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Old 05-15-2001, 01:09 AM   #1
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Question Nomad - Debate Question on Original Sin

Bromad ( ),

In your latest post in the debate, you make the point that Jesus's baptism as reported in the gospels is actually problematic because of the concept of Original Sin (since Jesus is supposed to be free from this - therefore his death is unjustified and can be 'used' by God as a substitute for the deaths of all other humans, right?)

This position actually assumes that the gospel writers are aware of the doctrine of original sin in the first place. I may well be wrong, but I thought that the Original Sin doctrine was formulated by Paul? Is it actually mentioned anywhere in the gospels themselves?

If this is not the case, maybe the gospel writers had not yet expanded their theology to cover this aspect, and reporting Jesus's baptism may not have posed any embarrasment to them at all?

fG
 
Old 05-15-2001, 01:31 AM   #2
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FG,

The embarrasment of the baptism by John is twofold: 1) it implies that Jesus was in need of forgiveness, i.e.-that he had sinned; and 2) it implied John's superiority, i.e.-that he had the authority and position to forgive Jesus' sins.

Point number one is not dependent on the doctrine of original sin, but on the belief that Jesus was righteous. This view was a pillar of early Churh belief.

However, if you genuinely feel that the issue was in doubt, reliance on number one is not necessary for the application of the criteria of embarrassment because the second point provides sufficient embarrasment in and of itself to demonstrate the event's validity:

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> That he accepted John's baptism is virtually certain. The gospels and Acts reveal that John had a sizeable following, and the authors were a little embarrassed at having to admit that their hero, Jesus, had been at first a follower of the Baptist.... It is most unlikely that the gospels or earlier Christians invented the fact that Jesus started out under John. Since they wanted Jesus to stand out as superior to the Baptist, they would not have made up the story that Jesus had been his follower. Therefore, we conclude, John really did baptize Jesus. </font>
E.P. Sanders, The Historical Figure of Jesus, at 94.

[This message has been edited by Layman (edited May 15, 2001).]
 
Old 05-15-2001, 02:51 AM   #3
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Cool

Layman,

Thanks for your response.

Point 1:
Do you think it is actually possible for a fully-human Jesus to live a life for thirty years without ever sinning in the least? He had been a little child - would he never, ever have had a tantrum and gone against his parents wishes? As an adolescent, would he never had any of those hormone-driven urges that any 'fully human' has at that stage of their life? In his dealings with his customers (being a carpenter and all that) would he never, ever have resorted to one of those little commercial 'white lies' without which business is all but impossible? How can anybody live a fully human life for thirty years without ever, not even once, 'sinning' in the sense that the Church understands it?

Point 2.
If we accept this reasoning, there is a stark choice here. Either Jesus was historical and baptised by John, which is (as you claim) incompatible with him being God; or he wasn't baptised, which refutes the sources you draw on, and therefore casts doubts on his historicity.

You cannot have your cake and eat it, you know...

fG


[This message has been edited by faded_Glory (edited May 15, 2001).]
 
Old 05-15-2001, 07:29 AM   #4
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All the criteria are funny, but "embarrassment" is the funniest one of all. Yes, Hercules must have existed, because he went mad and killed his family (how embarrassing. Poor Herc needed help killing the hydra -- that's embarrassing, so must be a true story.

Theseus killed his father by accident, that's embarrassing, so he must have existed.

Washington had wooden teeth. Must be true, because it is embarrassing. Of course, it is only a myth....

The Poles indeed charged tanks with cavalry -- it must be true, because it is embarrassing to the Poles. Actually, it never happened. A canard spread by the Germans.

I could go on. "Embarrassment," as a truth-criterion, is worthless. It is a totally subjective assessment. The only thing that counts is evidence. The only place this story occurs is in documents known to contain other fictions, and to have been written for propagandistic purposes by persons unknown, who did not witness the events in question. We have no way of knowing whether it is true or not; there is no solid evidence either way.

Michael
 
Old 05-15-2001, 07:56 AM   #5
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by faded_Glory:

In your latest post in the debate, you make the point that Jesus's baptism as reported in the gospels is actually problematic because of the concept of Original Sin.</font>
Actually, I do not think that this argument needs to be made, nor did I make it in my post. John the Baptist did not teach about Original Sin (at least so far as we can tell from his preachings), and taught only that all needed to be baptized for the forgiveness of their specific sins.

In the end, the problem for the evangelists (and the Christian believer) ends up being pretty much the same however, since we believe that Jesus was, indeed, without sin of any kind. On this basis Jesus did not need to be baptized the way the rest of us do (IOW, for the forgiveness of our sins and for our salvation), but then as God, we could say that Jesus doesn't really need anything at all.

I see His baptism as one of the examples of things that He did that we are to follow. As a Jew, he was also circumcised, and for this reason, I believe that Jewish Christians can (and probably should) be circumcised as well. Similarily, we are to keep all of God's laws to the best of our ability, following the example that Jesus set down for us.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">This position actually assumes that the gospel writers are aware of the doctrine of original sin in the first place. I may well be wrong, but I thought that the Original Sin doctrine was formulated by Paul? Is it actually mentioned anywhere in the gospels themselves?</font>
Original Sin does not play a role in this particular scenario, since John was baptizing for the forgiveness of specific sins. It can be viewed as a right of purification through repentence. Jesus (and the Christian Church) expanded the role and significance of baptism, instituting it as one of the Sacraments.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">If this is not the case, maybe the gospel writers had not yet expanded their theology to cover this aspect, and reporting Jesus's baptism may not have posed any embarrasment to them at all?</font>
There are a couple of levels of embarrassment for the evangelists. First, as I said above, John was baptizing for the forgiveness of specific sins, and without question the Gospels are meant to show Jesus as being perfect and without sin. But secondly, the baptism of Jesus appears to show Jesus as the disciple (student) of the Baptist prior to the beginning of his ministry. Once again, if Jesus is supposed to be God (as the Gospels tell us), then how could he have been the pupil of a mere human being like John?

The best explanation available to us, from the perspective of historical inquiry, is to say that Jesus began as a disciple of John, and sometime before (or immediately after) the arrest of His mentor, Jesus broke off and started His own ministry.

Nomad
 
Old 05-15-2001, 08:10 AM   #6
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by turtonm:

All the criteria are funny, but "embarrassment" is the funniest one of all. Yes, Hercules must have existed, because he went mad and killed his family (how embarrassing. Poor Herc needed help killing the hydra -- that's embarrassing, so must be a true story.</font>
You are not understanding the nature of the criteria of embarrassment Michael. To the ancient Greeks there would have been nothing embarrassing about Hercules going mad, or killing his family. Remember that their gods were very human in every way, so Hercules was simply demonstrating a common human trait, only on a grander, more god-like scale.

With the baptism of Jesus, we have the evangelists reporting an event that runs exactly counter to what we would expect from them. They want to show Jesus as Lord, the Only Son of God, the Messiah. To make Him look like the student of another, and worse still, as sinful and needing forgiveness is exactly what they would NOT want to be telling us.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Washington had wooden teeth. Must be true, because it is embarrassing. Of course, it is only a myth....</font>
Umm... my understanding was the false teeth at the time were made of wood. Even if Washington did have false teeth, this would hardly have been uncommon, and far from embarrassing to his contemporaries.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I could go on. "Embarrassment," as a truth-criterion, is worthless. It is a totally subjective assessment.</font>
I agree that the criteria can be very subjective. The examples you listed are not even close to embarrassing by any standard I am familiar with, yet you wished to call them embarrassing. Yet, for the student of history, it is possible to listen to reports from sources friendly to the subject, and hear reports that we can judge to be counter to the interests both of the subject, and the source himself. When this happens, we tend to believe the story as being more likely to be true.

If an enemy of Bill Clinton says that he was unfaithful to his wife, then we might suspect it was not true. If his wife says the same thing, especially after faithfully defending him for years, we might consider it to be more likely to be the truth. Could she be lying? Of course, but your belief in the uselessness of surprising and embarrassing reports that run counter to the interests of the witnesses reporting those events will leave us trusting no one about anything.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> The only thing that counts is evidence. The only place this story occurs is in documents known to contain other fictions, and to have been written for propagandistic purposes by persons unknown, who did not witness the events in question.</font>
What is the propaganda purpose of the evangelists here? And do you believe their story as being truthful or a complete fabrication? If it is a complete fabrication in your view, then do you discard all evidence offered regardless of what they say?

If your last answer is yes, then you have simply destroyed the means by which we can study history (see why I asked you if Julius Caesar was assassinated Michael? Using your criteria above, we would have to say we just don't know, there is no evidence either way.).

Nomad
 
Old 05-15-2001, 08:17 AM   #7
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by faded_Glory:
Layman,

Thanks for your response.

Point 1:
Do you think it is actually possible for a fully-human Jesus to live a life for thirty years without ever sinning in the least? He had been a little child - would he never, ever have had a tantrum and gone against his parents wishes? As an adolescent, would he never had any of those hormone-driven urges that any 'fully human' has at that stage of their life? In his dealings with his customers (being a carpenter and all that) would he never, ever have resorted to one of those little commercial 'white lies' without which business is all but impossible? How can anybody live a fully human life for thirty years without ever, not even once, 'sinning' in the sense that the Church understands it?

Point 2.
If we accept this reasoning, there is a stark choice here. Either Jesus was historical and baptised by John, which is (as you claim) incompatible with him being God; or he wasn't baptised, which refutes the sources you draw on, and therefore casts doubts on his historicity.

You cannot have your cake and eat it, you know...

fG


[This message has been edited by faded_Glory (edited May 15, 2001).]
</font>
The point is not what I believed, the point is what the early Christians believed. They certainly believed that Jesus was superior to John. Having John baptize Jesus was therefore very "embarrassing." It is not a problem they would have created for themselves.
 
Old 05-15-2001, 08:21 AM   #8
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by turtonm:
All the criteria are funny, but "embarrassment" is the funniest one of all. Yes, Hercules must have existed, because he went mad and killed his family (how embarrassing. Poor Herc needed help killing the hydra -- that's embarrassing, so must be a true story.

Theseus killed his father by accident, that's embarrassing, so he must have existed.

Washington had wooden teeth. Must be true, because it is embarrassing. Of course, it is only a myth....

The Poles indeed charged tanks with cavalry -- it must be true, because it is embarrassing to the Poles. Actually, it never happened. A canard spread by the Germans.

I could go on. "Embarrassment," as a truth-criterion, is worthless. It is a totally subjective assessment. The only thing that counts is evidence. The only place this story occurs is in documents known to contain other fictions, and to have been written for propagandistic purposes by persons unknown, who did not witness the events in question. We have no way of knowing whether it is true or not; there is no solid evidence either way.

Michael
</font>
Oversimplify and then ridicule. Clever tactic Turton, but rather transparent. Of course, I understand that it's actually easier to invent strawmen and then proceed to beat them up. But why not explain why the gospel authors would have invented John's baptism of Jesus?

As skeptics are so found of telling us, the Gospel writers had an agenda. One part of that agenda was to convince people that Jesus was superior to John. If they were fabricating the story then they all went about it exactly the wrong way: by focusing on an apparent act of submission by Jesus to John.
 
Old 05-15-2001, 10:42 AM   #9
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Consider this...we know Jesus disobeyed his parents (remember when he stayed behind in the temple and had his parents distraught?) in his youth.

And he was kind of sassy when they picked him up, if I remember the verses. Kinda like, why the hell didn't you look for me in my father's house...

Technically under Levitical law they should have executed the little bugger right there on the spot.
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Old 05-15-2001, 10:44 AM   #10
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Lance:
Consider this...we know Jesus disobeyed his parents (remember when he stayed behind in the temple and had his parents distraught?) in his youth.

And he was kind of sassy when they picked him up, if I remember the verses. Kinda like, why the hell didn't you look for me in my father's house...

Technically under Levitical law they should have executed the little bugger right there on the spot.
</font>
Trying to stay on point, just what does this have to do with whether the baptism of Jesus by John is a historical fact?
 
 

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