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Old 06-24-2001, 10:27 AM   #1
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Post Biblical Miracles

I have moved this discussion here because it has gotten off topic (as most of our discusions seem to do). I think this exchange is worthy of special attention:

quote:
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Originally posted by hezekiahjones:
And here is the qualification: I don't think there's any question that a priori acceptance of the literal occurrence of "miracles" and other miscellaneous supernatural phenenoma associated with christianity certainly do count as a very special kind of bias with respect to biblical exegesis.
I'm fairly certain that rodahi and many other posters on this board would prefer that the biblical tradition is critiqued from the same historical and literary vantage points as any other ancient texts, without a somewhat preposterous (and irrelevant, for scholarship purposes) literal acceptance of virgin births, raising of the dead, bodily resurrections, and so on.

From a purely historical, critical perspective, I don't think this is too much too ask, nor are suspicions of christian scholars' motivations invalid, for these reasons.

Conversely, you may consider non-christian motivations questionable for the opposite reason; however, the fact remains that secular analysis of the biblical texts doesn't presume any special status for those texts beyond any other similarly situated documents, no matter what cultural tradition they appeared from.


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I’d like to clarify exactly what you’re saying. Are you saying that “a priori ACCEPTANCE of the literal occurrence of miracles” is a different sort of bias than “a priori REJECTION of the literal occurrence of miracles”?

Certainly these are the same sorts of bias and I have no problem saying so. What does upset me is when people claim these two are not the same type of bias. I’m sure you’d agree with me when I say that historians can’t say whether or not miracles can occur. The question of whether or not miracles occur is answerable only in a philosophical/theological investigation prior to any historical study. If a person has undertaken a philosophical study and concluded that miracles are possible or impossible, then they are free to take that conclusion with them in their investigation of history. And as I stated before, my irritation arises when one side (David Hume’s disciples) claims that the other side (miracle believers) is biased without acknowledging the fact that ALL of us are biased.

Peace,

Polycarp
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Old 06-24-2001, 03:36 PM   #2
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Polycarp:
I’d like to clarify exactly what you’re saying. Are you saying that “a priori ACCEPTANCE of the literal occurrence of miracles” is a different sort of bias than “a priori REJECTION of the literal occurrence of miracles”?</font>


I'm saying it's irrelevant for the purposes of purely historical and literary criticism. I don't think your two parenthetical phrases above are necessarily equivalent.

Suddenly injecting a belief in the literal occurrences of "miracles" into an attempt at objective, critical debate does not automatically place the burden of disproof, so to speak, at the feet of your opponent.

As rodahi and turtonm pointed out on the Jesus Seminar thread, consideration of these additional factors requires additional support from those making the allegations. Extraordinary claims require extraordinary proof, to coin a phrase.

It's exactly the same fallacious tactic as theists' demand for proof from atheists that god does not exist, a topic that has been beaten nearly to death on these boards, despite its apparent aspirations to immortality. Furthermore, such moves represent a woeful misunderstanding of the "atheist position."

There is no a priori rejection of miracles, per se. There is, however, an a priori desire for objective debate, using the same rules and principles that should be applied to any similar debate concerning ancient texts, whatever their source.

Additionally, I personally find it somewhat disingenuous that the only "miracles" so-called christian scholars choose to accept are the ones that issue from this particular cultural tradition.

Can you imagine the goat rodeo that would erupt if all the alleged miracles that occur in all ancient cultural artifacts (and modern ones, for that matter) were accepted at face value?

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Certainly these are the same sorts of bias and I have no problem saying so. What does upset me is when people claim these two are not the same type of bias. I’m sure you’d agree with me when I say that historians can’t say whether or not miracles can occur.</font>


I don't think it's the business of historians to decide one way or the other. But it certainly is the business of historians to observe the references to miracles in historical documents, and especially to compare, contrast, and evaluate these references in terms of identifying the cultural cross-pollination of the various tales.

Of course this often leads to problems for the strictly "christian" scholar, or so it often appears. The startling and significant similarities between Sumerian, Babylonian, and Mosaic creation myths, the latter of which allegedly provides the ultimate raison d'être for Jesus' death and resurrection, is an obvious case in point.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">The question of whether or not miracles occur is answerable only in a philosophical/theological investigation prior to any historical study.</font>


I would add that the awareness and continual consideration of certain physical laws of science are also of paramount importance.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">If a person has undertaken a philosophical study and concluded that miracles are possible or impossible, then they are free to take that conclusion with them in their investigation of history.</font>


Yes, I agree that you are certainly free to do so. However, as stated above, I completely disagree that the two "biases" are equivalent. "Rejection" (your word) of supernatural phenomena requires the "acceptance" of same, and subsequently the systematic deconstruction of the "acceptance."

How are we to disprove something, which we are expected to presuppose, on the basis of your faith alone, and attempt to deconstruct what you can offer no objective proof for in the first place? Again, I find it somewhat difficult to see the equivalency of your two postulates.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">And as I stated before, my irritation arises when one side (David Hume’s disciples) claims that the other side (miracle believers) is biased without acknowledging the fact that ALL of us are biased.</font>


I cannot say that I am familar enough with Hume's arguments to consider myself a disciple; however I admit I am greatly impressed with what I do know of his work. I absolutely agree that each of us carries with us considerable biases, not least Mr. Hume, whose history of England is considered a product of outrageous revisionism by many.

It is possible to categorize our biases to a certain extent, and attempt to lay some mutually agreeable ground rules, at least in pursuit of objectivity, with respect to the subject at hand. Acceptance of supernatural phenomena is certainly a somewhat more ephemeral species of bias than the cultural bias a Scotsman such as Hume would have against England.

No offense, but I personally consider the acceptance of literal "miracles" roughly on par with the viability of astrology, TV psychics, and the Weekly World News' ubiquitous "Bat Boy."

Peace to you as well.
 
Old 06-24-2001, 04:22 PM   #3
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Rodahi, Mary who's birth name was Cleopatra was a virgin because Augustus Caesar decreed her a virgin. No one had the guts to question Caesar. The people trusted Augustus just like they trust the pope. Jesus being born of a virgin was important to be a corresponding sacrifice to equal Jesus with Abel.
In every case except one(Lazurus)which is a fable. Jesus himself said "he, she, is not dead. He, she is sleeping. Take the bible literal? At this point all orthodox Xtians have to bend a little. They have no choice.
As for walking on water. Jesus was taken to Egypt. I think that is Matthew 5:32 or 32:5.
I'm not sure but it's easy to find in your concordance under Egypt.
While growing up in an Egyptian palace he learned many magic tricks and illusions from the palace magicians. Egyptians are known for their convincing illusions.
Magicians have been passing down their secrets for thousands of years to other respected magicians.
In Hollywod CA there is a place called the Magic Castle. www.magiccastle.com. There, for many years theatrical magicians have been swapping illusions fo many years. If you could go there. It's kind of a resort atmosphere. And hang around and convince the member magicians there that you were a serious magician, from a long line of magicians, you could get one of them to tell you how Jesus walked on water. Except one problem. The magicians there believe that Jesus was the greatest of all magicians who ever lived, and they might not be willing to reveal his secrets.
 
Old 06-25-2001, 06:03 PM   #4
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Rodahi, hezekiahjones, & turtonm:

I have neither the time nor the desire to try to present a case for the possibility of miracles. Many regrets if this causes disappointment. It was not my intention to try to prove that miracles were possible. My intent was to point out that when answering the question, "Are miracles possible?" we should not then use the answer to that question as the SOLE criteria for determining whether or not a person is an honest and/or good historian. If this were the case, then we would be throwing out upwards of 90% of our ancient historical records.

Peace,

Polycarp
 
Old 06-25-2001, 07:22 PM   #5
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[QUOTE]Originally posted by Polycarp:
, "Are miracles possible?" we should not then use the answer to that question as the SOLE criteria for determining whether or not a person is an honest and/or good historian. If this were the case, then we would be throwing out upwards of 90% of our ancient historical records.

Peace,

Polycarp


I doubt any of us thought that miracles should be the SOLE criteria for determining whether anyone is an honest or good historian; indeed, I doubt that any of us put miracles anywhere in the mix. I always thought the criteria for that were related to a person's integrity, freedom from agendas, willingness to engage with positions they don't approve of, use of solid sources, attempt to remain balanced and objective, attempt to report on many viewpoints, and other traits the gospel writers are generally not known for.

Michael

Michael
 
Old 06-25-2001, 09:33 PM   #6
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One serious problem is the question of miracles of other religions, something that many apologists find difficult to give a straight answer to.

For example, there is at least as much evidence for many pagan miracles as there is for many Biblical ones; as Richard Carrier notes in _Kooks and Quacks of the Roman Empire_ (available at the "Library" section of this site), consider numerous inscriptions describing cures worked at the various temples of Asklepios, god of medicine. Yet nobody ever wrote any inscriptions claiming to have been cured by Jesus Christ! At least none survive, as Asklepios-cure inscriptions have done.
 
Old 06-26-2001, 05:58 AM   #7
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Miracles are all perception. If a person is a strong theist, they are bound by their believe to credit beyond the norm incidents to their god.

A very valid point against Christianity is that if miracles occur in other religions (they do), then what does that say about the "true" god?
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