FRDB Archives

Freethought & Rationalism Archive

The archives are read only.


Go Back   FRDB Archives > Archives > Biblical Criticism - 2001
Welcome, Peter Kirby.
You last visited: Today at 05:55 AM

Notices

 
 
Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old 12-21-2001, 09:31 PM   #21
CX
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: Dec 2001
Location: Portlandish
Posts: 2,829
Post

Quote:
Originally posted by Polycarp:
<strong>[b]
I gotta tell you that its been great talking to you in the few conversations weve had.
</strong>
Ditto. I don't know how much we want to get into it, but Earl Doherty is a nutjob. I've corresponded with him a few times and frankly he is a kook. None of the legitimate biblical scholars I know considers him anything besides an oddity. He is great for people who have little real biblical knowledge and have a strong desire to believe that Jesus never existed (a desire I, for one, cannot comprehend). That being said I haven't seen many overt mythicists here. Personally I have no desire to even engage that theory anymore than people who say evolution hasn't happened. Both are fundamentalist drivel (one theistic one atheistic)

Also when did "The Jesus Puzzle" get published? Last I heard it was just available on the web. Anyone can "publish" a "book" on the web.
CX is offline  
Old 12-21-2001, 10:00 PM   #22
Toto
Contributor
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Los Angeles area
Posts: 40,549
Post

Quote:
Originally posted by CowboyX:
<strong>
Also when did "The Jesus Puzzle" get published? Last I heard it was just available on the web. Anyone can "publish" a "book" on the web.</strong>
You can buy it from Amazon: <a href="http://www.secweb.org/bookstore/bookdetail.asp?BookID=663" target="_blank">The Jesus Puzzle</a>

I have no strong desire to prove that Jesus never existed. I think that the most supportable position is agnosticism on the question. What about Doherty set you off like that?
Toto is offline  
Old 12-21-2001, 10:21 PM   #23
Pantera
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Cambridge, England, but a Scot at heart
Posts: 2,431
Post

In <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/0195126394/qid=1009003030/internetinfidelsA" target="_blank">The New Testament</a>, and also <a href="http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ASIN/019512474X/internetinfidelsA" target="_blank">Jesus - Apocalyptic Prophet of the New Millenium</a>, which is basically an expansion of the section of the historical Jesus in the former book - Ehrman does not explicitally address the question of whether or not a historical person existed - it is taken for granted. He does however in Chapters 13-16 discuss criteria for distinguishing traditions which are likely to be authentic from those which are not - independent attestation, dissimilarity and contextual credibility - and argues that by these standards particular events in Jesus' life can be regarded as more or less certain (particularly his baptism, his crucifixion and some of his teachings). If Jesus was baptised and was crucified then he certainly existed, so it is fair to say that Ehrman addresses the question in a roundabout manner. One quibble I would raise is that he deals with the question of the independence of the sources in a somewhat cursory and one sided manner (he devotes only half a page to the question of whether John knew the synoptics, and considers that there is a fairly strong burden of proof on the one arguing that sources are not independent) - much of his case is built on the assumption that Paul, Mark, Q, M, L, John and Thomas are largely independent of each other, and if this were not true his case would be rather weakened.

He also discusses Paul's reluctance to give details of Jesus' life (p332-335) without reference to the mythicist position, instead offering three possible explainations - thet Paul's audience was already familiar with the stories, so he had no occasion to tell them; that Paul was entirely concerned with Jesus' death and resurrection so thought the other details of his life unimportant; and that Paul simply didn't know many of the details of Jesus' life because he hadn't spent much time with the apostles. Ha admits that there are problems with all three explainations and that in the final analysis it is a matter of speculation, but at first glance at least it seems to me that all three (or a combination of them) are more parsimonious than a rather elaborate mythicist theory.
Pantera is offline  
Old 12-22-2001, 12:22 AM   #24
Pantera
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Cambridge, England, but a Scot at heart
Posts: 2,431
Post

Quote:
Originally posted by Toto:
<strong>I too am just an amateur at this, but I think it is stretching things to compare the mythicist case to phlogiston or creationism. I think that was a ploy that Nomad picked up so that he could avoid discussing the actual merits of Wells or Doherty's theories.

In a real science, there is a body of knowledge and methods of testing. Creationism does not meet the standards of a scientific theory.

There is no such methodology or consensus in history. The "mainstream" of Bliblical scholarship has no way of disproving the mythicist case the way creationism has been disproven. It seems reasonable to assume that there was some person behind the stories of Jesus, but that does not mean that it is true with any real degree of certainty.
</strong>

I guess I was throwing a hand grenade into the thread with the creationism comparison. I was annoyed because I'd been archiving and I saw a normally intelligent and thoughtful poster recommend <a href="http://www.truthbeknown.com/origins.htm" target="_blank">this page</a> with a straight face. I'll take back that particular comparison as it applies to people other than Acharya S and her fans.

You're right that history has no absolute standards for determining truth in the way that science, with its reproducible experiments does. People can reasonably apply quite different standards of proof to historical questions. Looking at some of the arguments I've seen made on various forums, it is not in itself unreasonable to say, for instance, that any book which contains some supernatural or obviously mythical elements should be regarded as highly suspect in its entirity, or that only accounts written very soon after the events they describe can be regarded as reliable, or that if two sources contradict each other both must be regarded as doubtful. What strikes me as less reasonable though is the special pleading you sometimes see - if all three of those standards were applied accross the board we'd have to write off not only the historicity of Jesus, but also many figures and events which practically everybody takes for granted - in fact, we'd probably be left with the conclusion that we know very little at all about ancient history. Maybe this is why professional historians don't generally subscribe to such standards - if they did they'd all be out of jobs.

Quote:
This is not to say that there are no crackpot theories about Christianity that are not worth the time to refute. I just don't think that Doherty is one of those crackpots.


I don't regard Doherty as a crackpot either (certainly not in the same bracket as Acharya S) - but as a dedicated skeptic I certainly have a healthy degree of skepticism with regard to his position. Also, I'm just developing an interest in the area, and on general principle I'd much rather start with a few good undergraduate level texts from respected mainstream scholars than going straight to the margins. Atheists whose sole knowledge of the historical Jesus comes from Earl Doherty depress me just as much as Christians who have only read Josh McDowell and Lee Strobel.

Thanks for the links. I'm interested in any professional scholarship which takes the mythicist position seriously. Will check them out. I too am looking forward to seeing what Carrier has to say about Earl Doherty.

And if CowboyX can overcome his obvious distaste, I'd be interested to hear his rebuttal of the mythicist position.
Pantera is offline  
Old 12-22-2001, 03:59 AM   #25
Vorkosigan
Contributor
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Barrayar
Posts: 11,866
Post

Originally posted by Pantera:
Thanks for the links. I'm interested in any professional scholarship which takes the mythicist position seriously. Will check them out. I too am looking forward to seeing what Carrier has to say about Earl Doherty.

There are several ranking scholars holding the mythicist position. See Ellegard, there was a recent book-of-the-month here, and Eisenman's James the Brother of Jesus I believe ultimately concludes Jesus was a concoction. And those are just western scholars. One wonders what eastern ones might say.

I think there is a misunderstanding in this thread, and that is that the myth position is not "Jesus never existed" so much as it is "the Jesus we have is entirely a creature of myth." Except for the bare fact of execution, we know nothing about him. I remain agnostic on whether there was ever actually such a person, but I am not convinced that he died at Pilate's hands, his parents fled to Egypt, and so on.

Nor do mythicists regard the gospels as myths because the contain supernatural elements. That's a caricature. And I am sorry, Pantera, but your statement about mythicist principles making almost all ancient historical events false is absurd. Mythicists ask the same questions of Paul and the gospels that would be critically asked of any texts.

All books of the period contain supernatural elements, except maybe Thucydides, may he live forever. The real question about the fifty-odd gospels is whether one is reading history theologized, or theology historicized. Everyone confronts this when reading the gospels, and everyone answers it differently. There is no methodology for sorting out truth from invention in those tales, as Crossan has so eloquently pointed out.

And if CowboyX can overcome his obvious distaste, I'd be interested to hear his rebuttal of the mythicist position.

Me too.

Michael
Vorkosigan is offline  
Old 12-22-2001, 04:54 AM   #26
Polycarp
Regular Member
 
Join Date: Feb 2001
Location: USA
Posts: 228
Post

Quote:
Originally posted by CowboyX:
Ditto. I don't know how much we want to get into it, but Earl Doherty is a nutjob. I've corresponded with him a few times and frankly he is a kook. None of the legitimate biblical scholars I know considers him anything besides an oddity. He is great for people who have little real biblical knowledge and have a strong desire to believe that Jesus never existed (a desire I, for one, cannot comprehend). That being said I haven't seen many overt mythicists here. Personally I have no desire to even engage that theory anymore than people who say evolution hasn't happened. Both are fundamentalist drivel (one theistic one atheistic)

Also when did "The Jesus Puzzle" get published? Last I heard it was just available on the web. Anyone can "publish" a "book" on the web.
Quote:
Blasphemer!! Heretic!! I'm ROFL!!

Kook? Nutjob? You're speaking against one of the most revered authors(?) quoted by some of the people who hang out here.

If Nomad or I posted something like you just did, we'd either be verbally crucified or dismissed as afraid to debate the issue. The fact that neither has happened to you speaks volumes to me.


Peace,

Polycarp
Polycarp is offline  
Old 12-22-2001, 05:03 AM   #27
Vorkosigan
Contributor
 
Join Date: Jan 2001
Location: Barrayar
Posts: 11,866
Post

If Nomad or I posted something like you just did, we'd either be verbally crucified or dismissed as afraid to debate the issue. The fact that neither has happened to you speaks volumes to me.
Peace,
Polycarp


Actually, I believe two of us asked him to explain his views, with an eye toward debate, at least in my case. Perhaps you didn't read the whole thread.

"Kook" and "nutjob" is strong language, and I have no doubt that CowboyX will either defend his position and show that Earl D is a kook, or retract those comments.

Michael
Vorkosigan is offline  
Old 12-22-2001, 08:04 AM   #28
Pantera
Veteran Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2001
Location: Cambridge, England, but a Scot at heart
Posts: 2,431
Post

Nor do mythicists regard the gospels as myths because the contain supernatural elements. That's a caricature. And I am sorry, Pantera, but your statement about mythicist principles making almost all ancient historical events false is absurd. Mythicists ask the same questions of Paul and the gospels that would be critically asked of any texts.

Sorry Michael, I shouldn't really post late at night - I was rambling about various things there. I didn't mean to suggest that my above characterisation was an accurate summary of your own position or that of some of the mythicists. OTOH it's not a complete charicature because I have seen people who should really know better, on these boards and elsewhere, use exactly those objections to a historical Jesus - eg in Losing Faith in Faith Dan Barker asserts that no such person as Jesus existed, and one of the lines of evience he uses is that there are contradictions in the Gospels. I don't really think that those kinds of leaps of logic do the image of atheism a great deal of good.
Pantera is offline  
Old 12-22-2001, 08:54 AM   #29
Toto
Contributor
 
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Los Angeles area
Posts: 40,549
Post

Quote:
Originally posted by Polycarp:
<strong>

If Nomad or I posted something like you just did, we'd either be verbally crucified or dismissed as afraid to debate the issue. The fact that neither has happened to you speaks volumes to me.

</strong>
Nomad did post those thoughts. He was not crucified (although all Christians seem to long for that). He was challenged, and could not back up his claims. In the formal debate with Doherty, he looked like a rank amateur.

There is much more to the claim for the non-existence of Jesus than simple contradictions in the Gospels. You will find many mainstream scholars who admit that the Gospels were written too late, and contain too much obvious legend, to count as firm evidence for any event in Jesus' life. Those who claim Jesus existed are forced to rely on putative oral legends that were reflected in the Gospels, and the testimony of Paul, who never met Jesus, but might have met people who were reputed to have known Jesus personally. Plus two highly controversial passages in Josephus, one of which was either partly or completely forged.

All in all, the evidence is too ambiguous to support anything but agnosticism.

Doherty is fairly upfront about his motives. He is a Humanist, and believes that the Jesus myth has caused a lot of harm in history. It would clarify the debate if other Biblical scholars were similarly open. I suspect most of them take the existence of Jesus as a default position based on their own faith. A Catholic like Raymond Brown could not conclude that Jesus never existed, without giving up vast parts of his life and career.

[ December 22, 2001: Message edited by: Toto ]</p>
Toto is offline  
Old 12-22-2001, 10:26 AM   #30
Metacrock
Banned
 
Join Date: Aug 2000
Location: Dallas, Texas, USA
Posts: 1,734
Arrow

Quote:
Originally posted by turtonm:
<strong>Originally posted by Pantera:
[qb]
Would you make the same criticism of a chemistry textbook which ignored phlogiston theory, a physics textbook which did not even mention perpetual motion devices, or a geology textbook which did not even bother to rebut the position that the geological and fossil records are the result of a global flood 4000 years ago?</strong>
If it had a section on the history of ideas, yes. But more importantly, Brown does not deal with a whole wing of scholarship on the question of Jesus' historicity. GA Wells is not mentioned. He does mention Spong, though, to sneer at him, and Spong is not a scholar.[/qb][/QUOTE]


Meta=&gt; GA Wells is not important.He's not a Bible schoar, it's not his field, he's not respected by any academics in that field, and he's gone back on the position of Jesus as myth.

Quote:
To throw your analogy back at you, imagine if a textbook on the solar system had ignored the whole discussion/evidence on life on Mars, neglected to mention the Viking missions, the recent controversy on the meteorites (which I think was finally put to rest this week) and so on.

Meta =&gt; This why the last Historian I worked for as a TA (who has something of a reputation) said to me "why waste your time arguing with idiots?" Not that I'm calling you one, but that's really what he said when I told him about the Christ myther thing. That's because Wells is not respected, the Christ myth thing was knocked in the 19th century. Your analogy doesn't apply. It would be more like saying "why doesn't this textbook cover UFO's?"

Quote:
As for poor Polycarp, I don't know why it is so weird to be skeptical about the mere existence of a Jesus.
MEta =-&gt; Because no one who knows anything is.


Quote:
Other major religious figures are widely regarded as mythical, or at least, that the stories we have about them do not reflect any historical reality.
Meta -&gt;Why is it so wired to think that Julisu Ceasar was a myth? Other great military figures and kings of the ancient world were myths. Well what that historian I mention above told me is, "If we used religion and polemics as a criterion for historicity we would know next to nothing about the ancient world, becasue most of our knolwedge of the ancient world comes from sources polemical in their religious or political devotion.

Quote:
But Nomad, Layman and Polycarp seem to get so exercised when skeptics treat his mythical savior the same way, say, Chinese religion scholars treat the mythical saviors of Folk Taoism or Folk Buddhism, and at his inability to come up with any convincing evidence that the myths of the gospels reflect any historical reality of any historical Jesus.

Meta =&gt;Yea that's because Jesus is excepted as fact by secular historians, even if a great deal about him isn't.
Metacrock is offline  
 

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -8. The time now is 12:13 PM.

Top

This custom BB emulates vBulletin® Version 3.8.2
Copyright ©2000 - 2015, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.