What really crashed at Roswell 2017 Update

The truth about the UFO crash at Roswell

July 2017 is the 70th anniversary of the supposed UFO crash at Roswell, New Mexico. In July 1947 Roswell Army Air Field reported that Major Jesse Marcel had recovered the remains of a flying saucer discovered by a rancher Bill “Mac” Brazel  in what is now called the Debris Field north of Roswell. A few days later it was announced that it had only been a weather balloon.

At the time of the 60th anniversary in 2007 Ufologist Magazine published my two part article “What Really Crashed at Roswell” which discussed the claims there had been a second crash site with more wreckage and alien bodies. I suggested that the US Air Force explanation, that it was really a Project Mogul balloon, is much more credible. This article can be found here and here. This post follows on from these articles and discusses some of the new developments in the Roswell case in the last ten years.

In their 2007 book Witness to Roswell Thomas Carey and Donald Schmitt now claimed there were three crash sites, the debris field at the Foster Ranch, the Dee Proctor site where Mac Brazel is supposed to have found alien bodies, and they claim to have finally found the third site in 2005 where most of the wreckage and more bodies were found, about fifty miles north of Roswell. This was not the same as the site identified by Frank Kaufmann in The Truth about the UFO Crash at Roswell in 1994 [1]. Everything, which had been previously published about the main crash site, was now apparently wrong.

Timothy ”Dee” Proctor was 7 years old in 1947 and he used to accompany Mac Brazel while he worked. In 1994 Dee took his mother to a location 2 ½ miles east of the Debris Field and told her, “This is where Mac found something else.” He did not elaborate and he was never interviewed by Roswell investigators. He died in 2006[2], but this is supposed to mean that Brazel found alien bodies [3].

As I mentioned here, Frank Joyce also claimed that Brazel said he had seen alien bodies, but Brazel himself as made no such claims.

Earlier books, UFO Crash at Roswell and The Truth about the UFO Crash at Roswell, which Schmitt co-authored, give the impression that the Debris Field was an isolated place and only a few people had seen it. However, in Witness to Roswell Schmitt and Carey several other ranchers had visited the site and picked up debris. Some were even displayed at a rodeo in Capitan about 100 kilometres west of Roswell on July 4[4].

New witnesses, who come forward decades after the event, have little credibility. Schmitt and Carey cite a lot of second-hand accounts from family members who say their relatives saw alien bodies or a crashed spaceship in 1947, but they have died and we cannot verify their stories.

Jesse Marcel never claimed to have seen alien bodies, but Schmitt and Carey ignore Marcel’s own account and write,

“Our investigation has concluded that Major Marcel had to know about the alien bodies that were recovered from the crash – not secondhand by hearing about them from others in the chain of command, but firsthand from seeing them himself.”[5]

Because Dee Proctor’s mother says he told her Mac Brazel “found something else” before he died, Brazel saw alien bodies and he must have shown these bodies to Marcel and Cavitt, even though they never mentioned seeing alien bodies [6].

After Marcel’s death, some of his relatives claimed that Marcel had told them he had seen alien bodies [7]. Jesse Marcel Jr’s 2009 book The Roswell Legacy describes the material which his father brought home from the Foster Ranch and showed them, but he makes it clear his father never saw any alien bodies[8]. Schmitt and Carey suggest there are two possibilities – Marcel told those more distant relatives, but not his son or Marcel did tell his son, but he is not telling the whole story[9]. There is a third possibility, that Marcel never told them and these relatives are making it up.

There is also a problem with Jesse Marcel Jr’s recollections in The Roswell Legacy.  In 1990 he was hypnotized in order to recall the night his father brought the material home[10]. In The Abduction Enigma Kevin Randle argues that memories, which have been “recovered” through hypnosis can be unreliable. He writes,

“It is a poor tool for finding the truth, it allows the subject to confabulate amazing memories and act on those memories as if they were true, and its validity is now being questioned. In fact, in many states, a witness who has been hypnotized in an attempt to learn of an event can no longer be called as a witness. Courts, and science, recognize how easily memories and events can be reconstructed or confabulated by a clever hypnotist. Even those whose memories are a search for the truth can, and do, lead the subject into memories that are not part of reality.”[11]

This means that Jesse Marcel Jr’s recollections of the material he saw could be contaminated and unreliable.

Schmitt and Carey describe the material recovered from the Foster Ranch as “memory metal”. Witnesses said it had unusual properties. It could be crumpled up and then return to its original condition[12]. It sounds like some kind of advanced alien technology. They call this metal the “Holy Grail of Roswell”. Finding some would prove something extraterrestrial had crashed[13].

A 2008 episode of UFO Hunters “The Real Roswell” featured former Staff Sergeant Earl Fulford who described how he had been involved in picking up the debris at the Foster Ranch. He said that after it was crumpled up, it returned to its original shape. In an experiment both Earl Fulford and Jesse Marcel Jr identified the material, which they had handled, as acetate. This undermines both the Project Mogul and the extraterrestrial explanation. There was no acetate in the Project Mogul balloons, but it also shows that what they handled was not necessarily some mysterious metal which was a product of alien technology.

Witness to Roswell published a 2002 affidavit by Walter Haut who died in 2005. Haut had been the Public Information Officer at Roswell Army Air Field and wrote the original press release in July 1947. When he was interviewed for The Roswell Incident in 1979, he said he had not seen any crashed spaceship or alien bodies[14]. In 1989 Kevin Randle and Donald Schmitt interviewed Haut for their book UFO Crash at Roswell. He said he knew, “Nothing.” He had not seen any wreckage or bodies[15].  In his 2002 affidavit Haut told a very different story. He said he had handled some of the debris from the Foster Ranch and had seen part of the spaceship and two alien bodies in a hanger[16].

Haut did not write this affidavit. It was based on statements he made when he was interviewed by two Roswell researchers Wendy Connors and Dennis Balthaser. Kevin Randle commented,

“Anyone listening to the taped interview conducted by Wendy Connors and Dennis Balthaser in 2000 realizes that Haut is lost. He contradicts himself inside of single paragraphs and sometimes single sentences.”[17]

“The Connors/Balthaser interview contained some very disturbing statements by Haut. He was either badly confused, he was deeply conflicted about revealing a secret he had kept for more than sixty years, or he just couldn’t keep his new story straight probably because of his advanced age.  He left a somewhat rambling mishmash of contradictory information in various statements he made after 2000.”[18]

In this interview Haut claimed to have seen several bodies, one body and then claimed not to have seen anything[19].  It sounds like he was getting old and confused and losing his memory. Donald Schmitt and Thomas Carey then wrote the affidavit based on the interview and Haut signed it [20].

Around 2014 a story emerged that two Kodak slides from the 1940s showed an alien body about three feet long in a glass case. In 2015 Tony Bragalia said about the body on the slide,

“This humanoid is not a deformed person, mummy, dummy, simian or dead serviceman. It is not a creature that finds its origin on Earth. And given that the slides of this creature were taken the very same year as the Roswell UFO crash; that the appearance of the creature matches the reported appearance of the Roswell crash aliens; and given that the person who was in original possession of the slides was a geologist working in the New Mexico desert throughout the 1940’s, it is not a jump or stretch to conclude that these slides indeed show the corpse of one of the creatures found fallen at Roswell.” [21] 

However, when the slides became available online and deblurring software made them clearer, the caption on the display case could be read, “Mummified body of a two year old.” [22]  They turned out to be photos of  a mummified Native American boy which had been discovered in 1894 and had been on display in a museum in Mesa Verde National Park, Colorado [23].

In a 2016 book Roswell in the 21st Century Kevin Randle, who had been one of the leading proponents of the Roswell UFO crash, was now more skeptical and critical of the evidence. He agrees that Jesse Marcel appears to have embellished his war record [24] and his memories are “not completely reliable” [25]. He said that Glenn Dennis’ credibility has been destroyed [26] and “we must reject this testimony”[27]. Randle no longer found the witnesses to alien bodies convincing,

“We just have the stories told about the bodies, few of them told by first-hand witnesses. Those who have claimed to be first-hand-witnesses have nothing to prove they were there or that they saw anything extraordinary. They have no diaries, no journals, no letters from that time which would add a note of credibility to what they have claimed.

This is not to mention that many of those who originally claimed t have seen bodies have had their credibility challenged. Some have been caught in forging documents, changing the story to fit the new evidence as it is uncovered and making up their involvement. There are no solid first-hand tales with some form of documentation. All we have is the tales often with no corroborating testimony to go with it, or that all those who might have seen the same thing no longer available for interview.” [28]

When Randle examined the earliest and most reliable evidence, he concluded, “Based solely on this information and documentation, it would appear that the recovery was of a balloon and rawin radar target. The photographs of the debris in Ramey’s office establish that. It is only when testimony, gathered decades after the fact come into play that we move in another direction.” [29]

Randle still did not accept the Project Mogul explanation [30]. Nevertheless, he wrote, “As for me, I find myself drifting toward those who reject the extraterrestrial

.”[31]

Kevin Randle’s change of mind is a major blow for Roswell. He had written several books on Roswell, yet he came to the conclusion that the evidence that the evidence that he had once relied upon and used in his books was unreliable.

Finally, a 2017 episode of History’s Greatest Hoaxes “The Alien Autopsy Film” on Ray Santilli’s video described how it was filmed in a flat in Camden, London. John Humphreys, a special effects artist, says he used chicken and sheep organs for the alien’s insides.

[1] Thomas Carey and Donald Schmitt, Witness to Roswell, New Page Books, New Jersey, 2009, p 138-139

[2] Ibid., p 47, 139, 203-204

[3] Ibid., p 83

[4]  Ibid., p 48-49

[5] Ibid., p 82-83

[6] Ibid., p 83

[7] Ibid., p 84-85

[8] Jesse Marcel Jr and Linda Marcel, The Roswell Legacy, New Page Books, New Jersey, 2005, p 73, 119

[9] Witness to Roswell, op cit., p 73. 119

[10] Thomas Carey and Donald Schmitt, The Children of Roswell, New Page Books, New Jersey, 2016, p 115-120

[11] Kevin Randle, Russ Estes and William Cone, The Abduction Enigma, Forge, New York, 1999, p 338

[12] Witness to Roswell, op cit., p26, 263

[13] Ibid.

[14] The Roswell Incident, op cit., p 76

[15] UFO Crash at Roswell, op cit., p 139-140

[16] Witness to Roswell, op cit., p 251-254

[17] Kevin Randle, Roswell in the 21st Century, Speaking Volumes, Florida, 2016, p  215

[18] Ibid., p 216

[19] Ibid., p 218-219

[20] Ibid., p 215, 218

[21] Ibid., p 177

[22]  Ibid., p 189

[23]  Ibid., p 197-198, 395

[24]  Ibid., p 163

[25]  Ibid., p 164

[26]  Ibid., p 245

[27]  Ibid., p 214

[28]  Ibid., p 104-105

[29]  Ibid., p 236

[30]  Ibid., p 370-371

[31]  Ibid., p 247

Breaking the Spell by Nicholas Kollerstrom Review and Commentary Part Four

In my previous post I looked at some of Nicholas Kollerstrom’s comments about the evidence of Rudolf Hoess, Commandant of Auschwitz. Hoess had originally claimed that 2.5 million Jews had been killed in Auschwitz. In his memoirs written in November 1946, Hoess wrote that 1,230,000 Jews had been killed in Auschwitz (Rudolf Hoess, Commandant of Auschwitz, Phoenix press, London, 2000, p 194).

In May 1945 the Soviet Extraordinary State Commission concluded that four million people had died in Auschwitz. They based this on the capacity of the crematoria. But just because it was theoretically possible to cremate four million bodies does not mean that four million were killed in Auschwitz (Franciszek Piper, “The Number of Victims” in Yisrael Gutman and Michael Berenbaum (editors), Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, Indiana University Press, Bloomington, 1998, p 65).

In spite of all the revisionist claims that Hoess was coerced into writing his confessions and memoirs, he was clearly not coerced into going along with the “official” Communist estimates of Auschwitz deaths.

Kollerstrom writes,

“Franciszek Piper, Director of the Auschwitz museum in the early 1990s when David Cole got to interview him, shockingly reduced the number who died in the Auschwitz camp from four million to one, or 1.1 million – and he somehow kept his job. The notice up at Auschwitz saying four million had to be changed, but the total remained: Six million minus three million equals six million.” (Nicholas Kollerstrom, Breaking the Spell, Castle Hill Publishers, Uckfield, 2014, p 30)

Piper began his study of the number of victims in Auschwitz in 1980. The first draft of his results was completed in 1986 and it was published in 1991 (Franciszek Piper, “The Number of Victims”, in Yisrael Gutman and Michael Berenbaum (editors), Anatomy of the Auschwitz Death Camp, Indian University Press, Bloomington , 1998, p 68, 74).

His comments were only “shocking” to those who do not follow Holocaust research. Even before 1991, hardly any western historians believed that four million Jews had been killed in Auschwitz. The revisionist Jurgen Graf writes,

“Shortly after the Red Army’s takeover of the Auschwitz camp in January 1945, the Soviets told the world that four million persons had died there. Although this absurd figure was widely cited in the West, and was officially defended in Poland until 1990, few Western historians accepted it.” (Jurgen Graf, “What Happened to the Jews Who Were Deported to Auschwitz But Were Not Registered There?”, Journal of Historical Review, Vol. 19, No. 4, July-August 2000)

Thus, Kollerstrom’s argument that the “official” reduction of the Auschwitz death from four to one million means that the overall death toll in the Holocaust should also be reduced by three million is flawed because Western historians never believed that four million Jews had been killed in Auschwitz.

Their estimates for the total number of Jews killed in the Holocaust  was not worked out by adding up the number of Jews killed in each of the camps, including four million in Auschwitz. Their estimates were based on the number of missing or unaccounted for Jews at the end of the war.

While it is widely believed that six million Jews were killed, some historians have come up with lower estimates. In 1961 Raul Hilberg wrote that one million Jews had died in Auschwitz and 5.1 Million Jews had died in the Holocaust (Raul Hilberg, The Destruction of the European Jews, Quadrangle Books, Chicago, 1961, p 572, 767). In 1968 Gerald Reitlinger wrote that 700,000 Jews had been  killed in Auschwitz and between 4,2 and 4.57 Jews had been killed in the Holocaust (Gerald Reitlinger, The Final Solution, Valentine, Mitchell, London, 1968, p 501, 546).

Kollerstrom and other revisionists point to the Jews  who survived the war, as though this somehow proves there was no mass murder program (Breaking the Spell, p 210, 212). He writes,

“Supporters of the Holocaust legend cannot have it both ways. If they are taking endless “reparations” from Germany claiming to be “Holocaust survivors”. then how can they allege that such numbers of Jews were liquidated in Europe?” (Breaking the Spell, p 46)

“One can either have an ongoing program of extermination or have workers capable of doing skilled work – but not both.” (Breaking the Spell, p 102)

They did have both. This argument reveals their ignorance of the nature of the Holocaust. The Holocaust was not a pogrom in which the Nazis killed every Jew they could find. No historian has ever said this was the case. In general, the unfit Jews were killed, while the fit Jews, who could be used for slave labour, were kept alive for a while. Some of these survived the war. This policy is outlined in a well-known  March 27, 1942 passage from Joseph Goebbels’ diary,

“Beginning with Lublin, the Jews are now being deported eastward from the Government-General. The procedure is pretty barbaric, and one that beggars description, and there’s not much left of the Jews. Broadly speaking, one can probably say that sixty percent of them will have to be liquidated while only forty percent can be put to work.” (David Irving, Goebbels, Mastermind of the Third Reich, Focal Point, London 1996, p 388)

The Wannsee Protocol is the minutes of a January 1942 conference on the implementation of the Final Solution. Part of it explains what will happen to the Jews who were deported,

“In pursuance of the final solution, the Jews will be conscripted for labour in the east under appropriate supervision. Large labour gangs will be formed form those fit for work, with the sexes separated, which will be sent to these areas for road construction and undoubtedly a large number of them will drop out through natural wastage. The remainder who survive – and they will certainly be those who have the greatest powers of endurance – will have to be dealt with accordingly. For, if released, they would, as a natural selection of the fittest, form a germ cell from which the Jewish race could regenerate itself.” (J. Noakes and G. Pridham (editors), Nazism 1919-1945, A History in Documents and Eyewitness Accounts, Volume 2, Schocken Nooks, New York, 1988, p 1131)

Like Goebbels’ diary, the Wannsee Protocol says that the fit Jews would be used for slave labour, but it does not say what would happen to the unfit Jews. If it was nothing sinister, why didn’t they just say so? It looks like they did not want to put into writing that the unfit Jews would be Jews.

Furthermore, there is no evidence that Jews were actually used to build roads in the East.

Kollerstrom quotes from both Goebbels’ diary and the Wannsee Protocol, arguing that the Final Solution only meant deporting the Jews to the East (Breaking the Spell, p 214). That part is true. The issue is what happened to the Jews when they got there. He quotes several passages from Goebbels’ diary about the deportation of the Jews and concludes, “Let’s hope this settle the matter.” (Breaking the Spell, p 216)

However, he ignores the two passages quoted above. How can someone ignore the most famous passage in Goebbels’ diary on the fate of the Jews when discussing the fate of the Jews?

Kollerstrom argues that there could not have been any mass murder program because there were 5 million Jews still alive at the end of the war (Breaking the Spell, p 46, 48). If there were about 11 million Jews n Europe at the start of the war and 5 million Jews at the end, this does not prove that around 6 million Jews were not killed.

However, Kollerstrom claims there were only 3 million Jews in Nazi-occupied Europe (Breaking the Spell, p 46, 50). He even says there were only 1.1 million Jews in Poland (Breaking the Spell, p 46).

Seriously?

I think the Nazis would have known how many Jews they had. The Wannsee Protocol said there were 11 million Jews in Europe, including 2.7 million in Poland (Nazism, 1919-1945, Volume 2, p 1130). In a diary entry for March 7, 1942, Joseph Goebbels wrote, “There are 11 million Jews still in Europe.”

Before the Wannsee Conference Hans Frank, Governor of the General Government (part of Nazi-occupied Poland), said in a speech on December 16, 1941,

“We have an estimated 2.5 million Jews in the General Government; if one includes those married to them and all their dependents, perhaps 3.5 million. We cannot shoot these 3.5 million Jews, we cannot poison them, but we must be able to intervene in away which somehow achieves a successful extermination.” (Nazism, 1919-1945, Volume 2, p 1126-1127)

This does not sound like a resettlement policy.

In The Holocaust and the Soviet Union Yitzhak Arad estimates there were between 2.6 and 2.7 million Jews in the Nazi-occupied areas of the Soviet Union, including the Baltic States and eastern Poland, and 2.5 to 2.6 million were killed (Yitzhak Arad, The Holocaust and the Soviet Union, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, 2009, p 525).

Kollerstrom deals with the issue of the Jews killed in the soviet Union by ignoring them,

“We are not concerned with Jews in Russia, namely because the German pay-outs for “Holocaust survivors” excluded these until the collapse of the Soviet Union.” (Breaking the Spell, p 46)

What is that supposed to mean? Because the post-war West German government did not pay reparations to the surviving Russian Jews, the Jews, which came under Nazi rule, do not count?

To be continued.

 

 

 

 

New Atheists and the existence of Jesus

 

Some new atheist writers claim that Jesus did not exist.

001

Richard Dawkins writes, “It is even possible to mount a serious, though not widely supported, historical case that Jesus never lived at all.” (Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion, Bantam Books, London, 2006, p 97)

004

Christopher Hitchens writes about “the highly questionably existence of Jesus” and “there was little or no evidence for the life of Jesus”. (Christopher Hitchens, God is not Great, Allen and Unwin, New South Wales, 2008, p 135, 152)

002

MIchael Onfray writes, “Jesus’s existence has not been historically established” and “The ultra-rationalists – from Prosper Alfaric to Raoul Vaneigem – were probably right to deny the historical existence of Jesus.” (Michael Onfray, The Atheist Manifesto, Melbourne University Press, Victoria, 2007, p 115,117)

Okay, I have no idea who Prosper Alfraic and Raoul Vaneigem were, but name-dropping cannot cover up how weak the new atheists’ arguments against the historical existence of Jesus are.

003

Bart Ehrman, who describes himself as an “agnostic with atheist leanings” (Bart Ehrman, Did Jesus Exist? The Historical Argument for Jesus of Nazareth, Harper One, New York, 2012, p 2) is Professor of Religious Studies at the University of North Carolina and has written several books critical of conservative interpretations of the New Testament. We can expect him to be neutral and objective. He writes,

“I should say at the outset that none of this literature [denying the existence of Jesus] is written by scholars trained in New Testament or early Christian studies teaching at the major, or even the minor, accredited theological seminaries, divinity schools, universities, or colleges of North America or Europe (or anywhere else in the world.) Of the thousands of scholars of early Christianity who do teach at such schools, none of them, to my knowledge, has any doubts that Jesus existed.” (Did Jesus Exist, p 2)

The only academic, which Richard Dawkins cites for Jesus’ non-existence is “Professor G. A. Wells of the University of London.”(The God Delusion, p 97) However, he does not tell his readers that Wells is a Professor of German.

If I have a question about ancient history, a Professor of German is always the first person I would ask.

The fact ,that Dawkins and the other new atheists cannot find a single academic in a history department anywhere in the world who will agree with them, should give us an idea how credible their ideas are. I could find more scientists with Ph.D.s from accredited universities who believe the world was created in six days than the new atheists can find historians who agree with them.

The new atheists seem to “think” that because they do not believe God exists, Jesus also did not exist. This does not make sense. I am not a Muslim or a Buddhist, but I still believe that Muhammad and Buddha existed. I am not aware of any new atheist who challenges their existence, only Jesus.

Not every historian, who believes there was a Jesus of Nazareth who founded Christianity, believes in God or that Jesus was the Son of God who died for their sins and rose from the dead. For over 200 years historians and theologians have been engaged in a quest or search for the “historical Jesus”, trying to determine whether Jesus really said and did the things attributed to him in the Gospels.

If some historians do not believe in the supernatural and do not believe the supernatural events attributed to Jesus happened, they do not conclude that Jesus did not exist, like the new atheists do. They are more likely to assume they were made up by the early church.

I have argued here that the Gospel accounts are historically reliable.

There is early historical evidence for Jesus other than Christian sources, however Michael Onfray says that “we know that most existing documents are skillfully executed forgeries.” (The Atheist Manifesto, p 116)

Onfray may “know” this, but no one who works in an ancient history department in a university does.

Nevertheless, he continues,

“Nothing of what remains can be trusted. The Christian archives are the result of ideological fabrication. Even the writings of Flavius Josephus, Suetonius or Tacitus, who mention in a few hundred verses the existence of Christ and his faithful in the first century of our era, obey the rules of intellectual forgery. When an anonymous monk recopied the Antiquities of the Jewish historian Josephus (arrested and turned into a double agent, a collaborator with Roman power) when that monk had before him the Annals of Tacitus or Suetonius’s Lives of Twelve Caesars (and was astonished to find no mention of the story he believed in), he added a passage in his own hand and in all good faith, without shame and without a second thought, without wondering whether he was doing wrong or committing forgery.” (The Atheist Manifesto, p 117)

Onfray’s account of an “astonished” monk finding no mention of Christ in Jospehus, Tacitus and Suetonius and adding them “without shame or a second thought” exists only in his imagination. It seems that because he does not believe Jesus was a historical figure, then any historical reference to Jesus must be fake.

The only partial truth to his claim is a passage from Josephus which reads,

“Now, there was about this time Jesus,a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man, for he was a doer of wonderful works – a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men among us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him at first did not forsake him, for he appeared to them alive again the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him; and the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are not extinct at this day.” (Josephus, Antiquities of the Jews, 18:5:2)

Because Jospehus was a Jew, he was not likely to have said Jesus was the Christ, however the majority of historians do not believe this passage is a complete forgery. They believe there was an authentic reference to Jesus by Josephus, but it was altered and made more Christian by a later Christian monk (John Dickson, Investigating Jesus, An Historian’s Quest, Lion Hudson, London, 2010, p 74).

There is an Arabic version of this passage which is not so explicitly Christian and it may be the original,

“At this time there was a wise man named Jesus. His conduct was good, and he was known to be virtuous. Many people from among the Jews and other nations became his disciples. Pilate condemned him to crucifixion and death; but those who had become his disciples did not forsake his discipleship. They reported that he had appeared to them three days after his crucifixion and that he was alive; he was therefore, perhaps, the Messiah concerning whom the prophets had recounted wonderful things.”

Jospehus mentions Jesus in another passage referring to the execution of his brother James,

“He [Ananus the high priest] assembled the Sanhedrin of judges, and brought before them the brother of Jesus, who was called Christ, whose name was James, and some others [or, some of his companions]; and when he had formed an accusation against them as breakers of the law, he delivered them to be stoned.” (Jospehus, Antiquities of the Jews, 20:9:1)

Tacitus mentioned Christ when he described Nero’s persecution of the Christians,

“To suppress this rumour, Nero fabricated scapegoats and punished with every refinement the notoriously depraved Christians (as they were popularly called.) Their originator, Christ, had been executed in Tiberius’ reign by the governor of Judaea, Pontius Pilate. But, in spite of this temporary setback the deadly superstition broke out afresh, not only in Judaea (where the mischief started) but even in Rome. All degraded and shameful practices collect and flourish in the capital.” (Tacitus, Annals, 15;44)

This passage is critical of Christians and I do not know of any historian who thinks it is a Christian forgery.

Suetonius briefly mentions Nero’s persecution of the Christians,

“Punishments were also inflicted on the Christians, a sect professing a new and mischievous religious belief.” (Suetonius, Lives, Nero, 16)

Suetonius also wrote about Claudius.

“Because the Jews at Rome caused continuous disturbances at the instigation of Chrestus, he expelled them from the city.” (Suetonius, Lives, Claudius, 25)

Some historians think “Chrestus’ is a garbled reference to Christ and it refers to clashes between Jews and Christians in Rome, but it is not conclusive. However, Onfray claims even this passage is a forgery. Surely, if a later Christian copyist were to forge a reference to Jesus, he would make it clearer and spell “Christ” correctly.

There is only one other group I know of which behaves like this towards historical evidence – Holocaust deniers or revisionists who claim the evidence for the Nazi gas chambers is forged, unreliable or misinterpreted. Both new atheists and Holocaust revisionists are motivated by their ideological bias and refuse to accept the evidence.

Onfray further tries to cast doubt on Josephus, Tacitus and Suetonius when he writes they are “manuscripts copied several centuries after they were written. (The Atheist Manifesto, p 117)

Our earliest manuscript of Suetonius was copied 800 years after it was written. Our earliest manuscript of Tacitus was copied 1000 years after it was written. However, Tacitus and Suetonius are our main sources for the Roman Empire in the first century. If we were to reject them because of the time between the originals and our earliest copies, we would know very little about that period. Modern historians do not have a problem with Tacitus and Suetonius, only the new atheists.

In contrast, our earliest surviving fragment of the New Testament is from John and is dated to about 30 to 40 years after it was written and our first complete manuscripts are from about 300 years after it was written, but we will not hear any new atheists saying how the text of the New Testament is so much more reliable than Tacitus and Suetonius.

The Gospels, the rest of the New Testament and other early Christian writings also contain evidence for the existence of Jesus. When these are taken into account, there is more historical evidence for Jesus than any other person in the ancient world.

In The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus Gary Habermas and Michael Licona estimate that Jesus or Christ was mentioned by 42 Christian and non-Christian writers within 150 years of the crucifixion, while Tiberius, Roman emperor at the time, was only mentioned by nine writers, including the New Testament’s Luke, within 150 years of his death. (Gary Habermas and Michael Licona, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus, Kregel, Michigan, 2004, 127-128)

However, Christopher Hitchens writes,

“Well, it can be stated with certainty, and on their own evidence, that the Gospels are most certainly not literal truth. This means that many of the “sayings” and teachings of Jesus are hearsay upon hearsay upon hearsay, which helps explain their garbled and contradictory nature.” (God is not Great, p 142)

Richard Dawkins says about the Gospels,

“Although Jesus probably existed, reputable biblical scholars do not in general regard The New Testament (and obviously not the Old Testament) as a reliable record of what actually happened…… The only difference between The Da Vinci Code and the gospels is that the gospels are ancient fiction while The Da Vinci Code is modern fiction.” (The God Delusion, p 97)

I am not sure what Dawkins thinks a “reputable biblical scholar” is, presumably one who agrees with him.

In the last 30 years the “quest for the historical Jesus”, the attempt to work out how historically reliable the Gospels’ portrait of Jesus is, has come to see the Gospels as more accurate than previous generations of scholars. The majority of New Testament historians do not agree with Dawkins’ rhetoric.

The consensus among historians is that the New Testament Gospels are similar to other ancient biographies and were intended to be biographies of Jesus, describing what they believed happened. This consensus is largely a result of Richard Burridge’s What are the Gospels? A Comparison with Graeco-Roman Biography, Eerdmans, Michigan, 2004.

To paraphrase Christopher Hitchens, it can be stated with certainty, and in their evidence, that the Gospels are most certainly literal truth. They are biographies of Jesus and intended to describe what the authors believed actually happened. That is the consensus of New Testament scholarship, as opposed to the dogmatic opinions of the new atheists.

Hitchens’ claim that the Gospels are “hearsay upon hearsay upon hearsay” is hardly accurate. Matthew and John were traditionally believed to have been written by eyewitnesses. According to Papias, who wrote around 130 AD, Mark wrote what the eyewitness Peter told him (Eusebius, The History of the Church, 3:39, Penguin Classics, London, 1989, p 103-104).

Most New Testament scholars believe Matthew and Luke used Mark as a source. Paul died in the mid 60s and because Luke’s sequel Acts ends with Paul still alive in Rome, it was presumably written before he died, Luke must have been written before then.

Admittedly, many scholars believe Luke and Acts were written later, some as late as the 90s, but this is largely because Luke contains Jesus’ prophecy about the fall of Jerusalem in 70, and they do not believe prophecy is possible. But if an account of someone’s life ends with them still alive, it is safe bet it was written before they died, not 25 years later.

Both Dawkins and Hitchens claim the Gospels contain errors and contradictions which are supposed to mean they are not true. Hitchens claim the Gospels “cannot agree on anything of importance.” (God is not Great, p 132). Is he serious? What about Jesus coming from Nazareth, being the Son of God and Messiah, travelling and preaching, having disciples, performing miracles, offending the Jewish leaders, being arrested, tried and crucified and rising from the dead?

Hitchens also claims. “The contradictions and illiteracies [?] of the New Testament have filled up many books by eminent scholars, and have never been explained by any Christian authority except in the feeblest terms of “metaphor” and “a Christ of faith.” ” (God is not Great, p 136)

I am not sure how the “Christ of faith”, which usually means the alleged difference between what Christians believe about Christ and the historical Jesus of Nazareth, can explain any supposed contradictions in the Gospels.

Likewise, Dawkins claims, “The resulting contradictions are glaringly, but consistently overlooked by the faithful” and asks “Why don’t they notice these glaring contradictions?” (The God Delusion, p 94)

The truth is there are numerous Christian books devoted to explaining the supposed contradictions in the Bible, e.g.,

Gleason Archer, Encyclopedia of BIble Difficulties, Zondervan, MIchigan, 1982

Norman Geisler, The Big Book of Bible Difficulties, Baker Books, Michigan, 2008

John Haley, Alleged Discrepancies of the Bible, Whitaker House, Pennsylvania, 2004

Ken Ham, Demolishing Supposed Bible Contradictions, Master Boooks, Arizona, 2010

Walter Kaiser, Hard Sayings of the Bible, IVP, Engalnd, 1996

Sometimes these “contradictions” are just different ways of saying the same thing and both can be true. On the subject of the women who visited Jesus’ tomb on Sunday morning, Matthew says Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went (Matthew 28:1), Mark says Mary Magdalene, Mary mother of James and Salome went (Mark 16:1), Luke says Mary Magdalene, Joanna, Mary the mother of James and the other women went (Luke 24:10), John says Mary Magdalene went and she tells the disciples “we don’t know where they have laid Him” (John 20:1,2), suggesting there were more.

These accounts are different, but they can all be true. They only mean the authors only mentioned some of those who went. They also mean that the Gospel writers were not copying each other and we have multiple attestations to the resurrection.

Even if the new atheists could prove there is an unexplainable contradiction in the Gospels, that would not prove the events in the Gospels did not happen and Jesus did not exist. It would only challenge Christian ideas about inspiration and inerrancy.

Historians and others, who deal with eyewitnesses, like the police, lawyers and journalists, know that eyewitnesses can get it wrong, but that does not mean the events they described did not happen. They just made a mistake.

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In Gospel Truth, Answering New Atheist Attacks on the Gospels, Paul Barnett gives the example of the siege of Jerusalem in 66-70 AD. Tacitus says there were 6000 Romans. Jospehus says there were 600,000 (Paul Barnett, Gospel Truth, Answering New Atheist Attacks on the Gospels, IVP, England, 2012, p 93). This contradiction does not prove the Roman siege of Jerusalem never happened.

Real historians do not conclude that an event did not happen or a whole book is not true because of a mistake in the details. Again, the only other group, I know of which behave like this, are Holocaust deniers who look for mistakes and contradictions in the eyewitnesses’ accounts of the gas chambers and the extermination of the Jews and use these mistakes to argue that the eyewitnesses are wrong and the Holocaust did not happen.

Paul Barnett also makes an interesting point in that although Matthew and Luke are believed to have used Mark and sometimes said things differently than Mark, they did not accuse him of getting it wrong, while in the cases of other ancient historians contradicting each other, they often claimed they were right and the others were wrong (Gospel Truth, p 84-85). This suggests that although Matthew and Luke may have said things differently, they did not think Mark was wrong. It is possible for two or more people to describe the same event differently and all be true.

Some of the mistakes and contradictions which the new atheists raise are nothing of the sort.

Dawkins, citing Tom Flynn, argues that Luke made up the “worship by kings” at Jesus’ birth because of “Luke’s desire to adopt Christianity for the Gentiles.” (The God Delusion, p 94) While it is true that Luke appears to have been writing for a Gentile audience, the visit of the magi (wise men or astrologers, not kings) only occurs in Matthew, the most Jewish of the Gospels.

Hitchens claims that “all four Gospels were based on a lost book known as Q by scholars.” (God is not Great, p 133)

Q is a hypothetical source which many scholars believe was used by Matthew and Luke who also relied on Mark. No one (apart from Hitchens) thinks Mark and John used Q. Personally, I believe Q was an oral tradition of Jesus’ sayings, rather than a written source. Many modern scholars seem to assume that because they rely on written sources, so did the Gospel writers.

Onfray claims the Gospels were wrong to call Pontius Pilate a procurator,

“That same Pilate could not have been a procurator as the Gospels call him, for the title of procurator was first used around the year 50 of our era. Pilate’s title was prefect of Judaea.” (The Atheist Manifesto, p 128)

The only problem is Pilate is not called “procurator” in the Gospels, but by the more generic term “governor” or “hegemon”.

Onfray also claims that Jesus could not have been crucified because “History again bears witness: at that time Jews were not crucified but stoned to death.” ( The Atheist Manifesto, p 128)

I looked up “crucifixion” in the index of my Penguin Classics edition of Josephus’ The Jewish War and found eleven references to Jews being crucified. If Onfray has not consulted Josephus, what “history” does he think “bears witness” that Jews were not crucified?

If these are the sort of arguments which atheists out forward for the non-existence of Jesus, are their arguments for the non-existence of God any better?