you have to see for yourself—and why the excuses invented for it are implausible rationalizations; apologetics, not scholarship (OHJ, Chapter 11).
Evans then says we conclude “all references to Jesus in non-Christian Greek and Latin writings” are “of no real value” because “these writers rely on the Christian stories.” Which is simply true. Not a single source outside the Bible indicates having any source whatever but the Bible—or Christians citing the Bible. This is a basic principle in all other fields of historical study: dependent sources cannot be used as evidence for any person or event. Only independent sources count as evidence. (Derivative sources can at best only help date or check the text of the sources depended on; but only the sources depended on count as sources: OHJ, Ch. 7.1) This is the rule in every other historical field. Why, then, does Evans abandon standard historical methodology when we’re talking about Jesus? Three guesses. None will be “he is doing history.”
It’s moot at this point even to talk about Josephus, as Evans does. Even were every single thing in Josephus authentic, it’s still all derivative and therefore unusable. It just so happens that also no credible case can be made for any Christian material in Josephus being authentic.
Who Are We Talking About?
In his article Evans continues to conflate the peer reviewed defense of mythicism with outdated and amateur work—naming, for example, those cranks Freke and Gandy, and going on about obsolete parallelism. Even though he repeatedly says mine is the most scholarly defense of the thesis, one has to wonder how he even knows that, since he seems to think it’s no different from the crank parallelism he rightly snoots at. And he continues to confuse how the Gospel stories were constructed, with how the first Christians adapted the idea of a dying-and-rising savior into a Jewish model.
Needless to say, everything Evans says about this is irrelevant, because none of it applies to anything I argued in OHJ. So why is Evans saying any of it at all? Isn’t he supposed to be responding to a debate over the content of OHJ? What’s going on here? Right. Apologetics. Fabricating straw men, and confusing his readers into not knowing there’s a difference between the serious, peer reviewed work Evans is supposed to be responding to, and the antiquated and online hackwork he’s actually talking about.
Evans then full-on confuses the historicity of Jesus—with the historicity of his resurrection. Which gives away the game. Only Christian apologists care about defending the historicity of the resurrection. That Evans doesn’t admit to his readers that no mainstream scholarship deems the resurrection stories historical tells us exactly what’s going on here. So why is he talking about the resurrection stories? Since all mainstream scholarship agrees they aren’t historical, how can they be pertinent to historicity? They aren’t.
Other apologetic con work goes on in this article as well, such as when Evans quotes Tryggve Mettinger saying there’s “no prima facie evidence” the death and resurrection of Jesus is a mythological construct…evidently hoping his readers don’t know what prima facie means. All Mettinger said was: he superficially considered but didn’t study the question. Literally; he says “that study cannot be undertaken here” (Riddle of Resurrection, p. 221). Evans meanwhile conceals from his readers Mettinger’s actual conclusion, which was that these “dying and rising gods were known in Palestine in New Testament times” (Riddle of Resurrection, p. 220). It was a real trope.
Evans then claims Hans-Josef Klauck also said there was no influence from pagan models on Judaism in forming Christianity…without quoting him ever saying that. The book Evans cites, The Religious Context of Early Christianity, never addresses this specific question. His book simply documents a sample of pagan religions. He never says anything about whether or in what ways Christianity may have been influenced by them, except to contemplate its possibility (pp. 151-52), not its impossibility.
Evans then cherry picks Bart Ehrman’s wildly false claim that:
There is no unambiguous evidence that any pagans prior to Christianity believed in dying and rising gods, let alone that it was a widespread view held by lots of pagans in lots of times and places.
There is in fact a lot of unambiguous evidence of both things. See my survey in Dying and Rising Gods (with scholarship and evidence extensively cited in OHJ, Ch. 5, Element 31). Evans prefers fallacious arguments from authority to actually checking the facts. Is that the behavior of a scholar, or a Christian apologist?
Continuing that strategy of disingenuous and fallacious argumentation, Evans falsely claims:
Mainstream scholarship views the Gospels as essentially reliable, providing sufficient data for the historian interested in knowing what Jesus did and what He taught.
For which assertion he cites a forty-year-old book by E.P. Sanders, a Christian theologian (albeit of liberal bent). Though notably not mentioning Sanders’ subsequent book The Historical Figure of Jesus—which extensively argues for the significant unreliability of the Gospels, such that one must always argue for the specific reliability of any information in them. Meanwhile Sanders says absolutely ridiculous things like that “the sources for Jesus are better…than those that deal with Alexander” the Great (!). This is not a reliable scholar to be quoting as an authority (Ibid., p. 3). That’s someone who doesn’t know jack about historical sources. (In case you didn’t know, the evidence for Alexander is vast—and in every way superior: OHJ, pp. 21-24.) But never mind. We’re to pretend Sanders said the Gospels were essentially reliable, and that this corresponds to the mainstream consensus.
In actual fact the reverse is the case: mainstream scholarship views the Gospels as essentially unreliable and only a few things in them plausibly credible. The list of things even a majority can agree on is extremely few (see OHJ, pp. 31-34). The Jesus Seminar found almost nothing in the Gospels authentic (see The Five Gospels and The Acts of Jesus) and even Evans’s own preferred source, Bart Ehrman, concurs (see Jesus, Interrupted and Jesus Before the Gospels). As Craig Evans ought to know. So he just isn’t being honest with his readers.
This is Christian apologetics. Not honest scholarship. No one would ever say this of comparable sources in any other historical field.
It’s True Because the Bible Says So
Evans then goes on to list a bunch of things claimed in the anonymous, unsourced, foreign Gospels, sometime near the end of the first century, about absurd events supposedly occurring in the early first century. And declares surely this can’t be false; it was so public! But like a Christian apologist, he carefully doesn’t note all the counter-examples that refute that very reasoning. Jesus must have killed thousands of pigs! It was so public! Jesus must have miraculously fed thousands of people—look how public that is! The sky must actually have torn open at his baptism and the sun must actually have gone out at his death—look how many people were there! Hordes of undead must have descended on Jerusalem—everyone in Jerusalem saw them! Because Matthew says so!
That’s not an argument any honest historian would make in any other field of study. “This hagiography says a bunch of people saw it, so it must have happened” would be laughed out of every journal and publishing house in every other subject. Evans asks “one must wonder how they were not found out,” but he doesn’t seem to realize we have no evidence anyone who would have been there (a) was alive when those stories were invented, (b) could read books circulating in Greek, (c) would even know these books existed (they weren’t written in Palestine), and (d) that we’d ever get to hear what anyone who read them said anyway—after all, where are the texts by these witnesses Evans is talking about? Had they confirmed these stories, how could they not have been preserved for us to read those things? But if they gainsaid them…why would they have been preserved for us to read those things? His argument is inherently illogical, indeed ahistorical, contrary to all sound historical reasoning. (See OHJ, Ch. 8.12.)
This whole “fact-checking” argument is historically defunct in every way: ancient peoples didn’t fact check myths, readily believed things they could have easily debunked had they bothered, and we rarely get to hear what critics said. The Gospels are full of examples. We can be certain no sun went out, no sky tore open, no thousands were miraculously fed, no hordes of pigs mystically killed, no horde of undead descending on Jerusalem, no hundreds of infants slaughtered. If the Gospels could make all that up and get away with it—and they did—I’m sorry, but making the rest up is peanuts (see How Did Christianity Switch to a Historical Jesus?).
Indeed we have no evidence of any successful churches in Palestine after Paul, until well over a century after the fact (why is that, we might wonder?), and most who could have seen anything the Gospels claim would have been dead, particularly with a massively destructive war and several famines in the interim (OHJ, Ch. 4, Element 22). There is an obvious reason we have no evidence of any witnesses ever discussing any of the contents of the Gospels. There weren’t any witnesses.
To argue the contrary is Christian apologetics. Not doing history.
Making Stuff Up
Evans then tries to defend the obscure and ambiguous passages in Paul he needs to lean on to believe in historicity. But here we devolve into even more obvious apologetics, departing even further from any accepted methods of a historian.
For example, Evans says that Paul had to write the Galatians “because some were questioning Paul’s credentials, in part because he had not been one of the original disciples who followed Jesus.” Note that is nowhere in Galatians, or any letter of Paul. Never, ever, does Paul ever have to deal with the argument that “he had not been one of the original disciples who followed Jesus.” That is a completely made up factoid. It comes from Christian faith doctrines. Not any historical records.
Evans believes this because he needs to believe it. Not because there is any evidence of it. There isn’t. In fact, Galatians 1 affords us evidence against it. For the argument Paul has to spend that whole chapter refuting is the claim that he learned the Gospel from the first apostles—to which the only rebuttal we can see he needed to deploy is: he swears up and down he never learned it from them, but got it direct from Jesus in a revelation. Nowhere in this chapter is there any issue of his needing to justify that mode of becoming an apostle—to the contrary, it’s clear the Galatians would accept no other way of becoming an apostle. That means the first Christians had to have become apostles the same way. And Paul directly confirms this in 1 Corinthians 15, using identical language as in Galatians 1 (see OHJ, p. 536). This is exactly the opposite of the made-up story Evans pushes on us.
Evans keeps “making stuff up” by inventing the factoid that the “James the Pillar” whom Paul mentions in Galatians 2 must be the Brother of Jesus, when in fact that’s nowhere said—Paul never says that is the brother of Jesus, nor says the James he names in Galatians 1 was the Pillar. Evans is simply making all this up. The historical record does not attest any of this. We do not know anything about either James but what Paul tells us. One was not an Apostle (as the grammar in Galatians 1 entails: OHJ, pp. 589-90); the other (in Galatians 2) was one of the top three ranking Apostles. Evans likewise cites Acts as if it were a reliable historical record, when we know for a fact it’s not (OHJ, Ch. 9). It’s particularly unreliable on the chronology of Paul’s travels (as Lüdemann shows in his study of Paul).
So again what Evans is doing here is apologetics, not history.
This happens again when Evans tries to argue that when “Paul says, ‘Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles’ (1 Cor. 15:7), he has distinguished James from the original apostles.” No. He hasn’t. Paul declared an appearance to the original apostles in verse 5 (Peter and “the twelve”). Here we cannot tell if he means new people, or a second appearance to the original group, or to them and more apostles besides. Paul likewise does not say this James was a brother of Jesus, or anything about which James it was. So we cannot make the kind of assertions Evans is making. He is making stuff up. On no data. Indeed James (literally Jacob) was one of the most common Jewish names. There could easily have been several in the apostleship. There is no reason to believe the Gospels or Acts had accurate data on them all; or indeed on any.
Evans does this again when he says “Paul is speaking of James the brother of Jesus, who became the leader of the church in Jerusalem after Peter’s departure.” There is no evidence that ever happened. The Gospels have no knowledge any brother of Jesus would take over the church. Acts has no knowledge of any brother of Jesus ever taking over the church. The author of 1 Clement has no knowledge of any brother of Jesus having taken over the church. No church writer before Hegesippus either. It only arises as a late unsourced legend near the end of the second century. Historians don’t trust information like this.
And again when Evans asks “why is only James designated ‘the Lord’s brother'” as if one needed to explain why, if you said “I met the Pope and a Christian named James,” you didn’t “also” explain that the Pope was a Christian. Everyone already knows the Pope is a Christian. That’s why you never have to say he is. Likewise for Paul, anytime he wrote “the Apostle X, and the Christian Y,” everyone he is writing to already knows X is a Christian, because all Apostles are Christians. It would never occur to Paul that he had to also say, “Oh, I mean the Christian Apostle.” And back then, Brother of the Lord simply meant (a baptized) Christian. So here we have Evans not even making logical sense; he is flailing around for rationalizations. Which is what apologists do. Not historians.
This also demonstrates Evans did not read the book he claims to be responding to. I extensively discuss and demonstrate why Paul only uses the full pleonastic phrase “Brother of the Lord” twice, in preference for usually abbreviating it to just “brother” everywhere else (OHJ, Ch. 11.10). That’s also something apologists do, but not professional historians. Professional historians actually read the peer reviewed literature they are responding to, and actually respond to what that literature argues; not pretend it didn’t argue anything.
In reality, it is very odd that Paul, who only tells us about cultic brothers of the Lord, as in Romans 8:29, never thinks he has to explain he means a different kind of brother in Galatians 1:19. Particularly when he grammatically indicates the person he is speaking of there is not an Apostle—which creates a conundrum for Evans, who needs James the brother of Jesus to be an Apostle of considerable rank. But Paul is not talking about any Apostle named James in Galatians 1:19. So in fact, if we were not beholden to faith doctrines—if we came at this text as historians, without preconceptions about what “must” be true—the natural reading of this text would be that Paul is referring to a lower ranking Christian here, and not the family of Jesus.
The same can be shown for the only other passage where Paul uses the full phrase, 1 Corinthians 9:5. These aren’t people who outrank Paul. These are people who don’t outrank Paul (OHJ, pp. 582-87). He’s saying there, of a privilege he believes he is owed, “if even rank and file Christians get to do this, then so should I.” The argument doesn’t work if it’s the family of Jesus who get the privilege; as Paul could never claim such a status. So Paul can’t be saying that there. And this is how historians approach texts: rather than reading them with faith assumptions that blind us to what is even actually going on in the text, we read them as arguments the author surely intended to make sense, using clues to how they use words and arguments as given to us by the author themselves.
This isn’t what the likes of Evans are doing. But it is what I am doing. So if you want to know who is making actual historical arguments for their conclusions, and who isn’t, you have your answer.
Evans thus illustrates he is defending the historicity of Jesus as a Christian apologist, a defender of the faith, rather than as an objective historian using the same methods as historians in any other field. To the contrary, he is abandoning those methods, even arguing contrary to them.
- Evans makes stuff up that’s not in the text, using it as evidence for reinterpreting the text.
- Evans depicts sources as “essentially reliable” that possess all the markers of complete unreliability in any other field.
- Evans uses arguments from authority without checking the facts to confirm anything those authorities are saying is true.
- Evans quote mines and conceals uncomfortable data.
- Evans wants us to trust ancient uninformed assertions over modern rational methods.
- Evans treats late, anonymous, unsourced stories as eyewitness evidence.
- Evans ignores missing evidence his own theories entail we should have.
- Evans argues from the silence of sources we don’t have and thus can’t in fact claim any silence of.
- Evans doesn’t address the best version of the competing thesis but conflates different theories of different quality and then claims to have rebutted them all.
- Evans ignores the peer reviewed literature of his own field, even when he claims to be responding to it.
- Evans conflates later stories with the causal origins of Christian beliefs.
- Evans tries to use dependent evidence as independent evidence.
- Evans injudiciously trusts obvious forgeries when it suits him (such as the interpolations in Josephus, the evidence for which would be overwhelming to anyone not dead-set against seeing it).
- Evans then misrepresents his own sources and even pretends widespread disagreements in his own field don’t exist.
These are all things Christian apologists do. They are not things serious historians do. Evans is running an apologetics game. He is not doing history.