Historical Jesus

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

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Re: Historical Jesus [strict moderation]

#33741  Postby Clive Durdle » Jul 20, 2013 10:35 pm

And conflict with Jerusalem christers is almost predictable - Paul probably had an utterly different set of concepts to this other lot. Maybe what we have now is the result of syncretism and tidying up not of various "christianities" but christer sects.
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Re: Historical Jesus [strict moderation]

#33742  Postby neilgodfrey » Jul 21, 2013 4:12 am

Clive Durdle wrote:What if the phrase Lord Jesus Christ is not a name of someone at all, but a phrase, God's saving messiah? The works attributed to Paul have so many permutations of Lord, Jesus and Christ maybe they are just ways of expressing this saviour figure Paul dreamed about?


Paul's use of "Christ/Messiah" was very likely quite in conformity with the range of views about the term generally among Second Temple Jews -- nothing so radically novel at all. Matthew Novenson (now Uni of Edinburgh) has made a pretty good case for this. I've tried to share the highlights of his book at http://vridar.org/category/book-reviews ... -messiahs/ --

There has been a swing back to interpreting everything about Christian origins within as "Jewish" a milieu as possible in recent decades, but with this trend it has been too easy for many to overlook just how Hellenistic so much of "Judaism" really was at that time.
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Re: Historical Jesus [strict moderation]

#33743  Postby angelo » Jul 21, 2013 10:45 am

The facts are still that christianity started with whoever Paul was. If one person he was obviously deluded. How else can be explained that he went up to the second heaven and heard voices and saw visions. If more than one person as is possible, it would explain the 5-6 epistles not attributed to Paul. Whether Jesus existed or not we would still have christianity in existence today, probably under some entirely different doctrine. Mankind has a need to believe in superstitious nonsense. Mankind could not accept that life has no meaning except what one makes of it. He needed to believe that gods would come to his rescue.
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Re: Historical Jesus [strict moderation]

#33744  Postby Clive Durdle » Jul 21, 2013 11:46 am

1 Corinthians 1:23 “We Preach a Crucified Christ”
For the Jews require a sign, and the Greeks seek after wisdom:

But we preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness;

But unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God, and the wisdom of God.


Are we not looking at an attempted synthesis of Judaism and the Greek world?
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Re: Historical Jesus [strict moderation]

#33745  Postby Michael66 » Jul 21, 2013 6:42 pm

Clive Durdle wrote:What if the phrase Lord Jesus Christ is not a name of someone at all, but a phrase, God's saving messiah? The works attributed to Paul have so many permutations of Lord, Jesus and Christ maybe they are just ways of expressing this saviour figure Paul dreamed about?

Are the epistles Christian?


Hi Clive

My understanding is that names and titles are frequently synonymous in scripture, though of course we musn't think of 'Christ' as a surname! :)

Are the epistles Christian? That has been the understanding since the earliest days. Peter refers to Paul's letters, Luke's Acts of the Apostles wraps Paul up with Jesus, and Paul himself is clearly linking the Jesus he met with the Jesus talked about by the Apostles such as Peter.
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Re: Historical Jesus [strict moderation]

#33746  Postby Michael66 » Jul 21, 2013 6:50 pm

angelo wrote:The facts are still that christianity started with whoever Paul was.


That would be quite a minority view. Must scholars, including the skeptic Bart Ehrman, have no doubt that the itinerant teacher known as Jesus lived and died in Palenstine, and whom around a dedicated group of disciples formed. St. Paul was certainly hugely influential in the spread of Christianity Northwards and Westwards, but the Coptic Church tracks a different descent, from the Alexandrian Jews.
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Re: Historical Jesus [strict moderation]

#33747  Postby angelo » Jul 22, 2013 6:07 am

Michael66 wrote:
angelo wrote:The facts are still that christianity started with whoever Paul was.


That would be quite a minority view. Must scholars, including the skeptic Bart Ehrman, have no doubt that the itinerant teacher known as Jesus lived and died in Palenstine, and whom around a dedicated group of disciples formed. St. Paul was certainly hugely influential in the spread of Christianity Northwards and Westwards, but the Coptic Church tracks a different descent, from the Alexandrian Jews.

If that was the case we would not have christianity in it's present form as we do today. If it was based on a historical Jesus I doubt it would have survived without Paul. It most likely would have died out because of so few adherents of the christ cult. It was Paul who introduced to the disillusioned Jews and gentiles the suffering dying and resurrected god Jesus the christ. This cult like many before it would have simply petered out without the intervention of Paul of Tarsus.
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Re: Historical Jesus [strict moderation]

#33748  Postby Michael66 » Jul 22, 2013 7:34 am

angelo wrote:If that was the case we would not have christianity in it's present form as we do today. If it was based on a historical Jesus I doubt it would have survived without Paul. It most likely would have died out because of so few adherents of the christ cult. It was Paul who introduced to the disillusioned Jews and gentiles the suffering dying and resurrected god Jesus the christ. This cult like many before it would have simply petered out without the intervention of Paul of Tarsus.


As with many things about "what if x happened or x didn't happen?", I don't think we can ever know Angelo. Even knowing the present well does not give us particularly good ability to forecast the future, so I don't think we'd be very good at predicting alternative pasts given a change in the past at some point. Certainly Christianity as it is owes an awful lot to Paul's evangelism, and that is even more so for Western Christianity. But I'm wary of saying what would or wouldn't happen if something in the past were different - we just don't know what alternative events would have occurred as history took a different course. It is perhaps more prudent simply to try to better understand the past as it actually occurred, and on that I certainly agree Paul is a huge figure in the spread of Christianity, especially the spread to the West and North of Palestine.
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Re: Historical Jesus [strict moderation]

#33749  Postby angelo » Jul 22, 2013 7:44 am

There's also that moment because of political expediency by Constantine when he decreed that henceforth christianity would be the new religion of the Empire along side the pagan ones. Christianity had the better salesmen who had a better more believable product to sell which gave the masses some hope. That product was a perceived resurrection of the dead.
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Re: Historical Jesus [strict moderation]

#33750  Postby Scot Dutchy » Jul 22, 2013 8:26 am

Yep a good snakeoil salesman.
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Re: Historical Jesus [strict moderation]

#33751  Postby angelo » Jul 22, 2013 8:38 am

Scot Dutchy wrote:Yep a good snakeoil salesman.

A good snake oil salesman would find himself thinking he had struck a goldmine among superstitious people who thought gods were everywhere. The people would be like putty in his hands.
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Re: Historical Jesus [strict moderation]

#33752  Postby Scot Dutchy » Jul 22, 2013 8:56 am

angelo wrote:
Scot Dutchy wrote:Yep a good snakeoil salesman.

A good snake oil salesman would find himself thinking he had struck a goldmine among superstitious people who thought gods were everywhere. The people would be like putty in his hands.


Must have earned a few sheckles as well. :whistle:
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Re: Historical Jesus [strict moderation]

#33753  Postby Michael66 » Jul 22, 2013 11:29 am

angelo wrote:There's also that moment because of political expediency by Constantine when he decreed that henceforth christianity would be the new religion of the Empire along side the pagan ones. Christianity had the better salesmen who had a better more believable product to sell which gave the masses some hope. That product was a perceived resurrection of the dead.


Certainly Constantine had an important role to play in Christian history. But history also showed us that Christianity spread also in times of persecution. The early martyrs (including, probably, the apostles) also played an important role - living witnesses that the Christian faith was worth dying for.

The thing is Angelo, you can point to Paul or to Constantine, or whoever played a role in spreading the faith. But it doesn't really show anything other than the fact that people were involved in the faith being spread. It may seem a bit harsh, but my gut response is "so what?". It doesn't seem to prove or disprove anything about the claims of Christianity - it just describes how the faith spread. No one would deny that Paul and Constantine were important people in spreading the faith, but, 'so what?'
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Re: Historical Jesus [strict moderation]

#33754  Postby spin » Jul 23, 2013 2:41 am

Hell, Neil, I've been tardy here. I've been engaged in trying to pin McGrath down in the comments section of the Vridar post on his blog. I'm a b-a-a-a-d boy.

neilgodfrey wrote:
spin wrote:
neilgodfrey wrote:
spin wrote:
Probably all Jews knew of the notion of the messiah, but it didn't impact on most of their lives. The messianism of John is quite different and staunchly anti-established religion. To be ready for the eschaton and the appearance of the messiah you had to receive baptism, a rite that had nothing to do with the temple or the synagogue.


But there is no evidence for any of this apart from Christian apologetic tradition.

It's certainly true that the evidence is only contained within christian tradition, yet it doesn't support the christian tradition.


That doesn't make sense to me. How can an integral part of a tradition not “support the tradition”?

What makes it an integral part? In what sense is John the Baptist an integral part of christianity? The best you've offered is a vague notion of John being a foil. Baptism doesn't fit into christianity. It has no meaning within the theology. Some duffer had to come up with this baptism with fire nonsense to trump the Johannine variety. Still people got baptized.

neilgodfrey wrote:This idea that there was some sort of competition between John the Baptist and Jesus is a product of later Christianity. It was introduced by later Christianity and the apologetic purposes are transparent. It was not there in the epistles or other pre-gospel traditions (unless one accepts modern constructs of Q as historical evidence).

If christianity started with Paul, ie his epistles, then you are getting the beginnings of christianity and he says all he is giving is christ crucified. He was apparently still working out the basics.

neilgodfrey wrote:
spin wrote:
neilgodfrey wrote:& that JB is simply a theological foil for Jesus found only in theological faith-documents. And one of those, the Gospel of John, does not even support the idea of baptism being necessary for an eschaton. Nor is this the reason for Paul's notion of baptism.

You're overworking the "apologetic" and "theological faith" rhetoric and I think not noticing the fact that John doesn't sit well in christianity. John is the one who receive the Elijah references leaving Jesus to play second fiddle as an Elisha figure. John talks about the eschaton, the end time, the need for repentence. Jesus gets to repeat this stuff, but it's John's message. That's upstaging, don't you think?

Apologetic and faith are not overworked. I simply introduced them as the simplest explanations for the JB passages in the gospels. Can you point to a single JB reference in the gospels that does not link directly to some OT passage? Without going into the details here, we can see that everything said about JB in the gospels is derived from Malachi, 1 and 2 Kings, Isaiah, . . . It is all “midrashic” creation if you will tolerate that word. If not, I'll use another. Whatever it's called it all amounts to the same thing. The only conceivable “secular” historical reference we have to John (Josephus) situates him at a time that excludes him from any possible role in relation to Jesus.

This doesn't amount to apologetic and faith. It's a claim that there is a hb source for every single John reference in the gospels. OK, I'll ask about the elephant in the room: what's the source for baptism?

neilgodfrey wrote:
spin wrote:
neilgodfrey wrote:
spin wrote:
I think that those individuals who caused people to go out into the wilderness, as mentioned in Josephus, were either messianic contenders or prophets of a coming messiah. It would be hard not to have heard the notion before the war.

As I've been noting in previous comments, this is the common assumption but lacks evidence. The details of these groups actually belie the idea: the messiah was supposedly to come as a conqueror and Christianity is said to be unique in that it accepted a non-conqueror for a messiah, yet at least one of those leaders carried no arms; bandit leaders were common enough throughout many regions of the empire, too, and with little to set them apart as necessarily "messianic" movements in Judea; and Jews were quite capable of looking for kings to rule in the Second Temple period without assigning such individuals the sort of "messianic" status we are talking about here.

According to Green, Thompson et al there is no evidence of any contemporary figure being declared a messiah until the time of Bar Kochba. Following their evidence I see merit in their argument and have yet to see it rebutted.

It's not evidence, but argument from silence. The notion of thew messiah is delineated briefly in the Psalms of Solomon and to a greater extent in the DSS. The securely dated DSS by C14 are before the turn of the era and the Psalms are the same, so there is already a literary tradition to support the notion before the reputed time of Jesus.

Now you're getting my point. We have no evidence of a popular imminent messianic expectation prior to the Jewish War(s).

But you're not getting mine. You know: argument from silence.

neilgodfrey wrote:The notion of the messiah is found in many Jewish texts. The question remains, though, whether these notions were part of the wider popular consciousness. We have no evidence that they were. The texts speak of a messiah at the “end of days” – suggesting a distant future time. There is no evidence that such an idea was translated into having any immediate relevance to the society of the day among the general population.

We have no wider evidence of very much about Judea in the first century, let alone views of what the general population found relevant. The literature that you are trying to separate from the general population is most of what we have about the period. The literature talks of messianism. Messianism was a strongly political notion involving the overthrow of foreign rulers and we have traces of several political moves, taken to be vaguely independence oriented, that the Romans crushed in Palestine.

neilgodfrey wrote:
spin wrote:
Josephus has apologetic reasons not to deal with any messianism. In fact he eschews the term in all places except the TF and the reference to James. No-one but Jesus is a messiah. You can understand my straight face here. (The two passages about Jesus are the only two that mention a messiah, so you should be able to glean my lack of belief.) Josephus had reasons not to deal with this problematic notion of Judaism, since armed rebellion is entailed in the messiah's activities. His work is usually, and I think fairly, classified as an apologetic history. Besides, a dead messiah is a false messiah and Christians are not going to label anyone else a messiah. The messianic silence is not significant.

So goes the conventional wisdom. But is any of this really the final word? Josephus has apologetic reasons to eschew references to messianism, we are told, but then we are told he doesn't eschew the term for other reasons – e.g. when he talks about the brother of Jesus or whatever, or when he talks about Vespasian. This sounds like some sort of ad hoc rationalization rather than a real argument.

I may not have made myself clear, so let me try again. Both references to the messiah concerning Jesus are bogus. (The TF for obvious reasons and "the brother of Jesus called christ" from the James passage on syntactic grounds.) They just happen to be the only references to "christos" in Josephus despite the term being used about 40 times in the LXX.

neilgodfrey wrote:I can reply that there is a simpler explanation: there was no popular messianic expectation until the time Josephus says there was.

Make things as simple as possible, but no simpler. We have almost no sources for Palestine beside Josephus, so once again this is an appeal to silence. And he avoids using the term messiah, though he does indicate knowledge of messianic prophecy, when he applies it to Vespasian, so his lack of discussion concerning messianism when he deals with Jewish political activists killed by the Romans. We later find a specific political activist, Simeon bar-Koseba, who no-one can deny was called messiah. It's not hard to look back at the zealot movement and see the same aims as Simeon.

neilgodfrey wrote:
spin wrote:
neilgodfrey wrote:The expectation of such an imminent figure is not testified until the time of the first Jewish War. It is only after 70 that we have our first Christian literature speaking of such figures and using them as foils against their Messiah.

Who was around to leave a body of literature that would call anyone else a messiah? The silence is insignificant.

Messianism, if embodied, implied rebellion against the Roman overlordship. It meant removal of foreign power from the land of the Jews. Advocating messianism was sedition.

It was not sedition to scorn those who pretended to be messiahs and accuse them of lying and thereby being responsible for the downfall of Jerusalem. Josephus could not scorn anti-establishment rebels enough. Adding the fact that they were deluded messianists would not have hurt his propaganda interests in any way. Why, even the scholarly establishment can quite accept Josephus telling the Romans that some Jews thought Jesus was the messiah.

The passage is one of those apparently non-cristian testimonials that religious scholarship has held on to tenaciously for lack of anything more substantive in its efforts to sustain a Jesus in history.

The fact that you rightly point out regarding Josephus's views of the political "rebels" only helps to understand why he wouldn't address them as messianic.

neilgodfrey wrote:
spin wrote:
neilgodfrey wrote:
spin wrote:
He might be able to be explained that way, but christianity certainly had to accept his existence. It certainly had to accept baptism as well, though baptism has nothing to do with christian salvation. Given that John's beliefs were imminently apocalyptic, christianity's acceptance of him required a lot of dancing. Christianity provides a testimony for John when taken with Josephus gives him a historical foundation. The foretelling of the messiah as part of his non-christian eschatological message is reasonable, though perhaps not comfortable for Josephus to tell the Romans. The gospels inadvertently tell us interesting things about John and his followers. Why did John's followers fast when those of Jesus didn't need to? Why did he have to send to find out if Jesus was the messiah? Don't these show some of the contention between the two sets of belief? Followers of John's religion didn't know that Jesus was the messiah. This makes one think of the Apollos story in Acts 18:24ff. Apollos, the Johannine believer, had to be taken aside and told about Jesus, presumably of his coming and more specific teachings.

He certainly can be explained that way in the Gospels, and I would argue that that is the simplest explanation for his appearance and function there.

Christianity did not "have to" accept JB until he appeared in the Gospel of Mark. It was his function there that led to the questions surrounding him and Jesus, and all the so-called "embarrassed" responses in later gospels.

You still really haven't said what benefit including John would have been. The best you've mentioned is something about him being a foil, which seems to have entailed saddling christianity with baptism.

Well a literary foil suggests a benefit. We have the typical literary prophetic announcement of a great figure to come, the representative of the Old against the New. This is another topic entirely. I have posted about it often enough on Vridar. It deserves another series of posts here.

You're making my case. There needs to be an old order for the new one to supercede. If it weren't real then it would have no effect on the audience of the immediately subsequent period.

neilgodfrey wrote:
spin wrote:
neilgodfrey wrote:Paul did not know of him; nor any of the other letter-writers; nor did the Marcionites; nor those attached to the Gospel of Thomas. (The latter appear to have given special place to James, but there is no JB.) JB only makes his mark in later developments for some reason. The Acts story has many grounds for being argued to have been a mid/latter second century product.

I gave the Acts reference purely for the fact that the baptist religion is shown to have survived and was proselytizing, showing that it was a separate existence from christianity. The later it is, the more significant that separation is.

That various writers didn't know him, especially someone at the beginning (Paul), suggests that the evolving tradition hadn't as yet dragged John in.

All the Acts reference does is tell us what the author of Acts wanted to convey to his audience. Now what is the best explanation for that? That is another question entirely. (We can't just blithely assume historicity. We need first to address the nature and context of the literature we are dealing with.)

You'll note that I didn't assume historicity for the passage. I used it to show that this writer of Acts is still dealing with the effect of John's religion long afterwards.

neilgodfrey wrote:And if Paul writing twenty plus years after Jesus had no need to address the JB question – when and why does this JB become someone that Christianity “can't ignore”?

Paul was just starting the religion. Why should he have dealt with John, when he was still working out what his beliefs were? This line of argument makes you ask why Paul didn't acknowledge anything much at all that was later found in the gospel. It either wasn't significant or it was added later. I don't think there was much of anything at the time of Paul because he seems the best bet as the founder of the religion.

neilgodfrey wrote:
spin wrote:
neilgodfrey wrote:But come back to the phrase behind "in Christ" itself. I doubt that this is the most natural way to refer to "assemblies" who were "believers in a messiah".

Firstly, most of the literati among the Jews would have known that the writings spoke of such a figure; how much of these ideas were in the awareness of the broader population is simply unknown until the time of the Jewish War/s.

Secondly, "in Christ" sounds more like something out of Stoicism -- living "in Reason/Logos", for example. Was there ever a Maccabean who could have been said to have been "in Christ"? It does not sound quite right as a reference to those who supposedly believe an idea that every Jew was supposed to have believed in anyway (as the conventional wisdom asks us to accept).

I don't think one can make these sorts of calls without having a close familiarity with the language and cultures. The Greek seems pretty straightforward to me, but what it seems to me would probably not be of any significance because I lack that close familiarity.

I am open to reading the scholarly arguments. I have read several that DO address this “in Christ” phrase (Novenson, Engberg-Pedersen) and it is of their arguments that I am thinking here.

If anyone with the skills has argued a case that “in Christ” can refer to any believer in a messiah, per se, then I will love to read it. Till then I have no alternative but to go along with the arguments of those who do have the specialist skills – such as the likes of the two scholars I mentioned.

“In Christ” does not speak of a believer in a Messiah, per se. Bar-Kochba supporters were never described as being “in Christ”, I am sure.

Again we come to the wall of silence. I'm sure there is no problem in accepting the term "christ" is what Jews used in Greek for "messiah". I doubt that you'd want to argue that Paul--amongst everything else--is coining a new christian idiom which included "in christ", but is using the resources of the language already existent. This should point to the likelihood of "in christ" existing before Paul and any hypothetically earlier Jesus believers.
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Re: Historical Jesus [strict moderation]

#33755  Postby neilgodfrey » Jul 23, 2013 3:01 am

spin wrote:Hell, Neil, I've been tardy here. I've been engaged in trying to pin McGrath down in the comments section of the Vridar post on his blog. I'm a b-a-a-a-d boy.


Will read and respond to main part of your reply later, but as for trying to get McG to give an unambiguous answer to a straight question . . . . Well, McGrath finally called me insane because I persisted in expecting straight answers from him. He's the only person I know who considers expectations of straight answers from him as a symptom of insanity.
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Re: Historical Jesus [strict moderation]

#33756  Postby neilgodfrey » Jul 23, 2013 7:40 am

spin wrote:Hell, Neil, I've been tardy here. I've been engaged in trying to pin McGrath down in the comments section of the Vridar post on his blog. I'm a b-a-a-a-d boy.

neilgodfrey wrote:
spin wrote:
neilgodfrey wrote:

But there is no evidence for any of this apart from Christian apologetic tradition.

It's certainly true that the evidence is only contained within christian tradition, yet it doesn't support the christian tradition.


That doesn't make sense to me. How can an integral part of a tradition not “support the tradition”?

What makes it an integral part? In what sense is John the Baptist an integral part of christianity? The best you've offered is a vague notion of John being a foil. Baptism doesn't fit into christianity. It has no meaning within the theology. Some duffer had to come up with this baptism with fire nonsense to trump the Johannine variety. Still people got baptized.


We'll have to agree to disagree. Baptism is as “integral” to Christianity as is a ritual eating the flesh of Christ and the confession that Christ is Lord. In Paul we can see it preceded any references to John the Baptist. There are clues throughout Mark that baptism is a symbolic motif apart from JB, as has been established I think at least since Scrogg's and Groff's 1973 JBL article, “Baptism in Mark: Dying and Rising with Christ”. Fire was part and parcel of Mark's Scriptural source for the entire scene: the new Exodus as the founding event for a new people of God is set in the wilderness, heralded by a lone prophetic voice, announcing the way, being led safely through water and fire of judgment (Isa. 40:3). . . .

spin wrote:
neilgodfrey wrote:This idea that there was some sort of competition between John the Baptist and Jesus is a product of later Christianity. It was introduced by later Christianity and the apologetic purposes are transparent. It was not there in the epistles or other pre-gospel traditions (unless one accepts modern constructs of Q as historical evidence).

If christianity started with Paul, ie his epistles, then you are getting the beginnings of christianity and he says all he is giving is christ crucified. He was apparently still working out the basics.


If you like. But again we'll have to agree to disagree. We have in Paul's letters quotations and references to traditions and hymns and christologies that preceded him. We have to accept Paul as he is. He gets pretty stroppy in some of his epistles about anyone wanting to change anything he teaches – not indicative of one still groping his way to thrash out a new religion. What was worked out later became either “heresy” or “orthodoxy”.

spin wrote:
neilgodfrey wrote:
spin wrote:
You're overworking the "apologetic" and "theological faith" rhetoric and I think not noticing the fact that John doesn't sit well in christianity. John is the one who receive the Elijah references leaving Jesus to play second fiddle as an Elisha figure. John talks about the eschaton, the end time, the need for repentence. Jesus gets to repeat this stuff, but it's John's message. That's upstaging, don't you think?

Apologetic and faith are not overworked. I simply introduced them as the simplest explanations for the JB passages in the gospels. Can you point to a single JB reference in the gospels that does not link directly to some OT passage? Without going into the details here, we can see that everything said about JB in the gospels is derived from Malachi, 1 and 2 Kings, Isaiah, . . . It is all “midrashic” creation if you will tolerate that word. If not, I'll use another. Whatever it's called it all amounts to the same thing. The only conceivable “secular” historical reference we have to John (Josephus) situates him at a time that excludes him from any possible role in relation to Jesus.

This doesn't amount to apologetic and faith. It's a claim that there is a hb source for every single John reference in the gospels. OK, I'll ask about the elephant in the room: what's the source for baptism?


When an evangelist crafts a baptism scene from Jewish Scriptures to introduce the new Saviour that sounds like the sort of activity that one could call a “faith” or apologetic activity. The same symbolic meanings are at work as were there for Paul when he spoke of baptism. The new Israel emerging from the waters to be filled with the Holy Spirit as God's son – just as the New Exodus of Isaiah foretold is just the starter. The wilderness setting and the Elijah figure – the whole body and soul of the scene is theological symbolism through and through. There is nothing but superfluous razors for Occam's beard if we try to find room for anything historical on top of all of this.

If you don't see this as an “apologetic” of any kind then again we'll just have to disagree.

There are any number of likely candidates for the source of the baptism. I thought that's pretty obvious. What's the source for the other ritual, the meal?

spin wrote:
neilgodfrey wrote:
spin wrote:
It's not evidence, but argument from silence. The notion of thew messiah is delineated briefly in the Psalms of Solomon and to a greater extent in the DSS. The securely dated DSS by C14 are before the turn of the era and the Psalms are the same, so there is already a literary tradition to support the notion before the reputed time of Jesus.

Now you're getting my point. We have no evidence of a popular imminent messianic expectation prior to the Jewish War(s).

But you're not getting mine. You know: argument from silence.


We're talking past each other. Your argument is there despite the silence – or absence of evidence. I am simply saying lack of evidence means lack of evidence and no foundation for any argument. We can't build a case despite the lack of evidence.

My argument is based on the way the term “messiah” is used in the evidence we do have. It never applies to a contemporary figure until the Jewish War/s at end of first and early second centuries.


spin wrote:
neilgodfrey wrote:The notion of the messiah is found in many Jewish texts. The question remains, though, whether these notions were part of the wider popular consciousness. We have no evidence that they were. The texts speak of a messiah at the “end of days” – suggesting a distant future time. There is no evidence that such an idea was translated into having any immediate relevance to the society of the day among the general population.

We have no wider evidence of very much about Judea in the first century, let alone views of what the general population found relevant. The literature that you are trying to separate from the general population is most of what we have about the period. The literature talks of messianism. Messianism was a strongly political notion involving the overthrow of foreign rulers and we have traces of several political moves, taken to be vaguely independence oriented, that the Romans crushed in Palestine.


We can't validly squeeze the evidence we have for one subset to fit into gaps left by the absence of evidence in other areas without serious justification. We have no reason to assume that the literary evidence we have was in the consciousness of the general populace, let alone that it was interpreted to apply to imminent political events. The Gospel of Matthew nativity scene even assumes the contrary – that the general populace were not filled with any such anticipation: special inquiry had to be directed to the court wizards.

spin wrote:
neilgodfrey wrote:
spin wrote:
Josephus has apologetic reasons not to deal with any messianism. In fact he eschews the term in all places except the TF and the reference to James. No-one but Jesus is a messiah. You can understand my straight face here. (The two passages about Jesus are the only two that mention a messiah, so you should be able to glean my lack of belief.) Josephus had reasons not to deal with this problematic notion of Judaism, since armed rebellion is entailed in the messiah's activities. His work is usually, and I think fairly, classified as an apologetic history. Besides, a dead messiah is a false messiah and Christians are not going to label anyone else a messiah. The messianic silence is not significant.

So goes the conventional wisdom. But is any of this really the final word? Josephus has apologetic reasons to eschew references to messianism, we are told, but then we are told he doesn't eschew the term for other reasons – e.g. when he talks about the brother of Jesus or whatever, or when he talks about Vespasian. This sounds like some sort of ad hoc rationalization rather than a real argument.

I may not have made myself clear, so let me try again. Both references to the messiah concerning Jesus are bogus. (The TF for obvious reasons and "the brother of Jesus called christ" from the James passage on syntactic grounds.) They just happen to be the only references to "christos" in Josephus despite the term being used about 40 times in the LXX.


So Josephus nowhere discusses messianic expectations prior to the Jewish War. Your argument appears to rely upon data that makes no reference to messianic expectations nor even messiahs of any kind, and must in turn find an explanation for that silence in the evidence to justify its use to support a claim that Josephus is talking about messianic movements! That sounds like the sort of apologetic one expects from the most erudite of theologians.

spin wrote:
neilgodfrey wrote:I can reply that there is a simpler explanation: there was no popular messianic expectation until the time Josephus says there was.

Make things as simple as possible, but no simpler. We have almost no sources for Palestine beside Josephus, so once again this is an appeal to silence. And he avoids using the term messiah, though he does indicate knowledge of messianic prophecy, when he applies it to Vespasian, so his lack of discussion concerning messianism when he deals with Jewish political activists killed by the Romans. We later find a specific political activist, Simeon bar-Koseba, who no-one can deny was called messiah. It's not hard to look back at the zealot movement and see the same aims as Simeon.


I'm not appealing to silence. I'm appealing to the evidence we do have for the way “messiah” was understood (as not applying to a contemporary figure or being the subject of popular anticipation) prior to the Jewish War/s. The silence in the evidence leaves my argument untouched.

It is a complex argument to say that Josephus did not mention something about events that he wrote about because of various motivations and sensibilities on the part of himself and others; why not simply say X is not mentioned, full stop? Leave it at that. Maybe they really were the average royal pretenders without any “messianic” associations at all.

Why is there even a question about why he did not address something? Why do we have to assume there must have been more (our belief systems demand there was more!) and then find arguments to explain the silence. This does not sound like best-practice methodology to me.

Now if we do have good reasons that's fine. But question-begging is not allowed.

spin wrote:
neilgodfrey wrote:
spin wrote:
Who was around to leave a body of literature that would call anyone else a messiah? The silence is insignificant.

Messianism, if embodied, implied rebellion against the Roman overlordship. It meant removal of foreign power from the land of the Jews. Advocating messianism was sedition.

It was not sedition to scorn those who pretended to be messiahs and accuse them of lying and thereby being responsible for the downfall of Jerusalem. Josephus could not scorn anti-establishment rebels enough. Adding the fact that they were deluded messianists would not have hurt his propaganda interests in any way. Why, even the scholarly establishment can quite accept Josephus telling the Romans that some Jews thought Jesus was the messiah.

The passage is one of those apparently non-cristian testimonials that religious scholarship has held on to tenaciously for lack of anything more substantive in its efforts to sustain a Jesus in history.

The fact that you rightly point out regarding Josephus's views of the political "rebels" only helps to understand why he wouldn't address them as messianic.


This is begging the question.


spin wrote:
neilgodfrey wrote:
spin wrote:
You still really haven't said what benefit including John would have been. The best you've mentioned is something about him being a foil, which seems to have entailed saddling christianity with baptism.

Well a literary foil suggests a benefit. We have the typical literary prophetic announcement of a great figure to come, the representative of the Old against the New. This is another topic entirely. I have posted about it often enough on Vridar. It deserves another series of posts here.

You're making my case. There needs to be an old order for the new one to supercede. If it weren't real then it would have no effect on the audience of the immediately subsequent period.


Stories don't have to be “true” or “real” to be powerful mind-changers.

spin wrote:
neilgodfrey wrote:
spin wrote:
I gave the Acts reference purely for the fact that the baptist religion is shown to have survived and was proselytizing, showing that it was a separate existence from christianity. The later it is, the more significant that separation is.

That various writers didn't know him, especially someone at the beginning (Paul), suggests that the evolving tradition hadn't as yet dragged John in.

All the Acts reference does is tell us what the author of Acts wanted to convey to his audience. Now what is the best explanation for that? That is another question entirely. (We can't just blithely assume historicity. We need first to address the nature and context of the literature we are dealing with.)

You'll note that I didn't assume historicity for the passage. I used it to show that this writer of Acts is still dealing with the effect of John's religion long afterwards.


The assumption that there was an effect from John's religion long afterwards is an assumption of historicity.

spin wrote:
neilgodfrey wrote:And if Paul writing twenty plus years after Jesus had no need to address the JB question – when and why does this JB become someone that Christianity “can't ignore”?

Paul was just starting the religion. Why should he have dealt with John, when he was still working out what his beliefs were? This line of argument makes you ask why Paul didn't acknowledge anything much at all that was later found in the gospel. It either wasn't significant or it was added later. I don't think there was much of anything at the time of Paul because he seems the best bet as the founder of the religion.


This is returning us to stuff addressed above.

spin wrote:
neilgodfrey wrote:
spin wrote:
I don't think one can make these sorts of calls without having a close familiarity with the language and cultures. The Greek seems pretty straightforward to me, but what it seems to me would probably not be of any significance because I lack that close familiarity.

I am open to reading the scholarly arguments. I have read several that DO address this “in Christ” phrase (Novenson, Engberg-Pedersen) and it is of their arguments that I am thinking here.

If anyone with the skills has argued a case that “in Christ” can refer to any believer in a messiah, per se, then I will love to read it. Till then I have no alternative but to go along with the arguments of those who do have the specialist skills – such as the likes of the two scholars I mentioned.

“In Christ” does not speak of a believer in a Messiah, per se. Bar-Kochba supporters were never described as being “in Christ”, I am sure.

Again we come to the wall of silence. I'm sure there is no problem in accepting the term "christ" is what Jews used in Greek for "messiah". I doubt that you'd want to argue that Paul--amongst everything else--is coining a new christian idiom which included "in christ", but is using the resources of the language already existent. This should point to the likelihood of "in christ" existing before Paul and any hypothetically earlier Jesus believers.


I addressed the silence above. My argument is not from silence; the silence has no effect upon my argument that is based on the evidence we do have. I don't have to rationalize the silence away.

“In Christ” has been studied and explored often enough for us to have a pretty good idea of what it means.

Anyway, when Paul speaks of “assemblies in Christ” I think we are entitled to be guided by the evidence we do have vis a vis the understanding of messiah, its relationship to contemporary persons, it's theological core, and the concept of “in” within this context, to guide our conclusion as to what Paul meant by the phrase.

There is no reason to think that there were identifiable "assemblies" that could be characterized by their belief in a messiah! We can generally say that Judaism per se, for all its different flavours, believed in a messiah or two.
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Re: Historical Jesus [strict moderation]

#33757  Postby dejuror » Jul 23, 2013 8:50 am

angelo wrote:The facts are still that christianity started with whoever Paul was. If one person he was obviously deluded. How else can be explained that he went up to the second heaven and heard voices and saw visions. If more than one person as is possible, it would explain the 5-6 epistles not attributed to Paul. Whether Jesus existed or not we would still have christianity in existence today, probably under some entirely different doctrine. Mankind has a need to believe in superstitious nonsense. Mankind could not accept that life has no meaning except what one makes of it. He needed to believe that gods would come to his rescue.


The Jesus cult started WITHOUT "Paul".--Over 500 persons "hallucinated" BEFORE Paul.

1. The Pauline writers persecuted the Jesus cult.

2. The Pauline writer was the LAST to be seen of the resurrected Jesus.

3. The Pauline writers came in contact with Jesus AFTER the resurrection.

4. The Pauline writers were ALIVE After gLuke was composed.
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Re: Historical Jesus [strict moderation]

#33758  Postby neilgodfrey » Jul 23, 2013 9:15 am

dejuror wrote:

The Jesus cult started WITHOUT "Paul".--Over 500 persons "hallucinated" BEFORE Paul.

1. The Pauline writers persecuted the Jesus cult.

2. The Pauline writer was the LAST to be seen of the resurrected Jesus.

3. The Pauline writers came in contact with Jesus AFTER the resurrection.

4. The Pauline writers were ALIVE After gLuke was composed.


I hope I'm not treading on angelo's toes, but I have an idle moment . . . .

Actually all of these claims lack secure foundation.

The passage referring to 500 brethren is of questionable authenticity, as noted by William O. Walker when he cites Robert M. Price in Interpolations in the Pauline Letters. (One part of the argument for this that the detail was obviously unknown to the authors of the gospels.)

The idea that there was a Jesus cult distinct from Paul's Christianity is actually a scholarly construct that originated with Bauer and has been modernized by Burton Mack. There are alternative models.

The idea that Paul himself persecuted Christians was unknown among the Marcionites -- a form of Christianity that essentially preceded what we would call orthodoxy. (Luke-Acts in its canonical form was unknown till the latter half of the second century.)

Claims of having the "last" vision have polemical value and so must be treated with caution.

The earliest evidence (e.g. I Corinthians 15) also says that every contact with Jesus - including those of all other apostles - was AFTER the resurrection.

There is no evidence that anyone knew of the Gospel of Luke until the mid second century. Earlier evidence indicates a complete ignorance of anything distinctive to the Gospel of Luke.
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Re: Historical Jesus [strict moderation]

#33759  Postby dejuror » Jul 23, 2013 9:53 am

neilgodfrey wrote:......So Josephus nowhere discusses messianic expectations prior to the Jewish War. Your argument appears to rely upon data that makes no reference to messianic expectations nor even messiahs of any kind, and must in turn find an explanation for that silence in the evidence to justify its use to support a claim that Josephus is talking about messianic movements! That sounds like the sort of apologetic one expects from the most erudite of theologians.


Here is exactly where your argument for an early Paul is utterly flawed.

1. Josephus wrote nothing of messianic expectations until the Jewish War c 70 CE.

Now, explain why the Pauline writers are writing about a character called Jesus the Messiah hundreds of times as if Jesus the Messiah was a household name before the Jewish War c 70 CE.??

The Pauline Corpus mentions Jesus as the Messiah over 380 times.

How could Josephus miss such a prominent Messiah, the Son of God, born of the seed of David which was being proclaimed "all over" the Roman Empire by a Hebrew of Hebrews of the tribe of Benjamin and a former Pharisee?

Let us compare the Epistle to the Romans with gMark--both have 16 chapters.

The author of Romans mentioned Jesus as the Messiah about 68 times

The author of gMark mentioned Jesus as the Messiah ONLY about 8 times.

Examine 1 Corinthians---Jesus called the Messiah about 59 times----gMark Only 8 times.

Examine 2 Corinthians--Jesus called the Messiah about 45 times--gMark Only 8 times.

Examine Galatians---Jesus called the Messiah about 36 times--gMark Only 8 times.

The Pauline Corpus is NOT compatible with Jewish expectations of a Messiah c 70 CE as found in the writings of Josephus, Tacitus and Suetonius.

The Pauline Messiah was unknown by Jewish and Roman writers of the 1st century.

The Pauline Corpus matches a later time period AFTER the writings of Philo, Josephus, Tacitus and Suetonius.

It was in the 2nd century that Jesus the Messiah was a household name in the Roman Empire.

In "Against Celsus" Origen declared that Celsus wrote nothing of Paul.

It is gMark that appears to match the early Jewish and Roman writers of the 1st century---gMark's Messiah was unknown and wanted no-one to know who he was.

Mark 8:30 KJV ------And he charged them that they should tell no man of him.

Up to the writing of gMark, after c 70 CE, no-one was told of a Messiah called Jesus which is completely compatible with the writings of Philo, Josephus, Tacitus and Suetonius.
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Re: Historical Jesus [strict moderation]

#33760  Postby Mus Ponticus » Jul 23, 2013 10:11 am

spin wrote:Hell, Neil, I've been tardy here. I've been engaged in trying to pin McGrath down in the comments section of the Vridar post on his blog. I'm a b-a-a-a-d boy.
That was a fun read. I was hoping that James would engage you on the "brother of the lord"-issue. Hasn't happened yet :(
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