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Old 04-17-2001, 04:08 PM   #21
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[LP:]
There is very good reason to believe that Joseph Smith, Mary Baker Eddy, Sun Myung Moon, and L. Ron Hubbard had existed or continue to exist; there is an abundance of contemporary and non-hagiographical documentation of them; evidence at least as good as evidence of the existence of Julius Caesar. And like Julius Caesar, all four of these self-styled prophets had written books explaining their views. Which Jesus Christ had never done. Even Apollonius of Tyana had supposedly written some books.

[Layman:]
Besides the fact that you are begging the question, why is it appropriate to compare Jesus (and is referenced by Jewish, Christian, and Roman sources), who purportedly lived on this earth for over 30 years, had a job, and was born of a woman, to Moroni (who as far as I know was only believed to have existed by Mormons), an angel who was never purported to be anything other than a spiritual being?

[LP:]
First, the angel Moroni had supposedly given Joseph Smith some golden tablets with writing on them, and spectacles called Urim and Thummim for translating them. However, neither those tablets nor those spectacles have survived.

Also, the early non-Christian sources are extremely fragmentary and questionable. That question has been handled well by others, but I note that none of these sources had claimed to have known about Jesus Christ and his career in any great detail. Which certainly cannot be said of the other gentlemen and lady that I've mentioned.

Furthermore, the earliest surviving writings of his followers have a distinctly hagiographical quality about them; and hagiographies are generally not considered very trustworthy history.

Does the Mormon Church critically discuss Joseph Smith?

Does the Christian Science Church critically discuss Mary Baker Eddy?

Does the Unification Church critically discuss Sun Myung Moon?

Does the Church of Scientology critically discuss L. Ron Hubbard?
 
Old 04-17-2001, 04:58 PM   #22
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I've been waiting for an interesting discussion on Doherty's views and this thread has some hope. Unfortunately, no one has wanted to take the time to delve into it deeply with Nomad and Layman who clearly would put quite some effort into debating it if they had someone who took Doherty seriously and had the time to discuss it. I do take Doherty seriously and have some time to discuss it. Perhaps others could help me out in representing Doherty's views.

From my somewhat limited reading of the origins of Christianity, I have so far considered Doherty's version to be the most convincing. I would therefore be quite interested in having someone point out the problems with his views. With that in mind, I'll try and give a basic summary.

The basic idea is that Mark combined Paul's Christianity with wisdom sayings along with some midrash (reworking of Old Testament stories) and perhaps some inspiration from Homeric Epics (not really Doherty's view) as well as some 'inspiration' and 'imagination'. Paul's Christianity was a Jewish adaption of the Greek Mystery religions. Peter and others mentioned by Paul were leaders of this type of 'Christianity', but had various arguments over exactly what form it should take, specifically how Jewish vs. how Greek it should be. Matthew and Luke derived their information about Jesus mainly from Mark and included other stories such as nativity and resurrection stories as well as the addition of more 'sayings', generally referred to as Q. Those who decided that these gospels were historical truth decided that they needed Paul to look less like a gnostic and they needed Paul to show more support to the Jerusalem church and the fiction of Acts was created. Also, the pastoral epistles, Timothy and Titus are considered later writings falsely attributed to Paul.

This view sees various religious groups and philosophies being pulled together as well as fighting a battle over what 'really' happened, and the canon we have reflects the views of the 'winners', those that treat the gospels and Acts as historically accurate.

This view seems consistent with the general lack of interest that Paul seems to show about the details of Jesus' life, along with Josephus and others until soon after 100 A.D. when the contents of the Gospels are finally referred to. Doherty considers all references to Jesus in Josephus as likely interpolations. He also points out that Paul at numerous times points out that he gets his information from God and scripture. Why not from Jesus' disciples? Why doesn't Paul use Jesus' parables and sayings to teach with? Paul gives the impression that his understanding of Christianity did not come from someone who lived recently but from God and scripture, as well as through 'revelations' and 'visions'.

This view also helps make sense out of why Luke and Matthew seem to rely so heavily on Mark for the details of Jesus' life. This was really the only source of information for details on the life of Jesus. This view also helps make sense of why the style and theology of Paul's writings, the Gospels, including John, and other books, such as Hebrews, are all so different. They did not all arise out of the same historical situation portrayed in any of the Gospels, such as Mark. They arose out of different religious traditions and influences that attempted merge with the growing influence of this growing Jewish-Greek-Platonic-mystery religion like belief system that focused around the Son of God who was called Jesus. What we have in our Bibles is various Jewish attempts to make sense of this growing religion in terms of Jewish history and beliefs as well as an attempt to put Jesus in a historical context represented by Mark. This view of Jesus as actual man, with flesh, however, met with great resistance and the fight with the gnostics is well known within the Christian community but the gnostics are always thought of as the outsiders, the heretics who perverted true Christianity. Perhaps it was the other way around, and when the 'literalists' obtained the help of powerful political forces, the gnostics were slowly pushed out of existence, along with a lot of their writings. Acts was an attempt to make Paul give up his gnostic leanings and conform to the historical view of Jesus. I should also note that Paul gives some intriguing references to multiple heavens that is consistent with this view that Paul's Christianity is basically a Jewish adaptation of Greek beliefs. This view sees Jesus as being crucified and resurrected at the lowest heaven above 'Earth' where we live. It is in this layer that the 'gods' do all their human-like things, like kill their bulls, perform their sacrificies, die, raise again, and so on.

There is no doubt that Paul's Christianity is different than Greek mystery religions. However, it is not a stretch to view Paul's Christianity as a mix of Jewish and Greek ideas, a synthesis of sophisticated religious and philosophical worldviews that give Christianity a lot of its appeal and sophistication. Paul makes it clear that there are other Christian leaders besides him so I certainly doubt that Paul was the originator of this Christianity. I suspect that the germs of Christianity arose the first time the Greeks had any influence over the Jewish people, which I'm pretty sure was centuries before.

I also know that it is possible to rationalize any view of Jesus. However, each view has its strengths and weaknesses and some view require more of a stretch than others. I personally think that though this view requires Mark and Acts to be works of fiction, this is not that hard to swallow.

I would be interested in everyone's responses, however, and I'll try to keep up with them.

By the way, Earl Doherty's views can be found here. Check out the 'Main Articles'.

[This message has been edited by PhysicsGuy (edited April 17, 2001).]
 
Old 04-18-2001, 02:43 AM   #23
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I agree that Earl Doherty's views make the most sense of all that I've seen; I'm glad that there is a such thing as the Internet, where such views can become readily accessible. But if I was to hold out for a historical Jesus Christ, I'd point to the Synoptic Gospels; if one removes the miracles, then one gets a halfway-reasonable biography.

The lack of interest of Paul in the historical JC is certainly very interesting, given the relic-mongering of later Christianity. Paul seemed to have no interest in visiting where his supposed Lord and Savior had lived and died and rose from the dead. So if there had been no historical JC, this lack of interest in such places would not be surprising.

Most interestingly, the late emergence of the idea of a historical Jesus Christ gets around the existence-skepticism problem *very* nicely. If the Gospels date to 100 CE at the earliest, then there are two very interesting consequences:

* It was 70 years after JC had purportedly existed, meaning that would-be eyewitnesses were all dead.

* It was 30 years after the destruction of the Jerusalem Temple, meaning that would-be sources were all either scattered or dead.

So one has to rely on historians who had no awareness of the question of the existence of a historical JC, such as Josephus. And it must be said that the Gospels depict JC has having become a big celebrity during his life, meaning that some historian like Josephus might have known about him as a result of this celebrityhood.

Not that skepticism about the existence of JC would have stopped early Christianity; the early Christians were not noted for a willingness to take criticism -- consider the anti-Pharisee venom in the Gospels.
 
Old 04-18-2001, 03:09 AM   #24
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PhysicsGuy,

I've debated with Doherty himself and never got convincing answers out of him. His theory fails due to a number of points he cannot account for:

- Paul's undoubted letters refer to nearly all the basics of Jesus's life and death. Layman started a thread on this sometime ago and he might repost his list of what Paul says about the historical Jesus if we ask him nicely.

- John shows no signs of dependence on Mark. He is an independent witness to the historical Jesus even if based on traditions rather than the apostle himself.

- Josephus is quoted by Origen in the mid third century referring to James brother of Jesus called Christ. This is far too early for Christians to have control of the texts so as to add an interpolation as Christianity was still a persecuted minority.

- Acts shows no evidence of knowledge of Paul's letters. This means it must have been written before the letters were common currency and certainly could not have been written to counteract the theology in those letters as Doherty alleges.

- The Pastorals have nothing much to say about the historical Jesus either. They cannot have been created as part of the effort to show Paul believed in such a figure.

- At least three traditions (four if we include John as we should) - Paul, Q and Mark were bound into Christianity. Each is independent and each supports the view that Jesus was a real person. All three would need to be subject to a high level of deliberate falsification for which we have no textual or historical evidence.

Doherty can and does resort to special pleading to deal with all of these problems but taken together they are almost infallible evidence against his claims.

I think this sums up why almost no scholar supports Doherty bar a couple of deconstructionists who think all history is bunk anyway. As you and I are physicists I hope we have a common low opinion of decontructionism and other post modernist lunacies. Even GE Wells now admits Jesus existed.

Yours

Bede

Bede's Library - faith and reason
 
Old 04-18-2001, 06:08 AM   #25
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Hi PhysicsGuy,

Don't let'em get you down. Doherty is backed up by a number of interesting books.

D. MacDonald's
The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark

argues that Mark built his Gospel up from ideas in the Homeric epics. A very interesting book, and quite convincing in some ways. You should definitely get on the Interlibrary loan and get it. Carrier has a review at:

http://www.infidels.org/library/mode...erandmark.html

which gives a succint outline. There were a couple of long threads on the topic in this forum, so I will not recapitulate the arguments here. A lot of the points Bede refers to were covered there. They are:

my original thread:
http://www.infidels.org/electronic/f...ML/000252.html

Toto's continuation:
http://www.infidels.org/electronic/f...ML/000268.html

John almost certainly knows Mark, since he incorporates two of his fictional miracles (and in the same chapter, a clear clue of common origin). We are left with the choice that Mark and John independently hit on the same fictions (with the same details) or that John knows Mark somehow, either through another written/oral source, or the actual Mark. The only out is to assume that the miracles actually occurred. I'm sure everyone will have their own position on that one!

Bede et al stress the independence of John because he is so crucial. Since Paul is not very clear and can be interpreted several ways, and since Q contains no miracle stories, the only "independent" source for the miraculous Jesus is actually Mark, which seems to be largely fiction. Without an independent John....well, I am sure you can do the math. Nevertheless, John's dependence on the other gospels is argued by many reputable scholars. This would make Mark probably the most important document in Christianity, since it all depends on him.

You might also like:
Liberating the Gospels : Reading the Bible With Jewish Eyes : Freeing Jesus from 2,000 Years of Misunderstanding which is Spong's popularization of Goulder's ideas about the origin of the Gospels. Spong's conclusion is that they are largely fiction. Spong is an Episcopal Bishop, so it is interesting to watch him struggle with this. Some of the apologetic orgs have put up responses to Spong, like this one at answersingenesis.org:

http://www.answersingenesis.org/docs/1119.asp

Anyway, this has become a long post, and I have things to do.

Enjoy your reading!

Michael
 
Old 04-18-2001, 06:32 AM   #26
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Hmm,

Well, not one of the authors that Michael suggested actually says that Jesus never existed so not one of them supports Doherty's central point. If Physicsguy wants to support Doherty he must defend the Jesus myth, not the position that much of what is said about Jesus is later embelishment.

We can argue all day about GJohn but I've never seen an argument for dependence that doesn't assume some other theory (like Doherty's, Crossan's or Spong's) is true. It's always, 'my theory shows that John is dependent' but it is never demonstrated from the text itself.

As for Homer/MacDonald, the threads appeared to be Michael & co presenting parallels, the Christians showing they were not actually parallels, and then Michael and & co saying that we had to read the book. Well, I'm doing that and still haven't come across anything at all apart from handwaving and wishful thinking. I'll give a full report some day soon.

The points I made in my post above challenge the position that Jesus never existed. If Michael or others want to argue about something else, they should start another thread.

Yours

Bede

Bede's Library - faith and reason
 
Old 04-18-2001, 06:50 AM   #27
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Bede:
Hmm,

Well, not one of the authors that Michael suggested actually says that Jesus never existed so not one of them supports Doherty's central point. If Physicsguy wants to support Doherty he must defend the Jesus myth, not the position that much of what is said about Jesus is later embelishment.

We can argue all day about GJohn but I've never seen an argument for dependence that doesn't assume some other theory (like Doherty's, Crossan's or Spong's) is true. It's always, 'my theory shows that John is dependent' but it is never demonstrated from the text itself.

As for Homer/MacDonald, the threads appeared to be Michael & co presenting parallels, the Christians showing they were not actually parallels, and then Michael and & co saying that we had to read the book. Well, I'm doing that and still haven't come across anything at all apart from handwaving and wishful thinking. I'll give a full report some day soon.

The points I made in my post above challenge the position that Jesus never existed. If Michael or others want to argue about something else, they should start another thread.

Yours

Bede

Bede's Library - faith and reason
</font>
I didn't want to argue anything else. We all have our own opinions on whether you people were actually successful or even understood MacDonald. Whether the books I have listed argue that Jesus existed is not relevant. What counts is what information they contain, and how it can be integrated into an understanding of how a foundational myth became a real person, or was grafted onto a real person, depending on what particular position you have.

Michael

[This message has been edited by turtonm (edited April 18, 2001).]
 
Old 04-18-2001, 07:05 AM   #28
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We can argue all day about GJohn but I've never seen an argument for dependence that doesn't assume some other theory (like Doherty's, Crossan's or Spong's) is true. It's always, 'my theory shows that John is dependent' but it is never demonstrated from the text itself.

Bede, that's exactly what I did. The argument is made only from the text itself. Since John 6 reproduces two of Mark's miracles (and miracles are fictions), there are only a few choices. Either John knew of a oral/textual source containing those stories, or John knew of Mark, or John hit upon the exact same stories independent of Mark. (1) or (2) seem more plausible, and they indicate that John and Mark are related somehow.

Michael
 
Old 04-18-2001, 07:18 AM   #29
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">turtonm:
...and miracles are fictions...</font>
This seems somewhat short-sighted even from a skeptic's point of view. From a theist's point of view this statement does not remain open to the possibility of the supernatural.

A skeptic might even say that the miracles happened but that they had explanations in the physical world, therefore the accounts are not fictional and may be independent.

Ish
 
Old 04-18-2001, 07:34 AM   #30
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Ish:
This seems somewhat short-sighted even from a skeptic's point of view. From a theist's point of view this statement does not remain open to the possibility of the supernatural.

A skeptic might even say that the miracles happened but that they had explanations in the physical world, therefore the accounts are not fictional and may be independent.

Ish
</font>
A good response.

Michael


[This message has been edited by turtonm (edited April 18, 2001).]
 
 

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