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Old 04-18-2001, 07:38 AM   #31
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Ish:
This seems somewhat short-sighted even from a skeptic's point of view. From a theist's point of view this statement does not remain open to the possibility of the supernatural.

A skeptic might even say that the miracles happened but that they had explanations in the physical world, therefore the accounts are not fictional and may be independent.

Ish
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Until miracles are proven to actually occur it is more than reasonable to believe they are "fictions". I concur with turtonm.

Ghosts, channelers, and reincarnation may be possible, but until evidence is presented that any of those things exist or can actually occur, I will view them as fiction.

 
Old 04-18-2001, 08:07 AM   #32
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Bede, that's exactly what I did. The argument is made only from the text itself. Since John 6 reproduces two of Mark's miracles (and miracles are fictions), there are only a few choices. Either John knew of a oral/textual source containing those stories, or John knew of Mark, or John hit upon the exact same stories independent of Mark. (1) or (2) seem more plausible, and they indicate that John and Mark are related somehow.</font>
Michael,

Of course they are related somehow. But if John did not get his ideas from Mark, and instead they both got them from a common source, they remain independent. That means that they are not based on each other but rather that they are not both dependent on a common source. For instance, Matthew and Luke are usually thought to be independent but both dependent on Mark and Q.

That there was a common source of miracle stories used independently by John and Mark is possible (even probable), but it means that Mark cannot have made up the passion as is usually alleged by Christ mythers and ultra-revisionists. And it pushes back the earliest accounts of a living real Jesus even further thus making the Christ myth even less likely.

Yours

Bede

Bede's Library - faith and reason
 
Old 04-18-2001, 01:12 PM   #33
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Bede:
Michael,

Of course they are related somehow. But if John did not get his ideas from Mark, and instead they both got them from a common source, they remain independent. That means that they are not based on each other but rather that they are not both dependent on a common source. For instance, Matthew and Luke are usually thought to be independent but both dependent on Mark and Q.

That there was a common source of miracle stories used independently by John and Mark is possible (even probable), but it means that Mark cannot have made up the passion as is usually alleged by Christ mythers and ultra-revisionists. And it pushes back the earliest accounts of a living real Jesus even further thus making the Christ myth even less likely.

Yours

Bede

Bede's Library - faith and reason
</font>
No, time, as we have seen in many real-world examples, from Hong Xiuquan to Wovoka to Sai Baba, is irrelevent to mythologization. Sometimes myths emerge over a very short time, sometimes over many centuries. Regardless of the actual date of Jesus's death, whether it was a year before Paul converted, or twenty years, or a hundred years, there's still plenty of time for the miraculous to become common currency, or for foundational myths to become realized in an invented person, or grafted on to one, or to be inflated.

For example, I just finished God's Chinese Son, about Hong Xuiquan, the leader of the Taipings. Skipping over what his wacko followers believed about him, Hong was also able to take advantage of foundational myths. In the 1760s groups of disgruntled males formed sworn brotherhoods called hongs whose goal was to overthrow the Qing Dynasty, a foreign dynasty, and restore the Ming, the last ethnic Chinese dynasty. Like the IRA, they relied on protection rackets and the like to fund their grand design. Gradually a foundational myth grew that they had been founded, or inspired, or led, by a man named Hong. By happy coincidence, Hong Xiuquan, the mad religious leader of the Taipings, had the same name, and was able to co-opt this myth and reposition it on himself, thus gaining their support 80 years later.

Such events are not exactly uncommon. Both the Ghost Dance movement (Wovoka) and the Maji-Maji uprising, quickly (in weeks) produced miracles and miraculous reports about the leaders. They share some basic similarities with Christianity, being messiah movements among colonized peoples.

Whatever the time, 5 years or 50, Christ-myth remains a viable historical hypothesis, though it might well be invalidated on other grounds beside time intervals between major events.

Michael
 
Old 04-18-2001, 01:18 PM   #34
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Michael,

Did Hong Xiuquan, Wovoka and Sai Baba exist? If yes, then you are on the wrong thread. Look at the main title. We are here talking about Earl Doherty's thesis that Jesus DID NOT EXIST. We are talking about nothing else.

Yours

Bede

Bede's Library - faith and reason
 
Old 04-18-2001, 01:29 PM   #35
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Bede:
Michael,

Did Hong Xiuquan, Wovoka and Sai Baba exist? If yes, then you are on the wrong thread. Look at the main title. We are here talking about Earl Doherty's thesis that Jesus DID NOT EXIST. We are talking about nothing else.

Yours

Bede

Bede's Library - faith and reason
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I'm sorry, I'll try to keep interesting and informed points to a minimum. I wouldn't want to disrupt the discussion.

My fault entirely.

Michael
 
Old 04-18-2001, 01:43 PM   #36
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The idea that Paul was unaware of, or did not believe in, a "human" Jesus, but a mythical pagan Christ has been properly rejected by most New Testament scholars. Why? Because Paul's letters clearly demonstrate that he believes in the human Jesus, come from God to die and deliver us from sin. No human Jesus, no deliverance.

Nevertheless, it is commonly assumed, rather than argued, that Paul had no interest in the "human" Jesus. While Paul does have a rather high Christology, he by no means lacked all interest in the "human" Jesus (if Paul even made such a distinction).

Perhaps the persistent myth to the contrary comes from a misunderstanding of Paul's letters. One looks at the Gospels and sees all these details about Jesus' life. One looks at Paul's letters and does not see nearly so many details about Jesus' life.

However, to think that we have preserved in Paul's letters an exhaustive list of his beliefs, or even the Jesus tradition, of the early church is naive. Yet time and again I have seen some argue that Paul never wrote about some particular aspect of Jesus' ministry, so it must have been unknown to him and all other early Christians. This is a naive view.

It is a fallacy to assume that deposited in Paul was the sum total of early Christian knowledge about Jesus. It is likewise a fallacy to assume that the sum total of Paul's knowledge about Jesus was deposited in his occasional letters. Moreover, even were we to assume that the sum total of Paul's beliefs were represented in his letters, we can be sure that we do not have all of Paul's epistles. No scholar believes we have every letter Paul wrote to the various churches.

Additionally, Paul's letters were occasional. Skeptics are found of saying that the Gospels were not biographies of Jesus. Yet many skeptics turn around and point to various things that Paul's letters do not discuss as proof that they were invented later. I do not believe that such "analysis" is probative. Paul wrote his letters, by and large, in order to resolve particular events in particular places involving particular people.

Unlike the writers of the gospels, commonly known as evangelist, Paul was writing to people who had already expressed faith in Jesus. Paul wrote to churches which he himself had founded (like the church in Corinthians). Sigficantly, however, Paul also wrote to churches that he had not founded or even visited (like the church in Romans).

Why is it significant that Paul wrote to different churches, some of which he had not founded or visited? Because it demonstrates that he was addressing creedal traditions and beliefs already in place among the early church. It is doubly significant because Paul's epistles were written between 15-40 years before the gospels.

Some of what we can glean about the life and teachings of Jesus from Paul's epistles:

1. Jesus was divine and pre-existent
-Col. 1:15-16 (see John 1:1)
2. Jesus was born in human fashion, as a Jew, and had a ministry to the Jews
-Galations 4:4, Romans 15:8
3. Jesus was referred to as "Son of God"
-1 Cor. 1:9 (see Mark 1:1)
4. Jesus was a direct descendent of King David
-Romans 1:3
5. Jesus prayed to God using the term "abba"
-Galations 4:6; Romans 8:15-16 (see Mark 14:36)
6. Jesus expressly forbid divorce
-1 Cor. 7:10 (see Mark 10:6-10)
7. Jesus taught that "preachers" should be paid for their preaching
-1 Cor. 7:11; 9:14 (see Luke 10:10)
8. Jesus taught about the end-times
-1 Thess. 4:15
9. Refers to Peter by the name Cephas (rock), which was the name Jesus gave to him
-1 Cor. 3:22 (see Matth. 16:18)
10. Jesus had a brother named James
-Galatians 1:19, 1 Cor. 15:6-7
11. Jesus initiated the Lord's supper and referred to the bread and the cup
-1 Cor. 11:23-25 (see Matth. 26:26-29)
12. Jesus was betrayed, or "handed over" on the night of the Lord's Supper
-1 Cor. 11:23-25 (see Matth. 26:25)
13. Jesus' death was related to the Passover Celebration
-1 Cor. 5:7
14. The death of Jesus was at the hands of earthly (secular?) rulers
-1 Cor. 2:8
15. Jesus underwent abuse and humiliation
-Romans 15:3, referring to Psalm 69:9
16. Jewish authorities were involved with Jesus' death
-1 Thess. 2:14-16
17. Jesus died by crucifixion.
-1 Cor. 1:23; 2 Cor. 13:4; Galations 3:1
18. Jesus was physically buried
-1 Cor. 15:4; Rom. 6:4
19. Jesus was bodily resurrected from the dead
-Romans 1:4; 1 Cor. 15:4-7
20. Jesus appeared to his followers following his resurrection, including Peter and James
-1 Cor. 15:4-7
21. The death and resurrection of Jesus was an atoning death for the sins of the world
-Romans 3:23-24

I have rearranged the order of these statements from that contained in the Pauline Epistles and have attempted to largely place them as they are laid out in the gospels. Because Paul's epistles were not written in a narrative framework we should not expect them to be in chronological order. Nevertheless, they are powerful witnesses to the early church's beliefs. In short, "the outline of the gospel story as we can trace it in the writings of Paul agrees with the outline which we find elsewhere in the New Testament, and in the four Gospels in particular." F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents, at 79.

However, not only do Paul's epistles demonstrate that many of the events (and teachings) of Jesus' life portrayed in the gospel were already well known in the early church (or rather, it would be more accurate to say that they were known among the various early churches).

Paul was not starting from scratch, he was writing to communities with which he had no previous contact (such as the church in Rome). As stated by Dr. Luke Timothy Johnson, Robert W. Woodruff Professor of New Testament and Christian Origins at the Candler School of Theology, Emory University, the Pauline epistles "provide valuable external verification for points in the Narratives we do possess.... [T]hat Paul assumed the readers of his letters, written within twenty to thirty years of Jesus' death, had already been taught that these things had happened. These bits of information in Paul do not prove the historicity of the events (necessarily), but they confirm the antiquity and ubiquity of the traditions concerning the events in a period as much as two decades earlier than our earliest written Gospel.... Paul can assume, in other words, that the Roman church, which he had never met, had as firm a possession of these basic aspects of the Jesus story as did his own Corinthian community." Dr. Luke Timothy Johnson , The Real Jesus, at 120.

Also significance is that Paul places special eschatological importance on the fact that Jesus was born as a human being.
Although Paul's theological focus was on Jesus' death and resurrection, he was interested in Jesus' origins. In Romans 1:3 he speaks of Jesus as God's son "who has descended from David according to the flesh." In Galatians 4:4-5, he states that "when the fullness of time had come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, in order to redeem."

There are some points made in these two texts that correllate with Matthew and Luke's infancy narratives, who likewise placed great eschatological significance on Jesus' birth.

Jesus is God's "Son" in a special way. Luke 1:32, 35; Matt. 2:15.

Jesus had a normal human birth. Luke 2:6.

Jesus was "born of a woman." Perhaps both traditions giving special place to Jesus' mother, rather than father.

Jesus was born "under the law." Luke 2:22-24.

Jesus was born "in the fullness of time," a reference to Jesus' birth itself being an eschatological event.

Interesting parallels, irrefutably demonstrating Paul's knowledge of and belief in the "human" Jesus.
 
Old 04-18-2001, 01:47 PM   #37
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Bede:
[B]PhysicsGuy,

I've debated with Doherty himself and never got convincing answers out of him. His theory fails due to a number of points he cannot account for:

- Paul's undoubted letters refer to nearly all the basics of Jesus's life and death. Layman started a thread on this sometime ago and he might repost his list of what Paul says about the historical Jesus if we ask him nicely.</font>
So yes, it is possible that Jesus existed and Paul is referring to Jesus. It is also possible that there were religious beliefs surrounding a Son of God named Jesus that came with a few basic beliefs about what this god-like person did and does in the layered heavens and that Paul was giving the basic outline of the story. The story revolves mainly around a death and resurrection. The question is, is it possible that this story could exist without the death and resurrection of a human named Jesus. Certainly you would agree that numerous stories exist in the Greek religions about gods that did all sorts of human-like things yet never existed. Is it possible that Jesus is a Jewish version of one of these gods?

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">- John shows no signs of dependence on Mark. He is an independent witness to the historical Jesus even if based on traditions rather than the apostle himself.</font>
I haven't given John much thought. It seems pretty clear that John has his own take on the Christian religion. Considering that most accept that John was written after Paul's letters as well as the other three gospels, I don't think it is much of a stretch to imagine that the Christian religion was somewhat widespread and everyone was trying to put forth their understanding of what it was all about. I don't think Doherty requires that Paul created Christianity nor that Paul and Mark were the only source of ideas on what Christianity meant. There was clearly other groups, which Doherty refers to as the Q community that were attributing various sayings to Jesus, and from what we see in the Gospel of Thomas, this simply may have manifested itself as adding 'Jesus said' before a bunch of wisdom sayings and parables.

I will agree that what seems a mystery is exactly when and how did this view of Jesus arise. However, I don't see how that is any bigger of a mystery than trying to figure out how any of the many gods and characters of religions originated. At some point the idea of Mithra didn't exist and at some point it did. It appears that there was a lot of creativity in the ancient worlds when it came to religions. Perhaps people felt that these truths can be revealed through dreams and visions so if the idea comes to mind, then it must be true. And if others like the idea, it spreads. Doherty's view simply sees Christianity develop as a religion in a manner similar to other religions. Some ideas are older religious ideas that are converted over. Some ideas are 'revealed', and some are pure creativity.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">- Josephus is quoted by Origen in the mid third century referring to James brother of Jesus called Christ. This is far too early for Christians to have control of the texts so as to add an interpolation as Christianity was still a persecuted minority.</font>
Reasonable point. It depends on the word 'control', however. This is nearly two hundred years after Josephus' original, isn't it? How many copies of Josephus can we expect to be around? Were they all identical? Wouldn't the Christians have wanted to add this interpolation by now? Can we expect the readers of Origen to have copies of Josephus to compare with? Perhaps. I'll give this some more thought.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">- Acts shows no evidence of knowledge of Paul's letters. This means it must have been written before the letters were common currency and certainly could not have been written to counteract the theology in those letters as Doherty alleges.</font>
I'm pretty sure Doherty believes that Acts was written to show Paul giving support to the Jerusalem church and some of their creeds. Whether or not Paul's letters were common currency, it would appear from his letters that he is a known leader of the Christian movement over a very large area. No doubt he and his views and his disagreements with the more Jewish Christians were well known.

I think you are right though in suggesting that Doherty believes that Paul's letters were known and that Acts was written quite a bit later. I just don't think that Christians then had much problem with Paul's theology just as Christians now don't. I think it was more a matter of politics. Doherty claims that Acts shows Paul visiting and showing a lot more support for the leaders in Jerusalem than is found in his letters, which seem to show a much more uncomfortable relationship.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">- The Pastorals have nothing much to say about the historical Jesus either. They cannot have been created as part of the effort to show Paul believed in such a figure.</font>
Unfortunately I can't access Doherty's site right now. I was certainly under the impression that the Pastorals had stuff that would argue against Doherty's views if Paul had indeed written them.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">- At least three traditions (four if we include John as we should) - Paul, Q and Mark were bound into Christianity. Each is independent and each supports the view that Jesus was a real person. All three would need to be subject to a high level of deliberate falsification for which we have no textual or historical evidence.</font>
Q says virtually nothing about Jesus as a real person. Paul's Jesus can easily be thought of as nonhuman, as a spiritual being acting in the layered heavens. Mark certainly does portray Jesus as a human. This view does assume Mark has engaged in falsification, but no more than has occurred in all cultures and through all times. Perhaps Mark felt 'inspired'? Perhaps this kind of storytelling was not considered such a terrible thing in those days. If a story helped inspire others and taught religious lessons, perhaps it was considered worthwhile. Perhaps no one at the time really cared whether or not the stories as put in Mark really happened or not. Matthew and Luke clearly felt that Mark could be improved on and certainly felt just fine changing the story as they saw fit.

It is not much of a stretch to think of Q as older religous ideas that were adapted to Christianity. This is a normal process and occurs anytime different religious ideas come in contact. I would not call this a 'high-level of falsification.'

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Doherty can and does resort to special pleading to deal with all of these problems but taken together they are almost infallible evidence against his claims.</font>
I would say the same about Christian apologetics. Haven't you ever flipped through the 'Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties'? Every view of the Bible has to do some stretching to make all the evidence fit. We are trying to reconstruct a few centuries of activities with very little to go on. The very little that we have certainly does not show a simple harmonious picture. If we had four gospels that were clearly written independently and gave every impression of being eyewitnesses along with letters from Paul full of sayings and lessons of Jesus as found in the gospels and a large section of Josephus describing all the goings on of Jesus as he does with John the Baptist, then we wouldn't be having this discussion.


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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">I think this sums up why almost no scholar supports Doherty bar a couple of deconstructionists who think all history is bunk anyway.</font>
How many scholars have even read Doherty. I have been quite anxious for some time to read scholarly reviews of Doherty and they don't seem to exist. Crossan gave a talk recently and I asked him what he thought of Doherty's and others' view that Jesus may be a myth, and all he said was that he couldn't show that Jesus wasn't a myth. This wasn't quite the scholarly review I was looking for, but it is telling nonetheless.

Until other scholars put into writing what problems they have with Doherty, I don't think we can infer that Doherty's views are incorrect simply because no scholars have spoke out in support of him and against their own work. I am also wary of my being persuaded by Doherty when I am by no means an expert on the subject. I would be very much interested in knowing what a variety of Bible scholars, Christians and not, think of Doherty's views.

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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2"> As you and I are physicists I hope we have a common low opinion of decontructionism and other post modernist lunacies. Even GE Wells now admits Jesus existed.</font>
Yes, when it comes to deconstructing physics as a social phenomenon. However, history is another story and as a physicist, you also should be aware that reconstructing the events of 2000 years ago is incredibly far from being a reliable science.

I appreciate your responses and I'll be thinking more about some of your points.
 
Old 04-18-2001, 01:50 PM   #38
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Hmm... is there a more fickle crowd than the Jesus Mythers?

A year ago all the rage was "The Jesus Mysteries" by T. Freke and P. Gandy. Happily, these two wing nuts were quickly debunked, and disappeared into the literary ether. A few months ago it was D. MacDonald and his Homeric myths parallels found in Mark. Holes big enough to drive Mack trucks were blown in that theory (here and else where, refer to the threads highlighted by Michael), and it too was quickly and rightly forgotten.

Now we get to deal with Earl Doherty's "The Jesus Puzzle". At least this time we have a number of known fans of Doherty's work, so the discussion should prove lively.

First, a request. Could one of his fans prevail on Doherty to attend a debate on this forum? I think it would only be fair to allow the man to defend himself, but do insist that the debate take place on a board where those that disagree with him will not be expelled or censured. The SecWeb is certainly not biased Christian ground, and so long as the Christians here are allowed to post freely, I have no objections to its use. I hope Doherty would feel the same way, and find the request to be both reasonable and acceptable.

Second, if he does join the discussion (or even if he doesn't), I hope that his supporters here will be prepared to offer actual evidence to support his views. If all we are going to get from his supporters is another round of "you have to read the book to really understand it", then, like the threads on MacDonald and Homeric Epics, this will be a short, and very brutal discussion. I have little interest in participating in yet another one sided debate. For my part I will be relying on what Doherty has to say on his web site, and his defenders are free to use whatever sources they choose. My only request is that you offer them so that they can be checked.

I will begin the discussion, probably tonight, I just have to finish up the post, then we can begin. I will do so on a new thread (linking to this one of course), and see where it takes us. I certainly hope that someone will come forward to defend Doherty's theories.

Thank you,

Nomad

[This message has been edited by Nomad (edited April 18, 2001).]
 
Old 04-18-2001, 02:06 PM   #39
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Nomad:
Freke and Gandy: Happily, these two wing nuts were quickly debunked, and disappeared into the literary ether.</font>
Ah yes. They've been "debunked" as being less plausible than the literally true tale of a petulant schoolgirl OT god despatching his fully human yet fully god male offspring to earth in order to commit assisted suicide to atone for the trangressions committed pursuant to an appropriated Sumerian folktale.

Right-o.
 
Old 04-18-2001, 03:35 PM   #40
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I think if we start off discussing this point we might be able to at least clarify some issues.

Doherty bases part of this thesis on neo-Platonism and its world view. This enables him to interpret Paul's words about Jesus as referring to Jesus' existence in a higher realm, not this earthly one. The apologists (such as Layman's post above) interpret Paul's words ahistorically as if they were straight reporting of the facts, as a modern journalist in a materialist scientific culture would report them.

Doherty's thesis makes sense to me based on what I have read about Platonism and the worldview of earlier times, but I am not an expert in the area.

I think that Doherty has dealt with all of the objections listed above, but Bede disagrees. Perhaps Bede could summarize his prior contact with Doherty and why he finds Doherty's explanations unconvincing.
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