The Gospels

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The Gospels

I had a couple of questions I woke up with this morning, and this post kind of inspired me to go ahead and pose them: http://www.rationalresponders.com/forum/19335

For some time now, I've been in serious doubt whether or not Jesus was even a real person, and I certainly believe only a very precious little said about him in the bible is true, if anything at all. However...

A couple of presuppositions to my questions for the sake of argument: let's say the four gospels were in fact written by the authors they're alleged to have been, that is, four men living around the same time as one another, and during or shortly after Jesus' lifetime.

So firstly, I'm tempted to wonder how likely it is that four different men would have written in such a short span of time essentially the exact same story about the exact same person (I feel the discrepancies between their accounts are in relatively minor details, regardless of how important they may have become doctrinally). I think a fairly reasonable explanation for this is that there was actually a real person--who I imagine to have been no more than a philosopher, grass-roots politician, and a maybe a slight-of-hand style magician--on whom they based their stories. Otherwise, I can't see how they could have come to such a coherent consensus in their new interpretation of the various existing myths.

Secondly, it's often said that there is no independent historical account of there being a real live person named Jesus, except for one: the bible. But this isn't exactly true. In fact, there are four independent accounts: the gospels. Now, I'll be happy to concede that these authors were not historians who wrote about events other than Jesus, which would certainly give them more credibility. But the argument I'm making is that if one were to take every personal account of George Washington ever written, and compile them all together into one anthology, the "Washington Bible" if you like, I fail to see how that's a valid reason to believe George Washington never existed.

Anyone?


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Real or Not What's the Difference?

smartypants wrote:

I had a couple of questions I woke up with this morning, and this post kind of inspired me to go ahead and pose them: http://www.rationalresponders.com/forum/19335

For some time now, I've been in serious doubt whether or not Jesus was even a real person, and I certainly believe only a very precious little said about him in the bible is true, if anything at all. However...

A couple of presuppositions to my questions for the sake of argument: let's say the four gospels were in fact written by the authors they're alleged to have been, that is, four men living around the same time as one another, and during or shortly after Jesus' lifetime.

So firstly, I'm tempted to wonder how likely it is that four different men would have written in such a short span of time essentially the exact same story about the exact same person (I feel the discrepancies between their accounts are in relatively minor details, regardless of how important they may have become doctrinally). I think a fairly reasonable explanation for this is that there was actually a real person--who I imagine to have been no more than a philosopher, grass-roots politician, and a maybe a slight-of-hand style magician--on whom they based their stories. Otherwise, I can't see how they could have come to such a coherent consensus in their new interpretation of the various existing myths.

If you consider 40 to 60 years a short span of time it's very likely though I don't agree with the view there are only minor differences between them.

I personally am not convinced either way if he was historical or not. I see Jesus as a rebel desert prophet that was preaching the message to return to the 'pure law of Moses' in other words like the Zealots. The Gospels all date to essentially the time period after Jerusalem was destroyed and into the morphing into Pauline doctrine which is very different from the Jesus generally portrayed. See also the Gospel of Thomas. Paulinity is mystical and has much paganism incorporated which the general message of Jesus did not. That the gospels have much of this doctrine meshed within now follows from the influences of Paul.

Mark was the 1st and was partially used or copied by Luke and Matthew. Luke and Matthew have things in common which are different than Mark and are attributed to the Q document or a supposed common source. John is very different than the other 3 in most respects. Mark is generally dated to about 65 to 70 CE. Luke was likely written sometime after 70 CE and Matthew probably sometime after 100 CE. John is generally considered to be in the time period after 95 CE. Mark never met Jesus and all of his information supposedly came from Peter. Luke was Paul the Super Hero's biographer or perhaps marketing agent and never met Jesus either. John and Matthew were both written something like 70 to 80 years after the supposed death of Jesus so perhaps we should wonder about memory loss or Alzheimer's.

Matthew has nonexistent fiction incorporated from the beginning regarding the birth of Jesus as does Luke. Neither agrees. Did Jesus and family flee to Egypt to avoid Herod's baby killer soldiers as in Matt 2:14 or did they return home as in Luke 2:39. Which one? Can't be both.

 

smartypants wrote:

Secondly, it's often said that there is no independent historical account of there being a real live person named Jesus, except for one: the bible. But this isn't exactly true. In fact, there are four independent accounts: the gospels. Now, I'll be happy to concede that these authors were not historians who wrote about events other than Jesus, which would certainly give them more credibility. But the argument I'm making is that if one were to take every personal account of George Washington ever written, and compile them all together into one anthology, the "Washington Bible" if you like, I fail to see how that's a valid reason to believe George Washington never existed.

Anyone?

There are over 300,000 variations between the Gospels some are very substantial. Which indicates these accounts were oral traditions or legends that were spread and eventually written down. It is in no way independent historical account anymore than the legends of Robin Hood.

____________________________________________________________
"I guess it's time to ask if you live under high voltage power transmission lines which have been shown to cause stimulation of the fantasy centers of the brain due to electromagnetic waves?" - Me

"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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No Jesus, no Jesu, no Joshua...etc.

 

 

 

       For humor and some history try this link;

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MSm7YPMQOSo  

 

       There were meny itinerate preachers wondering the mid-east at the time; Appolonia of Tyree or John the Baptist could have been the models for J.C. or any number of men known has Joshua the Nazarene.  Nazarenes were a sect of Judaens and Yeoshua Bar Yussuf was the most common of common names, it's possible the early writers including Paul of Tarsus didn't believe they were writing about a real person but a mythical christos (annointed one).

 

 

       Nazareth did not even exist until after 25 CE Jesus is a supposed adult by then, and the local craftsmen are stone cutters not carpenters. But the Gospel writers never let a fact get in the way of a good story and truth has nothing to do with it.

 

 

       btw  Julius Caeser wrote about devout Judaens who lived in his mothers apartment building (circa 90 BCE) who kept their own religion at home but often went around the corner to Vatican hill to make offerings to the Zorastrian temple to Lord Mithra.  When you mix Mithra with Judaens you end up with Christians. The caveat is that meny outsiders in Rome made offerings to Roman Gods without believing in them, it was just good buisness practices. Yet Jews who thought their savior had already arrived lived in small communitys throughout the Roman empire, they were called Christos a generation before the alledged Jesu Christos was born and raised in a city that didn't exist.

"Very funny Scotty; now beam down our clothes."

VEGETARIAN: Ancient Hindu word for "lousy hunter"

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pauljohntheskeptic wrote:If

pauljohntheskeptic wrote:

If you consider 40 to 60 years a short span of time it's very likely though I don't agree with the view there are only minor differences between them.

Actually, I don't think 40 to 60 years is all that long a time span, especially considering we're talking about something 2000 years ago.

pauljohntheskeptic wrote:
I personally am not convinced either way if he was historical or not. I see Jesus as a rebel desert prophet that was preaching the message to return to the 'pure law of Moses' in other words like the Zealots. The Gospels all date to essentially the time period after Jerusalem was destroyed and into the morphing into Pauline doctrine which is very different from the Jesus generally portrayed. See also the Gospel of Thomas. Paulinity is mystical and has much paganism incorporated which the general message of Jesus did not. That the gospels have much of this doctrine meshed within now follows from the influences of Paul.

I'm not trying to say that it isn't fictional, it clearly is. I also don't dispute that it follows a long lineage of myths.

pauljohntheskeptic wrote:

Mark was the 1st and was partially used or copied by Luke and Matthew. Luke and Matthew have things in common which are different than Mark and are attributed to the Q document or a supposed common source. John is very different than the other 3 in most respects. Mark is generally dated to about 65 to 70 CE. Luke was likely written sometime after 70 CE and Matthew probably sometime after 100 CE. John is generally considered to be in the time period after 95 CE. Mark never met Jesus and all of his information supposedly came from Peter. Luke was Paul the Super Hero's biographer or perhaps marketing agent and never met Jesus either. John and Matthew were both written something like 70 to 80 years after the supposed death of Jesus so perhaps we should wonder about memory loss or Alzheimer's.

Again, I'm not convinced it matters. I mean, if by some fluke, no historian who'd met George Washington had ever written about him during his lifetime, would you consider that reason to believe Washington never existed? And yes, I know there are other documents, for instance, written in his own hand and so on. But those would have been far easier to forge than, say, the Shroud of Turin, which allegedly required the genius of Da Vinci to pull off.

pauljohntheskeptic wrote:

Matthew has nonexistent fiction incorporated from the beginning regarding the birth of Jesus as does Luke. Neither agrees. Did Jesus and family flee to Egypt to avoid Herod's baby killer soldiers as in Matt 2:14 or did they return home as in Luke 2:39. Which one? Can't be both.

To me, that's a minor point. If I were a believer, I don't think things like that would have the slightest bearing on whether or not I felt he was the savior. And I also don't think discrepancies about those details are adequate to disprove there was a real person on which to base this story.

pauljohntheskeptic wrote:
There are over 300,000 variations between the Gospels some are very substantial. Which indicates these accounts were oral traditions or legends that were spread and eventually written down. It is in no way independent historical account anymore than the legends of Robin Hood.

Of course there are variations, because they're myths contrived by different authors. But I think the similarities are telling us something, as well. Personally, the idea that all these different authors were rewriting essentially the same exact myth in four different ways purely by accident just doesn't fly with me. As for some of the authors copying others: if Mark had already written the myth down, why on earth would anyone else bother to just copy the same thing and write it a slightly different way unless there was some sense that there was a real figure to write about in the first place? These sort of figures are always glorified in ridiculous ways, but I still don't think there's any more reason to believe he didn't exist than to say Mohammed or Buddha didn't.


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smartypants wrote:I'm not

smartypants wrote:

I'm not trying to say that it isn't fictional, it clearly is. I also don't dispute that it follows a long lineage of myths.

If you see the stories as fictional and based in mythology what difference does it make if there was a desert prophet or not used for the model of Jesus? How could you tell where the fiction and myths end and reality began? My view is I can't tell if there was a Jesus person or not. What is claimed in the Gospels are bullshit and fiction, clear from the documents themselves, historical writers in the 1st century and their own contradictions. Why should I accept any of it to be reality based? Much has been written about Hercules or Herakles, was he also real? Was Robin Hood real just because there are multiple stories?

smartypants wrote:

Again, I'm not convinced it matters. I mean, if by some fluke, no historian who'd met George Washington had ever written about him during his lifetime, would you consider that reason to believe Washington never existed? And yes, I know there are other documents, for instance, written in his own hand and so on. But those would have been far easier to forge than, say, the Shroud of Turin, which allegedly required the genius of Da Vinci to pull off.

Since people did write about George Washington during his lifetime and he did write as well this is not a good analogy.

Don't be hung up on the Shroud of Turin, it proves nothing. Are the pieces of the 'True Cross' also real that Empress Helena supposedly found? When a test can truly confirm this shroud is dated to the 1st century and not the Middle Ages as the 1988 test indicated and DNA of the dead Jesus is compared and matched to a 99.999% match of any residual on the shroud you might have something. Does anyone have DNA from Jesus to compare? As far as I have heard there was no DNA on the shroud. No test has proven there is blood. No test has proven anything other than its from the 1300s.

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shroud_of_Turin

Since the 1988 radiocarbon test  indicated a date in the Middle Ages for the shroud it's not proof of anything.

How would a piece of cloth with a face have any bearing or relationship to a possible messiah wannabe desert prophet in the 1st Century CE anyway?

 

smartypants wrote:

pauljohntheskeptic wrote:

Matthew has nonexistent fiction incorporated from the beginning regarding the birth of Jesus as does Luke. Neither agrees. Did Jesus and family flee to Egypt to avoid Herod's baby killer soldiers as in Matt 2:14 or did they return home as in Luke 2:39. Which one? Can't be both.

To me, that's a minor point. If I were a believer, I don't think things like that would have the slightest bearing on whether or not I felt he was the savior. And I also don't think discrepancies about those details are adequate to disprove there was a real person on which to base this story.

So where does the mythology and fiction end and the real begin if you think there is reality in this? Believers will accept all of the discrepancies and wait until after their own death to find out the truth when they get to meet Jesus in person which I have heard from more than one of them.

smartypants wrote:

pauljohntheskeptic wrote:
There are over 300,000 variations between the Gospels some are very substantial. Which indicates these accounts were oral traditions or legends that were spread and eventually written down. It is in no way independent historical account anymore than the legends of Robin Hood.

Of course there are variations, because they're myths contrived by different authors. But I think the similarities are telling us something, as well. Personally, the idea that all these different authors were rewriting essentially the same exact myth in four different ways purely by accident just doesn't fly with me. As for some of the authors copying others: if Mark had already written the myth down, why on earth would anyone else bother to just copy the same thing and write it a slightly different way unless there was some sense that there was a real figure to write about in the first place? These sort of figures are always glorified in ridiculous ways, but I still don't think there's any more reason to believe he didn't exist than to say Mohammed or Buddha didn't.

The similarities are telling us these were legends and stories. What was real? What is myth? When I have time I'll post a short story that shows how this sort of thing happens. In the meantime, again consider Robin Hood and Hercules both were written about substantially. Can you tell if either one is historical?

____________________________________________________________
"I guess it's time to ask if you live under high voltage power transmission lines which have been shown to cause stimulation of the fantasy centers of the brain due to electromagnetic waves?" - Me

"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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I agree with JohnPaul

 

I've read reams of stuff on this subject from both camps and I think it's impossible to know for sure. My feeling is that because most of what Jesus did is impossible and unprovable the chances are he did not exist. Theists will argue that most historians, applying the historical method, think jesus did exist but given he is magic, I can't bring myself to accept the normal standards that might apply to a normal human leader.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

"Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination." Max Planck


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pauljohntheskeptic wrote:If

pauljohntheskeptic wrote:

If you see the stories as fictional and based in mythology what difference does it make if there was a desert prophet or not used for the model of Jesus? How could you tell where the fiction and myths end and reality began?

Actually, this exact realization was the turning point in my rejecting Christianity once and for all.

pauljohntheskeptic wrote:

My view is I can't tell if there was a Jesus person or not. What is claimed in the Gospels are bullshit and fiction, clear from the documents themselves, historical writers in the 1st century and their own contradictions. Why should I accept any of it to be reality based?

You shouldn't accept anything you're not comfortable accepting.

pauljohntheskeptic wrote:

Much has been written about Hercules or Herakles, was he also real?

Honestly, I don't know and I doubt it. But it has occurred to me that some or all of the demigods might have been real people--in his case, some big, unusually strong, brave guy--who people started talking about like celebrities. And much like the rumors about celebrities in our own time, due to the highly imprecise nature of word-of-mouth and people's enthusiasm, those stories got blown completely out of proportion. I realize this was just an argument, but I think a debate about Hercules would be far less interesting because his story hasn't impacted our world so drastically and horribly as Jesus' has.

pauljohntheskeptic wrote:

Was Robin Hood real just because there are multiple stories?

I can't answer this either. Probably not. Although I've come to understand that nothing springs from nothing, even if it were no more than the popular sentiment that the rich have too much and the poor too little. Again, no one kills on his behalf, nor was he any kind of philosopher whose ideas are forced down everyone's throat.

pauljohntheskeptic wrote:

Since people did write about George Washington during his lifetime and he did write as well this is not a good analogy.

I was making a hypothetical argument and chose George Washington arbitrarily to do it. I could have as easily said Paul Revere or Lorenzo di Medici.

pauljohntheskeptic wrote:

Don't be hung up on the Shroud of Turin, it proves nothing. Are the pieces of the 'True Cross' also real that Empress Helena supposedly found? When a test can truly confirm this shroud is dated to the 1st century and not the Middle Ages as the 1988 test indicated and DNA of the dead Jesus is compared and matched to a 99.999% match of any residual on the shroud you might have something. Does anyone have DNA from Jesus to compare? As far as I have heard there was no DNA on the shroud. No test has proven there is blood. No test has proven anything other than its from the 1300s.

See: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shroud_of_Turin

Thank you, but my point was that the shroud IS a forgery, if you'll read what I wrote, and a far more tricky forgery at the time than documents "alleged" to have been penned by George Washington, which of course I do not think were forged. I was just trying to make a point.

pauljohntheskeptic wrote:

So where does the mythology and fiction end and the real begin if you think there is reality in this?

See above.

pauljohntheskeptic wrote:

The similarities are telling us these were legends and stories. What was real? What is myth? When I have time I'll post a short story that shows how this sort of thing happens. In the meantime, again consider Robin Hood and Hercules both were written about substantially. Can you tell if either one is historical?

I believe I addressed this adequately above, but two points: firstly, I think the legend of Robin Hood is important historically because of what it says about the time in which it arose, much like Jesus. Secondly, I find the philosophies proposed by the story of Jesus culturally interesting in the same way I'd discuss Plato or Aristotle. I see no good reason to worship him, but if he did exist, and did cause the ruckus attributed to him, I feel he at least deserves my respect for having the balls to politically challenge the status quo, and I can just ignore all the other nonsense.


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Atheistextremist

Atheistextremist wrote:

 

I've read reams of stuff on this subject from both camps and I think it's impossible to know for sure. My feeling is that because most of what Jesus did is impossible and unprovable the chances are he did not exist. Theists will argue that most historians, applying the historical method, think jesus did exist but given he is magic, I can't bring myself to accept the normal standards that might apply to a normal human leader. 

See, for me, I feel that if you subtract everything from the story that isn't a rehash of pagan myths, astrology, Hebrew prophecy, and all the rest (a task I realize you'd never undertake, although I guess Thomas Jefferson sort of did it?) that you might actually be left with a very interesting historical figure. I also recognize that it would never prove whether or not he existed, but it would certainly provide an insight about those times.


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Mmm

smartypants wrote:

it would certainly provide an insight about those times.

 

I dunno Smarty - there's things about the gospels that are just nothing, if you know what I mean. Detail of Jesus is pretty much zero. I see where you are coming from - and there are parts of Jesus that would be revolutionary today. I'd love to know all the details that's for sure.

 

"Experiments are the only means of knowledge at our disposal. The rest is poetry, imagination." Max Planck


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smartypants

smartypants wrote:

pauljohntheskeptic wrote:

If you see the stories as fictional and based in mythology what difference does it make if there was a desert prophet or not used for the model of Jesus? How could you tell where the fiction and myths end and reality began?

Actually, this exact realization was the turning point in my rejecting Christianity once and for all.

I agree, the mythology aspect helped me to turn away as well.

smartypants wrote:

pauljohntheskeptic wrote:

Much has been written about Hercules or Herakles, was he also real?

Honestly, I don't know and I doubt it. But it has occurred to me that some or all of the demigods might have been real people--in his case, some big, unusually strong, brave guy--who people started talking about like celebrities. And much like the rumors about celebrities in our own time, due to the highly imprecise nature of word-of-mouth and people's enthusiasm, those stories got blown completely out of proportion. I realize this was just an argument, but I think a debate about Hercules would be far less interesting because his story hasn't impacted our world so drastically and horribly as Jesus' has.

There may be some reality in myths and stories but the question is always which part.

True, people haven't been killing in the name of Hercules lately as they do in the name of Jesus and assorted other gods.

smartypants wrote:

pauljohntheskeptic wrote:

Was Robin Hood real just because there are multiple stories?

I can't answer this either. Probably not. Although I've come to understand that nothing springs from nothing, even if it were no more than the popular sentiment that the rich have too much and the poor too little. Again, no one kills on his behalf, nor was he any kind of philosopher whose ideas are forced down everyone's throat.

One of the things I argue is if one can't tell for sure if Robin Hood was real or not when writing was more prevalent and available (1300 years later) how can one have any confidence in the Jesus stories?

 

smartypants wrote:

Thank you, but my point was that the shroud IS a forgery, if you'll read what I wrote, and a far more tricky forgery at the time than documents "alleged" to have been penned by George Washington, which of course I do not think were forged. I was just trying to make a point.

I misunderstood your point, I got the impression you were suggesting it might be real as it would be difficult to fake.

smartypants wrote:

pauljohntheskeptic wrote:

The similarities are telling us these were legends and stories. What was real? What is myth? When I have time I'll post a short story that shows how this sort of thing happens. In the meantime, again consider Robin Hood and Hercules both were written about substantially. Can you tell if either one is historical?

I believe I addressed this adequately above, but two points: firstly, I think the legend of Robin Hood is important historically because of what it says about the time in which it arose, much like Jesus. Secondly, I find the philosophies proposed by the story of Jesus culturally interesting in the same way I'd discuss Plato or Aristotle. I see no good reason to worship him, but if he did exist, and did cause the ruckus attributed to him, I feel he at least deserves my respect for having the balls to politically challenge the status quo, and I can just ignore all the other nonsense.

As I indicated, I'm not certain if he was real or not. If he was, he was likely a rebel or involved in the Zealot movement or something similar. The Romans executed many of these groups for the refusal to submit to their laws. Jesus did acts of rebellion as in the moneychanger incident for example. The Temple was the financial center of Judea and an attack as described would not get him community service as it hadn't been invented yet.

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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.