Posted: Apr 24, 2017 11:48 am
by Agrippina
John Platko wrote:
PensivePenny wrote:John, the itemized response is appreciated. I think you've given me a fair grasp of your position. I won't respond in like kind for brevity and only because I accept most everything you've written. Nothing unreasonable.

I will however respond to a few of the points. If I fail to respond to something in you're particularly interested in hearing, let me know.

Alright, so we can agree that "something" can be learned from human behavior based on how people react to a story. For that matter, we can add to a "story", a sneeze, a crying infant, a Mormon evangelist knocking on the door, or the pizza delivery arriving late. All those are opportunities to learn about human behavior.

Yes, one can learn from all of those situations. The crying infant is an interesting case. But that's perhaps another story for another day.

A behaviour isn't a "story". The way we react to a "story" a retold piece of fiction is different to the way we react to a perceived stimulus. A behaviour isn't a story, it's something that stimulates us to respond. If we are told a baby cried, or someone sneezed, or Mormon knocked on a door, a pizza delivery man arrived late, we respond with acknowledgement of hearing or reading the story, when we hear a baby cry, we might ignore it, or tell the parent to shut it up, a sneeze with "bless you" or ignoring it, a Mormon knocking on the door, with abuse or inviting them in, and the pizza delivery guy arriving late, with a smaller tip, and anger, or just accepting there was a reason for it. We don't learn from other people's behaviour, unless they're expressly trying to inform us. However, we do learn from a story, even unconsciously.

Personally, I don't see much to be learned from it that can't be learned in about a minute. That is an exaggeration. Some might find it more interesting topic than others, but I seriously doubt there is much value to be gained. But, say I'm wrong. For example, tell me what you think the lesson is that people believe in a virgin birth?

I think just about every kind of human interaction one could have is to be found in the four gospels and the way people deal with them. And it's helpful that there are four versions of the same story. The virgin birth wouldn't be my choice of where to start sussing out what we can from the story but, since you've been so polite in your responses I will honor your request.

They're not four versions of the same story, they are copies of the original, changed slightly to appear to be different versions.

Also they are not the only versions of the story.

This scholarly consensus holds that the Gospel of Matthew and the Gospel of Luke were composed, independently of one another, sometime in the 80s or 90s. Both used a written form of the Gospel of Mark as source material for their own narratives. In addition, because both Matthew and Luke contain a large amount of material in common that is not found in Mark, most researchers hold that both Evangelists also had a collection of Jesus’ sayings that they incorporated into their works. This saying source is known as “Q” and was likely assembled in the 40s or 50s. This understanding of the origins of the Gospels of Mark, Matthew, and Luke explains why they are similar yet different from one another. The arrangement is called “The Two-Source Hypothesis” because Matthew and Luke are seen to have two written sources, Mark and Q.

The Gospel of John emerges from an independent literary tradition that is not directly connected to the Synoptic tradition. This explains the major differences between John and the Synoptics. The Johannine narrative is indebted to oral and possibly written traditions that were transmitted from earlier decades.

The bullet points of the virgin birth story are:

Mary, a young girl, was engaged to Joseph
Before the wedding Mary was found to be pregnant
Joseph didn't want to disgrace her so he decided to quietly remove himself from the situation
But Joe had a dream where an angel appeared to him and the angel told him no need for that the baby is holy.
When he woke up he followed the message from his dream and took Mary as his wife and accepted the baby as his own.

There's a bit more to the story but lets just see what we might learn from that part - which is plenty to chew on.

So we have an unwed mother - and the fiancé doesn't seem to think he's responsible. :no:
He's a good guy, he doesn't want to get her in more trouble, he's thinking, "I'll quietly slip out the back door". - like a lot of us might.
But then he has a dream - now that's interesting. But can we learn anything from a dream? Some say :no: some say obviously :nod:, dreams give us a window into our unconscious processes - albeit an imperfect and often irrational window. And what does Joe learn from the dream? He learns that Mary and her baby aren't tainted, they're holy - there's no reason from him to abandon her. That's not what the God of Joseph's unconscious imagination (the part of Joe that created the dream) thought was right.
And Joe had the courage and wisdom to follow up on these ideas that were created deep within himself - with high expectations of who this child could grow up to be, what he could accomplish - in spite of what others might say about these "questionable" circumstances.

Young people being what they are, and even though sexual contact was forbidden until formal blessing from a rabbi, it is more than likely, if these were real people that they were caught unawares and made up the story of the angel's appearance to placate the parents who quickly arranged a shotgun wedding. More than likely. Or you can read this version of what possibly happened here.

Which I could say more about but perhaps that's enough for now. From this story we can learn something we're talking a lot about in a thread on free will - why we should be more compassionate and loving to others because they are not in control of all that they do and that happens to them. :no: And Joseph modeled that behavior because he was trying, as much as he could, to be the best person he could be.

Of course we are in control of how we respond to a situation. We're not automatons, we see a situation, figure out the easiest solution: girlfriend is pregnant, let's make a up a story to get married quickly.

Again, there's more to be learned from this story but that's a start. For example how people deal with the "questionable' birth circumstances. It's almost like they had their very own Sean Spicer shouting out: "Joseph believed she was a holy virgin - period.
Why does that sort of thing happen? What can we learn from that?

He knew she wasn't because he knew her.

"Flimsy" was a poor word choice. My comparison of Hamlet and the bible was merely to suggest that any value gained in learning human behavior would be more or less equal, of only modest value, and in the end so subjective as to further reduce it's value. The "flimsy" was just meant to say that if one wants to learn about human behavior there are far better ways that are more scientifically valuable and more objective.

Such as? I find our knowledge of human behavior in 2017 to be pretty flimsy. I know of no psychological system that can really sus out what's afoot at the psychological extremes. There's a reason they call psychology, and anthropology soft sciences.

No people who've never studied the workings of human behaviour call it "soft sciences". The term doesn't refer to "well we don't actually know what the hell is going on so we're sucking nonsense explanations out of our thumbs". It's a pejorative used by people who think that abnormal behaviour is caused by the supernatural, and that it can be prayed away.

I don't understand why you'd think anything I said in the post you referenced was "unfair." I think I was perfectly fair and reasonable, but will entertain your opposition. Is it because I (paraphrased) said the bible is fiction?

I don't have a problem with parts of the Bible being called works of fiction - for many parts that's a perfectly reasonable description. But given that the majority of scholars assess Jesus to have been a historical figure, it's unfair to evaluate that story as a work of fiction- I think calling it a noisy (heavily corrupted) historical account is closer to the truth - at least that's how I approach it. And I give that sort of thing a little more weight than a work of fiction, especially one produced by a single author. But in the end, it's the explanatory value of either story that matters to us today. But I feel more sympathy for an actual person who actually lived who was a good guy unjustly killed than I do for a fictitious character.

It is all a work of fiction. The only part that has some basis in truth is that some people from Judah were taken to Babylon with the person they called a king because they refused to pay tribute to the king of Babylon, and some of them were executed.

We know the history, because the Babylonians wrote it down (of course with themselves as the heroes, but nevertheless, they did write an account of it from their point of view).

The Cyrus Cylinder.

The rest of the Bible's stories are made up nonsense.

I'm not one of those people who think the bible must be ALL true or ALL false. Whether Jesus lived or not is of little relevance, imo. However, the evidence is equally compelling that Jesus didn't live as it is that he did.

That's not the general assessment of the scholarly community.

It doesn't matter whether he did or didn't live, and there's a multiple-thousand page thread for this. What does matter is that for 2000 years there's been a belief that he did, and people still kill each other about it.

That being said, one of my favorite shows on TV right now is Black Sails. If you aren't familiar with it, it's a period piece from the 17th century about the waning years of the golden age of piracy in the Caribbean and Bahama region. It is chock full of historical figures. A fair accounting of them is done. BUT, there are also several fictional characters stolen from other works of fiction like Treasure Island. Once these elements are introduced into a story, it becomes fiction. When a fictional character and a non-fiction character interact, what exactly is that supposed to achieve? Besides entertainment? This kind of fiction is commonplace and has been probably since the beginning of the written alphabet... it is a genre all unto itself, known as "Historical Fiction." The bible falls into that genre. I do hope you agree with that. Whether this or that character actually existed is irrelevant. We already agree that at least some parts are fictional (supernatural stuff, you said), so the source (the bible) is a discredited witness. That doesn't mean that it is all fabricated, but enough is known to be fabricated that it ALL must be suspect.

<ETA: So much for "brevity." Sorry about that.>

Knowing actual history is difficult. My wife and I often disagree about what happened the day before. Once in a while I'm even shown to be wrong about what I think happened. ;) We don't have to have a perfect account of what happened to learn important things form history. The fact that the Jesus story had such legs through history is something that I think needs explaining. Why? What is it about that story? I think it reaches something deep inside of people and even though they might not be able to articulate why, they feel there's something important there. To me, it's a revelation of human dynamics and psychological processes. Maybe someday neurology will have better explanations and ways of explaining human behavior - but not today.

Much of recorded history is fiction. You cannot accept a single piece of evidence in whatever form as "the truth". It's when you examine multiple sources of a story, and find the pieces that agree, then examine those further, again looking for agreement, that you might be able to cobble together a possible scenario. That's how it's supposed to work. Every single historical account of every event, even if written from the point of view of an eye witness, should be questioned. Christopher Hitchens said that when he was a reporter, writing about an event he witnessed, he often wondered whether other reporters were actually at the event they were reporting on, because of how different their stories were. It's easy to test. Just go to a major event with a group of friends, place them at different places away from each other, some of them watching the event in a mirror, without their knowledge, then compare notes after the event. Each point of view will be different, especially the ones who don't know they're looking at a mirror image where they'll swear the person at the centre of the event was writing with the opposite hand, for example. It's a matter of looking for the similarities in each story to find the truth, and even then that should be questioned.