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Old 04-24-2001, 09:56 AM   #21
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Layman, I just read an article by Doherty in which he discusses the origins of the Jesus 'myth'. He admits that he can only speculate given the indirect suggestions provided by Paul. Regardless, you might be interested in what he says. And if you see any obvious problems with his ideas, I'd like to hear them.

Unfortunately, he says virtually nothing about why there would be Pagan-like views held by the first Christians. It seems he views the earliest Christians as being influenced by both Jewish and Greek religious ideas, yet focusing on 'revelatory experiences'. The crux of Doherty's arguments is that Paul and others claim to get their info from these experiences and scripture, and not as passed straight from a human Jesus.

Aha. What we're looking for can be found here. I just skimmed it but Doherty is discussing the ideas of Philo as a 'grandfather of Christianity' and the beliefs relating to Jewish personified wisdom.

I suppose if Doherty is going to join us, you might as well have read some of his thoughts ahead of time.

From second article:
Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">This traffic had been going on for well over a century, and the development of a divine intermediary concept within certain Jewish circles could have been simmering for some time all over the Levant, until Philo brought things to a boil, perhaps laying the ground for the birth of a new movement. That currents moved outward from Alexandria is evidenced by Paul and Acts, in their picture of the apostle Apollos. “Powerful in his use of the scriptures,” (says Acts 18:24), Apollos represents an intermediate stage, a step beyond Philo’s impersonal Logos, for he seems to have preached a “Wisdom” Messiah, a spiritual revealer of knowledge. His message was claimed to confer an immediate resurrection and salvation upon the Corinthian enthusiasts (see Supplementary Article No. 1: “Apollos and the Early Christian Apostolate”). </font>

[This message has been edited by PhysicsGuy (edited April 24, 2001).]
 
Old 04-24-2001, 02:48 PM   #22
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A more mainstream historical-critical view, expressed in Bishop Sprong here in a four part Easter essay, is that Christianity was founded by Simon Peter, one of the disciples, in Galilee, and that the initial idea was not a bodily ressurection, but an experience of the teachings of Jesus being real which was cast in the terms of ressurrection (with Jesus rising from the dead to heaven, like most Christians say all souls do today ) which got garbled over the subsequent years.

Paul is often spoken of as the founder of Christianity, but when this is said, the writers generally mean not that he was the first Christian, but that he was the formative figure turning the early church from a wishy-washy disorganized following with divided leadership into an effective organization (arguably with values quite at odds with the Gospel), with written documentation, that went on to be the organization which became the Roman Catholic church. (The Ethiopian Church claims to date, I believe, from before Paul, and has some evidence, such as non-canonical scriptures and practices which support this idea).

Paul is also the first New Testament writer, and hence his writings are generally considered to be closest to the early church (although never the less 30 years out and distorted by his views and perspectives on life).

If Jesus really is a myth, a fairly likely scenario might go something like this. First, somebody, perhaps John the Baptist, comes up with a lot of good sayings, some his own, and some belonging to others. He talks like mad about this Messiah fleshing out what he'd be like, but he never comes. John dies. His disciples convert this wishful picture of a Messiah into a claim that John really did Baptize someone like that. They start attributing John's sayings to Jesus. People who hear the story start filling in the gaps and fleshing it out with no evidence to support this. Pretty soon peolpe have started gathering to talk about this great idea that a Messiah has come and that we missed him. They are here, there and everywhere. They are unorganized. They may even develop a group identity. The disciples of John who wishfully altered the story fade away. Paul hears this story from some of these groups, believes it all and falls hook, line and sinker for it. Being an enterprising Roman, he institutionalizes the whole thing. Soon, positive reinforcement makes everyone, including third party observers, believe that it really happened.

This makes Jesus a myth, and John the Baptist the source of the Gospel's philosophy, modified by his disciples. But, even if Jesus is a myth, there are at least founders of Christianity, and Paul is a fairly unlikely candidate in my view (given his background and disposition -- would Paul ever write the Beatitudes himself?). I think a Sprongian demystified Jesus is more plausible than a pure myth theory, but wouldn't rule out either.

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Old 04-24-2001, 03:01 PM   #23
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I'll take a crack at some of your questions since I've done a little reading.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Layman:
I am curious.

One idea that seems central to the Jesus-Myth hypothesis is that Paul was the true founder of Christianity. Mythers vary according to just who those people were in Jerusalem and what they believed, but they are pretty sure that Paul was somehow responsible for the myth growing in popularity. And according to Doherty's brand, Paul is completey unaware of a human Jesus.</font>
Doherty does not see Paul as the founder of Christianity. He sees Christianity developing out of similar belief systems embodied in Jewish Wisdom literature and Philo of Alexandria for instance, with further developments such as the use of the name Jesus and the story about crucifixion and resurrection possibly being influenced by Greek mystery cults.

Doherty's Supplementary Article No. 5:
Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">What we do know is that such innovators were building on contemporary religious philosophy, both Jewish and Greek. They had antecedents. Only if the fundamental concept of a heavenly intermediary between God and humanity was already a part of the philosophical fabric of the time can we understand the genesis of the Christian movement, or the success which apostles like Paul achieved. The creation of Christian ideas out of this fabric was a process which undoubtedly took place at more than one location around the eastern Mediterranean, with various communities and individuals interacting on each other over the course of an unknown number of years. A record of such seminal evolutionary processes has been lost to us, but we can see early manifestations of them in such things as the christological hymns of Philippians (2:6-11), Colossians (1:15-20) and 1 Timothy (3:16), in the Epistle to the Hebrews, and in the Wisdom-Word-Son mysticism of the Odes of Solomon (see Supplementary Article No. 4). And we can glean something of Paul’s own application and rethinking of the fledgling ideas he embraced at various points in his letters.</font>
Layman:
Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">But what I find curious about this is that we know Paul was not the founder of all the early Christian churches. Not even of the most important ones for that matter. It is clear that there was a Christian movement that preexisted Paul and Christian communities that were founded by persons other than Paul. Yet they seemed to have preached much the same message as Paul. Apollos, for example, was preaching and teaching Jesus before he even met Paul. 1 Cor. 1:12; 16:12. There was also Andronicus and Junia, apparently a missionary couple, who evangelized independently of Paul. Rom 16:7. Another couple that worked independently of Paul, although sometimes in conjunction with him, were Prisca and Aquila. Rom. 16:3; Acts 18:2. Who were these people? What where they teaching? Where did they get their beliefs from?</font>
Why are these questions problematic for Jesus-mythers? The idea is that Christianity arose sometime in the early first century and took a variety of forms, some more similar than others, and continued to change and adapt to various ways of thinking. These differences provide the fuel for lots of disagreements and arguments that Paul and other leaders had to deal with. Since we see Christianity in a variety of forms in later years, as embodied in gnosticism for instance, isn't it reasonable that the same sort of evolution of thought occurred earlier as well in forming the Christianity taught by Paul and the others you mentioned.

Doherty suggests that Apollos actually provides evidence of an 'intermediate' form of Christianity, as discussed in the quote in my post above.

Layman:
Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Are we to suspect that all of these evangelists, although unrelated to Paul, were preaching this Jesus-Myth theory? And if they were, where did they get it from? Certainly not from Paul, since their ministries had been ongoing well before they met him. And if not from Paul, then from whom? Would that mean that Paul was not the founder of the Jesus-Myth? And if he was not then who was? </font>
Don't know. Doherty would suggest that you have a false view of there being a drastic difference between religious belief before Christianity and after Christianity that required a single event or invention to produce the new religion.

Doherty:
Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Philo adopted the Platonic Logos for his own picture of the universe, calling it “the Son” and “the first-begotten of God.” He also drew on the figure of Wisdom from Judaism’s own intermediary theology (see below). In some biblical and extra-biblical writings, Wisdom, a personified aspect of God, was an agent of creation and salvation, pre-existent with God in heaven. Philo occasionally makes her mother to the Logos. But such language seems to be symbolic only. Certainly, Philo envisioned no incarnation of this “Son” to earth.

Philo could not personalize his first-begotten of God, nor make him even as distinct a figure as the spiritual Christ who inhabited Paul’s mind, for his Jewish monotheistic instinct was too strong. Nor had he any apocalyptic leanings, with consequently little if any interest in the Messiah idea. Besides, Philo was a mystic, one who had achieved, so he believed, an ascent to God; he hints at intense religious experiences which make Paul sound earthbound. His focus on the Platonized God of Abraham could well have shut out the possibility of developing any allegiance or emotional investment in a subordinate deity. And so his “first-born Son” remained a largely abstract principle, the power by which God worked on the universe. </font>
Mix this kind of philosophy with just a little of the Greek notion of gods acting out saving acts in the layered heavens and you've got a story of the intemediary dying and resurrecting. Tell this story enough times and people decide it actually happened. Write down a story and people believe it's true.


Layman:
Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Why do we have so many Jews running around preaching a new religion based on pagan myths ? Is there any evidence to support this notion? Or is this picture contrary to what we know about Jews, even in the diaspora?</font>
I think I and others have pushed the Greek mystery religion idea too hard. From rereading Doherty, I get the impression that the mystery religion (pagan) aspect of Christianity is minor compared to the Jewish and earlier Greek (Plato, Philo) influences. Doherty's contention is that Hellenized Jusaism was strong before Christianity arose.

Perhaps you could read through the article I keep referencing since I'm probably not doing it justice.

Layman:
Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">One early Christian community that we are reasonably well informed regarding is the Church in Rome. Some skeptics may be surprised to learn that Paul did not found the church in Rome. In fact, he had not even visited or previously written it prior to the Epistle to the Romans. But, if Paul did not found the Church in Rome, then who did?

Conservative Jews.

*snip*

It appears, therefore, that Christianity arose in Rome well before any sort of organized missionary efforts from Paul. It appears that we must date the emergence of Christianity in Rome no later than 49 CE and probably some time earlier than that.

So how did Christianity first come to Rome? </font>
Don't know, but this is problem for all, Jesus-mythers or not.

Layman:
Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">That is one of history's unsolved questions. We simply do not know the specific identity of the founders of Roman Christianity. They were, however, almost certainly Jews. "One thing seems clear from other evidence - that Roman Christianity was originally Jewish, and Jewish of a nonconformist stamp." F.F. Bruce, Paul, Apostle of the Heart Set Free, at 383. As late as 225 CE, Roman Christianity demonstrated indications of a Jewish nature, such as a purificatory bath similar to that of the Essenes. M. Black, the Scrolls and Christian Origins, at 91. Moreover, a commentator in the fourth century traditionally identified as Ambrosiaster stated, "[t]he Romans had embraced the faith of Christ, albeit according to the Jewish right, although they saw no sign of mighty works nor any of the apostles." This confirms that Paul did not play any role in establishing Christianity in Rome and that the first Christians in Rome were conservative Jews.

One possibility is that Jewish and proselyte pilgrims who had traveled to Jerusalem carried the message of Jesus to Rome. Acts 2:10-11 records that "visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes" heard Peter's preaching of the kerygma (or, early church message) in Jerusalem shortly after the resurrection of Jesus. Even if Peter's preaching on that occasion failed to result in the spread of Christianity to Rome, it demonstrates a possible way in which it happened. Jews and proselytes often undertook pilgrimages to Jerusalem and the Temple, and given the large Jewish population in
Rome, it is likely they encountered Christianity in Jerusalem. It is also possible that Jewish Christians relocated to Rome for various reasons, including, possibly, the early persecution of the Church in Jerusalem. </font>
Sounds good to me.

Layman:
Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">So, it appears from all of the evidence available to us that Christianity was spread to Rome very early by Jewish Christians. Eventually, by 56 CE at the latest, the Roman Church also contained Gentile Christians. As to organization, "the Christians in Rome appear at this time to have met as groups in house-churches or other local meeting-places. Some of the Jewish Christians may still have counted themselves as adherents of one or another of the Jewish synagogues." F.F. Bruce, PAHSF, at 385.

Despite the fact that the church in Rome had been established by conservative Jews, Paul writes them using the same language as he does the churches he founded. Are we to suppose that a church founded by conservative Jewish Christians had adopted the same, very non-Jewish meaning (according to Mythers) attached to the very Jewish words of Paul?</font>
I think we need to straighten out how 'non-Jewish' the Jesus-mythers suggest that Paul's Christianity is. And keep in mind that the word 'conservative' might not be that appropriate in describing a new religion. These were not orthodox Jews by any stretch of the imagination. They were Christians with beliefs that were heretical to Orthodox Jews, whether they believed Jesus was a real person or not, and especially if Jesus was considered a real human. The notion that Logos & Wisdom personified as a spiritual being was in fact the long awaited Messiah is most likely more palatable to an Orthodox Jew than that God himself was born as flesh and was recently put to death by fellow Jews. I just don't see why Doherty's notion of Paul's Christianity is considered less Jewish than the standard one.

Layman:
Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Paul opens his letter up by presenting his credentials and asserting the central theme of his theology. That God has intervened in human history by sending his son Jesus "according to the flesh" and affirmed Jesus by resurrecting Him from the dead.

Romans 5:35.

Now.

My question is, how would a church founded by conservative Jewish Christians, and which retained at least some of those beliefs (remember the ritual baths?), react to receiving a letter like this? </font>
Who are these conservative Jewish Christians? What makes them conservative? Their reaction would depend largely on how they understood the phrase that is translated as "according to the flesh".

Doherty: From Supplementary Article No.8
Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Here, Paul offers two elements about the Son. One is kata sarka, literally “according to the flesh,” a vague and particularly cryptic phrase that is used throughout early Christian literature in a variety of subtle ways, often with unclear meaning.</font>
This article discusses a lot of the verses given as evidence that Jesus lived as a man.

Layman:
Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Is there any evidence that conservative Jewish sects were awaiting a solely spiritual messiah?

Is there any evidence that conservative Jewish sects were awaiting a purely spiritual resurrection?

None that I am ware of. Rather, it seems that the Jews expected God to intervene in human history. It also seems that they were expecting a physical resurrection. At least the majority of Jews and the Pharisees (which Paul goes out of his way to identify with) were expecting a physical resurrection. The Sadduccees disagreed with them and expected no resurrection. </font>
I wasn't aware that Doherty or others reject the possibility that Jewish Christians would necessarily reject a physical resurrection for themselves just because Jesus was nonphysical. They themselves were physical, and some might assume that their resurrection would also be physical.

The spiritual messiah question certainly seems relevant and deserves a good answer. The development of the idea of messiah as spiritual could possibly be inferred from the Jewish Wisdom literature, and the Logos literature, as Doherty discusses above, but I'm not sure how much we can say.

Layman:
Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Accordingly, the recipients of the Epistle to the Romans would take Paul at his word. They would think that Paul was talking about a human, "according to the flesh." They would think he was literally crucified and that he literally, and bodily, rose from the dead. </font>
The meaning of the phrase "according to the flesh" is under debate. If your interpretation is right, than Doherty's whole case is destroyed.

Layman:
Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">There seems to be no justification for the belief that this group would take Paul as Doherty does. Namely that Paul was not talking about events in this world at all, but some pagan references and concepts of heavens and spirituality. </font>
So far, none of us has given an adequate representation of Doherty's views and it appears you haven't read any of his stuff (not an accusation). Perhaps after we've made it through some of these issues you will agree that there is some justification for Doherty's views, even if you're not convinced.

Doherty's supplementary articles seem to contain the main points of Doherty's argument and in an email I posted on the Jesus Puzzle thread, Doherty listed only supplementary articles as suggested reading, specifically 3,6,8,9, and 10, with 8 and 10 being the most important.

Earl Doherty's Supplementary Articles:

[This message has been edited by PhysicsGuy (edited April 24, 2001).]
 
Old 04-24-2001, 10:01 PM   #24
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by ohwilleke:
A more mainstream historical-critical view, expressed in Bishop Sprong here in a four part Easter essay, is that Christianity was founded by Simon Peter, one of the disciples, in Galilee, and that the initial idea was not a bodily ressurection, but an experience of the teachings of Jesus being real which was cast in the terms of ressurrection (with Jesus rising from the dead to heaven, like most Christians say all souls do today ) which got garbled over the subsequent years.</font>
Earlier on in this thread, Zoroastor says "I have decided only to read a theist's post until the first logical fallacy is reached. This cuts down my reading of garbage by about 90%." I guess I will follow his lead and only read the first sentence of the first paragraph of your quote and ask the following question: On what basis do you claim that John Shelby Spong is part of a more historical mainstream Christianity?

And with respect to your claim that Simon Peter founded Christianity, how do you come to that conclusion consistent with his willingness to be martyred for a faith that he must not have believed to be true? Are you saying that the letter of Peter in the Bible are not really letters of Peter?

BK
 
Old 04-25-2001, 11:27 AM   #25
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And for those not familiar with Spong and Doherty their views have virtually nothing in common. Spong does not think Jesus was a myth, he thinks that Jesus lived and died, but was not resurrected (according to the link given). Spong is not a 'Jesus-myther'. Doherty rejects the Gospel stories as fiction and does not think you can find the 'real' Jesus by picking apart the Gospels. So he qualifies as a 'Jesus-myther'.
 
Old 04-25-2001, 07:33 PM   #26
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Hi Ethan

I do appreciate your interest in this subject, and you do appear to be serious in your inquiry into the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth.

I apologize that I have not gotten the final post up on the Jesus Puzzles, but still hope to do so before the weekend. After that I will wait for Doherty or someone to step forward and actually defend the Jesus-Myth theories.

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. 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. 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?

In another example, Doherty, as a Jesus myther is prone to make broad based and unqualified statements like "In Christian writings earlier than Mark, including almost all of the New Testament epistles, as well as in many writings from the second century, the object of Christian faith is never spoken of as a human man who had recently lived, taught, performed miracles, suffered and died at the hands of human authorities, or rose from a tomb outside Jerusalem."

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? 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?

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.

Peace,

Brian (aka Nomad)
 
Old 04-26-2001, 12:27 AM   #27
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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.

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.

Or you could examine Doherty's evidence and just find it wanting, and conclude that the question of Jesus's existence is unknowable.

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.
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Old 04-26-2001, 01:38 AM   #28
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Nomad:
Hi Ethan

I do appreciate your interest in this subject, and you do appear to be serious in your inquiry into the historicity of Jesus of Nazareth.

I apologize that I have not gotten the final post up on the Jesus Puzzles, but still hope to do so before the weekend. After that I will wait for Doherty or someone to step forward and actually defend the Jesus-Myth theories.</font>
Hi Brian,
I'd love to do nothing more. Unfortunately, my involvement here is a guilty pleasure. I have much else to do. Hopefully Doherty will take over.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">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.</font>
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. 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.

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. 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.

You know all this of course. I just want to point out that the logic concepts you mention, such as 'falsification', 'circular reasoning' and 'special pleading' have less relevance in these debates than they would in modern questions, especially those dealing with science. 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. This is obviously silly.

All Biblical scholars, no matter what their view, propose a theory and put together the evidence that supports their theory. 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.

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? Perhaps you've read his article No. 8?

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> 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.</font>
Your statements are painfully loaded.

Clearly Doherty doesn't think that the phrases are obvious at all. 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. 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). Overall, however, I find his case rather convincing and I look forward to the upcoming debate, if and when it happens.


Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> 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? </font>
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. 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.

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.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">In another example, Doherty, as a Jesus myther is prone to make broad based and unqualified statements like "In Christian writings earlier than Mark, including almost all of the New Testament epistles, as well as in many writings from the second century, the object of Christian faith is never spoken of as a human man who had recently lived, taught, performed miracles, suffered and died at the hands of human authorities, or rose from a tomb outside Jerusalem."

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?</font>
Really, Nomad, do you think that Doherty is an idiot? 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.

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? 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. However, there is already great doubt about the contents of the Jesus passages in Josephus. Whether or not Doherty is justified in rejecting all references to Jesus will be an interesting topic of debate and of course is the main topic of one of Doherty's articles.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> 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?</font>
Yes, faith enters into everything, but in different degrees. Would you agree that your beliefs about the Bible are not solid demonstrable truth? Can your views be falsified?

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">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.</font>
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.

Ethan (PhysicsGuy)

[This message has been edited by PhysicsGuy (edited April 26, 2001).]
 
Old 04-26-2001, 01:20 PM   #29
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Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by BK:
Earlier on in this thread, Zoroastor says "I have decided only to read a theist's post until the first logical fallacy is reached. This cuts down my reading of garbage by about 90%." I guess I will follow his lead and only read the first sentence of the first paragraph of your quote and ask the following question: On what basis do you claim that John Shelby Spong is part of a more historical mainstream Christianity?

And with respect to your claim that Simon Peter founded Christianity, how do you come to that conclusion consistent with his willingness to be martyred for a faith that he must not have believed to be true? Are you saying that the letter of Peter in the Bible are not really letters of Peter?

BK </font>
Just to be clear, I am an atheist. Also, to clear up what appears to be a misunderstanding, Sprong is not a mainstream Christian. He is an Episcopal Bishop who gradually came to understand the Bible not as a story of a real supernatural Jesus and God, but as an aspirational myth that can powerfully shed insight on our lives. But, among those people who look at the Bible critically and historically, as opposed to taking it at face value (like Christian conservatives), he is more mainstream, in believing that Jesus was a real person who inspired a powerful religious movement, than Doherty, who tries to make the case that there was no historical Jesus.

The letters attributed to a Peter were not written by the disciple of Jesus. They were probably written close to 120 years AD. See the Encyclopedia Britannica entry on the topic: here

Peter might never the less be willing to be a matyr for the movement, for much the same reasons that people were willing to stand in front of tanks in Tienamen square, set themselves on fire with gasoline during the Vietnam war, or march up beach into the barrel of a gun on D-Day. Peter, in this article, was profoundly impacted by an entirely new understanding of life by this movement and supporting it was something the we certainly would have been willing to give his life for since that is what provided it with meaning. His faith in God and in the interpretion of God provided by Jesus was real, even though the resurrection was a mere metaphor.

Quote:
<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>
In my mind, Doherty's big problem is that he pushes the Biblical language too hard, beyond plausibility really. For example, while he makes a big deal about Paul saying that he is an Apostle of God, rather than an Apostle of Jesus Christ . . . the "Gospel" he is teaching is all about Jesus Christ, in quite a canonical way that seems patently to carry the assumption that there was a Jesus Christ. The fact that Paul calls himself an Apostle of God rather than an Apostle of Jesus Christ, for example, does not appear to claim that he has authority by virtue of apostolic succession from Jesus, are valid poitns, but they are more easily explained as differences in style between an "Orthodox" group in Jerusalem, and an "independent" group which he embodies. They may even provide insight on whether the early church saw Jesus as a prophet or as a divinity. But I don't think that they can be pushed as far as Doherty takes that point. Similarly, the fact that Paul doesn't reference the sayings attributed to Jesus doesn't seem such a powerful point to me. It is widely believed that the "sayings Gospel" was one mving piece among several parts of the tradition that ended up in the four canonical Gospels. Since everyone agrees that Paul didn't have first hand knowledge of the sayings of Jesus since he converted after his death, and that he was not acting under the authority of Jerusalem, it is entirely plausible that the people who converted him simply didn't have access to this knowledge and neither did he. The fact that a convert to a thirty year old religion who wasn't closely associated with "headquarters" as it were, didn't have access to the total story but wrote about what he did know doesn't surpise me in the least. Indeed, I doubt that Paul would have been so harsh in his letters to the Corinthians if he had known about those sayings . . . discovering those would have changed the entire meaning of his life.

[This message has been edited by ohwilleke (edited April 26, 2001).]

[This message has been edited by ohwilleke (edited April 26, 2001).]
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Old 04-26-2001, 03:10 PM   #30
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Just to clarify, Doherty accepts that Jesus was very real to Paul, just as Christians today claim that Jesus is very real to them. Christians claim to interact with Jesus spiritually. So did Paul. Doherty does not argue that Jesus has nothing to do with Christianity. He agrees that Jesus is central to Christianity, but that the Jesus that Paul worships was not recently on the Earth as a living breathing human.
 
 

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