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Old 02-16-2001, 07:27 PM   #11
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">The question is one of liklihood and possibilities. I certainly never said it was impossible, and I doubt Nomad did either, that legends can develop quickly. What we have argued, is that they are much LESS likely to develop quickly than they are over a long period of time.</font>
This is Layman's central fallacy. The time between the alleged event and the actual writing of the event is correlated only to the number of unintentional errors. The time difference is completely irrelevant for intentional exaggeration, mythologizing, wishful thinking, and bald-faced lying.

As Nomad and other christian biblical scholars have admitted, the gospels were not written as history. This means that we cannot make any assumptions about their factual accuracy. It is entirely possible that the gospel writers considered, (as do some modern advocates) that the truth of their faith justified some (shall we say) "interpretation" of the facts. It's also possible that they were intentionally outright frauds.

I'm not saying that they did bend the truth or that they are frauds, but it's possible.

How can we rule out truth bending or fraud? We can't say they have no motive for truth bending -- they have an obvious motive: the promulgation of their faith. There is no independent corroboration of the more implausible and dramatic claims of either the Old or New Testaments of the JC Bible. Nor can we really make any inferences from the factual accuracy of a part to the whole. Intentional inclusion of versimilitudinal details is a known practice of lending credence to exaggerations and lies.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">What you are doing is assuming that ANY record of a miracle MUST be a legend, therefore, it doesn't matter if the gospels are eyewitness accounts, because you will never believe a source describing a miracle is anything other than a legend.</font>
No. What we are assuming is that any record of a miracle might be a legend. Therefore we apply skeptical inquiry to determine what is credible. All historical claims are uncertain to some degree.

It's really no big deal in my life if Jesus (a.k.a. Joshua, Yeshua, Joseph), Hannibal or Alexander the Great turns out to be a myth. I don't have a strong interest in history. However, empirical philosophy, skepticism, burden of proof, and examination of evidence are of strong interest to me; it is on this basis I participate.

It may well be that miracles did occur but that we cannot have sufficient knowledge of them. Oh well. Regardless, the christian's urgency to decide the historical truth of his religion does not compel the agnostic to lower his standards of evidence.
 
Old 02-17-2001, 03:12 AM   #12
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Michael,

I hope you don't mind me stepping in here. You and Layman are both right as far as I can see.

I've spent the last few Saturdays in the British Library exploring a particularly obscure corner of late antiquity. Judging the sources is a vital part of this.

Layman is saying, the earlier the better and he's right. So often you come across a historian saying "x says y but he is a late source". Within a hundred years is usually assumed to be pretty good.

You make the even more important distinction between eye witness (or primary evidence) and everything else. Layman would not for a second dispute this (I hope). No doubt he might like a debate on whether or not Acts and the Gospel of john are primary (which, I think, they almost certainly are). But, the fact remains that earlier dates are better per se from a historical reliability point of view.

I was disappointed that you feel proof of Jesus' existence is difficult. A trained historian should not think this unless they caught the post structuralist bug real bad. In that case I recommend a strong dose of Simon Schama or Robin Lane Fox (both Brits ofcourse ).

As for Singledad's point that the evangelists were all lying to spread their
faith, if they had to lie they didn't have a faith. As a sceptic, he should realise that the whole Jesus movement appearing out of nothing all over the Empire with a fully formed mythology within fifty years is far less likely than there being a real Jesus who inspired people by his teaching and deeds to go out and spread the word. I've said before that I find the idea that Jesus never existed just silly.

Yours

Bede

Bede's Library - faith and reason
 
Old 02-17-2001, 05:49 AM   #13
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I was disappointed that you feel proof of Jesus' existence is difficult. A trained historian should not think this unless they caught the post structuralist bug real bad. In that case I recommend a strong dose of Simon Schama or Robin Lane Fox (both Brits ofcourse ).

It's ironic you should say that, since I was one of the few in our department who fought against the whole post-structuralist mess.
My officemate was Meera Nanda, who has now become rather well-known in the circles where people argue about the imposition of vedic knowledge in the Indian educational system.
The two of us were a little island of retrograde scientific thinking in a sea of poststructuralist brave-new-worlders.

But -- true confessions are one me -- I used to think that there was some real person under the Jesus stories, right up to last week, when I read MacDonald. I read Doherty but I put him in the "set aside until more emerges column." But I think once you consider Goulder, and Doherty, and MacDonald (and others) together, I think the case is now excellent that there never was anyone named Jesus. At least, the burden of proof is on the believers.

My own personal method, when I think about the past, is to look at the Chinese. In another thread I put up a sketch of the taoist alchemical adept Wei Bo-yang, who wrote a book on alchemical theory. We know he was an actual person due to completely independent record of him serving in a high administrative post in Loyang about 150.
In other words, we have two strands of proof we don't have for Jesus, a text from his own hand, and confirmation from records. Wei, of course, is a deity who gave the elixir of immortality to a man and a dog......in fact, there are several deities in ancient China where similar levels of "proof" can be obtained. If you want proof of his godlike powers, you just need to read his disciples,
from information compiled in his own lifetime. Do you realize how many first person confessions of miraculous powers there are in Chinese texts? They fade out by about 1100 or so, not so much because they don't exist, but because by that time the Chinese had reached a level that Europe wouldn't reach until about 1800 in most areas. "Miracles" had become the norm.

So, if I accept Jesus based on a much lower standard of evidence, I've got to accept
Wei too. And many others.

I think most of these debates are incredibly sterile and narrow, you know like debates over whether Papias' remark about Matthew compiling a collection "logia" refers to Jesus sayings or more general remarks about his deeds. My idea of "comparison" is not matching Greeks to Romans. It's matching Chinese to Romans, and Indians to Mayans, and Africans to Thais, etc. I think once your perspective is informed by a much wider realm, Jesus hardly seems miraculous, let alone the son of a god. Which, as Jefferson noted, does nothing to detract from his message, and makes it, at least to me, more beautiful and noble. For I too, follow at least two-thirds of the Great Commandment.

Michael
turton@ev1.net

 
Old 02-18-2001, 05:48 PM   #14
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Hello Michael

Just so that I am clear on this, you have come to the conclusion that Jesus is a completely fictionalized character created by Mark based on the theory that Mark might have borrowed from Homer?

1) Are you serious?
2) How do you explain the completely independent sources from "M", "L", "Q", Paul, Peter and John (at least) that Jesus really existed?
3) How do you account for independent attestation from Josephus?
4) If you rejected Doherty before, but find him more convincing now, what brought about this change in opinion?

Finally, if you admit that we have 4 independently written biographies about Jesus, plus the epistles of Paul, Peter, James, and others that lived at his time, and that all of these writings were created within a very short period of time after his death, you discount all of them because...?

I'm with Bede, although I am more dismayed than he is that seemingly intelligent individuals could be so credulous as to believe this 20th Century pseudo-historical theorizing over genuine scholarship and research.

In response to anyone that says they will not believe that Jesus existed because of theological or legendary claims made about him, all I can say is that you have probably removed the possibility of demonstrating to your satisfaction that virtually any person of historical note ever existed at all.

And that is silly.

Nomad
 
Old 02-18-2001, 06:18 PM   #15
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by SingleDad:

This is Layman's central fallacy. The time between the alleged event and the actual writing of the event is correlated only to the number of unintentional errors. The time difference is completely irrelevant for intentional exaggeration, mythologizing, wishful thinking, and bald-faced lying.</font>
Hmm... back to the theory that the Gospel writers and Apostles were all liars, eh?

I would love to see your evidence for this SD. Outside of your own prejudicial judgement of these men, as well as your a priori rejection of the supernatural, what have you got?

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">As Nomad and other christian biblical scholars have admitted, the gospels were not written as history. This means that we cannot make any assumptions about their factual accuracy.</font>
Whoa there big guy. We do not have to accept that the Gospels record historical truth. There you are correct. At the same time, we should not assume that they did not record historical events either, especially if they were writing at a time that many of the witnesses and potential witnesses for these events are still walking around.

The case you would have to make here is for one of the grandest, most well co-ordinated, and successful hoaxes of all times. And while paranoid conspiracy theories can be fun, they usually end up in a great deal of trouble very quickly. They also have a tendency to make their advocates look like total loons.

All of that said, if you want to make the case the Christianity is a fraud started by a bunch of liars, please offer your evidence. At least we will have more to look at than mere assertion.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> It is entirely possible that the gospel writers considered, (as do some modern advocates) that the truth of their faith justified some (shall we say) "interpretation" of the facts. It's also possible that they were intentionally outright frauds.</font>
Interpolation in which the writer takes his own new information or knowledge and uses it to better understand older documents and writings is very common, and even useful. After all, who would argue that new information is automatically a bad thing?

On the other hand, suggesting that a man is a liar is a very serious charge, especially when the personal integrity of that individual gives us no reason to believe such a charge. I think some evidence would be in order here SingleDad. I hope you would agree.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I'm not saying that they did bend the truth or that they are frauds, but it's possible. </font>
How possibl in your view? Scale of 1-10 with 10 being metaphysical certitude, and 1 being impossible.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">How can we rule out truth bending or fraud? We can't say they have no motive for truth bending -- they have an obvious motive: the promulgation of their faith.</font>
Faith is not built on known lies. You should know better than this SD. After all, once you found the "truth", you abandoned your old faith right?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> There is no independent corroboration of the more implausible and dramatic claims of either the Old or New Testaments of the JC Bible.</font>
Single attestation is seen as making a claim less probable, and certainly less provable. At the same time, do not make the error that the Bible is a single book written by a single person. It is not. So if Mark and Matthew, or Luke and John, or Matthew and Paul agree on a thing happening, it can be called multiple attestation, and the likelihood of the claim being believed (if not actually being true) increases dramatically. If three witnesses agree, then the probabilities rise even more. Thus, for someone to prove a vast conspiracy of sources, well, things do tend to get to look pretty paranoid and silly if we travel too far down that road... so let's not.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Nor can we really make any inferences from the factual accuracy of a part to the whole. Intentional inclusion of versimilitudinal details is a known practice of lending credence to exaggerations and lies.</font>
Gotta love those big words. Makes it sound important. On the other hand, maybe what you just said is a bunch of crap.

Look, truth and legends can be mixed into a document. Even bold faced lies could be included. But disproving one part of a story does not invalidate the entire claim. We must evaluate each claim and the evidence supporting it on its own merits. Multiple attestation, coupled with early witnesses as sources makes the story more likely to be true. Yelling "LIAR" at the source doesn't really do much to help the investigation however, unless you can actually prove that the person is actually lying.

So have at 'er as they say, and show us how you know, or think you can demonstrate, actual fraud taking place in the Gospels.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">What you are doing is assuming that ANY record of a miracle MUST be a legend, therefore, it doesn't matter if the gospels are eyewitness accounts, because you will never believe a source describing a miracle is anything other than a legend.
Quote:

No. What we are assuming is that any record of a miracle might be a legend.</font>
I hope you do not mistake legends for lies SingleDad. The fact that Ronald Reagan saved 77 lives as a lifeguard made him a local legend. The actual lives saved, however, is still an historical truth.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Therefore we apply skeptical inquiry to determine what is credible. All historical claims are uncertain to some degree.</font>
Fair enough. What are your standards of inquiry, and what will you reject or accept out of hand?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">It's really no big deal in my life if Jesus (a.k.a. Joshua, Yeshua, Joseph), Hannibal or Alexander the Great turns out to be a myth. I don't have a strong interest in history.</font>
In the case of Jesus, you mean you don't care only so long as the claims made about him, and by him are not true I assume.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> However, empirical philosophy, skepticism, burden of proof, and examination of evidence are of strong interest to me; it is on this basis I participate.</font>
You have asserted that it is possible that the authors of the Gospels lied. What is your evidence for this? And remember, motive alone is not evidence. We need to see some actual actions here that are consistent with fraudulent behaviour and lying.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">It may well be that miracles did occur but that we cannot have sufficient knowledge of them. Oh well. Regardless, the christian's urgency to decide the historical truth of his religion does not compel the agnostic to lower his standards of evidence.</font>
True. At the same time, the agnostic (or other sceptics) cannot reject evidence simply because they do not like what it says or tells them about a critical issue (like the existence of miracles, the supernatural and God for example).

Let's see your evidence for your claims SingleDad.

Nomad
 
Old 02-18-2001, 07:11 PM   #16
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[QUOTE]Originally posted by Nomad:
Hello Michael

Just so that I am clear on this, you have come to the conclusion that Jesus is a completely fictionalized character created by Mark based on the theory that Mark might have borrowed from Homer?

1) Are you serious?


Mark did not BORROW from Homer. He took episodes from Homer and recast them in his
epic about Jesus. I gave other reasons above, if you had read them.

Now, until you read the book yourself, give me peace on the Mark-Homer thing. You're not in a position to comment.

2) How do you explain the completely independent sources from "M", "L", "Q", Paul, Peter and John (at least) that Jesus really existed?

How do you explain the completely independent Chinese sources that attest that scores of Taoist adepts ascended into heaven and attained bodily immortality?

3) How do you account for independent attestation from Josephus?

Where does Josephus say he saw Jesus perform any miracles, or saw him at all?

4) If you rejected Doherty before, but find him more convincing now, what brought about this change in opinion?

I didn't reject him. I set him aside. I change my mind a lot as I get new evidence. I thought that was what studying was for, you know, *learning*, not acquiring factoids to defend positions. I have no doubt six weeks from now you'll be congratulating me for returning to my old position.

In any case, I read Spong, and Goulder, and
Doherty, and then along came MacDonald and
whoa! &gt;epiphany&lt; and then I felt that Mark is a complete fiction. No doubt next week I'll have a new position on whether Jesus is entirely fictional, based on new data.

That is where I stand now. Luke and Matthew and "Q" (am agnostic on Q) and the putative oral tradition, so what? Do you really want me to quote the 000s of sources in ancient China attesting to entirely fictional events and mythical characters?

In any case, it's not that important whether there's a person under all that embellishment. The key is whether he is the actual Son of God. That's why I change my mind on the issue so much, precisely because it is unimportant.

Finally, if you admit that we have 4 independently written biographies about Jesus, plus the epistles of Paul, Peter, James, and others that lived at his time, and that all of these writings were created within a very short period of time after his death, you discount all of them because...?

We have about 1,500 Daoist texts from China attesting to the possibility of immortality by taking gold, mercury and other substances, properly prepared, plus additional pharmceutical texts and thousands of other texts from the first millenium attesting to this, plus actual recipes printed in books and instruction texts recovered from tombs 2300 years old, plus hagiographies of immortals who attained that state in the manner described, plus archaeological evidence of their astounding chemical abilities, and you discount them because....?

I'm with Bede, although I am more dismayed than he is that seemingly intelligent individuals could be so credulous as to believe this 20th Century pseudo-historical theorizing over genuine scholarship and research.

In response to anyone that says they will not believe that Jesus existed because of theological or legendary claims made about him, all I can say is that you have probably removed the possibility of demonstrating to your satisfaction that virtually any person of historical note ever existed at all.

And that is silly.


Nomad, I didn't say I thought Jesus was fictional because of legendary or theological claims made about him. I said I thought Jesus was probably fictional because the stories about him are derivative and because the things he said can be located in earlier literature. Even if he somehow turned out to be real, I still wouldn't believe any theological or miracle claims about him, just as I dismiss those for the Taoist adepts, and the African shamans I myself witnessed summon rain in Kenya.

I think I have clearly laid out my position.
I've written an essay on the Taoist adepts which I hope the Infidels will publish as a feature article, it's about 4,500 words. You can read it, Nomad, and then rip it to shreds. I'm submitting it tonight, the 18th, so if they don't publish it, I'll put a condensed version in here as a post, and you can claw and tear at it.

Michael

 
Old 02-19-2001, 06:11 AM   #17
Bede
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Michael,

Hello again. I hope you don't feel you are being picked on by Nomad and I but I really can't let this go.

First off, let's ignore miracles. We agree that many otherwise reliable historical accounts from Tacitus to The Times include reports of miraculous events but that doesn't wholly invalidate them as useful sources.

Second, I'll grant Mark is totally unreliable due to his being Homeric (I don't believe this but I'll set it aside).

But this still leaves any reasonable historian compelled to admit the existance of a crucified Galilean preacher called Jesus.

We have Paul, who as Layman showed, gives us quite enough info in the undisputed letters to assert Jesus was a real Jewish preacher and died in his own time on a cross.

We have Josephus. In correspondence with Earl he admittedc that for his theory to be right, Origen had to already have an interpolated copy of Josephus in the first half of the third century. That Christians could go around at that point and start amending non Christian texts and for no one to notice is a conspiracy theory of grand proportions. You seem far too sensible to believe it.

Third we have John, that regardless of his primacy, shows no dependence on Mark at all. Earl's reasons for believing in dependence were so flimsy that I could hardly believe them.

We have Acts that would be universally accepted as a primary source if it had been about anything other than the early church. It contains enough to assert Jesus existed even if we factor in Luke's knowledge of Mark.

We have Q, also independent of Mark that proves Jesus existed and was a preacher.

We have the existance of the church spread from Rome to Alexandria. Paul founded neither and yet both were orthodox. Bang goes the daft idea that he founded the religion.

Finally the argument from silence about Jesus. Well, I came across an amazing silence last night reading the Diaries of Alan Clark. These are seen as the greatest politcal diaries in British 20th century politics. I've just read 1975 when Margaret Thatcher overthrew Ted Heath in an election that Clark voted in twice. It was a seminal event in British History that I have read many accounts of. Clark in his diaries doesn't breath a word. Inexplicable silence? Certainly. Evidence the event didn't happen? Of course not.

Yours

Bede

Bede's Library - faith and reason


[This message has been edited by Bede (edited February 19, 2001).]
 
Old 02-19-2001, 09:23 AM   #18
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by turtonm:

Mark did not BORROW from Homer. He took episodes from Homer and recast them in his
epic about Jesus. I gave other reasons above, if you had read them.</font>
You say potato, I say potato, typology is borrowing, so let's leave it at that shall we? Your argument (or at least a big one) appears to be that Mark used Homer's stories to create stories about Jesus. Even granting that this might have happened, how do you go from this to Jesus never existed?

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Now, until you read the book yourself, give me peace on the Mark-Homer thing. You're not in a position to comment.</font>
This is always a quaint copout when presenting an argument. I can say something to the effect that so and so made a DEVASTATING proof the shows that I am right, and until you read his entire argument you are in no position to comment on it.

On that basis we are going to get no where. All you have to do is offer even one of MacDonald's most convincing parallels and we can look at it to see how it holds up. This is a simple task, and is done all the time in scholarly debates about hundreds of different subjects. Throw us a bone Michael. Who knows, maybe some of the rest of us will be convinced, but this appeal to authority you have offered really is pretty lame.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">2) How do you explain the completely independent sources from "M", "L", "Q", Paul, Peter and John (at least) that Jesus really existed?

How do you explain the completely independent Chinese sources that attest that scores of Taoist adepts ascended into heaven and attained bodily immortality?</font>
Sigh. As I have explained before, a question is not an answer to a question. I have not personally read your Chinese sources, and from what you have offered thus far, maybe there is something to them. I rarely form an opinion without getting alternative explanations however, and your effort to change the subject from Jesus' probably historicity to Chinese legends is interesting, but irrelevant.

Now, please answer my original question.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> 3) How do you account for independent attestation from Josephus?

Where does Josephus say he saw Jesus perform any miracles, or saw him at all?</font>
I did not ask about the miracles. I asked about Josephus' referal to Jesus the brother of James. Now, could you please answer my question without asking another question?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">4) If you rejected Doherty before, but find him more convincing now, what brought about this change in opinion?

I didn't reject him. I set him aside. I change my mind a lot as I get new evidence. I thought that was what studying was for, you know, *learning*, not acquiring factoids to defend positions. I have no doubt six weeks from now you'll be congratulating me for returning to my old position.</font>
I would hope that your opinions are not so easily formed and dismissed. Such fickle behaviour would be at the very least disconcerting in an inquiring mind. However, if you find Doherty's arguments more convincing now, perhaps you could offer up his best argument on the non-historicity of Jesus as well.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">In any case, I read Spong, and Goulder, and Doherty, and then along came MacDonald and whoa! &gt;epiphany&lt; and then I felt that Mark is a complete fiction.</font>
Have you read any opposing views or arguments to these fine gentlemen? If you read only one side of any argument, no matter how daft it may be, it will look convincing. A clear demonstration of why you reject the evidence and arguments for the historicity of Jesus gives us a better understanding of how you have formulated your opinions, and how sound your reasoning really is.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">That is where I stand now. Luke and Matthew and "Q" (am agnostic on Q) and the putative oral tradition, so what? Do you really want me to quote the 000s of sources in ancient China attesting to entirely fictional events and mythical characters?</font>
So what? And equating Chinese legendary developement with Jewish and Christian legendary stories? Please try and stay on topic Michael. I don't know the Chinese stories, so I will remain agnostic about them for the time being. I do know the Jewish, Roman and Christians stories, however, and do feel qualified to form some opinions. So show us what you've got please.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">In any case, it's not that important whether there's a person under all that embellishment.</font>
Of course it is important. If Jesus is pure 100% grade "A" fiction, then the game is up. Christianity is the greatest fraud and hoax ever foisted on the human race, and hands down the most successful. Getting to the bottom of how such a thing could have been pulled off would become the greatest historical study of all time.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> The key is whether he is the actual Son of God. That's why I change my mind on the issue so much, precisely because it is unimportant.</font>
Hopefully now you better understand my comments about rejecting a person's historicity based on theological and legendary claims made about that person.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Finally, if you admit that we have 4 independently written biographies about Jesus, plus the epistles of Paul, Peter, James, and others that lived at his time, and that all of these writings were created within a very short period of time after his death, you discount all of them because...?

We have about 1,500 Daoist texts from China attesting to the possibility of immortality by taking gold, mercury and other substances, properly prepared, plus additional pharmceutical texts and thousands of other texts from the first millenium attesting to this, plus actual recipes printed in books and instruction texts recovered from tombs 2300 years old, plus hagiographies of immortals who attained that state in the manner described, plus archaeological evidence of their astounding chemical abilities, and you discount them because....?</font>
You really do have trouble offering straight answers don't you Michael. Answer my question first, then I promise that I will answer yours. Since I asked first, however, I do think that it is fair of me to request a proper response from you.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Nomad, I didn't say I thought Jesus was fictional because of legendary or theological claims made about him. I said I thought Jesus was probably fictional because the stories about him are derivative and because the things he said can be located in earlier literature.</font>
This statement just brings me back to the "are you serious?" question. We have legends about just about every single character who ever lived, and the longer they have been dead, the more legends we seem to get about them. That still does not mean that they never lived. Thus, you have just contradicted yourself here, unless you are prepared to say that you doubt the existence of all people who ever lived who ever had a legendary story told about them.

Are you prepared to do that?

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> Even if he somehow turned out to be real, I still wouldn't believe any theological or miracle claims about him, just as I dismiss those for the Taoist adepts, and the African shamans I myself witnessed summon rain in Kenya.</font>
And this is cool. I'm not asking you to buy Christian claims about Jesus of Nazareth. I just want to understand how you have reasoned yourself into doubting that he lived at all.

As for your Taoist essay, I will have to let others address it, since this is outside of my own area of expertise.

Nomad

The Christian Think Tank
 
Old 02-19-2001, 10:48 AM   #19
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Michael,

Hello again. I hope you don't feel you are being picked on by Nomad and I but I really can't let this go.


Not at all, Bede. My wife is overseas, my kids are in school, my translation clients are still having their post-Chinese New Year meetings, so I am lonely and bored (I did join the Austin Community Atheists yesterday and had lots of fun talking to everyone). I am most stimulated by this conversation, and the way it has stayed civil. I've been tag-teamed by AK-47 armed teenagers, and was once interrogated for hours by the Kenyan secret police, a very funny story (imagine a mesmerizing look and the same question over and over again "We know you are a CIA agent....". After a couple of hours of that, I was ready to agree to anything he wanted.)

Nomad
On that basis we are going to get no where. All you have to do is offer even one of MacDonald's most convincing parallels and we can look at it to see how it holds up.


Yes, you're absolutely right. I *have* been trying to find a way to post one here since I brought him up. MacDonald lays out his arguments in two-column form, and this format here does not accept tables/columns. It means a lot of annoying typing, and I won't be able to see the result until it is up and then it will all be messed up anyway. So what I'll do is create a webpage, and link it here. I'll do that later today.

Nomad, you say that if Jesus never lived then Christianity is the biggest fraud ever perpetrated on the human race, but for me that remains true whether or not he lived.
That's why it isn't really important to me whether he lived, though it seems to be important to you.

As to your specific objections:

The "James the brother of Jesus" in Josephus seems to me to be a marginal gloss that accidently got interpolated into the text. Even if it's not, it demonstrates nothing except the existence of a tradition. JOS is writing years after the execution of Jesus. And let me remind you that if you attempt to date the Gospels earlier, as you are, you run the risk of removing this and other JOS quotes from evidence. By dating them earlier, you threaten the independence of other traditions, namely "Q" and the oral tradition (which may be one and the same).
I mean, if you put Mark back to, say, +40, you've got a source for all traditions regarding Jesus, oral and otherwise. If I were you, I'd stay in the 50-70 range that is generally given for Mark.

As for requesting "proper" responses, the reasons I trundled out the remarks about
the Daoists is simple: the body of evidence for them is so much richer than that for Jesus. Practically any criterion for Jesus' existence, miracles, godhood, etc, you can pull out of them as well. So how come you don't worship at the altar of Wei Po-yang :-).

But, to answer your question, I am suspicious of the Gospels, letters and so forth as good evidence because of their well-known interrelationships. I have not made up my mind about Q, can see some wisdom in arguing that Luke had access to other gospels in preparing his, no Q necessary. I wouldn't mind a good discussion of Q, though.
Reliance of Mt and Lk on Mk implies something about the reliability of the latter two as "independent," unless you want to argue that they never knew of Mark.

Of course, I concede that the mere existence of tradition(s) and gospel(s) about Jesus is good evidence in favor of the existence of *someone* under the legends. The Gospel of Thomas, which is not Q and not Markan, and seems to be in the +70-80 range, is a solid piece of evidence I always forget about. As I said, I am happy to change my mind on the issue. I may have just talked myself into it. But, let me get to work on that webpage on MacDonald. I'll post the link as a new topic in the Bib Crit and Arch section sometime today or tomorrow.

Michael
 
Old 02-19-2001, 12:50 PM   #20
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Bede and Nomad, welcome to the "any woman who doesn't sleep with me is a lesbian" school of argument.

Bede and Nomad prove that their best refutation is an unsupported fallacy of uncharitable interpretation to make an ad hominem attack. Truly they display the extent of their intellectual integrity.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I was disappointed that you feel proof of Jesus' existence is difficult. A trained historian should not think this unless they caught the post structuralist bug real bad.</font>
Lots of things are difficult. That's not a post-structuralist position. Yet another example of poisoning the well.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">As for Singledad's point that the evangelists were all lying to spread their
faith, if they had to lie they didn't have a faith.</font>
Bede, you're a liar. Show me where I said that.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">As a sceptic, he should realise that the whole Jesus movement appearing out of nothing all over the Empire with a fully formed mythology within fifty years is far less likely than there being a real Jesus who inspired people by his teaching and deeds to go out and spread the word. </font>
Out of nothing? Bullshit. Fully formed? Bullshit. Real Jesus who inspired people by his teaching? Entirely plausible, big deal. We're not talking about the possible existence of some smart guy who said worthwhile things. We're talking about Jesus Christ, one aspect of the God of all Creation, who could perform miracles.


Nomad:

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">In response to anyone that says they will not believe that Jesus existed because of theological or legendary claims made about him, all I can say is that you have probably removed the possibility of demonstrating to your satisfaction that virtually any person of historical note ever existed at all.</font>
False analogy. We are not asked to believe the theological or legendary claims of most historical personages. That Tutannkamen was considered a god doesn't mean he didn't exist, but his existence doesn't mean he's really a god.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Hmm... back to the theory that the Gospel writers and Apostles were all liars, eh?</font>
Liar. I did not say that the authors of the bible were fraudulent, I say it's a possibility they exaggerated, were deluded, writing fiction, or simply mendacious. Those possibilities apply to any writing.

My point is that the time difference between the actual writing and the alleged event is irrelevant to these very real possibilities. If I write a fictional story about an event that occurred yesterday, it's still entirely fictitious.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">The case you would have to make here is for one of the grandest, most well co-ordinated, and successful hoaxes of all times. And while paranoid conspiracy theories can be fun, they usually end up in a great deal of trouble very quickly. They also have a tendency to make their advocates look like total loons.</font>
That's total bullshit and completely intellectually dishonest. You act like there's mountains of primary physical and testimonial evidence to support your position, and only willful ignorance and bizarre hypotheses can find the smallest grain of doubt.

All you have is four contradictory gospels of unknown origin, a few ambiguous references from a subsequent century and your own arrogant credulity. Christianity is a very poorly coordinated hoax, depending entirely on the credulity of the masses and the intellectual dishonesty of the priesthood.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">It is entirely possible that the gospel writers considered, (as do some modern advocates) that the truth of their faith justified some (shall we say) "interpretation" of the facts. It's also possible that they were intentionally outright frauds.

{{ Oops -- the above is an editing anomoly; Nomad's statement below is not a response to the statement above. - SD }}

On the other hand, suggesting that a man is a liar is a very serious charge, especially when the personal integrity of that individual gives us no reason to believe such a charge. I think some evidence would be in order here SingleDad. I hope you would agree.</font>
To assert that a work appears to be a fictional fantasy is not a "charge". You have presented me with what seems to be a work of fiction. The burden of proof is upon you, especially when you allow that factual accuracy was not an important motivation in its authorship.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Faith is not built on known lies. You should know better than this SD.</font>
There is a wide range of variability between absolute truth and known lies. You should know better than this, Nomad.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Gotta love those big words. Makes it sound important. On the other hand, maybe what you just said is a bunch of crap. </font>
Since you started it...

Maybe you're just a contemptuous, arrogant, credulous mentally deficient asshole who wouldn't know a fairy story from a textbook and who can't understand, much less refute, an argument using a polysyllabic vocabulary.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Look, truth and legends can be mixed into a document. Even bold faced lies could be included. But disproving one part of a story does not invalidate the entire claim. </font>
This is what I'm saying. And the converse is true as well: Proving a part of a document does not constitute a proof of the whole.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">We must evaluate each claim and the evidence supporting it on its own merits. Multiple attestation, coupled with early witnesses as sources makes the story more likely to be true. Yelling "LIAR" at the source doesn't really do much to help the investigation however, unless you can actually prove that the person is actually lying.</font>
You don't have multiple attestation or early witnesses. You have a document that claims multiple attestation and early witnesses. Produce the witnesses. If A says, "500 people saw X", that's not eyewitness testimony. It is possible that:
  • A is lying.
  • A is writing a work of fiction
  • A believes 500 saw X
  • A believes that X happened, A believes that 500 people were around, and makes an inference
  • Z told A that 500 people saw X and A believes Z
  • 500 people saw X

The only way you can presume that 500 people saw X is if those 500 people tell you themselves. Otherwise you have to conclude that they really did see something -- You have to rule out the alternatives. All I'm arguing against is your presumption of accuracy.

You cannot simply assert the factual accuracy of your meager sources and demand that I offer conclusive disproof.

You've conceded that even ordinary standards of presumed historical accuracy do not apply to the gospels, since they're not motivated by the desire to capture historical accuracy. But your claim that we should thus relax our standards of proof is ludicrous; rather, we should tighten them.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">In the case of Jesus, you mean you don't care only so long as the claims made about him, and by him are not true I assume.</font>
Standard theist bullshit. If I disagree with you, I must be biased.

Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">True. At the same time, the agnostic (or other sceptics) cannot reject evidence simply because they do not like what it says or tells them about a critical issue (like the existence of miracles, the supernatural and God for example).</font>
Show me the evidence! I'm not rejecting anything except your bizarre and ludicrous assertion that I must accept the absolute accuracy of any piece of a document until it has been absolutely refuted.


Quote:
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Bede: But this still leaves any reasonable historian compelled to admit the existance of a crucified Galilean preacher called Jesus.

Nomad: I did not ask about the miracles. I asked about Josephus' referal to Jesus the brother of James. Now, could you please answer my question without asking another question?</font>
Fine. The historical existence of an ordinary (albeit wise) human being is a question best approached by professional historians. I have neither the expertise nor the interest to participate in such an investigation. I'm interested only in examining claims of the supernatural or miraculous. It irritates me, though, that theists disingeneously try to move directly from the existence of an ordinary person (Jesus/Joshua/Yeshua, whatever) to his divinity -- "If the gospels are correct about his existence, they must be correct about his divinity!"

[This message has been edited by SingleDad (edited February 19, 2001).]

[This message has been edited by SingleDad (edited February 19, 2001).]
 
 

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