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Old 07-25-2001, 05:23 AM   #1
Bill
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Question Nomad: What Is "Evidence" To You?

Nomad:

On several recent threads, you've accused me of having no "evidence" to back up one assertion or another. I know that I'm certainly not the only one to be victimized by this charge of yours, so it's time here to have it out on just what constitutes "evidence" for an assertion that somebody might make within a thread here on the II discussion forums.

Mind you, this is a trick question, since, based upon what answer you give, I intend to either:
  • Use your own standards of "evidence" against you, demonstrating that under your own rules of "evidence," you don't have any "evidence" for any of YOUR assertions;
  • Use those standards of "evidence" to demonstrate to any or all fair-minded individual(s) that you (Nomad) have constructed biased rules of "evidence" which are designed to protect you from having to accept assertions which you do not care to consider as true; and/or
  • Both of the above.
When you consider how to reply to this challenge, you had best consider just how you intend to establish the the Bible constitutes "evidence" for anything. I know that you use Bible quotes and assert that these constitute "evidence" of one thing or another, but can the Bible really stand up as "evidence" under any sort of a fair standard? Consider this:
  • Jesus certainly did not speak English.
  • It is almost as certain that Jesus did not speak Greek.
  • It is highly-probable that Jesus spoke primarily Aramaic, with at least some knowledge of Hebrew (possibly more, but that is a matter of some dispute).
  • Thus, every Bible quote of Jesus that is posted on this forum in English has, at a minimum, gone through at least two translations, and at least one of those two translations occurred almost 2,000 years ago by people of unknown linguistic abilities.
  • No "original" copy of the Bible has ever existed, since the Bible in its current form was constructed only about 500 years ago, when the printing press made it feasible to distribute large numbers of Bible copies. Prior to that time, each Bible had to be laboriously hand copied, and as the various church councils debated about which books were "in" and which were "out," the contents kept changing.
I think that most fair-minded people should agree that the Dead Sea Scrolls constitute far better "evidence" of just what the Old Testament said 2,000 years ago. And while much of it does turn out to be the same, there are some substantial differences between what the Dead Sea Scrolls reveal about the contents of the Old Testament and what the modern church adheres to as the "traditional" text. It will be interesting to me, now that the scrolls have been made widely available, to watch which Christian denominations use the scrolls to "correct" their version of the Holy Bible, and which Christian denominations refuse to do so, for one reason or another.

If your standards of "evidence" cannot accept the Dead Sea Scrolls as being better "evidence" of what the Old Testament really said at the time of Jesus, as opposed to the altered, edited, redacted, and otherwise manipulated text that has been handed down to us modern folks, then I would assert that your standards of "evidence" are biased to protect your traditional beliefs against modern scientific findings.

But if your standards of "evidence" can accept the above, then they should allow for the legitimate consideration of a wide range of non-Cannonical texts that might, in some way or another, "correct" the errors of both the Old and New Testaments. This might be an interesting avenue to pursue, but of course, it cannot be pursued if your standards of "evidence" do not allow it.

Anyway, again before I respond to any of your posts challenging whether or not I have any "evidence" to support my assertions of one thing or another, I do think it is important to have it out, hopefully right here in this thread, as to exactly what constitutes "evidence" in your own mind. So, without further ado, I shall await your reply to this inquiry (and don't accuse me of putting any words into your mouth; anything I've said herein is to be taken only as an illustration of what COULD happen in certain circumstances).

== Bill
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Old 07-25-2001, 06:46 AM   #2
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I think that most fair-minded people should agree that the Dead Sea Scrolls constitute far better "evidence" of just what the Old Testament said 2,000 years ago. And while much of it does turn out to be the same, there are some substantial differences between what the Dead Sea Scrolls reveal about the contents of the Old Testament and what the modern church adheres to as the "traditional" text. It will be interesting to me, now that the scrolls have been made widely available, to watch which Christian denominations use the scrolls to "correct" their version of the Holy Bible, and which Christian denominations refuse to do so, for one reason or another.
Some misconceptions here.

1) The text used in modern OT translation is the Masoretic Hebrew text. The earliest manuscripts are about 1,000 years old and are entirely Jewish. The modern church has not used a particularly Christianized version (although early Christians used the Greek Septuagint which leads to so inconsistancies between OT and NT) but an orthodox rather than sectarian Jewish one. Hence the OT manuscripts used in modern bibles have no Christian input at all.

2) The DSS are already used extensively in modern Bible translations. Big arguments about how they should be used in OT textual criticism have been remarkable for their absense.

3) It does not follow (even for fair minded people) that the Essene sect's copies of the OT will be better evidence than the rabbinic version of the Masoretic. Just because the DSS are a thousand years older does not mean they are more accurate especially as they belonged to an unorthodox sect that could very well have used different versions of the texts to support their theology.

Regarding non-canonicals, I expect that Nomad would just like to know which ones you are using and why. You may, prima facie assume that Nomad will accept the Bible as evidence. You should be prepared to give reasons as to why other sources should be considered to have evidential value when it is common ground that so many don't.

Yours

Bede

Some notes on OT transmission
 
Old 07-25-2001, 09:31 AM   #3
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The question of what constitutes evidence is a good one, and often becomes central to any discussion we are having on this (and other) Boards.

As a rule of thumb, I am willing to consider anything to be evidence (excepting personal and non-expert opinion, of course) in a particular discussion, but will want to look at its level of reliability and relevance to a given discussion. Let's take one example currently under discussion in the Jesus, Paul and the Roman Catholic Church thread.

The Gospel to the Ebonionites and the pseudo-Clementines are obviously evidence of the beliefs of the people that wrote them. But it is Earl's contention that they also represent the theology of James, the Brother of Jesus. It is this point that I will dispute, and I will present my reasons for doing so in that thread.

In another example, the Bible is clearly evidence of something, and it is easily the best attested evidence available to us today as to what Jesus thought, did, preached and taught. I am open to any challenges anyone wishes to make to these texts, but would like to see their reasoning for rejecting certain books and passages.

Further, if this same person expresses faith in something being evidence, even as they reject something else as being evidence, then I will want to see their reasoning as well. As an example, James Still and I recently had a discussion in which he said that he accepted the "Life of Apollonius" was based upon eye witness testimony, yet rejected the idea that the Gospel of John was also based on eye witness testimony. This kind of inconsistency in beliefs and applications of the rules of evidence intrigues me. You can pursue that discussion here, although we got off to a bad start, as James had thought that my argument relied upon the author of GJohn being the disciple John, and it does not.

As to your view on the DSS constituting evidence, I would definitely agree with you, subject to the qualification offered by Bede. The Essene community cannot, prima facie be considered more reliable in their presentation of the Hebrew Bible just because they offer us older texts. We must consider their theological motivations as well. Nor can we discount the value of the Greek Septuagint, dating from the same period of time. And as for using non-Canonical texts as evidence of something, again I do not have a problem with this, but will challenge the grounds for accepting them on a case by case basis.

Quite simply, it is my interest to see if the level of belief is supported by the quality of the evidence. Almost anything anyone wishes to introduce can be called evidence, and it may well be such. The Bible clearly is evidence in this Forum. As to its reliability, that then becomes the next step in the discussion. The same holds true of anything else anyone wishes to offer in a debate or discussion.

Nomad

[ July 25, 2001: Message edited by: Nomad ]
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Old 07-25-2001, 02:52 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally posted by Nomad:
<STRONG>The question of what constitutes evidence is a good one, and often becomes central to any discussion we are having on this (and other) Boards.

As a rule of thumb, I am willing to consider anything to be evidence (excepting personal and non-expert opinion, of course) in a particular discussion, but will want to look at its level of reliability and relevance to a given discussion. Let's take one example currently under discussion in the Jesus, Paul and the Roman Catholic Church thread.

The Gospel to the Ebonionites and the pseudo-Clementines are obviously evidence of the beliefs of the people that wrote them. But it is Earl's contention that they also represent the theology of James, the Brother of Jesus. It is this point that I will dispute, and I will present my reasons for doing so in that thread.

In another example, the Bible is clearly evidence of something, and it is easily the best attested evidence available to us today as to what Jesus thought, did, preached and taught. I am open to any challenges anyone wishes to make to these texts, but would like to see their reasoning for rejecting certain books and passages.

Further, if this same person expresses faith in something being evidence, even as they reject something else as being evidence, then I will want to see their reasoning as well. As an example, James Still and I recently had a discussion in which he said that he accepted the "Life of Apollonius" was based upon eye witness testimony, yet rejected the idea that the Gospel of John was also based on eye witness testimony. This kind of inconsistency in beliefs and applications of the rules of evidence intrigues me. You can pursue that discussion here, although we got off to a bad start, as James had thought that my argument relied upon the author of GJohn being the disciple John, and it does not.

As to your view on the DSS constituting evidence, I would definitely agree with you, subject to the qualification offered by Bede. The Essene community cannot, prima facie be considered more reliable in their presentation of the Hebrew Bible just because they offer us older texts. We must consider their theological motivations as well. Nor can we discount the value of the Greek Septuagint, dating from the same period of time. And as for using non-Canonical texts as evidence of something, again I do not have a problem with this, but will challenge the grounds for accepting them on a case by case basis.

Quite simply, it is my interest to see if the level of belief is supported by the quality of the evidence. Almost anything anyone wishes to introduce can be called evidence, and it may well be such. The Bible clearly is evidence in this Forum. As to its reliability, that then becomes the next step in the discussion. The same holds true of anything else anyone wishes to offer in a debate or discussion.

Nomad

[ July 25, 2001: Message edited by: Nomad ]</STRONG>
I have a quick question. Who says that eyewitness accounts constitute evidence?
Eyewitness accounts from whom? How many retellings? In many courtrooms across this nation, Judges throw out eyewitness accounts daily, as being unreliable, and in fact if you only have eyewitness accounts as evidence in some cases, you will never get to court.

How can someone use the Bible as evidence to validate Biblical questions?
Time lines, archeology, geneologies, and direct quotes are all intertwined in a real investigation, along with the historical writers of the time period.

You certainly cannot use a "Myth" to validate
a "Myth". You cannot use questionable evidence to uphold questionable evidence.

Arguments from authority are in many cases all that are available to many of us who are not privy to the actual written records, who cannot read Greek, Aramaic, Hebrew, Latin and must depend on what has been written by others.

And by the way, since there are no copies of the original manuscripts of the Gospels, what in the world makes you think that anything that is written by man, is not subject to conjecture, embellishment, misquotations, mistranslations, and just plain untruths? All these have been found in many of the gospel records.

These forums are not "the Jesus Seminars"
filled with the elite of the academic world.

We can prove absolutely nothing here in these forums, why? because we do not have the capability to examine the same material at the same time, in the same area.
So the debates rage on, but proof will always escape us here, and evidence is always questionable.

I think it is rather presumptuous to think that anyone can "present indisputable evidence" of anything that has not been personally dug from ancient sites, discovered from ancient texts, or gained through any method that was not obtained by the individual presenting the argument.


It doesnt matter what method you use, or what evidence you present, that evidence is and will always be derived through someone elses work and therefore cannot be anything BUT an argument from authority.

I still say you cant use a myth, to validate a myth.
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Old 07-25-2001, 03:12 PM   #5
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What we've mainly learned from the biblical scrolls from Qumran (some 250 of 800+ total documents) is that the text of the Hebrew Bible was pluriform in late 2nd Temple times. According to Frank Moore Cross's theory of local text types, there were three principal textual families: (1) proto-rabbinic, which evolved into our Masoretic Text, (2) Septuagint text type, and (3) Samaritan text type. These respectively reflect Babylonian, Alexandrian, and Palestinian textual traditions. The bulk of the biblical texts from Qumran (some 60%) are of the proto-rabbinic text type. (Such texts by no means were in complete agreement with our MT. The consonantal rabbinic text seems to have stabilized by the time of Bar Kokhba, as evidenced by the Wadi Muraba'at texts.)

Some major scholars, such as Emmanuel Tov, don't subscribe to Cross's theory of local text types. Tov sees more of a continuum of textual traditions.

In some ways the study of the biblical DSS has reinvigorated LXX scholarship. We have now pre-Christian Hebrew scrolls from Qumran which agree with the LXX over the MT in parts.

Cross has a nice discussion of the DSS and the origins of the bible in his book "The Ancient Library of Qumran". He also wrote a fine essay on the subject for Bible Review, which was reprinted in volume 1 of "The Best of Bible Review" (H. Minkoff, ed.).

While it is perhaps natural to suspect that the biblical Qumran scrolls might present a sectarian (i.e. Essene?) veneer, this doesn't seem to be the case. In fact, several of these scrolls seem to be earlier than the Qumran community itself (on the basis of palaeography and radiocarbon dating). It seems plausible that when the Qumran community formed, its members brought these and other scrolls with them. The sectarian views of the Qumranians were certainly reflected in documents such as their pesharim, but, it seems, not in the biblical scrolls themselves.

[ August 09, 2001: Message edited by: Apikorus ]
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Old 07-25-2001, 03:22 PM   #6
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I like this guy. Nice job, Apikorus.
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Old 07-25-2001, 11:16 PM   #7
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I am trying to determine from Nomad's words what are his standards for evidence.

Quote:
As a rule of thumb, I am willing to consider anything to be evidence (excepting personal and non-expert opinion, of course) in a particular discussion, but will want to look at its level of reliability and relevance to a given discussion.
Therefore, from his own words, here are Nomadís Standards of Evidence:[list=1][*]I am willing to consider anything to be evidence [except personal and non-expert opinion];[*]level of reliability;[*]relevance to a given discussion;[*]The Bible is clearly evidence of something, and it is easily the best attested evidence available to us today as to what Jesus thought, did, preached and taught;[*]reasoning for rejecting certain books and passages;[*]if [a] person expresses faith in something being evidence, even as [he rejects] something else as being evidence, then I will want to see [his] reasoning as well[/list=a]

Anything goes as evidence provided it is reliable and relevant to the discussion.

What are your standards for reliability?

What are your standards for relevance?

What are your standards for judging someoneís reasoning for rejecting certain books and passages?

What are your standards for judging someoneís reasoning for expressing faith in some evidence while rejecting other evidence?

The following appears to be Nomadís summary:
Quote:
Quite simply, it is my interest to see if the level of belief is supported by the quality of the evidence. Almost anything anyone wishes to introduce can be called evidence, and it may well be such. The Bible clearly is evidence in this Forum. As to its reliability, that then becomes the next step in the discussion. The same holds true of anything else anyone wishes to offer in a debate or discussion.
Here is a listing of Nomadís Standards of Evidence from the above quote:[list=1][*]Almost anything anyone wishes to introduce can be called evidence;[*]The Bible clearly is evidence;[*][Determining the] reliability [of evidence, including the Bible] becomes the next step in the discussion.[/list=a]

What are your standards for judging the reliability of evidence?
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Old 07-26-2001, 07:06 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally posted by Bob K:
<STRONG>Therefore, from his own words, here are Nomad’s Standards of Evidence:

I am willing to consider anything to be evidence [except personal and non-expert opinion];
</STRONG>
Well, then he certainly must disregard all of Paul's personal and non-expert opinions for what god wants us to do!

In fact, if the NT stories are true, the only one who would technically qualify as an expert in what god wants is god himself! Therefore, only Jesus's "words" are to be taken as evidence for anything, and anything outside of his commandments should be disregarded as personal opinion.
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Old 07-26-2001, 10:40 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally posted by sentinel00:
<STRONG>

Well, then he certainly must disregard all of Paul's personal and non-expert opinions for what god wants us to do!

In fact, if the NT stories are true, the only one who would technically qualify as an expert in what god wants is god himself! Therefore, only Jesus's "words" are to be taken as evidence for anything, and anything outside of his commandments should be disregarded as personal opinion.</STRONG>
Well said.

What do you have to say to this, Brian?

Unless you respond I will consider the following to be an accurate summation of your position on "evidence":

Brian's Position:
I have my belief.
All information which does not support my belief is not evidence and should be destroyed.

Therefore, those parts of Paul which support my belief are evidence. Those parts which do not, I can spin a bit and make to appear so, because to discount or destroy any part of Paul is to weaken my position, which is that my belief comes first.


Joe
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Old 07-26-2001, 12:19 PM   #10
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I know this is all in good fun but I don't agree that a caricatured view is representative unless that person says otherwise. But the point made about Paul is a very good one. I think apologists like Nomad may have forgotten that Paul was a human being just like us who experienced something unknown that he attributed to a risen Christ. His experience was meaningful to him I'm sure but it is hardly relevant to us today. We know his story mainly through the letters he wrote to other communities and in reading them you can almost see him struggling to interpret the meaning behind his experiences. Necessarily his letters are subjective slices of his worldview and in no way can we interpret them as stone tablets handed down from the mountaintop. We are certainly not obliged to treat his subjective experiences and interpretations as something which must guide our lives.
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