Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Debating the Idiots, Part 3

So, now let’s see what else we find on the Christ myth from Opposing Views, since last time…we have a Christian nut, Stephenson Billings, who said:

I find it rather offensive to call Our Lord Savior Jesus Christ an "historical figure," as if he is simply some man who was around when important events happened some time ago. By framing your question in this way, you are disrespecting the Christian faith and all Christians , and definitely biasing the outcome of your poll . This is akin to asking, "Is Abraham Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation Worthless Because It Written On Cheap Paper?" Shame.

Yes, that it is. Just wanted to be sure ya’ll know we highlight nuts on both sides, by the way.

After this we come in order to spin’s first comment set (addressed in Part 1 of this series). Then we have a nut styled “RedDragon”: is total untrue that Tacitus is considered to be reliable. The passage you refer to is a forgery and there is little other evidence to support the claim that Nero persecuted Christians. To quote the editor of Eusebius's The History of the Church: "Up to the persecution under the Emperor Decius (250-51) there had been no persecution of Christians ordered by the Emperor on an imperial scale."

Um, did someone miss that last phrase? “Imperial scale”? Yes, they did – because all they did was take this straight out of Acharya S’ Christ Conspiracy. The Neronian persecution wasn’t “imperial” – it was local and isolated. No one says otherwise.

We’ll close the day’s business with what spin had to say about the procurator/prefect issue (remember, you’ll need to read the debate up to that point to follow this – link below).

Mr Holding cites his authorities for saying that Tacitus often uses "archaizing, rare, or obsolete vocabulary" and also "avoids, varies, or 'misuses' technical terms." Then he surreptitiously forgets that the vocabulary is described as "archaizing, rare, or obsolete", yet there is no thing "archaizing, rare, or obsolete" about the “standard administrative terminology”. He slyly omits the fact that Tacitus "avoids, varies, or 'misuses'" technical terms, which I gather we both categorized "procurator" and "prefect" as. He even seems oblivious my comment that "procurator" and "prefect" are both "*technical terms* well understood by Tacitus".

“Spin” is indeed a good name for this fellow. The whole point here has been that it was argued by Zindler and others that “procurator” was not used of Pilate in his time, so that Zindler is charging that Tacitus there used an “archaizing” word. My response was to show that since Tacitus was not reluctant to use archaisms, this is an invalid objection.

On the other hand, it was NOT an obsolete term in Tacitus’ own day. The contradiction spin tries to force does not exist because the reference is to two different time periods in which the status of “procurator” is alleged (by the argument of Zindler) to be different.

In terms of the other, spin is applying the broad categories of use and “avoids,” etc as though mutually exclusive, but Kraus and Woodman say that Tacitus does both – he sometimes uses, sometimes avoids, sometimes varies, and so on.
No one disagrees that Tacitus well understands these terms. The argument, however – based on Kraus and Woodman, and also supported by Carrier, for that matter – is that he has purposely used an improper term, knowing it doesn’t belong and yet having a purpose for using it that way.

After this, spin repeats himself for a couple of lines, and in a second entry, describes the above in terms of Tacitus using the term in a “lackadaisical” manner. That, too, is “spin” – the manner in which it is used is, rather, a clever one. He adds:

Of course it might be possible that Tacitus is using either "archaizing, rare, or obsolete vocabulary" or more "familiar" language, but not both, for they are mutually exclusive arguments.

Well, yes, they are – but there is nothing unusual about providing more than one possible answer. For my part, I find it a much stronger argument that “procurator” was never in disuse at all – that Pilate was indeed one, but that (as Carrier says) Tacitus chose the term as a sort of clever implication. If this is true, then of course the argument that Tacitus used “procurator” as a more familiar term is not true. I never said otherwise.

Back tomorrow for more.


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