Historical Jesus

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

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Re: RESOURCE: Historical Sources for Jesus

#41  Postby TimONeill » Feb 27, 2010 9:00 am

Crocodile Gandhi wrote: Sure, this man did a great amount to shape the way that billions of people live their lives ...


Quite by accident. If the historical Yeshua ben Yosef (aka "Jesus") came back to see the weird bloated cult/s that arose in his name he'd probably die again of total horror and revulsion. He was a devout and ferociously monotheistic Jew, yet he would find himself turned into an incarnation of Yahweh. The guy would hardly be able to comprehend the insanity of what his ideas have been transformed into.

Nikos Kazantzakis touched on this in his novel The Last Temptation of Christ and Frank Herbert played with similar themes in his Dune novels, but I've always found the contrast between what the Jewish preacher Yeshua ben Yosef was trying to proclaim (as silly as it was) and the baroque monstrosities Christianity has evolved into to be one of history's most bizarre ironies.

I've toyed with the idea of a short story about a time traveller who rescues Yeshua from the cross and brings him to an intensive care unit in the present to nurse him back to health. When Yeshua recovers and comprehends what Christianity is, he becomes a vociferous preacher against Christianity and ends up being killed by fundamentalist Christians for blasphemy. I might have to write that one.
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Re: RESOURCE: Historical Sources for Jesus

#42  Postby Onyx8 » Feb 27, 2010 9:03 am

TimONeill wrote:
Crocodile Gandhi wrote:I don't know very much about the details pertaining to any permutation of a historical Jesus, but I have learned a lot by skimming over Tim's posts both here and back at RDF. I'm certainly willing to accept that a man named Jesus (or otherwise?) lived a long time ago and was a person of some note. The question I would like to ask is, is there any corroborating evidence in any writings around the time of Jesus' life - by which I mean within a hundred years or so of his death - that attest to the miracles he performs in the Bible or his resurrection?


No.

Glad you can recognise that as a separate question though. :thumbup:


Indeed, and thank you both for the differentiation. So when did the stories of the miracles begin to be attached to the stories of the man who had physically existed?
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Re: RESOURCE: Historical Sources for Jesus

#43  Postby Onyx8 » Feb 27, 2010 9:07 am

TimONeill wrote:
Crocodile Gandhi wrote: Sure, this man did a great amount to shape the way that billions of people live their lives ...


Quite by accident. If the historical Yeshua ben Yosef (aka "Jesus") came back to see the weird bloated cult/s that arose in his name he'd probably die again of total horror and revulsion. He was a devout and ferociously monotheistic Jew, yet he would find himself turned into an incarnation of Yahweh. The guy would hardly be able to comprehend the insanity of what his ideas have been transformed into.

Nikos Kazantzakis touched on this in his novel The Last Temptation of Christ and Frank Herbert played with similar themes in his Dune novels, but I've always found the contrast between what the Jewish preacher Yeshua ben Yosef was trying to proclaim (as silly as it was) and the baroque monstrosities Christianity has evolved into to be one of history's most bizarre ironies.

I've toyed with the idea of a short story about a time traveller who rescues Yeshua from the cross and brings him to an intensive care unit in the present to nurse him back to health. When Yeshua recovers and comprehends what Christianity is, he becomes a vociferous preacher against Christianity and ends up being killed by fundamentalist Christians for blasphemy. I might have to write that one.


Sounds like a story I could read, however he would probably be killed by the folks who wished to get elected by the fundamentalists...
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Re: The Ahistoricity of Jesus

#44  Postby RichardPrins » Feb 27, 2010 9:16 am

Apollonius wrote:People who make up stories don't make up stories that are so hard to convince people of.

Occam's razor.

On the other hand there is The Big Lie. ;)
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Re: RESOURCE: Historical Sources for Jesus

#45  Postby Crocodile Gandhi » Feb 27, 2010 9:19 am

TimONeill wrote:
Crocodile Gandhi wrote: Sure, this man did a great amount to shape the way that billions of people live their lives ...


Quite by accident. If the historical Yeshua ben Yosef (aka "Jesus") came back to see the weird bloated cult/s that arose in his name he'd probably die again of total horror and revulsion. He was a devout and ferociously monotheistic Jew, yet he would find himself turned into an incarnation of Yahweh. The guy would hardly be able to comprehend the insanity of what his ideas have been transformed into.

Nikos Kazantzakis touched on this in his novel The Last Temptation of Christ and Frank Herbert played with similar themes in his Dune novels, but I've always found the contrast between what the Jewish preacher Yeshua ben Yosef was trying to proclaim (as silly as it was) and the baroque monstrosities Christianity has evolved into to be one of history's most bizarre ironies.

I've toyed with the idea of a short story about a time traveller who rescues Yeshua from the cross and brings him to an intensive care unit in the present to nurse him back to health. When Yeshua recovers and comprehends what Christianity is, he becomes a vociferous preacher against Christianity and ends up being killed by fundamentalist Christians for blasphemy. I might have to write that one.


That sounds like a fun story. The image in my mind of Pat Robertson saying that the filthy homosexuals are the cause for him murdering Jesus is quite tickling.
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Re: The Ahistoricity of Jesus

#46  Postby alienpresence » Feb 27, 2010 9:25 am

RichardPrins wrote:
Apollonius wrote:People who make up stories don't make up stories that are so hard to convince people of.

Occam's razor.

On the other hand there is The Big Lie. ;)


I've no problem with that Richard but how the Church kept The Big Lie going for centuries is puzzling. :think:
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Re: RESOURCE: Historical Sources for Jesus

#47  Postby Monkey's Nephew » Feb 27, 2010 9:32 am

TimONeill wrote:
Monkey's Nephew wrote:
TimONeill wrote:Understood. But the so-called "importance" of an ancient figure to someone today makes no difference to whether or not there is sufficient reason to accept they exist. There is sufficient evidence for historians to accept that Theudas, the Egyptian, the Samaritan Prophet and several others exist.


You assert that historians accept these characters existed; I have no idea whether this is actually true.


Okay, then let me help you - it is. If an ancient source talks about how such and such a person existed and did such and such a thing, we accept that they did unless we have really good EVIDENCE that the source in question is lying or mistaken. We have no such evidence for Theudas, the Egyptian, the Samaritan Prophet etc. Or for Jesus. If you want to present such evidence for any of them, now would be good. But it makes zero sense to assume that any of them didn't exist when we have attestation they did. Quite the opposite, actually.


Look - I'm not a historian, just a guy who knows a poor argument and poor evidence when he sees it. Accepting for the sake of argument your assertion that historians follow this convention of accepting hearsay until evidence appears that it's false, that doesn't make it any less hearsay. I mean, I can see why it's done, and I can sympathize somewhat - I mean, working with scant data is never easy, and it's useful to have a working hypothesis. However, when you start taking your working hypothesis and asserting it as fact - well, that's where we part ways, I'm afraid. It's still just a hypothesis, based upon nothing but (very, very old) hearsay, and it's simply not enough for me, as a scientist, to accept that these characters actually existed.

Obviously, that's not to say that I assert they didn't exist - that would be just as un-evidenced a claim. All it means is that I need more solid data before coming to a conclusion.

I don't much care, either. If the evidence for their existence is as scant as the evidence for Jesus, then personally I'm pretty happy to take the same stance with them as I am for Jesus, YHWH, or any other figure for whom evidence is, shall we say, sub-optimal.


That was nicely tricksey. See what you did there - you slipped in "YHWH" as though some ancient historian was saying he was a human figure in the same way they say Theudas, the Egyptian, the Samaritan Prophet or Jesus was. Crafty, but bullshit. Yes, anyone making that claim about a god's existence would be suspect. But we are talking about people mentioning Jewish prophets, preachers and Messianic claimants. People like Theudas, the Egyptian, the Samaritan Prophet and Jesus. Nice try, but there is no comparison between the mention of these unremarkable people and some god. Why is the evidence for Theudas, the Egyptian, the Samaritan Prophet and Jesus "sub-optimal"? Explain please. And be more careful this time.


Because it's hearsay. Nothing but writings dated way after their supposed existence.

Put it this way: say society collapses catastrophically tomorrow. Two thousand years from now, archaeologists uncover a large cache of (heavily degraded and fragmentary) Jane Austen novels. Without any further information, would they be justified in accepting the historicity of Mr Darcy?

Given that there is even better evidence for the existence of the historical Jesus existed, they accept the existence of him as well.


As far as I'm aware, some do and some don't. You seem to have a habit of asserting absolutes where none exist - I'd get that checked, if I were you.


I've been "checking" this stuff for 20+ years thanks. "Some do and some don't"? Really? And which professional scholars "don't" according to you? Check carefully before answering.


Well, Wikipedia lists a few... doesn't bother me much one way or another.

Let's start with Theudas.


Let's not.


Why not?


Because as I said above, I'm not a historian. I wouldn't have the foggiest clue who Theudas was supposed to be.
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Re: RESOURCE: Historical Sources for Jesus

#48  Postby TimONeill » Feb 27, 2010 9:35 am

Onyx8 wrote:Indeed, and thank you both for the differentiation. So when did the stories of the miracles begin to be attached to the stories of the man who had physically existed?


Pretty early, if similar modern examples are anything to go by. If you look at the "miracles" of Jesus, most of them are well known to anyone who has been to a modern "faith healing" service. You have people who are "lame" who can suddenly walk, those who are "possessed" who are free, epileptics who are "cured" etc. Except when he goes to his home town of Nazareth, where they all think his claim of Messianic status is bullshit, he is unable to perform in the same way. Even some of the more "amazing" cures, like healing blind people, look less remarkable on closer inspection. In Mark 18:22-25 Jesus is depicted as "healing" a blind man. Except the so-called "Son of God" doesn't manage to get it right first time and has to try again. The interesting thing is that he "heals" this man (eventually) by spiting in the dust and wiping the paste of dust and spittle against the man's eyes. Interestingly, we have an almost identical story about the Emperor Vespasian doing exactly the same thing for a blind man in Suetonius' biography. Vespasian campaigned in Palestine and performed this so-called "miracle" in Egypt. Interestingly, the use of an abrasive paste of fine dust and spittle was used to remove cataracts into the present day.

So the idea that Jesus was a "faith healer" could actually be historical. Most of the other miracles have a symbolic basis. The Messiah was supposed to do certain things to symbolise the coming kingship of Yahweh (the gospels' "kingdom of God"), so Jesus is depicted as doing (most of) these things. He is also depicted as doing miracles in the vein of great holy men like Elijah and Elisha - like feeding people with a small amount of food or raising people from the dead.

So some of the "miracles" probably attached themselves to him in his lifetime. Others were probably attached later as a result of these. We can see examples of both of these processes today. See Sai Baba for example.
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Re: RESOURCE: Historical Sources for Jesus

#49  Postby TimONeill » Feb 27, 2010 9:44 am

Monkey's Nephew wrote:Look - I'm not a historian,


Okay.

just a guy who knows a poor argument and poor evidence when he sees it.


If you say so.

Accepting for the sake of argument your assertion that historians follow this convention of accepting hearsay until evidence appears that it's false, that doesn't make it any less hearsay.


Sorry, but if historians were so insanely hyper-sceptical that they instantly doubted any reference to anyone in any historical source on no rational basis whatsoever, the whole field of history would have to pack up, go home and all historians would now be flipping burgers. The idea that we have to reject any reference to anyone , without any reason to do so, simply because it can be called "hearsay" is absurd. Sorry, but 99.99% of pre-modern history is based on what you call "hearsay". So unless you have good evidence that it can't be accepted, it is.

So now you have to present that evidence in this case.

Over to you. Make it good. Can you present that evidence or not?
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Re: RESOURCE: Historical Sources for Jesus

#50  Postby Monkey's Nephew » Feb 27, 2010 10:04 am

TimONeill wrote:
Monkey's Nephew wrote:Look - I'm not a historian,


Okay.

just a guy who knows a poor argument and poor evidence when he sees it.


If you say so.

Accepting for the sake of argument your assertion that historians follow this convention of accepting hearsay until evidence appears that it's false, that doesn't make it any less hearsay.


Sorry, but if historians were so insanely hyper-sceptical that they instantly doubted any reference to anyone in any historical source on no rational basis whatsoever, the whole field of history would have to pack up, go home and all historians would now be flipping burgers.


Well, that's nice, but I'm pretty sure nobody suggested that.

The idea that we have to reject any reference to anyone , without any reason to do so, simply because it can be called "hearsay" is absurd.


That's also nice, but again, that wasn't suggested.

Sorry, but 99.99% of pre-modern history is based on what you call "hearsay". So unless you have good evidence that it can't be accepted, it is.


... provisionally. As in any other branch of inquiry, things should be reported with an indication of confidence in keeping with the quality of the evidence. The evidence you have available is, in many situations poor. That's just the way it is - and hence your conclusions must, by necessity, be quite tentative. That doesn't make the study of history bad, or useless, or unworkable - it just makes it like every other branch of science.
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Re: RESOURCE: Historical Sources for Jesus

#51  Postby TimONeill » Feb 27, 2010 10:11 am

Monkey's Nephew wrote:
TimONeill wrote:Sorry, but if historians were so insanely hyper-sceptical that they instantly doubted any reference to anyone in any historical source on no rational basis whatsoever, the whole field of history would have to pack up, go home and all historians would now be flipping burgers.


Well, that's nice, but I'm pretty sure nobody suggested that.


Sorry, but you seemed to be suggesting precisely that. Or were you saying that this level of unwarranted level of hyperscepticism should only be applied to Jesus for some weird, biased reason?

The idea that we have to reject any reference to anyone , without any reason to do so, simply because it can be called "hearsay" is absurd.


That's also nice, but again, that wasn't suggested.


Yes, actually, it was. By you. Please explain.

Sorry, but 99.99% of pre-modern history is based on what you call "hearsay". So unless you have good evidence that it can't be accepted, it is.


... provisionally.


Quite. And that's enough unless we have reason to believe it can't be accepted. Do you have that for the First Century preachers, prophets and Messianic claimants I mentioned or don't you?
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Re: RESOURCE: Historical Sources for Jesus

#52  Postby Onyx8 » Feb 27, 2010 10:33 am

TimONeill wrote:
Onyx8 wrote:Indeed, and thank you both for the differentiation. So when did the stories of the miracles begin to be attached to the stories of the man who had physically existed?


Pretty early, if similar modern examples are anything to go by. If you look at the "miracles" of Jesus, most of them are well known to anyone who has been to a modern "faith healing" service. You have people who are "lame" who can suddenly walk, those who are "possessed" who are free, epileptics who are "cured" etc. Except when he goes to his home town of Nazareth, where they all think his claim of Messianic status is bullshit, he is unable to perform in the same way. Even some of the more "amazing" cures, like healing blind people, look less remarkable on closer inspection. In Mark 18:22-25 Jesus is depicted as "healing" a blind man. Except the so-called "Son of God" doesn't manage to get it right first time and has to try again. The interesting thing is that he "heals" this man (eventually) by spiting in the dust and wiping the paste of dust and spittle against the man's eyes. Interestingly, we have an almost identical story about the Emperor Vespasian doing exactly the same thing for a blind man in Suetonius' biography. Vespasian campaigned in Palestine and performed this so-called "miracle" in Egypt. Interestingly, the use of an abrasive paste of fine dust and spittle was used to remove cataracts into the present day.

So the idea that Jesus was a "faith healer" could actually be historical. Most of the other miracles have a symbolic basis. The Messiah was supposed to do certain things to symbolise the coming kingship of Yahweh (the gospels' "kingdom of God"), so Jesus is depicted as doing (most of) these things. He is also depicted as doing miracles in the vein of great holy men like Elijah and Elisha - like feeding people with a small amount of food or raising people from the dead.

So some of the "miracles" probably attached themselves to him in his lifetime. Others were probably attached later as a result of these. We can see examples of both of these processes today. See Sai Baba for example.


Love learning this stuff (bolded, but also all of it), how come I loathed history in English public school when I was a kid, did they just teach it poorly or is history more important as you become part of it?

A bunch of years ago there was a 'revival tent' showed up here which is not common. (In thirty-odd years living here this was the only time I am aware of. I made sure to show up and was completely amazed at the level of showmanship and the manipulation of mostly down-and-outers, all of whom were believers to start with.

So the other miracles were written to prove an existing point?

I'll have a look at the link, thank you.
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Re: RESOURCE: Historical Sources for Jesus

#53  Postby Monkey's Nephew » Feb 27, 2010 10:43 am

Ok, one last try, then I'm (really) out for the night.

What you have is a handful of old documents that all seem to talk about the same character, but no other evidence. So say "what we have here is a handful of documents that seem to point to the existence of this character. We're going to run with the hypothesis that they're correct for now, and see where that takes us."

That would be a perfectly legitimate, and intellectually honest, way to carry out the job of a historian. "This guy existed, and I'm going to go on believing that until you show me solid evidence to the contrary" is not so much. Do you really not see that? If nothing else, it ignores the established fact that an enormous proportion of all published work is fiction.
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Re: RESOURCE: Historical Sources for Jesus

#54  Postby TimONeill » Feb 27, 2010 10:49 am

Onyx8 wrote:
Love learning this stuff (bolded, but also all of it), how come I loathed history in English public school when I was a kid, did they just teach it poorly or is history more important as you become part of it?


That seems to be how it works.

So the other miracles were written to prove an existing point?


It seems so. Elisha is supposed to have made an iron axe head float on water (2 Kings 6:1-7) - Jesus walks on water. Elisha feeds 100 men with 20 loaves (2 Kings 4:42-44) - Jesus feeds 5000 people with five loaves and two fish.

These parallels are so close and would have been so obvious to Jewish readers or those with any grasp of the OT that it forces us to ask "are these stories presented as fact or are the gospel writers asking us to see them as symbolic and non-literal statements?"

All too often atheists treat these stories at the same level of clueless face value as fundies and sikip the idea that the gospels aren't meant to be wholly read that way.
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Re: RESOURCE: Historical Sources for Jesus

#55  Postby Onyx8 » Feb 27, 2010 10:56 am

Agreed, it is irrational to think that the people who wrote, who read, and who believed the gospels all these years actually thought of them as historical or factual accounts, modern fundamentalists aside. And I know you include some non-believers in that clade.
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Re: RESOURCE: Historical Sources for Jesus

#56  Postby TimONeill » Feb 27, 2010 10:59 am

Monkey's Nephew wrote:Ok, one last try, then I'm (really) out for the night.

What you have is a handful of old documents that all seem to talk about the same character, but no other evidence.



Pretty much what we have for most figures in ancient history.

So say "what we have here is a handful of documents that seem to point to the existence of this character. We're going to run with the hypothesis that they're correct for now, and see where that takes us."


That's an eminently sensible thing to say. It's what we say about most such figures. So far so good ...

That would be a perfectly legitimate, and intellectually honest, way to carry out the job of a historian.


Quite. There's no good reason to doubt the indications he existed. That makes sense.



"This guy existed, and I'm going to go on believing that until you show me solid evidence to the contrary" is not so much.


What?


Do you really not see that?


No, I don't. If we have references that indicate he existed, and there's no good reason to doubt them, then it's reasonable to accept he existed. You just said that. So where is this unwarranted scepticism coming from? What is its rational basis?

If nothing else, it ignores the established fact that an enormous proportion of all published work is fiction.


What? This is nonsense. You've suddenly decided that "an enormous proportion" of our evidence is "fiction"?! What the fuck? And "published work"? What?

Your whole argument has become bizarre. What the hell are you trying to say?
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Re: RESOURCE: Historical Sources for Jesus

#57  Postby crank » Feb 27, 2010 12:04 pm

As a fascinated dilettante of these histories, I loved Bart Ehrman's Lost Christianities, where he paints jesus as an apocalyptic preacher in a time filled with these. His followers in the first couple of centuries or so evolved along quite diverse paths, with quite diverse beliefs about their figurehead. Just fishing for comments on the book and the thrust of Ehrman's writings, and how this diversity, and the conflicts that arose because of it, may have shaped the perception of jesus in the early years of the religion. If I remember the book correctly, it is implied that Eusebius history to be highly colored if not outright fraudulent in it's narrow focus on the 'orthodox', accepted version of christianity that prevailed by his time, 4th c. Thanks for any comments.

Edit: I realize this maybe should be in another thread, if so, please say so, I will start one.
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Re: RESOURCE: Historical Sources for Jesus

#58  Postby TimONeill » Feb 27, 2010 12:30 pm

crank wrote:As a fascinated dilettante of these histories, I loved Bart Ehrman's Lost Christianities, where he paints jesus as an apocalyptic preacher in a time filled with these. His followers in the first couple of centuries or so evolved along quite diverse paths, with quite diverse beliefs about their figurehead. Just fishing for comments on the book and the thrust of Ehrman's writings, and how this diversity, and the conflicts that arose because of it, may have shaped the perception of jesus in the early years of the religion. If I remember the book correctly, it is implied that Eusebius history to be highly colored if not outright fraudulent in it's narrow focus on the 'orthodox', accepted version of christianity that prevailed by his time, 4th c. Thanks for any comments.

Edit: I realize this maybe should be in another thread, if so, please say so, I will start one.


Well our moderator Jerome (*chuckle*) will disagree but Ehrman's take on Jesus is, in my opinion, the one that makes the most sense. Too may conceptions of Jesus are driven by the beliefs of the theorist. Polemical atheist anti-Christians like Carrier and Doherty think he didn't exist at all? Gosh, what a surprise. Moderate Christians like Crossan and Borg believe in a mellow hippy "sage" Jesus? Gosh, what a surprise. Fundamentalists like Craig and McDowell believe in a Jesus who is exactly like the one in the Bible? Gosh, what a surprise.

We should start to pay attention when the Jesus a theorist comes up with doesn't somehow play into that person's expectations and does fit with history. A Jesus who was an apocalyptic Jewish prophet who predicted the immanent end of the world and was clearly wrong doesn't fit anyones' prejudices. Yet it fits the evidence perfectly.

This seems to be who and what he was.

I'd encourage anyone who wants to take a rational and unbiased atheistic look at who "Jesus" (ie Yeshua ben Yosef) was to begin with Ehrman's Jesus: Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millennium, then Paula Frederiksen's From Jesus to Christ: The Origins of the New Testament Images of Christ and then Geza Vermes' Jesus the Jew. All are top class academic studies by leading scholars and all happen to be by non-Christians. Read those books and you'll get a superb understanding of who Yeshua was and why both fundie Christians and the moronic "Jesus never existed" clowns can be given equal measures of scorn.
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Re: RESOURCE: Historical Sources for Jesus

#59  Postby TimONeill » Feb 27, 2010 12:49 pm

Oh fuck. Now this is stickied this thread will never die. Every baby Myther, drive-by Myther wannabe and diehard Myther fanatic will now swarm to this thread like flies to shit. Gird your loins folks, the pseudo historical torrent begins here ...
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Re: Did Jesus exist?

#60  Postby alienpresence » Feb 27, 2010 12:49 pm

I never thought of Jesus as a real entity. A name written in a book. Just about the time when Roman/Ancient Greek civilization goes into decline this 'nowhere sect' takes off. The stories are filled with soundbites supporting a declining Roman Empire. Give unto Ceaser what is Ceasers....pay your taxes and be friendly with the tax collectors because you know Jesus was. Yeah. He was real. He was about as real as Bugs Bunny. :lol:
To punish the oppressors of humanity is clemency; to forgive them is cruelty. - Maximillien Robiespierre

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