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Old 05-21-2001, 05:01 AM   #1
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Unhappy JP Debate: I want Jesus to Exist

I returned yesterday from vacation eagerly looking forward to many postings from Earl and Brian in their debate. There were quite a few but I must say I have to agree with Earl that Brian is essentially playing a game, either conciously or unconciously, and not debating. Brian is refusing to acknowledge Earl's facts, and much of it is facts. Earl is presenting exacly what the records show, regardless of dating. Most scholars accept Paul first, Gospels second, with the rest of the documents scattered between. For my own part, Mr. Doherty's views were quite a blow. Much like Ghandi before me, I find much meaning in what many secular persons consider Jesus' core teachings. Ghandi was heavily influenced by the Gospels yet never became a Christian. Although the teachings still have value in and of themselves, it was somehow inspiring to know they came from a central figure (I don't know how else to word it). However, I find I cannot refute intellectually the possibility of Mr. Doherty's arguments. I've investigated on my own, in lay terms, the historical Jesus and was perplexed why there was so little in many of the records we have of the gospel tales, especially in Paul, virtually irrefutably the earliest record we have of Christian origins. Like many others, I accepted the ad hominem arguments answering such questions. Before reading the JP website, I had come to the conclusion the passion account was mostly fiction, G. of John was primarily all fiction, and some vague figure existed that Christianity was based on. However, if all we have is some bare bones figure, why did Christianity start at all?

Richard Carrier assisted me a while back in demonstrating how feeble much of history is. All we can assess is likely probability based on a set of criteria that is itself arguable on many counts. Christianity exists and existed as early as mid-first century is a fact. HOW it started is all theory. And that's what Earl has presented. A theory just as the orthodox view is a theory. However, I'm finding his theory fits the facts of the documents as we have them far better than the orthodox opinion Paul had no interest in the historical Jesus or it wouldn't have served his purposes to mention certain details or since the persons receiving the letters already knew the details Paul had no need to mention them. This fails in face of the fact that Paul mentions many things they should already know. But back to the debate itself.

Earl has had the courage to take a position not many atheists take in a debate. He's accepted much of the burden of proof, presenting his argument succinctly not once but twice. Brian has glossed over them without challenging them in the least. As one who encouraged Earl in private email to take part in this debate I'm now apologizing to Mr. Doherty for doing so. As Earl suggest, Brian should address the arguments as presented, not go off on tangents or, when he does take a passing glance at Earl's arguments, he does far more credit than discredit to them (as in the case he accepts Paul views Jesus as a divine construct for the most part, correct me if I'm wrong). If Brian cannot do so, perhaps, depending on his reaction to Earl's book, which he mentioned in public he's currently reading for review, Mr. Carrier could debate Earl. Jesus doesn't have to exist for my worldview but part of me wishes he did for some reason. Perhaps it's merely my upbringing. But unless Brian can do better than he's been doing, as far as this debate goes, Earl has won and I just might be joining the mythicist camp soon.

Peace to all,
Logan
 
Old 05-21-2001, 08:03 AM   #2
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Logan, I believe that you are falling for eloquent words rather than evidence. The "tangents" that Brian is trying to address are part of the many arguments for the existence of a historical Jesus. Earl does a very good job of making himself into a Martyr for the Jesus myth camp. Try reading some other historical Jesus material and you'll see some of the evidence you were perhaps looking for.

Personally, I soured on the debate too, but for the opposite reason. I saw Earl addressing nothing of substance from the "overhead perspective" of the problem. I had somehow expected better. I imagine his insistance on being the maverick against the biased masses is part of what led to his being largely ignored in the scholarly community (lack of credentials not withstanding).

I wish the debate could have been better...

Ish
 
Old 05-21-2001, 08:31 AM   #3
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Ish:
...I imagine his insistance on being the maverick against the biased masses is part of what led to his being largely ignored in the scholarly community (lack of credentials not withstanding).</font>
The above sentiment could just as easily describe Jesus Christ.

Ish, isn't this a universal human sentiment you're expressing? I could take those same words, as could you, and describe a wide array of people. That sentiment is a piece of all of us. As someone raised Catholic, it identifies quite well with the spirit of everything I was taught to become.

Admittedly, I'm as biased as the next person. But like many, I too have made some amateurish wanderings through the historical record and conclude that the evidence you speak of is just not convincing, and I continue to examine what I can find, and as time permits.

Spong's liturgical theory on the gospel of Mark is quite interesting. Do you see this as a possible explanation of the historical origins of Christianity, or at least a possible piece of the mystery?
 
Old 05-21-2001, 08:46 AM   #4
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Logan,

The problem with Doherty's thesis seems to be that while he can show that Paul saw Jesus as a pre-existant figure not of this world, that has been exactly Christian orthodoxy for nineteen centuries. So Brian's shrug about Earl showing this is hardly surprising or blameworthy. The trouble is that this doesn't mean Jesus didn't exist as a human being and the debate should be on the evidence for that. This is what Brian tried to present and like it or not it comes from the Gospels, Josephus and other sources. As Paul's letters are not much about the historical Jesus (although they include details about him) they should not figure strongly in a debate on that subject.

Anyway, Doherty's martyr fixation is something to be picked up on. You and I are not experts on this and must ask why academic opinion amoung Jews and agnostics is overwealmingly against him. He may be the greatest historical visionary since Gibbon but somehow, I doubt it.

In the end, the mythicist position is special pleading piled on high, a massive argument from silence and a carefully selective use of evidence. With those criteria you can prove anything. I put a spoof piece on this board proving Hannibal never existed and to my complete despair some of the fools who post here said it sounded reasonable.

Yours

Bede

Bede's Library - faith and reason
 
Old 05-21-2001, 09:30 AM   #5
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by joedad:
The above sentiment could just as easily describe Jesus Christ.

Ish, isn't this a universal human sentiment you're expressing?
</font>
Sorry, you're right, the particular sentence you quoted wasn't worded in the best way. I guess it was meant to say that he seems to greatly talk up his role as a Maverick against the biased masses.

I just don't see the point in continually calling most other scholars that don't see things his way biased. He uses this a lot and it seems to me that this is usually the sign of a weak argument.

I could write up my own theories, send them to the Jesus seminar to read, and then claim that they ignored my theories because they are biased and didn't want to leave their comfortable positions to take my correct views. It's just wrong to use this logic as frequently as he seem to.

As to the rest, I agree completely with Bede.

Ish
 
Old 05-21-2001, 10:08 AM   #6
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I have no real need for Jesus to exist or not to exist, so I was prepared to go either way. But since the apologist faction on this board has been spouting the line that "all experts agree that Jesus existed" for so long, I had assumed that there might be some stronger arguments than the pathetic showing that Brian has made so far.

From the reading that I have done, the expert consensus seems to be that the historical Jesus probably existed, but the evidence is very weak, and there is no certainty about any particular detail. This is not really so drastically different from the idea that Jesus was a mythological construct. It is drastically different from the absurd contention that there is such clear evidence of the historical Jesus that we can be absolutely sure that Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist.

I have lurked a little on the yahoogroup JesusMysteries, and there are people who make an intelligent-sounding challenge to parts of Doherty's thesis. Brian just conceded that Paul talks about a Jesus who might as well be myth, but someone on that list is not convinced (I am not convinced by his arguments, but perhaps Brian will pick them up.)
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Old 05-21-2001, 11:15 AM   #7
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Umm...using the Gospels for evidence is like saying Star Wars is historic (after all, a long time ago in a galaxy far far away...).

Do the gospels contain some historic truths? Possibly. But there is more myth, legend, and embelishment in them than fact so at the very best, they could be used to maybe, and I repeat MAYBE collaborate other facts.

The problem here is that there aren't numerous other sources. PERIOD. There are vague references in a handful of sources that might be historic and darn few of them mention a Jesus directly.

And the "everyone knows" argument is about as stupid as it gets. Just because 10,000 or 10,000,000 people believe something to be true does NOTHING to alter the truth or non-truth of the actual fact.

And when you trot out 20,000 scholars, all of them careful indoctrinated Christians...do you really think a one of them is going to take the line that "hey, this might be a myth?". Bear in mind that this is the same group of folks who cheerfully burned books, people, whatever in the name of converting people for their god. So how can this group have any bearing on the validity of a position is beyond me.

Pigs would have better luck flying.

Should we start cataloging what the "experts", both sectarian and secular, have been wrong about?

- lets see...flat earth theology, early Roman Catholic church

- geocentric planetary model, early Roman Catholic church

- man could never fly. (all of 'em)

and on and on and on.
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Old 05-21-2001, 12:28 PM   #8
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Logan,
You and I are not experts on this and must ask why academic opinion amoung Jews and agnostics is overwealmingly against him. He may be the greatest historical visionary since Gibbon but somehow, I doubt it.

In the end, the mythicist position is special pleading piled on high, a massive argument from silence and a carefully selective use of evidence.
Yours

Bede


The mythicist position is the one held by scholars of myth. People who deal with myth study Jesus' story as a "myth," and do not reject it by saying, it is history. Jesus is a mythical figure, maybe a real person, maybe not real, but it is not really possible to know for sure from the 'evidence' available to us. If you had the Wm Tell story in front of you, could you tell that he was fictional? From the sagas alone, could you tell that the Vikings had visited N. America? A fringe idea, until archaeology turned up irrefutable evidence. There is simply no way to know from looking at a myth by itself just how much history it contains.


In the end we must ask why the first two historical Jesus' quests ended in failure, and third has some scholars throwing up their hands and saying that success is not a possibility (some Catholic scholars, in response to the Jesus Seminar -- that would invalidate your "all scholars" and "special pleading" claims completely -- see below). There are references to historical places in the gospels, but that is about it. From what Mark alone wrote it is simply impossible to tell whether Jesus actually lived, and of course Matthew and Luke's additions, the nativity stories, etc, are clear myth and have no relationship to reality.

Further, this "all scholars" crap really has to stop. The vast majority of scholars across most disciplines (myth, history, comparative religion...) and from most countries would not regard Jesus as the son of god, and would probably agree that even his existence has not been conclusively proven. This idea that ED is some crazed lone dissenter is not defensible, unless you redefine "all scholars" to include only those scholars from the West whom you agree with.

Michael
 
Old 05-21-2001, 12:35 PM   #9
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I once read a book about a man who visited his old boyhood room with its "rustic outdoors" motif of canoes painted on lampshades, grizzly bear blanket, etc. This man found his old outdoorsman handbook for boys which always held up the example of the "Indian Brave", the noble savage who walked undetected through the forest, disturbing nothing. As a child, the man had emulated the Indian Brave, striving to be like him, learning to hunt and track, to start fires, put them out safely, live ecologically, dispensing wisdom by example and with few words, living courageously and impeccably. As he leafed through the old familiar pages of the book, the man realized he needed that Indian Brave to have existed; he needed him, even now as he worked in his corporate office, he needed and longed to be able to think about an Indian Brave going about his impeccable, courageous life in a world of forest paths, canoe-paddling, knot-tieing, and fire-building.

I think the mythological Christ is like that. A real ferreting-out of the possible man who could have existed would be so removed from the character people have in mind that he'd be useless as a symbol anymore. I think this helps explain a good part of the Christian aversion to getting at the truth.

I agree with Karen Armstrong that the time has come for theists to let go of their insistence on a literal god and move toward a conception of God as an idea.
 
Old 05-21-2001, 01:34 PM   #10
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Michael,

I honestly don't know what you are talking about. The only issue here is whether or not Jesus existed. There is no other. If Doherty said, yes there was a real person but we can know nothing much about him, I'd say fine. All this stuff on 'myth' just muddies the water. Doherty only matters because he claims Jesus never existed. Either you believe this or you don't. You don't.

And who are all these scholars who don't believe Jesus existed? I'd like to know.

Yours

Bede

PS: who said you weren't a post modernist?

Bede's Library - faith and reason
 
 

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