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Old 04-04-2001, 01:16 PM   #1
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Post One of those other Jewish "miracle-workers"?

In my Jesus, the Miracle Worker post, I discussed the criteria of dissimilarity and pointed out that Jesus was a unique miracle worker. One poster (I believe Turton) alleged that there were two Jewish miracle workers somewhat contemporary to Jesus.

This allegation is incorrect. "The two most frequently cited-Jewish wonderworkers are Honi (Onias), the rain-maker (or circle-drawer) of the 1st century BC, and the Galilean Hanina of the 1st century AD. Almost all that is known of these men comes from much later rabbinic literature, and by that time legendary and theological developments had aggrandized the portrayal. Almost certainly in the earliest tradition they were not rabbinical teachers, and it is debatable whether they were primarily miraculous wonder-workers by their own power or men of persuasive prayer that brought God's extraordinary help. Raymond E. Brown, An Introduction to New Testament Christology, at 63.

Because I'm getting spread pretty thin, I'll start by discussing Honi in this post. Time permitting I'll move on to Hanina.

Honi died about 100 years before Jesus did. The first mention of him is probably by Josephus, writing in 93 CE. In his Jewish Antiquities, Josephus refers to "Onias," which is the Greek form of Honi. According to Josephus, Onias was "a just man and beloved of God, who once during a drought prayed that God would bring the drought to an end. Listening to [the prayer], God caused rain to fall." Unfortunately for Onias, this apparently had the effect of gaining a reputation as an effective prayer. So, when a civil war broke out one side tried to force Onias to curse the other side. When Onias refused, he was stoned to death.

Josephus refers to him somewhat like he does John the Baptist. Honi appears suddenly, is described positively, and is then put to death. It is also apparent that Josephus does not refer to any Honi as a miracle worker. Rather, he recounts ONE instance where God answered Honi's prayer for rain. There is no indication of any messianic hopes or assperations connected to him, nor any indication that he was considered a Rabbi, or teacher.

The next mention of Honi comes at least 100 years after Josephus wrote (over 200 years after Honi's death). The Mishna givesus some added details to Josephus' brief mention of the famous prayer. It states that Honi's famous prayer at first went unanswered. He then draws a circle and swears that he will not step outside the circle until God makes it rain. It begins to sprinkle. Honi demands more, and a violent downpour ensures. Honi complains and the rain recedes to a moderate level. He then prays that the rain will cease and the rain ceases.

Honi is still portrayed as a miracle worker, but there are some additional details about how God answered the prayer. He is also for the first time put in the company of the Pharisees. Again, there is no indication that Honi was a miracle worker himself, or that any messianic hopes were attached to him.

Honi, however, is eventually mentioned in the Bablyonian Talmud another couple of hundred years or so later. As portrayed by the Bablyonian Talmud, he has been converted completely into a Pharisee and given the title "Rabbi" for the first time. Again, I did not see any messianic hopes attached to him.

As J.P. Meier sums up: "To return form the end of the tradition history of 'Rabbi Honi' to its humble beginnings: all we can say with any probability about the 'historical' Onias/Honi is that he lived in the first half of the 1st century B.C., perhaps in Jerusalem, and was noted for an occasion when heprayed in a time of droughe and God sent rain. Even this meager statement has to rest on two accounts written over one (Josephus) and two (the Mishna) hundred years after the event." A Marginal Jew, Vol II, at 484.

From what I have been able to find out about him, nothing written within the first 300 years or so after his existence mentions him as a miracle worker. Rather, he was known for having one of his prayers answered in a quite dramatic fashion. He was not characterized as having performed any miracles by his own hand or to have been a teacher (until perhaps several hundred years later). Moreover, he was never considered to be the Messiah, and apparently did not even come close to creating a new sect of Judaism.

Give the above, it is clear that the charactization of Honi is not comparable to the characterization of Jesus. In effect, he is very dissimilar.
 
Old 04-04-2001, 05:20 PM   #2
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Gad! I didn't even notice this thread.

I didn't mention Honi AFAIK; I believe I adduced Akiba, first century-early second, d. 125 or thereabouts, AFAIK.

As for dissimilar, don't make me laugh. How exact do they have to be for similarity? Do you have an actual fixed definition, or does it bend to whatever situation you need to explain away?

Here:

Take, for example, the fortunate discovery of Lee's plans for the Antietam campaign. I claim that was due to the miraculous intervention of god. using Layman's criteria from the "Jesus the Miracle Worker" thread
  • Multiple attestion: all officers on both sides admit to the event in their memoirs, the plans were seen and authenticated by many
  • embarrassment: gosh, it sure is embarrassing to admit that military officers lose plans....also embarrassing to McClellan to admit that he won the battle because of this knowledge. Why would McClellan make up a lie like that? Also embarrassing: why would such a trivial miracle be needed by the all-powerful god?
  • dissimilarity: this is the only time in the war one side possessed the other's plans in toto.
  • coherence: That god would permit this to occur is coherent with our understanding of the Union victory as ordained by god.

See how worthless these criteria really are?

God, I love there criteria discussions.

Michael


[This message has been edited by turtonm (edited April 04, 2001).]
 
Old 04-04-2001, 05:27 PM   #3
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by turtonm:
Gad! I didn't even notice this thread.

I didn't mention Honi AFAIK; I believe I adduced Akiba, first century-early second, d. 125 or thereabouts, AFAIK.

As for dissimilar, don't make me laugh. How exact do they have to be for similarity? Do you have an actual fixed definition, or does it bend to whatever situation you need to explain away?

Here:

Take, for example, the fortunate discovery of Lee's plans for the Antietam campaign. I claim that was due to the miraculous intervention of god. using Layman's criteria from the "Jesus the Miracle Worker" thread
  • Multiple attestion: all officers on both sides admit to the event in their memoirs, the plans were seen and authenticated by many
  • embarrassment: gosh, it sure is embarrassing to admit that military officers lose plans....also embarrassing to McClellan to admit that he won the battle because of this knowledge. Why would McClellan make up a lie like that? Also embarrassing: why would such a trivial miracle be needed by the all-powerful god?
  • dissimilarity: this is the only time in the war one side possessed the other's plans in toto.
  • coherence: That god would permit this to occur is coherent with our understanding of the Union victory as ordained by god.

See how worthless these criteria really are?

God, I love there criteria discussions.

Michael


[This message has been edited by turtonm (edited April 04, 2001).]
</font>
Again all you have demonstrated is that you can misapply the criteria. There is nothing miraculous about a plan falling to the ground and someone else discovering it. It might be unlikely, but it is not a violation of the laws of nature.

I have no doubt that the multiple attestation of the officers helps to establish that the plans were indeed lost, and then found. Or that their embarrassment over that incident renders it more likely than not.

I also agree that McClellan would be unlikely to claim that he would have lost the battle without those plans if indeed no plans had been lost and found.

I'm not sure as to dissimilarity. You'd have to give me some more information on that. But since I think it is fairly well established by multiple attestation and embarrasment, I don't think you need to do so.

In short, you've demonstrated that the criteria are useful for establishing historical knowledge.
 
Old 04-04-2001, 05:33 PM   #4
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No, Layman, I've claimed that they demonstrate it was miraculous. See, I've claimed that god's hand guided that paper, wrapped around a cigar (as I recall) to the ground. Now, using your criteria, refute that claim.


BTW, do you have a fixed defintion of "dissimilar?"

Didn't think so.

Michael

[This message has been edited by turtonm (edited April 04, 2001).]
 
Old 04-04-2001, 05:42 PM   #5
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by turtonm:
No, Layman, I've claimed that they demonstrate it was miraculous. See, I've claimed that god's hand guided that paper, wrapped around a cigar (as I recall) to the ground. Now, using your criteria, refute that claim.

Michael
</font>
I take it you have concede that Honi was only known for having God answer one of his prayers? Admittedly in apparently dramatic fashion.

As for your example, I've indicated what I examined your evidence and told you what I believe it indicates: the plans were helpful in winning the battle. In effect, I believe the reports.


 
Old 04-04-2001, 06:04 PM   #6
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Originally posted by Layman:
I take it you have concede that Honi was only known for having God answer one of his prayers? Admittedly in apparently dramatic fashion.

Yes, I've read that Honi has been interpreted as a foil for god's humor.

As for your example, I've indicated what I examined your evidence and told you what I believe it indicates: the plans were helpful in winning the battle. In effect, I believe the reports.

So, in the future, we won't be able to use your criteria to support any claims of miracles, then.

Michael

 
Old 04-04-2001, 06:15 PM   #7
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by turtonm:
Originally posted by Layman:
I take it you have concede that Honi was only known for having God answer one of his prayers? Admittedly in apparently dramatic fashion.

Yes, I've read that Honi has been interpreted as a foil for god's humor.

As for your example, I've indicated what I examined your evidence and told you what I believe it indicates: the plans were helpful in winning the battle. In effect, I believe the reports.

So, in the future, we won't be able to use your criteria to support any claims of miracles, then.

Michael
</font>
You never have. But you have failed to explain why not. The reports in your example are that they found some battle plans and used them to win a battle. The reports I discuss in my Jesus, the Miracle Worker, are of miraculous events.
 
Old 04-05-2001, 11:16 AM   #8
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Layman:
&lt;snip&gt; Almost all that is known of these men comes from much later rabbinic literature, and by that time legendary and theological developments had aggrandized the portrayal. &lt;snip&gt;</font>
WTF?? Excuse me?

Am I the only one who sees the obvious contradiction of attacking 'rabbinic literature' as legendary, while supporting the 'synoptic' gospels as 'history written by eyewitnesses'?

Layman, what is your criteria for 'enough time' for an account to become legendary? And what is your basis for this criteria? I hope it is based on something scientific, like extensive studies of primitive superstitious cultures.

Waiting...

-Kelly

 
Old 04-05-2001, 11:47 AM   #9
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Touchstone:
WTF?? Excuse me?

Am I the only one who sees the obvious contradiction of attacking 'rabbinic literature' as legendary, while supporting the 'synoptic' gospels as 'history written by eyewitnesses'?

Layman, what is your criteria for 'enough time' for an account to become legendary? And what is your basis for this criteria? I hope it is based on something scientific, like extensive studies of primitive superstitious cultures.

Waiting...

-Kelly
</font>
First, I was not attacking the Talmud, I was quoting Raymond E. Brown, one of the most respected New Testament scholars of our time. It is not something I came up with by myself.

Second, we can trace the legendary development at issue through the various levels of the Talmud, which was written over several centuries.

Third, the Rabbinic literature at issue was, in fact, written several hundred years after the events described. None of the gospels were written more than 60 years after the events described.

As a point of comparison, several dozen apocryphal gospels about Jesus arose in the second and third centuries. I, and most scholars, put little or not historical value on these later accounts because they are obvious embellishments on earlier accounts. Admittedly, I would treat the Mishna, written a couple of centuries after the Second Temple period more seriously than I would the Germa, written a couple of centuries after the Mishna.

Fourth, I have never claimed that the synoptics were written by eyewitnesses. Where did you get that idea? In fact, I have repeatedly expressed my opinion that none of the synoptics were written by eyewitnesses.

Fifth, the literary genres are very different. Do you know of any scholars who believe they are the same? Heck, I don't even think all of the gospels are of the same literary genre.

"History is not a main concern anywhere in the rabbinic literature. The rabbis wrote to maintain the Jewish people in the Torah, not to discuss the past per se. They were interested in halakah, law, and for them history belonged to haggada, illustration. Thus, what historical details do occur are ususally illustrations of legal, theologoical or homilectical points, often points under debbate by the rabbis, and this makes interpreting the histoical material difficult at best." Robert Van Voorst, Jesus Outside the New Testament, at 104.
 
Old 04-28-2001, 01:40 PM   #10
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OK, here you go. Took me a minute to clean it up. Fire away.

___________________________

Whether they were open to ALL Hellenistic influence is really irrelevant; obviously they did not become hellenes; they stayed jews. But as we saw Hellenistic thinking and practices was one of the many cultural streams that informed judiasm in 1st century palestine....and let's not forget the jewish communities around the Med, who certainly carried ideas back and forth. Consequently, the false predicaments that apologists typically erect, like Wm L. Craig's bogus statement:
  • "If one denies that Jesus really did rise from the dead, then he must explain the disciples' belief that he did rise either in terms of Jewish influences or in terms of Christian influences." <A HREF="http://www.leaderu.com/truth/1truth22.html[/list" TARGET=_blank> http://www.leaderu.com/truth/1truth22.html
[/list][/url]

reflect a highly artificial and impoverished view of history. In light of known influences from many cultures in the area, and of course the known creativity of human beings, you can see how silly Craig is being.

This view of history is constantly lurking in the statements you and other apologists here make, Layman, but perhaps you do have a robust view of things, and I have merely misread you.

As for pagans running around everywhere claiming god-men, that's exactly what they were doing. See Carrier's article here on kooks and quacks of the Roman Empire, which I am sure you have already read. There were plenty of mad men running around doing miracles; there are in folk communities everywhere.

But if you want to work out the whole relationship between jesus and other miracle traditions, not only in cultures which the jews might have heard of, but also in their own, a good start might be with the widespread mediterranean belief in magical healing, a tradition in which the jews partook, as the Bible itself notes. Thus, when jesus is doing his magical healings, he is participating in this long tradition.

I have located an interesting article on healing:

http://www.rrc.edu/journal/recon63_2/praglin.htm says:

"Convincing recent scholarship, however, contends that even in biblical times, healing practices involving magical spells, incantations, and exorcisms had found considerable expression. This was especially true in those Jewish communities influenced by Egyptian, Midianite or Roman culture, as Numbers, Isaiah, 2 Chronicles, Ezekiel, and 2 Kings attest. The book of Numbers documents Moses fashioning an image (later destroyed by King Hezekiah) known to magically heal serpent bites.8 I Kings, as well as Josephus, depict Solomon as a magician who could repel demons with his incantations, although the Mishnah records Hezekiah's suppression of this "Book of Cures," given its use as a substitute for prayer.9 The Apocrypha also documented folk medicine practices featuring the angel Raphael, who brought health and healing in the name of God.10 According to Philo and Josephus, the Essenes were
particularly interested in physical and spiritual healing. The community at Qumran embellished the story of Abraham's healing of Abimelech, while the Dead Sea Scrolls record Abraham healing on behalf of the pharaoh by expelling a plague caused by a demon.11 "


Does that last sound anything like Jesus?

Healing through magic and exorcism is a common peasant folk practice. The followers of Jesus probably didn't have to shop very far to get those tricks.

Michael


Link is fixed, Layman

[This message has been edited by turtonm (edited May 03, 2001).]
 
 

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