Historical Jesus

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

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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24361  Postby Blood » May 05, 2012 5:28 am

willhud9 wrote:
Tell me Corky, can you tell me the events surrounding the formation of Hannukah? Can you tell me the life that history knows of Judas Maccabeus? The events of the revolts of the Maccabees is well accepted by historians. Yet, the man history says started the revolt is only known in 2 sources. First Maccabees and Josephus. Just 2 bleeding sources for one man. Yet history does not challenge his existence. Why? Because there is no need to challenge his existence.


Once again, attestation is meaningless in assessing historicity. It is the nature of the sources that matter. Our sources for Judas Maccabeus don't describe him as the supernatural, pre-existent Son of God, the offspring of a ghost and a virgin, sent on a secret mission to be killed by the Jews so that the Gentiles could inherit the Jewish religion. If our sources said that about Judas Maccabeus, history would challenge his existence.

willhud9 wrote:
He doesn't matter in history. But you get this Jesus fellow. He is mentioned in several Roman documents (but they can be forgeries), he is mentioned in Jospehus' works (but they can be forgeries or mistranslated), he is mentioned in Paul's epistles (but he can be talking about a spirit or even better he could not exist and could be a 2nd century fabrication). This is at the core, what the MJ argument comes down to. But if we held the same level of scrutiny to other figures of antiquity we would find we can wipe out history books.


Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence, and thus must be held to extraordinary standards. We don't need to hold other figures to the same level of scrutiny because nobody is claiming they were the actual son of God.

willhud9 wrote:
Many of histories lesser figures, the people historians did not care about are mentioned in passages long obscure. Does this mean these people did not exist? Jesus was during the 1st century a back water preacher. Why should historians focus greatly on his life?


Because, according to Bart Ehrman for example, he was the most important figure in Western civilization.

willhud9 wrote:
Jesus, again, was a nobody. But yet we do have mentions of him, and Christ, we have mentions of Christians. We have Paul's letters which mention Jesus Christ. There is historical evidence that a Jesus existed. But to dismiss that evidence without proper historical scrutiny is superfluous. As I said, you can, inevitable do that to entire history books.


Paul's letters are evidence of letters written by somebody in the church. That's all they are. It is arguable whether they support a historical figure or a religious godman concept.

It turns out that historically speaking, there isn't much difference between a "nobody" and a religious concept that didn't actually exist. If Jesus existed, he died anonymously and the world didn't come to and end. He wasn't the Son of God and didn't come back from the dead. If Jesus did not exist, it was possible for him to do all of these things and more.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24362  Postby angelo » May 05, 2012 8:11 am

Corky wrote:
proudfootz wrote:
Corky wrote:
proudfootz wrote:Naturally the various HJ hypotheses are not only in competition with each other and the various MJ hypotheses, they are also in competition with the null hypothesis.

AFAICT no MJ or HJ theory has been able to make an unquestionable case because of the nature of the evidence.

See, the trick is you have to understand the bible and HJers understand it better than the other 38,000 sects of Xianity.


While the HJ community is not necessarily a christian cult, it is an interesting parallel that the early christians believed they understood jewish scripture better than the jews. The 'good news' about Jesus was hidden from the jews in scripture and finally revealed to people like Paul.

There isn't a thing that Jesus said or did that didn't come from pre-existing scripture and, for some strange reason, that's the only place Jesus does actually exist. Everything else is simply presumption based on hearsay. Christians didn't even know when Jesus supposedly lived until the destruction of the temple. Then it was easy (using scripture) to figure it out. It all happened in that one scriptural 40 year generation.

Paul also never says that his Jesus was just recently on earth. He says stuff all about him. What he was like, what he ate, was he married, nothing. Paul's Jesus was a heavenly being.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24363  Postby archibald » May 05, 2012 9:00 am

willhud9 wrote:
But if we held the same level of scrutiny to other figures of antiquity we would find we can wipe out history books. Many of histories lesser figures, the people historians did not care about are mentioned in passages long obscure. Does this mean these people did not exist? Jesus was during the 1st century a back water preacher.....

....There is historical evidence that a Jesus existed. But to dismiss that evidence without proper historical scrutiny is superfluous. As I said, you can, inevitable do that to entire history books.



This argument (that it is obtuse or inconsistent to question Jesus' historicity) is certainly interesting, and IMO, you put it better than anyone here. One could easily take what you say and give Jesus the benefit of the doubt, and indeed I think that could not be described as unreasonable. The only question I care about is whether there is enough lattitude to allow doubt about his historicity to also be reasonable, and personally I think the answer is that there is.

IMO, Judas the Maccabbean is somewhere between Boudicca and Jesus. Like Boudicca, there is evidence of a group (in this case the Hasmonean dynasty) and to a lesser extent of a particular revolt. Believing that there was a leader is no big stretch, and Judas is as good a name for a leader as any other, and since he didn't do anything which a leader might not have done, it seems fairly ok to take a working assumption that he can be mentioned in a history book.

The problem with religious cults is that it seems they followed people who were both alive and not alive, and others who were probably never alive, so a religious cult is not like an army.

One of the problems for Jesus is that he has a very high percentage of supernatural/mythical/fictional components, to the extent that it is arguably as reasonable to compare him to a non-existing figure as an existing one (and of course any mythical human will have human components). IOW, as Stephen Law argued, the probability of his historicity is arguably tainted by the sheer ammount of non-historicity. We cannot say this about Judas the Maccabbean, or Boudicca. Nor is it the case that the earliest mention of Boudicca or judas describes either as a god/goddess, and this, it seems to me, is a very significant difference.

One might ask when does a figure 'cross the line' into 'too much made up stuff'? For example, if Jesus had been described as hardly ever having walked anywhere, mostly hovering or floating just above the ground, that would seem to cross the line.

I think Stephen Law had some very decent analogies in this regard.

http://stephenlaw.blogspot.co.uk/search ... 20evidence

Incidentally, the Maccabbeans are potentially interesting for another reason. As I understand it, the same King Herod as features in the gospels is reported (by Roman historian Cassius Dio) to have crucified their actual 'king of the Jews' in 37BC. Even if there is nothing much in that as regards a potential template for a later story, it is at least a coincidence.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24364  Postby Mus Ponticus » May 05, 2012 9:21 am

willhud9 wrote:Except in what Scripture is Jesus NOT human? Paul never argues that he is not human, nor does Paul argue that he is God. Jesus is Jesus. The other sources that are non-Christian do not paint Jesus as a God, or non-human. He is Jesus. To claim otherwise, is a silly apologetic attempt at interpreting Paul's epistles. You accuse HJ's of apologetics, I can accuse MJers of doing the same thing.
Minor nitpick: Scripture? I might be mis-understanding the english use of that term, but isn't that a Christian term that we skeptics shouldn't use?

But in the New testament you can look at writings like the gospel of John and Colossians, where Jesus is clearly presented as a pre-existing divine being.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24365  Postby proudfootz » May 05, 2012 1:13 pm

This author seems to suggest that perhaps bible scholarship is ready to undergo a sea-change as the methods of the last century have exhausted their utility:

In a forthcoming volume, soon to be published in the Copenhagen International Seminar Series,
a group of scholars contribute essays on the current crisis in the scholarship that is dedicated to
the historical figure of Jesus. Many of the contributors — most of them approaching the subject
from a European mindset — seem to feel that historical Jesus scholarship has reached an impasse;
while new studies continue to be published in the field, scholars are growing tired of the
rehashing of old ideas which are reproduced in these studies anew. With the increasing number
of scholars dedicating themselves to the theory of reception in Biblical Studies, and with the
accessibility of literary criticism steadily becoming a major contender in the field of New
Testament, older scholarship in the form of historical criticism — once ingrained in consensus — is
being challenged in favor of a more literary approach, and the new approach is gaining ground.
One of the problems associated with historical Jesus studies which has not really been addressed,
in its current form, might be found in the inability to accept the probability that the figure of
Jesus might not have existed historically
. While it is clear that scholars accept the possibility,
most conclude that the hypothesis for nonexistence is so meagerly supported that it can simply
be ignored. While this position has been challenged in recent years, it remains, for reasons
which shall be addressed below, a sturdy part of the field of New Testament. This paper,
however, takes a position contrary to this and argues that not only is the position of ahistoricity
possible, but plausible enough that it deserves more attention and more respect than it is
currently given
. This contribution argues, hopefully persuasively, that by dismissing the
position of ahistoricity, or by not taking into account its possibility, contributes directly to the
problems associated with historical Jesus studies.


<full paper can be read at the link below>

http://www.bibleinterp.com/PDFs/Response.pdf


Maybe the defensiveness among established scholars is in part the natural reaction of those whose era is coming to a close...
"Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't." - Mark Twain
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24366  Postby willhud9 » May 05, 2012 3:38 pm

Mus Ponticus wrote:
willhud9 wrote:Except in what Scripture is Jesus NOT human? Paul never argues that he is not human, nor does Paul argue that he is God. Jesus is Jesus. The other sources that are non-Christian do not paint Jesus as a God, or non-human. He is Jesus. To claim otherwise, is a silly apologetic attempt at interpreting Paul's epistles. You accuse HJ's of apologetics, I can accuse MJers of doing the same thing.
Minor nitpick: Scripture? I might be mis-understanding the english use of that term, but isn't that a Christian term that we skeptics shouldn't use?

But in the New testament you can look at writings like the gospel of John and Colossians, where Jesus is clearly presented as a pre-existing divine being.


Old habits die hard and even as an atheist, I still use the word Scripture when referring to the Bible.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24367  Postby Ian Tattum » May 05, 2012 3:42 pm

proudfootz wrote:This author seems to suggest that perhaps bible scholarship is ready to undergo a sea-change as the methods of the last century have exhausted their utility:

In a forthcoming volume, soon to be published in the Copenhagen International Seminar Series,
a group of scholars contribute essays on the current crisis in the scholarship that is dedicated to
the historical figure of Jesus. Many of the contributors — most of them approaching the subject
from a European mindset — seem to feel that historical Jesus scholarship has reached an impasse;
while new studies continue to be published in the field, scholars are growing tired of the
rehashing of old ideas which are reproduced in these studies anew. With the increasing number
of scholars dedicating themselves to the theory of reception in Biblical Studies, and with the
accessibility of literary criticism steadily becoming a major contender in the field of New
Testament, older scholarship in the form of historical criticism — once ingrained in consensus — is
being challenged in favor of a more literary approach, and the new approach is gaining ground.
One of the problems associated with historical Jesus studies which has not really been addressed,
in its current form, might be found in the inability to accept the probability that the figure of
Jesus might not have existed historically
. While it is clear that scholars accept the possibility,
most conclude that the hypothesis for nonexistence is so meagerly supported that it can simply
be ignored. While this position has been challenged in recent years, it remains, for reasons
which shall be addressed below, a sturdy part of the field of New Testament. This paper,
however, takes a position contrary to this and argues that not only is the position of ahistoricity
possible, but plausible enough that it deserves more attention and more respect than it is
currently given
. This contribution argues, hopefully persuasively, that by dismissing the
position of ahistoricity, or by not taking into account its possibility, contributes directly to the
problems associated with historical Jesus studies.


<full paper can be read at the link below>

http://www.bibleinterp.com/PDFs/Response.pdf


Maybe the defensiveness among established scholars is in part the natural reaction of those whose era is coming to a close...

Or it could be a type of recycling? Just as an earlier generation of scholars shrugged-' nothing historical is certain so let's consider the meaning of the myth' a new generation might decide that literary criticism is more interesting than the more boring task of trawling through texts. It is as much about frustration as futlility, possibly, but is also much less demanding, as literary criticism has a history of embracing the latest fashion and lumping it on to texts without much respect for the material being so treated.
But it could be interesting; I don't agree that the historicity of Jesus is the only matter worth investigating, because how the texts evolved and were used could be a fruitful subject to explore whether or not the existence of a literal( non literal :) )Jesus is considered to be fact of history.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24368  Postby Ian Tattum » May 05, 2012 3:45 pm

willhud9 wrote:
Mus Ponticus wrote:
willhud9 wrote:Except in what Scripture is Jesus NOT human? Paul never argues that he is not human, nor does Paul argue that he is God. Jesus is Jesus. The other sources that are non-Christian do not paint Jesus as a God, or non-human. He is Jesus. To claim otherwise, is a silly apologetic attempt at interpreting Paul's epistles. You accuse HJ's of apologetics, I can accuse MJers of doing the same thing.
Minor nitpick: Scripture? I might be mis-understanding the english use of that term, but isn't that a Christian term that we skeptics shouldn't use?

But in the New testament you can look at writings like the gospel of John and Colossians, where Jesus is clearly presented as a pre-existing divine being.


Old habits die hard and even as an atheist, I still use the word Scripture when referring to the Bible.

And the title Bible could be seen as a Christian, as it gives a particualr set of books a special status, and never ever write Gospel- Chris Hitchens thought it was very bad news indeed. ;)
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24369  Postby Corky » May 05, 2012 4:21 pm

willhud9 wrote:Except in what Scripture is Jesus NOT human? Paul never argues that he is not human, nor does Paul argue that he is God. Jesus is Jesus. The other sources that are non-Christian do not paint Jesus as a God, or non-human. He is Jesus. To claim otherwise, is a silly apologetic attempt at interpreting Paul's epistles. You accuse HJ's of apologetics, I can accuse MJers of doing the same thing.

Yep, 'cause they are "interpreting" - but, judging from the numbers of denominations and sects of Christendom, the epistles can be interpreted a whole bunch of different ways. The "correct" interpretation depends upon what you presuppose from what you have been taught.

The suffering servant of Isaiah 53 is human too - except he's not - unless you believe he is a prophecy of Jesus. The suffering servant is actually the personification of the faithful followers of Yahweh and not a human person.

"In what scripture is Jesus NOT human"? In all of them - he only sounds human. He is a miraculous human who performs miraculous deeds and who is omniscient. He knows of his own death and resurrection before it happens and institutes a communion of bread and wine representing the body and blood of himself. He knows beforehand that he is the representative of the sacrificial lamb led to the slaughter and that his death takes away the sin of the world etc. That's not a human. The scriptural Jesus is the only Jesus there is - Josephus and Tacitus are merely repeating hearsay of what the followers of the scriptural Jesus in the late first century believed.

Josephus and Tacitus don't add or report a thing about Jesus that is not already found in the gospels. Celsus reports that Jesus was the son of a Roman soldier named Pantera but Jesus ben Pantera lived during the time of Jannaeus and was stoned to death and hanged on a tree the day before the Passover in 88 BCE. That's the Jewish report but you know how those Jews lie...
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24370  Postby proudfootz » May 05, 2012 5:55 pm

Ian Tattum wrote:
proudfootz wrote:This author seems to suggest that perhaps bible scholarship is ready to undergo a sea-change as the methods of the last century have exhausted their utility:



Maybe the defensiveness among established scholars is in part the natural reaction of those whose era is coming to a close...


Or it could be a type of recycling? Just as an earlier generation of scholars shrugged-' nothing historical is certain so let's consider the meaning of the myth' a new generation might decide that literary criticism is more interesting than the more boring task of trawling through texts. It is as much about frustration as futlility, possibly, but is also much less demanding, as literary criticism has a history of embracing the latest fashion and lumping it on to texts without much respect for the material being so treated.


I don't doubt there's a kind of 'eternal recurrence' in all kinds of human enterprises: the hard-won revolutionary consensus of one generation is overturned by the next which must have its own revolution.

But it could be interesting; I don't agree that the historicity of Jesus is the only matter worth investigating, because how the texts evolved and were used could be a fruitful subject to explore whether or not the existence of a literal ( non literal :) ) Jesus is considered to be fact of history.


Even for those who subscribe to any of the various HJ hypotheses it seems pretty much agreed that very little can be known about the man or his teachings (at least this is the impression I get from the fact that there are contending schools of thought as to whether Jesus taught this or that, or was a rebel or a pacifist, etc etc etc).

What has an impact on the present day is how the 'magic Jesus' evolved and mutated and was interpreted.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24371  Postby proudfootz » May 05, 2012 6:04 pm

Ian Tattum wrote:
willhud9 wrote:
Mus Ponticus wrote:
willhud9 wrote:Except in what Scripture is Jesus NOT human? Paul never argues that he is not human, nor does Paul argue that he is God. Jesus is Jesus. The other sources that are non-Christian do not paint Jesus as a God, or non-human. He is Jesus. To claim otherwise, is a silly apologetic attempt at interpreting Paul's epistles. You accuse HJ's of apologetics, I can accuse MJers of doing the same thing.


Minor nitpick: Scripture? I might be mis-understanding the english use of that term, but isn't that a Christian term that we skeptics shouldn't use?

But in the New testament you can look at writings like the gospel of John and Colossians, where Jesus is clearly presented as a pre-existing divine being.


Old habits die hard and even as an atheist, I still use the word Scripture when referring to the Bible.

And the title Bible could be seen as a Christian, as it gives a particualr set of books a special status, and never ever write Gospel- Chris Hitchens thought it was very bad news indeed. ;)


I continue to use bible, scripture, and gospel because they are useful words - no neologisms I am aware of seem to quite convey the specificity in so compact a package.

I sometimes say 'gMark' to mean 'gospel of Mark' to refer to a particular document, and I hope no one is mislead into thinking I think it is somehow 'good news actually handed down to us from Mark companion to Peter the disciple of Jesus'.

Communication would become impossible if we had to attach caveats to everything we refer to.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24372  Postby dogsgod » May 06, 2012 4:57 am

proudfootz wrote:This author seems to suggest that perhaps bible scholarship is ready to undergo a sea-change as the methods of the last century have exhausted their utility:

In a forthcoming volume, soon to be published in the Copenhagen International Seminar Series,
a group of scholars contribute essays on the current crisis in the scholarship that is dedicated to
the historical figure of Jesus. Many of the contributors — most of them approaching the subject
from a European mindset — seem to feel that historical Jesus scholarship has reached an impasse;
while new studies continue to be published in the field, scholars are growing tired of the
rehashing of old ideas which are reproduced in these studies anew. With the increasing number
of scholars dedicating themselves to the theory of reception in Biblical Studies, and with the
accessibility of literary criticism steadily becoming a major contender in the field of New
Testament, older scholarship in the form of historical criticism — once ingrained in consensus — is
being challenged in favor of a more literary approach, and the new approach is gaining ground.
One of the problems associated with historical Jesus studies which has not really been addressed,
in its current form, might be found in the inability to accept the probability that the figure of
Jesus might not have existed historically
. While it is clear that scholars accept the possibility,
most conclude that the hypothesis for nonexistence is so meagerly supported that it can simply
be ignored. While this position has been challenged in recent years, it remains, for reasons
which shall be addressed below, a sturdy part of the field of New Testament. This paper,
however, takes a position contrary to this and argues that not only is the position of ahistoricity
possible, but plausible enough that it deserves more attention and more respect than it is
currently given
. This contribution argues, hopefully persuasively, that by dismissing the
position of ahistoricity, or by not taking into account its possibility, contributes directly to the
problems associated with historical Jesus studies.


<full paper can be read at the link below>

http://www.bibleinterp.com/PDFs/Response.pdf


Maybe the defensiveness among established scholars is in part the natural reaction of those whose era is coming to a close...


Thanks for the link, a good take on the possible historical and fictional considerations in these changing times.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24373  Postby angelo » May 06, 2012 10:11 am

Corky wrote:
willhud9 wrote:Except in what Scripture is Jesus NOT human? Paul never argues that he is not human, nor does Paul argue that he is God. Jesus is Jesus. The other sources that are non-Christian do not paint Jesus as a God, or non-human. He is Jesus. To claim otherwise, is a silly apologetic attempt at interpreting Paul's epistles. You accuse HJ's of apologetics, I can accuse MJers of doing the same thing.

Yep, 'cause they are "interpreting" - but, judging from the numbers of denominations and sects of Christendom, the epistles can be interpreted a whole bunch of different ways. The "correct" interpretation depends upon what you presuppose from what you have been taught.

The suffering servant of Isaiah 53 is human too - except he's not - unless you believe he is a prophecy of Jesus. The suffering servant is actually the personification of the faithful followers of Yahweh and not a human person.

"In what scripture is Jesus NOT human"? In all of them - he only sounds human. He is a miraculous human who performs miraculous deeds and who is omniscient. He knows of his own death and resurrection before it happens and institutes a communion of bread and wine representing the body and blood of himself. He knows beforehand that he is the representative of the sacrificial lamb led to the slaughter and that his death takes away the sin of the world etc. That's not a human. The scriptural Jesus is the only Jesus there is - Josephus and Tacitus are merely repeating hearsay of what the followers of the scriptural Jesus in the late first century believed.

Josephus and Tacitus don't add or report a thing about Jesus that is not already found in the gospels. Celsus reports that Jesus was the son of a Roman soldier named Pantera but Jesus ben Pantera lived during the time of Jannaeus and was stoned to death and hanged on a tree the day before the Passover in 88 BCE. That's the Jewish report but you know how those Jews lie...

If one is honest with himself he would see that the evidence for a MJ are myriad but evidence for a HJ are the gospels and nothing else.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24374  Postby dogsgod » May 06, 2012 3:30 pm

angelo wrote:
Corky wrote:
willhud9 wrote:Except in what Scripture is Jesus NOT human? Paul never argues that he is not human, nor does Paul argue that he is God. Jesus is Jesus. The other sources that are non-Christian do not paint Jesus as a God, or non-human. He is Jesus. To claim otherwise, is a silly apologetic attempt at interpreting Paul's epistles. You accuse HJ's of apologetics, I can accuse MJers of doing the same thing.

Yep, 'cause they are "interpreting" - but, judging from the numbers of denominations and sects of Christendom, the epistles can be interpreted a whole bunch of different ways. The "correct" interpretation depends upon what you presuppose from what you have been taught.

The suffering servant of Isaiah 53 is human too - except he's not - unless you believe he is a prophecy of Jesus. The suffering servant is actually the personification of the faithful followers of Yahweh and not a human person.

"In what scripture is Jesus NOT human"? In all of them - he only sounds human. He is a miraculous human who performs miraculous deeds and who is omniscient. He knows of his own death and resurrection before it happens and institutes a communion of bread and wine representing the body and blood of himself. He knows beforehand that he is the representative of the sacrificial lamb led to the slaughter and that his death takes away the sin of the world etc. That's not a human. The scriptural Jesus is the only Jesus there is - Josephus and Tacitus are merely repeating hearsay of what the followers of the scriptural Jesus in the late first century believed.

Josephus and Tacitus don't add or report a thing about Jesus that is not already found in the gospels. Celsus reports that Jesus was the son of a Roman soldier named Pantera but Jesus ben Pantera lived during the time of Jannaeus and was stoned to death and hanged on a tree the day before the Passover in 88 BCE. That's the Jewish report but you know how those Jews lie...

If one is honest with himself he would see that the evidence for a MJ are myriad but evidence for a HJ are the gospels and nothing else.


The possibility that Jesus is mythical should not be ruled out by the likes of Ehrman and his followers, but they do rule it out. It's no surprise though, after all, we are discussing a religious figure from The Bible, and we know how passionate and superstitious people can be when it comes to The Bible, as if there is a rule that it must contain some truth about history and its characters that play a role in the stories.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24375  Postby proudfootz » May 06, 2012 4:05 pm

Doherty continues his analysis of Ehrman's Did Jesus Exist:

COVERED IN THIS POST:

Form Criticism and Oral Traditions About Jesus
    The Fallacy of Form Criticism
    The Written Evidence of Common Patterns Versus the Oral Hypothesis
    Literary Construction out of Scripture, not Oral Traditions
    Traditions in Thomas and Q — not independent
    The Path to Jesus is Paved with Good Assumptions
    How Ehrman Dates the Sources to the Day After Jesus
    From Contradiction and Confusion to Total Chaos
The Aramaic Origins of (Some) Oral Traditions
    Aramaic originals?
    An Aramaic Son of Man?


Some highlights:

As Ehrman puts it, form criticism has asked: How did the various kinds of stories assume their various forms?

The stories about Jesus came to be shaped in the process of telling and retelling, as they assumed their characteristic forms. This means that the stories were changed, sometimes radically, when they were retold, and thus formed over the years. (p. 84)


Something doesn’t compute here. Ehrman has just told us that all the healing miracle stories, for example, are found in the Gospels in a more or less identical form. But oral transmission over a wide area, within an uncoordinated movement, is not likely to produce conformity. Quite the opposite...

In fact, Ehrman has just said that the process is one of “telling and retelling,” in which the stories “were changed, sometimes radically, when they were retold.” And yet he wants us to subscribe to a contradictory end result: that these traditions were “shaped” and “formed over the years” into a product that followed only one consistent form. If there was no established centralized record or requirement of how miracle stories passed on by many mouths in many places through oral tradition were to be formulated, arriving at such a consistency would be utterly unlikely. We would arrive at diversity, not conformity. The unexpected conformity has at some stage been imposed.

That stage, logically, is a literary one. And it is most likely at the composing of the Gospels—in most cases that of the first one, Mark. But if that is the case, the entire methodology of form criticism is undercut, because it becomes very difficult to penetrate back beyond the Gospel stage to perceive the nature or form of the antecedent...


...another process of “construction” is revealed at virtually every level throughout the work of the evangelists. Their dependence on scriptural precedents for so much of their text is by now well known, although Ehrman virtually ignores the whole question. (Probably too sophisticated—and confusing—for his readership.)

The elements of a miracle story like the loaves and fishes, for example, are very unlikely to proceed from oral tradition, since we can see its fabrication out of miracle stories from the Hebrew bible, in this case similar miracles by Elijah and Elisha. If Mark had some version come to him through oral tradition about a reputed miracle performed by Jesus, why did he make no use of it?


Regarding “stories being told about Jesus,” Ehrman says:

If scholars are right that Q and the core of the Gospel of Thomas, to pick just two examples, do date from the 50s, and that they were based on oral traditions that had already been in circulation for a long time, how far back do these traditions go? (p. 85)


But Ehrman surely knows that his designation of Q and the Thomas core (wisdom-type sayings similar to those of Q1) as two independent collections of Jesus’ sayings is misleading, if not outright false. Helmut Koester and others have concluded that

. . . the Gospel of Thomas is either dependent upon the earliest version of Q or, more likely, shares with the author of Q one or several very early collections of Jesus’ sayings. (Ancient Christian Gospels, p.95)


In other words, there is a literary dependence between the two; they are not independent, no more than Matthew or Luke are independent of Mark for their Jesus story, no more than the Q portions of Matthew and Luke are independent collections, since they are the same body of material used by two different writers.


Ehrman, of course, as do most scholars, simply assumes that whatever collection of sayings may have preceded Thomas and Q, it represents a record of the teachings of Jesus, just as they automatically do for Q1 itself. But that is yet to be established; to assume it is to beg the question.

The wisdom root of Q, and thus of Thomas, could simply be the adopted ethics of the kingdom-preaching sect (some of it looks to derive from Cynic philosophy), long before any founder Jesus was envisioned as the speaker. (And a close study of Q, as I present in Jesus: Neither God Nor Man, indicates that this is in fact the case.)


Ehrman offers a truly bizarre argument to bolster this tracking down of Jesus traditions to the period immediately after his life:

For one thing, as we will see in the next chapter, how else would someone like Paul have known to persecute the Christians, if Christians didn’t exist? And how could they exist if they didn’t know anything about Jesus? (p. 85)


One begged question is followed by another begged question. All of the sources Ehrman finds behind the Gospels, such as Q and Thomas, special “M” and “L,” John’s Signs Source and Discourses, are declared by fiat to automatically reflect an historical Jesus’ words and deeds.

In support of this, he appeals to Paul’s persecution of Christians, as though this persecution has to have been directed at followers of the Gospel Jesus, when there no sign that any such figure or group is on Paul’s radar.

For Ehrman, there can be only one application of the term “Christians.”

...Before even arguing the point, Ehrman claims the orthodox view and makes Paul witness not simply to an historical Jesus but to early traditions about him, traditions, by the way, which he never shows any knowledge of or interest in. On the sayings of Q and Thomas, on special “M” and “L,” on John’s Signs and Discourses, the epistles are totally silent.


Ehrman says, we have “ample reason” to conclude that stories about an historical Jesus were circulating “from a very early time.” On what basis? Why, all those “sources (that) are independent of one another.”

From Contradiction and Confusion to Total Chaos

In the same breath as claiming that “They contain strikingly different accounts of what Jesus said and did,” those sources, Ehrman says, “agree on too many of the fundamentals.”

Which is it?

John is certainly strikingly different in his teachings of Jesus from the Synoptics, so different that both pictures are virtually incompatible, making at least one of them outright invention.

The Synoptics agree on many of the fundamentals because Matthew and Luke (and John in his Passion) are basically copying from Mark. And where they are not dependent on Mark, Matthew and Luke are not corroborative because their “special” material is different, and their Q material comes from a single document and so they are not “independent.”

Amid all this confusion, Ehrman throws his argument into total chaos by declaring that all the fundamentals everyone agrees on “are based on oral traditions,” sweeping aside the clear literary dependencies inherent in the Gospels and in Matthew and Luke’s use of Q.


Decades after the abandonment of a thread in scholarly opinion that the Gospels may have been originally written in Aramaic, Bart Ehrman revives it in part by suggesting that some of his “oral traditions” lying behind the Gospels circulated in the days immediately following Jesus in the language of Aramaic. This theory is based on a paltry handful of Aramaic words that appear in the Gospels, supposedly indicating that these words are a survival of originally whole Aramaic oral traditions about Jesus...

But it could equally well be explained as the usage by Mark of a common type of phrase used in faith healing in the Greco-Aramaic culture of the day, including in Q-type practice which Mark would have been a party to, something that might have been more familiar in Aramaic than in anything else.

Bilingual people in our own day tend to intermix phrases from one language into the other, especially if they have a well-used meaning in the other language. If I as a writer (or even speaker) in English use the phrase “raison d’être”, I don’t need to have the reader postulate that I am reflecting a prior source in French, it’s just part of the parlance which English speakers and writers in a bilingual culture often use. (It’s actually handier in the French.) And Mark provides a Greek translation for those of his readers who are not bilingual, maybe gentiles within the movement...

<full article at link below>

http://vridar.wordpress.com/2012/05/07/ ... e-gospels/
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24376  Postby Corky » May 06, 2012 5:30 pm

dogsgod wrote:
The possibility that Jesus is mythical should not be ruled out by the likes of Ehrman and his followers, but they do rule it out. It's no surprise though, after all, we are discussing a religious figure from The Bible, and we know how passionate and superstitious people can be when it comes to The Bible, as if there is a rule that it must contain some truth about history and its characters that play a role in the stories.

Trying to explain how a mythical Jesus could arise while not being able to read the minds of the con-men preachers who invented him is the reason Jesus is historical - it's easier to explain that way.

Then there is the assumption that there are true facts to be found in the Bible, when there isn't. The only truth about it is that over a period of several centuries a bunch of religious con-men made that shit up out of thin air. There was no Genesis flood, there was no tower of Babel, no Exodus from Egypt, no conquest of Canaan and last but not least, there was no "revelations" of a Jewish god-man and the ones who claimed to have witnessed a resurrection were liars.

Knowing that these people were lying about seeing a resurrection - why would anyone in their right mind believe any damn thing else they said? But Ehrman does - Ehrman thinks Paul is an honest man.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24377  Postby archibald » May 06, 2012 7:40 pm

proudfootz wrote:This author seems to suggest that perhaps bible scholarship is ready to undergo a sea-change as the methods of the last century have exhausted their utility:

In a forthcoming volume, soon to be published in the Copenhagen International Seminar Series,
a group of scholars contribute essays on the current crisis in the scholarship that is dedicated to
the historical figure of Jesus. Many of the contributors — most of them approaching the subject
from a European mindset — seem to feel that historical Jesus scholarship has reached an impasse;
while new studies continue to be published in the field, scholars are growing tired of the
rehashing of old ideas which are reproduced in these studies anew. With the increasing number
of scholars dedicating themselves to the theory of reception in Biblical Studies, and with the
accessibility of literary criticism steadily becoming a major contender in the field of New
Testament, older scholarship in the form of historical criticism — once ingrained in consensus — is
being challenged in favor of a more literary approach, and the new approach is gaining ground.
One of the problems associated with historical Jesus studies which has not really been addressed,
in its current form, might be found in the inability to accept the probability that the figure of
Jesus might not have existed historically
. While it is clear that scholars accept the possibility,
most conclude that the hypothesis for nonexistence is so meagerly supported that it can simply
be ignored. While this position has been challenged in recent years, it remains, for reasons
which shall be addressed below, a sturdy part of the field of New Testament. This paper,
however, takes a position contrary to this and argues that not only is the position of ahistoricity
possible, but plausible enough that it deserves more attention and more respect than it is
currently given
. This contribution argues, hopefully persuasively, that by dismissing the
position of ahistoricity, or by not taking into account its possibility, contributes directly to the
problems associated with historical Jesus studies.


<full paper can be read at the link below>

http://www.bibleinterp.com/PDFs/Response.pdf


Maybe the defensiveness among established scholars is in part the natural reaction of those whose era is coming to a close...



Having read that and googled the author and a few of the people he cites, I'm not sure there's a whole lot in it, other than that his criticisms of Ehrman's book are more politely put than Carrier's. I think he may be a Carrier fan, with no formal qualifications of his own. He says, on his blog, that he was a mythicist, but is now agnostic. I must admit, I didn't see anything to suggest an imminent sea change. Not that I think it may not happen (it may do, it may not), but maybe there was less indication for it in that article than the introduction suggested. Who wrote the introduction?


The discussion on the genre of the gospels was interesting. The suggestion was that the scholarly idea that they were similar to Graeco-Roman biography (and therefore more likely to contain history) has been challenged in favour of them being Jewish theological literature, by genre. He cites one bible scholar Michael E. Vines (Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, North Carolina, which I think means he's a teacher at a Presbyterian secondary school, but he has his Ph.D in Theology) as having written a book about it.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Problem-Marka ... nskepti-20

A very interesting read, but after googling a bit, I have some doubts about the author.
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24378  Postby proudfootz » May 06, 2012 8:11 pm

archibald wrote:
proudfootz wrote:This author seems to suggest that perhaps bible scholarship is ready to undergo a sea-change as the methods of the last century have exhausted their utility:

In a forthcoming volume, soon to be published in the Copenhagen International Seminar Series,
a group of scholars contribute essays on the current crisis in the scholarship that is dedicated to
the historical figure of Jesus. Many of the contributors — most of them approaching the subject
from a European mindset — seem to feel that historical Jesus scholarship has reached an impasse;
while new studies continue to be published in the field, scholars are growing tired of the
rehashing of old ideas which are reproduced in these studies anew. With the increasing number
of scholars dedicating themselves to the theory of reception in Biblical Studies, and with the
accessibility of literary criticism steadily becoming a major contender in the field of New
Testament, older scholarship in the form of historical criticism — once ingrained in consensus — is
being challenged in favor of a more literary approach, and the new approach is gaining ground.
One of the problems associated with historical Jesus studies which has not really been addressed,
in its current form, might be found in the inability to accept the probability that the figure of
Jesus might not have existed historically
. While it is clear that scholars accept the possibility,
most conclude that the hypothesis for nonexistence is so meagerly supported that it can simply
be ignored. While this position has been challenged in recent years, it remains, for reasons
which shall be addressed below, a sturdy part of the field of New Testament. This paper,
however, takes a position contrary to this and argues that not only is the position of ahistoricity
possible, but plausible enough that it deserves more attention and more respect than it is
currently given
. This contribution argues, hopefully persuasively, that by dismissing the
position of ahistoricity, or by not taking into account its possibility, contributes directly to the
problems associated with historical Jesus studies.


<full paper can be read at the link below>

http://www.bibleinterp.com/PDFs/Response.pdf


Maybe the defensiveness among established scholars is in part the natural reaction of those whose era is coming to a close...



Having read that and googled the author and a few of the people he cites, I'm not sure there's a whole lot in it, other than that his criticisms of Ehrman's book are more politely put than Carrier's. I think he may be a Carrier fan, with no formal qualifications of his own. He says, on his blog, that he was a mythicist, but is now agnostic. I must admit, I didn't see anything to suggest an imminent sea change. Not that I think it may not happen (it may do, it may not), but maybe there was less indication for it in that article than the introduction suggested. Who wrote the introduction?


The discussion on the genre of the gospels was interesting. The suggestion was that the scholarly idea that they were similar to Graeco-Roman biography (and therefore more likely to contain history) has been challenged in favour of them being Jewish theological literature, by genre. He cites one bible scholar Michael E. Vines (Assistant Professor of Religious Studies at Lees-McRae College in Banner Elk, North Carolina, which I think means he's a teacher at a Presbyterian secondary school, but he has his Ph.D in Theology) as having written a book about it.

http://www.amazon.com/The-Problem-Marka ... nskepti-20

A very interesting read, but after googling a bit, I have some doubts about the author.


Must admit the introduction was my own - including the 'sea change' phrase'. Perhaps a bit over-the-top? Prophecy is always dangerous. But it seems to me that perhaps we are witnessing something which might move the debate in new directions, and perhaps the indication that there is indeed the possibility of real and lively debate might bring fresh blood and fresh perspectives into the field.
"Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't." - Mark Twain
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24379  Postby Blood » May 06, 2012 8:32 pm

proudfootz wrote:This author seems to suggest that perhaps bible scholarship is ready to undergo a sea-change as the methods of the last century have exhausted their utility:

In a forthcoming volume, soon to be published in the Copenhagen International Seminar Series,
a group of scholars contribute essays on the current crisis in the scholarship that is dedicated to
the historical figure of Jesus. Many of the contributors — most of them approaching the subject
from a European mindset — seem to feel that historical Jesus scholarship has reached an impasse;
while new studies continue to be published in the field, scholars are growing tired of the
rehashing of old ideas which are reproduced in these studies anew. With the increasing number
of scholars dedicating themselves to the theory of reception in Biblical Studies, and with the
accessibility of literary criticism steadily becoming a major contender in the field of New
Testament, older scholarship in the form of historical criticism — once ingrained in consensus — is
being challenged in favor of a more literary approach, and the new approach is gaining ground.
One of the problems associated with historical Jesus studies which has not really been addressed,
in its current form, might be found in the inability to accept the probability that the figure of
Jesus might not have existed historically
. While it is clear that scholars accept the possibility,
most conclude that the hypothesis for nonexistence is so meagerly supported that it can simply
be ignored. While this position has been challenged in recent years, it remains, for reasons
which shall be addressed below, a sturdy part of the field of New Testament. This paper,
however, takes a position contrary to this and argues that not only is the position of ahistoricity
possible, but plausible enough that it deserves more attention and more respect than it is
currently given
. This contribution argues, hopefully persuasively, that by dismissing the
position of ahistoricity, or by not taking into account its possibility, contributes directly to the
problems associated with historical Jesus studies.


<full paper can be read at the link below>

http://www.bibleinterp.com/PDFs/Response.pdf


Maybe the defensiveness among established scholars is in part the natural reaction of those whose era is coming to a close...


This has just been published. The downside is that it costs $110, so nobody will read it, and it will have zero impact.

The co-editor is Thomas Verenna, described as an "amateur historian," so once again the orthodox brigade will get to dismiss this out of hand as more Archaya S styled nonsense.

Biography (Amazon.com)
T.S. Verenna is an amateur historian who has been researching the Classical, Hellenistic, and Roman Periods for seven years and the ancient Near East for five years. He is the author of the book Of Men and Muses: Essays on History, Literature, and Religion (2009) and his second book, 'Is This Not the Carpenter', co-edited with Th. L. Thompson, is in press and due out in 2011.

In addition to these collections, T.S. is also writing a monograph on the intertextuality of the Gospels and working on a new book project about the unreliability of ancient textual sources. T.S. is currently working on an undergraduate degree with a focus in history.
"One absurdity having been granted, the rest follows. Nothing difficult about that."
- Aristotle, Physics I, 185a
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Re: What Can We Reasonably Infer About The Historical Jesus?

#24380  Postby archibald » May 06, 2012 8:35 pm

proudfootz wrote:

Must admit the introduction was my own - including the 'sea change' phrase'. Perhaps a bit over-the-top? Prophecy is always dangerous. But it seems to me that perhaps we are witnessing something which might move the debate in new directions, and perhaps the indication that there is indeed the possibility of real and lively debate might bring fresh blood and fresh perspectives into the field.



Ah. I didn't mean that, I meant the bit starting, 'In a forthcoming volume, soon to be published in the Copenhagen International Seminar Series,.....'. I didn't see that at the link, which was just the article itself, by Thomas Verenna.
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