The Problem of Appealing to Arguments From Silence

Just recently,I have been reading an excellent new book called Searching for Jesus: New Discoveries in the Quest for Jesus of Nazareth—and How They Confirm the Gospel Accounts by Robert J. Hutchinson. In it, he says the following about  Jesus mythers and their constant appeal to arguments from silence. He says:

“As you might expect, Christ myth writers and bloggers are all over the ballpark in terms of their arguments. They range from the serious to the silly, from those who voice scholarly doubts about particular incidents in the Gospels to those promoting elaborate conspiracy theories—such as the idea that Jesus was invented by the Roman Caesars to help manage the restless Jewish population. There appear to be four academic heavyweights of the Christ myth blogging craze: Robert Price, a former Baptist pastor with a PhD in both systematic theology and New Testament studies and the author of The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man (2003); Thomas Brodie, a Dominican friar with a doctor of sacred theology (STD) degree from the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas in Rome and author of Beyond the Quest for the Historical Jesus: Memoir of a Discovery; Thomas Thompson, an American professor at the University of Copenhagen who earned his PhD in Old Testament at Temple University and who is a famous pioneer in what is called biblical minimalism—the belief that most of the Bible is fictional; and Richard Carrier, a blogger who has a PhD in ancient history from Columbia University and is the author of On the Historicity of Jesus: Why We Might Have Reason for Doubt. Other popular mythicist writers who seem to attract a following include David Fitzgerald, author of Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed at All; Earl J. Doherty, author of Jesus: Neither God Nor Man; René Salm, author of The Myth Of Nazareth: The Invented Town Of Jesus; and Frank Zindler, author of The Jesus the Jews Never Knew. Christ myth advocates make much of the fact that there is no mention of Jesus of Nazareth in any non-Christian source for nearly a century after Jesus’ death. “Virtually everyone who espoused the Christ-Myth theory has laid great emphasis on one question,” writes Price. “Why no mention of a miracle-working Jesus in secular sources?”
Despite the fact that his fellow mythicists spend a great deal of time on this subject, Price concedes that the lack of corroboration in ancient secular sources is not a very good argument for the claim that Jesus never existed. That’s because, as the agnostic New Testament scholar Bart Ehrman points out, we don’t have archaeological or textual evidence for the existence of most people in the ancient world most famous people. Ehrman points to the example of Pontius Pilate. “And what records from that decade do we have from his reign,” Ehrman asks, “what Roman records of his major accomplishments, his daily itinerary, the decrees he passed, the laws he issued, the prisoners he put on trial, the death warrants he signed, his scandals, interviews, his judicial proceedings? We have none. Nothing.

The same is true of the Jewish historian Flavius Josephus (ca. AD 37–100). Due to his treachery and betrayal of his own people, Josephus not only saved his skin during the Jewish War but also became a personal favorite of the Roman emperor Vespasian. He lived in Rome on an official pension—and it is there that he penned his multivolume histories of his defeated people and their tragic war against the Romans. Yet despite being a personal friend of the emperor, “how often is Josephus mentioned in Greek and Roman sources of his own day, the first century CE?” Ehrman asks rhetorically. “Never. – Page 8-9



3 thoughts on “The Problem of Appealing to Arguments From Silence

  1. Richard Carrier is one that is so serious that Christ never existed. But as intelligent as he is, a degree in history from Columbia university, his arguments range between silly and nonsensical. There is a full rebuttal of Carrier’s arguments by James Bishop available. Bishop details all the flaws in carriers’s arguments in a massive rebuttal.

    After watching Carrier debate Dr. Craig, I had to wonder how could Carrier take his arguments seriously. The debate was about the resurrection of Jesus Christ. This is how bad Carrier’s history has become.

    He asked the question, could not Jesus Christ appear to the Chinese? REALLY? My first thought was, that would be a waste of time since the Chinese would not have the slightest clue who Jesus Christ was. If, and this is a big if for Carrier, you really knew history, then why didn’t you know that the prophecies about Jesus Christ were written for the Jews alone? The OT was not in circulation that it would have found its way to China. NONSENSICAL.

    Watch the debate. I actually began to feel sorry for Carrier. He was out of his league and his arguments were so bad, rather, he did not have an argument in the first place.

    Whisking away the fact that Jesus Christ existed is just another tactic to avoid the volitional decision to deny him.

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