History for Atheists

Tim O’Neill’s History for Atheists is perhaps one of the best and certainly the most articulate blog I’ve ever read, and probably the only one where I’ve ever refreshed the page hoping to see a new post listed there. This blog explains how New Atheists are getting their popular history WRONG!

What is “History for Atheists”?

This blog is for articles, book reviews and critiques relating to “New Atheist Bad History” – the misuse of history and the use of biased, erroneous or distorted pseudo history by anti-theistic atheists. The author is an atheist himself so no, this is not some theist apologetics blog. It is simply an attempt to call out and correct the misuse of history, because rationalists should not base their arguments on errors and distortions.

Resources

Ancient Literature

The Electronic Text Corpus of Sumerian Literature (ETCSL) (contains about 400 compositions of Sumerian work), MIT Classics Archive (contains 441 ancient works by 59 authors, including virtually all classic Greco-Roman works relevant), Early Christian Writings Website, Early Jewish Writings Website, Christian Classica Ethereal Library (CCEL), Routledge Selected Works, Orthodox CN, New Advent Fathers, Logos Products (use Logos search engine to find virtually any church works), works of Francis Bacon

• Near Eastern works and Genesis: Enuma Elish, Epic of Atrahasis, Epic of Gilgamesh, Sumerian King List (geneaologies in Genesis 5), Rulers of Lagas (geneaologies in Genesis 5), Enmerkar and the Lord of Aratta, Enki and Ninmah

• Important manuscripts: Nag Hammadi ArchiveBrooklyn Papyrus, John Rylands P52, 4Q521 (Messianic Apocalypse, also see here and here), 4Q246 (Aramaic Apocalypse, see here), War Scroll (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, fragments), Peutinger Plates

•  Charlesworth link, The Book of Acts: A Series in Faith and Ethics, Hurtado’s List of 2nd-3rd Century Christian ManuscriptsPersecution of Christians sources — See further resources from the Center for the Study of Christian Origins, including all early Christian and Jewish writings/apocrypha, etc, including open access JOURNALS here Glossolalia, Journal of Hebrew Scriptures, Grace Theological Journal (1980-1991), Themelios, Bulletin for Biblical Research, Studia Antiqua, Histos, (open issue of NTS here)

•  Useful historical resources: High Middle Ages Course Guidebook (Philip Daileader, includes all relevant further readings)

Tools

• The Assyrian Dictionary of the Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago (most recent volume containing over 28,000 Akkadian words spanning from 2400 BC – 100 AD), Pennsylvanian Sumerian Dictionary

• New Testament Virtual Manuscript Room (allows you to browse through, search, zoom in and look at the Greek/original language text of all New Testament manuscripts), Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts, The Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library (and also see Israel Museum Digital Dead Sea Scrolls here), Nestle Aland Historical-Critical Text of the Greek New Testament

General findings of biblical archaeology • 2018

Paul’s chronology, see Robert Jewett A Chronology of Paul’s Life, Jerome Murphy-O-Conner St. Paul’s Corinth, Gerd Ludemann Paul Apostle to Gentiles: Studies in Chronology, Joseph A. Fitzmeyer Paul (NJBC)

BioLogos • One of Darwin’s Greatest Supporters Was a Devout Christian • John Calvin and Accommodation, Recommended by Dennis Prager: God and the Astronomers, also see Introduction to Buddhism, The Whig Interpretation of History (1931), Hyperspace (Michio Kaku), How the Mind Works (Steven Pinker)

What Archaeology Is Telling Us About the Real Jesus (National Geographic)  Unearthing the World of Jesus (Smithsonian) • Did David and Solomon’s United Monarchy Exist? Vast Ancient Mining Operation May Hold Answers (Haaretz)

Scholarly Books Freely Available Online (year noted in most recent edition available online, 35 available so far)

Bauckham, Richard: The Theology of the Book of Revelation (2003); Jesus and the Eyewitnesses (2006, bad format, 2nd ed. unavailable)

Blomberg, Craig: Introduction to Biblical Interpretation: Revised and Expanded (1993)

Bruce, F.F.: The Canon of Scripture (1988)

Carson, D.A.: The inclusive-language debate: A Plea for Realism (click on link for download to start, 1998); An introduction to the New Testament (with J.M. Douglas 2009, bad format)

Charlesworth, James: The Old Testament Pseudepigrapha: Apocalyptic Literature & Testaments (1983)

Dunn, James D.G.: Christology in the Making: A New Testament Inquiry into the Origins of the Doctrine of the Incarnation (2nd ed., 1989); Jesus Remembered: Christianity in the Making (2003)

Ehrman, Bart: A Historical Introduction to the Early Christian Writings (1997); Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium (1999); Truth and Fiction in the Da Vinci Code (2004); The Text of the New Testament (with Bruce Metzger, 4th ed., 2005) The Lost Gospel of Judas Iscariot: A New Look at Betrayer and Betrayed (2006); How Jesus Became God (2014)

Finkelstein, Israel: The Bible Unearthed (2001)

Grant, Edward: God and Reason in the Middle Ages (2004); A History of Natural Philosophy: From the Ancient World to the Nineteenth Century (2007)

Hengel, Martin: Crucifixion: In the Ancient World and the Foll of the Message of the Cross (1977)

Hurtado, Larry: One God, One Lord: Early Christian Devotion and Ancient Jewish Monotheism (2nd ed., 1998 [most recent 2015 edition not here]); At the Origins of Christian Worship (1999); Lord Jesus Christ: Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (2003), The Earliest Christian Artifacts: Manuscripts and Christian Origins (2006)

Jeremias, Joachim: Jerusalem in the time of Jesus: An investigation into economic and social conditions during the New Testament period (3rd ed+author revisions, 1967) (although this work contains much important information, it is overall outdated)

Kitchen, Kenneth: The Bible in its World: The Bible and Archaeology Today (1977)

Köstenberger, Andreas J., and Michael J. Kruger: The Heresy of Orthodoxy: How Contemporary Culture’s Fascination with Diversity Has Reshaped Our Understanding of Early Christianity (2010)

Mettinger, Tryggve: The Riddle of Resurrection: Dying and Rising Gods in the Ancient Near East (can be downloaded here, 2001)

Odahl, Charles: Constantine and the Christian Empire (2004)

Pagels, Elaine: The Gnostic Gospels (1989)

Samuelsson, Gunnar: Crucifixion in Antiquity (2011)

Segal, Alan: Two Powers in Heaven (1977)

Skarsaune, Oskar, and Reidar Hvalvik, eds: Jewish Believers in Jesus: The Early Centuries (2007)

Wight, A.N. Sherwin: Roman society and Roman law in the New Testament: the Sarum lectures 1960-1961 (2004)

Wright, N.T.: What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity? (1997, imprecise page numbers); The Resurrection of the Son of God (2003)


As noted many times before, New Atheist historiography is quaintly old fashioned and largely Victorian. So it happily embraces the idea that the Greeks and Romans were rational, enlightened and almost secular and that their rosy-hued world was destroyed by the wicked Christians, who plunged the world into a theocratic, anti-scientific and politically oppressive Dark Age, dominated completely by an all-powerful Catholic Church. But this was thankfully relieved by the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation, which broke the power of the Church and ushered in a secular Europe that in turn gave rise to modern science, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and finally, that pinnacle of historical progress, our good selves. This is a cheery, nineteenth century positivist conception of history as an inevitable “onward and upward” progression and one that Herbert Butterfield skewered nicely in his The Whig Interpretation of History (1931). As Butterfield noted, the Whiggish historical positivism of the Victorians and Edwardians was based on a series of assumptions, prejudices and suppositions, each one more dubious than the next. –Tim O’Neill, An Islamic “Reformation”? – Pseudo History Meets Politics

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