Historical Jesus

Abrahamic religion, you know, the one with the cross...

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Re: Did Jesus exist?

#541  Postby Agrippina » Apr 02, 2010 5:39 am

verbal pocketplay wrote:
Agrippina wrote::coffee:


happy birthday. another spin around the sun!

Thank you!

I'm interested in the turn this thread is taking, so I'm marking my spot. :cheers:
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Re: Did Jesus exist?

#542  Postby Blurred » Apr 02, 2010 7:06 am

verbal pocketplay wrote:
when i asked you what we could say about the historical biography about jesus, you agreed with me that "more or less" all we could say was his place of birth, his brother james, and the following he left behind.

so are we know saying it is a fact he caused trouble in the temple? or are we saying it is highly probable? and when you say "all the accounts agree they were involved", are these accounts only the gospel accounts? because if so, we have good reason to doubt that those gospels accounts are accurate.


When we're dealing with the historical Jesus, we're not so much dealing with facts as we are "probabilities". The gospels are plainly of dubious historical reliability because (as you are doubtless already aware) they were written a long time after Jesus' death and, in any case, they have all clearly been written through a particular theological prism, which throws the objectivity of their authors into grave doubt. Put simply, these are not "historical" documents, and I don't think that any of us advocating a historical Jesus have claimed otherwise. Nonetheless, so long as one proceeds carefully with the above facts in mind, I think there are clearly elements of the gospel narratives that are far more likely to be historically true than not.

Devising a completely objective, fool-proof methodology for separating the historical gospel material from the non-historical gospel material is obviously beyond the powers of the historical-critical method, but some attempts have still been able to come pretty close. One of the better attempts at devising a set of criteria for determining the historicity of Gospel material was that of J.P. Meier. He argued that five primary criteria could be used to determine how likely it was that facts or events in the gospels had a historical core. They are:

  • Embarrassment: A fact or event that appears to cause embarrassment to the theology of the gospel authors is less likely to have been invented by them than a fact or event that bolsters their theology.
  • Discontinuity: A fact or event that does not appear to have had any basis in earlier tradition is less likely to have been invented by the gospel authors than an event that may have been predicated in an earlier tradition.
  • Multiple Attestation: A fact or event that appears to have been preserved down multiple lines of independent tradition is more likely to be true than one that is only preserved down a single line.
  • Coherence: A fact or event that appears to be consistent with our present understanding of the historical context is more likely to be true than one which appears to be at odds with it.
  • Rejection and Execution: A fact or event that looks as though it might provide an realistic explanation for the rejection or execution of Jesus is more likely to be true than the more tendentious explanations offered consciously by the gospel authors (e.g. divine providence, the Jews being in league with the devil etc.). (This criterion is less strong as it presumes historicity of the execution to begin with, but given that the execution of Jesus appears to satisfy each of the four previous criteria, it's based on a fairly solid foundation so far as second-order criteria go.)

Now there are very few facts or events in the gospels that appear to satisfy all of these criteria, which is why we can say very little with any certainty about the historical Jesus. However, a fact such as Jesus being from Nazareth - an otherwise, minor or incidental fact - appears to be one of those facts that we can state of Jesus most certainly because it does happen to satisfy each of these criteria:

  • Embarrassment: The fact that Jesus came from Nazareth was inconvenient for those who accepted the OT prophecy that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2). Matthew and Luke had to invent convoluted (and entirely contradictory) accounts to reconcile these two "facts" and even John appears to be aware of the theological difficulties concerning Jesus' origins in Nazareth (Jn. 7:41b-42).
  • Discontinuity: There was no tradition in the OT - or any other Jewish literature - about the messiah hailing from Nazareth, or anything else of any significance concerning that town - in fact, the town of Nazareth does not appear once in any context in the OT. This discontinuity was plainly an embarrassment to Matthew who was required to invent a prophecy concerning Nazareth as a means of obscuring it (Mt. 2:23).
  • Multiple attestation: This fact is recorded down at least four independent lines: Mark (Mk. 1:9), M (Mt. 2:23), L (Lk. 2:39) and John (Jn. 1:45-46).
  • Coherence: It's consistent with our understanding of Jesus as an outsider, or a "Marginal Jew" in the words of J.P. Meier.
  • Rejection and Execution: The fact that he came from such a backwards and inconsequential part of the world may have contributed to his being rejected as a messianic figure by many. John appears to suggest as much (Jn. 7:52).


Now again, none of this is foolproof, but it surely makes the competing suggestion - that the place of Jesus' birth was "made up" somewhere along the line, for want of a better expression - extremely difficult to accept.

In any case, what these criteria really allow us to do is make comparative probabilistic judgments concerning the historicity of various events in the gospels. Where Jesus' birthplace appears to satisfy all five of Meier's criteria, an event like the Last Supper appears to satisfy two (multiple attestation and coherence, with regards to Jesus' use of bread as a spiritual metaphor throughout the gospels) and fail two (it does not represent any kind of discontinuity because it appears to have predicates in both Jewish and Gentile tradition, and it fails the embarrassment criterion because the Eucharist is something that the early Christians would have been motivated to trace back to Jesus). At the other extreme we have plenty of events, such as the raising of Lazarus, that appear to fail all five criteria: there would have been a clear motivation for early Christians to invent stories like this, there are clear predicates in earlier traditions (e.g. Elijah), the story is presented down just one tradition (i.e. John), the story is at odds with any realistic historical context and it doesn't appear to offer any coherent reason as to why Jesus came to be rejected or executed by the Jewish authorities (cf. John 11:45-54).

Now none of this is to say that Jesus was definitely born in Nazareth, that he might have presided over the first Eucharist and that he definitely didn't raise Lazarus from the dead: we are incapable of making such definitive judgments. It is true, in one sense, to say that all content in the gospels may or may not be true: the mythicist is as justified in rejecting the Nazareth accounts as the fundamentalist is in accepting the Lazarus accounts. However, I think an objective methodological approach to the gospels - such as this one set out by Meier - can only lead us to the conclusion (for whatever it is worth) that the Nazareth accounts are far more probable than the Lazarus accounts, and that the Nazareth accounts are far more likely to find their origin in some historical memory than in the imagination of some early evangelist.
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Re: Did Jesus exist?

#543  Postby Blurred » Apr 02, 2010 7:25 am

verbal pocketplay wrote:
but those missing years have always fascinated me. why would so much be left out?


For any historical detail to enter the gospel accounts, be aware that they must be considered memorable enough to have been preserved down 40-odd years of oral tradition. Put simply, I doubt there was much about Jesus' obscure and provincial early life important enough to have survived amongst the pre-gospel traditions.

As for the birth narratives themselves, they are plainly late mythologies constructed with certain theological ends in mind. I'm not sure I would go so far as to suggest that the nativities in Matthew and Luke were appended to the original gospels at some point in the 2nd century as some scholars like Geza Vermes have suggested (though I have my suspicions about the Lukan narrative) but absence of the virgin birth from the other 25 books of the NT and its rather sparse attribution in the early patristic material suggests to me that it was a late theological development, and one that was contested by many early Christians (certainly including Marcion and the Ebionites, if no-one else).
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Re: Did Jesus exist?

#544  Postby angelo » Apr 02, 2010 7:25 am

Agrippina wrote::coffee:

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Re: Did Jesus exist?

#545  Postby angelo » Apr 02, 2010 7:27 am

Agrippina wrote:
verbal pocketplay wrote:
Agrippina wrote::coffee:


happy birthday. another spin around the sun!

Thank you!

I'm interested in the turn this thread is taking, so I'm marking my spot. :cheers:

Is it true? You turned 100? Well then, best wishes. I hope you can beat the odds and have another 100. :grin:
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Re: Did Jesus exist?

#546  Postby TimONeill » Apr 02, 2010 7:38 am

verbal pocketplay wrote:
TimONeill wrote: While he was some preacher off in the boondocks of Galilee he was. But the minute he marched into their jurisdiction - Jerusalem - and started causing trouble under their noses while Pilate was in town and during Passover he immediately became a problem. Exactly how much of a role the Temple priesthood played in his arrest etc we can't know, but all the accounts agree they were involved.


you sound a bit like yoda in that first sentence ; ) but when i asked you what we could say about the historical biography of jesus, you agreed with me that "more or less" all we could say was his place of birth, his brother james, and the following he left behind.

so are we now saying that it is a fact that he caused trouble in the temple, or was tried by caiphus? or are we saying these accounts are probable?


We're saying if Jesus arrived in Jerusalem being proclaimed as the Messiah at a politically sensitive time and if he caused some kind of ruckus in the Temple then your claim that Caiaphus would have no reason to be bothered doesn't make sense. I'm not saying these things definitely happened, though they are entirely possible.

and when you say "all the accounts agree they were involved", are these accounts only the gospel accounts? because if so, we have good reason to doubt that those gospels accounts are accurate.


Fine. But when an element in them is found in all gospel traditions and in Paul (he mentions the Jewish leaders being involved in Jesus' death in 1 Thess. 2:14-16) then we have more reason to think it's there because its historical.

as mentioned, his temper tantrum in the temple, and his claims that it would be destroyed, are believed by credible, mainstream scholars to be invented by writers writing after the destruction of the temple.


By some. You can find some credible, mainstream scholars who hold pretty much any position you care to mention on this or any other matter. We don't know if this happened or not, but even if it didn't, simply turning up in Jerusalem while being hailed as the Messiah would do the trick any way.

and they believe that turning over a few tables and chewing out a few money lenders in a temple the size of 5 football fields with tens, if not hundreds, of thousands people around, would have been lost in the chaos that was the temple at passover. it was too insignificant an act. and jesus was too insignificant a rabble rouser for caiphus to notice. maybe not the romans though.


Sorry, but I can't think of any "credible, mainstream scholars" who makes such a silly argument. We have no idea of the scale of the demonstration in the Temple.


but even if we grant involvement by the priesthood, the degree of involvement is certainly important. its seems implausible it would have been anything other than very minimal (based on his insignificance, his otherworldly message, etc)


Sorry, but a guy turning up, proclaiming that God is coming to sweep away the "unrighteous" in an apocalypse and that he is the Messiah anointed by Yahweh to usher in this cleansing fire is not "insignificant" and his message is not "otherworldly". You don't seem to understand Jesus' apocalyptic message at all. He was not a mellow hippy preaching about how to go meekly to heaven. He was a blood and thunder preacher of an immanent end of the world where the high and mighty (that's the Sadducees) and the unrighteous before Yahweh (that's the Romans, amongst others) were going to be cleansed with fire and armies from heaven. Still think that's "insigificant"? Still can't see why they would want to nip him in the bud before Pilate did what he and other Prefects tended to do with these kinds of kooks and their followers? Still can't see why they would want to prevent a bloodbath in their streets at Passover time.

You don't seem to understand the socio-religious context here at all.

There weren't "dozens". There actually weren't any others at this time. And none of the others who popped up at other times were operating in Jerusalem and so weren't the priesthood's concern. We do know, however, that the Romans dealt with several of these others by sending in troops and killing them and their followers - this happened with the Egyptian prophet and the Samaritan. So are you seriously telling me that one of these guys turns up in their jurisdiction while the Prefect is in town with thousands of heavily armed troops and they would just say "ho hum"? Come on.


good to know. but did the priesthood have anything to do with john the baptists' murder?


Why would they have anything to do with the execution of someone who was preaching far outside of Jerusalem in the territory of another ruler?


i thought it was herod (could be very, very wrong here).


It was. John was preaching in his territory. The Priests were responsible for the civil administration of Jerusalem - that's all.

and why get worked up about a guy preaching "render to ceasar what is his" and "my kingdom is not of this world" and "blessed are the peacemakers", etc. he just doesn't seem that threatening.


See above. You don't seem to have properly grasped the implications of his message. He was an apocalypcist - not some mellow hippy. The Romans had a habit of unleashing troops on apocalypcists and their followers and for good reason - they didn't appreciate wild-eyed crazies preaching about how Yahweh was about to descend and sweep them away with holy fire.


but you have only given evidence suggesting that the romans had jesus killed, which i agree with, not that the priesthood had him killed.


I have given clear evidence why the Temple priests would be happy to hand Jesus over to the Romans for execution to avoid a wider reprisal. The gospels downplay the Roman responsibility for his execution as part of an attempt to distance Jesus from Jewish radicalism, but to go the other way and pretend the Jewish leaders would have play no part and had no incentive for handing him over doesn't make sense in the context of what we know.
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Re: Did Jesus exist?

#547  Postby TimONeill » Apr 02, 2010 7:41 am

Blurred wrote:

Devising a completely objective, fool-proof methodology for separating the historical gospel material from the non-historical gospel material is obviously beyond the powers of the historical-critical method, but some attempts have still been able to come pretty close. One of the better attempts at devising a set of criteria for determining the historicity of Gospel material was that of J.P. Meier. He argued that five primary criteria could be used to determine how likely it was that facts or events in the gospels had a historical core. They are:

  • Embarrassment: A fact or event that appears to cause embarrassment to the theology of the gospel authors is less likely to have been invented by them than a fact or event that bolsters their theology.
  • Discontinuity: A fact or event that does not appear to have had any basis in earlier tradition is less likely to have been invented by the gospel authors than an event that may have been predicated in an earlier tradition.
  • Multiple Attestation: A fact or event that appears to have been preserved down multiple lines of independent tradition is more likely to be true than one that is only preserved down a single line.
  • Coherence: A fact or event that appears to be consistent with our present understanding of the historical context is more likely to be true than one which appears to be at odds with it.
  • Rejection and Execution: A fact or event that looks as though it might provide an realistic explanation for the rejection or execution of Jesus is more likely to be true than the more tendentious explanations offered consciously by the gospel authors (e.g. divine providence, the Jews being in league with the devil etc.). (This criterion is less strong as it presumes historicity of the execution to begin with, but given that the execution of Jesus appears to satisfy each of the four previous criteria, it's based on a fairly solid foundation so far as second-order criteria go.)

Now there are very few facts or events in the gospels that appear to satisfy all of these criteria, which is why we can say very little with any certainty about the historical Jesus. However, a fact such as Jesus being from Nazareth - an otherwise, minor or incidental fact - appears to be one of those facts that we can state of Jesus most certainly because it does happen to satisfy each of these criteria:

  • Embarrassment: The fact that Jesus came from Nazareth was inconvenient for those who accepted the OT prophecy that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem (Mic. 5:2). Matthew and Luke had to invent convoluted (and entirely contradictory) accounts to reconcile these two "facts" and even John appears to be aware of the theological difficulties concerning Jesus' origins in Nazareth (Jn. 7:41b-42).
  • Discontinuity: There was no tradition in the OT - or any other Jewish literature - about the messiah hailing from Nazareth, or anything else of any significance concerning that town - in fact, the town of Nazareth does not appear once in any context in the OT. This discontinuity was plainly an embarrassment to Matthew who was required to invent a prophecy concerning Nazareth as a means of obscuring it (Mt. 2:23).
  • Multiple attestation: This fact is recorded down at least four independent lines: Mark (Mk. 1:9), M (Mt. 2:23), L (Lk. 2:39) and John (Jn. 1:45-46).
  • Coherence: It's consistent with our understanding of Jesus as an outsider, or a "Marginal Jew" in the words of J.P. Meier.
  • Rejection and Execution: The fact that he came from such a backwards and inconsequential part of the world may have contributed to his being rejected as a messianic figure by many. John appears to suggest as much (Jn. 7:52).


Now again, none of this is foolproof, but it surely makes the competing suggestion - that the place of Jesus' birth was "made up" somewhere along the line, for want of a better expression - extremely difficult to accept.

In any case, what these criteria really allow us to do is make comparative probabilistic judgments concerning the historicity of various events in the gospels. Where Jesus' birthplace appears to satisfy all five of Meier's criteria, an event like the Last Supper appears to satisfy two (multiple attestation and coherence, with regards to Jesus' use of bread as a spiritual metaphor throughout the gospels) and fail two (it does not represent any kind of discontinuity because it appears to have predicates in both Jewish and Gentile tradition, and it fails the embarrassment criterion because the Eucharist is something that the early Christians would have been motivated to trace back to Jesus). At the other extreme we have plenty of events, such as the raising of Lazarus, that appear to fail all five criteria: there would have been a clear motivation for early Christians to invent stories like this, there are clear predicates in earlier traditions (e.g. Elijah), the story is presented down just one tradition (i.e. John), the story is at odds with any realistic historical context and it doesn't appear to offer any coherent reason as to why Jesus came to be rejected or executed by the Jewish authorities (cf. John 11:45-54).

Now none of this is to say that Jesus was definitely born in Nazareth, that he might have presided over the first Eucharist and that he definitely didn't raise Lazarus from the dead: we are incapable of making such definitive judgments. It is true, in one sense, to say that all content in the gospels may or may not be true: the mythicist is as justified in rejecting the Nazareth accounts as the fundamentalist is in accepting the Lazarus accounts. However, I think an objective methodological approach to the gospels - such as this one set out by Meier - can only lead us to the conclusion (for whatever it is worth) that the Nazareth accounts are far more probable than the Lazarus accounts, and that the Nazareth accounts are far more likely to find their origin in some historical memory than in the imagination of some early evangelist.


Excellent post Blurred. Nice work.
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Re: Did Jesus exist?

#548  Postby Agrippina » Apr 02, 2010 7:51 am

angelo wrote:
Agrippina wrote:
verbal pocketplay wrote:
Agrippina wrote::coffee:


happy birthday. another spin around the sun!

Thank you!

I'm interested in the turn this thread is taking, so I'm marking my spot. :cheers:

Is it true? You turned 100? Well then, best wishes. I hope you can beat the odds and have another 100. :grin:

Thank you so much. :cheers:
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Re: Did Jesus exist?

#549  Postby Autumn Clouds » Apr 02, 2010 8:22 am

but even if we grant involvement by the priesthood, the degree of involvement is certainly important. its seems implausible it would have been anything other than very minimal (based on his insignificance, his otherworldly message, etc)


Sorry, but a guy turning up, proclaiming that God is coming to sweep away the "unrighteous" in an apocalypse and that he is the Messiah anointed by Yahweh to usher in this cleansing fire is not "insignificant" and his message is not "otherworldly". You don't seem to understand Jesus' apocalyptic message at all. He was not a mellow hippy preaching about how to go meekly to heaven. He was a blood and thunder preacher of an immanent end of the world where the high and mighty (that's the Sadducees) and the unrighteous before Yahweh (that's the Romans, amongst others) were going to be cleansed with fire and armies from heaven. Still think that's "insigificant"? Still can't see why they would want to nip him in the bud before Pilate did what he and other Prefects tended to do with these kinds of kooks and their followers? Still can't see why they would want to prevent a bloodbath in their streets at Passover time.


Another point that makes it more statistically viable the scenario of the Jewish temple being involved is the sociological context of the time as Tim said. Even if we asume your "anything other than very minimal" hypothesis, I belive you're extrapolating 21st centruy morality to that time. Violence ran abound, they would kill or stone people to death for much less than "minimal" opposition to the temple or their doctrines. They probably coulden't take direct action against him due to Roman occupation, but that's easily settled with a chat with the Roman governor. They had a knack of putting people into their places with rather gruesome executions. And I seariously doubt a religious execution would have happend without the Temple being aware or involved in some aspects of it.

And thanks Blurred, under that criteria we can try to reconstitute Jesus's life in the most probable way. I'm looking into known hypotheisis that would explain Jesus's had a fromal training in the lost 30 years, i'll try to post some later.
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Re: Did Jesus exist?

#550  Postby verbal pocketplay » Apr 02, 2010 9:07 am

Sorry, but I can't think of any "credible, mainstream scholars" who makes such a silly argument. We have no idea of the scale of the demonstration in the Temple.


E.P. Saunders has estimated that approximately four hundred thousand pilgrims crowded into jesusalem for passover. he says ancient sources put the number much higher. "The Historical Figure of Jesus" page 249

to quote him, "the temple area was far too large and the number of pilrims far too great for jesus to have done more than display his displeasure by a limited attack." he also claims, "pilate probably acted on his own accord, with the backing of caiaphas. [...] it is entirely probable that the trial before jewish authorities was a fiction"

according to bart ehrman, "the temple would have had the density of jfk airport at christmas...people 50 feet away from jesus never would have seen any commotion. he would not have been conspicuous" (from "who framed jesus?")

so, its unlikely that if the event even happened, and was not added as a metaphor by christians who still saw themselves as jews trying to understand the destruction of the temple and the death of jesus, it still seems unlikely his temple tantrum would have been noticed. and if it wasn't noticed, he wasn't turned into to caiaphus for this reason, as john says he was.

now lets say jesus was detained and tried by the sanhedrin. how would anyone know? jesus died the next day and so obviously didn't tell anyone where he was taken. how would the gospel writers have known what happened to jesus? we only know roman soldiers took him. it's not like the roman soldiers told his followers were they were taking him. it's not like the sanhedrin told his followers what happened to jesus. no one knows what happens to jesus between his arrest and his crucifixion, or at least not the gospel writers.

so since we can dismiss the gospel stories about caiaphis, we have no reason to assume he or the priests played any role. occam's razor tell us the least suppositions is that roman soldiers took him and killed him for disturbing the peace. no?

and to repeat a point i made eariler that was not addressed, the gospel of john has the temple tantrum happening three years earlier. so why wasn't he detained then by the priests? he was just as big a threat then?

simply turning up in Jerusalem while being hailed as the Messiah would do the trick any way.


but not if nobody noticed. and if they noticed jesus, they knew his messiahness (word?) was not like that of theudas or the nameless egyptian. it was not a kingdom of this world. jesus says he will detroy and rebuild the temple "not with his hands" (somewhere in john's gospel). he even says he will "resurrect the temple in three days", so obviously the temple is a metaphor for him and his kingdom that is not of this world

you don't seem to understand Jesus' apocalyptic message at all. He was not a mellow hippy preaching about how to go meekly to heaven. He was a blood and thunder preacher of an immanent end of the world where the high and mighty (that's the Sadducees) and the unrighteous before Yahweh (that's the Romans, amongst others) were going to be cleansed with fire and armies from heaven.


could you give us the gospel passages. i know he like to threaten the pharisees with hell. but he was talking about the blood and thunder in the next life, not the worldly life. am i misunderstanding "my kingdom is not of this world"?

Still can't see why they would want to nip him in the bud before Pilate did what he and other Prefects tended to do with these kinds of kooks and their followers? Still can't see why they would want to prevent a bloodbath in their streets at Passover time.


wow. dude. you seem as hostile as jesus in temple, here. ;) i just dont think anyone would compare jesus to theudas or the egyptian. they had different messianic messages. they made claims to being kings on earth, not in heaven. and no, i dont see why caiaphus would bother with jesus if he knew pilate would take care of it. pilate only had 3000 troops with him. there are 400,000 pilgrims. he is not about to start indiscriminately killing, risking a huge riot he couldn't control, because caiaphus is all hot and bothered over someone talking about rebuilding a metaphorical temple. and i dont think jesus' little disturbance at the temple would have been brought to his attention. in john's gospel, the temple tantrum doesn't get him in any trouble.

You don't seem to have properly grasped the implications of his message. He was an apocalypcist - not some mellow hippy.


im hear to learn. can you instead elaborate on his message as an apocalypcist? is that the same as a millenialist? i thought the idea was that jesus was saying the world is going to end withing the lifetime of his followers. but since all the poor and weak are blessed and get the kingdom of heaven, he does seem a little hippy. but from what i understand, paul is the real hippy, and jesus actually has little to say about love.

You don't seem to understand the socio-religious context here at all.


very possible. though you dont seem to understand that you might be inflating the importance of jesus in his context.

if anything the gospels down play it (the temple tantrum)


i ask again, what are you basing this on? and what plausible reason do you have to suspect some relative unknown from the outskirts who's overturning a few tables and preaching hell and fire is going to be noticed in a crowd of tens upon tens of thousands by an obviously preoccupied priesthood? and it was kristi copeland of princeton (i knew it was a female).

but not to confuse things here. we started with you asking why i would write "it seems unlikely it had anything to do with caiaphus". my answer was that the story of caiaphus seems to have been written after the destruction of the temple, so as to shift blame from the romans to the jews. we know this because (a) it is completely unprecedented protocol for them to have done so (there were never trials at night, on the sabbath, or during a festival) and (b) jesus was too insignificant to have been (i) noticed or (ii) worth worrying about

i think you made a good argument to question b(ii). however, it seems whenever a messiah pops up it is not the priests who much care but the procurator or the governor. and if it's a question of geography, why does jesus get in to it with the sadduccees long before the temple incident with nothing happening? but even if (b) is wrong, we still have (a) (hence the line about the supreme court meeting on christmas eve), and we still have differing accounts from gospel to gospel (does jesus only meet with caiaphus, does he meet with herod, does he meet with the sanhedrin, etc?).

since only pilate has the authority to put jesus to death, and since we can all agree pilate did not give a crowd of jews the chance to free jesus instead of barabas, it is likely that pilate had good reason to execute jesus, and i dont think talk of destroying a jewish temple and crazy ramblings of a seeming lunatic about sinners burning in hades would have gotten pilates attention. there were real, armed, threats of insurection, like barnabas.

and we are still left with the whitewashing, as you put it. jesus probably didn't say "render unto ceasar", and he probably didn't talk about the destruction of the temple. both were probably added later for the benefit of the early church. so if he didn't talk about the destruction of the temple, and if telling the money changers to leave the house of god wouldn't have attracted much attention during the hububaloo (sp?) of passover, there is no reason for him to meet with caiaphus anyways. and since it is doubtful a trial even took place, we have to ask why jesus was killed. and it seems much more likely the romans had him killed, without the jews having much to do with it, so to speak. at least no culpability

and on the question of the temple tantrum, it does seem less likely that this was a pure invention, a simple literary metaphor for the coming destruction of the temple that was already a fact at the time of mark's gospel. but we still have reason to doubt it happened, and more reason to doubt it mattered much even if it did happen. he needed to do more to get much attention in the temple at passover.

i have given clear evidence why the Temple priests would be happy to hand Jesus over to the Romans for execution to avoid a wider reprisal. The gospels downplay the Roman responsibility for his execution as part of an attempt to distance Jesus from Jewish radicalism, but to go the other way and pretend the Jewish leaders would have play no part and had no incentive for handing him over doesn't make sense in the context of what we know


no, i think you've made the case they had plausible incentive (though i saw no evidence to indicate they would do it to avoid reprisals). as i said at the very beginning, it just "seems unlikely". it seems more likely it was pilate or even harod, or even the pharisees. this seems much more plausible. caiaphus being the driving force still seems implausible.
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Re: Did Jesus exist?

#551  Postby verbal pocketplay » Apr 02, 2010 9:24 am

Blurred wrote:
verbal pocketplay wrote:
when i asked you what we could say about the historical biography about jesus, you agreed with me that "more or less" all we could say was his place of birth, his brother james, and the following he left behind.

so are we know saying it is a fact he caused trouble in the temple? or are we saying it is highly probable? and when you say "all the accounts agree they were involved", are these accounts only the gospel accounts? because if so, we have good reason to doubt that those gospels accounts are accurate.


When we're dealing with the historical Jesus, we're not so much dealing with facts as we are "probabilities".


wow, that is the best post i have ever read. they just keep getting smarter here. who ever saw so many biblically educated atheists? ! (i think that's a pic of camus, so im assuming...)

now, what do we get when we apply the passion story to this test of verisimilitude?
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Re: Did Jesus exist?

#552  Postby verbal pocketplay » Apr 02, 2010 10:29 am

me:
i also read that the gospel stories of caiphus are almost universally considered to be invented by new testament scholars. the quote that stands out is "caiphus meeting with jesus during passover would be like the supreme court meeting on christmas eve to discuss a parking ticket".



tim:
That's a quote from who, exactly? Rabble rousing during Passover with Pontius Pilate camped on your doorstep is hardly the equivalent of a "parking ticket", so whoever that's a quote from they don't seem to have much of a clue.


kristi copeland, standford, in "who framed jesus"

she said it because jesus' little disturbance in the temple was about as minor as a parking ticket. you dont assemble the highest body to settle a few tossed over tables, or so she thinks. and there is no way the sanhedrin would be trying jesus at night, on the sabbath, during passover.

james charlesworth of princeton says the same thing. and if there is little plausible reason to believe jesus even had a trial, what reason is there to believe the priest even knew about him? little, because even if the temple tantrum happened, it still would not have gotten the attention of the priests, since jesus would have been inconspicuous in such a dense crowd as the temple during passover. and the priests would not have tried him on the sabbath during passover anyways.

and the only fact all four gospels agree on is that jesus was sent to pilate. they disagree about the sanhedrin and caiaphas. so it seems, again, that the most plausible explanaition is that the romans killed him and the priests had little to do with it. this is backed up by jesus telling his disciples at the last supper to buy a sword in the gospel of luke. it seems like jesus was more a threat to pilate than caiaphas. and the fact that john has jesus going to the temple to turn tables three years before his death shows that in this version anyways the priests didnt take much notice of him. so again, it seems the biblical evidence does not point to the priests.

and in conclusion, that's why i first said "it is unlikely caiaphus has anything to do with it". and now to quote tim, "over to you. make it good" ;)
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Re: Did Jesus exist?

#553  Postby TimONeill » Apr 02, 2010 10:50 am

verbal pocketplay wrote:
Sorry, but I can't think of any "credible, mainstream scholars" who makes such a silly argument. We have no idea of the scale of the demonstration in the Temple.


E.P. Saunders has estimated that approximately four hundred thousand pilgrims crowded into jesusalem for passover. he says ancient sources put the number much higher. "The Historical Figure of Jesus" page 249

to quote him, "the temple area was far too large and the number of pilrims far too great for jesus to have done more than display his displeasure by a limited attack."


As I keep saying, given that the gospels almost certainly play down what Jesus did in the Temple, we can't know how "limited" it was. And to pretend that we can know it would have gone unnoticed by the Temple priesthood is fanciful. And, all that aside, the very fact he entered Jerusalem claiming to be (or being claimed to be) the Messiah was more than enough to get him nailed up.

he also claims, "pilate probably acted on his own accord, with the backing of caiaphas. [...] it is entirely probable that the trial before jewish authorities was a fiction"


I don't disagree with any of those statements.

so, its unlikely that if the event even happened, and was not added as a metaphor by christians who still saw themselves as jews trying to understand the destruction of the temple and the death of jesus, it still seems unlikely his temple tantrum would have been noticed. and if it wasn't noticed, he wasn't turned into to caiaphus for this reason, as john says he was.


John doesn't say he was handed over to the Sadducees for this reason at all. John's gospel even places the incident in the Temple at the beginning of Jesus' career. And, as I keep saying, it doesn't actually matter if the "cleansing of the Temple" never happened - coming to Jerusalem as the supposed Messiah was more than enough reason to nip him in the bud before Pilate took wider, bloodier action as he was wont to do.

now lets say jesus was detained and tried by the sanhedrin. how would anyone know? jesus died the next day and so obviously didn't tell anyone where he was taken.


Firstly, how did we get onto his trial? Did I make any claim about his trial? I happen to think the trial is either a complete fiction or at least wholly embellished. That aside, if there was a trial why wouldn't anyone know about it? It's not like they'd keep it a secret. I have no idea what point you're trying to make here.


how would the gospel writers have known what happened to jesus? we only know roman soldiers took him.


No. There is zero mention of any "Roman soldiers" at all, except a dubious reference in John. In the other three gospels it's Temple guards who arrest him.


it's not like the roman soldiers told his followers were they were taking him. it's not like the sanhedrin told his followers what happened to jesus. no one knows what happens to jesus between his arrest and his crucifixion, or at least not the gospel writers.


Again, I have no idea what point you're making here, but you seem to be forgetting that three of the gospels report Peter hanging around during the trial, being spotted and denying association with Jesus.

so since we can dismiss the gospel stories about caiaphis, we have no reason to assume he or the priests played any role. occam's razor tell us the least suppositions is that roman soldiers took him and killed him for disturbing the peace. no?


No. How did you arrive at the conclusion "we can dismiss the gospel stories about Caiaphas"? And we have plenty of reasons to to think it makes sense that the Priesthood would see him as a threat to the greater good with Pilate on their doorstep. That they were involved is perfectly plausible, which is why we find their involvement in all four gospels, in Acts and in Paul.

and to repeat a point i made eariler that was not addressed, the gospel of john has the temple tantrum happening three years earlier. so why wasn't he detained then by the priests? he was just as big a threat then?


Again, the cleansing of the Temple is not required for him to be seen as a problem. And that argument simply casts doubt on John's placement of the incident in the story, nothing more.

simply turning up in Jerusalem while being hailed as the Messiah would do the trick any way.


but not if nobody noticed.


And what evidence do you have that "nobody noticed"? These people had a vested interest in "noticing" this kind of thing and Jesus and his followers had a vested interest in getting themselves noticed.


and if they noticed jesus, they knew his messiahness (word?) was not like that of theudas or the nameless egyptian. it was not a kingdom of this world. jesus says he will detroy and rebuild the temple "not with his hands" (somewhere in john's gospel). he even says he will "resurrect the temple in three days", so obviously the temple is a metaphor for him and his kingdom that is not of this world


Firstly, you seem to be taking some of those statements designed to distance Jesus from Jewish radicalism rather naively at face value. Secondly, as I said, the Romans didn't care much about what subtle theological meanings "I am the King of the Jews" might have - they tended to take a dim view of anyone making that kind of claim regardless of what they meant by it. Thirdly, the apocalyptic message of Jesus DID have political implications that would not be lost on anyone involved, even if you don't seem to grasp them.

you don't seem to understand Jesus' apocalyptic message at all. He was not a mellow hippy preaching about how to go meekly to heaven. He was a blood and thunder preacher of an immanent end of the world where the high and mighty (that's the Sadducees) and the unrighteous before Yahweh (that's the Romans, amongst others) were going to be cleansed with fire and armies from heaven.


could you give us the gospel passages. i know he like to threaten the pharisees with hell. but he was talking about the blood and thunder in the next life, not the worldly life. am i misunderstanding "my kingdom is not of this world"?


His message had nothing to do with "the next life". It was to do with the coming apocalypse and the renewed world afterwards when the saved righteous would be ruled directly by Yahweh. As for the gospel verses, they are all through the synoptics. Try Mark 13 for a summary. That "my kingdom is not of this world" stuff is from John - the latest gospel written for non-Jewish Christians in a period when Christianity is already drifting from its apocalyptic Jewish roots and becoming much more of a Greek mystic religion. Since you seem aware of Ehrman, I suggest you read his Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium to get a better grasp of Jesus' Jewish message. It was very much about this world.

Until you understand that I don't think you're going to grasp why this stuff about how Jesus wasn't a threat and that no-one had a reason to ice him makes no sense.
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Re: Did Jesus exist?

#554  Postby verbal pocketplay » Apr 02, 2010 11:08 am

Since you seem aware of Ehrman, I suggest you read his Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium to get a better grasp of Jesus' Jewish message. It was very much about this world.


Until you understand that I don't think you're going to grasp why this stuff about how Jesus wasn't a threat and that no-one had a reason to ice him makes no sense.


i shall give it a read. thanks for the recommendation. (though i would in no way be adverse to you giving us all a quick little review of it ;) you know, save us a little time. (but, alas, not so much of the saving of you of any time)

i guess i just dont see how anyone would have really noticed jesus amidst the 400,000 people, or taken him seriously, what with his seemingly non violent ways and seemingly crazy ramblings. even if he was telling people he was the messiah and everyone was going to hell. its plausible the priests were the chief architects of his death. but it still seems the least plausible, if only because it requires more assumptions than pilate doing it (or even harod, or even, i guess, a pharisee)

now, let us conclude by agreeing that whilst we might not know the circumstances by which our man jesus got up on that cross, we sure as hell know he came back from the dead three days later. what he did during those three days, well my friends, that is a story for another day
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Re: Did Jesus exist?

#555  Postby Autumn Clouds » Apr 02, 2010 11:19 am

taken him seriously, what with his seemingly non violent ways. even if was telling people he was the messiah and everyone was going to hell


I still think, you belive too much of people psychology at that time. It's not far reached they simply killed him out of fun. Josephus accounts of a dude name Jesus, who was a monomaniac if i'm not mistaken. Who kept running about shouting "woe, woe to jersualem", and was constantly beaten and stoned without offering the slightest resistance.

If they beated badly, and probably near death this poor guy, what's from stopping them killing a acclaimed "king of Jews" who described very violent afterlives to individuals who didn't buy into his 'miracles', and constantly kept preaching the end was nigh?.
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Re: Did Jesus exist?

#556  Postby verbal pocketplay » Apr 02, 2010 11:19 am

tim: given that the gospels almost certainly play down what Jesus did in the Temple, we can't know how "limited" it was. And to pretend that we can know it would have gone unnoticed by the Temple priesthood is fanciful.


wait. actually, i would really like you to address this one point. why do you say "almost certainly"? is it not more out of character for jesus to have "acted up" in the first place, and so even more unlikely that he would have acted up even more? especially since we have reason to believe the story of the temple tantrum is apocryphal. and more importantly, the fact that jesus would have made even more of a scene at the temple would be more evidence for pilate and his fortress you mention dealing with jesus, not the priests (who knew jesus and his followers were unarmed and non violent). again, it seems the least likely that the priests had anything to do with it, when compared to the blood thirsty pilate (or harod, who we haven't discussed, but had more reason to kill jesus than caiaphas)

and it's hardly fanciful that a guy ridding a donkey isnt exactly that conspicuous in a crowd of 400,000.

I don't disagree with any of those statements (pilate probably acted on his own accord, with the backing of caiaphas. it is entirely probable that the trial before jewish authorities was a fiction)


so is caiaphas going to pilate and saying "hey, let's do something" or is pilate going to caiaphas and saying "im doing something, and you're backing me up on this" ?

or is pilate going to herod? or herod to pilate? or is pilate acting alone? of all these scenerios, caiaphas going to pilate seems the least likely. especially if there was no trial.
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Re: Did Jesus exist?

#557  Postby rJD » Apr 02, 2010 11:56 am

thedistillers wrote:The Jesus Myth theory is crazier than young earth creationism...

It's not nearly as crazy as that, irrational as it is.
It just how much atheists can be just as much irrational as members of other religions.

fixed for you.
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Re: Did Jesus exist?

#558  Postby Blurred » Apr 02, 2010 12:31 pm

verbal pocketplay wrote:
wow, that is the best post i have ever read. they just keep getting smarter here. who ever saw so many biblically educated atheists? ! (i think that's a pic of camus, so im assuming...)


Well thanks. :cheers:

And yes, like Camus I'm an atheist.

now, what do we get when we apply the passion story to this test of verisimilitude?


It depends on what aspect of the passion narrative you're talking about, I suppose. The first thing to note is that although all the passion narratives follow the same basic structure (in the canonical gospels at least - I'm not sure how the passion narratives are organised in gPeter or Q) they can differ quite wildly at times in their specific details. As a result, we probably can't take the gospels seriously when they claim to know precisely what Jesus said before the Sanhedrin or Pilate (particularly given that Jesus is depicted as saying different things in each Gospel), or how many silver coins Judas received, or how many criminals Jesus was crucified next to etc., but the fact that there are some universals amongst all the divergences probably suggests that the passion narrative conceals a kernel of historical truth.

Firstly, I'd say the most certain thing that we can say about Jesus is that he was crucified. It was an ignominious end for one declared "saviour" so it would not have likely been invented by the early Christians; it is discontinuous in the sense that there is no evidence for a Jewish belief in a dying messiah; it is attested by virtually every NT book (and by the non-canonical books as well); and it's historically coherent - surely a fitting end for a religious subversive in an already simmering environment. Then, if we accept that Jesus was crucified, some sort of trial before Pilate (or someone acting in his capacity) is almost certain to have taken place: he was the only one at the time with the authority to have given such an order. From there, if Jesus was sent before Pilate then it stands to reason that he was sent there by the Jewish authorities*: surely Jesus could not have been prominent enough to have attracted the attention of the Roman authorities directly? I'm tempted to include the betrayal of Judas here as well, given that the tradition is obviously an early and well-attested one (1 Cor. 11:23) and I can't see any connection with earlier Jewish tradition (although some elements the Matthean account are plainly derived from OT scripture - see below), nor any obvious reason as to why such a betrayal should have been made up.

However, this is probably about as far as we can go in declaring what is historically likely to have happened, the rest is murky at best. The trial before the Sanhedrin, for instance, seems plausible enough by most criteria, but may fail the historical coherence test on the basis that it would have been extremely difficult to convene the full Sanhedrin of 71 priests, political figures etc. from all around the country at the short notice the gospel accounts seem to imply (however, a smaller hearing before a less formal Jewish court is certainly plausible). In any case, the account of the proceedings there are - as I have already said - almost certainly fictional. Jesus' abandonment at the hands of his disciples again seems reasonable enough (certainly a natural human reaction when faced with persecution!) but this element of the story might fail the embarrassment test presuming it originates with Mark, who takes great pains to provide an extremely dim view of the disciples throughout his gospel.

At the other end, of course, there are things that are almost certainly not true. Matthew's details that Judas received 30 silver pieces for his crime and then hanged himself - details unique to Matthew - have been derived from Old Testament scripture (specifically Zech. 11:12-13 and II Sam. 17:23, which is the only hanging in the OT and it too takes place after the betrayal of a messianic king). The details of Jesus' torture - though less gorily depicted in the gospels than Mel Gibson would have you believe - and his willingness to suffer through them may be derived from the "suffering servant" accounts in the book of Isaiah. The accounts of Jesus' awareness of his impending death, while certainly plausible (Jesus was probably aware of the dangers involved in doing what he was doing and who he was pissing off in the process) are so positively saturated with soteriological overtones that any attempt to separate theology from objective history is doomed to failure.

So, long story short, the passion narratives are like anything else in the NT: aspects of the accounts have to be considered on their own merits and the distinction between history and invention is not always clear cut. But if you're interested in the passion narratives, Mark Goodacre just happens to have a series of podcasts about them available on his website at the moment that I can highly recommend:

http://podacre.blogspot.com/

----------------------------------------------------------

* As an aside, I don't think we can quite consider this as being as absolutely certain as the trial or crucifixion. The gospel authors were writing in a period (shortly after the fall of the Temple) of growing enmity between Christians and Jews, where the Christians were resentful about being increasingly excluded from synagogues (John seems especially butt-hurt about this - see Jn. 9:22; 12:42; 16:2 etc.) and the Jews were becoming increasingly humourless about any theologies which strayed from orthodoxy (it was shortly after this point that Talmudic Judaism - the Orthodox Judaism of today - first began to take hold to the exclusion of all others). As a consequence, we must recognise that the gospel authors are writing from a fairly adversarial position in which the eagerness to blame the Jews for the death of Jesus grows from gospel to gospel at the same rate that the eagerness to implicate Pilate diminishes. As a result, we must take accusations of Jewish involvement with a grain of salt and always be conscious of the kind of climate in which these accusations were made, but it scarcely stretches credulity to presume that the Jewish authorities must have played some part in the arrest and trial of Jesus.
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Re: Did Jesus exist?

#559  Postby Blurred » Apr 02, 2010 1:17 pm

verbal pocketplay wrote:i guess i just dont see how anyone would have really noticed jesus amidst the 400,000 people, or taken him seriously, what with his seemingly non violent ways and seemingly crazy ramblings.


Yeah, but you seem to be presuming that Jesus had a kind of temporary freak-out and decided just to tip over a couple of tables on the spur of the moment, the kind of action - agreed - that wasn't likely to have echoed down the ages. If we presume that the action was a deliberate and premeditated political statement, though, that involved a quite violent remonstration against individuals officially connected to the Temple, then that's the sort of thing that's probably going to be remembered.

As for the 400,000 figure, presuming it's accurate (and I have my doubts considering other studies I've read put the total population of Jerusalem in those days at around 25,000), I'm not really sure if that's going to have any impact on whether or not someone would get noticed for upsetting the harmony in the most important building in the nation. I mean, I'm pretty sure there are more than 400,000 people in Washington DC, but I still think I'd turn a few heads if I wandered into the White House and started tipping everything over.

verbal pocketplay wrote:
tim: given that the gospels almost certainly play down what Jesus did in the Temple, we can't know how "limited" it was. And to pretend that we can know it would have gone unnoticed by the Temple priesthood is fanciful.


wait. actually, i would really like you to address this one point. why do you say "almost certainly"?


Not to speak for Tim, but the act certainly does seem to be softened from gospel to gospel. The Markan account is:

Mark 11:15-19

And [Jesus] entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling and those who were buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold doves; and he would not allow anyone to carry anything through the temple. He was teaching and saying, ‘Is it not written,

“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all the nations”?
But you have made it a den of robbers.’

And when the chief priests and the scribes heard it, they kept looking for a way to kill him; for they were afraid of him, because the whole crowd was spellbound by his teaching. And when evening came, Jesus and his disciples went out of the city.


The Matthean account is:

Matthew 21:12-17

Then Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who were selling and buying in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold doves. He said to them, ‘It is written,

“My house shall be called a house of prayer”;
but you are making it a den of robbers.’

The blind and the lame came to him in the temple, and he cured them. But when the chief priests and the scribes saw the amazing things that he did, and heard the children crying out in the temple, ‘Hosanna to the Son of David’, they became angry and said to him, ‘Do you hear what these are saying?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Yes; have you never read,

“Out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise for yourself”?’

He left them, went out of the city to Bethany, and spent the night there.


Note that the line about "not allow[ing] anyone to carry anything through the temple" has been excised by Matthew (because it makes Jesus seem more indiscriminately forceful: he's taking his anger out on everyone rather than merely the market-people) and the account has been softened by the "healings" afterwards. The Jewish authorities are now not angry at him because he - effectively - desecrated the temple (which seems pretty justified to me!), they're angry at him because the people love him so much.

Luke then sanitises the account even more blatantly, compressing it into four verses and omitting basically all details:

Luke 19:45-48:

Then he entered the temple and began to drive out those who were selling things there; and he said, ‘It is written,

“My house shall be a house of prayer”;
but you have made it a den of robbers.’

Every day he was teaching in the temple. The chief priests, the scribes, and the leaders of the people kept looking for a way to kill him; but they did not find anything they could do, for all the people were spellbound by what they heard.


John, in this case, appears to be preserving an older tradition (as with basically all the other material gJohn shares in common with the synoptic gospels, it appears to have been derived from a basically Markan tradition) but he places the story right at the beginning of his gospel (Jn. 2:13-22), removing the implication that this episode might have (almost justifiably, one might be moved to say) led to Jesus' eventual execution.

(By the way verbal, I'm not making a deliberate policy of replying to only your posts. I'm picking out posts I think I might be able to comment intelligently on, and they just all happen to have been made by you. :shifty: )
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Re: Did Jesus exist?

#560  Postby Autumn Clouds » Apr 02, 2010 1:18 pm

Wow amazing insights you guys have. I take for highly probable the idea of crucifiction, the problem with me is the behaviour of Jesus while on the cross. I mean what's with the Psalm quoting, and why so different in Matthew and Luke?. Woulden't the most honest moment of a man would be while being under incredible pain and bordering death?. If he was so self assured in his delusion, why all the last minute doubts?.
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