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Old 05-26-2001, 04:51 PM   #1
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Post Desperation Dating

Biblical literalists are being further outflanked by methodological historical research and common sense.

Unable to give both faith and history their respectful due, many believers seem to be grabbing whatever straws they can, giving new meaning to the phrase "pretzel logic." The dating of the gospels is not immune from this revisionist tampering. I have seen a lot of smoke and mirrors but no fire yet (has anyone else read Carsten Thiede's "Eyewitness to Jesus"?) This book is the first notable foray into a desperate attempt at redating the gospels to make them as close to literal history (whatever that means) as possible. All we need now is the discovery of the CNN video: "This is Matthew reporting live from the Sea of Galilee where the Savior of the World has just walked across the water...."

Pushing the gospels farther and farther back in time would do at least three things:

1.Careful textural studies and the Christian tradition of biblical scholarship since the late 1700s can be easily thrown into the dustbin.

2.Fundamentalists can fall into a fretless, post-modern slumber, secure in the fantasy that anything and everything in the Bible can be taken literally for whatever reason or agenda.

3.Biblical illiteracy will continue to rise and be exploited.

I predict more and more apologists masquerading as historians willl begin to tentatively put forth fantasies of revised dating in a last-ditch effort to fix, shellac and mount the sentimental Jesus of popular piety and childhood.

It may make one feel better for a time.

It is not, however, history.

[This message has been edited by aikido7 (edited May 26, 2001).]
 
Old 05-27-2001, 01:02 AM   #2
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I'm not sure I follow Aikido. The evidence for the dates is very slim. The NT must obviously be dated after 30AD or so. The later limit on their dating is difficult because of the fragmentary nature of the manuscripts. Yet based on the familiarity of early Church writers with the books of the NT, and the geographical distance early extant manuscripts have been found from the main early Church, an absolute latest date of about 120AD can be placed on the entire cannon. (Although a few people have occasionally been willing to date selected books later than this)

There is the occasional piece of evidence in the text, eg in the Gospel of John it mentions Peters death so clearly that passage was written after the death of Peter. And Acts obviously was written after the events described occurred.

Apart from this the only evidence for the datings is the writings of the early Church, which I for one accept. However if you decide not to accept their writings as evidence, as many theists as well as atheists do, then you are back in a situation with virtually no controls on it.
At this point a Biblical Literalist's extremely early dating of things is no more plausible or unplausible than a majority consensus or than an even later dating.
When there's no evidence, there's no evidence: One guess is just as possible as another.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Pushing the gospels farther and farther back in time would do at least three things:

1.Careful textural studies and the Christian tradition of biblical scholarship since the late 1700s can be easily thrown into the dustbin.</font>
I'm not sure that I've got quite as much respect as you for biblical scholarship since the late 18th century. The 'modern' scholarship in general had a tendancy to assign extremely late and now unplausible dates to most of the cannon.
But what specifically are you referring to here?

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">2.Fundamentalists can fall into a fretless, post-modern slumber, secure in the fantasy that anything and everything in the Bible can be taken literally for whatever reason or agenda.</font>
Of course they do this: They're Fundamentalists so by definition they believe in Biblical inerrancy and literalism. But how is this relevant to a proposed early dating of the Gospels?

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">3.Biblical illiteracy will continue to rise and be exploited</font>
You've lost me completely here. How is Biblical illiteracy related to anything?

-Tercel
 
Old 05-27-2001, 02:03 AM   #3
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Talking

aikido,

Perhaps you're tired of the vague anti-apologetic rants that go largerly unnoticed and you actually want to present some arguments FOR the standard dates?

Give it a shot

SecWebLurker
 
Old 05-27-2001, 06:52 PM   #4
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Tercel:
I'm not sure I follow Aikido. The evidence for the dates is very slim. The NT must obviously be dated after 30AD or so. The later limit on their dating is difficult because of the fragmentary nature of the manuscripts. Yet based on the familiarity of early Church writers with the books of the NT, and the geographical distance early extant manuscripts have been found from the main early Church, an absolute latest date of about 120AD can be placed on the entire cannon. (Although a few people have occasionally been willing to date selected books later than this)</font>
The earliest extant fragment is a scrap of codex from a copy (of a copy of a copy?)of the Gospel of John, variously dated from 125-160 AD. The earliest surviving complete gospel copies come from the third century. And we have no copies of the New Testament until the fourth. All are composites of many different versions; it has been estiamted that there are some 70,000 meaningful variations in Greek manuscripts of the New Testament. All are reconstructions! (And if you cannot believe in a reconstruction, you may not have anything left to believe in!).

There was no "early Church" until Pard'ner Constantine's big 325 AD jamboree and "round-up." Based on textual studies and the existence of different genres, there were many "Jesus movements." Most died out, a few survived and were assimilated into the canon. Some can only be glimpsed by the polemics written against them which have still survived.

And by the way, historical scholars are not expected to formulate certitudes or absolutes. They are required to lay bare their best reconstructions in public with the utmost integrity.


Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Apart from this the only evidence for the datings is the writings of the early Church, which I for one accept.</font>
"(T)he writings of the early Church" is not ALL the evidence there is in determining manuscript dating. The study and comparison of ancient texts is a complex science which can use everyhing from DNA studies to social anthropology. This is much different than just relying on traditional pronouncements from ecclesiastical authority.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> ...you are back in a situation with virtually no controls on it...
One guess is just as possible as another.</font>
Controls are a part of scholarly methodology and any scholar with integrity explains his/her method at the outset and is faithful to it. Scholarly judgements are more along the line of "this is more probable than that" rather than "this is absolutely certain."



Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I'm not sure that I've got quite as much respect as you for biblical scholarship since the late 18th century. The 'modern' scholarship in general had a tendancy to assign extremely late and now unplausible dates to most of the cannon.
But what specifically are you referring to here?</font>
I am specifically saying that there was NO biblical scholarship before the late 18th century. Hermann Reimarus could have only written his famous seminal essay during the Enlightenment--although he was careful to have it published it after he was dead. The Enlightenment fundamentally changed our world and that is why there is still a vocal and sometimes hysterical fear and resistance against seeing things in this new, post-modern way. This fear is manifested worldwide in the phenomena of fundamentalism. If the American literalistic version can be convinced of an earlier and earlier textual dating, then there are no vageries of an oral tradition to contend with and "eye-witness" New Testament accounts discourage any real study of the communities who wrote the gospels. Biblical literacy is already pretty dismal in mainline churches now. Early dating is often an agenda-driven activity which will only discourage further critical reading and study of Scripture.







[This message has been edited by aikido7 (edited May 27, 2001).]
 
Old 05-27-2001, 06:59 PM   #5
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by SecWebLurker:
aikido,

Perhaps you're tired of the vague anti-apologetic rants that go largerly unnoticed and you actually want to present some arguments FOR the standard dates?

Give it a shot

SecWebLurker </font>
Not really. What good would it do?

I am interested in history, not theology.
You seem to prefer things as they are: a Jesus who demands nothing of you except to repeat such empty assertions as a virgin birth, walking on water, an atoning blood sacrifice and a bodily resurrection.




[This message has been edited by aikido7 (edited May 27, 2001).]
 
Old 05-27-2001, 10:00 PM   #6
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by aikido7:

SecWebLurker: Perhaps you're tired of the vague anti-apologetic rants that go largerly unnoticed and you actually want to present some arguments FOR the standard dates?

Give it a shot

aikido: Not really. What good would it do?

I am interested in history, not theology.</font>
Since the question of dating the Gospels is an historical inquiry, why would you not be willing to give us your arguments in favour of the traditional dating of the Gospels? Personally, I can live with those dates, especially if someone can give me a good argument in favour of them.

As you appear to be disheartened by what you see as an attempt by "fundamentalists" (what does this term mean to you, BTW, as you have yet to define it) to establish earlier dates for these books, would it not be incumbent upon you to defend what you see as the truth in this matter? I would hope that you would not be intimidated by the idea of actually defending your beliefs by offering arguments and evidence in their support. That is, after all, why we are here on this board.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">You seem to prefer things as they are: a Jesus who demands nothing of you except to repeat such empty assertions as a virgin birth, walking on water, an atoning blood sacrifice and a bodily resurrection.</font>
Well, I will not speak for SWL, but from my point of view I do not see why you equate such beliefs with "fundamentalism". The Roman Catholic Church teaches these things as doctrine, as does the Orthodox, Lutheran, and a good many other Churches.

I think a good working definition of "fundamentalist" is in order here. Please offer one.

My own definition of a Christian comes from the Nicene Creed. If an individual can confess this Creed, and mean it, then they are a Christian so far as I am concerned.

Again, what is your definition of a Christian aikido?

Thank you,

Nomad
 
Old 05-28-2001, 04:35 AM   #7
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aikido: Not really. What good would it do?

SWL: Perhaps you might actually get someone to take you seriously. Currently, you look to me to be no better than fundies who post messages like: "All you liberals and skeptics are of the devil. Jesus said you would fall away in the last days and sure enough you're on this board fulfilling those prophecies. All your arguments are wrong because man is fallible and God's Word is perfect." All we get from you is dogma - no arguments.

aikido: I am interested in history, not theology.

SWL: Then let's see your historical arguments for the commonly accepted dates of the Gospels, aikido!

aikido: You seem to prefer things as they are: a Jesus who demands nothing of you except to repeat such empty assertions as a virgin birth, walking on water, an atoning blood sacrifice and a bodily resurrection.

SWL: You seem to be incapable of anything other than concocting a fundy strawman and clobbering it with vagueries. Firstly, if I do actually believe in those things, it certainly doesn't make me a "fundy"
(really just an [ultimately meaningless] derogatory phrase you paste on anyone whose views you think are more rigid or dogmatic than your own). Its frankly none of your business what I believe in. I have made very few statements concerning my faith on this board - usually only in direct response to a question about such matters (yes, once in response to the question 'Do you believe in the virgin birth?'). Mostly, with the exception of an occasional philosophical note on the old 'science shows dat mircles are impossible' line, my discussion of the virgin birth consists of undercutting what I see as misguided attempts to demonstrate borrowing from paganism on the part of Christianity (given that the pagan parallels are, in most cases, extremely late, not actually virginal conceptions but examples of divine fornication, and the only parallel is the miraculous aspect which is already quite a part of Judaism - angelic announcements and all). Those arguments (like the one currently taking place on the "No Dying/Rising Gods" thread) are entirely historical. Feel free to join in. Don't just bottle it up and explode on a new thread 2 months later - which I'm likely to ignore. My discussion of the bodily resurrection has not consisted of any 'empty assertions', rather, I've merely argued historically that Paul taught a bodily resurrection (as Dom Crossan does). If you disagree with that, stop bitching, go dig up the thread, and deal with my arguments. Otherwise, contrary to what your strawman version of me says, I haven't said a word about the atonement or walking on water.

Now maybe by answering your assertions one-by-one I was reading you in an overly "literalistic" manner. Maybe you just wanted to paint me with the broad brush of fundyism and leave it at that. If so, pardon me for trying to take you seriously. I thought perhaps you might want to discuss some of these issues rather than continue to beat up on the strawmen you've concocted out of the traumatic experiences you've had with the big bad "fundamentalists".

The subject of the board is Biblical Criticism & Archaeology, not Whining about Fundamentalism, Conservativism, and Apologetics.

SecWebLurker

P.S. - You're out of your mind if you think its conservatives or fundies obsessed with early-dating. What scholarship do you read, man? Do you actually READ the liberal scholars whose rhetoric you parrot [without attribution]? Cross Gospel? An earliest layer in the triple-stratification of Q that's entirely sapiential? Secret Mark? A PRE-CANONICAL Gospel of Thomas? Liberals invent their own Gospels and early-date them!



[This message has been edited by SecWebLurker (edited May 28, 2001).]
 
Old 05-28-2001, 04:39 AM   #8
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aikido: (And if you cannot believe in a reconstruction, you may not have anything left to believe in!).

SWL: Aahahahahahhahahah! Polly wanna cracker? Don't you get tired of perching on John Crossan's shoulder all day?

SecWebLurker
 
Old 05-28-2001, 10:04 AM   #9
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by SecWebLurker:
aikido: (And if you cannot believe in a reconstruction, you may not have anything left to believe in!).

SWL: Aahahahahahhahahah! Polly wanna cracker? Don't you get tired of perching on John Crossan's shoulder all day?</font>
Dwarves like us occaisionally need to stand on the shoulders of giants...
And what is it we were discussing again?
(And by the way, to be literalistic with you--"all day" is definitely an unfair term. Once in awhile I do come down to eat and have a beverage!)


 
Old 05-28-2001, 11:02 AM   #10
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Nomad:
I think a good working definition of "fundamentalist" is in order here. Please offer one... My own definition of a Christian comes from the Nicene Creed... Again, what is your definition of a Christian aikido?
Nomad</font>
Like a U.S. Supreme Court justice once said about pornography, I cannot describe it, but I know it when I see it. My broad brush definition of fundamentalism might be "a fear-based approach to post-modernism." And bear in mind that the only way I can point out my seeing fear in another person or group is that I am first intimately acquainted with that same fear within myself.

As for a definition of Christianity, it is faith in the human being Jesus as a manifestation of the divine. In other words, if God came to earth in human form, what would he say and what would he do? My reading, study and common sense tell me that the Nicean Creed is also an antiquated political document and that (the historical AND resurrected) Jesus of Nazareth radically subverts all worldly forms of political, social and religious power.


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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">If an indivdual can confess this Creed and mean it (My emphasis),then they are a Christian so far as I am concerned </font>
.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">The italicized portion of your working definition worries me a bit and raises some hard and necessary questions around notions of coercion, obedience and spiritual and intellectual freedom. These are probably best answered within yourself instead of on this board. But I may be totally out of line here and so apologize in advance! Just a thought....</font>


[This message has been edited by aikido7 (edited May 28, 2001).]
 
 

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