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Tags bible , jesus

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Old 18th December 2012, 10:44 AM   #41
HansMustermann
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Incidentally, there is a Gospel Of Judas, with a rather interesting twist on the story indeed. There Judas isn't the betrayer, but the guy who was the most initiated by Jesus, so to speak, and who was only obeying Jesus's orders when he helped get Jesus nailed. Something which actually isn't too far off the mark even when you read the canonical gospels.

It seems to have been in circulation enough in the 2nd century to be one of the few that Irenaeus rants against.
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Old 18th December 2012, 10:52 AM   #42
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Originally Posted by Gawdzilla View Post
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.)
Pretty typical actualy. Julius caesar was unusual in writing significant works of his own. We don't have anything from Alexander the Great or Hannibal.

Even as recently as the 15th century Hernán Cortés was illiterate. I suspect its not until the 17th century that it became common for important people to write about their activities and for those writings to survive.
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Old 18th December 2012, 02:57 PM   #43
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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.
The most "mythical" of the gospels, the one that divinises Jesus most, calls him just that:
Quote:
John 1:46 Philip findeth Nathanael, and saith unto him, We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.
John 6:42 And they said, Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? how is it then that he saith, I came down from heaven?
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Old 18th December 2012, 04:42 PM   #44
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It's obvious: Jesus didn't write anything down because he didn't have a secretary.
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Old 18th December 2012, 05:13 PM   #45
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Back when I went to Sunday School the answer was simply that he was illiterate. Probably too simple, but it sort of answers the question.
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Old 18th December 2012, 06:08 PM   #46
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Originally Posted by geni View Post
Pretty typical actualy. Julius caesar was unusual in writing significant works of his own. We don't have anything from Alexander the Great or Hannibal.

Even as recently as the 15th century Hernán Cortés was illiterate. I suspect its not until the 17th century that it became common for important people to write about their activities and for those writings to survive.
Hernán Cortés was NOT illiterate. He had studied at the University of Salamanca and was described by one of his soldiers, Bernal Díaz del Castillo as ''latino''. That is, a person who knows Latin. Bernal himself, a common soldier, wrote Historia Verdadera de la Conquista de la Nueva España. Cortés was the author of 5 Cartas de Relación, written to justify his actions to Charles V. The following paragraph shows the quality of his 16th century Spanish prose.

Quote:
Tiene esta ciudad muchas plazas donde hay continuo mercado y trato de comprar y vender. Tiene otra plaza tan grande como dos veces la ciudad de Salamanca, toda cercada de portales alrededor, donde hay cotidianamente arriba de sesenta mil ánimas comprando y vendiendo; donde hay todos los géneros de mercadurías que en todas las tierras se hallan, así de mantenimientos como de vituallas, joyas de oro y de plata, de plomo, de latón, de cobre, de estaño, de piedras, de huesos, de conchas, de caracoles y de plumas. Véndese cal, piedra labrada y por labrar, adobes, ladrillos, madera labrada y por labrar de diversas maneras. Hay calle de caza donde venden todos los linajes de aves que hay en la tierra, así como gallinas, perdices, codornices, lavancos, dorales, zarcetas, tórtolas, palomas, pajaritos en cañuela, papagayos, búharos, águilas, halcones, gavilanes y cernícalos; y de algunas de estas aves de rapiña, venden los cueros con su pluma y cabezas y pico y uñas.
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Old 19th December 2012, 02:02 AM   #47
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Originally Posted by bruto View Post
Back when I went to Sunday School the answer was simply that he was illiterate. Probably too simple, but it sort of answers the question.
Hmm, well, I can see how an atheist would take that answer, but it seems strange for Sunday School. As the OP says, Jesus is supposed to BE God according to most Trinitarians. An omniscient God who doesn't know how to read or write is a bit of a contradiction, innit?

Plus, the whole reason why anyone takes his platitudes seriously is because he's supposed to have some divine wisdom and insight there. If they're just the personal opinions of some illiterate laborer from the most backwater rural place of already backwater rural Galilee... well, we have millions of hair dressers and cabbies who think they know how the world should work and how it should be run? What makes Jesus any better than those, then? Heck, what makes him even their equal, since for better or worse those did get through a school system and might actually remember some of that?
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Old 19th December 2012, 03:20 AM   #48
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That's an interesting angle, Hans - how living people of faith would react to the idea that Jesus may have been illiterate, almost as much fun as their reactions to the idea of his having been gay.

Anyway, Jesus' illiteracy is not the position of the canonical New Testament, so I am mystified as to what kind of "Sunday school" would teach that. As sleepy lioness mentioned, Jesus is depicted as writing on the ground during the "cast the first stone" pericope. The difficulty with the story is that it probably isn't part of the original John, however, it could easily have been part of the original Luke. In any case, it is canonical, and as old as anything else in the Gospels has been dated to be.

As far as Jesus' cognitive performance goes, reading might be more crucial than writing. This comes up all the time in Islamic counterapologetics: the "miracle" that "illiterate" Mohammed could "write" the Koran (and so, yes, drop-dead God of the gaps: Allah must have written it).

But, of course, Mohammed didn't write it, he recited it. So, all that needs to be explained is how the fractured fairy tale versions of stories from the earlier testaments ended up in his poems.

No miracle, of course. The earlier material was plausibly known in Arabic. Written Arabic is phonetic. Even if you cannot read fluently, but if you speak Arabic, then you need only learn the value of the relatively few letters and marks, and thereafter can "sound out" quite a lot of the written material that you encounter. "Illiterate," then, is not a categorical estate for reading in a culture with a phonetic alphabet, but a spectrum of achievement.

(Mohammed would also be another example of someone who wrote nothing of his own, he says, but whose religion teems with other people's stories about him, hadith. I really think that this strategy, and its demonstrated effectiveness, is a chief answer to the OP question.)

Jesus, then, wouldn't have to read fluently in order to acquire a working knowledge of what he spoke about, much of whch was commentary on the Hebrew Bible, some of it plainly not original with him. Also, we have no idea of what his teacher, John the Baptist, might have known about anything. Luke, of course, places the Baptist in a priestly family.

(John the Baptist is yet another example of a religious leader who wrote nothing of his own, as far as anybody knows, but is well known to us on account of what others wrote about him.)

Finally, there is the christology issue which you raise. Nicene Christianity (the usual kind) teaches that their guy died, really died. It is obvious, then, that the living Jesus is thought to have put aside some divine attributes in order to live as a man. The usual proof text is Paul's Philippians 2: 5-8:

Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.

This, too, comes up in Islamic counterapologetics, since they believe religiously that to be God strictly implies not to be human. I am less sure why atheists would believe that, but many atheists who engage in Christian counteraplogetics apparently do, and so occasionally an atheist and a Muslim cannot be told apart based on the objections they raise to the Nicene Jesus.

Well, except that the atheist doesn't write "pbuh" after Jesus' name quite as often.

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Old 19th December 2012, 03:22 AM   #49
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Originally Posted by bruto View Post
Back when I went to Sunday School the answer was simply that he was illiterate. Probably too simple, but it sort of answers the question.
It unfortunately contradicts the Bible, which mentions Jesus writing on the ground. Of course if all he ever did was writing on the ground, then that is also an explanation for why none of his writings remain.
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Old 19th December 2012, 03:37 AM   #50
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The Trinitarian doctrine that Jesus was God does not mean that Jesus was omniscient in his human aspect. This was a major conclusion which came out of the Arian controversy of the fourth century. Arius and his followers collected a slew of quotes from the Gospels which show Jesus being thirsty, tired, weak, not knowing things, etc. A notorious verse was Jn 11: 34, where Jesus has to ask where the body of Lazarus has been laid. Arius argued, if Jesus was God, why didn't he know? And so the Arians argued that Jesus was a lesser being than God.

The orthodox opponents of Arius argued that Jesus was God, but in order to become fully human he had in some way divested himself of many of the attributes of divinity, such as omniscience. If he hadn't, he wouldn't be able to be fully human. I think that Philippians 2: 1:13, the famous 'kenosis' passage, where it says that Jesus 'emptied himself' of Godhead, was used in support of this argument.

After this my knowledge gets a bit hazy, I'm not very good on philosophical theology, but I think that all the classic formulations of Trinitarianism agree that the earthly Jesus had in some way given up or suspended most of the divine attributes, such as omniscience, that he had when pre-existent with the Father and that he regained after his resurrection and ascension into heaven.
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Old 19th December 2012, 04:29 AM   #51
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None of his disciples thought it worth writing anything down either. It was only when it became painfully obvious that Jesus' prediction of the end of the world in their lifetime wasn't going to happen that his followers finally realised that it might be a good idea to write his teachings down before all those who'd heard them were dead.
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Old 19th December 2012, 05:20 AM   #52
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Originally Posted by Pixel42 View Post
None of his disciples thought it worth writing anything down either. It was only when it became painfully obvious that Jesus' prediction of the end of the world in their lifetime wasn't going to happen that his followers finally realised that it might be a good idea to write his teachings down before all those who'd heard them were dead.
That is one theory.

My view is that in all probability the man never existed, at least as a historical person. In that case why we have none of his writings is obvious.

The main reason I think this is that the earliest Christian writings we have are the "genuine" Pauline epistles, and they seem to know nothing of a historical Jesus. Paul's Jesus did live on earth and was betrayed and resurrected, and so on, but in mythical time, not early in the first century. Paul knows nothing about the biographical details we get in the Gospels, even though in many cases we would think he would have referred to them.

We see Paul in the mid-first century leading and dealing with what seem to be well-established "Christian" churches all over the Greek diaspora -- especially Asia Minor. This is hardly twenty years after Jesus' supposed death, and well before any reported missions to them.

It seems more likely that what you have first is the rise of a Jesus-sacrificed-resurrected cult based on OT prophesies and after a number of other similar models active in the ancient world. This is not an earthly Jesus (except in mythical time) but a Jesus of the Heavens, about to return in glory (most new cults start off thinking they are in the end-time).

We need to resist the temptation of thinking that Christianity necessarily started just after the time of Jesus' death as told in the Gospels. It could well have been percolating a century or so even before Paul.

The stories of Jesus on Earth seem to have had two fairly independent origins -- the "Q" that preceded the synoptics, and another that led to (or was) the gospel attributed to John. The book that became Acts was probably written by the same person who wrote Luke, although from either lost material or de novo. He clearly knew of Paul, and may have drawn some things from Paul's earlier writings, but the figure in his narrative has little connection with the historical Paul. At any rate, whether or not these were percolating during Paul's time is hard to tell, but seemingly outside Paul's knowledge.

The evidence for this scenario is substantial. There is the absence of any knowledge of the Tetragrammaton in the NT, something inconceivable if the authors were Jews, but not if the authors were Greeks using the LXX, where the Tetragrammaton does not appear.

Also, there is the invention of the "city" of Nazareth, for which we have no mention in the Talmud, the OT, Josephus (who does a comprehensive listing of Galilean habitations) or any one else. (The place now known as Nazareth was founded by Constantine's mother in the fourth century). How could this happen? It appears to have been a misunderstanding of a passage in Isaiah mistaken as a name and place of origin (in the Greek pattern).

There are, of course, many other "errors" in the NT that reflect that the authors had no personal knowledge of the place, but only the sort of general knowledge I might have were I to write a narrative and place it in Afghanistan. One of the most egregious is the naive placement of herds of hogs in Palestine, something that would have generated riots.

Then of course we have the simple fact that it was all written in Greek, and reflects Greek modes of thinking (sometimes identified as neo-Platonic, although I doubt the authors were that educated). An awful lot of Christian ink has been spilled trying, not persuasively, to explain how fishermen from Galilee came to write these things in Greek.
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Old 19th December 2012, 05:54 AM   #53
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No serious scholar has thought that the Gospels were written by 'fishermen from Galilee' for decades, perhaps centuries. The generally accepted view is that they are written versions of the traditions of particular early Christian communities, and those communities or traditions were particularly associated with the name of one early follower of Jesus.

Of course the New Testament reflects 'Greek' modes of thinking, since they are written in Greek, and since Hellenism was so widespread in the ancient world. All Jewish writings of the time show 'Greek' influences, and this wouldn't have been seen as a problem by the Jews who wrote them. The tendency to polarize 'Greek' or 'Hellenistic' vs 'Jewish' thought is an artefact of German nineteenth-century Biblical scholarship, when scholars decided that it was possible to strip off 'Greek' philosophical accretions and get back to a purer, 'Jewish' Jesus. But this is now considered bunk, since Jesus himself lived in a time and place which was thoroughly infused with 'Greek' ideas, and there was no 'pure' Jewish start to the tradition.

As for Jesus not existing, that's a position that no Biblical scholar or scholar of the ancient world, whether Christian, Jewish or agnostic takes seriously. We simply don't have the sorts of evidence for people's existence in the ancient world that we do for, say, Victorian times. Records have disappeared, even if they were kept. But the most parsimonious explanation for the sudden appearance of the Christ-cult is that there was a man who started it off. Paul's letters do say little about his earthly life, but Paul certainly believed Jesus had existed, and recently. See, for instance, 1 Cor 15: 3-10, where Paul gives a brief account of Jesus and includes the comments that he had been seen by named people, including Cephas (Peter) and James, who were real people he also mentions having fights with elsewhere. True, he adds himself to the list of people who've seen the risen Christ, in order to bolster his apostolic credentials, but you can't really read the passage without understanding it as Peter and James having been with Jesus during his earthly life and then 'seeing' him after his resurrection.
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Old 19th December 2012, 06:18 AM   #54
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You didn't respond to any of the evidence I listed, but only engage in an argument by authority. Disappointing.
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Old 19th December 2012, 06:32 AM   #55
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On the two points: I can't remember the arguments about 'Nazareth' and will look them up if I get time this week. Certainly the Gospels present contradictory ideas about Jesus's origin, with Luke giving a convoluted narrative of his birth in Bethlehem, in order to 'fulfill' a prophecy from Micah, and Mark having him come from Nazareth. The Mark reference, by the way, could just about be read as saying Jesus was a 'Nazarene' rather than that he came from Nazareth, and there is a theory that the Gospels present that Nazareth reference in order to state that Jesus was 'set apart' or 'consecrated' like the mysterious ascetic Nazarenes who are mentioned (if memory serves) in Leviticus and Judges. So both 'Bethlehem' and 'Nazareth' could be invented by the Gospel writers or the traditions they relied on, for religious rather than historical reasons.

That said, I think that it's actually far from proven that there was no settlement in Nazareth in the first century; there are no extra-Biblical textual references extant, but that doesn't mean much, and there certainly was settlement in the area of Galilee, so Jesus as Galilean, and possibly from a town called Nazareth, is by no means implausible.

I don't know why you think a herd of pigs would have 'caused riots' in Palestine in the first century. Scholars are still arguing massively about just how strictly ordinary Jews in the first century observed the Levitical laws. Some argue that they were only observed by priests. And Gentiles had always lived among the Jewish people. The Gerasene pigs could easily have been living in a Gentile community, as the story imples, and Gentiles were never compelled to follow Jewish law. The Gospels contain several stories of Jesus interacting with non-Jews. The story of pigs in a Gentile community in Palestine is not particularly implausible on the face of it.

To be clear, I am not arguing that the Gospels are historically accurate in every detail. Perhaps the Gerasene pigs never existed; perhaps Jesus came from somewhere else (intriugingly, there does seem to have been a contemporary Jewish idea that the origin of the Messiah would be unknown, and this is referenced in John's Gospel). I think it's unknowable just how much of the story they present is myth and how much is factual representation. But purely as a historian I think that the idea that there was a charismatic teacher who was the basis of that tradition is a much easier explanation than that it was all myth.

I haven't read it, but I understand that Bart Ehrman's book on the existence of a historical Jesus is very good, and of course he's an agnostic (and an excellent textual scholar of the New Testament).

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Old 19th December 2012, 07:03 AM   #56
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Hmm, well, I can see how an atheist would take that answer, but it seems strange for Sunday School. As the OP says, Jesus is supposed to BE God according to most Trinitarians. An omniscient God who doesn't know how to read or write is a bit of a contradiction, innit?

Plus, the whole reason why anyone takes his platitudes seriously is because he's supposed to have some divine wisdom and insight there. If they're just the personal opinions of some illiterate laborer from the most backwater rural place of already backwater rural Galilee... well, we have millions of hair dressers and cabbies who think they know how the world should work and how it should be run? What makes Jesus any better than those, then? Heck, what makes him even their equal, since for better or worse those did get through a school system and might actually remember some of that?
Oh, so suddenly contradictions are a problem for Christians? The whole idea of a poor peasant Jesus in a backwater area, living unheralded and dying on a cross, being the incarnation of God is pretty strange. Why not have him monolingual and illiterate too. If the character makes sense in the first place, that part fits in.

Originally Posted by Earthborn View Post
It unfortunately contradicts the Bible, which mentions Jesus writing on the ground. Of course if all he ever did was writing on the ground, then that is also an explanation for why none of his writings remain.
Not only that, but at least some biblical scholars surmise that the lost childhood only briefly touched on in Luke was spent as a scholar, which would explain a bit why so much of Jesus' vocabulary and rhetoric come from that literary tradition without the obvious intrusion of other authors. Of course being an illiterate speaker of only Aramaic then becomes a wee problem, but who are we to watch a grand story fly by and wonder "how does that thing stay up?" Next thing you know you'll be questioning the eternal virginity of the BVM and wondering how angels keep their gowns from riding up when they fly.
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Old 19th December 2012, 07:32 AM   #57
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Originally Posted by sleepy_lioness View Post
On the two points: I can't remember the arguments about 'Nazareth' and will look them up if I get time this week. Certainly the Gospels present contradictory ideas about Jesus's origin, with Luke giving a convoluted narrative of his birth in Bethlehem, in order to 'fulfill' a prophecy from Micah, and Mark having him come from Nazareth. The Mark reference, by the way, could just about be read as saying Jesus was a 'Nazarene' rather than that he came from Nazareth, and there is a theory that the Gospels present that Nazareth reference in order to state that Jesus was 'set apart' or 'consecrated' like the mysterious ascetic Nazarenes who are mentioned (if memory serves) in Leviticus and Judges. So both 'Bethlehem' and 'Nazareth' could be invented by the Gospel writers or the traditions they relied on, for religious rather than historical reasons.
While I prefer the Isaiah misreading theory, since it also gives us a source for "Jesus," what you say is reasonable.

Quote:
That said, I think that it's actually far from proven that there was no settlement in Nazareth in the first century; there are no extra-Biblical textual references extant, but that doesn't mean much, and there certainly was settlement in the area of Galilee, so Jesus as Galilean, and possibly from a town called Nazareth, is by no means implausible.
You make me prove a negative. I only assert that there is no evidence for such a place until the forth century except Christian myth. Especially considering the absence from Josephus' lists, this is convincing evidence. Why do you bring up Galilee unless as a misdirection; it is not under discussion?

Quote:
I don't know why you think a herd of pigs would have 'caused riots' in Palestine in the first century. Scholars are still arguing massively about just how strictly ordinary Jews in the first century observed the Levitical laws. Some argue that they were only observed by priests. And Gentiles had always lived among the Jewish people. The Gerasene pigs could easily have been living in a Gentile community, as the story imples, and Gentiles were never compelled to follow Jewish law. The Gospels contain several stories of Jesus interacting with non-Jews. The story of pigs in a Gentile community in Palestine is not particularly implausible on the face of it.
The whole story reads as a collection of bits and pieces jammed together into a redactive mess, typical when bits of poorly remembered oral myth are written down. My understanding sure is that pigs were not welcome in that part of the world, and there is no archaeological evidence for their husbandry, as there is from places like Asia Minor. This, however, is a rather trivial detail in that you already concede there are other similar problems in the text.

Quote:
To be clear, I am not arguing that the Gospels are historically accurate in every detail. Perhaps the Gerasene pigs never existed; perhaps Jesus came from somewhere else (intriugingly, there does seem to have been a contemporary Jewish idea that the origin of the Messiah would be unknown, and this is referenced in John's Gospel). I think it's unknowable just how much of the story they present is myth and how much is factual representation. But purely as a historian I think that the idea that there was a charismatic teacher who was the basis of that tradition is a much easier explanation than that it was all myth.
I suppose ease trumps sometimes, but evidence always wins in the end.
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Old 19th December 2012, 07:42 AM   #58
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I think it depends what your standards of evidence are. I'd certainly want more evidence to believe a certain Jewish teacher existed in Victorian England than in first-century Palestine. So much of ancient history is about saying 'we don't know' and trying to construct plausible arguments which, however, we simply can't ever prove to be true since we don't have the sources. But, given that we know charismatic Jewish teachers existed in first-century Palestine (there seems to have been a rash of them) and that the basic details of a bloke who lived, probably in Galilee, gathered a group of disciples who believed he was the Messiah, and who eventually annoyed the Romans and was executed by them, is hardly implausible, then I think my argument stands. I think it's harder to account for why a small group of Jews suddenly decided to behave in such unusual ways, without positing that they truly thought some of them had met and known the Messiah.
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Old 19th December 2012, 07:46 AM   #59
Frank Merton
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One point that I made briefly in my earlier post and that got skipped by both replies is the absence of any knowledge of the Tetragrammaton in the NT. I would like to detail that a little.

When I was a kid and the Jehovah's Witnesses came out with their version of the Bible, they made a deal about the fact that their version put "Jehovah" back in the Bible. They even put it into the NT, although only in places where it quotes a passage from the OT that contained a "Jehovah." (A bit outrageous since none of the mss contained it).

That set me puzzling on the absence. Now of course Jews of the time never said the word aloud -- it was not to be spoken. However, it was all over their Bibles, and readers were trained that whenever they came across it they were to substitute other words.

When the LXX was prepared, not wanting to blemish the Holy Name by rendering it in a language other than Hebrew, the same rule was adopted even in writing. Therefore someone reading only the LXX, and not an earlier Hebrew text, would have no clue.

Now, put that together with the apparent fact that the writers of the NT -- from Paul on down -- show no hint of any knowledge of even its existence? One would think, at a minimum, that the Jewish rule against its pronunciation aloud would at least come up, either to reject it as Jewish superstition or to confirm it as Christian practice.

(It is the absence of any guidance from the NT on this subject that allows more modern Christian groups to be all over the place on the subject).

This is perhaps not proof, but good evidence, that the earliest Christianity was an entirely Greek business, probably not even entering Palestine until later.
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Old 19th December 2012, 07:51 AM   #60
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You know, there is also the very simple fact that there is no record of his existence outside the Christian texts. No one mentions this particular miracle worker, although, as you say, several others do seem to have existed and are mentioned.

The argument that someone had to start it just doesn't hold up. Lots of ancient movements have untraceable starts, and, as I mentioned earlier, once you get past thinking of the Gospels as history, one does not have to assign the traditional dates to the beginning of Christianity, but can imagine things like it percolating for centuries.
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Old 19th December 2012, 08:33 AM   #61
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There are references to the Name traditions in the New Testament. Perhaps the most famous is Philippians 2: 9:

'Therefore God also highly exalted him [Jesus] and gave him the name that is above every name ...' To a Jew such as Paul, this was clearly Yahweh. There is a strong argument that this passage of Philippians is a pre-existing hymn or song of praise which Paul is quoting, but in any case, it shows that both Paul and early Christians knew of the Jewish traditions of the Name and also, more shockingly for Jews, applied it to Jesus.

There are some very long and boring arguments in the scholarship about the titles applied to Jesus in the New Testament. He is frequently called 'Kurios', which translates the Hebrew 'Adonai'. Kurios is the word generally used to render the Tetragrammaton in the Septuagint, and Adonai is how it was pronouced in Hebrew when the Bible was read out (most people think) and I think most people consider that the early Christians knew what they were doing when they applied it to Jesus: they were assigning him a divine title. Some argue that, as with the English words 'Lord' or 'Sir', their use is simply a mark of respect. But I think that this is a weak argument, since many of the references are steeped in an Old Testament background, notably from the Psalms. Psalm 110:1 ('The Lord [Yahweh, translated as kurios] said to my Lord [Adonai, translated as kurios], sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool') is, I think I'm right in saying, the most frequently quoted OT passage in the New Testament. Cf Matthew 22: 43-45 for one instance. In all of these, it's clear that Jesus is being referred to with one of the names of God. And these are names that were at least sometimes euphemisms for the Tetragrammaton. I don't think any Biblical scholar would agree that the New Testament writers didn't know the traditions about the Tetragrammaton; I've certainly never heard that argument.

I also don't think it's really possible to argue that the New Testament isn't deeply Jewish. See the recent Jewish Annotated New Testament for details of just how Jewish beliefs and culture run through the whole thing. I think I've already mentioned just how 'Semitic' a lot of the Greek is (particularly Mark); it's less fashionable these days than it used to be to posit an Aramaic original underlying the Gospels, but it certainly seems that their writers were used to Hebrew and Aramaic texts (such as the Septuagint) and used those languages themselves. Paul says he is a Jew, a Pharisee, and he really must have been to know all the stuff he knows and think the way he thinks (for instance, on purity and pollution, a deeply Jewish way of thinking). As I also said upthread, that the New Testament is deeply Jewish doesn't mean it isn't also Greek, since Hellenism was so pervasive, even in Palestine, at this period. There's no neat boundary between the two.

Last edited by sleepy_lioness; 19th December 2012 at 08:48 AM. Reason: Clarified stuff around adonai/yhwh/kurios
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Old 19th December 2012, 08:42 AM   #62
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Originally Posted by Frank Merton View Post
You know, there is also the very simple fact that there is no record of his existence outside the Christian texts. No one mentions this particular miracle worker, although, as you say, several others do seem to have existed and are mentioned.
And most of them have far fewer sources attesting them than does Jesus of Nazareth. Why are they so believeable and he not? And, doesn't their existence lend credibility to the idea that a similar man called Jesus did similar things? The sources argument can go several ways. Very few people wouldn't date Paul's earliest letters to the 50s AD, for instance, and they certainly mention Jesus. That they're a Christian source doesn't automatically rule them out; non-Christian sources mention Jesus a bit later. But he was an insignificant peasant in a backwater of the Empire, it's hardly surprising that no official records mentioning him have survived, and that nobody not already invested in his cult who was rich enough to have a scribe bothered to mention him.

Quote:
The argument that someone had to start it just doesn't hold up. Lots of ancient movements have untraceable starts, and, as I mentioned earlier, once you get past thinking of the Gospels as history, one does not have to assign the traditional dates to the beginning of Christianity, but can imagine things like it percolating for centuries.
And that makes a far bigger problem of the sources than does accepting something like the traditional date. You rule out Jesus having a ministry in the 20s/30s AD because of lack of sources, but then argue that there was a religious movement 'percolating for centuries' which left no sources at all until the first century? Why? And why did its followers in the first century bother to situate its imaginary leader within such recent history (the Gospels pin his life down to rulers, after all) rather than in the deep lost past?

As I was trying to get at above, the absence of sources in ancient history means that we can indulge in all sorts of speculation without fear of absolute contradiction. But I don't see how your story is any more plausible than the accepted version, that a charismatic rabbi who lived in Palestine was crucified by the Romans and his followers started a new sect.
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Old 19th December 2012, 08:56 AM   #63
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They have far more than Jesus does. The NT is all Jesus has, and it dates from at least 50 years after the fact. (The earliest Mss date from much later).
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Old 19th December 2012, 09:57 AM   #64
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@sleepy lioness

I agree entirely with your
Quote:
And that makes a far bigger problem of the sources than does accepting something like the traditional date. You rule out Jesus having a ministry in the 20s/30s AD because of lack of sources, but then argue that there was a religious movement 'percolating for centuries' which left no sources at all until the first century? Why? And why did its followers in the first century bother to situate its imaginary leader within such recent history (the Gospels pin his life down to rulers, after all) rather than in the deep lost past?
and it is why I'm not a mythicist, though I realise how sparse the evidence for Jesus is.
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Old 19th December 2012, 10:11 AM   #65
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We know, however, that there were several doomsday preachers with small followings in Israel at the time "our" Jesus is supposed to have lived. None of them wrote anything down, either, nor their followers. So we shouldn't expect an eventual True Jesus to write anything down.
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Old 19th December 2012, 12:32 PM   #66
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Sleepy Lioness, I agree that Jesus, if there was one, was Jewish. He certainly claims to have been, and there were plenty of people around the region at the time plying his trade or a similar one. Why wouldn't he have been? One of the influences on my early religious education was a huge and fairly scholarly (for its time) annotated Bible from the 19th century, called, as I recall, Scott's Bible. Mr. Scott took great pains to point out how much of such things as the Sermon on the Mount borrowed from standard Jewish texts, rhetorical style, and so forth, and how cleverly the parables take old Jewish parables and stand them just slightly on their ear, making for recognition before the punch line. The Lord's Prayer, he points out, is also a pastiche of parts of standard Jewish prayers, instantly recognizable and comfortable to a contemporary Jew. Mr. Scott was quite proud of his scholarship, providing Hebrew examples and parallels, and much of it I've seen amplified by later scholars. I may be mistaken, but I think the later Interpreter's Bible may even have used some of his material. Of course it doesn't really tell us much about whether Jesus was the single figure now presumed, but it does tell us a little about what he was supposed to have been.
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Old 19th December 2012, 09:09 PM   #67
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As to whether or not Jesus was literate, the gospel of Luke records he could read. In chapter 4, Jesus goes into the synagogue in Nazareth on the Sabbath day "as was his custom,"
Originally Posted by Luke chapter 4 (NIV)
16And he stood up to read. The scroll of the prophet Isaiah was handed to him. Unrolling it, he found the place where it is written
Originally Posted by Isaiah chapter 62
1The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor ... (passage continues for a few more lines)
20 Then he rolled up the scroll, gave it back to the attendant, and sat down.
I have no idea how common literacy was among Jews of the day, so I don't know if the story is plausible or far-fetched.
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Old 19th December 2012, 09:25 PM   #68
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Why didn't Jesus write anything down?



Well, right bleedin' lazy werent he!!!*








*just out from the Page 3 thread........
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Old 20th December 2012, 12:53 AM   #69
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Literacy in Palestine IIRC was something like 2-3%, and even those were mostly in the cities. In the larger rural area, virtually everyone would be illiterate.

Still exceptions would exist, and you'd think the incarnation of an omniscient God would know the letters too
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Old 20th December 2012, 01:19 AM   #70
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@lioness:
Actually, how would they come up with a Jesus -- actually a Joshua, a second instance of the Joshua who conquered the promised land for them -- and why exactly then is not all that mysterious.

They had prophecies running amok with when God will finally get off his ass and put them on top, like he promised. And deadlines came and went and nothing happened, and had to be re-explained as really meaning next year. They had the forgery that was Daniel, just to re-date an earlier failed prophecy, and increasingly bizarre reinterpretations of that too, like actually meaning "weeks of years", just so it ain't failed yet.

Sorta like the nutcases awaiting the end of the world nowadays, really.

However, it was getting to a point where it was hard to post-date it any more. There were promises made by God, like that he'd only put descendants of David on the throne, which technically had even failed when Herod took the throne, but you could kinda rationalize it still somehow as still being the throne of David, but had utterly failed when a Roman governor took command.

The idea that someone would reinterpret their pet woowoo as having already happened, not only is not far fetched, but it happens even nowadays. E.g., the woowooists that first insisted that 12/21 will mean the destruction of Earth, now are already backpedalling into it just meaning some spiritual awakening. Mark my words, next week you'll see a lot of people insisting that it did happen.

The Jewish doomsday was a lot easier to fudge in that aspect than our rapture and apocalypse, since it just had to start with the coming of a messiah. So, you know, it's not possible for Camping to insist that God destroyed the world already at the date he gave, but for a 1st century nutcase the idea that the messiah came would be a lot more manageable.

Paul isn't even the only one who comes up with some lateral thinking solution to it. Josephus for example manages to find his messiah in a Roman general and future Emperor. (Which is really the only reason we now read his history books instead of his being crucified on the spot as a rebel.)

Of course, something had to give. You couldn't have a messiah that came and conquered everyone for the Jews, because clearly that hadn't happened. But some creative thinking could still get you one that marked the start of the messianic age anyway.

Which also answers your objection for why not a more ancient one. Because it had to mark the beginning of the end. It's no coincidence that Paul and the early Christians were awaiting an imminent apocalypse. That's what that messiah was marking: the beginning of that. Soon the dead would be awakened and all sorts of other woowoo would follow. You can fudge an apocalypse which started falling into place a decade or two ago, but it kinda loses that 'imminent' edge when it's an apocalypse that started a millenium ago
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Old 20th December 2012, 03:18 AM   #71
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I mean, heck, we know from Epiphanius of Salamis that there was even a sect that worshipped Herod as the messiah. Presumably precisely to get around the problem with God's failed promise. The only time when God could break his word about that was when the messiah had come, so if Herod was the messiah, see, no problem.

But really, even Epiphanius mentions several sects around that time who tried to figure out a way for the messiah to have come already. And Josephus mentions at least three guys who were obviously trying to symbolically enact stuff that the first Joshua had done. Plus, again, he himself manages to find such a rationalization that the messiah had come.

Whatever you want to believe as a background for that, it's clearly a time when people ARE making up weird rationalizations about the messiah having already come. Why would Jesus be any different?
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Old 20th December 2012, 04:03 AM   #72
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
I mean, heck, we know from Epiphanius of Salamis that there was even a sect that worshipped Herod as the messiah. Presumably precisely to get around the problem with God's failed promise. The only time when God could break his word about that was when the messiah had come, so if Herod was the messiah, see, no problem.
No problem, because Herod existed, and was their contemporary.
Quote:
But really, even Epiphanius mentions several sects around that time who tried to figure out a way for the messiah to have come already. And Josephus mentions at least three guys who were obviously trying to symbolically enact stuff that the first Joshua had done. Plus, again, he himself manages to find such a rationalization that the messiah had come.
If you mean Judas of Galilee, "the Egyptian" and Theudas, it may be accepted that these individuals existed. Josephus' favourite messiah candidate most assuredly existed. He was Vespasian, Emperor of Rome.
Quote:
Whatever you want to believe as a background for that, it's clearly a time when people ARE making up weird rationalizations about the messiah having already come. Why would Jesus be any different?
He wouldn't be any different - on condition that, like these others, he physically existed in recent times.
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Old 20th December 2012, 11:01 AM   #73
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I don't see how it follows that if those existed, so did Paul's. More importantly for the question of HJ, I don't see how it follows that even if _A_ guy existed that Paul based his stuff on, you'd know if any details of him can be found in the gospels, and which those are. The gospel writers are on the other side of the information black hole that is Paul.

I mean was he a teacher? A bandit who attacked the temple? Some slave that ran away and played messiah? (And who would be most certainly crucified, regardless of what he preached.) Or what?

What did he preach? Was he a progressive rabbi (i.e., pharisee) even though all his conflicts are with pharisees? An ultra-conservative old school Sadducee? An Essene? Or what? The gospels make such a hash of what he says at different times, that he could be any of those and then some.

Do you even know that his given name was actually Jesus, or was he given the name for being expected to be the second Joshua? After all, in our time Ras Tafari was believed to be the second Jesus without actually having the name Jesus from his parents. I fail to see why couldn't it work the same with the second Joshua.

I mean the amount of stuff about him that may well be symbolic about him is staggering.

It's kinda like watching a Daffy Duck cartoon from the 40's these days. You hear him going, "Was this trip necessary?", but might not get what that actually references. Except with Jesus we have 2000 years in between, not 60 years.

To give you an example of how deep this might or might not run for Jesus, consider this: when Herod came to power, he was pretty thorough in replacing the Maccabees, i.e., the Hasmonean dynasty, but still took a wife from their ranks, presumably as a way to solidify his claim to power. Except this wife was not very faithful and eventually not only got herself executed for adultery, but Herod actually also eventually executed his two sons with her. (Though in their case, also because they were ridiculously more popular with the populace than he was, partly also because they were seen by many as true successors of the old dynasty, which Herod himself wasn't. In fact, apparently a lot of people were longing for the day when they'd finally have one of those two on the throne.) The name of that wife? Mary. (Miriam in Hebrew.) The name of her lover? Joseph.

Hmm... So we have someone of the true line of David, conceived by a Mary, his father was Joseph, and Herod tried to kill them. Are you pondering what I'm pondering, Pinky?

Incidentally, when they are killed, it is... with the complicity of the Romans. Except it wasn't a Pilate who washed his hands of it, but Augustus who sent the matter back to Herod, somewhat paralleling the weird episode in Luke. Ultimately there was a court of both Roman officials (Herod was still bent on being the Romans' faithful toadie) and Herod's favourites which demanded nothing short of their death, although everyone else thought them innocent.

Of course, I can't prove that there was some rumour of one of the kids still being alive in Egypt, or that that's what mutated into a part of the Jesus myth. But it's that kind of coincidence that makes me just wonder. Did it really come from Jesus, or from those who expected Alexander son of Herod to be their rightful king? We'll never know.
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Old 20th December 2012, 11:33 AM   #74
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If there is any truth in scriptures Jesus was literate because once while in a synagog the Rabbis were amazed at how intelligent he was. He became a rabbi himself later in life and if he existed I imagine he did write things down.

Its my guess Jesus did exist but only as a human being. His writings may have been destroyed when he was arrested or they may exist in some jar hidden somewhere.
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Old 20th December 2012, 11:42 AM   #75
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
I don't see how it follows that if those existed, so did Paul's.
That's true. But I was addressing your
Quote:
Whatever you want to believe as a background for that, it's clearly a time when people ARE making up weird rationalizations about the messiah having already come. Why would Jesus be any different?
My point is that Jesus would be different, in answer to your question. The others were real people imagined to be the Messiah by their followers, just as Akiba acknowledged Bar Kochba as messiah in later years. What is attributed to Paul by some mythicists is different. That is, that Paul did not believe that Jesus had ever existed on earth, but purely within some spiritual dimension, that he was not put to death by human beings, but by malign spiritual forces or entities, and so on. These beliefs attributed to Paul (which I do not believe he held, as it happens) would make Paul's messianic ideas vastly different from these entertained by whoever might have thought Theudas or Bar Kochba, let alone Herod or Vespasian, was the Messiah.
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Old 20th December 2012, 01:06 PM   #76
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As we discussed in a previous thread, many of the writings of Jesus have survived. Subjects discussed in those writings include: turning water into wine, the raising of Lazarus, walking on water and the Sermon on the Mount.

But those writings are apocryphal.
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Old 20th December 2012, 01:35 PM   #77
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He had people for that.
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Old 20th December 2012, 02:48 PM   #78
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Originally Posted by Pixel42 View Post
None of his disciples thought it worth writing anything down either. It was only when it became painfully obvious that Jesus' prediction of the end of the world in their lifetime wasn't going to happen that his followers finally realised that it might be a good idea to write his teachings down before all those who'd heard them were dead.
Jesus wrote his name in Love on the human heart.

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Old 20th December 2012, 06:24 PM   #79
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Originally Posted by Craig B View Post
That's true. But I was addressing your My point is that Jesus would be different, in answer to your question. The others were real people imagined to be the Messiah by their followers, just as Akiba acknowledged Bar Kochba as messiah in later years. What is attributed to Paul by some mythicists is different. That is, that Paul did not believe that Jesus had ever existed on earth, but purely within some spiritual dimension, that he was not put to death by human beings, but by malign spiritual forces or entities, and so on. These beliefs attributed to Paul (which I do not believe he held, as it happens) would make Paul's messianic ideas vastly different from these entertained by whoever might have thought Theudas or Bar Kochba, let alone Herod or Vespasian, was the Messiah.
It depends on what flavour of mythicism you're addressing, actually. Currently, yes, the most aggressive and vocal variant is that Jesus was for Paul an entirely celestial beings that never existed on Earth, etc. Now I cannot dismiss that, mind you, but I'm more in the camp of the original meaning of MJ, which probably nowadays would be more recognizably called the Legendary Jesus: a guy may (or may not) have existed at the origin of it all, but we don't have much information about that guy, if any, and the image painted about him in the gospels is (likely) made up BS that, by sheer chance alone, doesn't bear much resemblance to what the original may (or may not) have been like.

I'm willing to allow for the possibility that Paul's psychosis may have been triggered by _A_ guy, but that's it, we don't know who. I have no problem with that. If someone wants to take that position, be my guest.

What I'm not allowing for is that you know what that guy was like. The moment someone proceeds from bare existence of some guy, to somehow knowing that he was a rabbi, he had disciples, he had views like those in the gospels, etc, then I want to know how the fork do you know that.

No, seriously, it not being impossible or even unknown is not a reason. It's in fact, the argument from ignorance, by any other name. Taking [i]a specific flavour[i] of Jesus as real just because it can't be disproven, is a textbook case of that.

Or to further illustrate the point, I submit:

1. Was Lovecraft's mom the historical Mad Arab Abdul Al Hazred? We know she was insane and we know the name is based on her maiden name. But she didn't live in the the 8'th century, didn't write a book about Yog-Sothoth and Cthulhu, didn't die in mysterious circumstances in Damascus, etc. Does she count as the historical Abdul Al Hazred?

If you can say "yes" with a straight face, then, yes, you can have a Historical Jesus which is only supportably about that historical.

If you can only say "no", then no. A Jesus which bears no resemblance to the NT demi-god and is connected just by being the likely different guy that triggered Paul's psychotic episodes is for me most definitely not qualifying as a HJ.

2. As my favourite Radio Yerevan joke... err... parable of Ivan's car goes:
Q: Is it true that comrade Ivan Ivanovich Ivanov from Kiew won a car in the state lottery?
A: It's perfectly true, except for two minor details. First, it wasn't a car, it was a bicycle. Second, he didn't win it in the state lottery, it was stolen from him.
Would you say the two are the same event?

If yes, then yes, you can have a Historical Jesus about which supportably the NT may bear about as much resemblance. If no, then no, a Jesus whose every detail was made up later, is not the same Jesus as whatever guy was possibly nailed in the 1st century.

The whole joke there, and why it's (at least for some of us) funny is that it asserts an identity where clearly they're not even remotely the same thing. Every single element that would identify it as event X, is actually not even remotely the same as what X is all about. If you can say that the two are the same by being connected by just "it happened", then you can have your HJ, but don't be surprised if I'll put my finger at the side of my head and make the sign of turning a screw

3. Jack has been known to use a bunch of red lighters. In fact, he has a drawer full of them. Jill is seen using a red lighter at the smoking place to light her cigarette. Would you form any degree of certitude that Jill stole it from Jack?

If yes, well, there's probably not much reason to discuss this any further. If no, then, well, that's about the same fallacy as assuming that just because a bunch of Messiah pretenders existed in Judaea, then Paul got his from one of those. No, literally, it's an identical kind of assumption. It's kind of like a "by association" fallacy, except more fundamentally broken, since instead of an "all X are/have/do Y" it only relies on a "SOME X are/have/do Y".
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Last edited by HansMustermann; 20th December 2012 at 06:41 PM.
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Old 20th December 2012, 07:38 PM   #80
Delvo
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Originally Posted by Blue Mountain View Post
I have no idea how common literacy was among Jews of the day, so I don't know if the story is plausible or far-fetched.
He's supposed to have been a rabbi, so the relevant question is not the literacy rate among Jews, but the literacy rate among rabbis. And that must have been 100% because it's a job requirement.

Originally Posted by Craig B View Post
These beliefs attributed to Paul (which I do not believe he held, as it happens) would make Paul's messianic ideas vastly different from these entertained by whoever might have thought Theudas or Bar Kochba, let alone Herod or Vespasian, was the Messiah.
Calling Jesus a Messiah at all is already different from the standard idea of a Messiah back then. That was supposed to be more of a warrior-king who would kick out the Romans and rule Israel independently. Are these others you're talking about messiahs, or sacrificial saviors? Or did they also merge the two concepts like what happened in Jesus's case, getting the "Messiah" label attached to a story that's really sacrificial savior story?

Originally Posted by eight bits View Post
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.
That's an important thing to keep in mind. If writing was to communicate across distance rather than time (because travel was more troublesome then than it is now), then that affects what reasons someone like Jesus would or wouldn't have had to write messages. A growing thing like the Christian church/movement of that time starts off smaller at first than it ends up later, so the original leader wouldn't have had satellite offices to write to like a successor or successor's successor would.

Originally Posted by eight bits View Post
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.
Common acceptance or expectation of getting writings from the teacher's original students, instead of directly from the teacher, would make it sensible for an inventor of a new cult to invent a predecessor to claim to be a follower of.
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