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Old 02-15-2001, 09:29 AM   #1
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Post How Important is Early Gospel Date for Development of Legends?

Both Nomad and Layman seem to subscribe to the following belief. "Perhaps one of the most important reasons to explore the dating of the Gospels is to find out exactly how much time we would have had for legendary embellishments to develop."

This is a Christian pipe dream one hears quite a bit, the old chestnut that there wasn't enough time for legends to develop.

The truth is that the answer to "How much time?" is Zero time. I suggest doubters get on the Net, type in "Sai Baba" and learn how he has raised the dead twice, healed the sick, and advocates love. When was in India in '91 I stayed with friends in Calcutta whose son had been healed by him.

Sai Baba is not even dead yet, but already the object of a growing set of legends. Since the various legends about Sai Baba have been thoroughly debunked, we cannot even claim the legends developed because they were true. Legends, it seem, grow in spite of truth.

You might object that Sai Baba has not founded a religion (he seems to be avoiding that route) However, miracles were also claimed during the lifetimes of several Sikh Gurus, and they did found and foster a religion. No, they did not claim to be the son of god, but then Jesus gave ambiguous answers on that question as well. In any case, the issue is not particular claims, but legends as a whole.

The argument above is why I claim an earlier dating of the gospels is interesting and useful for scholarly purposes, but meaningless as far as making judgements about the growth of legends.

Comments?

Michael
turton@ev1.net
 
Old 02-15-2001, 09:38 AM   #2
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It's amazing you can keep repeating this point without giving any rational reason to doubt the following two propositiona:

1. The longer the time that passes between the happeneing of an event, and the recording of an event in writing, the greater the possibility of legendary development.

2. The shorter the time that passes between the happening of an event, and the recording of an event in writing, the smaller the prossibility of legendery development.

The question is one of liklihood and possibilities. I certainly never said it was impossible, and I doubt Nomad did either, that legends can develop quickly. What we have argued, is that they are much LESS likely to develop quickly than they are over a long period of time.

What you are doing is assuming that ANY record of a miracle MUST be a legend, therefore, it doesn't matter if the gospels are eyewitness accounts, because you will never believe a source describing a miracle is anything other than a legend.

That is a nice philosophical position, but it means you win the historical argument with having to actually argue it.

Speaking only for myself, I do not foreclose the possibility of miracles, but I don't assume that they are true simply because they are in an old book. So, it is important to me to try and gauge the opportunities for legendary development made possible by extended time periods.

You also ignore the fact that, as well as recording miracles, the gospels also record a great deal of Jesus' teaching. Even if you assume that miracles MUST be legends, I doubt you assume that Jesus' teachings must ALSO be legends. Certainly then, the dating of the gospels would be relevant as to the reliability of recording Jesus' teaching.

Of course, it seems that your attitude is this: because the gospels contain miralces, they must be entirely legendary. Any author that would invent all those miracles would also invent Jesus' teachings. Ergo, the entire affair is completely untrustworthy.

Now, again, this is not necessarily an unreasonable position. But it certainly is not a historical one, it is a philosophical one. So your argument against Christianity then, seems to be entirely philosophical. History is irrelevant to you.

[This message has been edited by Layman (edited February 15, 2001).]
 
Old 02-15-2001, 03:07 PM   #3
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Layman seems to subscribe to a one-or-the-other position about factual content -- it is either all fact or all fiction. However, it is always possible for the two to be mixed together, and yes, that does happen. And as to JC's miracles being fiction but his teachings being factual, I note that some of his teachings may have been rewritten by some of his followers.

For example, in the Gospels of Mark and Luke, he absolutely forbids divorce, while in the Gospel of Matthew, he makes an exception for the case of a wife who does some sexual mischief. Since Mark is generally thought to be the oldest, it may well have been that Matthew contains a rewrite of the original teaching.

And yes, ideologically significant history can get rewritten. Consider the Soviet Union, where Party officials who fell out of favor would be edited out of the history books, and even painted out of official pictures(!). Much of this was during the Stalin years, but Stalin himself would get much the same treatment in later years.
 
Old 02-15-2001, 03:28 PM   #4
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"Layman seems to subscribe to a or-the-other position about factual content -- it is either all fact or all fiction. However, it is always possible for the two to be mixed together, and yes, that does happen."

I most certainly do not ascribe to that theory. What did I say to make you believe that was my opinion?
 
Old 02-15-2001, 03:39 PM   #5
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Originally posted by Layman:
It's amazing you can keep repeating this point without giving any rational reason to doubt the following two propositiona:

See Sai Baba above and below. It is amazing that you keep responding without adducing any evidence to prove either point.

1. The longer the time that passes between the happening of an event, and the recording of an event in writing, the greater the possibility of legendary development.

Perhaps. Where do I deny this?

2. The shorter the time that passes between the happening of an event, and the recording of an event in writing, the smaller the possibility of legendary development.

Nope. Sai Baba -- still living! -- is credited with doing almost all the miracles
Jesus did, plus others he never dreamed of
like materializing gold out of thin air).
Point one, no problem, point two, totally disproved by facts in evidence.

It is evident that passage of time has no clear relationship to growth of legends, although I am inclined to buy your first proposition. Note that no time has passed since recording of Sai Baba -- they were recorded at the time of occurrance, sometimes on video(!) -- and countervailing information also exists.

The question is one of liklihood and possibilities. I certainly never said it was impossible, and I doubt Nomad did either, that legends can develop quickly. What we have argued, is that they are much LESS likely to develop quickly than they are over a long period of time.

Yes, but you have no evidence that allows you to make the LESS LIKELY claim, whereas I can cite legendary embroidery occuring within the lifetime of influential individuals, some of whom have gone on to found religions.

You haven't argued that, you have merely stated it as an assumption about social processes. Do you have papers, evidence, etc, to back it up?

What you are doing is assuming that ANY record of a miracle MUST be a legend, therefore, it doesn't matter if the gospels are eyewitness accounts,

Yes, that is my working assumption, until someone comes up with evidence to the contrary. Do you know of any demonstratable modern miracles? Demonstratable past miracles? Didn't think so.

That is a nice philosophical position, but it means you win the historical argument with having to actually argue it.

Again, give me reasons, aside from the claims made in heavily redacted two thousand year old documents, that natural laws functioned differently in the past. It is a philosophical assumption, but it is also a historical one. Where is the independent evidence?

So, it is important to me to try and gauge the opportunities for legendary development made possible by extended time periods.

If I only felt that you were measuring the possibility, I might not be so relentless.
But I think you are looking for rationalizations to believe, and ways to construct evidence to convince others to adopt your beliefs. In any case,
you haven't made any reasonable demonstration in any thread that Jesus' miracles are more
believable than Sai Baba's.

You also ignore the fact that, as well as recording miracles, the gospels also record a great deal of Jesus' teaching. Even if you assume that miracles MUST be legends, I doubt you assume that Jesus' teachings must ALSO be legends. Certainly then, the dating of the gospels would be relevant as to the reliability of recording Jesus' teaching.

Hmmm......let's see. That would be true if it were not so possible to recover many of Jesus' teachings from earlier documents and traditions. So in fact, there is no reason at this time to suppose that attributing teachings to Jesus is any less erroneous than attributing miracles to him.

Of course, it seems that your attitude is this: because the gospels contain miralces, they must be entirely legendary.

Why no, my position is, the legends are legendary until proof of their truth is uncovered. Since the teachings can often be found elsewhere, I assume they are not legendary, just the attribution is. How can you be sure that what you are reading is not entirely fiction, instead of only a fictionalization?

Any author that would invent all those miracles would also invent Jesus' teachings. Ergo, the entire affair is completely untrustworthy.

Like I said, many of the teachings are not invented. It is my position, as is that of many scholars, that some of the teachings of Jesus were part of other traditions and got sucked up into his. Perhaps all.

It might be better to say that anyone who would invent the miracles would borrow the teachings, which appears to be the case.

Now, again, this is not necessarily an unreasonable position. But it certainly is not a historical one, it is a philosophical one. So your argument against Christianity then, seems to be entirely philosophical. History is irrelevant to you.

History is very relevant. It teaches me that miracles are not miraculous, that religious leaders, insofar as they claim mysterious powers, are frauds, that legendary embroidery is common and begins even before death, that natural laws do not vary over time, that corroborating evidence for events is necessary (and that none exists in Jesus' case), that "witnesses" who report third hand and copy each other are not reliable, that witnesses uncorraborated by other evidence are probably unreliable, that when a document can be shown to depend heavily on literary sources, it is fictional, and that the founders of religions are generally cheats and liars.

You see, there's an assumption to your method, and it is that the Gospels in some way depict historical events. There is no evidence outside the Bible that this is the case. How would dating it earlier bear on the question? If they are completely made up out of then-current sayings, it doesn't matter that whether they were made up in 50, 70 or 90, they are equally fictitious.
The only way it matters whether they were produced in 50 or 90 is if Jesus really was executed in 33 (or so). But if the Crucifixion is a fiction, then the date of production is irrelevant, except for noting which particular materials went into their composition.

So what you really need to do is prove that there was someone named Jesus executed for (treason? blasphemy?) using evidence obtained from extrabiblical sources, in order to make the dating even relevant to the task of figuring out which (if any) miracles are true and how much they were elaborated.

Michael
 
Old 02-15-2001, 04:28 PM   #6
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Question

Quick quiz to help me know where people are coming from on this thread:

(1) Take history from over 500 years ago. Have you studied this period of time very much?
(2) From that history, tell me how many biographies we have of any individual that was written within 100 years of the death of that person.
(3) From religious histories, how many books or writings do we have of ancient religious figures (outside of Christian or Hebrew Scripture) that was written within 200 years of the life of the person in question (i.e. Buddha, and Greek, Roman, Persian, Babylonian, Egyptian, Celtic, Norse, Chinese, Japanese, or any other mythical culture?
(4) How much do you personally know about ancient history and how we know what we know about the people (especially individual lives) that lived at this time?

Knowing this will help a lot. Thanks.

Nomad
 
Old 02-15-2001, 05:50 PM   #7
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by turtonm:
Sai Baba is not even dead yet, but already the object of a growing set of legends. Since the various legends about Sai Baba have been thoroughly debunked, we cannot even claim the legends developed because they were true.
</font>
Uh, Michael, I'm not really sure which site you were looking at, but at http://www.saibaba.org/saibaba.html,, it quite explicitly states that Sai Baba died on October 15, 1918.

I'm also interested in where you found your information on Sai Baba being thoroughly debunked--I couldn't find it. Any help?

Thank you.

Rew

[This message has been edited by Rew (edited February 15, 2001).]
 
Old 02-15-2001, 06:47 PM   #8
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"(2) From that history, tell me how many biographies we have of any individual that was written within 100 years of the death of that person." Nomad


I think you were trying to get at the fact that there is a lot uncertainty in many historical figures (if not all), and yet we still believe in them. Well, I have stated this many times before: if I was told that I HAD to believe in a certain historical figure (say George Washington) or else I was going to hell, then you bet your ass that I would be more likely to explain my agnosticism towards a belief if he really DID exist. Why? Because when you start telling people that you HAVE to believe with absolute certainity that someone REALLY did exist, then many of us who realize the falliblitiy of historical evidence will automatically turn to our skepticism. As it is right now, no one is telling me that I HAVE to believe with absolute certainity taht George Washington existed and THAT is the reason why i am not on this board right now trying to show why the historical evidence for George Washington is fallible. This is an important point, nomad, and I hope you can understand what it is that im trying to get across.


Also, there is an idea that i suscribe to that says "extraordinary events require extraordinary evidence". And we will all admit that anything that is supernatural would be extraordinary. Of course this begs the question, what is supernatural? But lets not go down that road just yet. What I mean is that miraculous events are rarely described as happening. We don't hear too often about men dying and being dead for 3 days, and then rising. Because that is an extraordinary claim (that Jesus did this), then for me, it is going to require MORE evidence than if you were to just make the claim "George Washington regularly attended church on sunday". I hope I'm making myself clear becaues I realize that I am not a philosopher, nor have I really read any philosophical works, and therefore, I am not the best at articulating philosophical ideas like these.
 
Old 02-16-2001, 04:55 AM   #9
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Uh, Michael, I'm not really sure which site you were looking at, but at
http://www.saibaba.org/saibaba.html,, it quite explicitly states that Sai Baba died on October 15, 1918.
I'm also interested in where you found your information on Sai Baba being thoroughly debunked--I couldn't find it. Any help? Any help?


I think you have your Sai Babas confused. The one I refer to is alive, though in his seventies.....

http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Parthenon/1492/ is one site "millions" worship him. I didn't realize it was that many!

http://www.premamusic.com/sai.wwwlinks.html
has links

http://www.stelling.nl/simpos/shree_sai_baba.htm
has a collection of links, including skeptical ones.

Hope this helps!

Michael
 
Old 02-16-2001, 05:26 AM   #10
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Nomad:
Quick quiz to help me know where people are coming from on this thread:

(1) Take history from over 500 years ago. Have you studied this period of time very much?


Exceedingly.

(2) From that history, tell me how many biographies we have of any individual that was written within 100 years of the death of that person.

Zillions. Just looking up on my shelf, for example, sit the following (close) eyewitness histories that are or more or less biographies:

Gregory of Tours' _History of the Franks_
Procopius _Secret History_
Tacitus _The Histories_ (less biography!)
Tacitus _Agricola_
Einhard's _Life of Charlemagne_

I could name others, but I am too lazy to stand up and look. Picking up Tuchman's _A Distant Mirror_ I can see a number of references to journals and biographies.

There are hundreds of biographies of historic personages from Chinese history. When you take people with a penchant for writing, and exile them for years in distant provincial posts with nothing to do, you get lots of verbiage, including very beautiful poetry. Most are available only in classical Chinese,
the so-called wen yan wen, which I read only slowly, so I haven't read any.

(3) From religious histories, how many books or writings do we have of ancient religious figures (outside of Christian or Hebrew Scripture) that was written within 200 years of the life of the person in question (i.e. Buddha, and Greek, Roman, Persian, Babylonian, Egyptian, Celtic, Norse, Chinese, Japanese, or any other mythical culture?

(4) How much do you personally know about ancient history and how we know what we know about the people (especially individual lives) that lived at this time?

Knowing this will help a lot. Thanks.

Nomad
</font>
Nomad, I do not understand why any of this is important to determining Laymen's principles (1) and (2) above. Logically, I need only one example to deflate (2). Realistically, I probably need several. I think I supplied a couple. I can think of several I didn't add to the list, like the Taiping leader and my wife's granduncle, a local Buddhist scholar who is now a local deity in southern Taiwan.
Now, if you want me to list everything I know about the ancient world, that will be quite a list. I am more interested in technology than in hagiography, but I do have about fifty Penguin classics and several other books on ancient individuals. I have lots of stuff on ancient technology and society, China is my personal interest. I am more interested in history than in religion, and that is where my training lies as well. I also have done some archaeological work, though that was many years ago.

As for biographies written in the period within a hundred years of the religious leader's person's death, what does that have to do with anything? Are you trying to claim that Gospels are the only ones? That may be correct, but only if Jesus isn't fictional, which you'll have a difficult time proving.
In any case, I suspect from the Chinese penchant for historical writing, that there must be 00s of biographies and other papers about religious leaders with the same lead time. I'll check later today....

Finally, it is incumbent upon you people to demonstrate the truth of proposition (2) in Layman's post. I have now shown examples that contradict (2) above. I must assume
that since you are peppering me with largely irrelevant questions, you cannot actually demonstrate the truth of (2).

Michael
turton@ev1.net

 
 

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