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Tags bible , jesus

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Old 17th December 2012, 11:10 PM   #1
gabeygoat
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Why didn't Jesus write anything down?

Assuming he even existed, why wouldn't he write some stuff down?
I'm reading a great book on the Apocropha, "Lost Christianities: The Battles for Scripture and the Faiths We Never Knew" by Bart D. Ehrman. In it, he mentions the obvious fact that all the gospels, canonical or not, were written long after Jesus, and that there are no writings done by Jesus himself. I suppose most people were illiterate at the time, but, I mean, He's supposed to be God. Surely he could jot down a nice Cliff Notes version of what He intended to say?
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Old 17th December 2012, 11:19 PM   #2
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Because he didn't exist.
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Old 17th December 2012, 11:26 PM   #3
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Originally Posted by DrDave View Post
Because he didn't exist.
Yea, my guess would be that he didn't exist, or that if he did exist, he was completely human and quite possibly illiterate.
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Old 17th December 2012, 11:57 PM   #4
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Maybe he was dyslexic, and it got filed in the wrong section and forgotten. Scholars collating the work probably gave no special treatment to the "son of Dog".
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Old 18th December 2012, 12:12 AM   #5
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If there were writings claiming to have been written by Jesus would you think they were authentic?

He dictated but didn't read back?
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Old 18th December 2012, 12:20 AM   #6
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I don't think the prevalence of literacy is a critical factor. There were enough literate people for Paul to manage his franchise church network by letters. One reader can instruct dozens of illiterate listeners. That gives everybody something to do during the weekly meeting.

Assuming Jesus existed (as Ehrman does assume), then he is depicted as putting in place a mechanism for the face-to-face oral transmission of his teaching. That would be consistent with the usual free-lance rabbinical business model in his time and palce.

The idea of Jesus-centered canonical writing is centuries in Jesus' future. The idea that canonical writing is more important than received tradition in Christianity is more than a millennium later than that. Jesus' teaching was that there weren't going to be centuries and millennia after him. People who themselves heard him speak were supposed to witness his return.

Add to that a lack of interest on Jesus' part about the Pharisees' theories of the role Gentiles were supposed to play in the end of days, and you're left with a neat package. Writings would fail for lack of a readership for them to be addressed to. Not Gentiles, not future generations, not anybody who couldn't simply ask Jesus' disciples for the story, as the first Christian writer we know of, Paul, is shown receiving oral instruction from Ananias of Damascus in Acts.

And Paul's not writing for future generations, either. He's writing for living people he has recruited, but can't visit in person right at that moment.

In closing, we know that many "gospels" of later Christians were falsely attributed to disciples of Jesus and purported to quote Jesus on those disciples' alleged authority. If you want to fake something, then why not fake the most impressive thing possible? Well, what was faked was disciples' testimony. This suggests that this was what the market expected of a teacher, a work by his students, not a work by the principal.

I think that is correct psychology, too. A king without a court is a pathetic figure. A hobo with a court is one impressive hobo. A teacher without students isn't a teacher at all. A teacher with students who cure illnesses, drive out demons and raise people from the dead must be one hell of a teacher.
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Old 18th December 2012, 01:45 AM   #7
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Actually, in a sense, it IS a work by the principal. Most of the gospels don't deal with what the apostles thought about it, or their interpretations, but are parables and enacting symbolic stuff by Jesus himself. Mark, Matthew, Luke and John don't pretend to be more than narrators there. Even when in some non-canon gospel, say, the Gospel of Peter, the author claims to be Peter, he still doesn't do more than narrate what Jesus said and did. It's not Peter's interpretation of doctrine, but Peter's narration of what Jesus said and did. If you're told to do or not do something because some parable said so, it doesn't come from the students, but from Jesus.

Even when stuff falls under "a work by his students," actually,

A) those students do claim authority from the principal, so to speak. E.g., Paul has Jesus talking to him in visions. He does claim divine authority for the stuff he preaches. And

B) it's not hard to see why they wouldn't produce a letter from Jesus about the issues at hand. I mean, Jesus is supposed to be already dead. And there are only so many times you can just find a letter from him about exactly what you want to demand or forbid this time.

I also wouldn't necessarily say that it's what people expected. It's IMHO even more about what the bishops wanted. They wanted their own authority. They couldn't produced a letter from Jesus each time they needed to rule about something. For THEM obviously what worked best was a structure where being a disciple of a disciple actually gave you the authority to rule by your own.
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Old 18th December 2012, 02:18 AM   #8
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DOC said it was because paper hadn't been invented then
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Old 18th December 2012, 02:23 AM   #9
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If you believe that the world is about to end, what's the point in writing anything down? There aren't going to be any future generations to read it.
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Old 18th December 2012, 02:25 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Filippo Lippi View Post
DOC said it was because paper hadn't been invented then
That's what I thought when I saw the title of the thread.
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Old 18th December 2012, 03:00 AM   #11
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...because he couldn't move his hands.
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Old 18th December 2012, 03:15 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Doctor Plop View Post
...because he couldn't move his hands.
Nailed on to be one of the top answers.
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Old 18th December 2012, 04:08 AM   #13
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There's only one reference in the Gospels to Jesus writing anything, and it's John 8:8. This is also in one of the most contested passages of the canonical Gospels, and most scholars consider it a later interpolation or a different tradition that's been inserted in the text at this point.
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Old 18th December 2012, 04:36 AM   #14
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As Ehrman pointed out elsewhere (I can't remember where), There were many people who could read passably, but who weren't trained in writing. So Jeshua ben Joseph may have known his way around the sacred texts of the apocalyptics without being able to write down any of his own teachings. Or he may have been illiterate and simply known scriptures through word of mouth and memorization. Or he may have written some things down that were lost to history. Who knows?
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Old 18th December 2012, 04:50 AM   #15
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Originally Posted by sleepy_lioness View Post
There's only one reference in the Gospels to Jesus writing anything, and it's John 8:8. This is also in one of the most contested passages of the canonical Gospels, and most scholars consider it a later interpolation or a different tradition that's been inserted in the text at this point.
“And the waiter passed on to Jesus the cheque for the last supper, where Jesus verily monogrammed the bill “J.Iscariot”, setting in motion the first case of identity fraud, and leaving Judas in a huff whispering under his breath “I’ll pay you back for this fella”.

John 8:8(b)
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Old 18th December 2012, 04:51 AM   #16
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I think you misunderstood me, Hans. The question was why Jesus didn't write anything down. Writing is not just recording marks on a page that might just as well have been recited orally, it is composition, selection, and usually includes commentary. My best friend may record my speeches stenographically, and write a nice biographical wrapper for my collected speeches. But it is a different work than what I would have written. Even if all I wrote was the foreword to his book, it would be a different book than just my friend's. And it would be "authoritative" in a different way, too.

My point about the non-canonical "gospels" being ostensibly attributed to disciples rather than to Jesus himself was my opinion about good psychology. I don't think the preferences of the proto-orthodox bishops had anything to do with their competitors' marketing strategy.

I wouldn't have expected people to make letters on demand. As Paul and Luke showed, and you mentioned, you don't need a letter to testify that The Boss gave you a timely bit of advice, something that Mohammed figured out and put to good use. Joseph Smith caught on, too.

Speaking of whom - what did Smith pretend to find? Not vanishing golden plates written by Jesus while he was visiting America, but vanishing golden plates written by somebody else about Jesus' visit. Joe was a pro. He could have said anything he wanted about his ephemeral trove. I think he's telling us something about how this game is played.

We also know that John incorporates a pretended late discovery of written testimony from someone who appears to have been Jesus' lover. Maybe you could do it only once, but it seems to me, if John can "find" the lover's memoir, then he or anybody else could just as easily have "found" a love letter from Jesus.

You only have to do it once. Not everybody has to believe your good luck, either - look at Morton Smith and Secret Mark in our own time. I'll take what he made on that. But again, what did he "find?" A writing about the principal, not a writing by the principal, not even containing a new quote.

I'll give you a free novel plot. An Ivy League professor "finds" a letter from Clement of Alexandria which says Mark went to Alexandria after Peter died. Mark gave two things to the church there: his gospel, and a scrap of paper which Peter had given him, on which Jesus had written a note to Lazarus of Bethany, which Peter ended up with and kept as a relic. Clement transcribes what's on that scrap of paper - which is all we'd have now anyway, a transcription at best - and the paper says... well, that part you'll have to write for yourself.

Why isn't that better than the Morton Smith story? It really isn't; it's kind of blah. Because adding a voyeur to Jesus' night with Lazarus isn't more "credible," but it is, apparently, better storytelling.

Coming at it from the other direction, go to an Osho (R) site sometime and read any two pages of that Godman's bilge. It's much better to have a mouthpiece. For one thing, you get an editor at no extra charge. It's a safe bet that anybody who thinks they're God can really use an editor.

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Old 18th December 2012, 05:42 AM   #17
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Old 18th December 2012, 05:52 AM   #18
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The most important event in human history, if true, and no first-hand accounts, nothing from the principle. Impressive. (That anyone believes any of this.)
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Old 18th December 2012, 06:06 AM   #19
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It's an interesting question, and the immediate impulse is to think maybe He didn't exist. But then I don't think Socrates wrote anything either (at least that was preserved) and I am sure he did exist.

Most important people, of course, have indeed left a lot of writings behind: in many cases too much.
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Old 18th December 2012, 06:09 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by Frank Merton View Post
It's an interesting question, and the immediate impulse is to think maybe He didn't exist. But then I don't think Socrates wrote anything either (at least that was preserved) and I am sure he did exist.
I would think that people would be hanging on Socrates's words and recording them as quickly as they could.
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Most important people, of course, have indeed left a lot of writings behind: in many cases too much.
And Socrates was important, at least to his followers. It's odd that Jesus didn't impress even one scribe to the point where his words were recorded, or at least one impressed person would hire a scribe. They couldn't have all been stone broke.
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Old 18th December 2012, 06:10 AM   #21
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A thought hits me: since Jesus was God, and God cannot err, but anyone using human language necessarily must err (it is impossible to use human words without subtle misunderstandings all over the place and sometimes serious misunderstandings), Jesus couldn't write anything without erring.

Of course that also implies he couldn't talk, either. Maybe he didn't. Maybe they just thought he talked.

Is this leading anywhere worth going?
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Old 18th December 2012, 06:12 AM   #22
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Jesus couldn't err because he was God. So anything he said would have been perfect, even in an imperfect medium.

(Parse that one out, suckers. )
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Old 18th December 2012, 06:14 AM   #23
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Well, ok, but He left it to others to write it all down when we know He could have done a much better job of it.
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Old 18th December 2012, 06:16 AM   #24
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As evidence that Jesus didn't exist, the whole exercise isn't worth much, is it?
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Old 18th December 2012, 06:31 AM   #25
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Originally Posted by Frank Merton View Post
As evidence that Jesus didn't exist, the whole exercise isn't worth much, is it?
Like I said, he must have been very unconvincing if nobody wrote anything he said down.

"Why did you pick such a strange place
in such a strange time?
Israel in 4 BC had no
mass communication!"
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Old 18th December 2012, 06:37 AM   #26
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Yes, of course. Thing is, as a historical entity, I think he was invented by a group of Asia Minor or Egyptian Greeks playing with Jewish messianic ideas. If he had really lived in Palestine circa 30 CE, we would have known him as "Jesus son of Joseph" (the Hebrew/Aramaic style) rather than "Jesus of Nazareth" (the Greek style).

By the way, by "invented," I am inclined to think of the way mythical invention happens, not actual fraud, although that is possible.
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Old 18th December 2012, 06:39 AM   #27
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The being known as Jesus probably did not exist but a gestalt out of many different historical figgures over time may have merged figuritiviely.
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Old 18th December 2012, 06:42 AM   #28
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Could you flesh that in a little?
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Old 18th December 2012, 06:56 AM   #29
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Originally Posted by Frank Merton View Post
Yes, of course. Thing is, as a historical entity, I think he was invented by a group of Asia Minor or Egyptian Greeks playing with Jewish messianic ideas. If he had really lived in Palestine circa 30 CE, we would have known him as "Jesus son of Joseph" (the Hebrew/Aramaic style) rather than "Jesus of Nazareth" (the Greek style).

By the way, by "invented," I am inclined to think of the way mythical invention happens, not actual fraud, although that is possible.
He couldn't be known as Jesus son of Joseph. That wouldn't fit the myth.
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Old 18th December 2012, 06:58 AM   #30
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Originally Posted by Frank Merton View Post
Could you flesh that in a little?
Dcdrac implies, to me, that the writers picked a bunch of good stories circulating at the time and attributed them to their own guy.
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Old 18th December 2012, 07:08 AM   #31
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Of course there is no evidence found to date, however there remains the possibility that either he or a first hand witness did actually write things down, and those documents have been lost. "Q" could be that document or documents, possibly.
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Old 18th December 2012, 07:11 AM   #32
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Originally Posted by Gawdzilla View Post
He couldn't be known as Jesus son of Joseph. That wouldn't fit the myth.
If you refer to Isaiah, that seems to have been a misunderstanding by some Greeks using the Septuagint. Hebrew doesn't have the mistake.

Or are you referring to something else?
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Old 18th December 2012, 07:13 AM   #33
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Originally Posted by Gawdzilla View Post
Dcdrac implies, to me, that the writers picked a bunch of good stories circulating at the time and attributed them to their own guy.
That is part of what I meant by invented in the way myths are invented.
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Old 18th December 2012, 07:36 AM   #34
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Originally Posted by Frank Merton View Post
If you refer to Isaiah, that seems to have been a misunderstanding by some Greeks using the Septuagint. Hebrew doesn't have the mistake.

Or are you referring to something else?
I'm saying that they wouldn't call the Son of God the son of Joseph. Buzzkill.
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Old 18th December 2012, 07:41 AM   #35
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I think they probably would. Legal father, that is.

My point is trivial -- the "of Nazareth" bit is Greek, not Hebrew or Aramaic, and hence evidence of a Greek rather than Palestinian origin of the story.
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Old 18th December 2012, 07:59 AM   #36
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Originally Posted by Frank Merton View Post
I think they probably would. Legal father, that is.
Mine's trivial too, Son of God sound better than "son of some schmuck".
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My point is trivial -- the "of Nazareth" bit is Greek, not Hebrew or Aramaic, and hence evidence of a Greek rather than Palestinian origin of the story.
Greek scribes got around, I think the Romans used them a lot?
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Old 18th December 2012, 09:09 AM   #37
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Greek was the common language of the whole of the Mediterranean at that time, that's why that period of Greek is called 'koine' ('common'). It's really not surprising that the Gospels were written in it, and it says nothing about their provenance. In fact, Mark especially is written in a particularly 'Semitic' style of Greek, with sentence structures influenced by Hebrew (or Aramaic) grammar. They could have come from anywhere that there was a substantial Jewish community in the first century, either in Palestine or outside it, we don't know, though there are plenty of theories for each of the Gospels.
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Old 18th December 2012, 09:13 AM   #38
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Originally Posted by sleepy_lioness View Post
Greek was the common language of the whole of the Mediterranean at that time, that's why that period of Greek is called 'koine' ('common'). It's really not surprising that the Gospels were written in it, and it says nothing about their provenance. In fact, Mark especially is written in a particularly 'Semitic' style of Greek, with sentence structures influenced by Hebrew (or Aramaic) grammar. They could have come from anywhere that there was a substantial Jewish community in the first century, either in Palestine or outside it, we don't know, though there are plenty of theories for each of the Gospels.
And this further points up the problem with no first-hand recorded statements.
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Old 18th December 2012, 09:19 AM   #39
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Jesus just couldn't convince the Romans that he needed a stay of execution so that he could write a book! The Romans believed he was just stalling for time...

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Old 18th December 2012, 09:20 AM   #40
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Originally Posted by Moon-Spinner View Post
Jesus just couldn't convince the Romans that he needed a stay of execution so that he could write book! The Romans believe he was just stalling for time...
Judas could have written a tell-all book.
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