Saturday, January 22, 2011


The Author battles a dreaded Jesus Myther

After a rather long hiatus, I'd like to apologise to those following this blog and other regulars for the last few months' radio silence.  It was largely caused by a hard-drive crash that wiped out drafts of several reviews and an iPhone crash that wiped the notes I'd made while reading several other books (I do most of my reading while commuting, so I use my phone to jot notes).  Yes, I have now bought a large external hard-drive and back up weekly.  Hopefully my new review below will begin to make up for the long break.

The good news is that in the interim I have been reading and buying quite a few books, many of which are relevant to the focus of this blog.  Christmas saw a number of newish books land in my stocking, and I am about to finish Ian Hughes' Stilicho: The Vandal Who Saved Rome. Despite its slightly silly sub-title (he wasn't and he didn't) it's a very solid and detailed account of a turning point in the collapse of the Western Roman Empire.

Yesterday I ordered Peter J, Leithart's Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom.  It seems to be a book that is part history and part theology; both examining the history and myths around the much maligned Emperor Constantine and tackling the idea that his adoption of Christianity was ultimately a "bad thing" for that faith.  Naturally, as a non-believer, I'll be looking at it purely from the historical angle, but it looks interesting.

Less interesting but perhaps more fun, is a slender self-published tome that hit my desk a couple of weeks ago.  It glories in the title Nailed: Ten Christian Myths That Show Jesus Never Existed at All and is by one David Fitzgerald.  It's actually Fitzgerald's contribution to an odd little competition held by some of the usual suspects from the online "Jesus Never Existed" brigade.  It came runner up last year, apparently, but thanks to the wonders of print-on-demand online publishing services ("helping kooks get into print for over five years!") befuddled clowns and frothing fanatics can now purchase it on Amazon etc and have their prejudices and misconceptions gently stroked.  I suspect that review won't be kindly.

Finally, please take part in the Readers' Poll on the blog's left sidebar.  It gives you a choice of a number of potential future reviews and articles on this blog.  I will tend to read what I find in the book shops or what publishers and authors send me, but I want to use your responses to the poll as at least something of a guide.

My new year's resolution is to ensure I update this blog regularly, so hopefully 2011 will see a lot more activity hear.
Best regards,

Tim O'Neill
Sarcastic Bastard and Prick


MikeGene said...

Just found your site. Read three of your reviews. Now, I'm hooked! You gots yourself another reader.

tolkein said...

I popped over to Amazon to read the reviews. Golly! Most people seem to swallow the story whole. No scepticism allowed on his thesis, it appears. At least the publisher (Lulu) is appropriate.

And look at the titles bought by people who read the book. It looks as though he is only preaching to the choir. And don't they appear to hate Christianity.

I like your reviews. I had flicked through Freeman but thought that he read like a polemicist and was glad you came to the same conclusion. If that's what you believe, Gibbon does it much better, and is more readable.

Brandon said...

Really great to see you still out and about! Having just recently read it myself, I'd be interested in what you think of the historical argument of the Leithart book.

claudio said...

I don't see why you have to apologize.
Anyway, maybe you'll like that:

Anon1 said...

Incidentally, regarding your poll can I suggest something completely different.

Over the years I've read dozens of articles and a few books concerning the history of India during the years between the Muslim "invasion" and the East India company. This is a highly controversial area, which is why I used the quotes around invasion, (not because I hold a particular view).

This reverberates today in Indian politics. There are temple controversies. Debates about the number of people killed during the Mogal takeover - I've seen claims of up to 60m. Forced or voluntary conversion.

Western writers about India like William Dalrymple seem so partisan outside history that I worry about his objectivity in the subject. Indian writers seem even worse.

I would appreciate some suggestions and guidance.

Tim O'Neill said...

"I would appreciate some suggestions and guidance."

Sorry, but I'm strictly an ancient and medieval history guy. I have read on some subjects beyond 1500, some more than others, but would hesitate to write any reviews on anything I haven't studied extensively. Indian history is one area I know very little about.

McB said...

I look forward to your review of Nailed. I find it more interesting reading criticisms of atheist ideas from atheists themselves, criticisms of Christianity from Christians etc, so I look forward to what you have to say.

Anonymous said...

I dont know McB, from my prespective I think Tim just waste his valuable and limited time. He is better than trying to knock some sense on empty heads, I mean what's the point for pointing if Jesus existed or not?

Tim O'Neill said...

I think reviewing a book that claims Jesus never existed is definitely worthwhile, especially when it is being trumpeted as "the best 'capsule summary' of the mythist case I've ever encountered" by prominent myther Earl Doherty and boosted by Richard Carrier.

I didn't pay much attention to these people until a few years ago, since I regarded mythers as being kooks in the same category as UFO nuts. But in recent years the myther position has gained real traction in the atheist community, which is notoriously illiterate when it comes to the study of history.

And if anyone is going to debunk this stuff it's someone like me. Firstly I have a strong grasp of the material, secondly I have (unfortunately) a clear understanding of myther arguments and thirdly, I'm an atheist, so they can't use the "you're just saying that because you're a Christian" counter-argument on me.

Except they still try to. I recently looked at the key-words people use to get to this blog and found someone had come here by typing "Tim O'Neill"+"is really a Christian" into Google. Nice try, idiot.

Anonymous said...

I am actually really looking forward to the review of "Nailed". I don't really know anything about the history of that era, when someone sent me the pdf of Nailed, it seemed plausible to me, so I would be interested in a methodical response. I guess this makes me an "empty head", though I prefer to think of myself as someone willing to learn. :-/

The Rabbi said...

"I recently looked at the key-words people use to get to this blog and found someone had come here by typing "Tim O'Neill"+"is really a Christian" into Google. Nice try, idiot."

For those of us who have known you for some time now (at least from behind a keyboard), it really is idiotic.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

About "Nailed", I am subscribed to his colleague Acharya, and one of her book titles provoked me to this answer.

Stevo Darkly said...

Welcome back, Mr. O'Neill! I find this site illuminating and useful, and have been looking forward to the resumption of your posts.

Neil Parille said...

I purchased Doherty's 800 page behemoth Jesus: Neither God nor Man.

I'm not that familiar with the mythicist position, but it seems extreme from what I can tell. Doherty doesn't think Paul or the Gospel writers believed Jesus lived in earth.

Tim O'Neill said...

You can find a comprehensive critique of Doherty's book HERE. It seems it has the same flaws as his earlier stuff.

Neil Parille said...

I read portions of Doherty's book on Paul, the Gospel of John and Hebrews. He claims that everything in these writings which appears to us to have taken place on earth was in fact being described as taking place in some lower level of the spiritual realm.

My impression was that none of the allegedly parallel literature referenced supports Doherty's claim that this was a mode of thought common in the first century AD. Apparently the reviewer you mention reached the same conclusion.

kilo papa said...

Doherty is responding to GDons critique. The first installment is posted at

Doherty has addressed GDon before, in detail. You can find it on

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

New Testament has eight authors, three of whom did not necessarily meet him and were not his disciples while he lived on earth.

Two of these are St Paul and St Luke. The latter is disciple of the former and says he was passively adhering to the stoning of another disciple, St Stephen.

How atheists - including Tim O'Neill - explain the scene when St Luke met St Paul - it involves a doctor saying someone died from broken neck and that someone then walking around alive again after that - is a mystery. But how Doherty explains that none of the eight believed Our Lord walked on earth is not just mystery, it approaches Lear and Lewis Carroll.

Tim O'Neill said...

New Testament has eight authors

We actually have no definitive idea who wrote any of the books of the NT, particularly the ones which make no claim to authorship. Paul probably wrote at least some of the ones attributed to him but beyond that we're guessing. You're assuming rather too much.

How atheists - including Tim O'Neill - explain the scene when St Luke met St Paul - it involves a doctor saying someone died from broken neck and that someone then walking around alive again after that - is a mystery.

What exactly am I supposed to be explaining? Who is this person who "died from broken neck (sic)"? The only person I can think of who fits that description is Judas, who apparently hanged himself.

I'm assuming you're referring to Jesus here (a broken neck? pardon?) but where you got the idea that any "Luke" was a witness to this, let alone to any "walking around alive again" afterwards is the real mystery here.

You seem rather confused, to say the least.

Duke of Earl said...


It is always best to let people speak for themselves. Attributing positions to them, especially those they don't hold, is extremely bad form.

I know Tim is not a Christian, I have little idea on his views on various parts of the Bible. If I wanted to know them, I'd ask.

What I do know is that Tim loves truth, and he applies that to his study of history. That is probably why things like the Christ Myth annoy (and possibly amuse) him.

I have experienced an atheist who, even after I linked to Tim's blog to show him that there really was no conflict between science and religion in medieval times, still insisted that there was, and claimed that Hume had experienced reluctance publishing some of his works. Hume was a medieval scientist? Really?

Someone who loves truth should be highly regarded, regardless of their religious beliefs.

Hans Georg Lundahl said...

@ Duke of Earl:

Re: "I have little idea on his views on various parts of the Bible. If I wanted to know them, I'd ask."

Well, to my rhetoric sensibility posting a statement like "how doctrinaire vegetarians like G B Shaw account for children universally liking chicken" on the blog of G B Shaw amonts to asking G B Shaw how he accounts for the fact that human children when offered fried chicken universally or as good as universally do like it.

And posting on Tim O' Neill's blog a statement like I made above does amount to asking Tim o'Neill how he accounts for St Luke witnessing resurrection of a boy fallen asleep, fallen out of a window, breaking his neck and being raised from the dead by St Paul. The reference is in Acts, and how do I know St Luke witnessed it, well, because that chapter is among the famous We Passages of Acts.

Tim O'Neill said...


I'm not interested in using the comments section of an incidental post on my blog to have a debate with you about the truth or otherwise of Christianity or any other religion. If you want to preach to atheists, you can do it somewhere else. I've heard it all before pal. Further posts preaching your faith will not be published.


Anonymous said...

Hi Tim,

I would be interested in getting your review of arecent article posted at historyhuntersinternational entitled "The vacuum of evidence for pre-4th century Christianity"


Tim O'Neill said...

I would be interested in getting your review of arecent article posted at historyhuntersinternational entitled "The vacuum of evidence for pre-4th century Christianity"

I was talking it reasonably serious until I got to the bit where he says the Codex Vaticanus uses the abbreviation "XC" instead of writing the word "christos" so it isn't Christian. Reading the other articles by this guy "John" reveals he has a lot of information but not much of clue.

Tommykey said...

Great blog Tim!

I am an atheist but was a believing Roman Catholic until my late teens.

From my experience as an atheist, there is clearly a segment of atheists (which once included myself) that not only sees the Christian religion as being factually wrong, but is also to blame for things like the collapse of the Roman Empire, causing the Dark Ages and so forth. So, when they learn of sites like, they eat it up because it validates their prejudices. "It's no coincidence that the Roman Empire fell apart as it became more Christian!" as if Christianity had anything to do with the emperor Valens getting destroyed by the Goths at Adrianople.