FRDB Archives

Freethought & Rationalism Archive

The archives are read only.

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

Thread Tools Search this Thread
Old 02-21-2001, 11:18 AM   #41
Posts: n/a
Thumbs down

Re: Kennedy and Lincoln
(from Snopes)

1) Both Lincoln and Kennedy were concerned with civil rights.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">This is one of the statements that is so misleadingly worded (or downright inaccurate) that it doesn't really merit inclusion even on a list of mere superficial similarities.

First of all, saying that Lincoln and Kennedy were both "particularly concerned with civil rights" is like saying that Woodrow Wilson and Franklin Roosevelt were both "particularly concerned with war," or that Herbert Hoover and Ronald Reagan were both "particularly concerned with economics." Neither Lincoln nor Kennedy evinced a "particular interest" in civil rights, and to all appearances, both would willingly have maintained the racial status quo had events beyond their control not forced their hands.

Although Lincoln was personally opposed to slavery, his primary concern with the issue was how its divisiveness affected the United States, not the liberation of the Black man. Had the Union been able to survive half slave and half free without erupting into war, Lincoln's stated position was that he would have allowed the institution of slavery to remain intact and die a slow death. And whatever Lincoln's personal feelings about the equality of Blacks, he didn't espouse support for their "civil rights" because he believed that white society would never accept them as equals. Lincoln's only real expression of "civil rights" was his support for the idea of relocating free Blacks to Liberia so they could live apart from whites in a separate society. Even Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation was issued as an exigency of war, not as measure intended to permanently end slavery in the USA, and constitutional amendments ending slavery and guaranteeing citizens of all races the right to vote were not enacted until after Lincoln's death.

In Kennedy's case, it was only after racial crises such as the University of Mississippi's refusal to admit a Black student (James Meredith) to attend class and the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, that he belatedly moved to promote civil rights legislation. Even then, his lack of support in Congress (and, ultimately, his assassination) meant that the task of passing civil rights legislation (such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965) fell to his successor, Lyndon Johnson.

2) Lincoln was elected President in 1860. Kennedy in 1960.


3) Both were slain on a Friday and in the presence of their wives.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Another non-surprise. Absent all other factors, the odds were already one in seven that both killings would have occurred on the same day of the week. Add to that the obvious notions that the best chance the average person has to shoot a President is at a public function and that most public functions are held on weekends, and it becomes even more likely that a President would be killed on a Friday, Saturday, or Sunday. (Indeed, an earlier plot by Booth to kidnap Lincoln while the latter was attending a play at the Campbell Hospital was slated for March 17, also a Friday.)
4) Both were shot from behind and in the head.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">This "coincidence" is just plain dumb. The only two types of shots which reasonably assure a dead victim are chest shots and head shots, so two assassinations committed by head shots aren't the least bit coincidental, especially considering that since both Lincoln and Kennedy were shot from behind and while seated, their assassins had no other practical choice of target. And the "coincidence" here is even less surprising when we consider the differences: Lincoln was killed indoors with a small handgun at point blank range; Kennedy was shot outdoors with a rifle from several hundred feet away.
5) Their successors, both named Johnson, were Southern Democrats and both were in the Senate.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Both Lincoln and Kennedy were "succeeded by Southerners" because both had Southerners as vice-president, another fact hardly surprising considering the circumstances. Lincoln was a Northern Republican running for re-election while the country was in the midst of a civil war and needed a Southerner and a Democrat to balance the ticket, hence his choice of Tennessean Andrew Johnson. Kennedy, represented New England and therefore needed a vice-presidential candidate who could appeal to the populous Southern and Western regions, hence his choice of a Southwesterner, Texan Lyndon Johnson.

The identification of Andrew Johnson as a "Southerner" is also a bit problematic here. Although Johnson was born in North Carolina and spent his adult life in Tennessee (both slave states), Johnson was also the only Southern senator who refused to follow his state when it seceded, and he remained loyal to the Union.

Given the high frequency of "Johnson" (literally "son of John") as a surname in both Lincoln's and Kennedy's time, this "coincidence" should be no real surprise to anyone.
6) Andrew Johnson was born in 1808. Lyndon Johnson in 1908.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Another hundred-year coincidence that is hardly surprising, since nearly all American politicians have attained high office (President or Vice-President) while in the 50-70 age range (and Andrew Johnson and Lyndon Johnson were, obviously, contemporaries of Lincoln and Kennedy, respectively). Perhaps it's time to point out that there's nothing "coincidental" about events merely because they somehow involve the number 100. If we sifted through all the Lincoln/Kennedy data, we could produce multiple instances of events involving the number 17 or 49 or 116, but nobody would consider those "coincidences" because they don't yield nice round numbers that have any significance to us, even though they're all just as "coincidental" as the number 100.

And once again, let's consider all the differences between the two Johnsons, such as that one hailed from North Carolina while the other was from Texas, or that one supported slavery while the other championed civil rights, or that one was never elected President in his own right while the other won the biggest presidential landslide in history, or that one was impeached while the other wasn't, or that one became President at the end of a war while the other became President at the beginning of a war.
7) John Wilkes Booth was born in 1839. Lee Harvey Oswald in 1939.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Another coincidence that is no coincidence because it's plain wrong: Booth was born in 1838, not 1839.

8) Booth and Oswald were Southerners who favored unpopular ideas.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">A dubious use of the term "Southerner." Although John Wilkes Booth was undeniably a Southern sympathizer,he was born in Maryland, which (along with Delaware) was the northernmost of the border slave states and remained part of the Union throughout the Civil War. Additionally, Booth spent a good deal of his life in the Northand "thought of himself as a Northerner who understood the South."

Oswald was nominally a Southerner by virtue of his having been born in New Orleans; he spent his youth being shuttled between Lousiana, Texas, and New York before finally joining the Marines. But Oswald's "Southerness" is of no real import, because, unlike Booth, Oswald was not motivated by a regional affiliation.
9) Both Presidents lost children through death while in the White House.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Another statement that, while literally true, is misleading and masks much more substantial dissimilarities.

The circumstances and nature of the deaths alluded to here are completely different, and the way the statement is phrased ("Both wives lost their children") implies that both women suffered the misfortune of a stillbirth or the death of an infant, something that is true only of Mrs. Kennedy.

All of Lincoln's children were born before he entered the White House, and the Lincolns actually lost two children, not just one (although only one died during Lincoln's tenure as President). Edward Lincoln died of tuberculosis in 1850, just before his fourth birthday, and the Lincolns' eleven-year-old son Willie succumbed to typhoid at the end of their first year in the White House.

The Kennedys, on the other hand, were the rare Presidential couple still young enough to be bearing children after entering the White House, and a premature child born to Mrs. Kennedy in 1963 died two days later.

Other differences: The Lincolns had four children, all boys, only one of whom lived past his teens. The Kennedys had three children, two boys and a girl, two of whom have survived well into adulthood.
10) Lincoln's secretary, whose name was Kennedy, advised him not to go to the theater.
11) Kennedy's secretary, whose name was Lincoln, advised him not to go to Dallas.
(one coincidence)

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">This is one of those coincidences that isn't a coincidence at all -- it's simply wrong. John Kennedy did have a secretary named Evelyn Lincoln (who may or may not have warned him about going to Dallas), but one searches in vain to find a Lincoln secretary named Kennedy. (Lincoln's White House secretaries were John G. Nicolay and John Hay.)

The more important point is that since Presidents are frequent recipients of assassination threats, they rarely make any public appearances without somebody's warning them of potential danger. Only on the extemely rare occasions when a tragedy actually occurs do we later take note of the warnings; in all other cases the failed "prophecies" are quickly forgotten. (Lincoln received "an unusual number of letters about plots to kidnap or assassinate him," said to have numbered at least eighty, yet none of those plots were enacted.) Nor does anyone think to mention other attempts at kidnap or assassination that were not preceded by any recorded warnings to the victims. (Lincoln was shot at on at least one other occasion.)

Yes, Lincoln was warned not to go to Ford's Theatre by persons concerned for his safety, just as he had been warned not to visit Richmond a week earlier, and just as he had been warned not to attend his own inauguration in 1861. Obviously, only one of the myriad of warnings he received throughout his four years in office was on the mark. Likewise, Kennedy was warned not to visit San Antonio the day before his trip to Dallas (and undoubtedly before a host of other appearances as well), but only the last warning he allegedly received is considered significant, because it coincidentally happened to come true. As Jeane Dixon and other "psychics" have demonstrated, if you make enough predictions, one of them is eventually bound to come true -- just as a stopped clock is also right twice a day.
12) John Wilkes Booth shot Lincoln in a theater and ran to a warehouse.
13) Lee Harvey Oswald shot Kennedy from a warehouse and ran to a theater.
(one coincidence)

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Another "coincidence" that is both inaccurate and superficial.

Booth shot Lincoln in a theatre of the type where live stage shows are held, then fled across state lines before being trapped and killed in a barn used for storage (not a "warehouse") several days later.

Oswald shot Kennedy from (not in) a textbook warehouse, then remained in Dallas and was caught and taken alive in a movie theater a little over an hour later.

14) The names Lincoln and Kennedy each contain seven letters.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Surely this is the most trivial of coincidences, especially considering that the two men's first names contain different numbers of letters, and that Kennedy had a middle name (Fitzgerald) while Lincoln had none.

We're supposed to be amazed at minor happenstances such as the two men's being elected exactly one hundred years apart or having the same number of letters in their last names, but we're supposed to think nothing of the numerous non-coincidences: Lincoln was born in 1809; Kennedy was born in 1917. Lincoln died in 1865; Kennedy died in 1963. Lincoln was 56 years old at the time of his death; Kennedy was 46 years old at the time of his death. No striking coincidences or convenient hundred-year differences in any of those facts. Even when we consider that, absent all other factors, the two men had a one in twelve chance of dying in the same month, we find no coincidence there: Lincoln was killed in April; Kennedy was killed in November.
15) The names Andrew Johnson and Lyndon Johnson each contain 13 letters.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">ditto</font>

16) The names John Wilkes Booth and Lee Harvey Oswald each contain 15 letters.
<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Coincidence? None of their first, middle, or last names have the same number of letters. And why should it be significant that both assassins had the same number of letters in their full names when the same wasn't true of Abraham Lincoln and John Fitzgerald Kennedy, or of Andrew Johnson and Lyndon Baines Johnson?

Once again, perhaps we should focus on the substantive differences between the two men: Booth was born into a prominent family and, like his father, was a well-known, popular, gregarious actor. Oswald was born (and lived most of his life) in near poverty-level circumstances, never knew his father (who died two months before Oswald was born) and was an obscure, moody malcontent who never had any close friends or a steady job. Oswald was married with two children; Booth had neither wife nor offspring. Oswald enlisted in the Marines, but Booth kept a promise to his mother not to join the Confederate army.
17) Both assassins were killed before being brought to trial.

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Another superficial similarity with much more significant underlying differences.

After Booth shot Lincoln, he fled the scene and eventually (with co-conspirator, David Herold) crossed the Potomac from Maryland into Virginia, eluding capture for a total of eleven days before federal troops finally discovered him to be hiding on a farm belonging to Richard Garrett and surrounded the barn in which he and Herold were sleeping. The two men were ordered to surrender: Herold complied, but when Booth failed to drop his weapon and come out, the barn was set ablaze. A trooper named Boston Corbett, who was watching Booth through a gap in the barn's siding, shot the assassin. Whether Corbett can be said to have "assassinated" Booth is problematic -- the deeply religious Corbett sometimes claimed that he had shot Booth because "Providence directed" him to do it or because he "did not want Booth to be roasted alive," but he also testified that he shot Booth because he "saw [Booth] in the act of stooping or springing and concluded he was going to use his weapons."

Oswald left the warehouse from which he shot Kennedy and was arrested in a movie theater a little over an hour later by police officers who had no idea who he was. (Oswald was initially arrested only for the murder of Dallas police officer J.D. Tippit, whom he shot while in flight; his connection to the Kennedy assassination was not established until later.) Oswald was captured alive and remained in custody for two days before being gunned down by Jack Ruby, a private citizen.

Other differences: Booth was shot in the back in the neck and lived for another three hours; Oswald was shot in the abdomen and was DOA at Dallas Memorial Hospital.
18) Lincoln was shot in the Ford's Theater. Kennedy was shot in a Ford car. (And, as a matter of was a Lincoln!)

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">It was a custom built Lincoln Continental... yes, built by Ford. </font>
Old 02-21-2001, 11:39 AM   #42
Posts: n/a

Jess, did you realize that you were actually helping to make Nomad's point with your post?
Old 02-21-2001, 01:11 PM   #43
Join Date: Jun 2000
Location: Los Angeles area
Posts: 40,549

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Ish:
Then why, Toto, are there no references in anti-Christian works to the "obviousness" of Mark's reliance on Homer? Why, when they knew the greek language and the Homeric epics probably better than we do, does no one use this in arguments against early Christians?
McDonald has an explanation for this, but I will have to wait until I get home to post the details.

There has been nothing posted on this thread that refutes his thesis. It was probably a mistake for Mike to post just a few parallels, because none of them taken out of context are that persuasive. But when you consider the extensive parallels, the fact that mimesis was a known and expected phenomemon of the time, the fact that so many details only make sense as a part of mimesis - the book does tend to make your jaw drop. And the author is a respected scholar without an apparent agenda, who has been working on the theme of this book since 1990. He is not trying to tear down the Christian religion or convert you to humanism.

Toto is offline  
Old 02-21-2001, 02:19 PM   #44
Posts: n/a


So? If I helped Nomad, so be it. I have nothing against helping him out if he is right. I am not trying to bolster either side--- I am trying to get facts out for as many people as want them as possible...

I was raised with the idea that you can find symbolism in anything if you look hard enough--- indeed, I had the pleasure of helping write a treatise on how 'Jabbowocky' is an allegory about the corruption of modern religion (and the despisement of the Jews).

However, there is a big difference between the few occasionally faulty coincidences between two men and a detailed study of two ancient works.

[This message has been edited by jess (edited February 21, 2001).]
Old 02-21-2001, 03:00 PM   #45
Posts: n/a

<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Layman:
Jess, did you realize that you were actually helping to make Nomad's point with your post?</font>

How did Jess help Nomad with his post? Nomad was using the Lincoln/Kennedy group of connections to show that parallels abound and and not uncommon enough to warrant the special attention that the Homer/Mark parallels do. However, Jess went and showed that there really isn't a connection, nor the depth of connection hinted at, between Lincoln and Kennedy thereby mooting Nomad's point. Like it has been said, by someone on this thread already, that McDonald shows that there is a depth of parallels between Homer and Mark, the majority of which can not be as easily dismiss as Jess did with Lincoln and Kennedy.(Thank you, Jess.)

That said, I am not going to comment on McDonald's work as I am not familiar with it. I find it highly intriguing and I am enjoying this discussion for it is highly informative. My own thoughts on the matter is that I believe that Mark drew more from Hebrew works, in a midrashic fashion, than from Greek works. (Though the hypothesis that He did draw from Homer doens't seem that far fetched as the likely hood was that Mark was a Hellenized Jew.) Love him or hate him, Bishop Spong presented much evidence for the Jewish origins of the Gospels in his book Liberating the Gospels. In it, he built upon the work of scholar Michael Goulder. Whether you disagree with his points or not, I think the evidence he presents is too much to just dismiss. Furthermore, as much as anyone would argue Spong is a scholar. The bibliography alone in LTG is enough of an indicator. (And the long list of books and articles authored by Spong.)

Now, someone in the thread has said that the important thing about these connections, and its importance exists whether or not Jesus was an historical figure, is that Mark was written within the cultural context of his time. So there are sure to be Jewish and Greek cultural references that we are not going to get. Even someone not that far removed from Mark's writing like Augustine wouldn't get. (I read the Great Gatsby in high school ten years ago and it was written about the roaring 20's on Long Island, NY. There were cultural references in there that I didn't get because of the time difference and I am from Long Island!) So the placing of the story of Jesus with in the cultural and literary context of his time should not come as a surprise. The surprise lies when we look at these stories through the eyes of a 1st century Hellenized Jewish community.


Old 02-21-2001, 06:23 PM   #46
Posts: n/a

Well, it seems that this has grown into quite a thread! Thanks, Jess, for the good news on Lincoln/Kennedy. I appreciate it.

Toto is right in saying that I shouldn't have posted the parallels. I pretty much knew what would happen, but since I promised I would, and knew it would provoke a good thread.....and I just couldn't resist! A death wish, I guess.

I think one of the more interesting things about the use of Paul in both Polcycarp's and Layman's posts is that they are *parallels* between Paul and Mark that show Paul's knowledge. Their position flop-flips when Paul shows up; the vaguest of links/parallels "proves" Paul was familiar with gospel stuff, while close parallels between Homer and Mark are dismissed as coincidences.

Thanks Toto, you are doing a much better job of explaining than I can.

I think in this thread we've seen the embryo of the form that these arguments are going to take if MacDonald's book becomes widely known. Because, if MacDonald is right, then John in far from independent of the Synoptics, which means that in order to defend the Gospel accounts, shoring up the independence of John is going to be of prime importance. I haven't had time to research that as I should (would you believe the two libraries I belong to have not one book by Wright, Meier, Brown, Wells, etc, and only Crossan's oddly shaped book?!) but I'll post to the new thread Layman started on John ASAP.

Peace to all (I like your signoff, Polycarp)
Old 02-21-2001, 06:46 PM   #47
Posts: n/a

Originally posted by Polycarp:
[b] Well, I wrote out a whole, long response and my computer locked up. I hate it when that happens !!! Lets cut to the heart of the discussion and I'll bring up the issues I had in mind if they come up again. Its not really clear exactly where we disagree. If you simply think that Mark used Homer as an outline to shape some of his stories, then I'll concede that as a possibility. However, as you seem to have acknowledged, its completely implausible to say that Mark wrote the entire Jesus story as a fiction.[B]

If it is not a story, where's the beef? (in Paul)

[B]Parallels do not equal fiction. Here's an example... Mark says that John the Baptist was executed by Herod and he specifies beheading as the mode of execution. Josephus also says that John the Baptist was executed by Herod, but he doesn't specify the mode of execution. MacDonald tries to show the differences between Mark and Josephus can be attributed to Mark's use of Homer. This certainly doesn't lead to the conclusion that John the Baptist was not executed by Herod. In fact, the different accounts are highly likely to be independent accounts since Josephus was written later and, if he were simply copying Mark, Josephus wouldn't have left out the alleged "Homer" details. I'm assuming you believe John the Baptist was actually executed by Herod as the overwhelming majority of scholars agree.[B]

Sure, I think Herod executed JtB. Thanks for actually reading the book, BTW. Both accounts agree that Herod had JtB executed.
But other than that bare fact, that means the whole account in Mark is fiction. So, yes,
he made it up.

Since Josephus was writing later than Mark, it is not ipso facto "highly likely" they are independent, though I personally think they are, simply because Josephus doesn't seem too aware of any other Gospel stories.

So why should the other episodes in Mark be any different? Mark had existing stories that he may have shaped with the use of allusions to Homer, but he wasn't creating events out of whole cloth. The "John the Baptist" example clearly demonstrates this.

You picked the target with 100% accuracy, the only story in the book with a verifiable outside source. Are there any others, especially if we understand (like many scholars) that Paul didn't really mean bodily crucifixion and resurrection? Didn't think you could find any. Consider that 90% of the story above is pure fiction based on a single nugget of truth, likely to be known to anyone of the time. And the rest?

Further, we know Mark borrowed from scripture, as in Zech 9:9 and (maybe) 14 for the untriumphal entry into Jerusalem. We know that Mark on many occasions started with kernels that were (I always get those words confused). Now, this gives us a starting point. We know that Zech 9:9, oft cited in prophecy claims, was not a prophecy of Jesus, since he fulfilled none of the conditions of the prophecy. So, the whole thing must be a fictional package -- inspiration erroneous, event built on erroneous inspiration must therefore be fictional. Conclusion: triumphal entry into Jerusalem is a fiction. Whole episode, spun out of a prophecy.

Now, MacDonald isn't the first to notice that this story is made up out of Zech 9:9, but he is the first to locate the framework in Homer. So in fact, it is demonstratably fiction even without the link to Homer.

You realize, of course, that since it is fiction, that argues strongly that most of the other stories are also....never mind.

Now, there may well be a story that Jesus entered Jerusalem followed by crowds. But we'll never know, will we? It seems like the unfalsifiability shoe is on your foot, not MaCDonald's, because you can always cite "oral tradition" or "extant tradition" to get around the clear fiction in Mark's inventions. Only we can't access that, so you always win. As I say below, MacDonald's work is very falsifiable, and could be by any text earlier than Mark containing many of these stories in primitive form. Only... there aren't any, are there?

My point in writing my last post was to show the broad range of traditions already in place at the time of Paul. It wasn't to specifically address MacDonald's argument. I think this quote of MacDonald you cited sums up the issue

"The earliest evangelist disguised his dependence by writing in prose, altering Homer's vocabulary, re-arranging episodes, and borrowing as well from Jewish scriptures,"

In other words, his theory is unfalsifiable just like every other conspiracy theorist who has written on this topic. Its impossible to disprove his theory because he can always appeal to something like, "Well, Mark re-arranged things to disguise his use of Homer." Gimme a break ! Anytime someone raises a contradiction between Homer and Mark, you can claim, "Mark disguised his plagiarism so you wouldn't know." So MacDonald is the only one with the insight to figure this out because everyone else isn't tapped into reading Mark's mind like MacDonald is? We could do this sort of thing with lots of literary works as has already been shown. I find it ironic that I cited several Paul/Gospel parallels far closer to each other than most of the Homer/Mark ones and you dismissed many of them out of hand despite the fact that Paul is an acknowledged member of the very community from which the traditions would have originated while Mark's relation to Homer is pure speculation.

Mark's relation to Homer is not pure speculation. If Mark knew Greek, he knew Homer.

I find it even funnier that you consider those vague references in Paul anything like the point-to-point matches in MacDonald.
Actually, MacDonald's thesis is eminently falsifiable. All you have to do is find a document earlier than Mark with a verifiable Jesus story (walk on water, entry into Jerusalem, etc). But they don't exist.
Mark is the earliest. And the more Nomad pushes it back into the past, the more he strengthens the case that Mark is almost pure fiction.

Old 02-21-2001, 07:04 PM   #48
Posts: n/a

I'm sorry, Polycarp, I didn't answer all your questions. Where do we agree and disagree?

Let's say we agree that there was a pre-existing tradition, either oral or documentary, that Paul, Mark and others drew on. I think we agree on that. We disgree on how much Mark added.

Where we differ is that I would think all of the episodes in Mark are at least 90% fiction, and some purely so. In other words, there was no tradition of water-walking until Mark invented it. Jesus did not enter Jerusalem on a colt. He was not annointed.
Most of the story, and all of the details, of the Crucifixion are fiction. I will concede that an execution of some kind might have taken place. But the arrest, the three women are an invention, the empty tomb, the resurrection, all fiction. All borrowed from Homer and retouched by Mark.

Nor do I think Jesus, if he lived, worked any miracles or was the son of a god.

I think that should clarify my understanding of our differences.

Old 02-21-2001, 09:55 PM   #49
Posts: n/a

First to Jess.

Thank you for helping to prove my point. When someone wants to show parallels, they will do ANYTHING to try and make the "facts" line up with their theories. With a little investigation most of the theories get blown out of the water, and I think MacDonald, who professes to still be a Christian, will join the likes of Wells, Thiering, Freke & Grady and Doherty. Their day in the sun was, and will continue to be profitable book selling, but the theories themselves rarely end up holding any water.

So I am going to sum up the problems that MacDonald (and other Mythicists face) as they try and construct their new hypothesis on how the Gospels are fiction:

1) They never account for all of the traditions. In MacDonald's case, he avoids excessive special pleading by simply refusing to address the fact that we have independent attestation of the key events in Jesus' life not only from Mark, but also from Paul, John, and pre-Markan accounts. This is especially true with the Passion Narrative.

2) A demonstration of a few interesting possible coincidences does not a coherent argument make. I have to admit though, the astonishing coincidences of animals being present in an agrarian society, not to mention boats that people travelled on over large bodies of water really does make you think.

3) When inconvenient facts pop up that blow Mac Truck sized holes in your pet conspiracy theory, ignore them. Thus, in this particular case, MacDonald ignores the fact that historians of antiquity (especially around the 1st and 2nd Century) often used the "mimesis" that are central to MacDonald's entire case.

A mimesis is an imitation of a past story or author in order to bring a more current story to life for one's readers. Most moderns are very familiar with this technique, as we will immediately understand, for example, what an author means if she says that the protaganists had a "Romeo and Juliet" type romance. The statement in and of itself says nothing at all about the historicity of the said romance, but merely gives the "type" or romance a specific connotation that will be appreciated by the audience.

Ancient historias were known to use this technique, but when they did this, like in the example offered above, this did not mean that they were making the incident up out of whole cloth. So the question becomes, if serious ancient historians used this technique, and MacDonald (a supposed expert in ancient classics) should have known this, why doesn't he talk about it? Is he afraid that such an admission will compell him to say that he thinks all of ancient historical documents are fabrications? That would certainly leave him in a pickle, wouldn't it?

Allow me to offer an example:

In one of the histories written by Herodotus, he deliberately uses (and draws the readers' attention) the parallels between the very real war he was writing about, and Homer's stories from the Trojan War.

(Herodotus) "deliberately plays upon his readers' awareness of particular passages of Homer...
A particularly marked occurrence of this is seen in the Croesus-narrative, where the many quotations from Homer and the entire Homeric structure are far more than merely an artistic decoration, in that they create a backcloth for Croesus' and Cyrus' speeches by associating them in the readers' mind with Agamemnon and Achilles. The most critical events in the account of the Persian wars are likewise related to the Homeric account. In this manner, the Persian wars are shown no less important than the Trojan war, the Persian-Greek conflict being a repetition of the war between Achaens and Trojans.
(Flemming Nielsen, The Tragedy in History: Herodotus and the Deuteronomic History, pg. 28-29)

Now, all I can see from MacDonald's parallels is a listing of not very surprising coincidences (kind of like those between Kennedy and Lincoln). I still think, if he had wanted to make a case for parallels, and possible creative use of past stories, MacDonald would have done better to have used Matthew, and compared Jesus to Moses. Without a doubt, the Gospel writers were much more interested in connecting Jesus and Christianity to ancient Judaism, so the motive is far more powerful here, and the material much richer, and the parallels much more apparent than they are with Homer and Mark.

MacDonald could, using this technique, have also drawn on all of the Gospels, as well as Paul, and not just Mark alone. This would have spared him the embarrassement of trying to explain why Mark's fabrications appeared in other sources (like Paul and John for example) that could not have possibly copied from Mark.

The challenge to the historicity of the Passion Narrative and Resurrection stories by MacDonald is, in fact, so weak (at least based on what I have seen presented on these discussion boards), that I don't think he is going to cause much more of a stir than did G.A. Wells, Earl Doherty, or Barbara Thiering before him.

He will probably make a lot of money, and convince a few, but that will be about it. Before he will impress scholars, and those that have studied these questions closely, he will have to do far more work than he has shown thus far.

I'm sorry Michael, I know you have been impressed by MacDonald and his book, but you will have to show an greater awareness of countering arguments and theories than you have thus far if you are going to offer a convincing case.



P.S. For a serious discussion of the historicity of the crucifixion and burial of Jesus, read the thread Jesus Christ: Worth Burying in a Tomb?, and more importantly, the actual books used by Laymen, Bede, SecWebLurker and me to make our case.
Old 02-22-2001, 05:35 AM   #50
Posts: n/a

[QUOTE]Originally posted by turtonm:
Sure, I think Herod executed JtB. Thanks for actually reading the book, BTW. Both accounts agree that Herod had JtB executed.


I'll be honest and tell you I haven't read the whole book yet, I've just skimmed portions. But let me reiterate my point, and I certainly don't mean this in a condescending way. Any inductive logic should work from what is known (or is highly likely) to be true to what is "less known" to be true. You've reversed the process, and I'll explain why.

I've given the John the Baptist example and you've agreed that he was executed, but you say that Mark shaped his story of the execution on the basis of Homer. In other words, you agree with my argument on this particular case which happens to be the only case with an independent source. Therefore, its the only example of MacDonald's which is falsifiable.

The triumpal entry you mentioned is simply a red herring. Why is it impossible that Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey? If the gospel writers knew that the remainder of the Zechariah 9 prophecy was not fulfilled by Jesus, then why would they have invented the story to make it look like Jesus hadn't fulfilled the entire prophecy? Its far more likely that Jesus did ride into Jerusalem on a donkey and that the early Christians searched the OT Scriptures to try to find some sort of prophecy which predicted the event. Zechariah 9 was the best they could come up with. Considering the massive quantity of verses in the OT, its not surprising that there would have been some reference to a hero-figure riding an animal.

Most of the gospel passages which claim to be fulfillment of prophecy aren't a very clean fit. This fact argues strongly for the view that the earliest Christians (and gospel writers) had the events before the prophecy. They searched the OT for passages that they thought foretold the events of which they were already aware. If it was the other way around (event being created from prophecy), then the fit would have been much cleaner without the unfulfilled aspects. I digress...

The fact that we know John the Baptist was executed by Herod proves the point I made long ago. Mark already had the events in his traditions before he put his "Homer spin" on them. If MacDonald's theory can be falsified, then I just did it. If we go back to my original point about inductive logic working from what is "most known" to what is "less known", then we should deduce that in the other cases, which are not falsifiable because of the lack of sources, Mark did the same thing. He had an event already in place and he used allusions to Homer's work in re-telling the stories.



Thread Tools Search this Thread
Search this Thread:

Advanced Search

Forum Jump

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 12:31 PM.


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