Jesus: historical evidence for crucifixion
Rev Sam writes (comment on my last Jesus historicity post):
Hi Stephen, if you ever get around to resuming this element of the conversation, you might find this of interest. He’s much more of an expert than me.
I did watch it. His argument is that the early Christians would not make up a crucifixion story as the Messiah was not someone they would expect to be crucified. The expectation was the Messiah would defeat the Romans, not be executed by them. Of course this is a bog standard argument that gets repeated over and over. He concludes anyone who thinks the story is made up is living in a fantasy land.
This seems to me an amazingly weak piece of evidence.
He is second guessing people’s motives for why they would invent a story in which the expected Messiah dies.
First, there may be reasons why they would want their Messiah to die and come back to life. In fact, aren’t there some very, very obvious reasons why they would want that? You want to invent a Messiah. But unfortunately no one has defeated the Romans or introduced the Kingdom of God just yet – which is what the Messiah is supposed to do. Hmm. What sort of story might you construct? Or perhaps the Messiah claim got tacked on to a made up resurrection story in order to give it authority, the story then being adjusted to make the Messiah claim fit.
Second, even if the tellers did have a motive not to include this element, and also had no reason to include it, so what?
This chap’s argument rests on something like this principle:
If a story, presented as true, reporting many bizarre/miraculous events, contains an element that we think the tellers would have a motive not to include, then that bit of the story is probably true.
This is feeble. After all, alien abductees are often very embarrassed about saying what’s been shoved up them. That’s not a bit they’d choose to include. Should we conclude that bit of their stories is probably true?
If this is the best Dr. James McGrath has for supposing the Jesus crucifixion story is almost certainly true, I think he’s in big trouble. This is an example of the sort of thing that has me beginning to wonder whether this whole branch of academia [post script – I mean, history] – dominated by Christians – isn’t mostly bullshit. To me, the standard of inquiry seems woeful.
Remember, I don’t say the crucifixion of an historical Jesus is a made up story. I say it’s not unreasonable for me, given the evidence I have seen thus far, to suppose it might be.
Of course I don’t rule out the possibility that better evidence will come along.