Why do historians rely on hearsay for evidence of Jesus?

Commentary by Jim Walker
Originated: 12 Aug. 2014

 

Ignorance is preferable to error, and he is less remote from the truth who believes nothing than he who believes what is wrong.

--Thomas Jefferson

 

In an article I wrote years ago, Did a historical Jesus exist?, I pointed out that the "evidence" provided by Christians, historians and Biblical scholars cannot serve as reliable evidence for a biological Jesus because all of it consists of nothing but non-contemporary stories and hearsay accounts, and hearsay cannot serve as reliable evidence. And if we cannot use hearsay as reliable evidence, then how can we call it evidence at all? Does bad evidence even belong as a category of evidence?

According to the most broadly construed definition of evidence, anything presented in support of an assertion counts as evidence. This means if someone believes, say, that zombies exist then that assertion can (according to the broad definition) serve as evidence for zombies. Likewise, if we hear rumors about seeing zombies, or if someone says they know someone who has seen a zombie then, that too, consists of evidence for zombies (and I'm not even including eyewitness accounts). So where should one draw the line? Most rationalists draw the line at supernatural and extraordinary claims. So even though an assertion about zombies might be made, a rationalist might still use it as evidence for a person pretending to be a zombie without taking into account that the original claim may have come from someone reading a fictional story, a movie, or a dream.

Of course no scientist, a fair court judge, or rational person would use gossip or rumors alone, to establish the existence of any assertion, except liars, gossipers, con-artists, religious believers, kangaroo courts, politicians, insane people, and historians and Biblical scholars who claim Jesus existed. Even the alleged "doubting Thomas," had to be convinced by more than hearsay.

Hearsay evidenceSo what does hearsay mean? It means information received from other people that one cannot adequately substantiate. Usually the term applies to law where it has strict definitions and enforcement, but it also applies to any form of information received indirectly from other people. Sometimes, in the case of legendary stories taken as truth, we have multiple layers of hearsay. Lawyers call this double hearsay. Hearsay is generally not allowed in courts of law. There are very limited cases where hearsay is allowed, but never cases where all the evidence is hearsay. Even though hearsay is generally not considered reliable evidence, there are various levels of hearsay, some more unreliable than others. Legendary stories certainly cannot serve as reliable. Some of the worst kinds of hearsay comes from deluded people. At its best hearsay might come from a trained observer. For example, consider the following scenario:

A respected science reporter has a phone conversation with a physicist from the Large Hadron Collider. The physicist tells the reporter in an excited voice, "We've found the Higgs boson!, and we've got data to prove it..." but before he can finish his sentence, the entire LHC complex blows up killing all the workers and scientists and destroying all the data that supposedly proves the discovery. Yet the only information we have about the Higgs boson discovery comes from the science reporter. This is hearsay. Should we consider it reliable? Well, it's perhaps the best possible case for hearsay as evidence, but we still couldn't use it as evidence for the Higgs boson. Why? Because no one can adequately substantiate the claim. There's a small possibility that the science reporter was biased and lied about his report or he might have misunderstood the physicist. And of course the scientists would certainly not use this as good evidence. Even if the physicist survived and told them that they discovered the Higgs boson, they could only take his eyewitness account as an interesting hypothesis. They would have to rebuild the LHC and recollect the data.

Now use the same scenario as before but replace the reporter with a mentally unstable person who hallucinates. This is even more unreliable evidence because he is far more likely to have made it up or to have imagined it. So as you can see, there are various levels of hearsay reliability. One might even construct a hierarchical level of hearsay witnesses. Here's my approximate scale of hearsay reliability (the lower the number the most reliable):

Levels of reliability from hearsay:

1. Reports from trained observers
2. Gossip from ordinary people
3. Claims from religious and deluded people (including dreams, hallucinations, and visions)
4. Non-contemporary stories (especially supernaturally based stories)
5. Claims from severely mentally unstable people
6. Deliberate liars

Perhaps there should be more levels and you may not agree with my order but I'm only attempting to show that hearsay reliability varies depending the reliability of the hearsayer, and even then we may not know anything about the reliability of the person the hearsayer heard it from. In the hearsay accounts about Jesus, most of it comes from level 4 with the best accounts coming from level 3 such as Paul's epistles or possibly at worst, level 6 (how do we know Paul didn't lie?).

In the last forty years a lot of scientific research has been done on the unreliablity of human memory and eyewitness testimony. For example, we have learned that people cannot reliably distinguish true memories from false memories, misinformation creates false memories, false memories can easily be implanted, imagination can become inflated creating false memories, people lose memory over time (even short periods of time). In short, eyewitness testimony is far more unreliable than ever thought possible. Also consider the Innocence Project, an organization that works on DNA evidence to reopen criminal convictions that were made before DNA testing was available, states that, "Eyewitness misidentification is the single greatest cause of wrongful convictions nationwide, playing a role in more than 75% of convictions overturned through DNA testing." Hearsay is more unreliable than eyewitness accounts because it at least doubles the unreliability of testimony and can be argued that it more than doubles unreliability. In U.S. law one of the reasons for excluding hearsay is because the eyewitness cannot be cross examined and it would violate the defendant's constitutional right to confront his or her accusers. In historical hearsay evidence, however, not only the eyewitness but the hearsayer cannot be examined. Moreover, people who have an agenda with strong religious beliefs produce such a bias as to make their testimony almost worthless, and yet this is the only kind of evidence we have for Jesus.

I'm not a historical scholar. Why should I have to point out the problems of hearsay in historical accounts? You might think that the study of the methods of history (historiography) or the study of historical persons (historicity) might go into length about the problems of hearsay as evidence, especially in regards to Jesus studies where all the evidence comes from hearsay and allegorical stories, but try to find it even mentioned in history books (in books of law, yes, but not history). Historians do go into what to consider as evidence such as primary and independent sources, but rarely (usually never) about hearsay.

At best, the historical method claims that eyewitness testimony is more reliable than hearsay, but not much else is said about it's unreliability. Unlike courts of law, historicity doesn't seem to have strict requirements about its use. Moreover, those in Jesus studies have no qualms about using hearsay. I have searched books about historiography and historicity from two university libraries and our main city library. None of the books mention hearsay other than in a few sentences, (and when they do, they usually denigrate hearsay evidence). I also searched modern books about historiography and historicity from Amazon's online book department. What's useful about Amazon is that you can search most (but not all) of their books for words. You can search the entire book, and it provides the sentences and pages where it occurs (even though it won't allow you to read the page). Amazon also lists the contents and the indexes. I have searched over 150 books on historiography and historicity and have yet to find an inclusion of the word hearsay in the contents or in the indexes. Not one! (I also looked at the subheadings under "evidence" and "witness"). Only briefly is the word used in a sentence or two in the body of the text  and even here, most books don't even mention the word at all. At all!

I had to go all the way to the ancient historians to discover thoughts about use of evidence for history. Thucydides was an Athenian historian who lived in the 5th century BC. He's known as the father of scientific history because of his strict standards of evidence-gathering. Among his requirements for evidence, he describes what history is not, such as: myth, oral tradition, opinions, and hearsay. [The Peloponnesian War 1.20-22]

There are a few other examples, however, but even here, only indirectly and usually it's about witnesses (a higher form of evidence than hearsay). George Cornewall Lewis in his 1855 essay on an inquiry into the Credibility of the Early Roman History, writes:

 

"Historical evidence, like judicial evidence, is founded on the testimony of credible witnesses. Unless those witnesses had personal and immediate perception of the facts which they report, unless they said and heard of what they undertake to relate as having happened, their evidence is not entitled to credit. As all original witnesses must be contemporary with the events which they attest, it is a necessary condition for the credibility of a witness that he be a contemporary, though a contemporary is not necessarily a credible witness. Unless, therefore, a historical account can be traced by probable proof to the testimony of contemporaries, the first condition of credibility fails. If, however, it is meant to be asserted that the same degree of certainty ought to be required in historical that is required in judicial evidence, it would be exacting too much, and carrying skepticism too far. In the first place, the thing is an impossibility, and the consequence would be, that we should be logically compelled to withhold our belief from nine-tenths of so-called historical facts about which we have really no doubt at all." p. 16

Although Lewis' statement condemns non-contemporary witness testimony, consider that the evidence for Jesus comes only from non-contemporary hearsay evidence. (Notice, however, that although Lewis admits that non-contemporary testimony fails the credibility test (because we would be compelled to withhold our belief from nine-tenths of historical facts), he has no problems using it. Since when does belief determine facts, and how in the world can facts be obtained from such non-credible evidence?

This puts Biblical scholars in an embarrassing position and few of them dare discuss the subject of hearsay at all. Some scholars, however, have admitted to using the Bible as evidence but not to the standards of modern historiographic requirements (I'm not kidding). For example, David Noel Freedman, a noted biblical scholar and archaeologist said the following:

 

"When it comes to the historical question about the Gospels, I adopt a mediating position—that is, these are reliable records, close to the sources, but they are not in accordance with modern historiographic requirements or professional standards. In all ancient writings, you find elements of naiveté or credulity. Even Josephus and classical historians like Herodotus and Eusebius include a lot of material what we can't accept as rigorous historical inquiry." (Bible Review magazine, Dec. 1993, p. 34)

Well of course, if you don't use professional standards, you can believe anything, including the dubious belief that the Gospels are "reliable records, close to the sources."

Freedman goes on to say in a rare admission:

 

"We have to accept somewhat looser standards. In the legal profession, to convict the defendant of a crime, you need proof beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil cases, a preponderance of the evidence is sufficient. When dealing with the Bible or any ancient source, we have to loosen up a little; otherwise, we can't really say anything." (Bible Review magazine, Dec. 1993, p.34)

Not only did Freedman not mention hearsay, it seems that the discussion of hearsay in academic circles, is somehow a taboo subject. You'd think that discussing the only evidence for Jesus historians have (non-contemporary hearsay evidence) would merit at least a chapter of explanation. I suspect that many Biblical scholars are subject to an unconscious interpretative bias called Graphocentrism because their entire field of inquiry involves ancient textual documents. So whenever they come across any document in their field, naturally they will include it to support their beliefs about Jesus. I also suspect that many ancient Christians, especially those who could not read, took written texts as a high form of truth, preached to them by their priests.

This acceptance of loose standards (especially hearsay) reveals the primary problem (in my opinion) of historicity, especially in regards to Jesus studies. What should we think? That the methods used by historians are no better than that used by kangaroo courts? Moreover, Freedman's justification for using loose standards, "otherwise we can't really say anything," is simply disingenuous. Although with hearsay alone, one cannot say anything about the historical reality of the person in question, we need not throw anything at all away. In fact, the Bible and extra-biblical accounts about Jesus give first hand accounts of their beliefs, thoughts, and imaginations, and one can say a lot about that. And if at some point someone discovers actual evidence for a historical Jesus (a document written by him, an eyewitness account, a Roman record of his trial and execution, etc.), then we might be able to use hearsay to help collaborate the findings. But with no known eyewitness accounts, no artifacts, and no self written documents, there's no way to establish historicity.

To hear the conclusions from historians on Jesus, most proclaim absolute statements such as "Jesus existed," or "Jesus did not exist" without even questioning probabilities. These absolute statements produce a false dilemma fallacy (also called fallacy of the excluded middle, or either-or fallacy). Imagine a weather forecaster that told you either it will rain or it won't rain today without giving you the probabilities. For a sad example of this in Jesus studies, just read Bart Ehrman's Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth (read my review here). Before he even goes into his reasons, he proclaims over fifteen times that "Jesus existed."  Ehrman is certain of it.

In Charles W. Hedrick's book, "When History and Faith Collide," Hedrick writes:

 

"Everything attributed to Jesus in the ancient literature, both canonical and noncanonical, might possibly have been said by Jesus. But however well meaning, such a judgement is scarcely probable. Sayings that can pass rigorous historical criteria may be elevated on the basis of a convincing argument from possible to probable status. If a saying cannot be raised to a higher level of certainty (i.e., probable), it should remain only possible or, on the bases of a convincing argument against its originality, be downgraded to improbable (a lesser degree of certainty than possible.). Nevertheless, improbable does not mean impossible; nor does probable mean certain. Although a saying is currently regarded as less probably a saying of Jesus, with the right argument it may in the future yet be raised to a higher level of certainty. i.e., possible or probable. As new criteria are developed and new information about Palestine in the first century becomes available, saying formally judged only possible, or even improbable, under current criteria can be reevaluated and their categories changed. p. 147

The historian Richard Carrier made a similar observation in his book Proving History: Bayes's Theorem and the Quest for the Historical Jesus. He writes:

 

Axiom 5: Any argument relying on the inference "possibly, therefore probably" is fallacious."

Though we must admit anything that's possible could yet be true, that does not argue for anything actually being true. This is a form of modal fallacy I call possibiliter ergo probabiliter ("possibly, therefore probably") and it's so common in historical argument that it deserves particular attention. Just because you can conceive of a possible alternative explanation does not entail that your alternative is actually more likely (or in any way likely at all). For example, historians will often dismiss an Argument from Silence by proposing some explanation for why a document is silent on that detail. Of course, knowing why we don't have certain evidence still does not change the fact that we don't have that evidence. All you can then say is that this lack of evidence is inconclusive, not that it supports one conclusion over another. But more importantly, just because you can think of a reason to explain away a document's silence does not mean that reason is probable. pp. 26-27

This holds true even in the most mundane hearsay accounts. When my neighbor says her friend met the President of the United States, I put that in the category of a hypothesis and await actual evidence of this claim. There's certainly nothing extraordinary about a person meeting a President, and there's nothing extraordinary about first-century Jews knowing a man named Jesus who later inspired Christians. Of course it's possible, but on what evidence? (And even in this example, the existence of the President of the United States is not in question, and I can even cross examine my neighbor, but for hearsay about Jesus, we don't even have that to rely on. Imagine if my neighbor wrote a letter that said her friend met Harry, an extraterrestrial and neither the neighbor or her friend can be found for questioning.)

Even in the best argument against the existence of Jesus ever written (in my opinion), where one would expect hearsay to be rigorously examined, we find little mention of it (and the author is an atheist). I'm talking about Richard Carrier's book, On the Historicity of Jesus (read my review here). The word hearsay does not even deserve mention in the index. Nor does it appear in the index of the first volume, Proving History. Although to be fair, Carrier does briefly describe the problem of hearsay when he writes about the problem of multiple attestation evidence:

 

[W]e can rarely assert someone is reliable when we don't even know who they are. Even when we do know, it would be naive to merely presume their reliability, and establishing it is often impossible. Which is why hearsay is almost never even admitted as evidence in a court of law, and why modern historians are often skeptical of all but the most public or mundane of claimed "facts". . . . All we have are uncritical pro-Christian devotional or hagiographic texts filled with dubious claims written decades after the fact by authors who never tell us their methods or sources. Multiple Attestation can never gain traction on such a horrid body of evidence." Proving History, p. 174-175

It's not clear what Carrier means about historians being "skeptical of all but the most public or mundane of claimed facts." What could be more mundane than hearsay, and I see little that prevents Biblical scholars from using hearsay as evidence for Jesus. However, Carrier also describes a mock analogy that at first glance appears like an argument against hearsay (but isn't):

 

"Imagine in your golden years you are accused of murdering a child many decades ago and put on trial for it. The prosecution claims you murdered a little girl in the middle of a public wedding in front of thousands of guests. But as evidence all they present is a religious tract written by 'John' which lays out a narrative in which the wedding guests watch you kill her. Who is this John? The prosecution confesses they don't know. When did he write this narrative? Again, unknown. Probably thirty or forty years after the crime, maybe even sixty. Who told John this story? Again, no one knows. He doesn't say. So why should this even be admissible as evidence? Because the narrative is filled with accurate historical details and reads like an eyewitness account. Is it an eyewitness account? Well, no, John is repeating a story told to him. Told to him by an eyewitness? Well… we really have no way of knowing how many people the story passed through before it came to John and wrote it down. Although he does claim an eyewitness told him some of the details. Who is that witness? He doesn't say. I see. So how can we even believe the story is in any way true if it comes from unknown sources through and unknown number of intermediaries? Because there is no way the eyewitnesses to the crime, all those people at the wedding, would have allowed John to lie or make anything up, even after thirty to sixty years, so there is no way the account can be fabricated.

If that isn't obviously an absurd argument to you, then you didn't understand what has just been said and you need to read that paragraph again until you do. Because seen in this more neutral context, that last argument is monumentally absurd." On the Historicity of Jesus, p. 251-252

Note that Carrier is not referring to hearsay here because this is an analogy to the Gospel of John and according to Carrier, the gospels are "certainly not eyewitness testimonies or even collected hearsay." p. 507. But even if you believe the gospel stories, they could only be hearsay at best (level 4 on my hearsay scale) coming from the unknown authors who wrote the gospels.

But in perhaps the most controversial part of the book, the part about Paul's account of James, the brother of the Lord, Carrier writes, "The last evidence historicists appeal to (and in my opinion the only actual evidence they have) is that twice Paul mentions 'brothers of the Lord'..." [bold emphasis mine]. Not only Carrier, but many other historians consider Paul's account about meeting James the Lord's brother as the best evidence for a historical Jesus. But why? Here's the best of the "actual evidence" claimed for Jesus:

 

Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to see Peter, and abode with him fifteen days.
But other of the apostles saw I none, save James the Lord's brother.

--Paul in Gal. 1:18-19

This is hearsay and although not as bad as Carrier's mock trial, it is still hearsay (level 3, at best, on my hearsay scale).

Paul's hearsay account doesn't even fit the Argument From Evidence (AFE) as described in Carrier's first volume, Proving History, page 98. Paul's hearsay is neither unbiased, a credible critical account, or an eyewitness account. It's hearsay.  

Historists attempt to make it reliable because they claim it's contemporary or the closest source to the alleged life of Jesus, but it's still not exactly contemporary. The widest use of contemporary history involves history still in living memory.  But Paul never met an earthly Jesus, therefore he could not have a living memory of an earthly Jesus. If we had the words of James that claimed he was the brother of Jesus, that would be contemporary evidence, but we don't have evidence from James, we only have Paul's account, which is hearsay.

How in the world would Paul know that James had a brother? He could only have believed it. Who told Paul James had a brother? Did James tell Paul? Did Peter? Did he hallucinate it from revelation as he did Jesus? Did James hallucinate it from revelation? We're not told. Even if it came from James, and he really did mean the Lord was his biological brother, why would anyone just assume that as evidence of fact?

If an observer visited a Scientology group and one of its members told the observer that his now dead brother was an extraterrestrial thetan, would you take that as actual evidence that he had a biological brother? With someone connecting their brother to a supernatural entity, might you feel suspicious that he even had a brother at all? Also consider how odd it would be for a sibling (usually a rival) to live with his brother and sometime during his life come to believe that his brother had supernatural powers? And as Richard Carrier might say, odd is unusual and unusual is improbable. Furthermore, you discover that the observer, himself, is a Scientologist prone to believing and hallucinating.  And remember that James divine brother (if you believe the Gospel story), left no dead body to investigate because, well... it's missing. If historians take Paul's hearsay as good evidence, the only words I can think to describe them are: gullible, naive, unsuspicious.

With Paul prone to hallucinating and his strong bias for believing, he hardly provides us with an example of a trained observer. This describes a very poor hearsay account even if Paul really did mean a biological brother and we don't even have certainty of that, because Carrier demonstrates that 'brother' most likely refers to a cultic title as the early Christians thought themselves as brethren of the Lord.

It seems to me that instead of actual evidence, we actually have poor evidence here (and can we call poor evidence, evidence at all?). Hearsay has little value for discovering facts especially when it's the only kind of evidence you have, and I do not consider Paul's hearsay account as actual evidence. I should note that hearsay does serve as first hand evidence for beliefs, but not evidence for what the beliefs point to (this is precisely the kind of confusion that occurs when not recognizing the level of abstractions as Alfred Korzybski warned us about in 1933).

As Christopher Hitchens once said, "What can be asserted without evidence can be dismissed without evidence." At best hearsay for Jesus gets you to an agnostic position without even having to know the historical background information.

Many people scoff at this by saying, "If you dismiss hearsay evidence, then you must dismiss many ancient accounts of people in history." Well so what? Since when do multiple wrongs equal a right? If that's your position then you should also accept the historical euhemerized accounts of Hercules, Theseus, Odysseus, Minos, Dionysus, not to mention Bigfoot and extraterrestrial alien visitations which actually have eyewitness accounts and blurry photos! In fact, I can't think of a single claimed historical figure, (except for Jesus and a few other religious figures), that fall prey to hearsay-story evidence alone to establish historicity.  And if anyone can come up with examples of non-religious historical people built upon hearsay-only evidence, then I would also doubt their existence too (and note that doubt does not mean believing they didn't exist).

As I showed above, some Biblical scholars and historians argue that we should use poor standards of evidence because it's the only evidence we have. This virtually separates scientists (who rely on good evidence) vs. those who use poor standards of evidence. Look, are you trying to find the truth or are you just playing games? Why in the world would you comprise against your use of the best standards for evidence? I'm sorry, but I'm not willing to sacrifice my high standards for your poor standards. If you believe history from someone who uses poor standards of evidence, then the problem stems from your beliefs.

A second common objection is the claim that sometimes Judges allow hearsay in court (even though generally they don't). True, but only in very limited cases, but never do Judges allow only hearsay as evidence, and that's the only kind of evidence historians have about Jesus. And in the case of Paul's testimony, a Judge would never allow this kind of witness on stand to discover external facts, but he might allow a lawyer to put him on to show the jury the unreliability of the witness due to his highly religious schizotypal tendencies, who speaks in tongues, and who freely admits to having hallucinatory visions. Can you imagine the fun a modern day lawyer would have with Paul:

Lawyer: Paul, is it true that you regularly have revelations through visions?

Paul: "Oh yea, and I also have the gift of prophecy, and I know EVERYTHING, and though faith, I could remove mountains if I wanted to" (I Cor. 13.2).  Paul continues: "I wish you ALL spoke in tongues, but even more that you prophesied; for he who prophesies is GREATER than he who speaks with tongues, like ME! (1 Cor. 14.5).  The Jury begins to giggle and Paul firebrands them shouting: "IF ANYONE DOES NOT LOVE THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, LET HIM BE ACCURSED" (1 Cor. 16.22). And as the security guards drag poor Paul out the court room, he begins to babble in a language no one understands.

Lawyer calmly turning to the Judge: Your honor, I rest my case.

And Paul is the guy that historians think gives the best evidence for brother Jesus?

Consider that the vast majority of those in academia who proclaim Jesus existed are themselves Christian (or the very least, religious). This bias occurs especially in Bible study academia. So here we have a historiographical system that allows this bias along with accepting 2000 year old non-contemporary hearsay by people who themselves had a bias, and who regularly took dreams and hallucinations as evidence from scriptures and epistles controlled by the Church that was edited, interpolated, redacted, and in many cases, forged, and then take all this as good evidence that Jesus existed. It reminds me of the David Cross joke:

 

"Back when the Bible was written, then edited, then rewritten, then rewritten, then re-edited, then translated from dead languages, then re-translated, then edited, then rewritten, then given to kings for them to take their favorite parts, then rewritten, then re-rewritten, then translated again, then given to the pope for him to approve, then rewritten, then edited again, the re-re-re-re-rewritten again... all based on stories that were told orally 30 to 90 years AFTER they happened.. to people who didn't know how to write... so..."

So my tentative conclusions as to why historians rely on hearsay as evidence for Jesus comes to one or more of the following:

1. Historians believe Jesus existed because they want him to exist (typically faithful Christians), and the school of modern Euhemerism
  (Bible scholarship) supports them.
2. Historians do not have a consistent system of determining rules for evidence (each historian to his or her own).
3. The historian has never been taught not to rely on hearsay.
4. The historian follows what other historicans have done (bandwaggon effect) for fear of ostracism or bucking the trend, or damaging his career.
5. Graphocentrism exagerates historical reliability. Because ancient beliefs are written down, historicans will use anything to establish history
  even if they know it's unreliable.
6. The historian is stuck in a two valued belief system (either Jesus existed or he didn't, never a doubt or a probability).

 

Thoughts from others:

The point is that great events are ambiguous, because there are those who listen to all hearsay, whatever its kind, and admit is as ascertained facts, and there are others who turn what is truth into the opposite; in each case, by posterity they increase and magnify.

--Tacitus (in a brief statement of principle in Tac. Ann. 3.19)

 

"When also I am told that a woman, called the Virgin Mary, said, or gave out, that she was with child without any cohabitation with a man, and that her betrothed husband, Joseph, said that an angel told him so, I have a right to believe them or not: such a circumstance required a much stronger evidence than their bare word for it: but we have not even this; for neither Joseph nor Mary wrote any such matter themselves. It is only reported by others that they said so. It is hearsay upon hearsay, and I do not chose to rest my belief upon such evidence."

--Thomas Paine (The Age of Reason)

 

Have no faith in history, look upon it as a mass of fabrications, concocted, like modern newspapers, not with any regard to truth, or the interests of humanity, but to deceive the multitude, and thus to bolster up all the frauds and villainous institutions of the rich.

--James Bronterre "O'Brien (Poor Man's Gardian, 5 Dec. 1835)

 

"The Bible is a collection of stories and myths based on hearsay transmitted from generation to generation and which were recorded by many (40 +) different authors during a period spanning possibly 1,600 or more years.   The 'evidence' then is only to be found in the Bible – no historical, scientific or authenticated archaeological evidence exists. If you check the internet for such evidence you will discover many websites by Christian ministries – all present the evidence only from the Bible. Most so-called archaeological evidence is based on supposition rather than fact."

--Brian Baker (Nonsense From The Bible)

 

Hearsay is almost always inadmissible in a court of law, and yet 2,000-year-old hearsay – and there is no other way to describe it – is the basis of a 2 billion-strong club, with not so much as an "objection!"

--Adam Rutherford (A matter of facts, not faith)

 

The Life of Brian: A couple of people at the edge of the crowd strain to hear the beatitudes. When it gets to "Blessed are the peacemakers," one of them says, "I think it was 'Blessed are the cheese makers," to which his friend replies, "What's so special about the cheese makers?"

 

Sources:

Loftus, Elizabeth F: Imagining the Past
Mazzoni, Giuliana A. L.; Loftus, Elizabeth F.; Kirsch, Irving: Changing Beliefs About Implausible Autobiographical Events: A Little Plausibility Goes a Long Way
Braun, Kathryn A.; Ellis, Rhiannon; Loftus, Elizabeth F: Make My Memory: How  Advertising Can Change Our Memories of the Past
Murray, Evan D., et al, The Role of Psychotic Disorders in Religious History Considered

 

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