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Old 02-22-2001, 05:56 AM   #51
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Nomad:
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.

"They will do anything to make facts line up with their theories." Nomad, you're the one who posted the irrelevant nonsense about Lincoln and Kennedy. I suppose that makes you the one willing to do ANYTHING....

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.

As we have seen, we have no independent corroboration of the Passion narrative. John is dependent on the Synoptics, there are no details in Paul and no other pre-markan account exists with any details. So how can you write this with a straight face?

I guess this post falls into the "willing to do anything" category.

Show me the pre-markan account of the walk on water. The annointing. The cleansing of the temple. The three women who witness the Crucifixion. The details are all Mark's invention.

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.

"A few interesting possible parallels" in only TWO passages. MacDonald found those in all the major passages.

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.

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?

Hahahahahahaha! "Why doesn't he talk about
it?" There are several PAGES on it. He focuses on its use by poets, prose writers and in education. It's central to his case!
I think your perch has gotten so lofty, you're suffering from lack of oxygen.

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.

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.

Actually, if you had read MacDonald's introduction, you would have realized that MacDonald spent several pages (the opening ones) addressing the issue of mimesis in antiquity.

So far, stud, you're the only one who has seen Mack truck-sized holes. Perhaps you can show them to me in a post, since everyone else has missed them.

Bring on the details from pre-existing traditions about Jesus please. We're still waiting.....

Nomad, this is the most confused passage you have yet written, since it demonstrates a real failure to even understand the issues, while at the same time conceding MacDonald's point.

Yes, mimesis was used in ancient times. That is central to MacDonald's thesis. Thanks for reinforcing that with additional proof that people writing history imitated Homer. Then there would be nothing unusual about Mark hanging known stories on a Homeric framework, and adding a wealth of detail. Nobody has denied that, so I don't understand to whom your "point" here is addressed. Perhaps you have some other personality that secretly agrees with MacDonald, and breaks out in confused, contradictory posts like this.

BTW, show me how John could not possibly have been copied from Mark. And show me the pre-existing traditions with any details about Jesus' miracle stories.

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.

Well, you're about the only one who thinks that. But you can get the book through the interlibrary loan and read it, without spending any money on it. It is clear, at least from the passage above affirming mimesis in antiquity, that you have badly misunderstood it.

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.



I'm sorry, Nomad, but you worship a fictional creation of Mark, and subsequent scholarship is going to confirm MacDonald's case. You're going to have to show greater awareness of the book before anyone believes you're offering a convincing case. I'll be there to aid your transition to unbelief when it finally dawns on you.

Oh, and read the book. It will save you some embarrassment.


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.[/B]</font>
Cool, yes, I looked. I note that you refer to Joseph of Arimathea and other fictional characters, such as the women, who do not weep. Yes, the fact that the women behave utterly unlike normal people is proof of their historicity. You are right, Nomad, people will say anything to defend a position.
Old 02-22-2001, 06:28 AM   #52
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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.

[snipped interesting arguments about Zech 9:9 and entry into Jerusalem]

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.



let's assume that there is some "kernel" of pre-existing story under there, a point we both agree on. I agree we should move from the known to the unknown, as you argue.

Let's take the crucifixion story. We can both argue that there is an extant tradition of an execution Mark is drawing on. Whether that is metaphorical or real is unimportant to this discussion.

Having conceded that, what is left? All of the major and minor elements of the crucifixion MacDonald traces to Homer, even minor things like Pilate being surprised that Jesus was dead, or J of Arimathea going to claim the body and daring to face Pilate. If you allow that mere kernel, "execution," the rest is embellishment. The women, the moment of Jesus' death, all of it, just Markan invention based on Homer. So what is left?
And when you consider that many scholars do not think the Crucifixion was understood by early Christians in a literal way....the whole thing looks fictional to the bone. The world of the "known" looks a lot more wobbly than it does in your post.

Now, allowing for that level of invention (90%) what do we do with stories with no proven extant tradition? For example, the
calming of the winds. All of it is derived from Homer and Mark's imagination. No kernel is necessary to "trigger" its invention. In fact, we can't find the kernel in Paul or anywhere else. We have to assume it is just made up out of whole cloth, since it can be derived completely from Homer. The world of the "known" in that case, is in fact Homer.
Of course, that can be easily falsified. Just bring me an extant tradition....but if it appeases you, I am happy to concede an underlying miracle story. It makes no difference either way.

The triumphal entry is another good example. Let's say you're correct and it happened, arranged by the disciples to coincide with Zech 9:9. I have no serious objection to self-conscious manipulation of prophecy. That still leaves 90% of that story Homeric invention -- the fig tree, the trip to the temple to gawk, jesus' arrival without cash or friends....

Whether there is a kernel underneath the stories is absolutely irrelevant to the issue of mimesis. It's simply a discussion about Mark's imagination. I have consistently conceded there is, and MacDonald makes clear it is not important either way. And you still have the parables and sayings of Jesus. You don't have to give up the ethical system, and the philosophy of love. You just don't have to defend stories as absurd as sending demons into swine, who drown themselves in a nearby lake. That's Homeric in origin.


[This message has been edited by turtonm (edited February 22, 2001).]
Old 02-22-2001, 07:34 AM   #53
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Hi all,

I've gone through the Legion story kindly linked to by Michael. First points: the Mark story is 400 words and the Homer one is over 4500. There are countless details in both that are not in the other. That gives a huge amount of material to construct paralells and yet there are hardly any.

I'll deal with the alleged paralells one by one and it'll help to have Michael's first web page open to refer.

1 OK.

2 Different place in text, different number and different animal. Not a parallel.

3 Which is what you do from boats.

4 Does the Greek use the same adjectives? Why change to a cemetary? Why not say caves if you mean caves? Why does Legion not live ina cave too? What about all the stuff in Mark about being unchainable?

5 He actually asked: “'Strangers, who are you? Where do sail from? Are you traders, or do you sail the as rovers, with your hands against every man, and every man's hand against you?'” Not much similarity.

6 When the giant was drunk. What about all the stuff missed out. The eating of the crew, the plan, trapped in the cave etc etc.

7 Lots versus no one at all. Not a parallel.

8 Violence and trickery covers all giant subjugation bases I know off. The specifics in this and Mark have no similarites. What about the crew men getting eaten, getting the giant drunk etc etc. There is no parallel here.

9 Different people calling for different reasons. The shephard was hurt but his goats were fine. The swineheards had just lost their pigs. No parallel.

10 No. The cyclops heard Polythemus and asked him about the noise. The Gerasenes heard it all second hand and came to see what was up. Different people coming for different reasons. No parallel.

11 As was every other Greek warrior.

12 That’s how they could leave.

13 But in Mark the Gerasenes ask Jesus to leave while in Homer other cyclops ask nothing.

14 Different requests.

15 Yep. That they did.

I've looked at this and there is NOTHING HERE AT ALL. Every single case requires special pleading about Mark's alleged desire to reverse Homer when the only evidence is that if you carefully select from the vast amount in Homer and ignore most of Mark you can come up with a sort of reverse but doesn't quite fit correspondence. It's pure coincidence. Sorry but on this basis there is no point in going further as there is nothing here except a bit of extreme decontructionist rubbish.

The only simlarity is they both arrived by sea. But if Jesus came by land that would be a reverse paralell anyway so its a no win situation for the sceptic (and that's me, by the way).

Come on, guys. You atheists are supposed to be the ones with clear heads who can see through the bullshit of the bible codes or creationist arguments or Graham Hancock and Atlantis. This is the same thing. Carefully selected evidence that requires 'imagination' and heaps of special pleading to see. Then arranged beautifully on the page to look convincing. But use the texts themselves and it all evaporates into thin air and you quickly realise the two stories have nothing at all to do with each other.



Bede's Library - fiath and reason
Old 02-22-2001, 07:45 AM   #54
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"And when you consider that many scholars do not think the Crucifixion was understood by early Christians in a literal way....the whole thing looks fictional to the bone. The world of the "known" looks a lot more wobbly than it does in your post."

Like which scholars? Borg? Crossan? Sanders? Meier? Brown? Wright? Witherington? Stanton? I think part of the problem is that you have allowed MacDonald's book to define your entire paradigm.

So, most scholars believe that the early church believed in the literal crucifixion of Jesus? Too bad, they must be wrong because Mark is dependent on Homer.

So, most scholars believe that Josephus refers to Jesus' execution under Pilate? Too bad, the passages must have been invented because Mark is dependent on Homer.

So, at least a majority of scholars believe, after careful literarly, source, and form analysis that John is independent of Mark? Too bad, John must be dependent because Mark is dependent on Homer.

So, Josephus records that James, the brother of Jesus, the so-called Christ was killed by Jewish authorities in the early 60s? Too bad, the passage cannot be legitimate because Mark is dependent on Homer.

So, Paul's occasional letters indicate the presence of a widespread and vibrant pre-Markan Jesus tradition? Too bad, because anything not mentioned in Paul obviously was unknown to the early church because Mark is dependent on Homer.

So, Mark shows signs of having a rather tenuous grasp of writing in Greek? Too bad, he must be brilliant because he is dependent on Homer.

So, Q, M, and L also contain independent traditions depicting him as a miracle worker preaching the kingdom, and also some independent traditions regarding the Passion and Resurrection narratives. Too bad, they can't have independent traditions becaue Mark is dependent on Homer.

You avoid having to seriously address any of the issues above by retreating back to your mantra, "they can't be problems because Mark is dependent on Homer."

[This message has been edited by Layman (edited February 22, 2001).]

[This message has been edited by Layman (edited February 22, 2001).]
Old 02-22-2001, 08:09 AM   #55
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"I've looked at this and there is NOTHING HERE AT ALL. Every single case requires special pleading about Mark's alleged desire to reverse Homer when the only evidence is that if you carefully select from the vast amount in Homer and ignore most of Mark you can come up with a sort of reverse but doesn't quite fit correspondence. It's pure coincidence. Sorry but on this basis there is no point in going further as there is nothing here except a bit of extreme constructionist rubbish."

Nice job Bede. I think you have hit the nail on the head. Once we get into MacDonald's paradigm, the argument is irrefutable. Are the stories similar? Obviously Mark was recreating the Jesus story to be identical to Homer. Are the stories different? Obviously Mark was recreating the Jesus story to show that Jesus was better than Homer. So, whether Mark is different than Homer or the same, proves that he was dependent on Homer.

Old 02-22-2001, 08:22 AM   #56
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Bede, great points!

Old 02-22-2001, 09:32 AM   #57
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Time for me to wrap up here since I have pounded my head on this rock long enough.

As near as I can tell Michael wants to use MacDonald to argue that Mark made up virtually every (I believe the actual stat thrown out is 90%) detail of Jesus life recorded in his Gospel. He also argues that Paul and John must have therefore been dependent upon Mark (otherwise how could their stories line up so well?). Further, he must be arguing that Josephus got HIS details about things like John the Baptist and Jesus from Mark. Finally, MacDonald doesn't bother to address the issues of how John came up with all of his own details of Jesus' life that cannot be found anywhere else. Perhaps John used Mark for some stuff, and the works of Levy for the rest? I dunno.

We haven't even BEGUN to explore why any of this demonstrates that Jesus was fictionalized. I tried to show that astonishing coincidences are possible, yet do not call into question the historicity of the events themselves. Michael does not appear to wish to go there. C'est la vie.

Quite frankly, this whole thing is becoming just as absurd as any discussion I have had or been involved with with Doherty and Grady. No amount of proofs is able to show Michael the huge holes and special pleading required to make MacDonald's theory really hold up. When Mark supposedly uses Homer, it is considered proof, and when he doesn't, it is further proof! And the only line of defence now appears to be "read the entire book and then everything will make sense".

I do not see you engaging in serious discussion here Michael. You wish to assert that the details of the Crucifixion and Burial were made up, but offer nothing beyond MacDonald to back you up. I have not seen you demonstrate a clear grasp of countering arguments, and since you seem to believe that I am the one that is somehow out on a limb in my scepticism, I'll say we are about done.

I'll stick with the works of Raymond Brown, Michael Grant, Robin Lane Fox, Robin Griffith-Jones, Daniel Wallace, and other real scholars. What you have showed me has impressed me less and less the more I have looked at it.

If, on the other hand, you wish to challenge ANY of the theories I have advanced on any other thread, then please do so, and offer your proofs. Joseph of Arimathea looks like a good place to start, but I'll let you choose. Just one request: if and when you do go to those threads, please address the specific points I raise before you launch into your own assertions.

Thank you,

Old 02-22-2001, 01:28 PM   #58
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This has degenerated into an unproductive shouting match.

The McDonald proponents have not been able to give a complete account of his argument, and the opponents have spent their time demolishing a straw man.

The important point is that McDonald is not propounding a mythicist thesis. He is engaged in a work of literary criticism based on decades of scholarly research.

Those of us who think that the Gospels are largely fiction find support in his work, but those of you who do not will probably find a way to reconcile your beliefs with his findings. (I was hoping to find out on this thread how you would do it.)

But his book has changed the terms of the debate, and if you do not read it for yourself, it will be like arguing about evolution without bothering to read about the latest genome research.

Toto is offline  
Old 02-22-2001, 01:38 PM   #59
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<font face="Verdana, Arial" size="2">Originally posted by Toto:
But his book has changed the terms of the debate, and if you do not read it for yourself, it will be like arguing about evolution without bothering to read about the latest genome research.
It has been suggested that 90% of the Passion Narratives are fiction based on Greek mythology. How is that not your standard mythicist argument?

Talk about raising Strawmen. Do you know how many books there are on the historical Jesus written by respected scholars? How many have you read? Do you read everyone that others suggest? Have you read E.P. Sanders' Jesus and Judaism and The Historical Figure of Jesus? Have you read N.T. Wright's New Testament and the People of God and Jesus and the Victory of God? Have you read Ben Witherington's The Christology of Jesus and The Jesus Quest? Have you read both volumes of John P. Meier's A Marginal Jew? Have you read both volumes of Raymond E. Brown's The Death of the Messiah, and An Introduction to New Testament Christology?

We've responded to the arguments presented. If you have a problem as to how they were presented, then correct the presentation, don't whine to how they have been received. There has been a substantive debate going on, feel free to join it.
Old 02-22-2001, 05:22 PM   #60
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Of interest is Doherty's website and discussion forum:

Freke and Gandy's website:


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