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Old 05-17-2001, 05:19 PM   #31
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by turtonm:

First of all, you misunderstand (I think deliberately so) "myth." Something like Asimov's _The Foundation Trilogy_ is made up out of whole cloth. I don't think any of us who take the position that the NT is largely myth takes the position that Mark sat down one day and dreamed it all up.</font>
Hello Michael

Since Earl's entire thesis is based on the idea that the historical Jesus was created by Mark out of no actual human being that actually lived here on earth (IOW, Mark made Him up), then we are talking about a theory not just about a mythical Jesus, but a non-existent Jesus.

I find the arguments for mythical embellishment, or legendary development to be more reasonable than what Doherty proposes, but that is not the focus of that debate. So I am not misunderstanding anything. I am staying focused on Earl's central thesis, and would prefer that you not try to change the subject.

Once Earl and his beliefs have been dispatched, then we can talk about your ideas here, but as I have said before, this debate must be conducted one step at a time. Right now the focus is on whether or not any human being stands behind the Jesus myth. Since you believe that such a person did exist, then there isn't much of a problem between you and I right now. My comments and answers are directed at those that still think that there is reason to doubt anhistorical Jesus.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Rather, "Mark" had an existing corpus of myth that he reworked using his imagination and background, as did all the gospel writers. That is why "myth" differs from "fabrication." Fabrication has an element of deliberate artifice that "myth" does not.</font>
Yes, I know all of this, and I agree. Again, Earl's position is that there is Mark was working from a non-historical Jesus, making him up, and that there was no tradition supporting a human Jesus before he did this.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Myth is an organic outgrowth of complex sociological and cultural elements. Myth has no one author, and there is no one story.</font>
Again I would agree. But if you read Doherty's arguments, you will see that he believes that the historical Jesus is the construct of Mark and his Gospel.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Myths that convey legitimacy on mythologized figures by linking them to other mythic (i do not mean "fictional") figures are not exactly uncommon (look at all the Kings who descended from the gods). In fact, the messiah tradition of the hebrews itself does this, by demanding that the messiah be of the line of David!</font>
Agreed. All four Gospels deliberately link Jesus to David for this exact reason. I will not be using Davidic descent as an argument for the historicity of Jesus, as that descent definitely cannot be proven from the evidence available to us. Further, the evangelists had a powerful apologetic motivation to make Jesus look like He was descended from David, making their reporting of such a lineage more suspect.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">A "mythic" explanation of JtB's baptism of Jesus is all-too-easy to come by -- Mark would have had to explain how, if Jesus was really the Messiah, why a really major figure like JtB didn't recognize him somehow. You can imagine what the skeptics would be saying if JtB hadn't baptized Jesus: "Hey! Explain why the prominent rebel John the Baptist never ran into Jesus, even though they were preaching at the same time in the same place!" </font>
You have missed the point here Michael. Jesus could easily have shown up and baptized John, or had John declare that Jesus was the Messiah, and therefore did not need baptism. Worse yet, Matthew tells us (Matt 11:2-3) that John was not certain that Jesus really was the Messiah, even after His baptism, and John foundhimself in prison.

As we can see, linking Jesus to John would be very easy, but what the evangelists wanted to avoid was making Jesus look like he was sinful and in need of forgiveness, or that John was in any way greater than Jesus. The baptism of Jesus by John makes both beliefs highly problematic.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">The existence of a multitude of highly plausible alternatives shows why the embarrassment criterion is only an "embarrassment" to its wielders.</font>
I understand that you neither accept, nor understand how this criteria works Michael. That is alright. At the same time, I wonder if you consider testimony that runs counter to one's interests is more or less credible than testimony that serves an apologetic purpose. Actually, from what I have read from you, you do not consider witness testimony to be reliable at all, since we can always rationalize reasons to reject that testimony.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Further, where in the OT does it say that the Messiah will not baptized?</font>
Actually, the OT does not mention the need for baptism at all. This was a relatively recent Jewish ritual introduced by the Essenes, and expanded upon by John, and later expanded again by Jesus and early Christians.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad, we do not know what would be acceptable to first-century jews who had strong folk traditions of magic, prophecy, exorcism, and healing, as well as nursing a messianic savior cult and a deadly grudge against their colonial overlords.</font>
Actually, yes we do Michael. This is why we study history, and read what people have told us about their beliefs. I know that you do not believe what they say, but most people who study history seriously accept that we can know (with a reasonable level of confidence) things about what people believed in the past.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Further, we do not know what would be acceptable to Mark's audience (Mark was writing for someone), and we do not know what was acceptable for Mark. We can't just make sweeping statements "jews wouldn't do X" when in fact there might be jews who would do X from time to time, and others who would make a habit of it. People just don't fit into neat categories.</font>
Of course people do not fit into neat catagories all of the time. Yet, we can draw some general understanding of people's beliefs. One of these is to look at what Jews expected the Messiah to be like, and see if the evangelists tried to show how Jesus met those criteria. Clearly they did this, and yet they also reported events and words from Jesus' life that very clearly did not serve to prove Jesus was the Messiah. In fact, in the case of the baptism of Jesus, and His supposed atoning sacrifice run directly counter to Jewish Messianic expectations both then, and today.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Another issue is that indeed some people were recognized as messiah from time to time. Simon Bar-Cochba, the rebel who got the jews annihilated in 135, was proclaimed messiah by the famous Rabbi Akiba, so, yes, it would appear that the messiah needed to be recognized and proclaimed by lesser mortals.</font>
Obviously, this proclomation of Messiahship is essential to someone being recognized as the Messiah. But Mark (and the other evangelists) does not do this. It would have been easy to just have Jesus proclaimed the Messiah by John (who many believed to be a prophet who would do exactly that). Instead, the historical record appears to tell us not that John thought Jesus was the Messiah, but that Jesus was one of his disciples who struck out on his own after John was arrested.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Of course, the Jews did not accept Jesus as a Messiah, the Christians did.</font>
You did know that the first Christians were all Jews right?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Messianism continued, going through revivals as Jewish fortunes waxed and waned. The Christian position is that the Jewish messiah came but the Jews somehow missed it. The Jews in fact rejected Jesus, by and large. So to explain Jesus in terms of what first-century Jews would or would not do about their messiah is problematic.</font>
Hebrew Scripture is pretty clear on what the Messiah will do, and what he will be like. A big problem for the early Christians was that many of the things known about Jesus did not appear to line up with these prophecies and expectations, and some of them ran directly counter to these expectations.

It is possible to know things about the past Michael, although I realize that you do not believe this.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> We only know what first-century Christians did, and they accepted a tradition that JtB had baptized Jesus and incorporated it into their burgeoning Jesus mythos. We know that first-century Christians did other un-jewish things, like set aside dietary laws, make circumcision optional, make no distinction between jews and outsiders under god, recognize someone as messiah who did not come from the Davidic line, usher in an era of world peace and hold the kingship over the jewish state, and so on. Obviously the Christians did not consider themselves strictly bound by the jewish scriptures, customs and beliefs.</font>
Hmmm... who created your list? All of the Gospels, and Paul tell us that Jesus was descended from David. Also, Jewish Christians were expected to continue to practice Jewish laws (IOW they were not optional to those who had been born Jews), while Gentile Christians were not expected to do this (except for keeping the laws on sexual morality and refusing to eat meat dedicated to pagan gods).

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">In sum, many plausible stories could be constructed, and there is not enough evidence to conclude that such an event did or did not actually occur.</font>
In sum, your problem is very similar to that of Philip's. Coming up with multiple plausible stories does not make for good historical inquiry. Anyone can come up with a good plausible story about anything. One of my personal favorites is Robert Graves treatment of the early Julians and Claudians in his two books, "I Claudius" and "Claudius the God". Both are works of pure fiction built around real people, and his story is coherent, explanitory, accounts for everything we know about these people, and since we get to believe in all kinds of wonderful conspiracies and hidden treachery, it has a great deal more appeal than the more mundane explanations offered by historians.

Quite simply, Graves had no evidence to support his stories, and therefore we consider it to be more reasonable to think that Augustus died of natural causes (for example) than that he was poisoned by his wife Livia. Can we prove that he died of natural causes? No. But it is the most reasonable position to take given the evidence we have available to us. Similarly, you have no evidence to show that something other than Jesus being baptized and dying on a cross is more probable than not, so you are just engaging in wishful thinking. History making can be an interesting diversion, but when we study real history, it is better to look at the evidence objectively, and determine what is the most probable explanation of what actually happened.

Historians have (for the reasons that I have listed) concluded that Jesus almost certainly was baptized by John, and that He died on the cross at the order of Pontius Pilate. The evidence for these events is extremely good (and certainly far better than what we have on other events from antiquity), they have explanitory force for the events that are believed to have surrounded the life of Jesus as well as the formation of the early Christian movement, the motivation for the evangelists and early Christians to make it up is non-existent, and had they been able to deny that such things happened, it is equally certain that they would have done this.

Nomad

[This message has been edited by Nomad (edited May 17, 2001).]
 
Old 05-17-2001, 07:25 PM   #32
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Hello Michael:

Since Earl's entire thesis is based on the idea that the historical Jesus was created by Mark out of no actual human being that actually lived here on earth (IOW, Mark made Him up), then we are talking about a theory not just about a mythical Jesus, but a non-existent Jesus.

This is not how I read Doherty. Here is what he says: "The article concludes with a survey of how Mark put the first Gospel together out of separate elements, its scriptural ingredients and sectarian features." In part three of his site, The Evolution of Jesus of Nazareth", he discusses how Mark reconstructs the Jesus story out of existing elements.

In fact, Doherty seems to agree with my statement that Mark crafted the Jesus story out of disparate elements. Unless he has said something else in the debate, which I have not yet read. But if you like, we can put this off until after you are done with Doherty.

I find the arguments for mythical embellishment, or legendary development to be more reasonable than what Doherty proposes, but that is not the focus of that debate. So I am not misunderstanding anything. I am staying focused on Earl's central thesis, and would prefer that you not try to change the subject.

Sorry that I, in your perspective, "changed the subject." In any case, I was responding originally to Layman's "embarrassment" criterion, and the discussion ranged across other topics.

Yes, I know all of this, and I agree. Again, Earl's position is that there is Mark was working from a non-historical Jesus, making him up, and that there was no tradition supporting a human Jesus before he did this.

Nomad, I'm not as convinced as you that this is ED's position. Maybe you should reconsider your line of attack. Read the article I referenced above again. It is almost certain that some "historicizing" of the spiritual Christ had already taken place in Christian study and preaching activities, before Mark and unrelated to Q. says ED. This doesn't sound like ED is saying the whole thing is an invention of Mark.

You have missed the point here Michael. Jesus could easily have shown up and baptized John, or had John declare that Jesus was the Messiah, and therefore did not need baptism. Worse yet, Matthew tells us (Matt 11:2-3) that John was not certain that Jesus really was the Messiah, even after His baptism, and John found himself in prison.

All of those would have been just as good, you are right. But JtB's characteristic mode of self-expression was baptism. or maybe Baptism was necessary because they were both Essenes but of different Essene communities. Since we know nothing of the oral traditions surrounding Jesus, we cannot know what Mark was responded to when he kept this story.

As we can see, linking Jesus to John would be very easy, but what the evangelists wanted to avoid was making Jesus look like he was sinful and in need of forgiveness, or that John was in any way greater than Jesus. The baptism of Jesus by John makes both beliefs highly problematic.

If that is true, then why did they preserve so many other stories that did not reflect well on him, like the casting of devils into pigs, the blasting of the fig tree, the ill-treatment of the Samarian(?) woman who came to him for help, his intemperate outbursts and violent language°K°K

I understand that you neither accept, nor understand how this criteria works Michael.

I understand that you are willing to accept any criteria, no matter how ridiculous, that can advance your cause.

That is alright. At the same time, I wonder if you consider testimony that runs counter to one's interests is more or less credible than testimony that serves an apologetic purpose.

If it really runs counter to one's "interests." Can we identify Mark's interests? Don't think so. Suppose there was an even more compromising story about JtB that this one is actually covering? We only have the story, we don't have the context of Mark's head when he wrote it.

Actually, from what I have read from you, you do not consider witness testimony to be reliable at all, since we can always rationalize reasons to reject that testimony.

It depends what they are testifying to. Also, we don't have any witness testimony of Jesus, so the issue doesn't come up.

Nomad, we do not know what would be acceptable to first-century jews who had strong folk traditions of magic, prophecy, exorcism, and healing, as well as nursing a messianic savior cult and a deadly grudge against their colonial overlords°K..

Actually, yes we do Michael. This is why we study history, and read what people have told us about their beliefs. I know that you do not believe what they say, but most people who study history seriously accept that we can know (with a reasonable level of confidence) things about what people believed in the past.


This is way overboard, Nomad. As a student of history -- not the fantasies of religious propagandists -- I know full well that we can know about the past with a reasonable level of confidence. Apparently, given your yawning ignorance of history outsider the Mediterranean littoral of the first century AD, much better than you (as we shall see for the umpteenth time below). If the gospelers had written history, and not religious propaganda, I'd be more accepting of them.

Hebrew Scripture is pretty clear on what the Messiah will do, and what he will be like.

Yes, and it doesn't support Jesus' claim to be the Messiah. Unless the Jews are wrong about their own scriptures.

A big problem for the early Christians was that many of the things known about Jesus did not appear to line up with these prophecies and expectations, and some of them ran directly counter to these expectations.

No kidding. Still do, too.

It is possible to know things about the past Michael, although I realize that you do not believe this.

Perhaps you should have your dosage adjusted. The current level makes you suddenly spout nonsense at random.

We only know what first-century Christians did, and they accepted a tradition that JtB had baptized Jesus and incorporated it into their burgeoning Jesus mythos. We know that first-century Christians did other un-jewish things, like set aside dietary laws, make circumcision optional, make no distinction between jews and outsiders under god, recognize someone as messiah who did not come from the Davidic line, usher in an era of world peace and hold the kingship over the jewish state, and so on. Obviously the Christians did not consider themselves strictly bound by the jewish scriptures, customs and beliefs.

Hmmm... who created your list? All of the Gospels, and Paul tell us that Jesus was descended from David.

Through who? God was his father. Mary was of the Aaronic line, as I recall. Unless Jesus had a human father°K.

Also, Jewish Christians were expected to continue to practice Jewish laws (IOW they were not optional to those who had been born Jews), while Gentile Christians were not expected to do this (except for keeping the laws on sexual morality and refusing to eat meat dedicated to pagan gods).

Like I said°K..they adjusted the Jewish practices as they needed to.

In sum, many plausible stories could be constructed, and there is not enough evidence to conclude that such an event did or did not actually occur.

In sum, your problem is very similar to that of Philip's. Coming up with multiple plausible stories does not make for good historical inquiry.


Neither does assuming the conclusion first, and then desperately scrambling around to find evidence for it.

Anyone can come up with a good plausible story about anything. One of my personal favorites is Robert Graves treatment of the early Julians and Claudians in his two books, "I Claudius" and "Claudius the God". Both are works of pure fiction built around real people, and his story is coherent, explanitory, accounts for everything we know about these people, and since we get to believe in all kinds of wonderful conspiracies and hidden treachery, it has a great deal more appeal than the more mundane explanations offered by historians.

Agreed. I was riveted by I, Claudius. Unfortunately, it is not yet available on DVD with Chinese subtitles.

°KSimilarly, you have no evidence to show that something other than Jesus being baptized and dying on a cross is more probable than not, so you are just engaging in wishful thinking.

Why no, I am not leaping to conclusions based on feeble evidence put forth by eager propagandists who were not witnesses to the events in question. With your criteria, we should believe scientology histories of L Ron Hubbard's life.

More seriously, in the main, as we have already stated, we agree that there is someone under the story. But beyond that, it is difficult to tell what happened. Such myths grow extremely rapidly, and assume very realistic proportions. This is especially true of Founder Figure myths. Just check out the story of William Tell°K..names, events, places, concerning him, all fiction. I could list many others. I related for Layman once the story of the hongs of south China, a group of anti-Ching Ming loyalists who took to banditry and piracy, and who invented a mythical founder with the name Hong (the character is also a common family name), complete with stories, in only few decades. That's why I have such a low confidence level in the gospels, Nomads, there are too many founder figure stories that are almost entirely myth. Consider:
  • Which parts of the Arthurian legends do you consider to be true? Is there enough evidence under all that piled-up myth to make any determinations about him? Was Lancelot real? Was Camelot a real place? If Arthur were worshipped as a god, what would historians consider true in his stories? Did he sleep with his half-sister and get her pregnant with a son who killed him (damned embarrassing -- must be true). I mean, why did those legend makers make up a story like that, when they could have made up any old story?
  • Was Aztlan a real place? Or did Meso-American peoples make it up?
  • Did Roland fight the Moors at Roncesvalles, or was he killed in a more prosaic manner when Basques ambushed the rear guard of the army as it withdrew through the Pyranees (one embarrassing event -- a defeat -- covering one even more embarrassing event. Oh, I forgot. If it is embarrassing, it must be true.)
  • Was Robin Hood really Earl of Locksley? Was Marian a real person?

I'm sure you get the idea. Now you hand me YOUR founder myth and say that it is not like the others. But how would Arthurian legend look if a religion had sprung up around it, and generations of scholars had determined that Arthur's betrayal by his wife with his best friend was true because it was an embarrassing incident? What would you now be arguing as Arthur's defender? That he really did boff his sister and have a son by her?

History making can be an interesting diversion, but when we study real history, it is better to look at the evidence objectively, and determine what is the most probable explanation of what actually happened.

I totally agree.

Historians have (for the reasons that I have listed) concluded that Jesus almost certainly was baptized by John, and that He died on the cross at the order of Pontius Pilate. The evidence for these events is extremely good (and certainly far better than what we have on other events from antiquity)

Oh please. That is plainly silly. Never mind the Med, from ancient China we have more than (conservative estimate) 50,000 texts rescued from tombs (NOT handed down and known only from later copies) from the period with 500 years either side of Christ. This record, and the wealth of corroborating archaeological evidence (the Chinese were also fanatics about setting down books on stone), simply blows away anything from the Mediterranean. In case you were wondering, the Chinese used prepared bamboo slabs as writing tablets. They also deliberately sealed up their tombs to be air- and water-tight.

But even from the Mediterranean, there are many, many events for which we have better evidence than the life of Jesus (like any number of rulers). Is it your claim that the evidence for Augustus' Caesar's existence is less copious than that of Jesus?

I am glad some historians have decided they think there is enough evidence for JtB's baptism. I don't think there is. I do not know what tradition Mark is recording, or why he set it down the way he did, or how he reworked the material for his own uses and audiences. Since we know that Mark was "mythologizing" and not writing history, I cannot say for certain what is true in anything he wrote.

they have explanitory force for the events that are believed to have surrounded the life of Jesus as well as the formation of the early Christian movement, the motivation for the evangelists and early Christians to make it up is non-existent, and had they been able to deny that such things happened, it is equally certain that they would have done this.

Well, you go your way, and I'll go mine. But consider: the fact that early Christians later added an ending to Mark, but did not fiddle with the JtB story (AFAIK --is there evidence of interpolation?), may indicate that it was not found overly "embarrassing" theologically in the bad old days.

Michael
 
Old 05-17-2001, 09:05 PM   #33
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Iím new to this forum, and in fact new to boards in general, so as a ďnewbieĒ Iíll just throw in a tidbit and duck. First, quick background: I am certainly not a Bible scholar, but I do have a fairly wide background in reading mythology, narrative poetry, and history (both classical and modern).

That said, Iíve been following the Jesus Myth debate with some interest as Iíve lurked here the last couple of weeks, and Iíve visited Dohertyís web site. I have to say that my reading of Dohertyís site agrees with Turtonmís. Mark as a mythologist was not creating a deliberate, conscious fiction. Thatís not what myth making is, and thatís not how it works.

As an example, letís take Matthew 11:2-3, which has John the Baptist in prison questioning whether Jesus be the Messiah. Nomad brings this up as a Gospel detail too embarrassing to Matthewís purpose (assuming Matthew was making this up) to be fiction.
I agree that the incident as reported is embarrassing to Matthew, but I have a different reason for thinking so. Itís embarrassing because earlier in Matthew (3:13-17), when Jesus approaches John for baptism, John instantly recognizes Jesus for who he really is, telling him he (John) should be baptized by Jesus instead. When Jesus insists, saying it is fitting and fulfilling (depending on translation I suppose, I donít have my Greek Testament at hand), and John baptizes him, the heavens open, the spirit of God descends as a dove, and God speaks audibly claiming Jesus as his Son.

That John would have completely forgotten this rather amazing incident in such a short time makes absolutely no sense whatsoever from the point of view of historical narrative. It makes perfect sense from the point of view of mythic narrative, however. In mythic narrative the actors are not real people. The ďpurposeĒ of the Baptistís remarks in Matthew 11 is to serve as a springboard for a proclamation from Jesus. Itís a formula, a set piece. Incidentally itís derived in part from a more primitive formulation in The Gospel of Thomas, where we see that some of the attributes applied to the Baptist in Matthew were (originally?) applied to Jesus. Like all mythic materials, itís a living, growing body of tradition.

My point is not whether or not Johnís baptism of Jesus "really" occurred, incidentally. My point is that what these two incidents demonstrate when juxtaposed is that Matthew (in this example) and the Gospels in general are not creating historical narrative and are not thinking in those terms, and that to attempt to read them as such is to do violence to the texts.

OK, thatís my tidbit. Now Iíll duck!
 
Old 05-17-2001, 09:35 PM   #34
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Has this become the new board for general discussion on the debate? Sorry if I'm out of place or late with the topic. I'm trying to catch up.

Prospects for the debate are looking much better now. Brian's latest post, in particular, is a nice sign. His May 14 post contained several serious insults which probably would have driven me to quit. Let's hope the tune of the most recent message continues and we can have a respectful, professional discussion.

I'll make a couple other comments on the post from a few days ago.

The subject of 1 Cor. 1:22-24 has me perplexed, and I wonder if anyone can help. I think Brian misunderstood Earl's position, although I'm not certain. He emphatically argues that the idea of the crucifixion would be a "stumbling block" to the Jews and "foolishness" to the Gentiles. But Earl agrees with him, and makes this clear on his Web article from which Brian quoted. Earl's point (which anyone may freely debate) is that Paul's wording suggests it is the historicity of the crucifixion which is the stumbling block--did this event (the crucifixion) actually happen to the individual in question--which would not be the case if the individual in question were a human whose crucifixion were a matter of public record.

Just for the record, I will add that the link Brian provided to Peter Kirby's article on Josephus still works (Brian finds Kirby's argument for Josephus' authenticity more convincing ("irrefutable") than Earl's counter), but Kirby no longer links to the article from his home page. Instead, he has a link to his lengthy and glowing review of Earl's book, and I'm pretty sure he has embraced the mythicist position.

Finally, I see quite a few words have been written on the baptism! I find the arguments for its historicity unconvincing. A fiction writer could have any number of reasons for including the story, from purely symbolic to emphasizing the importance of baptism, so that even the one who shouldn't need it went through the routine. I doubt the authors were concerned about readers rationalizing "Hmmm...They say this guy's the Messiah--and yet he got himself baptized. Contradiction city!"

Bill
 
Old 05-17-2001, 09:44 PM   #35
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by turtonm:

Nomad: Since Earl's entire thesis is based on the idea that the historical Jesus was created by Mark out of no actual human being that actually lived here on earth (IOW, Mark made Him up), then we are talking about a theory not just about a mythical Jesus, but a non-existent Jesus.

Michael: This is not how I read Doherty. Here is what he says: "The article concludes with a survey of how Mark put the first Gospel together out of separate elements, its scriptural ingredients and sectarian features." In part three of his site, The Evolution of Jesus of Nazareth", he discusses how Mark reconstructs the Jesus story out of existing elements.</font>
Yes, I suspected that you were not reading the debate Michael, nor that you have fully comprehended Earl's claims. Here is point (5) from his opening post:

(5) Because all the later Gospels can be seen to be based on Mark's general layout and content (regardless of whether they have added other material to that schema), with no sign that the other communities possessed their own developed traditions/schema of the Gospel events (something we would expect to find across a varied Christian movement over half an empire and after half a century or more), and because Mark's content, especially in the passion, is largely midrash on scripture, we can conclude that the Gospel story did not exist before Mark first wrote it. (Q has no story, just raw material that doesn't include death and resurrection, with attribution to a founder figure who, I argue, was a later-stage addition.)

I suspect that you are not interested in defending his position, however, so I will only ask that you at least understand it.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">In fact, Doherty seems to agree with my statement that Mark crafted the Jesus story out of disparate elements. Unless he has said something else in the debate, which I have not yet read. But if you like, we can put this off until after you are done with Doherty.</font>
No problem Michael. Just to help you out, Earl sees no historical Jesus at all. This is a very far cry from what you have argued to this point, although you do appear to be converting to his line of reasoning.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: Yes, I know all of this, and I agree. Again, Earl's position is that there is Mark was working from a non-historical Jesus, making him up, and that there was no tradition supporting a human Jesus before he did this.

Michael: Nomad, I'm not as convinced as you that this is ED's position. Maybe you should reconsider your line of attack. Read the article I referenced above again. It is almost certain that some "historicizing" of the spiritual Christ had already taken place in Christian study and preaching activities, before Mark and unrelated to Q. says ED. This doesn't sound like ED is saying the whole thing is an invention of Mark.</font>
He is arguing that there is no human Jesus until Mark. I would have thought that this would have been obvious enough for even you to understand Michael.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">All of those would have been just as good, you are right. But JtB's characteristic mode of self-expression was baptism. or maybe Baptism was necessary because they were both Essenes but of different Essene communities. Since we know nothing of the oral traditions surrounding Jesus, we cannot know what Mark was responded to when he kept this story.</font>
Perhaps you could tell me what Mark would have had to say in order to convince you personally that he was reporting a real event that took place in history.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: As we can see, linking Jesus to John would be very easy, but what the evangelists wanted to avoid was making Jesus look like he was sinful and in need of forgiveness, or that John was in any way greater than Jesus. The baptism of Jesus by John makes both beliefs highly problematic.

Michael: If that is true, then why did they preserve so many other stories that did not reflect well on him, like the casting of devils into pigs, the blasting of the fig tree, the ill-treatment of the Samarian(?) woman who came to him for help, his intemperate outbursts and violent language°K°K</font>
This is a very good point Michael. I am sure that Earl and I will get to these questions as well. In the meantime, why do you think that they preserved these traditions? (Assuming that you think they did not consider them to be historical)

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: I understand that you neither accept, nor understand how this criteria works Michael.

Michael: I understand that you are willing to accept any criteria, no matter how ridiculous, that can advance your cause.</font>
Umm... do you mean the criteria accepted by all historians Michael? How did you determine that only apologists use them? Do you actually read history Michael?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: That is alright. At the same time, I wonder if you consider testimony that runs counter to one's interests is more or less credible than testimony that serves an apologetic purpose.

Michael: If it really runs counter to one's "interests." Can we identify Mark's interests? Don't think so.</font>
As I said, I already knew that you did not think that we can know anything about history. Your point is noted. Thank you.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Suppose there was an even more compromising story about JtB that this one is actually covering? We only have the story, we don't have the context of Mark's head when he wrote it.</font>
Right. Since we cannot interview those that have recorded history for us, your argument here must be that we cannot really know if they are telling us anything at all. Your know nothing attitude is noted.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: Actually, from what I have read from you, you do not consider witness testimony to be reliable at all, since we can always rationalize reasons to reject that testimony.

Mchael: It depends what they are testifying to. Also, we don't have any witness testimony of Jesus, so the issue doesn't come up.</font>
Actually, we do have witness testimony, but that is something I will save for my discussion with Earl. I have noticed your absense from serious discussions on this point in the past, and believe you will continue your evasions.

My question here is could you please give me an example of reliable witness testimony from ancient history? I would like to see how minimalist your standards happen to be.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: Actually, yes we do Michael. This is why we study history, and read what people have told us about their beliefs. I know that you do not believe what they say, but most people who study history seriously accept that we can know (with a reasonable level of confidence) things about what people believed in the past.

Michael: This is way overboard, Nomad. As a student of history -- not the fantasies of religious propagandists -- I know full well that we can know about the past with a reasonable level of confidence.</font>
Could you offer an example of an event from history that you are confident happened please?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Apparently, given your yawning ignorance of history outsider the Mediterranean littoral of the first century AD, much better than you (as we shall see for the umpteenth time below). If the gospelers had written history, and not religious propaganda, I'd be more accepting of them.</font>
Could you please define what you consider to be written history from the ancient past please?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: Hebrew Scripture is pretty clear on what the Messiah will do, and what he will be like.

Michael: Yes, and it doesn't support Jesus' claim to be the Messiah. Unless the Jews are wrong about their own scriptures.</font>
Agreed.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: A big problem for the early Christians was that many of the things known about Jesus did not appear to line up with these prophecies and expectations, and some of them ran directly counter to these expectations.

Michael: No kidding. Still do, too.</font>
Agreed again.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: It is possible to know things about the past Michael, although I realize that you do not believe this.

Michael: Perhaps you should have your dosage adjusted. The current level makes you suddenly spout nonsense at random.</font>
Please tell me what events from ancient history you consider to be reliable. Thank you for the advice on dosages, although I am not currently taking any medication.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: Hmmm... who created your list? All of the Gospels, and Paul tell us that Jesus was descended from David.

Michael: Through who? God was his father. Mary was of the Aaronic line, as I recall. Unless Jesus had a human father°K.</font>
Paul, John and Mark merely stated that Jesus was descended from Jesus. The evidence would appear to show that this is traced through His father. As for Mary being Aaronic, I will assume that you are merely showing your ignorance. Lineage is not traced through the mother, only one's being a Jew is passed through the mother.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: Also, Jewish Christians were expected to continue to practice Jewish laws (IOW they were not optional to those who had been born Jews), while Gentile Christians were not expected to do this (except for keeping the laws on sexual morality and refusing to eat meat dedicated to pagan gods).

Michael: Like I said°K..they adjusted the Jewish practices as they needed to.</font>
No, you did not say this Michael. Please read your posts. You said that the first Christians did not practice Jewish laws like circumcision. You did know that Paul circumcised Timothy right?

I really do wonder where you pick up your information on early Christianity Michael. You really do appear to be lacking in this area, yet seem eager to participate in these discussions, even as you continue to learn nothing from those discussions.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: In sum, your problem is very similar to that of Philip's. Coming up with multiple plausible stories does not make for good historical inquiry.

Michael: Neither does assuming the conclusion first, and then desperately scrambling around to find evidence for it.</font>
I have been very conservative in my approach in this debate, accepting those criteria and methods used by historians of all stripes. You have found fault with those methods, even as you have failed to establish a criteria by which you could confidently say that you believe an historical event actually happened. Your desire for inscriptions was especially pathetic, but if you have other criteria, I would be happy to listen to it.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: Similarly, you have no evidence to show that something other than Jesus being baptized and dying on a cross is more probable than not, so you are just engaging in wishful thinking.

Michael: Why no, I am not leaping to conclusions based on feeble evidence put forth by eager propagandists who were not witnesses to the events in question. With your criteria, we should believe scientology histories of L Ron Hubbard's life.</font>
This is not my criteria Michael, and your eagerness to find fault with the methods used by all historians of antiquity is interesting, but quite reductionist. In the end you will have to tell us that we can know nothing about the past.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">More seriously, in the main, as we have already stated, we agree that there is someone under the story. But beyond that, it is difficult to tell what happened. Such myths grow extremely rapidly, and assume very realistic proportions. This is especially true of Founder Figure myths. Just check out the story of William Tell°K..names, events, places, concerning him, all fiction. I could list many others.</font>
Could you stick to examles of religious figures, showing how people wrote within the lifetime of people that lived at the same time as the person they are preaching about? Since we are speaking of ancients from the Mediterannean region, using examples from this area would be most relevant.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> I related for Layman once the story of the hongs of south China, a group of anti-Ching Ming loyalists who took to banditry and piracy, and who invented a mythical founder with the name Hong (the character is also a common family name), complete with stories, in only few decades. That's why I have such a low confidence level in the gospels, Nomads, there are too many founder figure stories that are almost entirely myth.</font>
Since this example involves known liars, are you saying that the Gospel authors are also known liars, and that early Christians had as little interest in the truth as did the hongs?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Consider:

Which parts of the Arthurian legends do you consider to be true?</font>
Since the Authurian legends were recorded over 700 years after the people involved supposedly lived, this is a complete non-sequitor.

[quote]<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">

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Was Aztlan a real place? Or did Meso-American peoples make it up?</font>
How closely to the events did the Meso-Americans write about this place?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Did Roland fight the Moors at Roncesvalles, or was he killed in a more prosaic manner when Basques ambushed the rear guard of the army as it withdrew through the Pyranees (one embarrassing event -- a defeat -- covering one even more embarrassing event. Oh, I forgot. If it is embarrassing, it must be true.)</font>
Why is this event embarrassing? Lots of people lose battles. Did he fail to fulfill a prophecy in losing this battle, yet claim to have fulfilled these same prophecies?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Was Robin Hood really Earl of Locksley? Was Marian a real person?
</font>
Same question as to Arthur. How much time passed between the life of Robin, and the recordings of his adventures? If he was written about during his lifetime, or that of other witnesses, then I would say the probability of his being real is quite good.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I'm sure you get the idea. Now you hand me YOUR founder myth and say that it is not like the others.</font>
Could you show me first how they are alike please?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> But how would Arthurian legend look if a religion had sprung up around it, and generations of scholars had determined that Arthur's betrayal by his wife with his best friend was true because it was an embarrassing incident?</font>
Then it would look like the religion of the Greeks or the Romans or the Mithras cult, or the Isis cult, or countless other religions of antiquity. It certainly wouldn't look like Christianity, or its later rip-off with Apollonius.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">What would you now be arguing as Arthur's defender? That he really did boff his sister and have a son by her?</font>
I would not defend it, and I have no idea what he ever did. On the other hand, can you offer a relevant comparison to the foundation of Christianity around an historical Jesus?
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: Historians have (for the reasons that I have listed) concluded that Jesus almost certainly was baptized by John, and that He died on the cross at the order of Pontius Pilate. The evidence for these events is extremely good (and certainly far better than what we have on other events from antiquity)

Michael: Oh please. That is plainly silly. Never mind the Med, from ancient China we have more than (conservative estimate) 50,000 texts rescued from tombs (NOT handed down and known only from later copies) from the period with 500 years either side of Christ.</font>
Since your past efforts to draw comparisons between Christian MSS evidence and what we have from the Daoists proved to be a massive embarrassment to you, I would have thought you would not have wanted to explore this idea again Michael.

In the future I would prefer to see specifics from you, rather than these broad based and unsubstantiated assertions. My guess is that we will see yet another red herring if you should actually try to produce some evidence to support your claims.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> This record, and the wealth of corroborating archaeological evidence (the Chinese were also fanatics about setting down books on stone), simply blows away anything from the Mediterranean. In case you were wondering, the Chinese used prepared bamboo slabs as writing tablets. They also deliberately sealed up their tombs to be air- and water-tight. </font>
And do you believe the accounts that they have passed down to us from their history, at least regarding natural events like births, causes of death and the like?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">But even from the Mediterranean, there are many, many events for which we have better evidence than the life of Jesus (like any number of rulers). Is it your claim that the evidence for Augustus' Caesar's existence is less copious than that of Jesus? </font>
You are confused again Michael. I am talking about specific events in these people's lives, not the fact that they lived at all. Please give me an example of an event from Augustus' life that you believe happened. We can then discuss the evidence to prove that it happened as the written records have told us.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I am glad some historians have decided they think there is enough evidence for JtB's baptism. I don't think there is.</font>
Just so that you know, it is not some historians Michael, but, rather, all of them. I already knew that you understand history and how to study it better than they do, however, so I am attempting to uncover your methods. We can then test their reliability.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> I do not know what tradition Mark is recording, or why he set it down the way he did, or how he reworked the material for his own uses and audiences. Since we know that Mark was "mythologizing" and not writing history, I cannot say for certain what is true in anything he wrote.</font>
Fair enough. Let's test some of the examples of what you DO believe happened to anyone in ancient history and see what kind of a list we can come up with. I would like to know what it would take for you to have confidence that something happened in history.

For example, Richard Carrier tells us that he is 98% confident that Jesus died on the cross, but he is not yet certain that this happened. Do you share his scepticism in the face of only 98% confidence?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Well, you go your way, and I'll go mine. But consider: the fact that early Christians later added an ending to Mark, but did not fiddle with the JtB story (AFAIK --is there evidence of interpolation?), may indicate that it was not found overly "embarrassing" theologically in the bad old days.</font>
The added ending to Mark was drawn from the other Gospels, so there is nothing embarrassing about it at all. Purging the baptism story of Jesus, however, was impossible because it was too well known. Imagine if anyone tried to do this now? After all, the 4th Century Gospel of the Nazarenes made this effort, and the Church rejected it as non-historical.

Thanks Michael

Nomad

 
Old 05-17-2001, 09:59 PM   #36
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Tharmas:
</font>
Hello Tharmas, and welcome to the Boards.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">That said, Iíve been following the Jesus Myth debate with some interest as Iíve lurked here the last couple of weeks, and Iíve visited Dohertyís web site. I have to say that my reading of Dohertyís site agrees with Turtonmís. Mark as a mythologist was not creating a deliberate, conscious fiction. Thatís not what myth making is, and thatís not how it works.</font>
When mythmaking is taking place describing events of the recent past, a past that this individual and his readers may well have shared, I believe that it is much more likely that the author knows that he is simply making up his stories, and that there is no truth behind them.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">As an example, letís take Matthew 11:2-3, which has John the Baptist in prison questioning whether Jesus be the Messiah. Nomad brings this up as a Gospel detail too embarrassing to Matthewís purpose (assuming Matthew was making this up) to be fiction.
I agree that the incident as reported is embarrassing to Matthew, but I have a different reason for thinking so.</font>
Actually, just before you go on here, I happen to agree with your reasons for why this is embarrassing for Matthew. That is what makes his apologetic in chapter 3 less convincing, and highlights the probable historicity of John's questioning of Jesus' Messiaship.

I know we are getting ahead of ourselves a bit here, and no doubt Earl and I will cover this off, but we can find much about the historical Jesus simply by watching how the evangelists try to portray certain events that they simply cannot ignore.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Itís embarrassing because earlier in Matthew (3:13-17), when Jesus approaches John for baptism, John instantly recognizes Jesus for who he really is, telling him he (John) should be baptized by Jesus instead.</font>
Agreed.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> When Jesus insists, saying it is fitting and fulfilling (depending on translation I suppose, I donít have my Greek Testament at hand), and John baptizes him, the heavens open, the spirit of God descends as a dove, and God speaks audibly claiming Jesus as his Son. </font>
All I will say here is that the passage is not clear in saying that anyone except Jesus could see this event taking place, but obviously, if John had seen it, he would not be questioning Jesus later on from prison.

Thank you for your contribution. I hope that it helps others better understand the point about the embarrassment of the baptism of Jesus by John, increasing the likelihood that it really happened.

Peace,

Nomad
 
Old 05-17-2001, 10:15 PM   #37
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Bill Paulson:

Has this become the new board for general discussion on the debate? Sorry if I'm out of place or late with the topic. I'm trying to catch up.</font>
No, this is simply a thread where people have been asking me questions or challenging my sanity and reasoning powers. The original thread got far too unmanageable in my view, and I asked the members to post questions to me in threads with my nickname (Nomad) attached, so that I would know that they were for me.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">His May 14 post contained several serious insults which probably would have driven me to quit.</font>
Just curious, but could you point out the serious insults that were made by me, and that would have driven you to quit Bill?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">The subject of 1 Cor. 1:22-24 has me perplexed, and I wonder if anyone can help. I think Brian misunderstood Earl's position, although I'm not certain. He emphatically argues that the idea of the crucifixion would be a "stumbling block" to the Jews and "foolishness" to the Gentiles. But Earl agrees with him, and makes this clear on his Web article from which Brian quoted. Earl's point (which anyone may freely debate) is that Paul's wording suggests it is the historicity of the crucifixion which is the stumbling block--did this event (the crucifixion) actually happen to the individual in question--which would not be the case if the individual in question were a human whose crucifixion were a matter of public record.</font>
Actually, I do not think that Earl would argue that the crucifixion of a relative unknown like Jesus would have been a matter of public record. I doubt that anyone would make such an argument.

Earl's position is that the interpretation of the meaning of the crucifixion was thought to be ridiculous, not the crucifixion itself. My complaint was that any effort to separate the two is pointless.

No one would have had reason to doubt that someone had been crucified, since this form of execution was well known at the time. You might as well argue that people today would find it ridiculous that someone was executed in the United States today. But if you said that this executed person rose again from the dead, and was the One True God, I think you would be hearing a lot of laughter. Moving the event to the neoPlatonic plane wouldn't help matters much, but this too is an evasion on Earl's part, since anything that happens on earth could just as easily be said to have happened on a mythical heavenly plane.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Just for the record, I will add that the link Brian provided to Peter Kirby's article on Josephus still works (Brian finds Kirby's argument for Josephus' authenticity more convincing ("irrefutable") than Earl's counter), but Kirby no longer links to the article from his home page. Instead, he has a link to his lengthy and glowing review of Earl's book, and I'm pretty sure he has embraced the mythicist position.</font>
I can assure you that Kirby is not a mythicist (unless his conversion is very recent), but does participate on the same Yahoo discussion group as does Earl.

Nomad
 
Old 05-18-2001, 02:57 PM   #38
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He is arguing that there is no human Jesus until Mark. I would have thought that this would have been obvious enough for even you to understand Michael.

Obviously it is not clear to me at all. What does he mean by "historicizing" of Jesus prior to Mark? It sounds like he means that the story had already begun to progress toward the development of a human figure, and Mark took the next step. Do you think it has some other meaning? (No sarcasm intended).

Perhaps you could tell me what Mark would have had to say in order to convince you personally that he was reporting a real event that took place in history.

He would have had to adopt an attitude like that of Thucydides or Tacitus or Sima Qian or one of the other great historians of antiquity. He would not be consciously making and reporting myth, but conscientiously reporting facts. Since myth and tradition and fact all blend into one another, it is difficult to figure out what happened with any certainty. Once Mark decided to embellish and interpret, everything got muddled up.

No problem Michael. Just to help you out, Earl sees no historical Jesus at all. This is a very far cry from what you have argued to this point, although you do appear to be converting to his line of reasoning.

Let's say rather that I have no fundamental objection to ED's thesis. I can accept that the whole thing just blew up into reality -- since things like that have happened in many places, quite commonly with Founder myths. However, I tend to think there was a real person under there, because of the existence of a healing and sayings tradition that predates the gospels. That rings true.

This is a very good point Michael. I am sure that Earl and I will get to these questions as well. In the meantime, why do you think that they preserved these traditions? (Assuming that you think they did not consider them to be historical)

I assume they could be underlying historical traditions, but they also may reflect political or social attitudes who proper meanings are lost or misunderstood, or whom the gospelers wished to use Jesus' prestige to assault.

Umm... do you mean the criteria accepted by all historians Michael? How did you determine that only apologists use them? Do you actually read history Michael?

I read history all the time, and don't confine myself to a few dozen western thinkers obsessively concerned with proving that a jewish healer was the son of god. Also, unlike you, I don't confuse a narrow, glib ethnocentricity with an actual critical stance. I also read widely in mythology and other disciplines. I am glad some western historians accept some facts about jesus. What about Islamic historians? Far Eastern? Jewish? Do they all agree? I didn't think so.

BTW, Nomad, what do the mythologists say?

Actually, we do have witness testimony, but that is something I will save for my discussion with Earl. I have noticed your absense from serious discussions on this point in the past, and believe you will continue your evasions.

Have there even been serious discussions on this? I haven't seen any.

And BTW, all you had to do was mention eyewitness testimony, if you had any. I guess this is what we would call an "evasion."

Since this example involves known liars, are you saying that the Gospel authors are also known liars, and that early Christians had as little interest in the truth as did the hongs?

LOL. You know, this paragraph illustrates the basic problem you are having. You want to regard the gospels as history. They are not "history. They are myths, created things, organic fabrications, stories that are told to give order and meaning to people's lives. They are not "lies." Tacitus or Si Ma-qian or Josephus sometimes lies by com/omission. Mark is writing myths. The word "lie" does not apply. Your attempts to keep re-inserting that word in the conversation are pathetic.

Your requests about ancient history are simply sidetracks, misunderstandings. The fact is that the methods of history cannot be used to study myth. GIGO. When Mark set pen to vellum, he was writing myth -- not lies, that's a false dichotomy you are constructing -- but myth, blending fact, truth, tradition, invention, imagination, desire, to produce a story about someone he had heard about.

You keep asking me what events in ancient history I consider reliable, and I answered you a long time ago that I generally go with the consensus of scholars in the field. In the history field. Before you yammer about gospel historians, what do people who study myth say about the gospels? That they are history and do not properly belong in their field? No! They regard them as myths like any others. The simple fact is that the gospels are myths. This does not necessarily mean they are false, it is just that fact and embellishment are intertwined and difficult to separate.

If you analyze myth like history, you are going to come up with garbage. GIGO, remember? If you look at myth AS covering or containing elements of history, you might be able to get some general outlines. The general outlines of Mark's myth are probably true, just as the general outlines of the Iliad are undoubtedly true -- just as the general outlines of the Shaka Epic are probably true (although fortunately Shaka lived in the 19th century and we have other historical sources). Probably there was a teacher and healer who got himself whacked by the Romans. Beyond that it all descends into myth and little more can now be known.

Turton: I'm sure you get the idea. Now you hand me YOUR founder myth and say that it is not like the others.

Nomad: Could you show me first how they are alike please?


They are Founder myths. They are stories around Founding figures. These may, but not always, include mythical elements such as miraculous births, betrayals, magical powers, and of course, the promise of return someday to devoted followers. They are a general class of myth well known to anyone who studies myth. See Barbarossa, Arthur, Shaka, Wovoka, the mythical civilizing Emperors of ChinaÖ..I'm not going to list them all. They have broad elements in common, yet each has his own story.

In the future I would prefer to see specifics from you, rather than these broad based and unsubstantiated assertions. My guess is that we will see yet another red herring if you should actually try to produce some evidence to support your claims.

Which is to sayÖ"I don't know anything about the world outside of the Mediterranean littoral in the first century, so I had better demand that Michael produce his evidence." Actually, Nomad, the immense quantity of material from Chinese antiquity is well known to people who actually study the world, as opposed to apologists who treat the world like a perimeter which must be constantly patrolled.

If you like, you can look at the intro section of Needham's volume on printing (Volume 5, number 1) although his total is now about 30 years out of date. I realize, however, that reading other culture's histories might threaten the ethnocentric base upon which your belief system rests, so I'll provide this link here:

Early Chinese Manuscripts is a database of ancient Chinese texts. The first entry is 5,000 pieces! By scrolling around the linked numbers, you will enter other databases, similar to this.

Consider this entry:
  • Serial Number: 088
    Site: VI.20 Jiangsu, Lianyungang shi, Donghai xian, Wenquan zhen, Yinwan cun, tomb no. 6
    (YM6; of a couple, the man had been a scribe in the bureau of merit, gongcao, in the office of the provincial governor)
    Report: Wenwu 1996,8;
    Yinwan Hanmu jiandu, 1997
    Discovery date: 1993.02
    Period: -10: Late Former Han (the diary found dates the death of the occupant to -10)
    Whereabouts: Lianyungang shi bowuguan
    Distribution: documents found inside the man's coffin at his feet
    Total pieces: 156
    Total graphs: 40,000

A diary from 10 BCE, placed in the tomb of its writer. There are many such things in China. Are there in the West? There is simply no way that the shelfload of books (I know, I have practically all of them in Penguin) from Western antiquity can compete with the Chinese evidence. In Gansu from 1972-76 over 20,000 wooden tablets were unearthed in one tomb alone, dating from 119 BCE to about 26 AD (admin records, personnel performance, etc, very prosaic stuff).

From now on, Nomad, when you feel compelled to make one of your patented sweeping ethnocentric claims, just remember ChinaÖ.

Now, getting back to the actual debate here, the real issue is, how should we regard the gospels, as history or myth? Obviously the gospelers were not writing history. They are writing myth. So you can take out your "embarrassment" criterion or your "multiple attestation" criterion and wave them like magic wands, but they aren't going to conjure up history out of myth.

Just imagine if the only information we had on Shaka, the great Zulu leader (1795-1828), was Kunene's epic about him, which he built out of Zulu oral legends. His importance would be obvious. But how could we figure out what was true or not? Kunene's epic contains no serious discussion of Shaka's extensive and revolutionary military innovations and deletes his embarrassing illegitimate birth, instead attributing his problems with his parents to fights with his mother (using one embarrassing story to cover another, but we know that never happens). His last words are an anti-white prophecy. Shaka is depicted as a quick-tempered but compassionate and wise leader, when in reality he was a 24 carat SOB. Kunene lays the blame for Shaka's assassination to his brothers, but in reality his powerfully influential maternal aunt (who put him on the throne, but that doesn't get mentioned either) ran the show. And so on. It's myth, it tells a story, just like Mark's myths about Jesus. Since Mark, like Kunene, is a myth-construction, I am very hesitant to commit to any of the details in Mark.

Just so that you know, it is not some historians Michael, but, rather, all of them.

See? The ethnocentricity of yours leaping to the fore. Jewish, Muslim, Far Eastern, Indian, they all speak with one voice on Jesus. Don't make me laugh, Nomad.

And scholars of myth? Do they echo the historians?

Fair enough. Let's test some of the examples of what you DO believe happened to anyone in ancient history and see what kind of a list we can come up with. I would like to know what it would take for you to have confidence that something happened in history.

The usual -- writings from a competent ancient historian who shows a certain commitment to truth, and an ability to distinguish fact from fiction and weigh evidence and judge sources.

Mark shows none of these traits. He relates total nonsense, such as a human walking on water, with a perfectly straight face. He shows neither a properly skeptical or critical attitude, as when Tacitus relates Vespasian's healings, it is obvious from the text that neither he nor Vespasian believed them (as I recall, it has been while). Mark does not attempt to find out what really happened. Polybius mentions other versions of history and attempts to show them wrong. Does Mark have any comparative perspective? Does Mark ever say: "some writers say...." Does he show any awareness that other points of view are possible? Is he interested in the youth of Jesus? Wouldn't you be? Wouldn't you want to know about his parentage and upbringing, if you were writing history? When Plutarch writes about Brutus, he tells us of his ancestry, and of his parents. Is there any interest in the Palestinian political, social and economic situation? Even in Procopius' Secret History there are constant references to the political, social and economic conditions of the state, so one can understand the actions of Belisarius, et al. Where is Mark's trenchant analysis of Galilean politics? Where is his mention of food supplies, water quality, foreign trade? In Mark, there is no complex outside world, a sure sign of myth.

BTW, In addition to texts, geological, biological, palynolgoical, archaeological and artifactual confirmation are a big plus in assessing ancient history. That help?

For example, Richard Carrier tells us that he is 98% confident that Jesus died on the cross, but he is not yet certain that this happened. Do you share his scepticism in the face of only 98% confidence?

I wouldn't say 98% confidence -- don't know how I'd construct a percentage -- but I'd say, as I said, the broad outlines of the story -- Jesus being executed being one -- are probably true. But the details of the story given by Mark are almost totally a myth. Is that a satisfactory answer?

Michael



[This message has been edited by turtonm (edited May 19, 2001).]
 
Old 05-20-2001, 09:58 AM   #39
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Although I donít think I would have the time to regularly post to these Ďcommentsí threads (and itís difficult to know which one is currently being used to comment on the debate, as they seem to jump around), it might be best for me to clarify a couple of uncertainties about my position on the existence of Jesus. (Just clarify, not argue, so this will be fairly shortóat least by my standards.)

I find "turtonm"(is this a name?)ís comments very perceptive on a number of things, especially on the subjects of myth and the criteria of proper historians. In connection with his posts, the question keeps coming up: do I regard there having been any kind of historical figure of Jesus prior to Mark, in the thinking of any part of the Christian movement? First of all, that latter phrase needs breaking down. Prior to Markís composite story and its dissemination in later generations which created the Ďunified pictureí in those later minds (extending up to ours), there was no single movement. There were a number of current religious expressions which were destined to be ingredients in the future Christianity, and they had some elements in common, for example, (usually) an apocalyptic expectation of the imminent end or transformation of the world.

But if we reduce the picture to the two main ingredients, the Pauline-type cult of the savior god Christ Jesus, and the Kingdom of God preaching movement centered in Galilee, these were essentially two separate phenomena on the first century scene. To answer the question, then, in two parts:

I emphatically maintain that for Paul and his cultic circles, there was no historical figure whatsoever. Paulís Christ was a heavenly, spiritual entity, and the "human-sounding" features the epistles occasionally seem to give him can entirely fit within the dualistic Platonic understanding of the universe, which was the setting in which the Graeco-Roman savior gods were placed at this time. (Which is not to say that earlier periods didnít see those gods as Ďlivingí and operating in a primordial past on earth, something that did not happen with the Christ cult because it arose late, when the Platonic milieu was established). One of the reasons why I was trying to insist on Brian dealing with my earlier posts about the epistles (and got so frustrated because he would not) was because this picture can only be gotten across by examining just how the epistle writers talk about the object of their worship. If that material is never placed under the spotlight, the most essential part of the mythicist theory is lost, the one that provides the key to understanding it, and to realizing what early writers like Paul are talking about.

Now the other part (or "Tradition" as itís been called, including in my book). Was there a human figure on the Galilean side of things before Mark? Yes and no. "Yes" because the Q document (which has been analyzed as a Ďlayeredí writing over perhaps half a century, with new material added and revisions made periodically during that time) clearly shows a Founder figure in its later stages. (That Founder may not originally have been named Jesus.) "No" because I regard that Founder as a later construction, a fiction, someone who did not actually exist, but was a product of Qís and its communityís evolution and antecedents. (This is a common enough occurrence in history, in sectarian and even social evolution.) I argue this evolution of Q (based on critical scholarshipís own such arguments, this idea is not original to me), but also perceive evidence in Q that the Founder is a construct and cannot be found in the earlier strata. "Turtonm" said that he had to think "there was a real person under there, because of the existence of a healing and sayings tradition that predates the gospels." But surely he realizes that such a tradition could be that of the community itself, the activities and history of the sect. This anticipation of the Kingdom of God was one of the features of the first century scene, and because of longstanding prophetic expectation that the Day of the Lord would be accompanied by healing miracles (as in Isaiah), the sect itself engaged in miracle-working. (Of course, claims to miracle-working were universal, among both pagans and Jews.) Teaching traditions were also universal, including among the Cynics, whose philosophy and lifestyle are incredibly similar to those of early Q, and would seem to have been the ultimate source of much of the sayings tradition that ended up in the Gospels. So the presence of a healing and sayings tradition before the Gospels would not of itself require a single, unusual individual to have given rise to them, much less a Jesus.

That Founder figure in Q, however, was not labeled the Messiah (the term never appears in Q), though he seems at the latest stage to have been identified with the apocalyptic Son of Man (a Ďsemi-divineí figure derived from Daniel 7), and in the Temptation Story (regarded as the final piece added to Q before Matthew and Luke used it) he is called "son of God" though the precise meaning here of that widely-employed phrase in this period is not sure. Nor was that Founder regarded as a Savior figure, nor is there any sign in Q (or the related Gospel of Thomas) that he subsequently underwent a death and resurrection. So we can safely say that those two ingredients, the Pauline cult and the Galilean Kingdom movement, were distinct entities until Mark joined the two together in his Gospel. (Or perhaps they were the expression of a new syncretism in the Markan community.)

Finally, did Mark envision this Q Founder as historical? Thatís possible, though he had to realize that in identifying him with the cultic Christ, and constructing a whole new fictional dimension for his Jesusí life by having him go to Jerusalem, be tried by Pilate, crucified and rising from his tomb, there was no basis for this in history (which makes all the other incidental characters in that tale fictional as well). And he probably constructed even the ministry portion of his Gospel out of bits and pieces of community practice and tradition. How much actual Ďtraditioní he had that would have been attached to the evolved Q Founder is debatable, since he clearly did not possess a copy of the document Matthew and Luke did.

I hope this clarifies some of my position. All of it is laid out thoroughly in my book, The Jesus Puzzle, and to a less detailed and efficient degree on the website (due to the nature of evolving websites, though one of these days I should overhaul it). I canít enter on any extensive discussion on any of these comments threads, because of time constraints and because Iíll need to conserve my energy for Brian, not to mention all the other things Iím involved in. Another thing I wonít be doing any further is complaining about Brianís Ďmodus operandií. He is the way he is, and as long as Iím here, Iíll adapt to it. But I may still try to squeeze in some of those other ways of viewing the epistolary evidence, whether he addresses them or not.

Best wishes,

Earl Doherty
 
Old 05-20-2001, 06:35 PM   #40
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Originally posted by Earl Doherty:
..... it might be best for me to clarify a couple of uncertainties about my position on the existence of Jesus. (Just clarify, not argue, so this will be fairly shortóat least by my standards.)

Actually, this thread is part of a long-term debate on the criteria developed by some NT scholars to magic up history out of Mark's stories. This one blew up over the "embarrassment" criterion, which I tend to see mostly as "embarrassing" to its users. In this case the JtB episode in the gospels is regarded as true because it is embarrassing theologically (although originally the truth of this story was derived through another criterion, discontinuity/dissimilarity. Xtian theologians simply shift the ground whenever one criterion fails, in order to preserve their myths). Embarrassing stories in myth are a dime a dozen, however.

I find "turtonm"(is this a name?)ís comments very perceptive on a number of things, especially on the subjects of myth and the criteria of proper historians.

Compliments from those whose work I treasure are sweet indeed. Turtonm: it's my name "Michael Turton" written in shorthand.

Also, thanks to you personally for taking the time to engage with us here.

In connection with his posts, the question keeps coming up: do I regard there having been any kind of historical figure of Jesus prior to Mark, in the thinking of any part of the Christian movement?.....[lots snipped for brevity.]

"Turtonm" said that he had to think "there was a real person under there, because of the existence of a healing and sayings tradition that predates the gospels." But surely he realizes that such a tradition could be that of the community itself, the activities and history of the sect.


Sure, that's why I am not wholeheartedly committed to my position, and often hear the siren call of yours. Its precisely because I am read in the myths of many cultures that I believe recovering the truth from Mark, is, as Meier described the position: "historically impossible and theologically illegitimate." To me Mark is so hopeless it is not even possible to determine for certain if the broad outlines are true, since we know of Founder myths that are complete fiction, and others that are based on real figures, and all the permutations in between. I tend to simply place things in the "probable column" and leave it at that.

Probably if I knew Greek I could make a determination. But even then, maybe not.

.....So the presence of a healing and sayings tradition before the Gospels would not of itself require a single, unusual individual to have given rise to them, much less a Jesus.

Agreed.

Finally, did Mark envision this Q Founder as historical? Thatís possible, though he had to realize that in identifying him with the cultic Christ, and constructing a whole new fictional dimension for his Jesusí life by having him go to Jerusalem, be tried by Pilate, crucified and rising from his tomb, there was no basis for this in history (which makes all the other incidental characters in that tale fictional as well)....

Even John the Baptist? Or do you see JtB as a real figure brought in to give a patina of legitimacy to Jesus, or perhaps to deal with the problem of how come JtB never knew Jesus, if they were active at the same time in the same place.

And he probably constructed even the ministry portion of his Gospel out of bits and pieces of community practice and tradition.

I could easily see the myth working that way.

Best wishes,

Earl Doherty


Thanks for your thoughts. I appreciate the time you're taking here. I hope you visit from time to time to weigh in on our debates and discussions.

Michael
 
 

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