Matt Whitman is a pastor and creator of the Ten Minute Bible Hour.
Audio Clip: [00:00:00] Well as a Christian I guess that it would be easy for you to recite the Lord’s Prayer. Is that what we’re resorting to here, Gestapo tactics. I would like to hear that. Would you like to hear me say the Lords prayer? Fine I’m happy to, our father ,art who is up in heaven Aloe Vera be thy name, forgive us for trespassing, and do not lead us to the temptations because we are tired of them and they’re dancing, and deliver us from evil with your mighty sword and falcon forever and ever and ever, amen.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:00:41] That’s Zach Galifianakis and of course Will Ferrell in the movie, The Campaign and you know, actually my favorite part of that clip, but I wasn’t able to get it comes right after that, when the crowd have kind of stereotyped Bible belt Christians is booing because he doesn’t know the Lord’s prayer and Ferrell protests and says, I got the gist of it and I’ve been working through these shows on Christianity and Judaism and social engineering by the Romans, and I have to wonder to myself am I may be making too big of a deal about this because at the end of the day, I do kind of feel like Christians do get the gist of it, right? I mean, it’s all about love and light and forgiveness and compassion and for the modern, liberal, mainstream, protestant and America, that is what Jesus is all about, that’s what his message is all about, that’s what Christ consciousness is all about. So what’s the big deal? They got the gist of it, right. So and I’ve kind of said this before, but I’ll say it again, I’m trying to go past that, I’m acknowledging that, I’m acknowledging how awesome that is, especially in the context of a society we have that basically denies spirituality at every turn, either through science or through wink and nod Hollywood, Luciferian, Satanism, whatever that thing is. So where I’m trying to go is the next level of saying, okay, what’s beyond the gist of it? If we were going to try and get to some kind of factual thing, like I say and I know that’s slippery and tricky. What would we leave in? What would we throw out? Now, none of that would be a problem as you’ll hear for today’s most excellent guest, Matt Whitman and I have to stress, and this is just straight up the truth. I can’t tell you how far Matt stands above so many of the biblical scholars, religious scholars, comparative religion professors all that stuff, you know I’ve talked to a ton of those people. Matt stands head and shoulders above them in terms of standing up and dealing with the data and sorting through it and being able to push back with a well reasoned, supported argument of his position. So I’m going to play a couple of relatively long clips from this interview because the interview is very long, it goes a lot of different places. And I want to give you, at least as Will Ferrell says, the gist of it.
Audio Clip: [00:03:27] What do you think the chances are that the gospel writers had access to Josephus? I think 100% that Luke had access to at least the early publications of Josephus. I don’t think Mark had access, I think he wrote earlier than that and drew his details from Peter, we’ve got a ton of historical evidence and tradition that points to Mark just writing down Peters teachings in Rome. I think you’d have a tough time making a case that mark drew anything there. John, I think may have wrote an early edition and then some questions were left lingering and maybe he came back later to round things out answering the question of what happened with Peter, things like that in that final chapter. So John would have had access, at least by the time we get to the finished version of John, and maybe there is no finished version, maybe it was all just one verse, I don’t know I’m just speculating. Matthew, there’s more debate about the early church father who lived in close proximity, Papyrus suggests that Matthew was actually the first to write his gospel, modern scholarship supposes that Mark wrote first. But if that’s the case, then Matthew, if Papyrus is right, Matthew didn’t have access to Josephus because Josephus was still wet behind the ears and a kid and hadn’t published anything when Matthew was doing the bulk of his work. If we go with the more traditional slightly later date for Matthew, he would have barely had access to Josephus and if we go with the much more skeptical and traditionally it’s called the more liberal read on the dating of Matthew than he would have had access. So, sure I think they had access, I just don’t see the correspondence happening to such a degree that it’s in any way historically compelling. Are you at all surprised curious about the Bible being as programming as it is? No I’m not. Are those the fingerprints of Josephus? No, well maybe, I have to say maybe again, because I didn’t write this I don’t know. But based on what I see the orientation, one strategy for how to deal with Rome and the situation in hand amongst Jews, amongst Gentiles, amongst colonizers, amongst, would be non Jewish rebels amongst Christians, was play along, use the Roman infrastructure, play along and don’t pick a fight because you’re going to lose the fight. Now there are people I completely agree with right now, who, or completely disagree with right now, who look at the situation in American Government, or the situation in people cracking down on any kind of creative speech on the internet. And maybe for completely different reasons we would say, I don’t like that and I want to push back on that but right now, it would be best to appease. So I won’t crack this joke, I won’t deal with that subject matter, I’m not looking to jab that bear and pick a fight. Now, we might not know each other, we might not influence each other but if we’re both people have common sense, we might look at the same playing field and say this is probably the right way to play it at the moment.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:06:42] Welcome to Skeptiko, where we explore controversial science and spirituality with leading researchers, thinkers, and their critics. I’m your host Alex Tsakiris and today we welcome Matt Whitman to Skeptiko. Matt is the creator and host of the very excellent 10 minute Bible hour, which he says is the Bible without the sermon, which is really quite an amazing show. He also has a podcast of the same name and he has a very excellent YouTube channel that you can check out all kind of the same way. He does a great job, he’s a great presenter and he also produces some really high quality content about, I guess, the expanded version of what you’d expect from a Bible hour, I mean he does deep dives into apologetics. He has some pretty amazing interviews and I was just complimenting him, which anyone will see that it’s not just kind of idle, fluffing up the guests. I mean, the high quality content and the production value that he puts into this is pretty impressive. So we’re gonna have a conversation today and I’m really, really appreciative that Matt, who’s coming from a Christian perspective used to be a pastor is willing to engage in this dialogue, ongoing dialogue we’ve been having about kind of next level spirituality. So Matt, welcome to Skeptiko, thanks so much for joining me.
Matt Whitman: [00:08:17] Yeah, I’m honored. Thanks for letting me hang out with you, Alex and I gotta say, that was a really crisp intro, nice job man, I can tell you’ve been doing this for a while.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:08:25] Wow, honored. I love when people say that they’re honored to be on Skeptiko. I never know quite what to make of that. So I’ll tell you what, before we get too chummy here…
Matt Whitman: [00:08:35] Well you know, can I tell you what to make of it when I say it? It means that I’m about to sit and talk with somebody, I get to unwrap a present here, because I don’t know you. We didn’t workshop all of this in advance to get all our answers straight and make everything just super tidy and crispy. So I’m unwrapping a present here as I get to learn more about the mindset and how ideas and experiences have shaped how you come at things, how you wrestle with an idea. It feels like we’re on a tennis court, and we’ve got a ball labeled ideas, and you’re about to put it in play, and we’re about to bounce it back and forth, and so when I say I’m honored, and I mean it, anybody who’s willing to sit and really process through an idea is automatically my friend. So thank you.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:09:19] Totally get that and totally feel the same way in a very, very deep way because you know, it’s funny, I was just thinking of this before we started because in these discussions, you always have to kind of stick out your position if nothing else, so that the audience can understand, gee, why are you having a guy who does a for pastor, could be a pastor tomorrow for all you know, he has the degree in divinity, has all those qualification and then is doing a Christian apologetic’s you know, why is he coming on your show to speak to an audience whose primarily spiritual but not religious, and somewhat not down on the Christian kind of version of things. And I kind of see it the other way, I kind of see it as wow you know, anyone who’s digging into this stuff at the level that you are like, you know I just pull up on the screen, who is conscious pilot historical proofs and legends? You know, 100,000 view 2030 minute, no one hour and 10 minute video on YouTube with it has, as I pulled up on the screen, oh, here’s a guy who went to Rome and is videotaping himself in front of the archaeological evidence that Pontius Pilate existed. Here’s someone whose dug through and found the coins that prove that Pontius Pilate existed. So there’s just a lot going on there in terms of someone who truly is seeking at that next level, which I am to in a different way. But as you just said and I think there’s a lot to that, hats off to someone who is seeking in a way that already says, your mind can’t be totally made up. My mind is not totally made up. Like, I might come through this and I might go, Oh shit you know what everything I thought I knew is a little bit off because Matt changed my world, that is exciting. That’s why I continue to do this and you know, bro that’s why it is super fun to talk to you. I feel like it’s gonna be a good thing. Hey, tell folks a little bit more, I gave a very brief bio you know, who is Matt Whitman? And how did you reach this point in this whole thing that you’re doing?
Matt Whitman: [00:11:34] What an awesome way to get the ball rolling, that’s a great question. I’m weird, I know on paper what people are going to expect is someone who probably holds a certain set of political views, a certain set of social views and the only part of the introduction that in a friendly way I would push back on would be the term apologist. I always get lumped in with those crowds. I get invited to things, but I just don’t think I am. I think what I am is trying to do eyes wide open faith. So my dad is a first generation Christian and a baptist pastor, he was part of the mainline baptist denomination growing up, mainline meaning you know, at this point, that group would lean a little bit more left politically, ranging from a little bit left to really, really hard left progressive would be your mainline churches. He found that unsatisfactory and gravitated toward a more conservative traditional Baptist Church for the remainder of his career after I was out of the house. So that was my experience. I watched him go to seminary, I watched him go through several iterations of faith and understanding about the miraculous, the divine, all of that, but steady faith throughout. So my upbringing then was an idea of bringing. Okay, everybody teaches their kid the family business one way or another and my dad’s business was ideas, as still is, I mean he’s just brilliant, brilliant man. And so yeah, we’d stay up till two in the morning, every night, school nights and everything and we would work shop ideas, what’s on the news? What point in church history or scholar philosopher thought this and what do we do with it? And that’s just what we did and you know, dad didn’t do much in terms of teaching me how to turn a wrench, that was mostly mom who taught me how to do things with my hands and fix stuff, which I really enjoy as well. But dad taught me about the world of ideas where most dads teach their kids how to fish, I learned that one on my own, and dad night bandied about thought. And so I thought, no I don’t, I think he did a great job of conditioning me to do eyes wide open faith. I was raised around that. I went to a Pentecostal ish, Christian high school where my mom got a job as a music teacher., that’s the only reason I went there. The dominant theology of that high school was very much what now looks more like your health and wealth gospel, your Joel Osteen TV preacher, here’s a very nebulous, miraculous claim about having an idea in your head that you say is from God, or being able to do in consequential and not vegetable miraculous things that didn’t move the needle for me as a kid, and bred a lot of skepticism for me, not about God so much, but about miraculous claims stuff on the fringe. It just didn’t, It didn’t square with the reason that I was getting taught at home. So I get out of that school situation, I went to law school that was my plan, be a lawyer do political stuff. My brother got killed in a car wreck which just sucked, he was awesome, now I don’t have a brother, I loved having a brother, I miss him and dad had trouble making church work, not because his faith fell apart, not at all, his faith was bolstered by that tragedy. But he was just sad because his kid died and you know, all beliefs and politics and everything else aside, I think it’s very easy for any human to be empathetic to a dad who lost his baby boy and had his heart broken and so it’s pretty tough to muster creative energy when you’re in that place. So I moved home from law school and I jumped in with dad and I helped cover the bases. I had like my minor in biblical studies at that point, my undergrad degrees were history, philosophy, that kind of business. So I helped out, I’m not sure I was any good at it but I helped cover those bases and was around church a little bit. Did one more round of that, thought I better understand this a little bit more because I get some real questions here. So I went to seminary, a good seminary, one I probably didn’t have any business being at. I was definitely bringing down the average scholarly ability level of that place. I went to Trinity in Chicago and that’s where a lot of things really clicked, being around that historical, academic, Christian tradition, where the bottom line of every class was not believe it more, be better behaved, vote this way and just none of that came up. The bottom line of everything was, be a better scholar, have more eyes wide open faith or not faith, if that’s where you end up and that stuck. That was the thing that really stuck was the okay, I’ve now seen what it looks like to have modeled for me, academically honest, eyes wide open faith with varying degrees of an understanding of a threshold of belief on this issue or that issue and I felt like I had permission at that point, to find my tribe, and to think really honestly about this stuff and not worry about letting people down. I took another church after my first graduate degree that went very, very badly, it was the exact opposite of what I’ve experienced at the seminary and that rich academic setting. And I remember driving away from that awful experience at church with my brand new baby girl, moving van full of stuff, I quit with no job, I quit on principle, I can’t do this. We always had a deal, we’re not gonna lie to ourselves about God. We’re not gonna lie to ourselves about Bible things and miraculous things if we believe it and it’s stupid, Okay, at least it’s honest. But we’re not going to say we think things we don’t think that destroys your soul. So we quit with no job, I left, I moved to live in a friend’s guest bedroom in Nebraska, with no plan and no money and wife and a baby girl and I think around Grand Junction Colorado for the first time ever. It occurred to me, hey what if there’s just not a God at all? Like, what if every last bit of this is wrong and my dad’s a great guy, and other religious people I’ve known are lovely people. But it was just a coping mechanism for dealing with death and what looks like the complete chaos of the story of history and ideas. I started bawling man, in the moving van I was, it was very, very painful to even not entertain the idea academically, I’d done that, but to entertain the idea in a way that I would allow myself to just go where the evidence leads. And holding broke and it just did for really a pretty significant chunk of time. And ultimately it was deconstructing a bunch of bad, I think, pretty indefensible, unsustainable kid faith that I had brought with me without reexamining into adulthood and parenthood that it just wasn’t sustainable, It wasn’t gonna work. Those ideas are incompatible with these other ideas and so that youth group, Evangelical Light, sort of intentionally skeptical of deep thought and the intellectual side of Christianity version of Christianity, that they’re really heavily focused on altering a few behaviors in young people, It just broke. And with it broke my belief that there was any kind of deity or order to anything at all, and this is after I’m ordained and this is after I’m you know, I’ve worked with 1000s of people and tried to help them out and, look, I know there are people sitting in on this conversation Alex, who are like, well serves you right jackass. You go and you tell people a bunch of things that are dead wrong, I’m I’m glad you had to feel the sting of that. But I would, you know, to my to my friends who I don’t know yet on the internet who are maybe going there in your head, I would ask for grace on that, you’re doing your best, I was doing my best. You get served up what you get served up, you do your best to sort it through and it would be fun wouldn’t it? If we could just ban oh snap and all of our ideas, and all of that data could just be processed in one lightning fast buffer bar. And all of it comes into fruition and like right there in front of you like there. Now I’m on build 8.1 of my faith and my understanding of the world and ideas and philosophy and my ethic of other people in politics. But the buffer bar is slow. There’s a lot of complex calculations that go into it and I don’t want to wait until I have everything figured out to try to be redemptive and help people. And so I don’t regret how I came at it during those first 10 years of adulthood before I got into this crisis of faith or period of disbelief, I would call it the ladder. I tried to teach him intellectual honesty, I tried to model intellectual honesty, and I didn’t get everything right, and I don’t know, that’s okay. But what if I’d done nothing for those 10 years? And I hadn’t helped anybody and I just sat in my old tower and thought thoughts? Well, I don’t want to be that guy, either. I want to try to be redemptive as well as I understand redemptive at any given moment. So then I know this is a long answer and thank you for even being…
Alex Tsakiris: [00:10:14] thank you. Totally get that. And totally feel the same way in a very, very deep way, because you know, it’s funny. I was just thinking of this before we started, because in these discussions, you always have to kind of stick out your position if nothing else, so that the audience can understand.
Gee, why are you having a guy who does a former pastor? God could be a pastor tomorrow for all, you know, has the degree in divinity has all those qualifications, and then it is doing a Christian apologetics. You know, why is he coming on your show to speak to an audience who’s primarily spiritual, but not religious and somewhat not down on the Christian kind of version of things.
And I kind of see it the other way. I kind of see it as, wow. You know, anyone who’s digging into this stuff at the level that you are like You know, I just pulled up in the street who is ponchos pilot, historical proofs and legends, you know, uh, a hundred thousand view, a 20, 30 minute, one hour and 10 minute video on YouTube with it has, as I pulled up on the screen, Oh, here’s a guy who went to Rome and is videotaping himself in front of the archeological evidence that Pontius pilot existed.
Here’s somebody dug through and found the coins that prove that punches pilot existed. So there’s just a lack going on there in terms of someone who truly is seeking at that next level, which I am too in a different way. But as you just said, and I think there’s a lot to that hats off to someone who is seeking in a way that already says your mind, can’t be totally made up.
My mind is not totally made up. Like I might come through this and I might go, Oh shit. You know what, everything I thought I knew is a little bit off because Matt changed my world. That is exciting. That’s why I continue to do this. And
Matt Whitman: [00:12:11] you know,
Alex Tsakiris: [00:12:12] bro, that’s why it is super fun to talk to you. I feel like it’s going to be a good thing.
Hey, so tell us, tell folks a little bit more. I give a very brief bio, you know, who is Matt Whitman and how did you reach this point in this whole thing that you’re doing.
Matt Whitman: [00:12:29] What an awesome way to get the ball rolling. That’s a great question. I’m weird. I know on paper, what people are going to expect is someone who probably holds a certain set of political views, a certain set of social views.
And the only part of the introduction that in a friendly way I would push back on would be the term apologists. I always get lumped in with those crowds. I get invited to things, but I just don’t think I am. I, I think what I am is trying to do eyes wide open faith. So my dad is a first-generation Christian and a Baptist pastor.
He was part of the mainline Baptist denomination growing up, uh, mainline, meaning, you know, at this point that group would lean a little bit more left, politically ranging from a little bit left to really, really hard left, progressive would be your main line churches. Um, he found that unsatisfactory and gravitated toward a more conservative, traditional Baptist church for the remainder of his career after I was out of the house.
So that was my experience. I watched him go to seminary. I watched him go through several iterations of faith and understanding about the miraculous, the divine, all of that, but steady faith throughout. So my, uh, My, my upbringing then was an idea of bringing a gay. Everybody teaches their kid, the family business one way or another.
And my dad’s business was ideas as still is. And he’s, he’s just brilliant, brilliant man. And so we’d stay up till do in the morning, every night, school nights and everything. And we would workshop ideas. What’s on the news. What point in church history or scholar, philosopher thought this, and what do we do with it?
And that’s just what we did. And, you know, dad didn’t do much in terms of teaching me how to turn a wrench. That was mostly mom who taught me how to do things with my hands and fix stuff, which I really enjoy as well. Um, but yeah, it taught me about the world of ideas where most dads teach their kids, how to fish.
I learned that one on my own and, uh, dad and I bandied about thought. And so I thought, no, I don’t. I think he did a great job of conditioning me to do eyes wide, open faith. I was raised around that. I went to a Pentecostal ish Christian high school where my mom got a job as a music teacher. That’s the only reason I went.
They’re the dominant theology of that high school was very much what now looks more like your health and wealth gospel. You’re Joel Osteen, TV, preacher. Here’s a very nebulous, miraculous claim about having an idea in your head that you say is from God or being able to do in Kwan, inconsequential and not vettable miraculous things that didn’t move the needle for me as a kid and bred a lot of skepticism for me, not about God so much, but about miraculous claims stuff on the fringe.
It just didn’t, it didn’t square with the reason that I was getting taught at home. So I get out of that school situation. I went to law school. That was my plan. Be a lawyer, do political stuff. My kid brother got killed in a car wreck, but just sucked. It was awesome. Now I don’t have a brother. I loved having a brother.
I miss him and dad had trouble making church work. Not because his faith fell apart. Not, not at all. His faith was bolstered by that tragedy, but he was just sad because these kid died and you know, all beliefs and politics and everything else aside. I think it’s very easy for any human to be empathetic to a dad who lost his baby boy and had his heart broken.
And so it’s pretty tough to muster creative energy when you’re in that place. So I moved home from law school and I jumped in with dad and I helped cover the bases. I had like a minor in biblical studies at that point. My undergrad degrees were history of philosophy, that kind of business. So, so I helped out, uh, I’m not sure I was any good at it, but I helped cover those bases and was around church a little bit.
Did one more round of that, but I better understand this a little bit more because I got some real questions here. So I went to seminary, um, a good seminary one, I probably didn’t have any business be an add. I was definitely bringing down the average scholarly ability level of that place. I went to, I went to Trinity in Chicago and, um, that’s where a lot of things really clicked being around that historical academic Christian tradition, where the bottom line of every class was not believe it more, be better behaved, vote this way.
And just none of that came up. The bottom line of everything was be a better scholar, have more eyes wide, open faith or not faith if that’s where you end up. And that stuck, that was, that was the thing that really stuck was the, okay. I’ve now seen what it looks like to have modeled for me, academically honest eyes wide open faith with varying degrees of an understanding of a threshold of belief on this issue or that issue.
And I felt like I had permission at that point. To, to find my tribe and to think really honestly, about this stuff and, and not worry about letting people down. I took another church after my first graduate degree that went very, very badly. It was the exact opposite of what I experienced at seminary in that rich academic setting.
And I remember driving away from that awful experience at church, with my brand new baby girl, a moving van full of stuff. I quit with no job. I quit on principle. I can’t do this. And we always had a deal. We’re not, um, we’re not going to lie to ourselves about God. We’re not going to lie to ourselves about Bible things and miraculous things.
If we believe it. And it’s stupid. Okay. At least it’s honest, but we’re not going to say we think things, we don’t think that destroys your soul. So we quit with no job. I left. I moved to live in a friend’s guest bedroom in Nebraska with no plan and no money and a wife and a baby girl. And I think around grand junction, Colorado for the first time ever, it occurred to me.
I wonder if there’s just not a God at all. What if every last bit of this is wrong and my dad’s a great guy and other religious people I’ve known are lovely people, but what if it’s just a coping mechanism for dealing with death and what looks like the complete chaos of. The story of history and ideas.
I started bawling man in the moving van. I, I was, it was very, very painful to even not entertain the idea academically I’d done that, but to entertain the idea in a way that I would allow myself to just go where the evidence leads and the whole thing broke, and it just did for, um, really a pretty significant chunk of time.
And, uh, ultimately it was deconstructing a bunch of bad, I think pretty indefensible, unsustainable kid faith that I had brought with me without re-examining into adulthood and Parenthood, that it just wasn’t sustainable. It wasn’t gonna work. Those ideas are incompatible with these other ideas. And so that youth group evangelical light sort of intentionally skeptical of deep thought and the intellectual side of Christianity version of Christianity that they’re really heavily focused on altering a few behaviors in young people.
It just broke. And with it broke my belief that there was any kind of deity or order to anything at all. And this is after I’m ordained. And this is after I’m, you know, I’ve, I’ve worked with thousands of people and tried to help them out. And look, I know there are people sitting in on this conversation, Alex, Who were like stars, right?
Jackass. I mean, you go and you tell people a bunch of things that are dead wrong. I’m glad you had to feel this thing of that. But I would, you know, to my, to my friends. So I don’t know yet on the internet who are maybe going there in your head, I would ask for grace on that, you’re doing your best. I was doing my best.
You get served up what you get served up, you do your best to sort it through. And it would be fun. Wouldn’t it. If we could just banjos snap and all of our ideas and all of that data could just be processed in one lightening, fast buffer bar. And all of it comes into fruition and like right there in front of you, like there now I’m on build 8.1 of my faith and my understanding of the world and ideas and philosophy and my ethic of other people and politics.
But the buffer bar is slow. There’s a lot of stuff, complex calculations that go into it. And I don’t want to wait until I have everything figured out to try to be redemptive and help people. And so I, I don’t regret how I came at it during those first 10 years of adulthood, before I got into this crisis of faith or period of disbelief, I would call it the ladder.
Um, I tried to teach them intellectual honesty. I tried to model intellectual honesty and I didn’t get everything right. And I don’t know that’s okay. But what if I’d done nothing for those 10 years? And I had helped anybody and I just sat in my old tower and thought thoughts, well, I don’t want to be that guy either.
I want to. I want to try to be redemptive as well as I understand redemptive at any given moment. So then, and I know this is a long answer and thank you for even,
Alex Tsakiris: [00:22:25] no, this is an awesome, this is an awesome story. I’m loving every bit of it, so cool. You built it up now, man. You, you act three or act two. I don’t know how they do those things.
Matt Whitman: [00:22:35] All right. All right. So, so I come back around, um, my earnest lived experience, which I’m sure people will express skepticism toward and that’s fine is I was really sure there was a God. I was absolutely positive. There was not a God. And then gradually, I began to think about that in different categories to a place where yeah, I, I think there’s something behind all of this.
I don’t think it just happened. I am with Aristotle and thinking that there is a first cause there is some originating force in that I think you can reason out from there to at least a basic framework of what the attributes and skillset of that originating cause can’t be, could be, and maybe even must be.
So I, I, I have gotten to my place of faith in a really weird way. Well, whatever the case, uh, I just decided that was going to really triple down coming out of that experience on if I’m doing the faith thing, I’m doing eyes wide, open faith, a hundred percent honest. I cannot process this in a way where my primary concern is someone else might hear one little fragment of it and the spell might be broken for them.
And they might feel sad and go through a bad process of doubt. Doubt is faith. Faith is doubt. So eyes wide, open faith, absolutely hard ground rule, go where the evidence points go, where the data points. And so the most, probably the most hurtful thing that I hear from people in the history of my internetting.
And now I’m going to tell everybody how they can make me feel sad if they want to, but it’s, it’s the charge in the comment section and the angry email, most of which doesn’t get through the armor at all. You know, I get a jillion, things like that every day, whatever, but there’s one that gets through the armor and it’s the, uh, the accusation of dishonesty because it’s not true, but it’s just, it’s not true.
Now the accusation of incompetence, I can handle better because, because yeah, I mean maybe, I mean, the claims of Christianity are enormously complex, the character and, and lifetime of Jesus Christ. I mean, heck the political background of Jesus would take lifetimes to understand just the backdrop of what his life is in relief against.
It’s crazy complicated. So his ineptitude on my part probable
course. Oh no, all this stuff I’m thinking about it. I’m working on it. Um, But I’m trying to do it, honestly, because I don’t want to lie to myself about something with stakes like that. And I don’t want to lie to other people about something with stakes like that, and the way that has formed my style when I was at church and with what I’m doing on the internet is, Oh, I’m really empathetic to people.
Who’ve looked at the same data I have and have come to a different conclusion. I like you, I’m not threatened by you. I D to me, it seems like we’re doing the exact same homework project and wherever we are in the process, here we are. We’re deciding what to do with that data a little differently, but that, that isn’t threatening.
And so it, all my stuff, I just try to take into account and assume and all of my, my podcast data and my YouTube data indicates that this is true. That people who do not think what I’m think or hanging out with with me and that we’re processing this through together, and that I assume some people watch and listen to my stuff because they would just like the raw data.
Please, could you just give me the raw materials of Christianity, all decide what to do with that. I don’t need your help with that. Thank you very much. But without all of the persuasion and the angle and the, you telling me how to behave and what to do and how to vote and what to think, could you just break it down and could I hear what your thought process is as you break it down so that I can get some kind of objectivity on the thing?
So I would like to be that guy on the internet who full disclosure. Yeah. I’m in. But the reason I balked at the term apologist is I’m trying to game out the arguments for and against. I’m trying to game out multiple positions on any issue that I’m talking about. And, Oh man, I’m pretty libertarian minded.
I just, I don’t try to close the deal. I just don’t feel like that’s my role in this whole conversation. Lots of people on all sides of the discussion feel like that’s their role. I tip my hat. Cool. Takes all types. You knock yourself out. Um, so our mat, if somebody looks at the data has several conversations, metaphorically with me over the internet and they get to a place where they’re like, you know what, like looking at that thing on its merits and not on the merits of internet rumors.
Yeah. I think I want to give that a try. That adds up. I think it’s more likely that there’s a God then there’s not. I think the version of that historically, that includes Jesus makes more sense than the other ones I’m in. I want them to do that because they just took their time. Like Jesus said to do count the cost, thought about it real hard and were like, I’m going to give it a go.
And with the feedback I get is that people who decide to be Christians from corresponding with me while not corresponding, but listening to my stuff, watching my stuff, they don’t usually tend to sign up for a version of church that looks much like the version that I do, that ain’t going to figure it out very independently.
They go and do their math on it. And they land where they land and we high five and they get on with their life. And that’s cool. And so I might be a disappointing guest in that regard, Alex, cause I’m, I’m in a weird place here and I’m, I’m in a place where I think a better ethic on the part of Christianity for how to interact with people who don’t hold the same views is needed for a long time.
That ethic has been formulated out of a position of strength. I mean, roughly Protestant dish Christianity dominated the 20th century, kids got raised around it. They didn’t really think about it much. I mean that wasn’t encouraged, but you know, they get the gist and, um, and that’s that. And he just grew up with this vague assumption and the socially easy thing for a hundred years was be kind of how I was raised now, the socially easy thing.
And I predict it probably will be for the next 50 or a hundred years is, uh, no, a default position is probably no on the God thing. Probably no on the organized religion thing. Okay. So, so Christianity was operating from a position of, I think misused strength. I think it, it squandered an opportunity to invite people into the richness and complexity of this whole thing.
Uh, and now it operates from a position of relative weakness. But the clumsy ethic, I still seeing being played out on TV and on the internet from Christians is that we’re still operating. Like everybody owes us something or like, like this is the default position. No, it’s not. No, no, it really isn’t at all.
There are people who do not think what we think and arrived there through a process of hard work and dedication and consideration. And it was people deserve our respect.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:29:55] Well, I’m, I’m with you, I’m with you right up till the end there.
Matt Whitman: [00:30:00] I said, there are people I did not go. I did not go the whole crowd.
And so, and so I I’m trying to operate the thing in such a way where instead of people who don’t believe what I believe being a cautionary tale, that I hold out as a negative example for good Christians to avoid falling into, I would rather hold out a caricature of the people who don’t think what I think as people of Goodwill, who I haven’t met with, who deserved the benefit of the doubt until they don’t earn the benefit of the doubt who might like to talk about the same ideas I like to talk about and come to different conclusions.
So I try to underscore what I do with that tone so that I can be outside my bubble and benefit from putting together multiple processors that can run more equations than my single processor can run at any given time and try to benefit from the work of others and accelerate my ability to game out.
What I think really is. The key question of human existence. What’s the point? What are we doing here? Where’d we come from? Where are we going? And that answers or speaks to the question of what do I do with you? I mean, how should I view Alex? What value do you have? How should I conceive of you? How should I treat you?
So to me, it’s a big deal. And I suppose all of this internet stuff that I’m doing is my way of inviting other people to process something I’m really passionate about processing. That’s a long answer to your question. Thanks for indulging me.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:31:29] Absolutely. That’s fantastic. You touched, I mean, you just ran the gamut there.
You know, the, the sub title kind of ethos of this show is inquiry to perpetuate doubt. And, uh, because the term skeptical, you know, I was great raised in the Greek Orthodox church, the Greek tradition in my family and stuff like that. So I picked this name skepticals cause those were the ancient Greek philosophers.
And I didn’t even realize this Matt, at the time, I just picked the name basically. And you could relate. I’m sure you can relate to this in a lot of ways in your story that we could get into, but it wasn’t until a few years later that I actually read what these guys were all about. And I ran across this thing.
They were about inquiry to perpetuate doubt, because I believe as you do, the doubt is a spiritual thing. Right. Because if you are decided, if you have these beliefs, if you have faith, that’s a barrier that is a barrier to your, I think in my opinion, to your ultimate connection, because that is always in the kind of etheric realm of kind of being rediscovered.
And is that rediscovery? It’s a Zen mind, beginner’s mind inmate, but not to digress too far. Cause I want to pick up on a couple other points. You said that, you know, I love when you put, what how’d you say it, homework project, like, you know, for me, I started skeptical after I had kind of done the business thing.
I, that was my upbringing was, Hey, get the fucking money. You know? So that was my dad. Uh, that was my family. That was the value system of, you know, those Greeks that were getting together at the Greek Orthodox church there about, Hey, are you getting paid during the week? You know, it’s a different, it’s a different value.
It’s much closer to, I don’t know the Jewish tradition that much, but it’s much better. They’re kind of thing. Like, Hey, fell, are you getting paid? Now we can come and worship. But during the week you’re getting paid. Right? So my value was make the business stuff happen. So, you know, I did the MBA. I went back to get a PhD in artificial intelligence because I was pretty good at the computer programming stuff, started to company.
Failed miserably, but eventually found a way. And then I did the homework project. Cause kind of like you in a way, the whole time I’m thinking, well, certainly this is just to get to the point where we can discover who we are and why we’re here. I mean, that’s, that’s what everyone’s doing. Right? Everyone’s trying to get enough free time, money, resources, whatever to do the homework project.
Who are we? Why are we here? So, you know, connecting with you right now, one of the things I think is so really cool is that to me, Oh God, it’s thick headed. Sometimes I was surprised to find that no, not everyone is down with the homework project. That that is the primary directive, you know, to find out why we’re here, who we are,
Matt Whitman: [00:34:37] why we’re here.
Well, and that’s an old school Greek school of thought as well. I mean, your hedonists your sofas. They all had a different angle on what you make of the homework project and how much attention it actually deserves. Your Stoics had a different read on that. Your Epicureans had a different read on that.
And so, yeah, we’re not all wired the same, but I think you and I are wired similarly. Well, you know, the
Alex Tsakiris: [00:35:02] other way that I related to your story that I thought was really cool. And I like all the computer references in the buffer. Uh, isn’t moving fast enough. I thought it was great, but I always have the feeling that me and everyone else.
Is processing all this information at a very high rate and then they are internalizing it and expressing it kind of in a slower way. So when you broke, I mean, that’s the cool part about your story? I think, you know, is you broke. And to me, the breaking is when our internal rapid processing of all the information comes up that does not compute, that does not compute.
And then it relates to us in an emotional level. So I think those kinds of stories to me are exciting because I try and create those broke moments for myself all the time. So on this show, uh, many, many years ago, I hate to acknowledge how many years I’ve been doing this, but I love it. I love it. I love it.
I love it. So I D I don’t, I love this. I love the chance to connect with people who I would never have a chance to connect to. And I really have no reason to connect to, I don’t have any financial interest or, you know, promoting or anything like that. It’s just like, wow, that is cool. And then how awesome is this internet thing that I can call up?
You know, last week I was talking to a, uh, New York times, uh, uh, journalist and bestselling author and stuff like that. I’ll never get the chance to talk to that guy, but I got a chance to talk to him because I do this thing and that’s cool. Expanding the knowledge. So here is how the path. Maybe getting back to where we’re at right now at punches, pilot punches pilots.
So cool. And I love
Matt Whitman: [00:36:48] all the stuff you did with that.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:36:50] So I started out saying, okay, who are we? Why are we here? And since I’m kind of a, science-y more guy, I said, let’s look at science. Now I had, I have to admit in the back of my head, I had a pretty good idea that the science people, the skeptical people, that atheist people were full of shit, but I couldn’t really prove it.
You know, I didn’t feel like I could prove it from a scientific standpoint. And I think I did that. And I even wrote a book about that, why science is wrong, but almost everything. And I talked to people like Dr. Rupert Sheldrick, Cambridge biologist, who wrote the intro and the forward to that book. And I talked to Dean Raden, who did a six Sigma, you know, result experiment that shows that consciousness is fundamental.
And the consciousness exists, which is, you know, the tricky part, like a big part of this project. I spent 50 shows and sorting through this kind of stuff is the mental gymnastics that the atheist goes through to support their idea, that you are a biologic robot and a meaningless universe, and that your life essentially has no meaning because there’s no meaning in the universe.
I mean, it’s not just your life. It’s like, there is no meaning in the universe, so there can’t be any meaning in your life.
Is it possible that that is a social engineering project. We’re going to talk about when we talk about the Romans, because the Romans were all about social engineering and all about how to control people. However, you’re going to see, you know, Hey, just path, the path of least resistance. If I can control you with the spear, if I can control you with the gun, that’s good.
But if I can control you and not have to do that, right. And get you to control, fight amongst yourself and control each other. Yeah. Hey, that’s just better, man. That’s just less used as a resource. No one kind of comes at me. I sit back and go out. Yo, that’s what the Romans are famous for doing like, Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey, they start the fight and then they’d come and go, okay, come on.
Matt Whitman: [00:38:51] Hey, let me separate you guys. You’re going to need more authority from us. We can’t have this kind of chaos. We gave you a chance after stoking the fire at Charles barks, just called that out. Uh, during the NCAA final four last week, I mean, they’re doing a pretty standard issue. Virtue signaling segment.
It happens to be that they were virtue signaling some of the virtues that I think are virtuous still, right? Charles, still one black guy on the stage is the one who comes back and he’s like, you know, I can’t do it Charles Barkley and personally, but I think most white people are good people. I think most black people are good people and it’s these Democrats and it’s these Republicans who don’t live in our neighborhoods who want to make us fight over money, fight over race.
And it’s, I mean, it’s just, Oh, the emperor has no clothes. And Charles Barkley is going to be the one who’s willing to point out that the emperor has no, it was an amazing set of remarks that he just threw out off the couple of giving everybody the benefit of the doubt appealing to some, something that is bigger than, than a collectivist group dynamic rooted in materialistic behavioralism he was saying now there’s.
Some more meaning to who we are. And there’s some more intrinsic value regardless of what you look like or where you came from or what you believe that people bear and what that produces historically is massive competition and individualism in the marketplace. That can be a destructive system that does damage to people.
And it can be offered. That is spiritual.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:40:31] The, so produce C what does it produce spiritually is what I’m interested in.
Matt Whitman: [00:40:35] And I think, I believe when you can make better stuff, that you could help other people that you could invest in something bigger than yourself, that you could build a podcast that a whole bunch of people would want to tune into and connect with that.
Instead of processing this privately, you could share that experience with a bunch of people. What you, what you do is spiritual one way or another. And, and what I resonated with so much about what you just said, Alex, is that, uh, I think it’s the university of Hawaii. They’re the department that does the study on Dennis’ side murder by government, not war like a government saying for the greater good, these people need to go what they come up with, like 217, 270 million people over the course of the 20th century and just into the 21st murdered by their own government for the greater good, like collectivism is not this panacea.
It is a, there’s a spiritual assumption behind it. And that spiritual assumption greases the skids for some very destructive stuff that does not give a pass to a very different version of destructive stuff that can be born out of theistic assumptions. And those are worth exploring as well. But the idea that somehow collectivism and materialism creates this non-conscious meat bag robot mentality, that brings us toward a better gene Roddenberry style, looking forward to the future panacea.
It just doesn’t bear out historically. It’s fraught with problems too. And to deny that I think is silly and I, I appreciate your points on it.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:42:10] You know, Matt, I just wrote a book not to pump books. I just wrote a book on why evil matters, how science and religion fumbled, the big one and the real, it was kind of like a fall onto the first one.
If you understand that science is the real drive of science is to create separate you from your connection, separates you from the extended consciousness realm that you just live in. You know, and even if we don’t understand what that. Extended realm is and where Jesus is, whichever one wants to go and where Satan and all the rest of it.
How about just acknowledging that? Yeah, there is consciousness and there seems to be this extended consciousness realm. Can’t say that for sure. But again, follow the data. As soon as you make that big leap over the crevasse and say, Oh, consciousness does exist. Newsflash, like every culture throughout time, has it known that, you know, but that’s been the thing there.
Then you look at evil and to me, evil is evil is interesting, because think about how evil has been kind of scrubbed from the conversation, you know, because it doesn’t fit with where we really want to go in terms of understanding some of these fundamental questions, like, is there more,
Matt Whitman: [00:43:28] unless it’s politically expedient, then there’s evil
Alex Tsakiris: [00:43:31] and what would that say?
So I, but see the reason I pull up and going with the politics or even going there is that if it is a social engineering project, if that’s in play, not everything, but if that’s in play, then you also have to consider that that might be in play in this extended rail. Right. So, so they’re too far, you know, the occult satanic, the all that stuff, but that stuff’s real.
I mean, do you want to look at that? You know, it’s like a satanic panic, right? It’s like, yes, a tannic, panic is a hell of a thing, but. Every one of those cases, there’s really good satanic rituals going on. So McMartin preschool. Yeah. That’s bad, satanic
that guy was doing that. And you know, the little kid, Maddie Johnson, who was victim, number one, they took him to UCLA medicine, medical, and the doctor said this kid’s been sexually abused.
And then they took him to the police and they said, this kid’s been sexually abused. We better go talk. We got me Martin preschool because you a little mad. He says that’s who did it to him so we can spin it. They can spin it. They being, we know who they are as satanic panic. And it was, I mean, some people got panicked and kind of wrongful accusations and all that stuff.
It’s, that’s real, but the core of it, so anything on that before we jump into punches pilot?
Matt Whitman: [00:44:58] Yeah. A couple of thoughts on stuff you said there. Uh, one, I think there is much more shaded area in the den than the Venn diagram when it comes to what gets you to a similar starting point for moral philosophy now, moral philosophy and natural philosophy, which we now call science post 16th century post bacon and Descartes.
They were more or less the same thing for a few thousand years in the West prior to the scientific revolution. I I’m a little more optimistic in how I would characterize science. I mean, what you described sounds like it can be the hubris of human knowledge that maybe mythically or if you want to go, theologically is warned about in the early chunks of the book of Genesis.
But yeah, in general, I mean, it’s like Aristotle said by all, by nature, all men desire to know no natural philosophy or the hard sciences as we now call them. It’s just an extension of that. And people want to know that. I want to know what that thing is in the sky. I want to know how that bridge works and why it doesn’t collapse.
I want to know why when I plug this thing in and I get electricity, I want to know how flicking a light off and on can somehow communicate sound, fiber optics, all that stuff. It’s just baffling. And so I don’t want to know for any agenda, like, Oh, that proves my thing. Or now I can have that in the ammo belt.
Next time I get in a debate with this kind of person. I just want to freaking know because I can’t help, but want to know now for me, I would say that is part of the cultivating mandate that is either mythically or literally described early in the book of Genesis. It’s not a burden that humans bear, it’s something beautiful that defines
Alex Tsakiris: [00:46:41] well that’s 99% of science.
Right. But, but when you cook something, when you co-op something up to do it, you don’t, it’s not like if you pick up, what is your least favorite news source? I don’t know. You know, pick your, pick your one, whether it’s NPR or Fox or CNN. I dunno. Pick your one. It’s not all fake, right? It’s not all
Matt Whitman: [00:47:03] fake. It’s just shapes most of it.
Yeah. It’s just shaded, you know, to a catcher framing, a pitch to make an empire, think a ball just off the plate was actually catching the edge of the plate. Yeah.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:47:16] , how much you know about what’s going on in North Korea right now? I don’t know shit if
Matt Whitman: [00:47:21] I want it.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:47:22] So, if I wanted to go read the official kind of news source, that’s coming out of North Korea, that would have a lot more facts in it than I would be able to give you about North Korea. But I bet you it’s just full of shit. Cause I know it is. So I know it’s I would assume so.
Matt Whitman: [00:47:42] Well, Kim Jong-il shot an 18 on his first ever round of golf.
So what does come out is enough for me to say now I just refuse to accept that that pudgy 16 year 60 year old was better at golf than tiger woods, I guess. So I don’t buy it. So,
Alex Tsakiris: [00:47:58] you know, and that’s all I’m saying about science. I mean, of course, you know, we got the iPhone we’re on this, all that shit works, but sure.
So the only thing is can go
Matt Whitman: [00:48:07] on with that, but where I’m going with that is that. Because of a healthy skepticism. I mean, skepticism drives science. It’s why we do it.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:48:16] No incorrect, incorrect. I have to jump in there with that. No, it isn’t. It is not necessary to be skeptical, to do science. All you have to do is do good science.
It’s like this idea that extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof that it’s met a science. It is not scientific method. Just do the work, just do the work, just do the science. If you believe something is true, prove it true. Replicate it, send it to another lab, have them replicate it. And everyone will acknowledge that.
That is a move forward in science. It doesn’t matter if you’re starting beliefs were skeptical or non skeptical.
Matt Whitman: [00:48:54] talking about classical skepticism. I think you’re talking about internet 2021. Skepticism skepticism is just a general orientation of evidence-based approach to the natural physical world.
That dates back to 600 years before the
Alex Tsakiris: [00:49:10] time of crisis, or just talking about the scientific method. We’d better get on to. Okay. All right. Pilot,
Matt Whitman: [00:49:15] all of that though, connects to moral philosophy and that’s what it comes down to moral philosophy is either going to be a product of the belief that people own their bodies and have value because of consciousness and some intrinsic value that is bestowed upon us by the universe, by the maker of the universe specifically by God, either there is some unique value.
Held by humans by merit of that, or we are robots in need of leadership and guidance and being moved around on the chess board. The entire equation of moral philosophy is completely different, depending on which one of those two assumptions you come to, it sounds like you and I have arrived at the belief that there is something intrinsically valuable about people.
Even if we don’t look like them or sound like them or agree on everything, you still have value because of this larger, external truth. And we’re not coming at that from the same theological perspective, but we’re arriving at that same moral foundational position. So rightly people right now are putting a lot of thought energy and discussion energy into racial equality.
Awesome. Slavery is seen as, as almost worse than murder. Like the worst thing that ever could have been done in all of history. It was pretty bad. It was pretty bad. But when you start to push on that, you get to the depth quickly of where a person is coming from in terms of their moral philosophy to the person who believes that moral philosophy is a product of consensus.
And once you roll over that inflection point to where one more than half of the people in a society say slavery is bad, then it becomes bad. They scare me. I think slavery is bad because it’s intrinsically evil. It’s evil to imagine that you can buy, sell, trade, even breed. Another human being. You don’t own that person’s body because they have consciousness and value that is equal to mine.
So I just, I can’t do that crap to you. I can’t take your stuff. I can’t hurt you. I can’t kill you. I certainly can’t write a check to buy you. It’s it’s an abomination before the order of the universe and in my conviction before God, now I’m not scared of a person who arrives at that conclusion through a completely different set of theological assumptions than me, because there’s a reason that they could say, this is why slavery is wrong.
And even if I was the only person on earth who said it was wrong, it’s still wrong by merit of the nature and order of existence in the universe who scares me is the person who citing science and being in love with collectivism and two diminishes. The value of the human effectively can only say that that deplorable practice is wrong because we came around and finally, a majority of people said it was wrong.
And we did some paperwork that changed it from being right to wrong and now it’s wrong. And it’s just, it’s just obvious. Well, it wasn’t always obvious. Like I need something more than we did some paperwork. And then it became immoral as a foundation, as an assurance from the person I’m talking to that, if it becomes fashionable to enslave people again, we won’t do it again.
Like what if, what if we get to a place where one more person than half in our society is like, nah, we might want to try slavery again. Does that suddenly make it right? Have you lost your mind? Of course not, but it’s stunning when you get into conversations with people who are otherwise very reasonable and likable, when you push on that moral philosophical foundation, you get into some crazy dark stuff because you realize there is no foundational conviction or belief that would cause them to see a value of a human that inspires their ethic of how to interact with others or what might make something right or wrong.
And so when we talk about when we insert our way toward state coercion and the strategies and mind job-readiness of the Romans and all of this that we’re going to unpack, I still think all of that is undergirded by moral philosophy and the foundational assumptions that anybody in this conversation right now, 2000 years ago, that anybody has about the nature of humanity.
And one of the places where I appreciate the collegiality we share is that through very different processes, we both think people have some kind of value that shapes our moral decision-making. That
Alex Tsakiris: [00:53:38] was quite beautiful. And really, really well said that again, if I pick on things, cause that’s what I like to do.
Pick bless part of that. You know, I think it’s part of the brainwashing to say the nature of humanity. I just go and follow the data and say, consciousness exists. Because science proves it does extended consciousness seems to exist. Overwhelmingly the best evidence we have suggests that it does. So the burden of proof would be on someone to say that extended consciousness doesn’t, it doesn’t exist.
Once we get into that realm, what we find people consistently coming back and saying, yeah, there’s a moral imperative deal with it. It’s called God. For lack of a better term, you can call it God’s spirit light and call it whatever you want. These guys who’ve bullshitted us through all this nonsense of social construct.
It’s a social construct. It’s not a social construct. No, if you’re all alone. If, if it’s 51% vote, or if you’re sitting alone in a tent, in a hut in Thailand, you know, doing your yoga sutras, you’re coming to the same conclusion without the 51%, because it’s just, it’s a moral imperative. It’s who you are at this extended consciousness
Matt Whitman: [00:54:59] level.
I love what you just said though, about the burden of proof, because the stakes here are, are very high. And so, for example, I remember when I went through driver’s ed, there was a question on there. I was like, if you see a cardboard box on the road and you’re pretty sure it’s empty, would it be okay to hit that?
And I was like, well, yeah, you’re pretty sure it’s empty. Yes, I got it wrong. And the, uh, the person teaching the class was like, well, no, because it’s a mystery box. You don’t know what is in the box. There’s a chance. Something you don’t want to hurt or kill is in the box. Therefore, if you don’t know, it’s worth making the move with your wheel in any way possible to avoid hitting that.
Likewise, I think the burden of proof is on the person who says, no, it’s okay to make central moves that involve mass death. Or curtailing of freedom or life or rights or anything because we’re pretty sure there’s not consciousness who the burden of proof is on dramatically shapes. What is, and is not acceptable policy because on the outside chance that you, Alex are an actual conscious being with value, uh, even if I’m only like 95% sure.
Yeah. Not, and that you are just a meat bag robot. There’s still a 5% chance that if I mess with you, I am violating that, which gives me value. I am violating a and a transcendent beautiful blue Gore ordered component and of the universe. I mean your threshold of action against another person and certainty that there is nothing to them.
I it’s gotta be a hundred percent and it’s gotta be demonstrable. You just, I’m not going to go. If kids are playing behind the curtains at the tennis center where I work out, I’m not going to go up there and know that. Yeah, I probably won’t stab any kids and run a big, long blade through that curtain in a couple of places.
Cause it’s a very low chance I’m going to get them. I’m just not going to do it on the outside chance to, I mean, kids back there, I think the same logic applies. And I think the burden of proof in this case is not just a semantic throwaway. I don’t sense laziness on your part. I think it has serious moral implications as to whom the burden of proof is assigned.
And I agree with your assessment.
Alex Tsakiris: [00:57:15] Okay. So Matt,
who was punched pilot historical proof in legends. So I just, for folks who are interested, I pulled up really good video. You did really, really great video man tie
Matt Whitman: [00:57:30] quality
Alex Tsakiris: [00:57:30] stuff, but on YouTube, why, first of all, fill people in on the background, why do this video?
What, what is this about on that level? And then what did you find? And then allow me to tear it apart.
Matt Whitman: [00:57:47] Yeah. Perfect. Sounds good. Good luck. Yeah. The, the thing about Pontius pilot is he’s one of three names that comes up in one of the most foundational oft repeated Christian statements of belief. Uh, one of the foundational creeds it’s called within Christianity mentions three human characters, Mary Jesus and Pontus pilot.
The ponchos pilot is this, this very important character in the new Testament. He comes up in the gospels, the accounts of the life and that deeds and death and resurrection of Jesus. He is the local Roman governor of Judea, the Roman client King state of Judea, which had been. So since Palm pay the great rolled in, in the middle of the first century BC and the way this works for people who aren’t in the know is this client King system meant that you’ve got local ethnic governorship.
So a lot of people are probably like, wait, wasn’t Herod the guy who governed did Judea. Well, the answer is yes, the heritage family wielded tremendous influence as a local indigenous ethnic ruler as was the habit of the Romans when setting up a client King state. And he operated in partnership with a different list of responsibilities and jurisdiction than the Roman governor who was present.
And in this case, a guy who would otherwise have a pretty forgettable tenure as governor of this Roman state of Judea. Is the most famous one ever the one everybody can name and that’s ponchos pilot, mid twenties to mid thirties. Ady is the timeframe we’re talking about here? He’s a political, no namer from a political, no name, family, and a region called Somnia, just a few clicks outside of modern day Rome.
His name is even confusing. It might’ve been that he was militarily effective with, uh, a pike. Uh Pallium uh, I don’t know. We don’t really have anything to compare it to the, the only theory I can develop for how he gained a prominent position. Like this was an association with a political benefactor named
This Johnny’s character was duplicitous. I mean, he has Janice and his name. The two face sadness is right there. I don’t know how anybody missed it at the time, but this is Johnny’s guy curried favor with a couple of different courts, particularly with the emperor Tiberius. And it looks as though at least some contemporary sources, ascribe, antisemitic motivations, as well as obviously politically upwardly mobile motivations to this Johnny’s character.
And so my theory goes that he thought pilot was politically weak enough immediately unconnected enough that he was someone who said, John . Who was sitting in for an absentee emperor in Siberia who just wanted to do booze and sex parties on the isle of Capri down by Naples. And wasn’t really focused on governing for a period of time in the middle of his reign.
I think so John is handpicked this pilot guy because he was controllable. I think he sent him to Judea to, um, carry out whatever political motivations. So John who’s had them. I’m not totally convinced on the anti-Semitism charges. And I don’t think pilot was up for it. I think it gave him a complex. I think he always felt like he needed to demonstrate that he was a real boy who really earned this job.
And he’s a
Alex Tsakiris: [01:01:11] very serious, he killed, he sentences Jesus to death. Right. I mean, that’s why we, a bunch of
Matt Whitman: [01:01:16] other political blenders. Yeah. So,
Alex Tsakiris: [01:01:20] you know, in the, in the YouTube, one of the things that you go through in very, you know, snappy little fashion is how we know what we know. And one of the first things you come to is our friend.
Flavius Josephus and you do that. And none of super controversial way you just say here is the guy, will you tell us who do you understand? Flavius Josephus to be? Because I have a very different understanding of who he is based on the data, nothing about him seems maybe the least bit believable. He is a top to bottom Roman propaganda agent, and really can’t be understood to be anything else.
In my opinion, he probably sold his information to vis Bayesean, rather than this wacky story about he prophesized that he’d be emperor and that somehow got a free trip to Rome. Of course that’s nonsense.
Matt Whitman: [01:02:19] So, yeah. Okay. Let me speak to that. Um, I do disagree with you and I think I can make a good case for it, but, uh, ultimately the fate of earth doesn’t hinge on what we make of Flavius Josephus.
So I think we’re going to have fun. The Josephus has a Jewish guy. Um, Oh, uh, Joseph Ben is his name with the Jewish Hasidic rabbi. It’s not but it sounds like that, um, the Flavius is obviously a Latin name that he receives later on after currying favor with a couple of Roman courts. And so he’s a Jewish guy during a time of tremendous turmoil at times, he seems to be aligned with the more conservative.
Miracle believing Pharisee sacked. At times he seems to be aligned with the more liberal Hellenized that is Greek defying. Let’s roll with the culture. More like the equivalent of your main mind churches type of sack. At times it looks like he’s more aligned with the Qumran crowd. The people out the escapist who went out to the dead sea and give us the dead sea scrolls are a large percentage of them who are more aesthetic in their lifestyle.
And we’re kind of rejectionist of all of this, his thoughts
Alex Tsakiris: [01:03:33] Let me interject one piece on what you just said, because this is also to me, telltale fake Josephus, right? There was no one who was friendly to all those different sex. Those people were completely at odds.
They were killing each other as, as they ultimately go in and sees, you know, Jerusalem and attack the temple. Both guys are still killing each other within the group. So his ID, his clients, you know, go to the preface of war or the Jews, his book, primarily, we’re going to talk about the Joseph. That’s very important to note
Matt Whitman: [01:04:04] that is his first book.
Alex Tsakiris: [01:04:06] it is. Right. Very important and very, very important to note his preface to that, which says, you know what? There’s a lot of bad history out there. So I’m going to straighten all that out. Rely on me. I’m going to tell you the truth no matter who gets hurt on it. And then he says, of course, I’m going to, he says, I’m going to tell you the truth about the glorious Romans and about these other folks that you know, were pretty June the best they could to called the Jews.
But he then goes about lying
Matt Whitman: [01:04:39] Jewish Wars in Jewish Wars, in Jewish Wars, right? Because antiquities reads very differently.
Alex Tsakiris: [01:04:45] Doesn’t it doesn’t help the claim that this guy is trustworthy, right? It does not help the claim that he has. He sees things differently. Right? And
Matt Whitman: [01:04:53] I think you’re making Alex, well, hold
Alex Tsakiris: [01:04:56] on, hold on.
We gotta build it. We gotta build it. We got to build it piece by piece. And that is that Josephus is telling you, believe me, trust me. And then he’s saying stuff that is completely unbelievable is completely not trustable. One of the things
Matt Whitman: [01:05:14] you just alluded to this lens is to understand him through, well, let me make my case.
Alex Tsakiris: [01:05:20] no, let me make my case. And then you can write on write out your Dick. Okay. But yeah, the, the reason I don’t see it that way is like, even the point that you just made about him being in all these different sex, read it. I read it from my perspective, which is this guy’s purely a propaganda agent.
If you read it from that perspective, it totally makes sense because it fits in with this other thing that he claims is that he’s a super Jew, right? He says, Hey, I’m friends with all these different sex. They highly respect me. And he says, by the way, I know the law, you know, Jewish law at 14, I was in the temple and I was telling those old rabbis and they all sat down on bended knee and listened to me because I knew the whole thing.
Well, this is Josephus his account, right? So his preface says, Hey, trust me everything. I’m going to tell you don’t listen. Those other historians, they kind of make stuff up. They exaggerate, they play one song. I’m going to tell you the truth. And then he goes on to tell you these things. And like the thing I always point out I have in a couple of shows here is that if you talk to people now, who are that scholarly in the Jewish cult, what they built and they’ve read the law and all that stuff.
What they’ll tell you is just see if it’s kind of contradicts himself. He says, he knows the law, quote, unquote, and then he doesn’t. He demonstrates by his writing that he doesn’t really know the law. So again, my claim is that the only way to really understand, you’ll see this is as a Roman propaganda agent.
Matt Whitman: [01:06:52] Okay. Okay. First of all, I think you’re headed for a disappointment on this because I think you’re assuming that I’m more optimistic about Josephus than I actually am. I don’t feel like anything about my faith or belief in any way, hinges on Josephus. The one excerpt that was often cited through right on, up into.
The 19th 20th century from Josephus regarding Jesus is clearly a later edition. There are elements of that, that hold up to manuscript study. And the early manuscript evidence seems to support the idea that Josephus somewhere in there acknowledged Jesus and a few of the foundational details that would have been accepted as common historical fact at that time.
However, the more embellished version that seems to support Christian theology, I think even though I’d like it, if Josephus wrote that it would be wonderful for my case, as somebody who thinks that Jesus is legitimate and that the religion is filled with answers, I still have to be loyal to the data because eyes wide open faith, the data doesn’t support that, that more robust version of Josephus as account of Jesus is defensible.
So I don’t think it is Josephus is somebody who does not provide value first and foremost, because everything you said was true. Anyone who’s read Josephus can tell this is compromised history. Josephus provides value. If we work with him through those lenses. Okay. Okay. Who is this guy? What’s he doing?
What could you get away with? What could you actually write and still have this published. And still have people view it as worth preserving or circulating and who was preserving it and who was circulating it. Those are the historian graphical
Alex Tsakiris: [01:08:42] . The question is, is he a propaganda agent?
Because if you’re a propaganda, if
Matt Whitman: [01:08:45] he is, then that points what I’m saying.
Alex Tsakiris: [01:08:48] Let me interject really quickly. And then I want you to comment on it either. He is that North Korean press release guy, press secretary historian for North Korea. We look at him differently than if he’s kind of tried to do his best with the history.
I think he’s that North Korea. It
Matt Whitman: [01:09:06] okay. So first of all, Dolly, I like hitting the tennis ball around with you, man. This is really fun, really fun. You hit it. Well, secondly, I don’t think that’s analogous. North Korea is a closed communist nation that doesn’t even allow communication inside and outside of its borders.
The Boeing is well, but I don’t think the point holds those are apples and oranges. Rome is operating out of the far West in terms of people’s consciousness. There’s a reason they moved East 300 years later because they couldn’t keep a grip on the Eastern Mediterranean from that position. This story is all unfolding in Judea, in Galilee and trans Jordan, that the capitalists that’s where all the stuff that that Josephus is writing about is unfolding.
That’s all vettable for a first century audience. They can just go and look, it’s not like these are far away stories. They can either say, no, that’s how it happened. Or that is what happened. And that’s going to affect its circulation and its interest level. Whereas with North Korea, the reason I think that analogy doesn’t hold is you can’t cross reference it with anything it’s happening in North Korea.
Propaganda is happening in a far away place. You can’t visit you can’t vet and you can’t investigate. And in this analogy, all of the data is coming out of the center of power. Whereas in the historical event, you and I are talking about, Josephus is writing about something in the far East of the Roman empire, in those four provinces primarily.
And the Roman authority is headquartered in the very, very far West. He’s writing about stuff that happened in their backyard. They know people who were there and they can vet this stuff themselves. So I think there is, there’s a degree of difference in terms of what the propagandists can get away with in the North Korea example versus here.
But I think you’re absolutely right. And you make a great point by his own admission dude is, is positioning himself. To have his accounts questioned as being that, which advances, the cause of the Roman ideology.
Alex Tsakiris: [01:11:07] We’re almost, we’re almost there in terms of coming together, but let’s take one step further because here is the money shot and I sent you this.
I can’t, I can’t wrap my head around how many biblical scholars, genuine Bellville scholar, biblical scholars, and you’ve read a lot of them. And so have I, and a lot of them are totally full of shit and go through an entire career. Just saying a bunch of nonsense. This to me is the most important thing that Josephus says that completely, I think shuts the door on this issue of whether he’s a propaganda agent and this is from war the Jews and he’s describing his people, right?
Because a lot of people in the Jewish tradition considered just CIF as a trader. I know that’s after the fact he wasn’t trader, he was just trying to advance what he was trying to advance. Here’s what he writes. Sure. But what more than all else incited them to war was the ambiguous Oracle likewise found in their sacred scriptures.
So what he’s saying is. The reason why these Jews of which he is one, he was a Jewish general fighting against the Romans in Galilee, if you believe the story and that part of it is probably true. So it’s kind of, even the language is where do you have to wrap your head around it?
And when he says what incited them, he’s saying the Jews, which he is one, but anyways, he says, the scriptures to the effect that at the time one from their country would become ruler of the world. So he’s saying, look, the reason that the Jews are kind of holding out and fighting so strongly against the Romans is they had this belief that the Messiah was coming and the Messiah would come from their soil.
That’s what they believe. Now this is Josephus. His spin is that. That’s why they’re so mad at the Romans and here super Jew, Josephus steps in and says they understood it to mean that someone of their own race and many of their wise men went astray in their interpretation of it.
But really the Oracle in reality, signified the sovereignty of the spazy, who was proclaimed emperor on Jewish soil. Now, again, you, you, as this is all over you, I mean, this is, like you said, you’re having a fun conversation with me. I am loving this dude. Because you do have this deep knowledge, but to just deconstruct that most people won’t even totally get that.
So let me just say, he’s saying, look, they had this idea that there would be a Messiah and he would come from Judea. What they didn’t realize is that when the space alien is named, which is really kind of a fluke in history that he was named emperor while he was still in Judaic, kind of a fluke. So Josephus is trying to blow that up and saying, Hey, you know what, that’s really what the Oracle prophecized.
This can only be understood as propaganda, because what it is is a social engineering project to tell the Jews, Hey man, what are you complaining about? You got exactly what you wanted. This is the Messiah it’s spazy in you idiots. You didn’t see it here. It is. So rather than looking at this as a trader, which we do in present time, because it didn’t work.
It’s just a failed social engineering project. He was trying to pull off what the Romans tried to pull off all the time, which was like, Hey, if we can come up the religion and get them to come over to our side, that way all the better there is in my opinion, no other way, no other way to read this quote than that.
Matt Whitman: [01:14:39] Uh, I think you’re exactly right. I wish we could disagree on it, cause it would be more fun and make for a better radio, but it clearly. This is propaganda ism. And the reason why, let me take, just imagine a parent that it killed your brief aside is that people had Messiah fever in the T in Roman Judea, Roman Galilee, uh, acts chapter, what is it?
Four or five where you’ve got Demilio the head of the Sanhedrin speaking up and saying, Hey guys, I don’t know what we do with Peter and this Christian cult thing that we have going on. But remember a while back when Judas the Galilean rised up and when Theotis Rose up. And of course there’s debate about the timeline regarding the reference to Theotis, whether we’re talking about the one well-known to history or some other guy with the same name, he referenced to rival messianic claimants, pilot put down a messianic uprising born out of the Samaritans on Mount Gerizim.
Some people came to believe that Moses was up there. Something Moses had buried. That was one of the things that really hurt pilot’s political careers that he violently botched, that little messianic uprising there. John the Baptist had a huge messianic following that persists all the way into the, the fifties or sixties.
And that is referenced when a Palos of Alexandria makes his way to emphasis and Corinth. Then he gets to know Paul’s buddies, uh Aquilla and Priscilla, and they engage with him. And he’s like, I only know the baptism of John. So there were still people even coming out of John, the Baptist who viewed him as some sort of messianic figure.
You have got a what’s the guy’s name? Nicholas of Korea. There’s a guy from Korea. Who has a similar messianic claim? Um, there’s a dude from Crete, Moses of Crete a little bit later on there
Alex Tsakiris: [01:16:24] on that. So then what do we do with Josephus? Well,
Matt Whitman: [01:16:27] this is what I’m driving at. So you’ve got a dozen of these messianic claims that are hanging around.
And how many of those have held up with any, with any, in any meaningful way over the last 2000 years? One that does that automatically make it right? No. Lots of things get traction and pass the test of time. Not because they’re true, but because they got lucky, is it possible that that’s what Jesus is as a messianic claimant?
Well, sure you have to explore that possibility, but everybody else, it made quick claims and did nothing, but I
Alex Tsakiris: [01:17:00] think you’re jumping, jumping ahead in the story a little bit more
Matt Whitman: [01:17:04] than that. but Vespasian nobody viewed him as a Messiah. No,
Alex Tsakiris: [01:17:12] they just saw we see again, you’re, you’re jumping ahead in the story and respectfully, I think you’re misinterpreting it.
We’re just having fun here, but it’s like, no, the most important guy in the world thought that he was the Messiah Josephus for a minute for that’s. Right. But that’s all that matters is that, is that minute, all that matters is Josephus is the guy, this is the history, this is the official word that’s coming out.
And he said, so again,
Matt Whitman: [01:17:41] no, you can’t. Okay,
Alex Tsakiris: [01:17:44] fine. You acknowledge that this is Roman propaganda and that the only purpose behind it can be the purpose that it clearly has, which is to subvert a Judaism. Then that puts this moment in time that you were just saying, which is way in the West and all that. It puts it in a completely different light.
And my point is that we must then look at everything that you see for this says through this lens, because he’s already played the ultimate card. This idea, like in his preface where he says, he’s an honest broker, the truth, he clearly now is not an honest broker. The truth. There can be no doubt on that.
And this is a stumbling block for so many historians. They go, yeah, Josephus is full of shit, but you know, the light over here out in the street is really better. So that’s where I’m looking for my keys, even though I lost them over on the dark parking lot. I’m going to look over here at Josephus. No, you can’t to see if this is out the window.
So the next thing I go to is. Oh, Oh, Oh, Oh, he’s out the window. Don’t take me the wrong way. Like you did on, on science. He is of course spinning 95% real stuff, but it’s always through the lens. He is, he has only one purpose, which is to propagandize Rome. He doesn’t have any other purpose. He’s the guy who led them to the gold.
If you go look at the arch of Titus where they’re hauling away, all that gold, he went and got all that stuff for him. It wasn’t that he prophesized totally. That’s what it looks like. So he’s totally in their pocket. He’s doing their bidding. And we must understand that when we look at anything, he writes particularly what he writes about conscious pilot.
Matt Whitman: [01:19:32] what historical writer throughout history do you not have to apply lenses to? I mean, well, let’s just take you and me, for example. Have you ever shilled for something? I don’t know you, but you’ve lived a long time. You’ve shield for something. At some point, I promise something where you got paid.
Maybe this wasn’t really what you believed in or your first thing, but yeah, sure. Whatever I have people have, like, it just happens even if it was just when you were a kid and you weren’t even really thinking about it. I mean, humans at times are in positions where they advanced something, but I don’t sense you’re shilling for anything.
Now I, since your pursuit is honest and not that I’m the arbiter of bad, who cares what I think, but I like the way you come at it. I liked the way it seems like you come at it with integrity.
I should not take you seriously
now because at some point somewhere else, you were in another place in life and you said this because Josephus his later writings look like he’s all over the map in terms of taking other positions, he comes back.
It’s like he wants to give a make-up call to the Jews and antiquities and wants to talk about how beautiful this tradition has been. It’s like, there’s been a political shift that has occurred. He’s no longer feeling the pressures under the court of the space, yen to advocate for this stuff he had been.
And so now he’s willing to go a different direction. Does it make him a shill? Yes, but he’s a moving target, shill. Who’s shilling for different things. And we can reestablish that with some historical context, which means that you can’t, you can’t throw out somebody because they’re a shell. You just have to learn how to, you know, and I didn’t know how to read them.
Alex Tsakiris: [01:21:04] , I don’t really disagree with you. I think this is like the real, real finer points of this thing, but it’s, to me, it’s where it gets interesting. It’s really where the rubber meets the road. Yeah, yeah, yeah. To all the things you’re saying to the transformation, you know, and the other thing I always throw into this and I have to throw it in here is that one of the things I think is missing from our history is this understanding that we’re all leading rich spiritual lives.
So just CFUs is leading a rich spiritual life. If I’m calling him a, if I’m calling our propaganda agent, if I’m calling him somebody who cashed in for the money to go live in the townhouse and Rome, it, he still woke up at two o’clock in the morning and wondered who, if he, if those, he loved loved him back, he wondered if there was God, he wondered how his soul would be weighed because we all, that’s the experience of being human, the Spacey.
And when he was running his sword through those Druid, those beautifully spiritually Druid priests in Pretoria that was weighing on his soul because the things we do weighs on everyone’s soul. So of course, Josephus is complicated, but we must bring the lens back to this period. We must bring the lens back to ponchos pilot, to what you’ll see this is doing right now.
He is trying to fool you. He’s doing, and he’s played the ultimate card now, which says, screw your religion. Judaism’s out the window. It’s about FIS Bayesean. So when Josephus starts popping up in the new Testament and when he starts popping up or not popping up in the account of punches pilot, we need to take notice.
And we need to focus on that period. Not his whole life, not his rich spiritual life and not his transformation. Just on what he’s saying right now. And we, by absence, we know that. Jesus. Didn’t get a sit with ponchos pilot. You don’t get a sit with patches pilot, and that show up in GE. And you’ll see if this is book hell Josephus wrote about the aqueduct riot.
Have you ever heard of the Aquatech riot? Of course, in my video. Oh shit. See, I’ll try not try to Trump your man and I can’t do it. Ponchos pilot is a real guy. Your video makes that clear. You have the coins, you have the video of you in Rome where he’s on there. There is no way that Jesus met with that guy.
And it doesn’t show up in Josephus because Josephus wrote about stupid shit like the Aqua duck riot. So because it makes it makes Pontius pilot look kind of cool.
Matt Whitman: [01:23:47] Hmm. I think you’ve got it exactly backwards. And I think I might, I think I might have more homework on this one than you, but I could be wrong.
So I’m going to make my case and you tell me yours,
, I would offer this thesis. It did not advance Josephus his purposes in writing about Pontious pilot for the larger point that you have rightly pointed out the exaltation of the Romans.
It did not advance his purposes. To include anything about Jesus sitting with conscious pilot. What he’s doing here is not that tough. I keep my copy of Jessie just really handy. I’ve burned through this multiple times. I’m not an expert on Josephus by any means, but for centuries, my world, I just it’s fascinating.
I like it. I’m not an expert. I just love it. And so you read through this without any of the, Oh man, I hope this make Chris makes Christianity look good or, Oh man, I hope it makes it look bad. If you step away from that and just do the historical exercise. You see a dude who I think you’ve rightly identified as someone who played his hand and the better hand was with the Romans.
He made a very shriveled case for the Messiah ship of the spatial. And, uh, there are all these tests that would have to be passed for Messiah, Isaiah chapter 35, lays those out Jesus references them. Matthew references them that clearly, even if you don’t believe there was a Jesus or believe in the gospels, we know that that demonstrates what the expectation was in terms of Messiah from the old Testament scriptures and the profits.
So that’s there, but patient doesn’t take any of those boxes. It’s a totally cynical thing that Josephus is doing there. Cause he knows Vespasian doesn’t heal the lame or make the blind to see or raise the dead. Like Isaiah said, the Messiah would
Alex Tsakiris: [01:25:26] , maybe not cynical, just a lame attempt at propagandizing,
Matt Whitman: [01:25:30] but for somebody that smart, very weak attempt.
Compared to his accomplishments. Well, his own self acclaimed accomplishments. So Josephus is advancing an argument. The argument is that the, the Roman governorship leading up to the collapse in the East that required Rome to get off of its, but bring legions and solve all of this problem. One of his theses for what went wrong was in leadership.
We just had bad political leadership all this time. So the accounts we get from Josephus, both in the antiquities and the Jewish Wars of conscious pilots, time and office paint him as weak fumbling, dumb, trying to impress Tiberias and doing a terribly sloppy job of it. And I give this a very concise treatment for about seven, eight minutes and the video that you’re referencing here.
And so you’ve got the issue of you’ve got the, the crisis of the shields, the crisis of the banners, the crisis of the Aqua duck. You’ve got the crisis of the Samaritan prophet in all of these things. Pilot is held out by Josephus as getting it exactly wrong and botching it on this front. And then we move on from pilot, who we care about because of the long shadow Jesus of Nazareth cast, silver Western history.
And if you keep going with Josephus, his argument, you realize he wasn’t really that concerned with pilot. The stuff that comes up because it overlaps with the Bible is disproportionately represented. In, in Josephus studies, but you keep reading with him and he’s like, and then this guy was inept. And then this guy was inept.
And what you had were weak crappy leaders, and someone’s strong, like the spatial, like Titus. These are the kinds of people who had to come in and restore this thing and get it squared away and point out to the Jewish people that all of this floundering around that was going on over here in just a wash society you had going on, you should be thankful that now the real Roman presence is here to get this straightened out.
This is the way forward in light of that. It doesn’t advance his thesis at all to be like, Oh, and also, uh, there’s guy, Jesus. And he was there for a trial for a minute who cares? It doesn’t help his point. So I don’t find it to be in any way, threatening to the historical claim that Jesus got a trial. If anything, it makes more sense that he would get a trial because the pilot of the Bible looks like a lot, like the pilot of Josephus and just kind of overwhelmed by a political mess back enrollments, the jhanas and an absentee emperor in Tiberius kind of floundering and his job historically, we know he effectively got relieved of duty by a peer that was the governor of Syria and, but 35, 30, six 80, something like that.
And so, yeah, I think Jesus has got an audience. Well, yeah, absolutely. I do that. Isn’t weird or threatening at all and it doesn’t mean Christianity is ultimately proved true. Yeah. Yeah. I like it. You already fumbled three. I get your ugly incidents and wouldn’t have wanted to fumble that one either. Well, you know,
Alex Tsakiris: [01:28:36] we’re, we’re in this range where we can just kind of, I kind of get your point and point taken that Josephus there could have been a meeting and just see if this could have lifted out it doesn’t undermine my point that there wasn’t a meeting and that’s why Josephus didn’t write about it.
But either way the, what do we call it? The test Yon him Flavian is out the window. Right? Cause if he’s going to talk about Jesus, he’s going to talk about it. Yeah. Well the exaggerated one, but it really kind of calls into question the whole thing, because if he’s going to talk about Jesus, he probably would have talked about Jesus now, but that’s still a matter of conjecture where
Matt Whitman: [01:29:17] we can short version of the manuscript.
Evidence does support. So there, we just have data. We have
Alex Tsakiris: [01:29:22] some, we have some w we’ll get way too Bible geeky. We probably already have, but if we don’t go over there, the moon too far. So the other, the other problem with Josephus is that he shows up, up in the new Testament. So what biblical scholars will say is that, how does he, he shows the new Testament, Oh, let me make my point.
Test them at gospels. A lot of scholars will say are dependent upon Josephus, which means they look to be writing. They look to be written by someone who has access to those writings. Right? So point by point, I mean, Jesus’ ministry starts in Galilee. The three guys on the cross, one dies one foot down, all this stuff parallels.
And then the main thing that parallels that is, is just glaring is that Josephus, uh, says, okay, they seized Jerusalem. And then they destroyed it. No stone left unturned. This is exactly what Jesus says. But as it’s written in the gospels, when Jesus says it it’s prophecy. So look, maybe it’s prophecy. But when you can pick, when you can pick up a historical semi quasi, as we were saying, historical account, like Josephus, and it is play by play kind of describing the same things that are said in the gospel.
At some point you have to say what a lot of biblical scholars say is, gee, it looks like the gospel writers had access to Josephus. And maybe just maybe because we’re all human, they kind of wrote stuff as a prophecy when it was really just history
Matt Whitman: [01:31:12] maybe, or here’s another possibility. Uh, starting from the beginning of your points in moving forward to the specific phrase, ology of not one stone on top of another, maybe that was just such common parlance for the total destruction of the people that it dated all the way back to the third Punic war in the Roman destruction of Carthage.
That’s the language that was used there. If that language was something that is a metaphor for that is completely what it is to completely wreck a place that wouldn’t be farfetched at all, that Jesus Josephus, hundreds of other people that now non-existent writings would have used the same phrase without it being this like, Whoa, that’s a, that’s a really unique plagiarized phrase.
Well, it, wasn’t a unique plagiarized phrase. We see that in other places, but it’s still pretty popular as well. It’s going to be viewed that way by someone who believes that Jesus is the Messiah and that that happened before 78. And it’s going to be viewed, not that way by somebody who believes that Jesus was not from God.
And that, that was written after 70 80.
Alex Tsakiris: [01:32:12] We’re all from God. So that’s not the point. The point is back to the data. Like when I was kind of distant the Flavian, the Tucson, Liam, that sounds like a Harry Potter stuff. I can never get that Latin stuff. Right. But you know, you were saying, Hey, we have, we have sources on that.
Well, here we have sources you Lake Josephus side by side with the gospels and they play out like that. And walk me
Matt Whitman: [01:32:35] through that. In what ways.
Alex Tsakiris: [01:32:38] That’s going to be another show. If you ever come back, we will, but it tastes
Matt Whitman: [01:32:42] centerpiece at your argument. Well,
Alex Tsakiris: [01:32:44] I already gave you want to give you the quick version I already gave you to the, the, the meeting of the three guys who are being crucified.
Right. And that’s right out of Josephus, it’s right out of the gospels. And then just see Jesus sitting in prophesizing, you know, his prophecy about the siege of Jerusalem and then the sacking and the turning off. I mean, you got a couple of data points in there that would have to line up. So again, you know, maybe it’s prophecy, but it just seems given all the seat.
My point is that we’re in a different soup now. And the soup is that all this shit is up for grabs because it’s all being manipulated. And you’ve already bought into that because you’ve, you’ve agreed that there’s no other way to read that thing. So now this is in play, in my opinion, it’s in play. So, and you’re fair with it.
I, again, I’m being opinionated about you now, but that’s my read of it is you’re not like throwing up the laser defense beams and green. You’re going to hate maybe, you know, maybe not prove it to me more. And I’m saying. The fact that the Bible is pro Roman the bad, the fact that the hints of Josephus has fingerprints on it, through access of the gospel writers.
And then the fact of like this prophecy that has three or four elements in it that are right out of Josephus is history. Again, kind of lean me in that direction. And we’re at a minute 50. That’s the only reason I said, if we do it again, I’d love to do it again, but we’re in it, we’re at an hour 50. So that’s the only reason I said we might have to because we go into depth, which is what you got to do on
Matt Whitman: [01:34:29] this stuff.
Otherwise, can I respond to that stuff? Cause I mean, that’s of course where our entire conversation is leading to. So, um, I’m, I’m not totally tracking with the reference to the criminals on the cross from Josephus. Um, I would have to look more closely to, to understand what that references to, uh, the description of Jesus in Josephus, from the antiquities, the one that everybody thinks of as the testimonial Flavian or Flavian, whom I think they say is, is really pretty ambiguous.
It’s something like, you know, Jesus was a great guy. If indeed it’s right to call him a guy that might be a later interpolation, he did amazing or surprising deeds. And some people thought he was the Christ and he died on the cross. And I think pilot is specifically mentioned there, but there’s not.
There’s there’s not any of the specificity, the gospels there. So if you were, if you’re sitting down in the first century Ady, or if you believe those gospels were written much later by anonymous authors, you know, or not the authors whose names are attached and you’re like, I’m going to go off of Josephus, man.
You’re going to have to build out a ton from there because there just isn’t that much core material. So Matthew’s a book that I spend a ton of time with, and I’m fascinated by it because of the cultural intersection of Romanism and Hellenism and Judaism and the old Testament and everything that’s going on.
And the buildup to what we’re talking about here with the Jewish Wars, uh, finalizing in 78, I look at the gospel of Matthew and the detail that is included here, Matthew and Luke, it’s just massive. The detail about what Jesus said. , Ted’s, he’s having with religious leadership, his travel itinerary going up North to tire and sight on and coming back down and hanging out on the East side of the sea of Galilee and the capitalist.
And then he goes on a boat across the sea to a town nobody even has heard of anymore called Magadan. You’ve got all of these old trust, specific details throughout the book of Matthew. That, I mean, it’s just a very robust document, regardless of what you think of its origins. It. To to say that that is somehow a parallel with Josephus or that its credibility hinges on the, the political allegiances between Josephus.
I, I just objectively don’t see it because of how sweeping the account, even if we reject it as pure fiction that Matthew, for example, gives of the life of Jesus. And I don’t even see a framework there is I look at the testimonial phlegm, Vinnie. Am I have trouble with
Alex Tsakiris: [01:36:58] Okay, right out of wars again, Josephus or the Jews 512. Titus builds a siege wall around Jerusalem, Titus pitches camp in Jerusalem exactly 40 years after the start of Jesus’s ministry, supposedly. So again we’re all on board with that, that’s written then as a prophecy right? Here’s the next thing from Josephus now again and this will ring true with the Bible. Three men, Josephus, 75 424 21, three men are crucified at the village of the enquiring mind, one man is taken down from the cross by Josephus, Josephus goes and says, hey kind of let that guy down and it miraculously survives. Okay, so we can’t get into all of them but this is what I’m saying, point by point you go through Josephus and strangely enough, these are showing up in the Gospels. So maybe, maybe not.
Matt Whitman: [01:37:57] Well, not they’re showing up, there’s something like it that looks similar. I mean, Roman executions were happening off, and he’s not calling the person on the cross Jesus. It chronologically doesn’t align with Jesus. We’re talking about decades of space between…
Alex Tsakiris: [01:38:10] Well it chronologically, it depends on Jesus. It’s in a different time slot, right? But it’s like chronologically, these things are showing it’s not like Josephus wrote, I’m not stringing together random quotes from Josephus, if you remember and listen to the, this is like one right after another what Josephus writes, it looks to me like, again my only point is not that it’s you know, stone to stem are writing off of Josephus. I’m just saying what a lot of biblical scholars say, is that ghee it sure looks like the gospel writers had access to Josephus. And that once you combine that with what we do agree on, which is that Josephus was a propaganda agent, I don’t go with the shill you know, I go with he was intentionally trying to subvert Judaism for political reasons…
Matt Whitman: [01:39:09] I’m semantically comfortable with that distinction, sure.
Alex Tsakiris: [01:39:11] So then I think we’re just in a different soup you know, in a different soup in understanding all this stuff.
Matt Whitman: [01:39:20] Yeah well, scope and scale wise, I remain unpersuaded. I think if somebody wants to build a really strong case against the reliability of the Gospels, they’re not going to get good traction with the Josephus angle. And when we say a lot of scholars, my guess is that without googling you’d struggle to come up with more than one name.
Alex Tsakiris: [01:39:43] Without googling, yeah I would definitely struggle.
Matt Whitman: [01:39:46] Okay. So, and that’s not an indictment of you or your preparation in any way. My point is, if you asked for the name of 25 or 50 scholars who would read it the exact opposite way, I think I’m ready with those names now, and maybe that’s not fair because it’s what I do for a living in this particular narrow, tiny little field and you’re covering a billion things. But I mean, I can just as easily hit that tennis ball back and say like, well I can name a ton of scholars who see that differently and are very fair minded, and well respected inside and outside of religious circles. So a lot of scholars thing, it doesn’t carry a ton of…
Alex Tsakiris: [01:40:23] My source on that is the ultimate truth in the Wikipedia.
Matt Whitman: [01:40:31] Good man, good, that’s a very useful place. And so I think if you want to criticize the Gospels, like hey, here’s my insider take on where the vulnerable points are. One, I think they’re reliable, I think they’re written by the people whose names are on them, I’d love to break all that down sometime, I don’t feel a vigorous need to defend it but if you want to jab at it, jab at the fact that formerly none of the four actually put a name on them. So all of that has to be ascribed to church tradition, and you want to be careful not to make an anachronistic assumption like oh well, Rome was very powerful as a Catholic Church, they inflicted those names. No those names are attached way before Roman Catholicism has any kind of traction, or structure to it to be able to inflict that kind of change on a very decentralized distribution of these documents. I mean, it’s kind of a block chain style distribution. Nobody owned Matthew, or Luke, or john in the first few centuries of Christianity, it was just distributed and in the ether, so to speak. But I mean, Christians have to admit, none of those four gospel authors wrote their name on the top, they all give us hints about who wrote it, but none of them say it. So there’s a place where I think you can get a little bit of purchase in saying, I don’t know about this, I think you can get a little bit of purchase in pushing back on some of the early manuscript evidence. There are a couple of key passages, there’s a p and then a story in John, a very famous one about a woman caught in adultery, well the early manuscript evidence doesn’t support that. Should that be in there? That raises questions about how the Bible unfolded over the years. I’m very satisfied with the critical answers to those questions but they’re valid questions for the skeptical person to push back on and I think there’s more purchase to be gained there. Additionally, I think there’s purchase to be gained in critiquing the Gospels in the New Testament in something I referenced earlier, you have a couple of historical questions that look a little quirky. What’s the deal with the census with Quirinius? There are historical responses to that, but I don’t find them to be wildly satisfactory. It’s a valid question for the person who’s unsure of what to do with those are critical of those documents to push back on. You’ve got the question from Act’s and this Theotis fellow, it looks like Theotis, and his rebellion would have happened after that conversation with Emilio would have occurred. So what gives, is there another guy named theotis? Maybe? Is it a mistake? I’m inclined to not think so. But maybe it’s a valid question, at least. What’s the deal with the two accounts of what happened to Judas? It’s a valid question to ask exactly how that went down, the timeline of the resurrection. It’s reconcilable but there’s certainly enough there that any honest minded Christian should be able to say, well that’s certainly worth considering. I think a couple of those internal points are a place where you can get more purchase and I think the manuscript evidence, though very strong, for almost all of the New Testament does leave a couple of vulnerabilities, Acts 837 being one, the Johannine p, the final chapter of John, the long ending of Mark, all of those points, a couple verses in the first third of Matthew, you know all of those points. There are, they’re good questions to be wrestled with there and I think you get a stronger push back from that than you do by what I would think just really is a stretch and trying to connect the dots on the Josephus front.
Alex Tsakiris: [01:44:06] What do you mean by a stretch on the Josephus front. I mean, one you’re already persuaded. You’ve already agreed on the most important point that Josephus has to be understood as a propaganda agent and don’t own …
Matt Whitman: [01:44:17] The most important point is did he hold…
Alex Tsakiris: [01:44:19] Hold on, hold up, because the you know, all that I kind of boil all that down to you know, do you think, what do you think the chances are that the gospel writers had access to Josephus?
Matt Whitman: [01:44:34]
I think 100% that Luke had access to at least the early publications of Josephus. I don’t think Mark had access, I think he wrote earlier than that and drew his details from Peter. We’ve got a ton of historical evidence and tradition that points to Mark just writing down Peters teachings in Rome. I think you’d have a tough time making a case that Mark drew anything there. John I think may have wrote an early edition and then some questions were left lingering and maybe he came back later to round things out answering the question of what happened with Peter, things like that in that final chapter. So John would have had access, at least by the time we get to the finished version of John and maybe there is no finished version maybe it was all just one version. I don’t know I’m just speculating. Matthew, there’s more debate about the early church father who lived in close proximity. Papyrus suggests that Matthew was actually the first to write his gospel, modern scholarship supposes that Mark wrote first but if that’s the case then Matthew, if Papyrus is right Matthew didn’t have access to Josephus because Josephus was still wet behind the ears, and a kid and hadn’t published anything when Matthew was doing the bulk of his work. If we go with the more traditional, slightly later date for Matthew, he would have barely had access to Josephus and if we go with the much more skeptical, and traditionally it’s called the more liberal read on the dating of Matthew than he would have had access. So sure, I think they had access, I just don’t see the correspondence happening to such a degree that it’s in any way historically compelling.
Alex Tsakiris: [01:46:18] Are you at all surprised, curious about the Bible being as programming as it is?
Matt Whitman: [01:46:25] No I’m not.
Alex Tsakiris: [01:46:27] Are those the fingerprints of Josephus?
Matt Whitman: [01:46:32] No, well maybe I have to say maybe again, because I didn’t write this I don’t know. But based on what I see, the orientation, one strategy for how to deal with Rome and the situation at hand amongst Jews, amongst Gentiles, amongst colonizers amongst, would be non Jewish rebels amongst Christians was play along, use the Roman infrastructure, play along, and don’t pick a fight because you’re going to lose the fight. Some people retreated some people wanted to fight some people chose this route. To me the book of Romans, which is written by Paul to the church in Rome, or mail would have been even sifted through potentially, especially the very controversial chapter 13 of Romans, it looks like it’s being written with an attempt to anonymously persuade or make nice. Now, I don’t think it’s far fetched at all to imagine that Josephus and the Apostle Paul, who had no influence on each other, both would have looked at the playing field and said, well there’s no point in jabbing that there, the right play would be to do it this way. Now there are people I completely agree with right now who, or completely disagree with right now who look at the situation in American Government, or the situation in people cracking down on any kind of creative speech on the internet and maybe for completely different reasons we would say, I don’t like that and I want to push back on that but right now, it would be best to appease. So I won’t crack this joke, I won’t deal with that subject matter, I’m not looking to jab that bear and pick a fight. Now we might not know each other, we might not influence each other but if we’re both people have common sense we might look at the same playing field and say this is probably the right way to play it at the moment. So is it possible that that pro Roman play along mentality is something that Josephus informed the Bible and the Bible informed Josephus? I mean it could be, but statistically just in terms of how many humans were on the earth and how much they interacted, it seems more likely that those are two relatively sophisticated shrewd groups of people, who read the playing field and said this would probably be the best way to play it. Pro Romanism in the Roman Empire is in and of itself, no evidence of collaboration or cooperation between two sources, It was the status quo.
Alex Tsakiris: [0 1:49:02] Matt you are fantastic.
Matt Whitman: [01:49:06] This is a lot of fun.
Alex Tsakiris: [01:49:12] You know, I never even asked you, 10 minute Bible hour, that’s such a little riddle right there. It’s 10 minutes, it’s never been, it’s an hour and then it’s never even an hour so, but what’s going on at the 10 minute Bible hour? What can people expect and find out and what are you doing? Where can they go and see you? I think you, do you do. Do you get out there and beat the bushes give presentations.
Matt Whitman: [01:49:34] Sometimes, yeah I’ve got more of that coming up starting this summer and fall. I mean, I laid low for the last year like a lot of people. Thank you for asking by the way. The 10 minute Bible hour is something I started about six years ago because I’ve wanted to have a different sounding conversation about the Bible and church history and Christianity and all of those things, philosophy, morality. I tried to pick a goofy name that was bit of a self riff, not sure I got it right. The joke slays with people who used to listen to old timey Bible radio stuff, everything was the Bible hour and I was like well, I’ll just do it faster and quirkier. The tone of the show is, hopefully it’s we get into the deep water, we respect the time of the viewer or the listener. But also we screw around like it’s the Bible and also fart jokes. It just, I want to take a thing that we all want to fight about and it makes people on edge. And I want to emulate the tone of this conversation with people of goodwill, people who can have a laugh about something, people who like picking up a thing and looking at it from a bunch of different angles at the end of the day, just like we’re about to do, yeah I might not see it the same way, high five, what a blast this was. And so that’s the tone of the show, If you’re looking for something that is quick and punchy and fun, where I don’t presume to tell you what to do or how to be, but I’m happy to think through ideas with you. I think you’ll like my YouTube channel. I go around, I visit other expressions of Christianity. I point at things and fancy churches and ask the priest what that means why they wear that outfit and what do you do there? And how does this work? What do you believe and we have a really good time with it. I walked through books of the Bible in sort of a light hearted but deep divey Daily Show style format. And then the daily podcast is completely separate from the YouTube channel I was just describing. The Daily podcast is straight through the book of Matthew in finite detail. I mean, we talked about historical context, literary context, Josephus comes up all the time. We’re talking about Roman politics, we’re talking about hasmonean politics, the end of that dynasty, all of these cultural assumptions, historical, theological, philosophical assumptions going on behind the text. We’re trying to get into that and a huge percentage of that audience are people who don’t believe anything like what I believe but we just enjoy kicking it around together. It’s 10 minutes a day, every weekday it’s there in the morning, people work out with it, commute with it, and I have a blast with it and thank you for letting me, thank you for let me talk about my stuff.
Alex Tsakiris: [01:52:09] Oh, absolutely. Do check it out, folks and even if you’re not totally down with the Christians, a lot of people listen to the show who are Christian and they will really let me hear it, I don’t know what I do one of these shows.
Matt Whitman: [01:52:21] Be good to him my friends.
Alex Tsakiris: [01:52:22] Yes, yes, Let’s hear that, I’m gonna let him say it again. But you know also even if you are, it’s such a, it’s very rich in content, it’s super well produced. Very, very watchable, listenable. So it’s been fantastic getting to know you Matt. Thanks again so much for coming on Skeptiko.
Matt Whitman: [01:52:44] Likewise, what a blast. Thank you Alex.
Alex Tsakiris: [01:52:46] Thanks again to Matthew Whitman from the 10 Minute Bible hour, for joining me today on Skeptiko. So many questions, I could tee up from this interview, but I’m gonna go real specific Bible geeky. Do you think Jesus met with Pontius Pilate? And do you think because we didn’t really hash this out, but I think there’s kind of an interesting argument here. If you think Jesus met with Pontius Pilate and Josephus didn’t document in bore of the Jews and at the same time you think the testimonium flevyonim, that is the writing by Josephus where he says, Wow, this Jesus guy, if you can even call them a guy, he was so great, that is written down and Josephus is second best seller antiquities that comes a lot of years later. Well, if you think that passages authentic, which kind of matters arguing that at least part of it is, the spirit of it is. I would suggest that you really have a hard time reconciling those two points, those two places in history, right. So if he wrote about it in antiquities, then he knew about it when he wrote war of the Jews, so why didn’t he write about it when he was writing about Pontius Pilots other exploits. Now again, I know that’s Bible geeky and it’s almost might seem like overkill. But this is the beginning of digging that next level deeper to where we can have some degree of confidence with what we’re saying about how all this came into being. Because you know where I’m going with that. I think it’s all about social engineering by the Romans, but that’s what I’m building up to. I can’t close the book on it yet. So let me know what you think. Love, love, love to hear the feedback to hear the comments, hear what your thoughts are on that. Track me down, come over the Skeptiko forum, track me down any way you like and then please stay with me for more this, there’s plenty more to come. Until next time, take care and bye for now.
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