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Old 04-26-2001, 09:24 PM   #31
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Toto:

Nomad, you are getting silly. You can falsify Doherty's theory if you could show that the Greek term "kata sarka" (commonly used in Paul's writings, translated usually as "in the flesh") always refers to physical existence, rather than having mystical or occult refernces, as Doherty argues.</font>
Your reasoning is logically unsound Toto. We do not have to prove that the Greek term "kata sarka" always refers to a physical existence, but rather that it could be used in this manner. After all, many expressions have multiple possible interpretations, and insisting that they can have only one meaning is a serious misunderstanding of the rules of linguistics.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Or you could falsify the theory by finding one pre-Mark author who unambiguously refers to human characteristics of Jesus, in terms that could not equally well apply to a spiritual or mythic being.</font>
We already have this in Paul (at a minimum), and I will happily get into this discussion with anyone that wishes to disagree with this idea. I will do so with Doherty if and when he appears, or any other who wishes to take the same position. Do you wish to defend this idea?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Or you could examine Doherty's evidence and just find it wanting, and conclude that the question of Jesus's existence is unknowable.</font>
Yes, and I am going through this now. That is why I started the Putting Together the Jesus Puzzle thread. As I do so, I can and will also argue that we can be more certain that Jesus did exist than that we cannot know that he existed. Our choices are to accept that Jesus did exist, that He did not exist, or that we cannot know if He existed. Do not reject any of these positions until you have examined all of the evidence.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">As you have found out, there are very few people committed to the idea that Jesus was a mythical being, but there are a lot of people interested in examining the argument.</font>
I have always known that the great majority of people reject the argument that Jesus never existed at all. At the same time, such people do exist, and I have asked one of them to step forward and defend their arguments. I continue to hope that Doherty will do this, recognizing that he is a very busy person right now.

As for everyone else, I only hope that they will continue to research this question, ask questions, offer their arguments and opinions, and be prepared to defend them. I cannot ask more than this of anyone, and will do this myself.

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Old 04-26-2001, 10:51 PM   #32
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by PhysicsGuy:

Brian: I have a favour to ask however: As the discussion occurs, ask yourself how the various conspiracy theories, circular arguments, arguments from silence and special pleading employed by the mythers could be falsified.

Ethan: You have such a strange psuedo-friendly way with words. I could also ask you to consider how your views on Jesus could be falsified.</font>
I have and do constantly consider methods by which Christianity could be falsified for me. I consider it to be a valid point. At the same time, we must not consider all arguments to be equally valid, nor that any and all counter arguments be given equal weight. Some are better than others, and the reason that I have traditionally not bothered to argue with Jesus Mythers is that I do see them as the equivalent of the Young Earth Creationists. I give the idea that Jesus never existed the same level of credence I give to the assertion that Mohammed, or Shakespeare were inventions, and believe that for anyone that seriously studies history, it is not rationally defensible to argue against the historicity of such individuals. The reasons I believe this will become more apparent as the debate with Doherty proceeds.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Falsification is a popular concept due to its powerful use in formal logic, and also in science. However, even in science it loses some of its charm. There are always anomalous results and you won't find us tossing a theory just because it gets 'falsified' by an experiment. You look at how much evidence supports the theory and how much doesn't, and you decide how good your theory is, and try to find one to fits all the data.</font>
I can certainly live with these rules, and will look only at where the preponderance of evidence takes us. For example, the reasoning you have used above is one of the methods I have employed to reject the assumption that if the Bible is not 100% right in all of its details, it must be wrong, or useless to use it as evidence of anything.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">We have the same situation here, but it is a lot worse. We are not dealing with repeatable experiments and we are certainly not dealing with processes that can be described by mathematical formulas.</font>
Here you are merely pointing out the difference between a hard science like biology or physics, and the softer science of history or the humanities. The fact that we cannot have 100% certainty in an historical claim does not, however, make the claim automatically false. Such reductionist and deconstructionist beliefs would literally make history unknowable to us, and I reject such beliefs.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">The evidence we have has been passed down through many copies with unknown amounts of additions and changes. The dates and authors are unknown and many of the methods used to date them are not that accurate.</font>
While all of this is true, none of it really matters nearly as much as many people believe. Textual criticism arose as a science to help us determine is documents had been redacted or interpolated beyond recognition. In other words, has the text been tampered with, but we can still know what it said at its core, or has it been fabricated or altered beyond recognition? These questions are answerable, but if we reject all of the methods (largely because we do not understand how they work), then we will be admitting that we don't really know anything about history (beyond the bare bones of archeology).

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">...If you found clear use of 'circular reasoning', then this would be relevant. My experience, though, is that the phrase 'circular reasoning' gets thrown up far too often. In most cases, someone is simply trying to see that two ideas are consistent, not that one 'proves' the other which 'proves' the other and so on.</font>
Refer back to my example please. On the one hand, it is asserted that Paul (and other NT and Early Father sources) never speaks of Jesus as an actual historical person. He then tells us that when they actually do talk about Him as an historical person, they are merely giving him "human characteristics". To be honest, I do not see how this argument can be refuted. Each time I (or others) will bring forward an example where Jesus is referred to as being historical, the sceptic is merely going to have to say "ah, that is another case where they gave him 'human characteristics'" and the argument will be over.

Do you see a way out of this dilemna? Is there a means by which we could convince the committed myther that he is in error?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">All Biblical scholars, no matter what their view, propose a theory and put together the evidence that supports their theory.</font>
I do not know how many Biblical scholars you have read, but this is actually backwards to what takes place. For example, the best of these scholars will look at the evidence first, and then draw their conclusions, and show why the evidence supports their view. With a conspiracy theorist, or a committed dogmatist, they will formulate the theory first, and then make the evidence fit their theories. This is how you will see circular reasoning, and special pleading, and claims of conspiracies, and arguments from silence. The argument will then look compelling, but once exposed to the light, it melts like a mirage.

Allow me to give an example. Assume that you have met a man that tells you that he is the King of England, and that everyone in the world has conspired together to deprive him of his rightful crown. How would you convince him that he is in error, and that he is not really the king of England?

With the Jesus Mythers, you will find the same difficulty. It will be my job to demonstrate how this happens, of course, and to identify the fundamental problem with the arguments and logic of the myther, but I assure you, and the same time, the myther's arguments will be internally consistent, and even compelling if examined in isolation.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Critics point out evidence against the theory, and proponents of the theory find ways to understand the 'difficult' evidence so that it remains consistent with their theory. The 'Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties' comes to mind, and this large volume was written with the clear purpose of showing that the contents of the Bible and the view that it is the inerrant Word of God are consistent.</font>
I have no patience with trying to prove that every single element of the Bible is consistent. Nor do I find the arguments that everything in the Bible can be proven as a fact. Such naive claims ignore the role that faith plays in our beliefs. Thus, for example, I will never argue that any of the miraculous claims of the Bible (i.e. the virgin birth of Jesus, the Resurrection, countless miracles) can be proven to have happened. I believe that they happened, and I do trust (most of) the evidence for them. But that does not make them proven historically. Much of what we know about history must be accepted on faith.

That said, things in history can be proven to be more (or even overwhelmingly more) likely to have been historical. On the question of "Did Jesus exist?" we have this ability, and I will demonstrate that.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">How is this different than Doherty's attempt at showing that Paul's references to Jesus as human can be understood in terms of Jesus performing a saving act in the lower 'fleshly' spiritual realm in a way similar to the gods and personalities of Greek mystery religions?</font>
To begin with, you have to start with the assumption that Paul is talking about the spirit realm to make this argument work. Once you accept this premise, then it works perfectly, but it is also perfectly circular.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Perhaps you've read his article No. 8?</font>
With all due respect, I am going to avoid arguing by links. I have read Doherty's arguments, and I have debated them in the past. If he (or another) shows up, I will debate it again. My purpose will be to help the readers to understand why those that have studied these questions seriously have rejected Doherty's views. Each reader will draw his or her own conclusions about how convincing my arguments are, of course, but I believe that the weight of the evidence will be very convincing to most. At the same time, I will try, as much as is possible, not to make arguments in which I will tell readers that they must first read this or that web site or book before they can really understand the argument itself. My experience has told me that if an argument is truly that involved and comlex, that one cannot adequately summarize it and defend it in something like a post, then they have not thought through the arguments sufficiently yet.

BTW, this is not meant to be a personal attack. I know that for many here this is the first time that they have seriously examined the historicity of Jesus. I will assure you that the questions that will need to be asked and answered are no where nearly complex enough to require a university level education to understand. Perhaps as an analogy, you might appreciate how a scientist like Stephen Jay Gould disassembles the arguments of the Young Earth Creationists, and does it in a language that the rest of us can actually understand. That is what I hope to achieve here. (IOW, beware of overly complex and convoluted arguments! If we can't make our most basic beliefs comprehensible to others, we are in a great deal of trouble. ).

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Brian: In other words, if a myther says that Paul never talks about an historical in the flesh Jesus, except when he does obviously talk about an historical in the flesh Jesus.

Ethan: Your statements are painfully loaded.

Clearly Doherty doesn't think that the phrases are obvious at all.</font>
I know this, but watch the next argument, and then put it in some context of other arguments you have participated in.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">In many cases, he points out that English translations are done by those who already have an assumption about what the verses mean and this shows itself in the translation.</font>
Carefully consider the problem here. Jesus is believed to be historical by the vast majority of people of all languages (many of them extremely well educated BTW), and none of whom read a word of English. IF this was only a question of English translators with a built in bias that colours their translations, then maybe we would be on to something here. But what about translations done in virtually every other language of the earth? Many of them were done from the original Greek and Hebrew and Aramaic. Further, how plausible that all of the translators are/were involved in this grand conspiracy to make Jesus look historical when obviously (according to Doherty) He was not historical? Worst of all, since none of the authors of the NT (outside of the Gospels and Acts of course) didn't believe that Jesus was historical, or at least, never wrote about Him as if He was. How in the world did every scholar that ever studied the NT (right up to the present day), miss this? Are all of them conspiring together? Is it really credible to believe this?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Some of his reasoning certainly seems stretched, and reminds me of the kind of reasoning I see in Christian apologetics quite often (at least in the fundamentalist camps).</font>
If this is the case (and I hope that it is), then I hope that this is a very big red flag for you. Special pleading, conspiracy theories and arguments from silence are big warning signs of logical fallacies (or at a minimum, great faith) in action.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Overall, however, I find his case rather convincing and I look forward to the upcoming debate, if and when it happens.</font>
Have you heard from Doherty since our last exchange? He has not been on the JesusMysteries discussion board since the 18th, so he may be busy. I have not received any letters from him as of yet.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Brian: In the latter case, this will be chalked up to giving Jesus "human characteristics" and such. How exactly could we demonstrate to the myther that his argument cannot be falsified?

Ethan: I would simply suggest dropping the falsification bit. If something turns up that clearly falsifies the view, then this will be obvious. Simply showing that you can find the phrase 'according to the flesh' doesn't falsify the Jesus-myth concept.</font>
I am not just talking about the "according to the flesh" statements here Ethan. There are a great number of statements that will show ah historical and real Jesus. Each can be called an example of giving Jesus "human characteristics", however. In fact, anything said about anyone can be chalked up to merely giving them human characteristics. That is why I asked if there is an answer to this circular argument.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Like any good Biblical scholar, examine the Greek, and examine the context in which the phrase is used. In some cases, as discussed in article No. 8, assuming the passage refers to a human Jesus leads to other serious difficulties that don't make sense given the point Paul is trying to make.</font>
The difficulties are manufactured to fit the theory. For example, just because Paul wants to connect Jesus Christ to Hebrew Scripture does not mean that Paul is only talking about a mythical being. When Jackie Kennedy said that she felt like she was living in Camelot, I am sure that she was not suggesting the John Kennedy did not exist. Sometimes people want to present parallels, and without question Paul wanted to show how the Hebrew Bible pointed to Jesus as the Messiah. Since this is exactly what we would expect a Jew arguing for his version of the Messiah to do, then we should not be overly anxious to use this as evidence that Jesus was a mythical construct.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">If Doherty joins us, please take his views seriously and at least pretend that you don't think they are as silly as you suggest they are in this thread.</font>
If I may, when you see a young earth creationist, do you treat his or her arguments seriously? I treat the Jesus-Mythers as having as much credibility as the Holocaust denier and the YEC people. I did not form this view lightly, and even if I were to deconvert, and become an agnostic (or even an atheist), I would need to see far more than what I have seen from the likes of Freke, Gandy, Wells (who no longer is a myther BTW) or Doherty.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Brian: ...Clearly if we could offer even ONE example of Jesus being referred to by an NT author as someone who "lived, taught, performed miracles, suffered and died at the hands of human authorities" then one would think that this statement had been proven false. Yet Doherty will reject this completely (as he must, or his arguments quickly begin to collapse). In your estimation, is this sound reasoning on his part?

Ethan: Really, Nomad, do you think that Doherty is an idiot?</font>
No, I do not think that he is an idiot. Nor do I think that all YEC people are idiots. My own pastor is a young earth creationist, and I have argued with him until the wee hours of the morning, and pulled out every argument I can (including Biblical quotes), and he remains unmoved. Like Doherty's commitment to the Jesus Myth, my pastor's faith is intertwined with his belief in a young earth. He told me that disproving the young earth would cause him to give up his belief in God.

Clearly, given this level of faith, I am not going to convince my pastor that the earth is very very old. At the same time, Doherty's professional reputation rests on his remaininga committed Jesus Myther. He literally cannot give it up and remain credible. Therefore I will not try to convince him that he is wrong. I can, however, demonstrate to others that he is very wrong.

Therefore, like you, I hope that he will come here and present and defend his case.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Doherty will agree with your concerns. Anyone who is defending a theory has to deal with evidence against their theory. He is as aware as anyone else that anything that points to a Jesus that clearly lived and died as fully human on Earth in the recent past would destroy his argument, and that is why he deals quite a bit with the verses that seem to imply that this happened.</font>
I will agree that he attempts to cover many of his bases. As to whether or not he adequately addresses the evidence, that is a separate matter, and a question that each person that watches him debate must decide for him or her self.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I understand that you disagree with Doherty, but he plays the game fairly. He willingly faces all the difficulties of his theory and he does his best to show that his theory holds in spite of the difficulties. And if his theory in fact does hold well through all the difficulties but one, does this mean we throw away his theory as junk?</font>
Given the extent of his claims, and the finality contained in them, then yes, if we demonstrate that he is wrong in one major assumption or argument, everything collapses like a house of cards.

Allow me to offer one more quick example:

In the 1800's it became very fashionable to claim that the Gospel of John was both gnostic, and was not written until the late 2nd Century (c. 180AD). Two things happened:

First, we found a fragment (p52) that was from the Gospel of John, and if definitely dated to c. 125-150AD. The argument for the late date was obliterated, and dating was moved to 90-95AD (or earlier).

Second, the Qumran find of the Dead Sea Scrolls showed that people that were wiped out in 68AD (and who wrote from 150BC to 50BC) held many of the same beliefs as did John in his gospel. Since the Essene community at Qumran is universally accepted as having been pre-gnostic, and non-gnostic, this argument also had to be rejected.

Now, the arguments that Jesus is a mythical creations date back to this same period of time (first advanced about 1877), and have been debunked time and again by serious scholars of many languages and cultures, and beliefs. Christian, Jewish, agnostic and atheist scholars agree that Jesus existed. They may agree on little else (go figure, such is the nature of scholarly debate), but basic agreement that he lived and died are not seriously offered. There is good reason for this, and again, we will cover this off when the debate begins.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> If we don't do it in physics, why do it here? Especially if there are potential explanations for the existence of an anomalous result, such as with Josephus' references of Jesus, which Doherty considers to be later insertions. Of course this is rather convenient to his view. After all, if Josephus in fact wrote about Jesus as a human, then Doherty's ideas are quite adequately falsified. It would seem hard to squirm out of that one.</font>
First, I agree that Jospehus' references would make the case for an historical Jesus even better, but I do not think that it would be sufficient to stop the mythers. As you may have seen with the debate about Tacitus' reference to Jesus (c. 115AD), they could easily write off the references as too late to be of any value. After all, no one argues that Josephus actually met Jesus. That was not possible.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> However, there is already great doubt about the contents of the Jesus passages in Josephus.</font>
And here you will see that there is only doubt about one passage, and then, only as to how much it was modified later on.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Brian: After all, if clear statements that contradict one of his principle theories is rejected by Doherty, then how would we go about disproving his theory? My understanding is that good scientific methodology requires that a theory be falsifiable. If this is not possible, then we must classify it as a matter of faith, but not as solid demonstrable truth. Would you agree with this?

Ethan: Yes, faith enters into everything, but in different degrees. Would you agree that your beliefs about the Bible are not solid demonstrable truth?</font>
Yes I do.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Can your views be falsified?</font>
The most important ones can be, yes.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Brian: Thank you again Ethan, and I do hope that Doherty will make the time to defend himself here. At the same time, if that is not possible, then I hope that some other will at least make the effort on his behalf.

Ethan: I also hope that Doherty or someone else will take the time. If not, I hope you get used to my partially-researched posts and pleas to go read Doherty's stuff. I know this is 'against the rules' but I do what I can with the knowledge I currently have and the limited time I have to spend.</font>
I appreciate the time you are taking here. In the meantime, could you let me know if Doherty is still corresponding with you, and when he hopes to begin the debate? Also, could you ask him if he still plans to write to me?

Thank you.

Brian (Nomad)
 
Old 04-27-2001, 12:07 AM   #33
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Nomad:

Your reasoning is logically unsound Toto. We do not have to prove that the Greek term "kata sarka" always refers to a physical existence, but rather that it could be used in this manner. After all, many expressions have multiple possible interpretations, and insisting that they can have only one meaning is a serious misunderstanding of the rules of linguistics.
</font>
Nomad, you are in no position to give me guidance on logic or linguistics.

If you can prove that kata sarka has only one meaning in Koine Greek, that it always refers to physical flesh and never to some metaphorical flesh, you would undercut almost all of Doherty's thesis. If you can't do this, you leave open the possibility that Paul's references to Jesus were references to a spirit.

And what rule of linguistics says that a phrase always has multiple meanings? Humpty Dumpty's rule? Did you pay your dictionary extra so words would mean what you want them to? That's how you debate?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Toto: Or you could falsify the theory by finding one pre-Mark author who unambiguously refers to human characteristics of Jesus, in terms that could not equally well apply to a spiritual or mythic being.

Nomad: We already have this in Paul (at a minimum), and I will happily get into this discussion with anyone that wishes to disagree with this idea. I will do so with Doherty if and when he appears, or any other who wishes to take the same position. Do you wish to defend this idea? </font>
Doherty's argument is that Paul's references to Jesus are all references to a mythical or spiritual being. I will wait for you to debate with him over that issue.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Toto: Or you could examine Doherty's evidence and just find it wanting, and conclude that the question of Jesus's existence is unknowable.

Nomad: Yes, and I am going through this now. That is why I started the Putting Together the Jesus Puzzle thread. As I do so, I can and will also argue that we can be more certain that Jesus did exist than that we cannot know that he existed. Our choices are to accept that Jesus did exist, that He did not exist, or that we cannot know if He existed. Do not reject any of these positions until you have examined all of the evidence.</font>
There is no real evidence. There are hearsay accounts written by people who probably were not writing straight history, which contain so many obvious mythic elements and literary conventions, that the only reasonable stance is to say that the existence of a person named Jesus is just not knowable, or at least not provable.

I suspect that you are 100% certain of Jesus' existence, because you have had some extra-historical experience with your religion. If it were not for this, what percentage probability would you assign to Jesus' existence? 51%? 95%? The evidence, after all, is not the sort of evidence that would stand up in a court of law.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Toto: As you have found out, there are very few people committed to the idea that Jesus was a mythical being, but there are a lot of people interested in examining the argument.

Nomad:I have always known that the great majority of people reject the argument that Jesus never existed at all. At the same time, such people do exist, and I have asked one of them to step forward and defend their arguments. I continue to hope that Doherty will do this, recognizing that he is a very busy person right now...[/B]</font>
I am not sure why you are so intent on this. Why is someone who thinks Jesus never existed more of a threat to you than someone who thinks Jesus was a mere mortal?


[This message has been edited by Toto (edited April 27, 2001).]

[This message has been edited by Toto (edited April 27, 2001).]
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Old 04-27-2001, 01:02 PM   #34
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Is there an easy way to reply without doing a lot of cutting, pasting, and deleted strange unwanted spaces in a case like this? Hitting the reply button simply gives me your last paragraph.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad:
I have and do constantly consider methods by which Christianity could be falsified for me. I consider it to be a valid point. At the same time, we must not consider all arguments to be equally valid, nor that any and all counter arguments be given equal weight. Some are better than others, and the reason that I have traditionally not bothered to argue with Jesus Mythers is that I do see them as the equivalent of the Young Earth Creationists. I give the idea that Jesus never existed the same level of credence I give to the assertion that Mohammed, or Shakespeare were inventions, and believe that for anyone that seriously studies history, it is not rationally defensible to argue against the historicity of such individuals. The reasons I believe this will become more apparent as the debate with Doherty proceeds.</font>
Fair enough.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad:
For example, the reasoning you have used above is one of the methods I have employed to reject the assumption that if the Bible is not 100% right in all of its details, it must be wrong, or useless to use it as evidence of anything.</font>
I agree with you.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad:
Here you are merely pointing out the difference between a hard science like biology or physics, and the softer science of history or the humanities. The fact that we cannot have 100% certainty in an historical claim does not, however, make the claim automatically false. Such reductionist and deconstructionist beliefs would literally make history unknowable to us, and I reject such beliefs.</font>
As do I. We agree that we are dealing with a soft science, so falsification is a bit harder to come by, but is possible nonetheless.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad:
Textual criticism arose as a science to help us determine is documents had been redacted or interpolated beyond recognition. In other words, has the text been tampered with, but we can still know what it said at its core, or has it been fabricated or altered beyond recognition? These questions are answerable, but if we reject all of the methods (largely because we do not understand how they work), then we will be admitting that we don't really know anything about history (beyond the bare bones of archeology).</font>
Agreed.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad:
Refer back to my example please. On the one hand, it is asserted that Paul (and other NT and Early Father sources) never speaks of Jesus as an actual historical person. He then tells us that when they actually do talk about Him as an historical person, they are merely giving him "human characteristics". To be honest, I do not see how this argument can be refuted. Each time I (or others) will bring forward an example where Jesus is referred to as being historical, the sceptic is merely going to have to say "ah, that is another case where they gave him 'human characteristics'" and the argument will be over.

Do you see a way out of this dilemna? Is there a means by which we could convince the committed myther that he is in error?</font>
Sure. Investigate why the myther thinks it is reasonable to consider the 'human characteristic' to be referring to a spiritual being? In the case of Doherty, he will point out the precedence found in beliefs about Mithra and others, who lived, died, ate, were castrated, and so on, and that this was understood to have happened not on Earth but in some sort of lower spiritual layer where 'fleshy' things happen, and believers can somehow 'connect' or 'take part' in these events in this realm.

I agree this all sounds strange but a main part of Doherty's argument is that these sorts of beliefs existed at the time and that it is reasonable to suggest that early Christianity could have had somewhat similiar beliefs.

If you accept that at least some followers of some religions had these kinds of beliefs, then it is fair to ask how we can distinguish between those that are discussing a truly earthly being and those that are discussing a 'lower spiritual earth-like' being. Again, these things sound silly to me but plenty of religions have strange beliefs that don't make much sense to me.

Doherty does not simply point at a reference to 'human' characteristics and simply reject it. He attempts to provide precedence in other literature for these kinds of descriptions as not being truly 'human'. He further argues that his interpretation makes the most sense given the context, and sometimes, even claims that assuming Paul or however is referring to an actual human would make virtually no sense at all.

So there is clearly a method for showing that the mythicist is in error. First, show that either the precedence for a 'fleshy-spiritual' being doesn't exist or is unlikely to have influenced Christianity. Secondly, show that a truly human Jesus makes more sense in the context of the verse that describes him as 'human'.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I do not know how many Biblical scholars you have read, but this is actually backwards to what takes place. For example, the best of these scholars will look at the evidence first, and then draw their conclusions, and show why the evidence supports their view. With a conspiracy theorist, or a committed dogmatist, they will formulate the theory first, and then make the evidence fit their theories. This is how you will see circular reasoning, and special pleading, and claims of conspiracies, and arguments from silence. The argument will then look compelling, but once exposed to the light, it melts like a mirage.</font>
I suppose you are right. Even in physics we are not usually clever enough to come up with hypotheses clearly out of the blue, and usually they are strongly suggested by previous experiments.

And on the subject of experiments, would you consider the many decades of failed ability to find magnetic monopoles (magnetic equivalent of electrons) good evidence that they don't exist? If they did exist, they would make Maxwell's theories beautifully symmetric. However, serious attempts to detect them have failed. Is it possible that they exist? Yes. Do most physicisists think they exist? I don't think so.

I'm simply trying to suggest that 'arguments from silence' don't fit in the same category as 'special pleading' and 'circular reasoning'.

Imagined phone conversation.

Eve: Hi Bob, is Alice home?

Bob: No, I just got home and she didn't answer my yell and I don't see her.

Eve: Don't be silly Bob. This doesn't mean she isn't home. She could be hiding, or maybe she went deaf and you didn't look hard enough.

It seems to me that declaring something as an 'argument from silence' doesn't say anything at all about the strength of the argument. Positive evidence is certainly preferable, but negative evidence is evidence, nonetheless, and negative evidence together with positive evidence is even better, and the two can complement each other and provide for an even stronger argument. This is what Doherty claims to provide.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad:
Allow me to give an example. Assume that you have met a man that tells you that he is the King of England, and that everyone in the world has conspired together to deprive him of his rightful crown. How would you convince him that he is in error, and that he is not really the king of England?</font>
Well, if 'everyone' turned out to be about 10 people, most who only heard about the man from others, and the rest only talked with him on the phone, and some refer to him as 'your majesty', I would be confused and need to look into the matter further.

I understand your point, though, and Doherty gives reasons for his claims, as you know, and the strength of those claims need to be examined.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad:
With the Jesus Mythers, you will find the same difficulty. It will be my job to demonstrate how this happens, of course, and to identify the fundamental problem with the arguments and logic of the myther, but I assure you, and the same time, the myther's arguments will be internally consistent, and even compelling if examined in isolation.</font>
I understand. I feel similarly about Christianity.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad:
I have no patience with trying to prove that every single element of the Bible is consistent. Nor do I find the arguments that everything in the Bible can be proven as a fact. Such naive claims ignore the role that faith plays in our beliefs. Thus, for example, I will never argue that any of the miraculous claims of the Bible (i.e. the virgin birth of Jesus, the Resurrection, countless miracles) can be proven to have happened. I believe that they happened, and I do trust (most of) the evidence for them. But that does not make them proven historically. Much of what we know about history must be accepted on faith.</font>
Sounds reasonable.
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad:
That said, things in history can be proven to be more (or even overwhelmingly more) likely to have been historical. On the question of "Did Jesus exist?" we have this ability, and I will demonstrate that.</font>
I look forward to it.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad:
To begin with, you have to start with the assumption that Paul is talking about the spirit realm to make this argument work. Once you accept this premise, then it works perfectly, but it is also perfectly circular.</font>
Perfectly circular? If accepting the premise allows you to make better sense out of the overall text, then this is support for accepting the premise. As we agreed above, this is the way the game is played.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad:
With all due respect, I am going to avoid arguing by links. I have read Doherty's arguments, and I have debated them in the past.</font>
That's all I was wondering. Since we have only discussed Doherty to a superficial extent so far, it is hard for me to tell if your criticisms (overt or implied) reflect an understanding of Doherty's proposed evidence for his claims.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad:
My purpose will be to help the readers to understand why those that have studied these questions seriously have rejected Doherty's views. Each reader will draw his or her own conclusions about how convincing my arguments are, of course, but I believe that the weight of the evidence will be very convincing to most. At the same time, I will try, as much as is possible, not to make arguments in which I will tell readers that they must first read this or that web site or book before they can really understand the argument itself. My experience has told me that if an argument is truly that involved and comlex, that one cannot adequately summarize it and defend it in something like a post, then they have not thought through the arguments sufficiently yet.</font>
Agreed. And I have not thought through the arguments sufficiently yet, thus, my interest in seeing a debate occur. I point out the articles in hopes that you will be familiar with them if and when Doherty or worst case, myself, debates his views with you. It is hard for me to tell from your posts whether you are referring to his arguments in a simplistic fashion becuase that is the depth of our posts or because you are not familiar with them. I'll assume the former from now on.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad:
BTW, this is not meant to be a personal attack. I know that for many here this is the first time that they have seriously examined the historicity of Jesus. I will assure you that the questions that will need to be asked and answered are no where nearly complex enough to require a university level education to understand. Perhaps as an analogy, you might appreciate how a scientist like Stephen Jay Gould disassembles the arguments of the Young Earth Creationists, and does it in a language that the rest of us can actually understand. That is what I hope to achieve here. (IOW, beware of overly complex and convoluted arguments! If we can't make our most basic beliefs comprehensible to others, we are in a great deal of trouble. ).</font>
I and others would most likely prefer that you debate in whatever manner best communicates your ideas. If this involves technical language or ideas, so be it. Then we'll learn some terminology in the process as well. If clarification is needed on something for our sake, we can deal with that later or else in a different post.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad:
Carefully consider the problem here. Jesus is believed to be historical by the vast majority of people of all languages (many of them extremely well educated BTW), and none of whom read a word of English. IF this was only a question of English translators with a built in bias that colours their translations, then maybe we would be on to something here. But what about translations done in virtually every other language of the earth? Many of them were done from the original Greek and Hebrew and Aramaic. Further, how plausible that all of the translators are/were involved in this grand conspiracy to make Jesus look historical when obviously (according to Doherty) He was not historical? Worst of all, since none of the authors of the NT (outside of the Gospels and Acts of course) didn't believe that Jesus was historical, or at least, never wrote about Him as if He was. How in the world did every scholar that ever studied the NT (right up to the present day), miss this? Are all of them conspiring together? Is it really credible to believe this?</font>
As you point out in your sly sarcastic way ( ), the Gospels and Acts portray Jesus as fully human, so the fact that people have long considered this to be true is not surprising. As you well know, Doherty's view requires the Gospels and Acts to be works of fiction, to a much greater extent than most have ever considered. Accepting that these are all works of fiction and that Jesus was instead some sort of strange 'spiritual-fleshy' being, which requires a form of religious thinking that had long since disappeared, would not come easily to anyone's mind.

And in the last couple hundred years, when all the real interesting work on the Bible has been done, there has continually been scholars who have pointed out that everything does not seem to be the way that many have long thought it to be. This takes a variety of forms, some rejecting nearly everything except for just a little (Jesus Seminar), some accepting quite a bit (most Christians), and a few accepting virtually nothing at all from the Gospels, such as Doherty. When I asked Crossan at a talk recently what I thought about the idea that Jesus was a myth as discussed by Wells and Doherty, he rambled a little bit but basically was admitting that he can show that Jesus was not a myth. This was not the clear rejection of the idea that many of you claim scholars have of the Jesus-myth idea. I don't doubt that Crossan would have much more to say in disagreement with Doherty, but this wasn't the rejection that one would expect from an evolutionists answering a question about young-earth-creationist. Unfortunately, it was just one tantalizing little statment.

About the bias from English speaking translators. I don't think I'm presenting my arguments very well, because your responses are obviously correct but don't address what I'm thinking of. Most of the world thinks in a manner that makes a faily clear distinction between the spiritual and the physical. This is not a conspiracy. It is simply the way it is, and no doubt cultural contact over thousands of years have led to similar thinking. However, this clear distinction was not always present in all cultures, and this distinction was not clear in some groups of people nearby in both time and space to the early Christians. Doherty discusses this a great deal and refers to the various mystery religions and Greek gods as evidence.
So when translators (of any language) come across phrases that use the word flesh, they think 'not spiritual' so it must mean flesh. Doherty is suggesting that there is a third alternative, a lower 'flesh-like' spiritual layer. The question we need to address is whether this third alternative is reasonable.
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad:
Special pleading, conspiracy theories and arguments from silence are big warning signs of logical fallacies (or at a minimum, great faith) in action.</font>
I understand what you're saying and I look forward to a debate that deals with whether or not your labels apply to Doherty's views.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad:
Have you heard from Doherty since our last exchange? He has not been on the JesusMysteries discussion board since the 18th, so he may be busy. I have not received any letters from him as of yet.</font>
I haven't heard from him. He suggested it would be about a week and it has now been a week. If he doesn't show up in the next few days, I'll email him.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad:
I am not just talking about the "according to the flesh" statements here Ethan. There are a great number of statements that will show ah historical and real Jesus. Each can be called an example of giving Jesus "human characteristics", however. In fact, anything said about anyone can be chalked up to merely giving them human characteristics. That is why I asked if there is an answer to this circular argument.</font>
I agree that there are others. It seems Doherty addresses them all. As you know, he doesn't simply reject them and move on. He look at each in context and with a layered heaven in mind and argues that his view works and in fact works better than any other. Of course we need to debate whether or not he succeeds. But let's leave that for Doherty.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad:
The difficulties are manufactured to fit the theory. For example, just because Paul wants to connect Jesus Christ to Hebrew Scripture does not mean that Paul is only talking about a mythical being. When Jackie Kennedy said that she felt like she was living in Camelot, I am sure that she was not suggesting the John Kennedy did not exist. Sometimes people want to present parallels, and without question Paul wanted to show how the Hebrew Bible pointed to Jesus as the Messiah. Since this is exactly what we would expect a Jew arguing for his version of the Messiah to do, then we should not be overly anxious to use this as evidence that Jesus was a mythical construct.</font>
Doherty agrees that Paul thinks Jesus is very real, but not that Paul thinks that Jesus recently lived as fully human in Palestine as described in the Gospels. I wasn't aware that Doherty argues that Paul claiming that Jesus is the Messiah is evidence against his being a recent human. Unfortunately, we are getting into specifics where my knowledge is murky and perhaps we could leave this one for later.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad:
If I may, when you see a young earth creationist, do you treat his or her arguments seriously? I treat the Jesus-Mythers as having as much credibility as the Holocaust denier and the YEC people. I did not form this view lightly, and even if I were to deconvert, and become an agnostic (or even an atheist), I would need to see far more than what I have seen from the likes of Freke, Gandy, Wells (who no longer is a myther BTW) or Doherty.</font>
Fair enough. I sure hope this debate takes, place.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Clearly, given this level of faith, I am not going to convince my pastor that the earth is very very old. At the same time, Doherty's professional reputation rests on his remaining a committed Jesus Myther. He literally cannot give it up and remain credible. Therefore I will not try to convince him that he is wrong. I can, however, demonstrate to others that he is very wrong.</font>
Though I agree Doherty would lose some reputation by admitting he was wrong, he certainly is more free than some given what seems to be a lack of ties to any institution. I understand, though, and convincing him should not be your goal. Your goal should simply be to point out the problems or alternatives to his arguments.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad:
I will agree that he attempts to cover many of his bases. As to whether or not he adequately addresses the evidence, that is a separate matter, and a question that each person that watches him debate must decide for him or her self.</font>
Well said, almost. Covering his bases sounds a bit too much like covering his ass.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad:
Given the extent of his claims, and the finality contained in them, then yes, if we demonstrate that he is wrong in one major assumption or argument, everything collapses like a house of cards.</font>
I agree, but it all depends on the words 'demonstrate' and 'major'. Well, let's just see.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad:
Allow me to offer one more quick example:
</font>
Your example is excellent and finding relevant fragments would be a very welcome addition to the debate and would likely have large consequences to the strength of various
arguments. Let's keep in mind, though, that the debate will likely revolve around less dramatic pieces of evidence.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad:
Now, the arguments that Jesus is a mythical creations date back to this same period of time (first advanced about 1877), and have been debunked time and again by serious scholars of many languages and cultures, and beliefs. </font>
It seems I have plenty of reading to do. Are you aware of any books written to specifically debunk the idea of Jesus as a myth, or at least a large chapter somewhere. Perhaps a critique of Wells?


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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Christian, Jewish, agnostic and atheist scholars agree that Jesus existed. They may agree on little else (go figure, such is the nature of scholarly debate), but basic agreement that he lived and died are not seriously offered. There is good reason for this, and again, we will cover this off when the debate begins.</font>
I look forward to it.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">First, I agree that Jospehus' references would make the case for an historical Jesus even better, but I do not think that it would be sufficient to stop the mythers. As you may have seen with the debate about Tacitus' reference to Jesus (c. 115AD), they could easily write off the references as too late to be of any value. After all, no one argues that Josephus actually met Jesus. That was not possible.</font>
True it may not stop them but it would certainly hurt their case considerably. As we know, there are still flat-earthers. We just need to figure out which intellectual category the Jesus-myth should be put into, and I realize you've already decided.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">And here you will see that there is only doubt about one passage, and then, only as to how much it was modified later on.</font>
But that one passage is everything, except for the short reference to James, the brother of Jesus. Well, let's defer on this as well. I'm getting impatient for the debate but I don't want to get fully into this yet.

--------

You don't need to respond in much detail. This could easily balloon into a huge discussion and let's defer until we know one way or the other whether a debate will occur with Doherty.

Thanks for your response.
 
Old 04-27-2001, 01:35 PM   #35
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Just a suggestion on the debate - would it be better to have it as a formal debate, instead of a thread on these boards? Could Bill help you with that?
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Old 04-28-2001, 12:24 AM   #36
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Toto:
Just a suggestion on the debate - would it be better to have it as a formal debate, instead of a thread on these boards? Could Bill help you with that?</font>
Apparently a more formal debate is possible which could take place in a controlled forum where only certain users are allowed to contribute. I'll talk to Doherty about it and see what he'd prefer.
 
Old 04-30-2001, 10:43 AM   #37
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Toto:

Nomad: Your reasoning is logically unsound Toto. We do not have to prove that the Greek term "kata sarka" always refers to a physical existence, but rather that it could be used in this manner. After all, many expressions have multiple possible interpretations, and insisting that they can have only one meaning is a serious misunderstanding of the rules of linguistics.

Toto: Nomad, you are in no position to give me guidance on logic or linguistics.

If you can prove that kata sarka has only one meaning in Koine Greek, that it always refers to physical flesh and never to some metaphorical flesh, you would undercut almost all of Doherty's thesis. If you can't do this, you leave open the possibility that Paul's references to Jesus were references to a spirit.</font>
You have misunderstood the point. Doherty's entire argument rests on the assumption that kata sarka MUST refer to a being in that exists on the spiritual plane. At the same time, he makes this an a priori belief, leaving us with the bizzare position that we must demonstrate that it does not always mean this. Doherty has made the positive assertion. He must demonstrate that kata sarks can only be used in reference to a non-human being living here on earth, or his argument fails.

Since he cannot do this (except to assert that all who have translated the Greek in the past are involved in a vast consipiracy to give the expression a meaning it did not have at the time Paul used it), then all of his arguments based on this presupposition are built on a faulty premise and must be dismissed.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">And what rule of linguistics says that a phrase always has multiple meanings?</font>
There is no such rule. At the same time, it is commonly accepted that many expressions do, in fact, have multiple meanings.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Humpty Dumpty's rule? Did you pay your dictionary extra so words would mean what you want them to? That's how you debate?</font>
What are you talking about here Toto?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Toto: Or you could falsify the theory by finding one pre-Mark author who unambiguously refers to human characteristics of Jesus, in terms that could not equally well apply to a spiritual or mythic being.

Nomad: We already have this in Paul (at a minimum), and I will happily get into this discussion with anyone that wishes to disagree with this idea. I will do so with Doherty if and when he appears, or any other who wishes to take the same position. Do you wish to defend this idea?

Toto: Doherty's argument is that Paul's references to Jesus are all references to a mythical or spiritual being. I will wait for you to debate with him over that issue.</font>
Fair enough. What are you arguing on this thread?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: Yes, and I am going through this now. That is why I started the Putting Together the Jesus Puzzle thread. As I do so, I can and will also argue that we can be more certain that Jesus did exist than that we cannot know that he existed. Our choices are to accept that Jesus did exist, that He did not exist, or that we cannot know if He existed. Do not reject any of these positions until you have examined all of the evidence.

Toto: There is no real evidence.</font>
This statement tells me that there is little point in discussing history with you Toto. The evidence we have for the existence of Jesus is as good (or better) than we have for virtually any ancient historical person. This means, prior to the invention of the modern biography (c. 19th Century) we do not have what you are demanding in this thread for anyone. And since even eye witness accounts can (and should be at times) be dismissed, your criteria leaves us knowing nothing at all.

At the same time, remember that we do have eyewitness accounts of UFO sightings. I assume you dismiss these.

I am not asking you to believe the extraordinary claims about the life of Jesus of Nazareth, only the pretty mundane stuff. Why do you refuse to believe that Jesus lived, taught, died and was buried? What arguments would you use that these perfectly ordinary things actually occured?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> There are hearsay accounts written by people who probably were not writing straight history, which contain so many obvious mythic elements and literary conventions, that the only reasonable stance is to say that the existence of a person named Jesus is just not knowable, or at least not provable.</font>
Are you aware that you have just described virtually all of ancient histories biographical information? The ancients believed in fantastic things, and attributed them to all sorts of people that we know existed (i.e. Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Augustus, ect.) At least with Jesus we have accounts (several) written within the lifetime of His peers. That is extremely unusual when looking at ancient persons.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I suspect that you are 100% certain of Jesus' existence, because you have had some extra-historical experience with your religion. If it were not for this, what percentage probability would you assign to Jesus' existence? 51%? 95%? The evidence, after all, is not the sort of evidence that would stand up in a court of law.</font>
Mathamatical probabilities are highly problamatic when being assigned to the study of history, and are therefore not very useful. That is why you do not see historians using such formulas in their works (right up to the present day). After all, what is the probability that any specific person existed in ancient history? Or any specific event for that matter? The evidence we work from is that we look for those arguments and evidence that best accounts for what we believe happened in history. Accepting Jesus' historicity better explains the formation of Christianity at a specific point in time and in a specific place than do any other alternative theories in which Jesus is made out to be a purely mythical being.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad:I have always known that the great majority of people reject the argument that Jesus never existed at all. At the same time, such people do exist, and I have asked one of them to step forward and defend their arguments. I continue to hope that Doherty will do this, recognizing that he is a very busy person right now...

Toto: I am not sure why you are so intent on this.</font>
This is a very good point. Normally I am not spend time on this subject, as I have found debates with Jesus Mythers to be very tiresome, and frustrated by the fact that they do not have a null hypothesis. At the end of the discussion there is no means to falsify any of their claims, and on this basis they typically leave the discussion telling us that since we cannot be certain that they are wrong, maybe, just maybe, they are right.

I have the same problem with Holocaust deniers and young earth creationsists, as well as any other conspiracy theorists (from JFK, the United Nations and UFO's to whatever other subject you wish to choose). What got me into this discussion was the fact that so many sceptics were posting links to Doherty's work, yet refusing to defend his opinions. My intent now is to have someone do exactly that, and with luck Doherty himself will step forward. When we are done, and we are able to see that his arguments do not hold up, then we can then move onto more productive discussions.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Why is someone who thinks Jesus never existed more of a threat to you than someone who thinks Jesus was a mere mortal?</font>
My motive in this debate is simple. There is no significant threat from the Jesus Mythers amongst serious students of history. At the same time, if their assertions were to go entirely unchallenged, then many, out of lack of knowledge of the relavent arguments, may find them persuasive. My experience on discussion boards is that some will find any argument to have at least some merit, especially if no one is bothering to refute it. Therefore, it is my belief that once Doherty is refuted, then the discussion on more substantive points and issues can more readily be undertaken.

Nomad
 
Old 04-30-2001, 01:18 PM   #38
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This is getting hard to cut and paste. . .

NOMAD: You have misunderstood the point. Doherty's entire argument rests on the assumption that kata sarka MUST refer to a being in that exists on the spiritual plane. . . .

Toto: I think that Doherty’s argument is only that kata sarka in Paul’s writing refers to a lower spiritual realm, not that it always meant that. But I will let him defend it.

***

Toto: Humpty Dumpty's rule? Did you pay your dictionary extra so words would mean what you want them to? That's how you debate?

Nomad: What are you talking about here Toto?

Toto: If you haven’t read Alice in Wonderland, how do you expect to understand the modern world?

* * *

Nomad: I am not asking you to believe the extraordinary claims about the life of Jesus of Nazareth, only the pretty mundane stuff. Why do you refuse to believe that Jesus lived, taught, died and was buried? What arguments would you use that these perfectly ordinary things actually occured?

Toto: I don’t refuse to believe, I just find that the evidence is weak. Those “ordinary” things are tied in with a number of unbelievable things that reduce the credibility of the whole. It’s like someone is trying to get you to invest in his new company, and explains a new technology that seems possible. But then he tells you that he got his ideas from space aliens, and a 20,000 year old channeled being from alpha centauri is his test engineer. Suddenly the whole scheme seems less likely, and you put away your checkbook.

(snip all arguments previously hashed to death on other threads)

***

Toto: I am not sure why you are so intent on this.

Nomad: This is a very good point. Normally I am not spend time on this subject, as I have found debates with Jesus Mythers to be very tiresome, and frustrated by the fact that they do not have a null hypothesis. At the end of the discussion there is no means to falsify any of their claims, and on this basis they typically leave the discussion telling us that since we cannot be certain that they are wrong, maybe, just maybe, they are right.

Toto: You throw around terms that you apparently do not understand. The “null hypothesis” is that the Jesus character in the Gospels did not exist. The skeptic examines the evidence, and finds it not sufficient to overcome the null hypothesis, or not. (Not all atheistic heretics think that Jesus was a myth. Skeptics can evaluate the evidence differently.) If you cannot “falsify” any of their claims, it is because you do not have any hard evidence. The evidence that you have only shows that there is some justification for believing the Jesus of the Gospels existed (i.e., that if you start with a different null hypothesis - that Jesus was not a myth - that that hypothesis cannot necessarily be rejected.)

Nomad: I have the same problem with Holocaust deniers and young earth creationsists, as well as any other conspiracy theorists….

Toto: I wish you would lay off the gratuitous insults. Holocaust deniers ignore recent historical evidence, including eyewitnesses, documents, and hard evidence on the ground, because of their anti-Semitic ideology. YEC’s ignore hard physical evidence because of their ideological belief in an inerrant King James Bible. Jesus mythers merely interpret the evidence differently from you. If you are going to play the game on this board, you have to take their arguments seriously. If you can’t do that, you will not be very effective in debating Doherty.

* * *

I look forward to the debate, and thank Physics Guy for his work in setting it up.
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Old 04-30-2001, 02:52 PM   #39
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Goy. Last post to Toto unless he (she?) says something new and interesting.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Toto:

Toto: I think that Doherty’s argument is only that kata sarka in Paul’s writing refers to a lower spiritual realm, not that it always meant that. But I will let him defend it.</font>
This is one of his innovative and idiosyncratic ideas, yes.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Toto: Humpty Dumpty's rule? Did you pay your dictionary extra so words would mean what you want them to? That's how you debate?

Nomad: What are you talking about here Toto?

Toto: If you haven’t read Alice in Wonderland, how do you expect to understand the modern world?</font>
Humpty dumpty was not in Alice in Wonderland. So what are you talking about here?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: I am not asking you to believe the extraordinary claims about the life of Jesus of Nazareth, only the pretty mundane stuff. Why do you refuse to believe that Jesus lived, taught, died and was buried? What arguments would you use that these perfectly ordinary things actually occured?

Toto: I don’t refuse to believe, I just find that the evidence is weak. Those “ordinary” things are tied in with a number of unbelievable things that reduce the credibility of the whole.</font>
This is a fundamental error. Just because people wrote about Jesus, ascribing incredible things to him after He had died does not mean that he never lived. The evidence we have for His actual existence as a human being is as good as any we have for virtually any other ancient person. You realize, for example, that we have no testimony for the existence of Peter, Paul, any of the brothers of Jesus except James, or any other character in the NT except John the Baptist anywhere outside the Bible right? Yet do we accept that these people existed or not? If we do, then why? Because they did not have any miracles attributed to them?

I would hope that you would see the logical inconsistency of your position, or admit that we don't know if any particular person ever lived in antiquity.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> It’s like someone is trying to get you to invest in his new company, and explains a new technology that seems possible. But then he tells you that he got his ideas from space aliens, and a 20,000 year old channeled being from alpha centauri is his test engineer. Suddenly the whole scheme seems less likely, and you put away your checkbook.</font>
This example has nothing to do with the way history was recorded in antiquity. Augustus was called the Son of God, and Julius Caesar was called divine. Vespasian was reported to have healed two men. Claudius was made a god. All of these people lived. So did Jesus.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: This is a very good point. Normally I am not spend time on this subject, as I have found debates with Jesus Mythers to be very tiresome, and frustrated by the fact that they do not have a null hypothesis. At the end of the discussion there is no means to falsify any of their claims, and on this basis they typically leave the discussion telling us that since we cannot be certain that they are wrong, maybe, just maybe, they are right.

Toto: You throw around terms that you apparently do not understand. The “null hypothesis” is that the Jesus character in the Gospels did not exist.</font>
A "null hypothesis" is the means by which we disprove or falsify a testable theory. The Jesus Mythers have no such test, and do not want one. Like you, then wish to deny the existence of a person only because so many important claims are made about Him, and being forced to admit that He lived would require them to believe that He was God, or that he was not God. By denying his existence, you avoid this decision, but only the same way that a child crossing the street avoids traffic by closing his eyes.

It is alright to admit that Jesus really lived Toto. You will still be allowed to be an atheist, agnostic, pagan, or whatever. But denying that He lived is the equivalent of claiming that the earth came into existence a few thousand years ago.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">(Not all atheistic heretics think that Jesus was a myth. Skeptics can evaluate the evidence differently.)</font>
An atheist, by definition, cannot be a heretic.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> If you cannot “falsify” any of their claims, it is because you do not have any hard evidence. The evidence that you have only shows that there is some justification for believing the Jesus of the Gospels existed (i.e., that if you start with a different null hypothesis - that Jesus was not a myth - that that hypothesis cannot necessarily be rejected.)</font>
Historians look for independent third party attestation, and also for the theory that best accounts for all of the historical events we believe have happened. The Jesus Myther cannot even begin to account for the historical record (starting with how Christianity got started in the first place). Accepting the reality that Jesus lived in early 1st Century Palestine makes explaining the events of that period in time much easier, and does not resort to the special pleading, arguments from silence and conspiracy theories needed to make the myth theory work.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad: I have the same problem with Holocaust deniers and young earth creationsists, as well as any other conspiracy theorists….

Toto: I wish you would lay off the gratuitous insults. Holocaust deniers ignore recent historical evidence, including eyewitnesses, documents, and hard evidence on the ground, because of their anti-Semitic ideology.</font>
This is hardly a false comparison. Once a conspiracy is accepted as being in place, it will account for every bit of contrary evidence. You, for example, have elected to reject all of the evidence that we have available to us, largely because miraculous claims are made about Jesus. On this basis, since the miraculous claims will always be a part of the historical record for Jesus, you must reject all of the evidence put forward regardless of its merit.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> ...Jesus mythers merely interpret the evidence differently from you. If you are going to play the game on this board, you have to take their arguments seriously. If you can’t do that, you will not be very effective in debating Doherty.</font>
We shall see. I already know that I cannot convince you. Luckily, I have prepared myself for that inevitability.

Nomad
 
Old 04-30-2001, 06:50 PM   #40
Toto
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Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Los Angeles area
Posts: 40,549
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Yes, you're probably wasting your typing, Nomad.

Okay, it was Through the Looking Glass. Humpty Dumpty paid words extra to mean what he wanted them to. You think you have paid a few phrases extra (special pleading, null hypothesis) so they mean what you want.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">. Just because people wrote about Jesus, ascribing incredible things to him after He had died does not mean that he never lived. The evidence we have for His actual existence as a human being is as good as any we have for virtually any other ancient person. You realize, for example, that we have no testimony for the existence of Peter, Paul, any of the brothers of Jesus except James, or any other character in the NT except John the Baptist anywhere outside the Bible right? Yet do we accept that these people existed or not? If we do, then why? Because they did not have any miracles attributed to them? </font>
You have it backwards. Just because people wrote stories about Jesus does not mean that he was a real person. I also have my doubts about the other characters in the Bible, especially the disciples. There appears to be more independent evidence for John the Baptist, but nobody is basing a religion on his existence. This whole argument has been overdone on other threads.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">This example has nothing to do with the way history was recorded in antiquity. Augustus was called the Son of God, and Julius Caesar was called divine. Vespasian was reported to have healed two men. Claudius was made a god. All of these people lived. So did Jesus. </font>
All of those other people left behind evidence of their existence - coins with their pictures, monuments, documents by their own hand, or by contemporary enemies.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">A "null hypothesis" is the means by which we disprove or falsify a testable theory. The Jesus Mythers have no such test, and do not want one. Like you, then wish to deny the existence of a person only because so many important claims are made about Him, and being forced to admit that He lived would require them to believe that He was God, or that he was not God. . . </font>
Okay, so it does come down to this - divinity. Many atheists are quite happy think that Jesus existed - it is such fun to stick the Christians with how far they have strayed. I do not need to deny Jesus' existence for any reason, and I do not deny it. I just find the argument that there was no historical Jesus interesting, possibly true, probably unknowable.

And if you are going to throw around terms like "null hypothesis", learn what they mean:

http://www.animatedsoftware.com/statglos/sgnullhy.htm

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">The null hypothesis is a term that statisticians often use to indicate the statistical hypothesis tested. The purpose of most statistical tests, is to determine if the obtained results provide a reason to reject the hypothesis that they are merely a product of chance factors. For example, . . .</font>
So using the term "null hypothesis" in this case is some kind of analogy, since we don't have statistics from am experiment. But the "null hypothesis" is usually the statement you are trying to disprove. We have gone around on this before.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Historians look for independent third party attestation, and also for the theory that best accounts for all of the historical events we believe have happened. The Jesus Myther cannot even begin to account for the historical record (starting with how Christianity got started in the first place). Accepting the reality that Jesus lived in early 1st Century Palestine makes explaining the events of that period in time much easier, and does not resort to the special pleading, arguments from silence and conspiracy theories needed to make the myth theory work. </font>
We've all gone around this before, too. Atheists have no difficulty explaining the historical record without an historical Jesus, and without a vast conspiracy. You think it would be easier to explain history with Jesus - but it might also be easier if you accepted Mohammed, or Harvey the Invisible Rabbit working behind the scenes. You continue to misuse the term "special pleading", and you continue to ignore the fact that an argument from silence can be extremely effective.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">You, for example, have elected to reject all of the evidence that we have available to us, largely because miraculous claims are made about Jesus. On this basis, since the miraculous claims will always be a part of the historical record for Jesus, you must reject all of the evidence put forward regardless of its merit. </font>
Nonsense. I have not rejected all of the evidence, unless you think that the Gospels are all of the evidence (if so, I might as well rest my case.) I just think that the evidence is very weak.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">. I already know that I cannot convince you. Luckily, I have prepared myself for that inevitability. </font>
What does this mean?? How do you need to prepare?? Please don't do anything drastic.

Toto the Cat

ps - do you assume I might be a she because I don't swear at you?
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