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Old 03-19-2001, 06:25 PM   #31
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by turtonm:

Nomad: Alright, on the one hand we have the existence of the Roman Empire accounting for Christianity's success in its first 400-500 years (working with your theory), but then the Western Roman Empire collapsed completely in 476, and still without the benefit of all the things you listed Christianity continued to spread throughout Western Europe?

Michael: I'm sorry, I was responding to the comment that respondents had failed to account for the period 0-300. I was under the impression that they had. My post was only intended to cover that period.</font>
Yes, I understand that you were responding to the original 300 year period, but for your theory to actually work, we should see the spread of Christianity being hindered when these favourable conditions were no longer in existence. Since the favourable conditions of a friendly Roman Empire only existed in the Western part of Europe for a relatively brief 150 years (and in the latter part of that period the Western Empire was so decrepit as to be useless politically or militarily), other factors need to be taken into account I think.

In other words, your explanation strikes me as being overly simplistic, and ignores the evidence of continued success by Christian missionaries after the death of the Western Roman Empire.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: Unlike the Muslims, Christian missionaries in this period had no armies, and unlike China when the Buddhists arrived, it didn't have an organized political structure either. So how can you credit the existence of an organized Empire with Christian success on the one hand, then claim that the destruction of this same Empire into the anarchy of the Dark Ages (c. 500-800AD) made Christian success a guarantee?

Michael: I'm not making that claim, as I said.

Buddhist history also affords similar examples of conversion of barbarian kings/tribes. What's the big deal?</font>
Well, for one thing, given the cultural differences of the two areas (China and Europe), if we see something that is exclusive and historically unique to Europe, it is worth studying. At the same time, if peaceful monks from Buddhism and Christianity achieved the same thing in much the same way, then perhaps there is something to their methods worth looking at. Finally, if Christianity did achieve its successes largely without bloodshed (as appears to be the case here), then that puts the lie to the belief that Christianity spread only at the point of the sword. That in itself is a very big admission.

Now we only need to isolate what happened in the first few years of Christianity, and how did the whole thing get going in the first place. In other words, why did this offshoot of Judaism come about at all?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">A common Christian tactic was to convert the monarch and have him force the religion on his people. This was tried and successful in Europe. Christianity also bent to accomodate the new tribes. As I recall, Clovis of the Franks was converted after negotiations of more than a year, which ended in the church accepting his claims to divine status in exchange for his enforcement of Catholicism throughout his realm. The pious story is that his wife converted him.</font>
This is an interesting belief. Do you have any actual texts or history books to support your belief? Without actual quotations, really all we have is a fair bit of second hand recollections and hearsay evidence, without much of a chance to really examine the claims.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> In some areas they simply reconsecrated pagan sites as christian so the people could continue their old beliefs in the new one's name, which would later absorb them. You can see the whole article at Ency. Brit. if you like.</font>
Which article are you referring to Michael? And which period in time is it addressing?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: In neither case did Christians enjoy the benefits of control of the state or large armies to assist in its spread.

Michael: Yes, but you forget that the population of many of those barbarian territories was largely Christian to begin with. The Empire of the Franks was composed of a mixed population of barbarian non-christians and a gallic roman population. There was already a large leaven of Christians. It's less amazing than one might think.</font>
But why would they be Christian at all? If the people only converted out of fear of the government and sanctions, when that power disappeared why wouldn't they just revert back to old practices?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Further, Christianity was backed by armed might during this period, in the form of the church alliance with the Franks that was struck with Clovis and continued through to Charlemagne. Opposing kings were either converted or killed (but usually converted, to be fair).</font>
I'm getting confused. Was the conversion generally a top down process of converting kings first, then the populations, or the populations first, then the kings? I have seen you arguing both sides here.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">As for the atraction, I think having monks around would have had positive benefits, in the form of access to a literacy andeduation, as well as mediation in warfare, and other usueful attributes. Buddhist monks also played these same roles in Central Asia and China.</font>
I would agree with this. On the other hand, why would the most educated tend to be Christians, and the less educated need to be converted?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: I don't think that the Chinese have a concept of a Messiah figure. Your theory here is interesting however. Would you say this is why Buddhism succeeded in China?

Michael: Offhand, I don't know much about the success of Buddhism in China. Both it and Taoism are pretty laid back, and Confucianism is primarily an ethical system which in its later manifestations was concerned more with the citizens duties to the state. There wasn't much that would have actively opposed it, and much that would have welcomed it.</font>
Based on your discription here, it does not sound like Buddhism faced much opposition at all. On this basis it more or less stepped into a theological vaccuum, having failed to achieve similar resulted in the much more theistic Hindu society where it was founded.

This does not sound like the situation for Christianity at all. Rome certainly did not lack gods, and until Constantine the emporer himself thought of himself as divine. Finally, Christians were being persecuted, and had to live outside of legal sanction for about 300 years, while Buddhist monks never faced any real opposition at all.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Michael: Too, one must think of the time. Christianity was hardly the only religion spreading throughout the Roman Empire. And it seems there is some cussedness to humankind that causes some people to convert to any religion, no matter how stupid. Look at the success of Mormonism, the JWs, the Taipings, the Krishnas, the TMers, etc etc.

Nomad: What is your point here please? Christianity wiped out every other religion in the Western World (except Judaism), and anything else that came after it was more or less a branch of Christianity. All of this was done during periods when organized empires did not exist in Europe (i.e. 500-800AD) or when being actively opposed by the Empire that was there (i.e. 33-313AD plus the reign of Julian in 362-3).

Michael: My point referred to the period 0-300, as the original post was addressed. I have addressed the period 500-800 in the area above, and other posters have dealt with Constantine. And organized kingdoms did exist during this period, though naturally much smaller than the Roman Empire.</font>
I have read your original post here Michael, and I am still unclear on your point. Christianity had competion of course. It was the new kid on the block so to speak, and it overwhelmed all other religions young and old alike. Saying all of that only brings me back to my original questions however, since Christianity could not have done this if it was just another run of the mill regular religion.

What was it's core appeal?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: Even when the Church did have official sanction, it seemed to have to protect itself from it's rulers almost as much as when it was officially opposed by these same states (see example of Roman emporers promoting Arianism against Church orthodoxy). Don't you find this even a bit curious?

Michael: Not in the slightest. They went after the kings. Easy as pie. Same thing happened with Buddhists in Central Asia.</font>
You missed the point of my question. When they "got" the kings (like Constantine for example) to convert, very often these kings embraced a heresy of some sort (like Arianism). In spite of this difficulty, orthodox Christianity was the one that emerged triumphant. I would recommend that you read a quick history on Athanasius for example to find out what the Church had to go through. More often than not, having the king or emporer for a friend was a mixed blessing at best.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Remember, you're looking at a 350 year period here. In any given area, that represents 12 kings, at least, with a generous reign for each of 30 years. That's 12 chances. It only takes one conversion.....</font>
Do you have examples throughout history of such simplistic conversion of masses of people? In other words, did kingdoms convert and deconvert on the whim of a king time and again? If not, why not?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: How about when Christians sent out missionaries into hostile countries (without any army to help them) in which the local authorities opposed them?

Michael: The hostile countries already had large christian populations. The really serious struggle was between various church factions and doctrines, such as Arianism.</font>
How many Christians were there in Ireland before St. Patrick? Or England before St. Bede? How about Germany prior to 800AD? Russia prior to the conversion of the Tsars?

Once again I am left to wonder if you see the conversion of Europe as being primarily a top down, or bottom up event.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: Serious question: Were Buddhist monks killed in large numbers by the local Chinese authorities when they were spreading Buddhism around 500 to 100BC?

Michael: Nope. There was a brief pogrom in the Tang, probably the only one I can think of offhand in Chinese history. Why kill monks? If you have more questions, consult the Ency. Brit. They have an extensive article on it.</font>
Why kill monks is a good question. Why did the Roman Empire do this from the time of Nero to Constantine's immediate predecessors?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">The basic problem with your two threads on this topic, Nomad, is that have a "gee whiz! isn't this amazing?" viewpoint caused by their intense ethnocentricism. You are marveling at an artificial construction. There is almost nothing in the spread of Christianity that is not replicated in the missionary work of Buddhists in Asia, save for the use of the sword against unbelievers.</font>
I understand that you do not think that historically unique events are all that interesting Michael, but you have told us in this thread that you do not actually know that much about how Buddhism took over China, and from what you have told us, they did it largely unopposed. So the attempt to make Christian missionary activities and Buddhist ones appears to have faltered on the facts of the case.

You are right, I do find this whole area fascintating, and thus far, I have yet to hear a reasonable historical explanation for the unprecidented conversion of Europe in such a relatively short period of time.

Unique history interests me, and I like exploring the questions to see where they lead me.

Thank you for your response,

Nomad
 
Old 03-19-2001, 06:45 PM   #32
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I’ll admit right away that I’m not an expert on early Christian history, but I do think I can make a few points.

To be honest, I find the reactions of Christians to some of the naturalistic explanations for the resurrection somewhat baffling. Nomad, you dismiss the idea that Joseph of Aramathea might have removed the body as “highly improbable”. OK, some aspects of it do seem rather unlikely, but how much more improbable is it that a man should rise from the dead? To dismiss the former and accept the latter requires quite a leap in logic. Nobody will ever know for certain what happened and “I don’t know” is a valid answer to “what do you think really happened”. We do not need a perfect, provable alternative scenario in order to disbelieve in the resurrection.

However, I will put forward an alternative explanation, which was suggested by A.N. Wilson in his book “Jesus”. The Gospels contain a number of strong hints that Jesus’ family did not exactly see eye to eye with him and his disciples. Every time he is depicted speaking to his family he is almost unfailingly rude to them (e.g. Luke 2:49, John 2:4, Mark 3:33), while they describe him as “out of his mind” (Mark 3:20). Now, we are told that it was the habit of his family to go to Jerusalem for Passover (Luke 2:41), and even if we do not regard Luke’s childhood stories as reliable there is nothing unusual about a Jewish family doing so. So it is quite likely that Jesus’ mother and brothers (and father, if he were still alive) were in Jerusalem at the time of his death. Perhaps they quarreled with his disciples over the burial. Perhaps they wanted to take him home for burial in Galilee. Perhaps once the disciples had taken possession of the body, they removed it from the tomb and took it home. It is even possible that when the women found the tomb empty on the Sunday morning they met some members of Jesus’ family, asked him what had happened to Jesus and were told something along the lines of “we have taken him back to Galilee”. A garbled version of this conversation could have found its way into Mark’s Gospel, and then been further elaborated by Matthew and Luke.

As for the appearances of Jesus to the disciples, well the disordered and contradictory nature of the Gospel accounts strongly suggests that they include a large amount of mythology, but let us assume that, much distorted and elaborated by decades as oral tradition, they do contain some distant memories of actual sightings of Jesus. A peculiar feature of the Gospel narratives is that we are often told that the witnesses did not recognize him at first, and only later realized whom they saw (Luke 24:16, John 20:14, John 21:4). If they were seeing someone with whom they had spent the last three years it would be very surprising had they not recognized him at once, but it could be explained if they had seen someone with a strong physical resemblance to him (e.g. one of his brothers, who we have already seen may well have been in the area, and who the apostles may well not have recognized), and later convinced themselves that they have seen Jesus.

It is important to remember that the fact that some people believe to have seen a dead person does not prove him to be alive. Many people think they have seen the ghost’s of dead friends and relatives, and a brief look at the dottier parts of any bookstore will show that there are people willing to believe them. And these are generally much less credulous times than the 1st century.

Of course, the account I have described is not a watertight explanation, and it certainly cannot be proved. It does not have to be. I simply mean to show that it is possible to construct scenarios which account for most or all of the “known facts” but which do not rely on supernatural explanations. If any resurrection believers would like to pick holes in it I would appreciate if you could explain not only why you think it unlikely, but also why you think it less likely than that a corpse should get up and walk out of a tomb. As far as I am concerned, almost anything is more likely than the latter option.

As for the spread of Christianity through the Roman Empire, I would rather leave the discussion of that to others more versed in ancient history, at least until I have finished The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. I will simply make the point that I cannot see how the truth or falsehood of the resurrection has the slightest bearing on the subject.

Borrowing an argument from Thomas Paine, if I were to go out and say that I had seen a man alive who had recently died, would anyone believe me? A few gullible people might, but most would just laugh at me. Now suppose I really did see a man who had recently died, and went out to tell people, would they believe me? Would people be any more willing to believe me because the story was true? Of course not. How could they know whether it was true? Either way they would have only my word for it. We immediately see, therefore, that the chances of a report of a miracle being believed depend not on the truth or otherwise of the miracle, but on the credibility of the witnesses and the credulity of those to whom it is reported. The success of a religion depends not on its truth or falsehood, but on the power of its message and the missionary skills of its followers.
 
Old 03-19-2001, 06:56 PM   #33
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">
This is an interesting belief. Do you have any actual texts or history books to support your belief? Without actual quotations, really all we have is a fair bit of second hand recollections and hearsay evidence, without much of a chance to really examine the claims.
</font>

I'm surprised you would ask for substantiation here.

I mean, you claimed to have evidence that Christianity succeeded without armies or state institutions. That being the case, shouldn't you already know how the Franks became christianized? And therefore be able to refute turtonm?

Besides, he plainly tells the source for his history; You can see the whole article at Ency. Brit. if you like.. If you have a complaint about the accuracy of anything in that volume, it's encumbent upon you to demonstrate where Britannica is wrong.


 
Old 03-19-2001, 07:13 PM   #34
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Hello all!

This is only to clarify a misconception I caught skimming the thread---

First:
Buddist Monks were persecuted. That's why we have martial arts such as Kung Fu. They designed them as protection from the masses of people who did want to kill them. This was to be used only in self-defense.

Second:
There were plenty of gods in China and Japan et al before the introduction of Buddism, et al. Confucious makes a point of teaching his students about them and their worship.

Third:
St. Patrick was not the first proselytizer to Ireland.

Lastly:
At the turn of the last century, in the US, there were hundreds of sugar coated popcorn treats on the market. By the end of the Depression there was one. Only one sugar coated popcorn treat survived the Depression.

Was it because it was the best? No, it tasted alsmost the same as all other sugar coated popcorn treats made with molasses. Was it because it had peanuts? No, most other sugar coated popcorn treats had some sort of nut as an ingredient. Was it because it cost less? No, it cost the same amount as most other sugar coated popcorn treats. So what made this one sugar coated popcorn treat survive the Depression when all others failed?

A marketing trick. A toy surprise.


I can't help but look at the popular religions the same way. What is Christianity's "toy surprise?" What marketing trick did it use?
 
Old 03-19-2001, 07:25 PM   #35
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by not a theist:

Nomad: First, no one asked to have Jesus taken down early. The only reason we know of as to why he was given to Joseph of A. was because he was thought to already be dead.

nat: First of all, I discount any Biblical reference as to the circumstances under which the request was made to remove Jesus from the cross by Joseph of A.(i.e. the verbal exchange that occured between them)</font>
I'm sorry nat, but I cannot let you off this easy. The historicity of the specific words exchanged between Joseph of A and Pilote is not an issue here, only the actions of the two, and from that we can determine that Jesus was given to Joseph and buried by him in a tomb.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> The only members of the twelve who might have had any first hand knowledge of it were Peter (who seemed to keep a safe distance from events) and the BD (who presumably was not with J. of A.) Any exchange that occured between Pilate and J. of A. would either be speculative or second-hand. I therefore reject the testimony in Mk. 15: 44-45. I would instead suggest that all the reliable testimony we have concerning the circumstances of Jesus' removal from the cross is that J. of A. asked Pilate to have Jesus removed from the cross and Pilate did so.</font>
Here you have simply neglected the evidence offered by the women watching from affair in Mark 15:40-41, as well as the BD and other witnesses in John 19:25. You cannot simply exclude the evidence presented that makes your theory look awkward, or refutes it completely, and at the same time include that which fits your theory.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Concerning Jn 19:34, I don't believe that the BD actually wrote that and have seen it interpreted as being a later redaction. The language of Jn 19:35 is supposedly (I can't find my source but I remember the argument) ambiguous enough that it may suggest second-hand attestation, hence the special emphasis on it being witnessed and true. Presumably it needed additional attestation since it was NOT from the primary author. So I therefore reject 19:34-37 as testimony from an unreliable source.</font>
Same problem here nat. I will need to see a reference from you on this to see if the argument has any strength to it. A quick check of R. Brown's Death of the Messiah, Vol. 2, pgs. 1178-1188 acknowledges the theological significance of the passage, but we cannot rule a passage unhistorical only because it has a theological motif.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Concerning the soldier's motivation for not breaking his legs (Jn. 19:32-33), I don't think the BD asked them , but rather speculated on their reasons. I rather think that they didn't break his legs because J. of A. had already asked for him to be taken down and they were simply doing as they were told (perhaps J. of A. asked also that no more abuse be placed on him).</font>
This is extremely implausible. Pilote was informed that Jesus was dead before granting Joseph of A's request. Someone had to tell him this, and since the question would be a natural one from Pilote to the soldiers, it makes sense that we have this report. The BD did not have to overhear the conversation, again, simple deduction and observation would suffice.

Joseph asked for the body (on the probable grounds that leaving it on the cross was a violation of Jewish laws), both he and Pilote believed that Jesus was dead (based on a report from those at the scene, most likely the soldiers), and Pilote agreed.

I will bring the thread discussing Jesus burial back to the top of the discussion and recommend that you go through it, especially page 2, since it covers all of these points in far greater depth and detail than I can give it here.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: Second, Jesus did not receive any medical care at all. Instead, he was wrapped up in a cloth and put in a tomb with a large stone rolled in front of it.

nat: Well, this is getting more into my argument than I wanted to at this stage but I'll take that one up also. I'm just not sure that's true. Aloes can be used to treat wounds but I can't imagine it being used to preserve a body. (I own a huge aloe plant and sometime use it's leaves to treat burns and cuts to encourage healing.) Do we have any other testimony of aloe being placed on dead bodies? Even if the answer is yes, they at least have both purposes.</font>
See what I mean by selectve use of the evidence? If you reject John 19:35-37, why accept verse 39 except that it fits your theory?

As for what kind of "aloes" John is talking about here, Brown discusses this in DoMV2 pgs. 1262-4, offering three varieties of substance, one of which can be used to as a skin curative. However, he concludes:

"No certainty is possible (as to which type of aloe is being discussed), but the coupling with smyrna makes it likely that John is thinking of two fragrant substances. MOreover, since most biblical allusions to fragrant aloes seem to envision a pulverized substance, the combination incresase the likelihood that John's "myrrh and aloes" in 19:39 is not a reference to oil or ointment, but to dry spices. Accordingly, I have have translated the aroma (pl.) of 19:40 as "spices"-not a third substance but a generic reference to the previously mentioned fragrant, pulverized "myrrh" and "aloes" that would be sprinkled in with and/or over the burial wrapping around Jesus.
(R. Brown, Death of the Messiah, Vol. 2. [New York, 1994] pg. 1263-4)[/i]

As we can see, even the selective use of this piece of evidence is not conclusive for your case that a curative was applied to Jesus' body, thus I would call this a case of resorting to special pleading.

If, however, you have contering quotations please offer them, and we can examine them.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> So, I'm not sure that he couldn't have received treatment. The testimony for what happened when he was brought to the "tomb" seem to depend on the Marys and maybe Nicodemus. How long the Marys stuck around and when they arrived to first see the tomb seems unclear. I accept that saw where it was at least one time before the Resurrection, but when and for how long remains unclear.</font>
While this is true, it is entirely beside the point right now. Since all four Gospels have the women seeing Jesus buried (including being wrapped in a cloth and sealed inside the tomb by a large stone), the evidence that Jesus received no medical treatment is pretty much beyond dispute.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: Third, Jesus had been severely beaten before he was crucified, making his survival even more problematic.

nat: The severity of Jesus' beating is also questionable. Who were the witnesses? Do we know that Josephus' survivor wasn't scourged? He might have also been and survived. (Incidently, I'm not looking for a full recovery for Jesus here, just a survival for some time: I'm not sure yet if it needs to be a couple hours, a few days, or a month yet.)</font>
There is no reason to believe that Jesus would not have been beaten, and these were never nice affairs. Once again you are resorting to special pleading, as well as an argument from silence for Josephus' depiction of his friends' crucifixion. A beating was common for the condemned, but so was the requirement that he carry his own cross beam to his execution. That Jesus was exempted from this requirement, coupled with the extreme embarrassment created by admitting that Jesus was too weak to carry his own cross len credence to this part of the story.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: Fourth, Jesus was stabbed by a spear, and blood and water poured from the wound. This did not happen to any of the men in Josephus' report.

nat: See why I question this in your first point.</font>
As near as I can tell, you reject this part largely because it will make your theory unworkable. We have no reason to believe that the witnesses to the event itself had any medical or other training that would have made it possible for them to construct this accurate description of what happened when Jesus was stabbed. In other words, this knowledge requires specialized knowledge, and is therefore much less likely to be the product of invention.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: Accordingly, interpretations based on the assumption that Jesus did not die on the cross appear to be at odds with modern medical knowledge.

nat: Again, this is highly speculative as to Jesus actual physical condition since the doctor takes the gospel accounts of Jesus treatment at face value- I don't.</font>
If you read the article, you will see that they do not take the accounts at face value as you suppose. The witnesses to these events did not possess the specialized training or knowledge required to construct the events as described. On that basis it is much more probable than not that they were not invented by the Gospel writer or later redactors.

If you are going to reject Gospel testimony, you have to do so on more than the mere fact that the testimony works against your theory.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: ... Jesus' inability to carry his own cross to Golgotha...

nat: Strangely enough John seems to disagree with this (17a). Perhaps John just omits this. I think that it is a stretch to infer that he couldn't take up his cross. Perhaps the guards simply wanted someone else to carry it as a mock servant of the King of the Jews. I don't think we can infer anything from him not carrying his cross.</font>
The reason the historicity of Jesus not carry his own cross is accepted is first on the grounds that his weakness is embarrassing to the early Church (hence the reason we consider the Synoptics more reliable than John here). Further evidence of the histority of the event is given in the way Mark presents Simon of Cyrene, the man who does carry the cross.

Mark 15:21 A certain man from Cyrene, Simon, the father of Alexander and Rufus, was passing by on his way in from the country, and they forced him to carry the cross.

The description of the man as "the father of Alexander and Rufus" strongly suggests that these men were known to Mark and his community (Robin Griffith-Jones, The Four Witnesses, [New York, 2000], pg. 51). Brown agrees with this view (DoMV2, pg. 913-917), as do the majority of scholars, and the historicity of Simon argues powerfully for the historicity of the event with which he is associated.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: ...and the spear piercing his side...

nat: Again see why I dispute this. It has also been suggested that this was actually included in John for theological reasons rather than as a literal event.</font>
As I said before, just because there is a theological motif, this does not automatically mean that it did not happen as described.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: I would say it is far more reasonable (in fact the only reasonable) position to argue that Jesus died on the cross before his body was taken down.

nat: I've explained above why I think an alternative is at least possible.</font>
Anything is possible. We need to confine ourselves to what is most plausible, and thus far the case for Jesus surviving the cross is not good at all.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: Do you have any evidence of someone surviving crucifixion without the benefit of medical treatment, or of the Romans actually botching a crucifixion so that the individual actually survived?

nat: No. How many individual accounts of crucifixion do we have? I'm not an historian so I don't know the statistics but if you do, let me know. </font>
The Romans employed crucifixion for a very long time, and it was the most brutal and humiliating form of execution available to them. Of the thousands of known crucifixions, so far as I am aware, we have only the one account given by Josephus of anyone surviving the cross, and then only under the most extraordinary of circumstances.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Let's see if I've gained any ground here. </font>
I'm afraid not nat. If you have some sources to help support your theories and ideas however, it would help if you could present them. I do not mind offering conjecture and possibilities, but they should at least be supported by some kind of evidence before we treat them as being plausible.

Thank you again, and peace,

Nomad
 
Old 03-19-2001, 08:33 PM   #36
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Omnedon1:

I'm surprised you would ask for substantiation here.

I mean, you claimed to have evidence that Christianity succeeded without armies or state institutions. That being the case, shouldn't you already know how the Franks became christianized? And therefore be able to refute turtonm?</font>
I do have such evidence Omnedon, but notice that Michael made a claim, and I have simply asked for evidence to support his claim. I will do likewise.

I'm sure you do not object to the request for evidence supporting Michaels claims do you?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Besides, he plainly tells the source for his history; You can see the whole article at Ency. Brit. if you like.. If you have a complaint about the accuracy of anything in that volume, it's encumbent upon you to demonstrate where Britannica is wrong.</font>
And all I asked for was an article to look up. This is not hard stuff Omnedon, so relax.

Michael won't let you down.

Nomad
 
Old 03-19-2001, 08:47 PM   #37
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">...from that we can determine that Jesus was given to Joseph and buried by him in a tomb.</font>
I thought I had already stipulated that Jesus was given to Joseph. I also agree that he was taken to a tomb.
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Here you have simply neglected the evidence offered by the women watching from affair in Mark 15:40-41, as well as the BD and other witnesses in John 19:25. </font>
I think you misunderstood me. I was only discounting them as privy to any possible conversation between J. of A. and Pilate. I grant that they were present at least at some points in the crucifixion though I think they did leave the immediate area before he was taken down, perhaps watching from afar. I was merely trying to eliminate them from witnesses to the conversation with Pilate. So take back your charge on at least this point. (Don't worry, you'll still get to charge me with it later on other points )(Actually, re-reading what I wrote, I see how you understood it that way.)
Jn. 19:34-35: I've looked and can't find my reference. I still maintain that the language is awkward in v.35 (read it!) compared to the surrounding verses and see no reason for the author to specify that this was an eyewitness account (unless it came from a questionable source) since presumably the other elements of the narrative were also. I take the 'He who saw it' in v. 35 to be referring to someone other than the BD. I take the 'his testimony is true' to be an interpolation by either the BD or the first redactor. And I take v.35 to refer specifically to refer to the events of v. 34 only. (Actually, I'm not sure that it's not referring to a third-hand witness!) I'm not saying that this is the only possible reading, just that it can be read this way. Let me counter: prove it is historical. We really don't know that it is and it's awkwardness is sufficient grounds for me to question it coupled with the theological motivations for including it. I know you counter that someone without sufficient medical knowledge could not have invented it, but perhaps it was written by someone who had seen it happen, just not to Jesus. He may have witessed this type of stabbing before. Couple this with the theological reasons for including it and it makes it sufficiently questionable in my mind to doubt. I'm not saying that I can prove it isn't historical. But my proving each of my assertions wasn't the point of this whole little exercise, merely to construct an alternative narrative. In fact I stipulated in my first post in this thread that I be allowed to introduce elements which were 'hypothetical, speculative, improbable (but then again how improbable is resurrection from the dead) and undocumented'.
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Pilate was informed that Jesus was dead before granting Joseph of A's request.</font>
I thought we had already established that "The historicity of the specific words exchanged between Joseph of A and Pilote is not an issue here". So how do we know what Pilate was informed of. Who was standing there to hear Pilate informed of anything? You're not asking me to assume that the BD was with J. of A. are you?
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">The BD did not have to overhear the conversation, again, simple deduction and observation would suffice.</font>
I think that whoever deduced it deduced wrong.
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I will bring the thread discussing Jesus burial back...</font>
I'll read through it and perhaps liven it up (or have to come up with a new theory. )
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">See what I mean by selectve use of the evidence? If you reject John 19:35-37, why accept verse 39 except that it fits your theory?</font>
I do that sometimes, but really that's not my reason for rejecting that particular passage. I accept 38ff. even though the myrrh in 39 would tend to contradict my theory. (Myrhh IS used for dead bodies). I really do reject vv. 34-35 because of the argument I've heard which was convincing at the time concerning the grammatical structure. I'll keep trying to find/remember the source.
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">...even the selective use of this piece of evidence is not conclusive for your case that a curative was applied to Jesus' body, thus I would call this a case of resorting to special pleading.</font>
I never said it was conclusive. I'm trying to construct an alternative explanation that's possible not certain. Of course it's special pleading. I don't even say it's probable. I just think it's more probable than being raised from the dead.
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Since all four Gospels have the women seeing Jesus buried...</font>
Mark has them seeing the tomb not the burial. We can infer that they saw the events before v.47, but it doesn't say they did. And I don't see them at the tomb in John at all before the Resurrection. I do, however stipulate that they saw the tomb at least once before the Resurrection and that he was in it when they saw it.
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Once again you are resorting to special pleading, as well as an argument from silence for Josephus' depiction of his friends' crucifixion. A beating was common for the condemned...</font>
I cite Nomad for my evidence. "A beating was common for the condemned." I therefore infer that it is perfectly reasonable to think that Josephus' friends were also beaten.
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">...coupled with the extreme embarrassment created by admitting that Jesus was too weak to carry his own cross ...</font>
Show me where his weakness was mentioned. Otherwise you're begging the question on whether he was too weak. (i.e. If they say he was too weak, he must have been too weak; and if they don't say he was too weak, he must have been too weak )
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">The reason the historicity of Jesus not carry his own cross is accepted...</font>
I grant that he didn't carry it all the way. I dispute the reason he didn't. If you argue weakness it will be an argument from silence. In fact, I think it more likely he could have survived not having to wear himself out carrying his cross!

P.S. I read the 'Was Jesus Worth Burying..." thread and am still not backing down from this theory. I still think this is a workable theory.



[This message has been edited by not a theist (edited March 20, 2001).]
 
Old 03-19-2001, 09:46 PM   #38
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Iain Simpson:

To be honest, I find the reactions of Christians to some of the naturalistic explanations for the resurrection somewhat baffling. Nomad, you dismiss the idea that Joseph of Aramathea might have removed the body as “highly improbable”. OK, some aspects of it do seem rather unlikely, but how much more improbable is it that a man should rise from the dead?</font>
Hi Iain, and thank you for the reply

Please remember that I am focussing only on naturalistic explanations, and assuming that the supernatural ones did not happen.

In this scenario, we merely look at the naturualistic scenarios and test their plausibility. On this basis, we are not comparing it against whether or not Jesus rose from the dead. The weight of the evidence tells us that it is extremely unlikely that Joseph of Arimathea was either an invention, or that he removed the body. On that basis, we need to be very cautious before accepting the belief that he might have done this, and after elimnating it as a reasonable possibility, keep looking for other options. If none of them account for what happened, then we will be left with "not knowing" being the best answer available to us.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> To dismiss the former and accept the latter requires quite a leap in logic. Nobody will ever know for certain what happened and “I don’t know” is a valid answer to “what do you think really happened”. We do not need a perfect, provable alternative scenario in order to disbelieve in the resurrection. </font>
I agree. My purpose on this thread has not been to threaten anyone. I only want to hear their views and thoughts.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">However, I will put forward an alternative explanation, which was suggested by A.N. Wilson in his book “Jesus”.

{Snip theory that the family may have taken the body for a second burial}</font>
While this is a definite possibility, it remains unlikely that Jews would have handled the body (even of a family member) on the Sabbath. This kind of ritual uncleanliness (and remember, it is both the Sabbath and the Passover) would have made such action before the ending of the Sabbath anethama to these individuals.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">As for the appearances of Jesus to the disciples, well the disordered and contradictory nature of the Gospel accounts strongly suggests that they include a large amount of mythology, but let us assume that, much distorted and elaborated by decades as oral tradition, they do contain some distant memories of actual sightings of Jesus. A peculiar feature of the Gospel narratives is that we are often told that the witnesses did not recognize him at first, and only later realized whom they saw (Luke 24:16, John 20:14, John 21:4). If they were seeing someone with whom they had spent the last three years it would be very surprising had they not recognized him at once, but it could be explained if they had seen someone with a strong physical resemblance to him (e.g. one of his brothers, who we have already seen may well have been in the area, and who the apostles may well not have recognized), and later convinced themselves that they have seen Jesus.</font>
I agree that the difficulty in recognizing Jesus is hard to explain, and suggests both that it was unexpected to see him (not unreasonable since they think he is dead), and that he may have undergone a kind of change in his appearance.

What I disagree with is the idea that the oral tradition could have been seriously corrupted in such a short period of time. Even granting that 2 or 3 generations elapsed between the death of Jesus, and the writing of the Gospels, the tradition from Paul (which closely mirrors that found in the Gospels) was handed down to the apostle within 3 years of the events in question. Further, the oral traditions within Jewish circles was very highly developed, and we have no evidence that such traditions were modified in any significant form in such a relatively short period of time (of even a few decades).

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">It is important to remember that the fact that some people believe to have seen a dead person does not prove him to be alive. Many people think they have seen the ghost’s of dead friends and relatives, and a brief look at the dottier parts of any bookstore will show that there are people willing to believe them. And these are generally much less credulous times than the 1st century.</font>
Considering the lengths both Paul and the disciples went to assure their readers that Jesus was not a ghost, they must be assumed to be very aware of this objection. Jesus makes a point of demonstrating his physicallity in the resurrection accounts.

And as for these days being less credulous than the ancient past, I do not believe that this is actually the case. If anything, we appear to be very conditioned to accept the most bizarre accounts of things like UFO's, the supernatural, X-File type events and the like. I think credulity levels are pretty constant through the ages.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Of course, the account I have described is not a watertight explanation, and it certainly cannot be proved. It does not have to be. I simply mean to show that it is possible to construct scenarios which account for most or all of the “known facts” but which do not rely on supernatural explanations.</font>
Few accounts of anything in history are water tight or invincible to counter arguments Iain. At most, we can only hope to account for the events we do know, and come up with the most plausible explanation that best explains them.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> If any resurrection believers would like to pick holes in it I would appreciate if you could explain not only why you think it unlikely, but also why you think it less likely than that a corpse should get up and walk out of a tomb. As far as I am concerned, almost anything is more likely than the latter option.</font>
I agree, and interestingly, so did almost everyone that lived at the time of Jesus. Remember that people have been scoffing at this story for 2000 years now, and its durability is quite remarkable, even if you do not believe it.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">As for the spread of Christianity through the Roman Empire, I would rather leave the discussion of that to others more versed in ancient history, at least until I have finished The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire.</font>
Just a suggestion here Iain, and while Gibbons work is a classic, it is seriously out of date, and contains a good many flaws. You may want to look up some more current histories (there are plenty out there from scpetics and atheists like Gibbons).

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> I will simply make the point that I cannot see how the truth or falsehood of the resurrection has the slightest bearing on the subject.</font>
Well, if the Resurrection is true, it has a dramatic bearing on everything we are talking about, but it is not the subject I wanted to address in this thread in any event.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Borrowing an argument from Thomas Paine, if I were to go out and say that I had seen a man alive who had recently died, would anyone believe me? A few gullible people might, but most would just laugh at me. Now suppose I really did see a man who had recently died, and went out to tell people, would they believe me? Would people be any more willing to believe me because the story was true? Of course not. How could they know whether it was true? Either way they would have only my word for it. We immediately see, therefore, that the chances of a report of a miracle being believed depend not on the truth or otherwise of the miracle, but on the credibility of the witnesses and the credulity of those to whom it is reported. The success of a religion depends not on its truth or falsehood, but on the power of its message and the missionary skills of its followers.</font>
While I agree that the conviction of the followers is critical to being believed, I do have a basic faith in human nature that we test the truth over time, and each individual and generation comes to an approximation of the truth that makes it possible for them to know what it is.

That is my faith in human nature, but I think it has been born out by experience and history as a whole.

Peace,

Nomad
 
Old 03-20-2001, 12:39 AM   #39
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[Iain Simpson:]
To be honest, I find the reactions of Christians to some of the naturalistic explanations for the resurrection somewhat baffling. Nomad, you dismiss the idea that Joseph of Aramathea might have removed the body as “highly improbable”. OK, some aspects of it do seem rather unlikely, but how much more improbable is it that a man should rise from the dead?

[Nomad:]
... The weight of the evidence tells us that it is extremely unlikely that Joseph of Arimathea was either an invention, or that he removed the body. ...

[LP:]
WHAT evidence??? Has Nomad discovered Joseph of Arimathea's memoirs???

[Nomad:]
What I disagree with is the idea that the oral tradition could have been seriously corrupted in such a short period of time.

[LP:]
There is an abundance of counterevidence to that proposition -- cases of people believed to have done miracles despite their claims to have done no such thing. Furthermore, his followers have plenty of motive to exaggerate and embellish accounts of JC's life and "death". Furthermore, the contradictions between the various resurrection accounts suggest that those embellishments had been done at least semi-independently.

I'm sure that Nomad believes that the accounts of Apollonius of Tyana's miracles and resurrection are pure fiction; in fact, he often seems to presuppose that miracles cannot occur outside of the Bible, and uses that presupposition to judge the historicity of A of T's supposed miracles.

[Nomad:]
Considering the lengths both Paul and the disciples went to assure their readers that Jesus was not a ghost, they must be assumed to be very aware of this objection. Jesus makes a point of demonstrating his physicallity in the resurrection accounts.

[LP:]
JC had been a divinity in most of Paul's letters, with some "human" elements, though possibly not as many as possessed by the typical Olympian deity. Earl Doherty discusses this question in gory detail -- he's well worth reading.

[Iain Simpson on rising from the dead being very unlikely...]

[Nomad:]
I agree, and interestingly, so did almost everyone that lived at the time of Jesus. Remember that people have been scoffing at this story for 2000 years now, and its durability is quite remarkable, even if you do not believe it.

[LP:]
Scoffing? Which scoffing? Like the way that Nomad scoffs at the miracles of Apollonius of Tyana? Not to mention just about every other miracle outside of the Bible?

And I'd be hard-pressed to call the story "durable" when its official advocates had been known to burn people at the state for minute doctrinal differences for much of the last 2000 years.

I'm not sure what Nomad calls the homoousia-homoiousia controversy; that was a controversy over whether the Father and the Son have the same or similar essences. Now those willing to fight vicious fights over such theological details are not likely to be interested in careful examinations of the
question of whether JC had really risen from the dead.

[Nomad:]
While I agree that the conviction of the followers is critical to being believed, I do have a basic faith in human nature that we test the truth over time, and each individual and generation comes to an approximation of the truth that makes it possible for them to know what it is.

[LP:]
That does not seem very much like being willing to burn people at the stake for minute theological differences, as had happened for much of Christianity's history.
 
Old 03-20-2001, 01:11 AM   #40
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I don't know what happened with Jesus during/after crucifixion.

Now, as for what MAY have happened... I think the following link goes into all the gory details to much greater extent than I'd be capable of doing. Richard Carrier calculates that there's a 0.7% chance Jesus survived. A slim chance, to be sure, but hardly miraculous

http://www.infidels.org/library/mode...ier/jesus.html
 
 

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