Objectivity and the Quests for the Historical Jesus

flatlanderdox
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Objectivity and the Quests for the Historical Jesus

The 'results' of the quests for the historical Jesus was that the 'Jesus' each scholar ended up with did not seem to be objective, but rather reflected the beliefs and agendas of each respective scholar. 

What support do you give to distinguish yourself from the rest of these scholars as uniquely objective, and untainted by your atheological predilections?  Is it not a bit ironic that you--a person dedicated to the propagation of belief in the non-existence of God--assert the position that this "historical Jesus" never existed?

Ockham's Razor is only as sharp as you are.


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Which "you" are you

Which "you" are you addressing? The majority here are Jesus mythicists but not all of us are.

As far as I know, there were hundreds of guys named Jesus running around at that time (Yeshua was as common of a name as John is in America). Were some of them tricksters who performed "miracles" and claimed Messiah-ship? Sure. Again, this was a popular occupation.

Were any of them the son of Yahweh as claimed in the Bible? No, that's a myth.

"I do this real moron thing, and it's called thinking. And apparently I'm not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions."
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flatlanderdox
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"You" meaning particularly

"You" meaning particularly Rook. 

And I'm talking about the allegedly historical individual named Jesus of whom the Gospel writers speak--the same "historical Jesus" that the "quests" have been aiming for--not Jesus son of Bubba Joe and Nadine or any other person named "Jesus."  I assumed that much was obvious.

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flatlanderdox wrote:"You"

flatlanderdox wrote:

"You" meaning particularly Rook. 

And I'm talking about the allegedly historical individual named Jesus of whom the Gospel writers speak--the same "historical Jesus" that the "quests" have been aiming for--not Jesus son of Bubba Joe and Nadine or any other person named "Jesus."  I assumed that much was obvious.

That Jesus was a character created to drive the plot of the Gospels and put a human face on the Christ construct Paul created approximately two decades earlier.

If he was a historical figure and the guy who wrote the gospel knew him (were eyewitnesses), why wait 40 years to write things down? Why wait twenty years after Paul constructed his theology?

"I do this real moron thing, and it's called thinking. And apparently I'm not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions."
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flatlanderdox
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Thanks for the responses.

Thanks for the responses.

I'd rather not get distracted by that before I get my own question answered.  My concern is that Rook (and others) have pointed to the ineptitude of the quests for the historical Jesus because these "Jesuses" just reflect the scholars constructing this Jesus.  My question is how does the "Mythisist" scholars distinguish themselves and their non-Jesus as truly objective, and unbiased vis a vis the other historical Jesus scholars. 

An even more interesting question, I think, is the question: is it even possible to achieve an "objective" picture of history?


 

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flatlanderdox wrote:Thanks

flatlanderdox wrote:

Thanks for the responses.

I'd rather not get distracted by that before I get my own question answered.  My concern is that Rook (and others) have pointed to the ineptitude of the quests for the historical Jesus because these "Jesuses" just reflect the scholars constructing this Jesus.  My question is how does the "Mythisist" scholars distinguish themselves and their non-Jesus as truly objective, and unbiased vis a vis the other historical Jesus scholars. 

An even more interesting question, I think, is the question: is it even possible to achieve an "objective" picture of history?

 

 

I'm not sure if it is possible to get an objective picture of anything that humans do because I doubt that it is possible for any human to be truly objective.

I do think that people can greatly reduce the effects of their biases on their research if they work at it. I also think that holding the Christian (or Jewsh, or Muslim, etc.) faith is a strong bias that needs to be overcome.

"I do this real moron thing, and it's called thinking. And apparently I'm not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions."
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Most of us are ex christians

Most of us are ex christians of one sort or another, we were brought up believing in the christian god, jesus, moses etc.  Our atheism simply meant we could research jesus' life without the theistic goggles, we could look at things objectively which allowed note to be taken of the contemporary and non biblical sources (of which there are none).  Most of us started this research under the belief there was a real jesus and were only expecting to find him as being more of a normal person, not so special.  Finding objectively that there's more evidence to suggest a lack of existance was unexpected.

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I would pretty much agree

jcgadfly wrote: I'm not sure if it is possible to get an objective picture of anything that humans do because I doubt that it is possible for any human to be truly objective.

I do think that people can greatly reduce the effects of their biases on their research if they work at it. I also think that holding the Christian (or Jewsh, or Muslim, etc.) faith is a strong bias that needs to be overcome.

I would pretty much agree with all of your thoughts here, except for the last. 

I suppose that is part of my question: What constitutes a bias that should be overcome? and which biased person gets to decide what we should overcome?  If true objectivity is not achievable, how do you objectively determine what objectivity looks like?  How do you find that location of objectivity to which we should be moving as close as possible?  Would not that ideal of objectivity inevitably be muddied by your own biases?

 

EDIT: Quote added

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thingy wrote:Most of us are

thingy wrote:

Most of us are ex christians of one sort or another, we were brought up believing in the christian god, jesus, moses etc.  Our atheism simply meant we could research jesus' life without the theistic goggles, we could look at things objectively which allowed note to be taken of the contemporary and non biblical sources (of which there are none).  Most of us started this research under the belief there was a real jesus and were only expecting to find him as being more of a normal person, not so special.  Finding objectively that there's more evidence to suggest a lack of existance was unexpected.

Thanks for the response.  I really can understand why such a process might lead you to believe that your conclusion was objective.  Thing is, I think we always wear goggles of some kind, whether we realize it or not.  To take off theistic goggles just means another pair of goggles takes its place--in this case, atheism.  The supposition "God is not there" could very easily and naturally lead to the bias of thinking "Jesus was not there"--especially with a person coming from a Christian background or social context in which Jesus is considered to be God.

Ockham's Razor is only as sharp as you are.


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flatlanderdox wrote:jcgadfly

flatlanderdox wrote:

jcgadfly wrote: I'm not sure if it is possible to get an objective picture of anything that humans do because I doubt that it is possible for any human to be truly objective.

I do think that people can greatly reduce the effects of their biases on their research if they work at it. I also think that holding the Christian (or Jewsh, or Muslim, etc.) faith is a strong bias that needs to be overcome.

I would pretty much agree with all of your thoughts here, except for the last. 

I suppose that is part of my question: What constitutes a bias that should be overcome? and which biased person gets to decide what we should overcome?  If true objectivity is not achievable, how do you objectively determine what objectivity looks like?  How do you find that location of objectivity to which we should be moving as close as possible?  Would not that ideal of objectivity inevitably be muddied by your own biases?

 

EDIT: Quote added

When you believe in the existence of something, you are more likely to steer your research towards what supports your conclusion. If you want to get closer to an objective view, all of the available information must be considered.

In the case of a historical Jesus, the christian faith might lead the researcher from working from conclusion to evidence instead of the other way round.

"I do this real moron thing, and it's called thinking. And apparently I'm not a very good American because I like to form my own opinions."
— George Carlin


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flatlanderdox wrote:Thanks

flatlanderdox wrote:
Thanks for the response.  I really can understand why such a process might lead you to believe that your conclusion was objective.  Thing is, I think we always wear goggles of some kind, whether we realize it or not.  To take off theistic goggles just means another pair of goggles takes its place--in this case, atheism.  The supposition "God is not there" could very easily and naturally lead to the bias of thinking "Jesus was not there"--especially with a person coming from a Christian background or social context in which Jesus is considered to be God.

Atheism is just the lack of theism, though.  It is the lack of the theistic goggles.  Say you have two people doing research on Abraham Lincoln and what kind of person he was outside of the public eye.  Would you think a person who already knows about Mr Lincoln and adores him would be more subjective, or a person from another country who has never heard of Mr Lincoln before would be more subjective? 

The second person doesn't have anti Lincoln goggles on, he simply doesn't have the pro Lincoln goggles of the first person.

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flatlanderdox
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See, but the thing is, you

See, but the thing is, you aren't just taking off God-goggles and seeing objectively.  In fact the ethos of this site is one quite belligerent to the idea of God.  As such, you are not really seeing with naked eyes sans God-goggles, but are looking through anti-God goggles. 

When you have already made up your mind that there is no God, that makes a rather forceful impact on the way you read the putative biographies of Jesus.  You are not looking without bias at all.  You are automatically rejecting every miracle and supernatural event, as well as every reference made to God, as being without any kind of substance or ontological truth.  That is quite a few exits past being truly "objective", wouldn't you say?

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Quote:When you have already

Quote:

When you have already made up your mind that there is no God, that makes a rather forceful impact on the way you read the putative biographies of Jesus.  You are not looking without bias at all.  You are automatically rejecting every miracle and supernatural event, as well as every reference made to God, as being without any kind of substance or ontological truth.  That is quite a few exits past being truly "objective", wouldn't you say?

First, a conclusion of no credible evidence for god is not the same as.."there is no god"..

Second...,does objectivity begin with...There is no god but mine ?

That is the mantra of nearly every theist on the planet.  That would include "rejecting every miracle, supernatural event and substance of ontological truth" of "god" just so long as it wasn't performed or stated by my god.

How about we apply the same skepticism to everyone's god, that we apply to anything else in the natural world and stop allowing our own ego to pretend that we have or can have some special insight into that which is supernatural.

How's that for objectivity ?

 

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AmericanIdle

AmericanIdle wrote:

Quote:

When you have already made up your mind that there is no God, that makes a rather forceful impact on the way you read the putative biographies of Jesus.  You are not looking without bias at all.  You are automatically rejecting every miracle and supernatural event, as well as every reference made to God, as being without any kind of substance or ontological truth.  That is quite a few exits past being truly "objective", wouldn't you say?

First, a conclusion of no credible evidence for god is not the same as.."there is no god"..

Second...,does objectivity begin with...There is no god but mine ?

That is the mantra of nearly every theist on the planet.  That would include "rejecting every miracle, supernatural event and substance of ontological truth" of "god" just so long as it wasn't performed or stated by my god.

How about we apply the same skepticism to everyone's god, that we apply to anything else in the natural world and stop allowing our own ego to pretend that we have or can have some special insight into that which is supernatural.

How's that for objectivity ?

 

That's kinda my point: no one can speak truly objectively--not me, not you, not anyone. 

Ockham's Razor is only as sharp as you are.


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flatlanderdox wrote:See, but

flatlanderdox wrote:
See, but the thing is, you aren't just taking off God-goggles and seeing objectively.

I'm not?  Prove it.

flatlanderdox wrote:
In fact the ethos of this site is one quite belligerent to the idea of God.  As such, you are not really seeing with naked eyes sans God-goggles, but are looking through anti-God goggles.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but you're saying that looking at the evidence and only at the evidence, in a rational manner, is belligerent to the idea of god? 

flatlanderdox wrote:
When you have already made up your mind that there is no God, that makes a rather forceful impact on the way you read the putative biographies of Jesus.  You are not looking without bias at all.

Show me where I made up my mind that there is no god. 

flatlanderdox wrote:
You are automatically rejecting every miracle and supernatural event, as well as every reference made to God, as being without any kind of substance or ontological truth.  That is quite a few exits past being truly "objective", wouldn't you say?

Miracles and supernatural events have no evidence.  I am only accepting that which has evidence.  Any scientific study that is done without evidence would be thrown out.  Any trial that convicted someone of a crime without evidence would be retried due to be a mistrial.  Any historian who wrote on history without any evidence for what he writes would be laughed at.  So why then should I include events that have no evidence of even being possible, let alone events that do have evidence that are possible but have no contemporary third party evidence but rather have conflicting contemporary third party evidence?  What you're suggesting or requesting is quite a few exits prior to being remotely "objective", let alone truly objective, wouldn't you say?

flatlanderdox wrote:
That's kinda my point: no one can speak truly objectively--not me, not you, not anyone. 

But it's better to get off 1 stop too late than 10 stops too early as you're begging us to do.

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The ancient J is me as

   The ancient J is me as you, Christ in me/you .... what is there to prove ? ME ? GOD ?

I AM JESUS/GOD , ONE with the father/mother cosmos,  AS YOU. ZERO Separation ......

If you ain't Jesus , what are you ? ummm oh yes , an Idol worshiper or a hater ..... that is a sin , that is religion  ......

All is ONE .....  most still don't fucking get it , SO ....  put love on the enemy of "separation dogma thinkers",  to heal them,  the blind God of Abe thinkers, of Devil shit. 

What da ya think, A team, another 2000 yrs ????? shezzzz  ????? ..... ummm,  another 100  WARS ?

The religious are the godless ....................... there is god , then there is god .....       ..... what a fucking mess , what to do with this G O D  w o r d ???

       Is STUPID not the most powerful force in our world ? !  INDEED it is ..... what is the FIX , religion ?  .....       "Imagine no religion", a more recent friend said !     then he was murdered too  ...... geezzz same old story ,  Can we get a new one ...... can we ever make our history nice and proud      Well let's keep trying  ......  A proud Earth !  YES,  Imagine ...... hey, the Aliens might be watching, so let's get groovy .... come on, we got our reputation to proudly flaunt  , in all the cosmos  ..... well just Imagine anyway ...... so cool the stupid bull shit ...... so send this      and WAR never more ......


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Historical Jesus

flatlanderdox wrote:

When you have already made up your mind that there is no God, that makes a rather forceful impact on the way you read the putative biographies of Jesus.  You are not looking without bias at all.  You are automatically rejecting every miracle and supernatural event, as well as every reference made to God, as being without any kind of substance or ontological truth.  That is quite a few exits past being truly "objective", wouldn't you say?

One cannot of course exclude from bias these same biographies that clearly have the purpose in mind to spread the belief in the Jesus cult.  One has to consider the writers of these biographies used the examples of miracles to suitably impress persons that might eventually read them. The same consideration of bias by the wrirer  should exist  when considering any of the gospel biograhies as well as Philostratus the author of "Life of Apollonius of Tyana" another miracle worker healer in 1st century Palestine. 

As you yourself wrote:

flatlanderdox wrote:

That's kinda my point: no one can speak truly objectively--not me, not you, not anyone.

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You are right that we should

You are right that we should consider other ancient biographies.  As far as I see it, it seems to be the case that even the gospel writers themselves did not seem to be under the illusion that they were giving an entirely objective-literal-factual account of Jesus' life.  Papias, in his first century "fragments" for example, noted that Mark was not attempting to provide a "chronological" account of Jesus' life.

In fact from what I understand (according to Richard Burridge in Four Gospels, One Jesus), most ancient Greco-Roman biographies look very much like what we see in the Gospels, and it was not unusual for the biographer to interpolate events in the story of the person in order to better communicate the character of the individual.  Biographies back then were apparently not the same kind of effort that modern biographies are: they are not chronological, absolutely factual accounts, but are instead efforts to catch the personality and "Truth" behind the person they are speaking of.   We see in his preface that Luke was aware that other biographies had been written; indeed it looks as though he had access to at least Mark and Q, perhaps even Matthew; yet he does not dismiss these as "false", or even "inferior" to his own.  As such, it didn't seem to be a problem for the purposes of these ancient minds that their biographies "contradicted" in the sense that we think of "contradiction". 

Ockham's Razor is only as sharp as you are.


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To the OP

What criteria would you suggest for distinguishing between an ancient biography of an actual historical figure albeit with inaccuracies and contradictions, and a confabulation of a figure who never existed?

 

 

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Yeah , if the Xians could

  Yeah , if the Xians could prove J was one real dude that would prove god of abe is real and the bible is his book ..... wow god, drop to your knees  ......

What a waste of time religion is ......  except for fucking killing it ....... I AM JESUS as you, get it ?????

 


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The best answer to your

The best answer to your question is really to have you read my articles on the subject.  However, your concern is right and you should always fact-check me and others on our positions and come to your own conclusions.  I would like to note, though, that I am not influenced by dogmatic Christian thinking the same way a Christian scholar like Crossan, Borg or Wright might be.  I am also not "fashioning" a historical Jesus, so my personal life does not affect my understanding of the literature of the Gos. Mark and other early Christians.  I am reading it, so to speak, without the "Gospel colored glasses" that many of my colleagues do.  For a good understanding of this process, I highly recommend The End of Biblical Studies by Hector Avalos.

The best to you,

 

Rook

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Rook_Hawkins wrote:The best

Rook_Hawkins wrote:

The best answer to your question is really to have you read my articles on the subject.  However, your concern is right and you should always fact-check me and others on our positions and come to your own conclusions.  I would like to note, though, that I am not influenced by dogmatic Christian thinking the same way a Christian scholar like Crossan, Borg or Wright might be.  I am also not "fashioning" a historical Jesus, so my personal life does not affect my understanding of the literature of the Gos. Mark and other early Christians.  I am reading it, so to speak, without the "Gospel colored glasses" that many of my colleagues do.  For a good understanding of this process, I highly recommend The End of Biblical Studies by Hector Avalos.

The best to you,

 

Rook

Thanks for the response, Rook. 

Certainly I'd agree that you're not wearing "Gospel according to Jesus Christ Glasses" when you look at the historical Jesus.  My concern is that, instead, you are wearing "Good news according to Atheism and the falseness of Christianity glasses", because you are obviously tremendously concerned with the propogation of atheism and "Jesus Mythisism". 

Ockham's Razor is only as sharp as you are.


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My atheism does not rise or

My atheism does not rise or fall with the existence of Jesus, however.  I wasn't always a mythicist but became one in my quest to find the historical Jesus.  I am simply not convinced by the arguments of historical Jesus scholars, who generally succumb to a fallacy of equivocation.  I suggest reading my article on the historical Jesus quest, and also my introduction to my book, to give some more substance to my position.  I would still recommend you fact check my conclusions, especially if you feel that I am susceptible to bias. 

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flatlanderdox wrote:You are

flatlanderdox wrote:

You are right that we should consider other ancient biographies.  As far as I see it, it seems to be the case that even the gospel writers themselves did not seem to be under the illusion that they were giving an entirely objective-literal-factual account of Jesus' life.  Papias, in his first century "fragments" for example, noted that Mark was not attempting to provide a "chronological" account of Jesus' life.

Rook will tell you they were writing fiction, see his reference. Exactly what Mark was trying to do clearly it wasn't a chronological account.

flatlanderdox wrote:

In fact from what I understand (according to Richard Burridge in Four Gospels, One Jesus), most ancient Greco-Roman biographies look very much like what we see in the Gospels, and it was not unusual for the biographer to interpolate events in the story of the person in order to better communicate the character of the individual.  Biographies back then were apparently not the same kind of effort that modern biographies are: they are not chronological, absolutely factual accounts, but are instead efforts to catch the personality and "Truth" behind the person they are speaking of.   We see in his preface that Luke was aware that other biographies had been written; indeed it looks as though he had access to at least Mark and Q, perhaps even Matthew; yet he does not dismiss these as "false", or even "inferior" to his own.  As such, it didn't seem to be a problem for the purposes of these ancient minds that their biographies "contradicted" in the sense that we think of "contradiction". 

You seem to be wearing the glasses that say "some of this must be true". As to what part that would be is the question. How could you ever tell? The Gospels are such that you can picture a historical Jesus anyway you'd like. If as you say the authors took liberties and enhanced the stories, what did they add? What was there in the first place? Consider what you just said above. If the account was not absolutely factual, what was added? All of the enhanced miracles maybe? As healers seemed to be found everywhere at the time, wouldn't a Jesus as a healer be extremely attractive to the people in a story about him. Say, he was a real person, and many had heard him speak wise sayings. They may have been impressed with him. If stories are told how he walked on water, drove evil spirits into filthy pigs it would no doubt fit the pattern they knew. Plus stretching the truth some seemed to be the norm as you say.

If as Rook says the Gospels are fiction, then it wouldn't matter if they contradicted one another would it? It could be variations in the stories like Robin Hood. Why would one author complain that he was telling a false story if the whole thing was not true?

The real problem is what has been done with these accounts. People take part of Mark, mix it with Luke and add Matthew. Stir in a little John for extra taste. What do you get? Mainstream Christianity. All of the differences and impossibilities are just accepted as real and true.

 

 

 

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"God is omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent, - it says so right here on the label. If you have a mind capable of believing all three of these divine attributes simultaneously, I have a wonderful bargain for you. No checks please. Cash and in small bills." - Robert A Heinlein.


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Rook_Hawkins wrote:My

Rook_Hawkins wrote:

My atheism does not rise or fall with the existence of Jesus, however.  I wasn't always a mythicist but became one in my quest to find the historical Jesus.  I am simply not convinced by the arguments of historical Jesus scholars, who generally succumb to a fallacy of equivocation.  I suggest reading my article on the historical Jesus quest, and also my introduction to my book, to give some more substance to my position.  I would still recommend you fact check my conclusions, especially if you feel that I am susceptible to bias. 

Ok, will do Rook.  Thanks for the links.  How would you prefer I interact with you after I have read them? 

Are you familiar with Richard Burridge's analysis of the genre of the Gospels in Four Gospels, One Jesus?  I'm curious to hear what your criticism of his theory would be.

Also, I'm curious as to whether or not in your studies you have read Wright's New Testament and the People of God

Take care.

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big J philosophy said, I

  big J philosophy said, I AM ONE with the thingy , geeezz wow really ..... da  .....

That is not a profound statement, except for the superstitious ancient times it was said,

But for their reasons, we/they rejected and perverted that simple "saving" message ..... so came more stupid greedy religion gov dogma crap ..... thanks to the likes of Paul thinking etc ...... and so the top dogs tried to destroy all the gnostic J books ..... and then and then and then and then and, ..... now we are here this moment ....... and still fucking stupid and twisted  ......   We are gawed , we are on our own ..... ask the aliens ...... 

Wake up the Xains etc ------ >       < --------          

and so for now I must call my self an ATHEIST, because i am god as you as is all thingy stuff ....... "no god before you / me ", another ancient said ..... well da  ........

and boy , did that wisdom get twisted .......  

I read the bible like this,  no no no yes no no no yes no no no yes  , the bible is mostly a lesson of our error  .......  so fix it ...... thanks for the lesson ...... now smash god of abe to smithereens  ...... as we are ....... 


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flatlanderdox

flatlanderdox wrote:

Rook_Hawkins wrote:

My atheism does not rise or fall with the existence of Jesus, however.  I wasn't always a mythicist but became one in my quest to find the historical Jesus.  I am simply not convinced by the arguments of historical Jesus scholars, who generally succumb to a fallacy of equivocation.  I suggest reading my article on the historical Jesus quest, and also my introduction to my book, to give some more substance to my position.  I would still recommend you fact check my conclusions, especially if you feel that I am susceptible to bias. 

Ok, will do Rook.  Thanks for the links.  How would you prefer I interact with you after I have read them?

I'm not sure what you mean.  Create a post and type in your thoughts and questions.

Quote:
Are you familiar with Richard Burridge's analysis of the genre of the Gospels in Four Gospels, One Jesus?  I'm curious to hear what your criticism of his theory would be.

I've read a little of his theory and put the book down.  His perspective begs the question immediately.   He assumes that the Gospel authors are speaking of a unified purpose with the intent of sharing a similar person, but this is not the case.  The four Gospels have presented us with four different Jesus' all with different and unique messages.  This is why when you watch "biographies" of Jesus' life on the History Channel, or read an apologist who attempts to do something similar, you will notice that these mediums have to express Jesus by picking and choosing which selection of text from specific parts of the Gospel narratives best explains his person.  This is not only done by apologists but also by those attempting to locate the historical Jesus.  You purposefully have to ignore the differences between the accounts and instead must try to hash together sections of text in order to create a unified history.  Scholarship for the most part accepts that the Gospel authors did in fact create plot and use narrative in their compositions.

Quote:
Also, I'm curious as to whether or not in your studies you have read Wright's New Testament and the People of God

Take care.

Yes, I have read several of Wrights works.  I'm not a fan. 

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flatlanderdox
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Rook_Hawkins wrote:

Rook_Hawkins wrote:

Quote:
Are you familiar with Richard Burridge's analysis of the genre of the Gospels in Four Gospels, One Jesus?  I'm curious to hear what your criticism of his theory would be.

I've read a little of his theory and put the book down.  His perspective begs the question immediately.   He assumes that the Gospel authors are speaking of a unified purpose with the intent of sharing a similar person, but this is not the case.  The four Gospels have presented us with four different Jesus' all with different and unique messages.  This is why when you watch "biographies" of Jesus' life on the History Channel, or read an apologist who attempts to do something similar, you will notice that these mediums have to express Jesus by picking and choosing which selection of text from specific parts of the Gospel narratives best explains his person.  This is not only done by apologists but also by those attempting to locate the historical Jesus.  You purposefully have to ignore the differences between the accounts and instead must try to hash together sections of text in order to create a unified history.  Scholarship for the most part accepts that the Gospel authors did in fact create plot and use narrative in their compositions.

Hmm... that's not what I got from Burridge at all.  Yes, he assumes--as the vast majority of scholarship assumes--that there was a historical figure named Jesus, but I hardly see how this begs any question, especially since he is not setting out in this book to prove Jesus existed.  That has hardly been necessary since most believe it already.  Surely you understand that not every book written can start from the very foundation of knowledge, working out an epistemology, and then proceeding from there (as Wright does in his New Testament and the People of God).  Rather, Burridge's purpose is to explain a way of seeing the Gospels that acknowledges and values their real differences, while still being able to consider them "true" in some sense.  He does not seek to conflate them all into saying the same thing, but says: "We need to learn how [the Gospels] were written, what they contain and how their narratives function. Such methods will help us to listen attentively to the four stories, and to consider each portrait carefully in its own right, just as we might do with Churchill's pictures" ( 8 ). 

I was reading some of your articles, and I think you may be right to consider the Gospels "fiction"--at least in some sense.  But saying they are fiction does not necessarily exclude them from being "true", nor does it exclude them from including factual details.  I suppose you might say--if I understand Burridge correctly--"Four Gospels, One Jesus" in a similar (not absolutely identical) way that you might say "Four movies, one Alexander the Great."  A movie based on a historical figure is rooted in historical fact, but may rearrange details, ignore certain things, and even add some details of their own that they believe are consistent with the character and "essence" of the historical person, although they know the person did not actually do these things.

But I'm sure you are aware of all this, and I'm probably missing something that you're trying to say.  I'll read your articles in full, and get back with you.

Oh, and I was asking about whether I should respond to you here in this thread, start a new thread, or leave a comment on the blog. 

Take care!  Let me know if you ever want me to stop by Charles Talbert's office here at Baylor to say "hi".  I noticed you cite him several times. 

Ockham's Razor is only as sharp as you are.


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flatlanderdox

flatlanderdox wrote:

Rook_Hawkins wrote:

Quote:
Are you familiar with Richard Burridge's analysis of the genre of the Gospels in Four Gospels, One Jesus?  I'm curious to hear what your criticism of his theory would be.

I've read a little of his theory and put the book down.  His perspective begs the question immediately.   He assumes that the Gospel authors are speaking of a unified purpose with the intent of sharing a similar person, but this is not the case.  The four Gospels have presented us with four different Jesus' all with different and unique messages.  This is why when you watch "biographies" of Jesus' life on the History Channel, or read an apologist who attempts to do something similar, you will notice that these mediums have to express Jesus by picking and choosing which selection of text from specific parts of the Gospel narratives best explains his person.  This is not only done by apologists but also by those attempting to locate the historical Jesus.  You purposefully have to ignore the differences between the accounts and instead must try to hash together sections of text in order to create a unified history.  Scholarship for the most part accepts that the Gospel authors did in fact create plot and use narrative in their compositions.

Hmm... that's not what I got from Burridge at all.  Yes, he assumes--as the vast majority of scholarship assumes--that there was a historical figure named Jesus, but I hardly see how this begs any question, especially since he is not setting out in this book to prove Jesus existed.  That has hardly been necessary since most believe it already.  Surely you understand that not every book written can start from the very foundation of knowledge, working out an epistemology, and then proceeding from there (as Wright does in his New Testament and the People of God).  Rather, Burridge's purpose is to explain a way of seeing the Gospels that acknowledges and values their real differences, while still being able to consider them "true" in some sense.  He does not seek to conflate them all into saying the same thing, but says: "We need to learn how [the Gospels] were written, what they contain and how their narratives function. Such methods will help us to listen attentively to the four stories, and to consider each portrait carefully in its own right, just as we might do with Churchill's pictures" ( 8 ).

I think you misunderstand my point.  I was not calling him out on special pleading because he assumed the historical Jesus, I was calling him out for assuming some truth to the Gospel narratives, and assuming the intent of the authors.

Quote:
I was reading some of your articles, and I think you may be right to consider the Gospels "fiction"--at least in some sense.  But saying they are fiction does not necessarily exclude them from being "true", nor does it exclude them from including factual details.

Theoretically, you are correct.  However I cannot help but feel that you are not taking into account the whole of the narrative when you accept them as partially true.  Which part would you consider true without ignoring the narrative fictions?

Quote:
I suppose you might say--if I understand Burridge correctly--"Four Gospels, One Jesus" in a similar (not absolutely identical) way that you might say "Four movies, one Alexander the Great."

No, not necessarily.  Arrian does us a great service with his Anabasis, when he explains his methods to us, and shares with us his knowledge of the earliest sources, and shows us that, when the histories conflict, instead of choosing which ones to use over another, he puts them side by side in a manner that the author can make judgments for themselves based on the evidence as to which one is true or not.  The Gospels are nowhere near as nice to us, and the tampering between them is so evident that when compiling the Greek manuscripts into an authoritative version, the footnotes containing the discrepancies are so extant that they can take up half of the page.

Quote:
A movie based on a historical figure is rooted in historical fact, but may rearrange details, ignore certain things, and even add some details of their own that they believe are consistent with the character and "essence" of the historical person, although they know the person did not actually do these things.

I would never use a movie and compare it to a manuscript from antiquity.  Bad form, there.

Quote:
But I'm sure you are aware of all this, and I'm probably missing something that you're trying to say.  I'll read your articles in full, and get back with you.

That would be great.

Quote:
Oh, and I was asking about whether I should respond to you here in this thread, start a new thread, or leave a comment on the blog.

Here is fine. 

Quote:
Take care!  Let me know if you ever want me to stop by Charles Talbert's office here at Baylor to say "hi".  I noticed you cite him several times. 

That would be great.  Let him know I'd love to talk to him about some of his works on Luke-Acts.  You can pass along my e-mail address to him.

The best,

Rook

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Rook,Thanks again for your

Rook,

Thanks again for your response.

I read the introduction to your forthcoming book.  You are an excellent writer.  Keep up the good work.  I was a little confused when I tried to look up your reference to Brueggemann.  You may want to check your citation on that, as it only says "p. 4" and then "ibid.", but never mentions the book title being cited.  Brueggemann is one of my favorites, so I was curious which book of his that was from.  Was it his Theology of the Old Testament ?

Rook_Hawkins wrote:


I think you misunderstand my point.  I was not calling him out on special pleading because he assumed the historical Jesus, I was calling him out for assuming some truth to the Gospel narratives, and assuming the intent of the authors.



Which book of his was it that you were reading? 

Rook_Hawkins wrote:

Quote:
I was reading some of your articles, and I think you may be right to consider the Gospels "fiction"--at least in some sense.  But saying they are fiction does not necessarily exclude them from being "true", nor does it exclude them from including factual details.


Theoretically, you are correct.  However I cannot help but feel that you are not taking into account the whole of the narrative when you accept them as partially true.  Which part would you consider true without ignoring the narrative fictions?

Quote:
I suppose you might say--if I understand Burridge correctly--"Four Gospels, One Jesus" in a similar (not absolutely identical) way that you might say "Four movies, one Alexander the Great."


No, not necessarily.  Arrian does us a great service with his Anabasis, when he explains his methods to us, and shares with us his knowledge of the earliest sources, and shows us that, when the histories conflict, instead of choosing which ones to use over another, he puts them side by side in a manner that the author can make judgments for themselves based on the evidence as to which one is true or not.  The Gospels are nowhere near as nice to us, and the tampering between them is so evident that when compiling the Greek manuscripts into an authoritative version, the footnotes containing the discrepancies are so extant that they can take up half of the page.



I guess I should make clear that I do not use the terms "true" and "factual" interchangably.  While I would say that all things "factual" are "true", I think that something (such as fiction) can be "true" without being "factual."  Many of the ancient myths, I think, have tremendous "truth" attached to them, though I would not read them as "historical fact".  In this way, I can watch the film Magnolia and say "this is true", though I would not say that it is historical fact.  Nor would I reduce "truth" to strictly propositional parameters--a position Brueggemann also maintains, for example, in Finally Comes the Poet

I am, of course, speaking of the kind of "truth" many call "poetic truth", and others such as the Oxford Christians--Lewis and Tolkien--would call "mythopoetic" truth.  Now you may or may not dismiss this tout cort ; however, I would suggest that if you are going to talk about the Gospels in terms of genre (which you do well), and you are going maintain that the Gospel genre is one of fiction, you must also take into account what fiction is, and what it does.  This entails understanding philosophy of art, which deals very much with "truth" on a different level than historical fact.  This is something I applaud Brueggemann and other (especially post-modern) Biblical scholars for apprehending.

In this sense then, I would say that the entirety of each of the Gospels is "true", even though they may not in their entirety be "historically factual".  That of course raises the question with which I am currently wrestling: If it is important for Jesus of Nazareth to be a historical character (which I think it is), but the written records we have of his life are not entirely historically factual, how do we sort out what is important to be historic fact, and what is "true" in that other mythopoetic sense?  Right now I, frankly, have no idea how to sort that out.  Or perhaps the better question is: Is it something that really needs to be sorted out?  Dale C. Allison, in a lecture last week here at Baylor, suggested the answer to that question is "No": what is important is the "memory" of Jesus as we see in the Gospels.  I'm still not sure what I think about Allison's argument.  While I pretty much agree with his epistemology, and general methodology, I'm not entirely sure I get what he is suggesting by this.  I need to listen to the lecture again.  You can listen to it as well, if you get the inkling: http://www.mediamax.com/adam_horton/Hosted/DaleAllison.mp3

  


Rook_Hawkins wrote:


Quote:
A movie based on a historical figure is rooted in historical fact, but may rearrange details, ignore certain things, and even add some details of their own that they believe are consistent with the character and "essence" of the historical person, although they know the person did not actually do these things.


I would never use a movie and compare it to a manuscript from antiquity.  Bad form, there.



Hey there now!  Such a comparison is not "bad form" at all if it is the case--as you explicitly maintain--that the Gospels were works of fiction.  A work of fiction is a work of literary art.  Had I said "A novel based on a historical figure..." instead of "A movie...", it would make no difference as they both in habit the same ontological position, as far as our discussion is concerned.  The difference--if any--would not be between artistic mediums (literary fiction vs. cinematic fiction), but between the ancient and modern philosophies of art.

The reason I point to Burridge is that--as I understand it--he maintains that even with each evangelists' individual interpolations of historical fact, they still fit within the genre of Graeco-Roman biography, since these biographies often mixed factual events with "fictious" ones, while still providing what they thought was a 'true to life' portrait of the individual.  Such a feat is exactly what a good filmmaker is doing when trying to tell the true story of a historic person (such as Alexander) within the constraints of the artistic film medium. 

Rook_Hawkins wrote:


Quote:
Take care!  Let me know if you ever want me to stop by Charles Talbert's office here at Baylor to say "hi".  I noticed you cite him several times.



That would be great.  Let him know I'd love to talk to him about some of his works on Luke-Acts.  You can pass along my e-mail address to him.

The best,

Rook


I went ahead and gave him an e-mail with your address, and asked his wife (a professor here at Truett, Baylor's seminary) to urge him to e-mail you.  We'll see what happens!  I hope you two can get in touch.  I haven't read Talbert's work yet, but it sounds interesting.

Take care man.

Ockham's Razor is only as sharp as you are.


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flatlanderdox

flatlanderdox wrote:

Rook,

Thanks again for your response.

I read the introduction to your forthcoming book.  You are an excellent writer.  Keep up the good work.  I was a little confused when I tried to look up your reference to Brueggemann.  You may want to check your citation on that, as it only says "p. 4" and then "ibid.", but never mentions the book title being cited.  Brueggemann is one of my favorites, so I was curious which book of his that was from.  Was it his Theology of the Old Testament ?

I'll send you that citation in a PM, as the book is not handy (it is in my study, which is adjacent to my bedroom, where my girlfriend is sleeping).  Thank you for your compliments.

Quote:
Rook_Hawkins wrote:


I think you misunderstand my point.  I was not calling him out on special pleading because he assumed the historical Jesus, I was calling him out for assuming some truth to the Gospel narratives, and assuming the intent of the authors.



Which book of his was it that you were reading? 

The very one which you have recommended.  I will admit, I stopped a few chapters in, as I was not too fond with some of his suppositions.

Quote:
Rook_Hawkins wrote:

Quote:
I was reading some of your articles, and I think you may be right to consider the Gospels "fiction"--at least in some sense.  But saying they are fiction does not necessarily exclude them from being "true", nor does it exclude them from including factual details.


Theoretically, you are correct.  However I cannot help but feel that you are not taking into account the whole of the narrative when you accept them as partially true.  Which part would you consider true without ignoring the narrative fictions?

Quote:
I suppose you might say--if I understand Burridge correctly--"Four Gospels, One Jesus" in a similar (not absolutely identical) way that you might say "Four movies, one Alexander the Great."


No, not necessarily.  Arrian does us a great service with his Anabasis, when he explains his methods to us, and shares with us his knowledge of the earliest sources, and shows us that, when the histories conflict, instead of choosing which ones to use over another, he puts them side by side in a manner that the author can make judgments for themselves based on the evidence as to which one is true or not.  The Gospels are nowhere near as nice to us, and the tampering between them is so evident that when compiling the Greek manuscripts into an authoritative version, the footnotes containing the discrepancies are so extant that they can take up half of the page.



I guess I should make clear that I do not use the terms "true" and "factual" interchangably.  While I would say that all things "factual" are "true", I think that something (such as fiction) can be "true" without being "factual."  Many of the ancient myths, I think, have tremendous "truth" attached to them, though I would not read them as "historical fact".  In this way, I can watch the film Magnolia and say "this is true", though I would not say that it is historical fact.  Nor would I reduce "truth" to strictly propositional parameters--a position Brueggemann also maintains, for example, in Finally Comes the Poet.

I think we may have to agree to disagree in this instance.  I am not a fan of calling fiction "truth", even if those who would perceive it as believable also considered it "truth". 

Quote:
I am, of course, speaking of the kind of "truth" many call "poetic truth", and others such as the Oxford Christians--Lewis and Tolkien--would call "mythopoetic" truth.  Now you may or may not dismiss this tout cort ; however, I would suggest that if you are going to talk about the Gospels in terms of genre (which you do well), and you are going maintain that the Gospel genre is one of fiction, you must also take into account what fiction is, and what it does.  This entails understanding philosophy of art, which deals very much with "truth" on a different level than historical fact.  This is something I applaud Brueggemann and other (especially post-modern) Biblical scholars for apprehending.

I feel this sort of characterizes the definitions in an abnormal way, and makes them difficult to understand especially when dealing with a broad audience.  I tend to deal with history as wissenshaft, not metaphysics.  Truth is, in my opinion, more for those great philosophers; an intent of a historian and even a literary critic is to discern fact.

Quote:
In this sense then, I would say that the entirety of each of the Gospels is "true", even though they may not in their entirety be "historically factual".  That of course raises the question with which I am currently wrestling: If it is important for Jesus of Nazareth to be a historical character (which I think it is), but the written records we have of his life are not entirely historically factual, how do we sort out what is important to be historic fact, and what is "true" in that other mythopoetic sense?  Right now I, frankly, have no idea how to sort that out.  Or perhaps the better question is: Is it something that really needs to be sorted out?

I agree with this position, but only in part.  Fact needs to be sorted out in history just as memories need to be sorted out in your head.  History is societies memories, and just as you would probably (hopefully) scoff at somebody who would dare to tell you "your memories are not important" or "you can never know, so why try to sort them out?", we as historians need to take these questions seriously.  So far historians have taken too many things for granted.  When Dale says "no" and that we should preserve the memory of Jesus in the Gospels, your immediate reaction should have been, "say what?"  followed by "Which account?"  Which memory are we preserving here?  The fundamentalist memory?  The conservative scholar's memory?  The liberal historian's memory?  Mark's?  Matthew's?  Luke's?  John's?  Assuming there is one unique memory is exactly the thing I am against.  There clearly wasn't, not even in the early church.

Where I agree with you, is that the original authors intent was not to give an account of the historical past.  The author probably intended for his audience, at least in Mark's case, to continue interpreting his message continually as narrative.  This is, ironically, exactly what the other three Gospels did.  They interpreted Mark, and created their own narratives, for their time, for their theology, for their Christianity and their identity with their faith.  They understood it as narrative, not as divine truth, and not as history but really they understood it as fiction.  If it was understood in any other way, they probably would have left Mark intact, as they left Homer intact.  

Check out this article I wrote on this very subject. (Written to a fellow heathen, I might add) I'd appreciate your comments.

Quote:
Rook_Hawkins wrote:


Quote:
A movie based on a historical figure is rooted in historical fact, but may rearrange details, ignore certain things, and even add some details of their own that they believe are consistent with the character and "essence" of the historical person, although they know the person did not actually do these things.


I would never use a movie and compare it to a manuscript from antiquity.  Bad form, there.



Hey there now!  Such a comparison is not "bad form" at all if it is the case--as you explicitly maintain--that the Gospels were works of fiction.  A work of fiction is a work of literary art.

Noted, however my point still stands. Eye-wink

Quote:
The reason I point to Burridge is that--as I understand it--he maintains that even with each evangelists' individual interpolations of historical fact, they still fit within the genre of Graeco-Roman biography, since these biographies often mixed factual events with "fictious" ones, while still providing what they thought was a 'true to life' portrait of the individual.  Such a feat is exactly what a good filmmaker is doing when trying to tell the true story of a historic person (such as Alexander) within the constraints of the artistic film medium. 

I understood that.  But he does what I feel Talbert does.  They both redefine "biography" to mean something it doesn't.  They are, in a sense, characterizing the genre of fiction differently, applying (in my opinion) a designation which I simply don't believe existed in antiquity.  Especially when it comes to the Gospels.  They are not biographies, even when you preface it with "ancient".  That word does not make them any more biographical than if I applied "biography" to Catcher in the Rye.  Sure, you can say there is a mythopoetic truth, as you would, to the story and the character of Holden, but the story is fictional, even if the school in the story and the state of Pennsylvania exists. 

Quote:
Rook_Hawkins wrote:


Quote:
Take care!  Let me know if you ever want me to stop by Charles Talbert's office here at Baylor to say "hi".  I noticed you cite him several times.



That would be great.  Let him know I'd love to talk to him about some of his works on Luke-Acts.  You can pass along my e-mail address to him.

The best,

Rook


I went ahead and gave him an e-mail with your address, and asked his wife (a professor here at Truett, Baylor's seminary) to urge him to e-mail you.  We'll see what happens!  I hope you two can get in touch.  I haven't read Talbert's work yet, but it sounds interesting.

Take care man.

Appreciated, thanks.  Take care.

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Jesus and the old West...

I used to be a bit of a history buff on the subject of the American West.

The tabloid press of the time (and popular writings and films since) have made much of the person known as Billy the Kid. A veritable arthurian knight of the prairies, righting wrongs with courage, conviction and a fast gun. The problem being, of course, that he never existed.

Oh, yes, there was a youngster named (and many scholars even doubt this) William Bonney. He was a slack jawed sociopath who alledgedly killed one of his mother's johns and had to flee the east for the anominity of the west. He apparantly killed a few more people, mostly from ambush before he was shot down by one of his old running buddies turned lawman in south Texas.

My point being, William Bonney may have been a real person, but "Billy the Kid" was certainly a myth.

In the same sense, it is irrelevant if the character known as Jesus Christ had a real life anticedent, he remains a fictional character that can only charitably be assumed to have a real life historical counterpart.

jesus, the itenerant jewish preacher may have existed, his life and death relegated to historical obscurity.

Jesus Christ, god-man, miracle worker, who blazed through the holy land died a glorious martyr's death and rose from the dead only to fly physically away to heaven is a myth.

 

LC >;-}>

Christianity: A disgusting middle eastern blood cult, based in human sacrifice, with sacraments of cannibalism and vampirism, whose highest icon is of a near naked man hanging in torment from a device of torture.


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Did Jesus exist?

I think this is a forensic question, and one that can be answered without bias. I don't understand why this has to be a biased search? It makes no sense to insinuate that objectivity would be thrown out the window for such a "quest". Did the guy exist or not? That's the question.

In order to find if a person existed, one must find evidence. One of the problems in this case is that we are talking about a man who lived a long time ago. One would have to look for written documentation, a body, a grave, things owned by the person, relatives of the person (DNA), etc. Is there anything written from that time period that indicates such a person existed, was married, had children, was a troublemaker, performed miracles, or was executed? The answer is no.  Again, we are leaving out anything supernatural here...we are simply looking for evidence that this man literally existed.

Now let's add some common sense. If such an extraordinary person existed, there must be something written somewhere, during the lifetime of this person. Why did he not write anything (if he was so special) that would miraculously be saved for all mankind? I guess that is another problem. If he was so special, you would think that he would have written down some, er, words, and that these words would be protected for all to read. But no, we have no words. If you think the bible has the words of Jesus, you need to read about the history of the bible.

We do know that a large portion of the population (about 2000 years ago) could not read or write. If such a person existed, you would think he (if he existed and couldn't write), would have said, "Hey, this is important...write this down!" Nyah. Nobody wrote anything down until decades after his supposed death.  Don't you find this a bit odd for such a *special* man?

As we have nothing from this person to indicate that he existed, we can look at other things...there are extant writings from that period in time from that very part of the globe.  If such a man existed and was performing miracles, had scores of followers, was crucified, surely contemporary writers would have written about it:

Josephus, Lucian, Seneca, Pliny the Elder, Pliny the Younger, Juvenal, Theon of Smyran, Phlegon, Persius, Plutarch, Justin of Tiberius, Apollonius, Lucanus, Phaedrus, Ptolemy, Statius, and Silius Italicus, etc. Not one of these wrote a single word about such a man. How extraordinary that they would not write ONE WORD about a man who was performing miracles!!!! Wow! What an omission!

Before the supposed christian "Jesus", there are extant writings  (in almost every detail) of at least 30 other "Messiahs". Most of the other 'messiahs" descended from heaven, we born of virgins, performed miracles, were crucified, were sent by "god", did wondrous things yada, yada. These other messiahs sound familiar, don't they? We'd have to take this into consideration in our search for Jesus.

But there is no evidence that such a man ever existed. If you take into account the bible (and know the history of the bible and the problems with it), then you only strengthen the conclusion, based on the evidence, that such a man never existed.

There are many books out there about the "historical" Jesus. If you are really interested in such things, you will find and read the many books or scholarly papers on the subject. Thus far, there is no evidence for the existence of the human being called "Jesus Christ". 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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entomophila wrote:I think

entomophila wrote:

I think this is a forensic question, and one that can be answered without bias. I don't understand why this has to be a biased search? It makes no sense to insinuate that objectivity would be thrown out the window for such a "quest". Did the guy exist or not? That's the question.

In order to find if a person existed, one must find evidence. One of the problems in this case is that we are talking about a man who lived a long time ago. One would have to look for written documentation, a body, a grave, things owned by the person, relatives of the person (DNA), etc. Is there anything written from that time period that indicates such a person existed, was married, had children, was a troublemaker, performed miracles, or was executed? The answer is no.  Again, we are leaving out anything supernatural here...we are simply looking for evidence that this man literally existed.

Now let's add some common sense. If such an extraordinary person existed, there must be something written somewhere, during the lifetime of this person. Why did he not write anything (if he was so special) that would miraculously be saved for all mankind? I guess that is another problem. If he was so special, you would think that he would have written down some, er, words, and that these words would be protected for all to read. But no, we have no words. If you think the bible has the words of Jesus, you need to read about the history of the bible.

We do know that a large portion of the population (about 2000 years ago) could not read or write. If such a person existed, you would think he (if he existed and couldn't write), would have said, "Hey, this is important...write this down!" Nyah. Nobody wrote anything down until decades after his supposed death.  Don't you find this a bit odd for such a *special* man?

As we have nothing from this person to indicate that he existed, we can look at other things...there are extant writings from that period in time from that very part of the globe.  If such a man existed and was performing miracles, had scores of followers, was crucified, surely contemporary writers would have written about it:

Josephus, Lucian, Seneca, Pliny the Elder, Pliny the Younger, Juvenal, Theon of Smyran, Phlegon, Persius, Plutarch, Justin of Tiberius, Apollonius, Lucanus, Phaedrus, Ptolemy, Statius, and Silius Italicus, etc. Not one of these wrote a single word about such a man. How extraordinary that they would not write ONE WORD about a man who was performing miracles!!!! Wow! What an omission!

Before the supposed christian "Jesus", there are extant writings  (in almost every detail) of at least 30 other "Messiahs". Most of the other 'messiahs" descended from heaven, we born of virgins, performed miracles, were crucified, were sent by "god", did wondrous things yada, yada. These other messiahs sound familiar, don't they? We'd have to take this into consideration in our search for Jesus.

But there is no evidence that such a man ever existed. If you take into account the bible (and know the history of the bible and the problems with it), then you only strengthen the conclusion, based on the evidence, that such a man never existed.

There are many books out there about the "historical" Jesus. If you are really interested in such things, you will find and read the many books or scholarly papers on the subject. Thus far, there is no evidence for the existence of the human being called "Jesus Christ". 

 

 

 

That is part of the problem with "common sense."  It is often the case that a "simple" or "common sense" approach to things involves an even more elaborate matrix of presuppositions than their erudite counterparts.  Very much of what you are saying in this post assumes that the Palestine of 2000 years ago looked very much like the way we would "do things" today (if Jesus were present today).  But is such the case?  We place a lot of stock in writing things down today, but this is largely a result of technology, education, and a modern worldview.  Early Christians--such as Papias, for example--talked about placing more importance on oral transmission of the story of Jesus.  Think of what oral transmission entails vis a vis written transmission: living, dynamic relationship vs. mere cognitive transmission.  Written transmission, I think, can tend to cultivate a habit of reductionism as well, because it is much more tangible and controllable. 

What we see of this "Jesus" character portrayed in the Gospels is one who is quite enigmatic, constantly poking himself out of the neat paradigms we like to draw (and this even within each individual Gospel, as well as between the Gospels).  We see the major portion of his teaching done not in reductionistic propositions, but in dynamic, often enigmatic parables.  If such was a true picture of what the historical figure was about, it is not surprising at all to me to not find any writings by him.  If he didn't write, it is not entirely surprising that his disciples didn't place a lot of importance on that.  Indeed, if he was returning as soon as they (mistakenly) thought he would, that would be another reason why there were no early writings: there would be little need for such an undertaking.  As time progressed, and they realized they were mistaken to think he would return so soon, writings emerged. 

And don't forget that Luke's preface mentioned that there were "many" who had written accounts of Jesus' life before he did himself.  There is strong inferential evidence for a "Q" source that was used by both Matthew and Luke, but we have no extant copies of it (if it even was a document to begin with).  The reality is that even if Suzie Q the housewife thought it important to write about Jesus, if the document was not considered by others worth preserving and copying, it simply wasn't.  Even a few centuries after Jesus, we have strong evidence of the life and teachings of the "heretical" teacher Arius, who did apparently write down his teachings, and yet we do not have any of his writings extant since the church considered them not only to be not worth preserving, but worth destroying.

Also note that we see especially in very early Christian writings such as the Didache that early Christianity placed more emphasis on a charismatic, prophetic strain, than the more institutionalized form of episcopacy that developed more and more in the second and third centuries.  Again, I think this charismatic, non-reductionistic element of Christianity is connected to the lack of early writings. 

Anyway, those are just some preliminary thoughts about your post.  the reason you are not being objective is because you can't.  To be objective is, essentially, to not have presuppositions, which is logically impossible (I think).  Your thoughts are shaded tremendously by your own experience of the way things would be done today, without considering how things might have been dramatically different back then.  I often am guilty of the same thing.  These are the limitations we have to deal with as humans. 

Ockham's Razor is only as sharp as you are.


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flatlanderdox wrote: What

flatlanderdox wrote:
 

What we see of this "Jesus" character portrayed in the Gospels is one who is quite enigmatic, constantly poking himself out of the neat paradigms we like to draw (and this even within each individual Gospel, as well as between the Gospels).  We see the major portion of his teaching done not in reductionistic propositions, but in dynamic, often enigmatic parables.

I would even argue that the entire Gospel of Mark is a giant parable, echoing perhaps what Dom Crossan would suggest.

Quote:
  If such was a true picture of what the historical figure was about, it is not surprising at all to me to not find any writings by him.  If he didn't write, it is not entirely surprising that his disciples didn't place a lot of importance on that.  Indeed, if he was returning as soon as they (mistakenly) thought he would, that would be another reason why there were no early writings: there would be little need for such an undertaking.  As time progressed, and they realized they were mistaken to think he would return so soon, writings emerged.

I feel this is a bit of a problematic approach to the Gospels, and here's why.  You are reading the Gospels, again, from a position which would make them all seem as if they shared a common epistemological perspective.  It also ignores the gap between Paul's esoteric and elusive teachings to Mark's interpretation of Pauline theology.  It further ignores the development of doctrine between Mark and Matthew, and then 70 years of development between Matthew and Luke, and finally an entirely different tradition in John, far from the synoptic perspective.  I explain this in some detail in my discussion of the resurrection narrative between the four Gospels.  This apocalyptic interpretation derives not from Jesus, but from the Hebrew Bible, specifically from David. 

Quote:
And don't forget that Luke's preface mentioned that there were "many" who had written accounts of Jesus' life before he did himself.

No, Luke does not say there were written accounts.  Luke says they compiled narratives.  There is a difference between the two.  Luke also is writing in the second century, perhaps as late as a hundred years after the events are supposed to have occurred.   He is , specifically, writing against Marcion and his Christian sect, which is evident more specifically in his Acts and his use of the Pauline Epistles.  Luke is also copying from Mark, or maybe he has a pre-canonical "Luke" that Marcion had written.  In any event, Luke states plainly that he is writing his own account, apparently the earlier versions were simply not good enough--or he is doing what I have been explaining all along; he is writing for his day and his politics, and making Jesus into his own savior. 

Quote:
There is strong inferential evidence for a "Q" source that was used by both Matthew and Luke, but we have no extant copies of it (if it even was a document to begin with).

This is specious, in my opinion.  "Q" has been highly praised, but everyone seems to ignore the fact that this "Q" material is found in the scriptures, again proving my position that the Gospels are midrash.

Quote:
Also note that we see especially in very early Christian writings such as the Didache that early Christianity placed more emphasis on a charismatic, prophetic strain, than the more institutionalized form of episcopacy that developed more and more in the second and third centuries.  Again, I think this charismatic, non-reductionistic element of Christianity is connected to the lack of early writings.

I think you're severely stretching.  Before Mark, nobody thought to write at all.  It is only after Mark when it seems Christians can not stop writing.  There is a reason for this, and it has nothing to do with the fact that Jesus was not coming back. 

 

Looking forward to your thoughts on my material.

 

Rook

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Rook_Hawkins wrote:I guess I

Rook_Hawkins wrote:




I guess I should make clear that I do not use the terms "true" and "factual" interchangably.  While I would say that all things "factual" are "true", I think that something (such as fiction) can be "true" without being "factual."  Many of the ancient myths, I think, have tremendous "truth" attached to them, though I would not read them as "historical fact".  In this way, I can watch the film Magnolia and say "this is true", though I would not say that it is historical fact.  Nor would I reduce "truth" to strictly propositional parameters--a position Brueggemann also maintains, for example, in Finally Comes the Poet.

I think we may have to agree to disagree in this instance.  I am not a fan of calling fiction "truth", even if those who would perceive it as believable also considered it "truth". 

Quote:
I am, of course, speaking of the kind of "truth" many call "poetic truth", and others such as the Oxford Christians--Lewis and Tolkien--would call "mythopoetic" truth.  Now you may or may not dismiss this tout cort ; however, I would suggest that if you are going to talk about the Gospels in terms of genre (which you do well), and you are going maintain that the Gospel genre is one of fiction, you must also take into account what fiction is, and what it does.  This entails understanding philosophy of art, which deals very much with "truth" on a different level than historical fact.  This is something I applaud Brueggemann and other (especially post-modern) Biblical scholars for apprehending.

I feel this sort of characterizes the definitions in an abnormal way, and makes them difficult to understand especially when dealing with a broad audience.  I tend to deal with history as wissenshaft, not metaphysics.  Truth is, in my opinion, more for those great philosophers; an intent of a historian and even a literary critic is to discern fact.

"Abnormal" according to whom?  I do not think it is "abnormal" at all to an aesthete.  Again, I must insist that if you are going to look at the Gospels as "fiction", you must steep yourself in an understanding of what "fiction" is, or what "myth" is for that matter.  Bultmann and Joseph Campbell have some good stuff to say about this.  However, I'd fall in the camp that believes there are both fictional as well as literally historical elements mixed together in the Gospel. 

Rook_Hawkins wrote:

Quote:
In this sense then, I would say that the entirety of each of the Gospels is "true", even though they may not in their entirety be "historically factual".  That of course raises the question with which I am currently wrestling: If it is important for Jesus of Nazareth to be a historical character (which I think it is), but the written records we have of his life are not entirely historically factual, how do we sort out what is important to be historic fact, and what is "true" in that other mythopoetic sense?  Right now I, frankly, have no idea how to sort that out.  Or perhaps the better question is: Is it something that really needs to be sorted out?

I agree with this position, but only in part.  Fact needs to be sorted out in history just as memories need to be sorted out in your head.  History is societies memories, and just as you would probably (hopefully) scoff at somebody who would dare to tell you "your memories are not important" or "you can never know, so why try to sort them out?", we as historians need to take these questions seriously.  So far historians have taken too many things for granted.  When Dale says "no" and that we should preserve the memory of Jesus in the Gospels, your immediate reaction should have been, "say what?"  followed by "Which account?"  Which memory are we preserving here?  The fundamentalist memory?  The conservative scholar's memory?  The liberal historian's memory?  Mark's?  Matthew's?  Luke's?  John's?  Assuming there is one unique memory is exactly the thing I am against.  There clearly wasn't, not even in the early church.

Allison makes the incredibly interesting (and valid, I think) point that it is impossible to extract with great certainty the historical person from the memory he left behind.  Such a process would inevitably throw out the wheat as well as the weeds. 

Rook_Hawkins wrote:

I understood that.  But he does what I feel Talbert does.  They both redefine "biography" to mean something it doesn't.  They are, in a sense, characterizing the genre of fiction differently, applying (in my opinion) a designation which I simply don't believe existed in antiquity.  Especially when it comes to the Gospels.  They are not biographies, even when you preface it with "ancient".  That word does not make them any more biographical than if I applied "biography" to Catcher in the Rye.  Sure, you can say there is a mythopoetic truth, as you would, to the story and the character of Holden, but the story is fictional, even if the school in the story and the state of Pennsylvania exists. 

I think what Burridge would say is that the problem is not that he is redefining "biography" to mean something it doesn't; the problem is rather that our modern concept of "biography", and the ancient Greco-Roman way of telling about a person's life, each operate under different guiding principles.  I'm anxious to read his academic work What are the Gospels? (Fou Gospels, One Jesus is more of a popular level of reading).  

I've gotta go read some John of Damascus now!  Later man!

Ockham's Razor is only as sharp as you are.