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Source: (consider it) Thread: The historicity of the resurrection
mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by BroJames:
You seem to be unaware of how very different the Christian idea of resurrection (and indeed the Jewish idea at that time) is from other stories of resurrected gods in the ancient world of the Mediterranean.

Apparently Justin Martyr said "when we say ... Jesus Christ, our teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propose nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you consider sons of Zeus." Apology, Chapter 21 and 22


quote:
So the answer may be as simple as that it happened. (Unless of course you have an a priori belief that resurrection is impossible.)
Almost everyone has an a priori belief that resurrection is impossible. That's kinda the whole point of the story.

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my new book: Biblical But Bollocks. Available in all good bookshops.

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Barnabas62
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Unless you belong to the school of thought which sees all Pauline letters as late creations by another hand, those letters (and particularly Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, and Galatians, all of which come from the same hand and mind - strong textual analysis for this) provide evidence of a community which believed Christ rose from the dead. And they are generally dated to the 50's AD.

Now of course it is perfectly possible to believe that community believed in and fostered the myth. But such evolution of the myth would have pre-dated the four foundational Pauline letters, originally written within about a quarter of a century of the death of Christ. And in one of them, Galatians, the incidental chronology takes us back at least 14 years before the date of that letter.

Not conclusive of course, from an historian's viewpoint, but the letters are evidence that the belief in Christ's resurrection was fully in play (even if not fully formed), in the 30's AD.

So if it's a myth, it formed very early and had extraordinary staying power.

[ 12. April 2017, 16:40: Message edited by: Barnabas62 ]

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Who is it that you seek? How then shall we live? How shall we sing the Lord's song in a strange land?

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leo
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quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
quote:
Originally posted by leo:
quote:
Originally posted by Anglican_Brat:
Let me be as frank as possible,

If we found Jesus' bones, then is Christianity dead?

No - it would prove that Jesus existed!
And that it's all a crock.
Not if resurrection is spiritual rather than physical.

--------------------
My Jewish-positive lectionary blog is at http://recognisingjewishrootsinthelectionary.wordpress.com/
My reviews at http://layreadersbookreviews.wordpress.com

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SusanDoris

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mr cheesy

Hear, hear! to your posts.

--------------------
I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by SusanDoris:
mr cheesy

Hear, hear! to your posts.

FWIW I believe in the resurrection, I just don't hold much truck with the common apologetical rhetoric that says that orthodox Christian beliefs are the only historical or logical explanation as to how the thing developed.

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my new book: Biblical But Bollocks. Available in all good bookshops.

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Martin60
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quote:
Originally posted by leo:
quote:
Originally posted by Martin60:
quote:
Originally posted by leo:
quote:
Originally posted by Anglican_Brat:
Let me be as frank as possible,

If we found Jesus' bones, then is Christianity dead?

No - it would prove that Jesus existed!
And that it's all a crock.
Not if resurrection is spiritual rather than physical.
Which is meaningless.

--------------------
Love wins

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
You're not sure why Occam's razor should be adopted in this case?

I'm sorry, you've got a pretty strangely sharpened Razor if you think it is a simpler explanation to believe in something impossible (ie resurrection) rather than that the story is an amalgam of various different stories.

I was referring to the question of whether Jesus existed. I apologise if you weren't.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
I was referring to the question of whether Jesus existed. I apologise if you weren't.

OK, fair enough. So do you also think it is more likely that Robin of Sherwood existed or that the stories of Robin Hood are an amalgamation of various myths of outlaws?

--------------------
my new book: Biblical But Bollocks. Available in all good bookshops.

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
I was referring to the question of whether Jesus existed. I apologise if you weren't.

The problem for Occam's razor here is that there is nothing to shave.
Occam's razor is a beginning, not a conclusion. A discovery tool, not a proof.
Here is the problem: the simplest explanation is that Jesus existed. But one cannot test from there, nothing exists beyond repetitions of a few posthumous,and biased, accounts which may or may not have independent sources.

--------------------
So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
I was referring to the question of whether Jesus existed. I apologise if you weren't.

OK, fair enough. So do you also think it is more likely that Robin of Sherwood existed or that the stories of Robin Hood are an amalgamation of various myths of outlaws?
Robin Hood is a) overtly fictional; b) not the founder of any extant movement (there have never I think been any indisputable references to Merrymenians outside the Robin Hood stories); c) the stories about him are first attested three centuries after his supposed lifetime. B) is quite important here. If we had letters from Allan-a-Dale talking about how Will Scarlett has misunderstood Robin Hood's message then the historicity of Robin Hood would really be the simpler explanation.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
Robin Hood is a) overtly fictional; b) not the founder of any extant movement (there have never I think been any indisputable references to Merrymenians outside the Robin Hood stories); c) the stories about him are first attested three centuries after his supposed lifetime. B) is quite important here. If we had letters from Allan-a-Dale talking about how Will Scarlett has misunderstood Robin Hood's message then the historicity of Robin Hood would really be the simpler explanation.

Seems like you are using a whole load of special pleading here. I agree the narrative style is different, but I wouldn't say it is "overtly fictional". I don't think the lack of an extant movement really has any bearing on this historicity of the person.

It seems to me that the only real difference between Robin Hood and Jesus Christ - in terms of whether they existed - is that belief in the latter exploded and the events depicted were much longer ago.

--------------------
my new book: Biblical But Bollocks. Available in all good bookshops.

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Dafyd
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
Robin Hood is a) overtly fictional; b) not the founder of any extant movement (there have never I think been any indisputable references to Merrymenians outside the Robin Hood stories); c) the stories about him are first attested three centuries after his supposed lifetime. B) is quite important here. If we had letters from Allan-a-Dale talking about how Will Scarlett has misunderstood Robin Hood's message then the historicity of Robin Hood would really be the simpler explanation.

Seems like you are using a whole load of special pleading here. I agree the narrative style is different, but I wouldn't say it is "overtly fictional". I don't think the lack of an extant movement really has any bearing on this historicity of the person.
In what way do my arguments amount to special pleading?

The extant movement is important because it's something that requires a causal explanation and for which Jesus is the simplest causal explanation.

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we remain, thanks to original sin, much in love with talking about, rather than with, one another. Rowan Williams

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Martin60
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
Robin Hood is a) overtly fictional; b) not the founder of any extant movement (there have never I think been any indisputable references to Merrymenians outside the Robin Hood stories); c) the stories about him are first attested three centuries after his supposed lifetime. B) is quite important here. If we had letters from Allan-a-Dale talking about how Will Scarlett has misunderstood Robin Hood's message then the historicity of Robin Hood would really be the simpler explanation.

Seems like you are using a whole load of special pleading here. I agree the narrative style is different, but I wouldn't say it is "overtly fictional". I don't think the lack of an extant movement really has any bearing on this historicity of the person.

It seems to me that the only real difference between Robin Hood and Jesus Christ - in terms of whether they existed - is that belief in the latter exploded and the events depicted were much longer ago.

So where are the eight first and second circle accounts of Robin Hood?

[ 12. April 2017, 20:58: Message edited by: Martin60 ]

--------------------
Love wins

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Enoch
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The big difference between Jesus and
a. records of Julius Caesar, who almost certainly did exist, and
b. records of Robin Hood, who probably didn't,
is that it doesn't really all that matter whether Julius Caesar or Robin Hood are true or not.

Christians, obviously, have a vested interest in the message being true. What's less often admitted to, is that the majority of non-believers and partial-believers have a vested interest in there being an explanation that might let them off believing the traditional explanation is true.

That is why there is so much argument about the historicity of the resurrection. It matters, for those who'd rather it isn't history just as much for those for whom it is.

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lilBuddha
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Wow! That right there is the hubris that annoys non-Christians.

--------------------
So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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Lamb Chopped
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I can see why you're put off by the tone. But what he's saying is just the same thing as if I said, "Whether Muhammad really was the prophet of God is a matter of just as much importance to nonbelievers as it is to believers." Because logically this is true. If the Muslims turn out to be right, and I wrong, I'm screwed. So I do have a vested interest in the question of whether the statement is a fact or not.

TLDR version: I think all he's saying is that there are bound to be wishes on both sides, nobody's truly objective, and we have to all watch ourselves.

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Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:
I can see why you're put off by the tone. But what he's saying is just the same thing as if I said, "Whether Muhammad really was the prophet of God is a matter of just as much importance to nonbelievers as it is to believers." Because logically this is true. If the Muslims turn out to be right, and I wrong, I'm screwed. So I do have a vested interest in the question of whether the statement is a fact or not.

The very statement has to presuppose the importance of the question.
Most atheists will not be bothered. If some sort of petulant God who demands recognition turns out to be real, then those who do not believe might suffer. But then, I can hardly see how hanging out with such a deity being heaven regardless.
quote:

TLDR version: I think all he's saying is that there are bound to be wishes on both sides, nobody's truly objective, and we have to all watch ourselves.

It is the very lack of objectivity that I am commenting on.

--------------------
So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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Lamb Chopped
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You might want to confine yourself to the point a bit more strictly. If we are to discuss the petulance (or not) of a Muslim (or no) God (who might o might not exist) and whether the question is going to appeal to the attention of people who dislike it, we shall be here all month.

Anyway, the TLDR bit was what he was saying. Nobody is going to be truly objective on the subject, because the subject is one that has the strongest ramifications for everyone, whether it is true or not. And what I was saying is that this situation is not unique to the historicity of the Resurrection; it applies to a great many other statements as well.

--------------------
Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
Originally posted by Dafyd:
Possibly. There is however nothing inherently incredible in thinking that a religious movement was founded by a religious teacher who gathered a group of disciples. Founder figures of Christianity should not be multiplied beyond necessity.

Not sure why. Seems as reasonable as any other explanation.

Not saying this is what happened, just saying that dismissing it isn't as easy as waving a hand and saying "that's impossible".

I would dismiss it with, "come back when you have some evidence."

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God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Lamb Chopped:

Anyway, the TLDR bit was what he was saying. Nobody is going to be truly objective on the subject,

I do not think this is accurate. It is certainly possible to be objective on the subject. It just isn't possible to know who is correct.
quote:

because the subject is one that has the strongest ramifications for everyone, whether it is true or not.

Not exactly. It is only has ramifications if you picked the wrong religion and the correct religion has a god(s) who gets all het up about that. So, a narrower set of circumstances than you are presenting.

--------------------
So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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mousethief

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quote:
Originally posted by Brenda Clough:
quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
50 years isn't long enough to create a complex myth about something? How do you know?

Tch. We do it every day. It doesn't take any fifty years. Three, tops. Don't believe me? Put 'Obama birth Kenya' or '9-11 Truth' or 'Sandy Hook conspiracy' into your search window. And then stand back. You might want to wear a raincoat and galoshes.
This is disingenuous. The time scale of such evolution in the internet age is completely different than it would have been in the first century.

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God has shown me that I should not call any man impure or unclean. --Acts 10:28

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Nick Tamen

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quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
Here is the problem: the simplest explanation is that Jesus existed. But one cannot test from there, nothing exists beyond repetitions of a few posthumous,and biased, accounts which may or may not have independent sources.

I'm not sure Josephus* can accurately called biased in favor of the existence of Jesus.

* Yes, I know Josephus came some decades later, and there are disputes as to how much of what he is recorded as having written about Jesus he really did write. But my understanding is that the majority consensus is that at least some of what he's recorded as writing about Jesus probably was actually written by him, as was most of what he's recorded as writing about James and John the Baptist.

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The first thing God says to Moses is, "Take off your shoes." We are on holy ground. Hard to believe, but the truest thing I know. — Anne Lamott

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Nick Tamen:
quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
Here is the problem: the simplest explanation is that Jesus existed. But one cannot test from there, nothing exists beyond repetitions of a few posthumous,and biased, accounts which may or may not have independent sources.

I'm not sure Josephus* can accurately called biased in favor of the existence of Jesus.

* Yes, I know Josephus came some decades later, and there are disputes as to how much of what he is recorded as having written about Jesus he really did write. But my understanding is that the majority consensus is that at least some of what he's recorded as writing about Jesus probably was actually written by him, as was most of what he's recorded as writing about James and John the Baptist.

Josephus is problematic in more than just his accounts of Jesus. His accounts of Masada have several key things incorrect. Probably because, here too, he was using second hand accounts
Josephus, likely drawing from the same sources, does no necessarily corroborate as much as repeat.

--------------------
So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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Nick Tamen

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I acknowledged there are issues with Josephus. But you said nothing exists other than biased accounts or reputations o biased accounts, and that's what I was responding to. My point was that I don't think bias, at least a bias toward Jesus or toward the Christian understanding of him, can be considered one of the problematic issues with Josephus' accounts.

[ 13. April 2017, 02:40: Message edited by: Nick Tamen ]

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The first thing God says to Moses is, "Take off your shoes." We are on holy ground. Hard to believe, but the truest thing I know. — Anne Lamott

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lilBuddha
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quote:
Originally posted by Nick Tamen:
I acknowledged there are issues with Josephus. But you said nothing exists other than biased accounts or reputations o biased accounts, and that's what I was responding to. My point was that I don't think bias, at least a bias toward Jesus or toward the Christian understanding of him, can be considered one of the problematic issues with Josephus' accounts.

What I am saying is that he is likely repeating those biased accounts,* not that he is himself biased.

*For what might actually be his words.

--------------------
So goodnight moon, I want the sun
If it's not here soon, I might be done
No it won't be too soon 'til I say goodnight moon

- A. N. Parsley, D. Mcvinni

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Lamb Chopped
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Not all the accounts were biased in Jesus' favor. Some were severely the other way.

Just for grins, though, I'm going to list a few things I think we can be fairly sure of, whether we possess Christian faith or not--purely on the historical evidence.

1. Jesus existed.
2. He was a Jew living in an occupied country under Roman rule.
2a. He was not a Roman citizen.
2b. He was not particularly wealthy.
2c. He was most likely not well connected within the local religious or political hierarchies (i.e. not a priest or a high ranking Pharisee, nor yet Pontius Pilate's brother-in-law)
3. He had a strong personality with a lot of charisma and a tendency to say things that got him into trouble. (Evidence: the myriad haters and worshippers, but rarely anyone whose attitude was "meh")
4. He was executed under extremely controversial circumstances.
4a. This happened after he had reached full adulthood but before old age.
5. There was something odd about his post-death arrangements-and-or-behavior (pick the theory you like here).
5. He was the proximate cause of a new world religion.
6. He had a transformative effect on the lives of an astonishing number of individuals, some of them formerly his enemies.

--------------------
Er, this is what I've been up to (book).
Oh, that you would rend the heavens and come down!

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Galloping Granny
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What a lot of words! And I'm about to add a whole lot more.
What is this god that you all keep talking about?
A being with human-type attributes who caused the ‘big bang’ or was intensively involved with it from the word go?
Who intended this world to function with a system of non-violent distributive justice but couldn’t make it happen, so had to fall back on permeating creation as a spirit of love.
Or who tried to put it right by creating a perfect man and sacrificing him him in a particularly nasty fashion in order that we might be acceptable into ‘heaven’? PSA – go away.

So a man is born who understands from his people’s faith literature what creation could be like, and that the religious hierarchy are getting it all wrong, and has to be publicly removed because of his threat to the honour/mana of the establishment.

Whereupon the myths that arise around his story become amalgamated into a more and more complex theological system which people are expected to ‘believe’ in order to arrive at a perfect after-life.

I stumble at the the beginning of the Lord’s prayer:
‘Our Father’ – this locks me into an ancient system of patriarchal culture and
‘In Heaven’ – where is this supposed to be? Heaven is wherever I am, or you are, where the being that some call god is right there, supporting us in our trials and joys but not manipulating events.

I am a passionate Christian but not a Trinitarian, and I’m probably so way out that my theology isn’t worth commenting on. But I will say ‘Hi!’ to Boogie, with whom I always agree – except for the afterlife. We are supposed to be creating God’s world right here on this earth.

GG

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The Kingdom of Heaven is spread upon the earth, and men do not see it. Gospel of Thomas, 113

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SusanDoris

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quote:
Originally posted by lilBuddha:
Wow! That right there is the hubris that annoys non-Christians.

Why do you think it annoys non-Christians?! It certainly doesn't annoy me! I think Enoch makes a very good point.

--------------------
I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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SusanDoris

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quote:
Originally posted by Galloping Granny:
I am a passionate Christian but not a Trinitarian, and I’m probably so way out that my theology isn’t worth commenting on. But I will say ‘Hi!’ to Boogie, with whom I always agree – except for the afterlife. We are supposed to be creating God’s world right here on this earth.

GG

Super post!

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I know that you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.

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Barnabas62
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lilBuddha

There are well-established critical techniques used by historians for tackling subjectivity, bias if you like, in ancient records. That applies to records of all kinds, including records from religions.

Historical critical techniques have been in the toolbags of mainstream theologians for getting on for a couple of centuries now. Of course they give rise to a variety of views about the influence of bias or preconceptions on any particular writing. A factor which applies not just to theological work. For example, it is very well understood that records from any author living under a powerful autocratic government will be influenced by what that author could have been expected to get away with. Freedom of expression as we have it was not very common in previous ages.

I'm not saying that bias and prior conceptions weren't a factor in the New Testament documents, rather that such factors were common to a very large percentage of all documents from that era. Teasing out fact from supposition is a common challenge.

One of the techniques involves incidental detail, for example the time periods quoted in the first chapter of the letter to the Galatians. Given that the clear purpose of the early part of the letter is to establish credentials for the author, it's hard to find a good reason for him to invent a chronology and a long apprenticeship. Or a record of his prior persecution of Christians. These things were easily checked out with the critics the letter was designed to combat. Indeed, the whole letter is an embarrassing record of early conflicts of understanding and authority within the first quarter of a century of the life of the church. If invention, including the chronological details, in support of theology, it would indeed be very remarkable invention. The general view is that it is a genuine very early record. You don't have to have faith in order to be able to see that.

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Barnabas62
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lilBuddha

There are well-established critical techniques used by historians for tackling subjectivity, bias if you like, in ancient records. That applies to records of all kinds, including records from religions.

Historical critical techniques have been in the toolbags of mainstream theologians for getting on for a couple of centuries now. Of course they give rise to a variety of views about the influence of bias or preconceptions on any particular writing. A factor which applies not just to theological work. For example, it is very well understood that records from any author living under a powerful autocratic government will be influenced by what that author could have been expected to get away with. Freedom of expression as we have it was not very common in previous ages.

I'm not saying that bias and prior conceptions weren't a factor in the New Testament documents, rather that such factors were common to a very large percentage of all documents from that era. Teasing out fact from supposition is a common challenge.

One of the techniques involves incidental detail, for example the time periods quoted in the first chapter of the letter to the Galatians. Given that the clear purpose of the early part of the letter is to establish credentials for the author, it's hard to find a good reason for him to invent a chronology and a long apprenticeship. Or a record of his prior persecution of Christians. These things were easily checked out with the critics the letter was designed to combat. Indeed, the whole letter is an embarrassing record of early conflicts of understanding and authority within the first quarter of a century of the life of the church. If invention, including the chronological details, in support of theology, it would indeed be very remarkable invention. The general view is that it is a genuine very early record. You don't have to have faith in order to be able to see that.

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mr cheesy
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The problem is that theologians usually want the text to be a true record. Historians generally are a lot more sanguine about making historicity claims about the New Testament.

It is quite true that the epistle text says negative things about the protagonists. But that - in itself - is not evidence of the existence of the founder of the religion. It is entirely possible that the growing sect had morality qualms and that someone decided to write about them for teaching purposes. In and of itself, that's not evidence of the historicity of the founder myth.

Consider what we know (or don't know) about Qumran. They might or might not have been Essene. They might or might not have something to do with the Dead Sea Scrolls. They might or might not have one - or more - leaders called the Teacher of Righteousness. Even with contemporary, archeology and written documents, it still isn't clear what was going on there.

If some or all of the information from Qumran somehow managed to transplant into a new community geographically distant and with leaders who had never actually been to Qumran, it is entirely conceivable that they'd believe things that are different to the original community. Or that generations later they've received documents from other groups that they believe are originals from Qumran and which change the new group's beliefs.

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anteater

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Have I just read the first Trinitarian post?

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SusanDoris

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quote:
Originally posted by anteater:
Have I just read the first Trinitarian post?

I was wondering whether I'd cursored back up again by mistake! [Smile]

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Boogie

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quote:
Originally posted by Galloping Granny:
But I will say ‘Hi!’ to Boogie, with whom I always agree – except for the afterlife. We are supposed to be creating God’s world right here on this earth.

Hi GG! We have a Church of two - hurrah [Biased]

My vague hope for an afterlife comes from my upbringing. I was brought up in the New Church which is all about the afterlife. Lovely, compassionate people in the here and now too. It's almost completely disappeared in the UK. My Dad's old Church in Burnley has just had its final service. A sad, poignant occasion - of course the Church was full for the first time in years [Tear]

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anteater

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quote:
What's less often admitted to, is that the majority of non-believers and partial-believers have a vested interest in there being an explanation that might let them off believing the traditional explanation is true.
Whilst I don't agree with that, I do think there is a strong desire on the part of some to discredit the traditional teaching.

Not because they're worried it may be true, any more than I'm worried that Islam might be true.

Rather it's because they are worried about non-rationalist approaches to belief, which includes a rather uncritical acceptance of a tradition, mediated by church organisations and an emotional commitment to the belief.

That can get you to where silly things and quite nasty things can happen, like believing that The Return of Jesus will probably triggered by a Nuclear War started in the Middle East and that's a Jolly Good Thing.

OK nobody actually believes this in full but some are close and influential. And it all comes down to basing belief on things that cannot be proved according to normal standards.

I'm also quite interested in the phenomenon of Selective Skepticism. For instance I was for a while in Banner of Truth Calvinist circles, where any doubt about biblical miracles was viewed as sinful, but when it came to examining claims of the RCC or Charismatic claims they morphed immediately into James Randi.

Having said that, I am not totally rationalist, but I do see the dangers in emotionally held beliefs.

[ 13. April 2017, 08:18: Message edited by: anteater ]

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Karl: Liberal Backslider
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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:
What's less often admitted to, is that the majority of non-believers and partial-believers have a vested interest in there being an explanation that might let them off believing the traditional explanation is true.

[/QB]

Not in my case. I want it to be true. I long to know that it is true. That doesn't make it true, and it doesn't make me believe it's true.

I get a bit fed up - no, scratch that - bloody livid - with people telling me what my motives and "vested interests" are. You do not have a window into my soul.

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Barnabas62
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
The problem is that theologians usually want the text to be a true record.

Aha! Bulverism! "You say that because you are a theologian!"

I suppose it is possible to read Galatians and not see the passion and the importance the author attaches to it. See with what large letters he writes the finale! After wishing those who saw things differently should be castrated. Whatever else it is, it is an intensely human letter from an intense human being. Which is one of the reasons why it is so generally seen as a genuine illustration of the beliefs of a major mover and shaker in the early church.

I'm not arguing that you need to more than treat the document as genuine and very early evidence of the beliefs and motivations of a couple of sections of early believers, together with some chronological insights into the times at which such beliefs were held. In the terms you were using earlier, the letter is evidence that the "myth" of the resurrected man was a belief held in the 30s AD. Not conclusive, of course, but at least persuasive.

It doesn't in itself prove Jesus rose from the dead. It does provide a major insight into original beliefs.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:

Aha! Bulverism! "You say that because you are a theologian!"

Sigh. No, it isn't Bulverism if the theologians are using categories for assessing the scriptures which wouldn't be used by historians assessing other writing.

quote:
I suppose it is possible to read Galatians and not see the passion and the importance the author attaches to it. See with what large letters he writes the finale! After wishing those who saw things differently should be castrated. Whatever else it is, it is an intensely human letter from an intense human being. Which is one of the reasons why it is so generally seen as a genuine illustration of the beliefs of a major mover and shaker in the early church.
Well, there speaks the eyes of faith. That's not answering the question of historicity whatsoever. The text is powerful, that doesn't mean it hasn't somehow been inherited, that it isn't somehow an amalgamation of previous writing, that is wasn't somehow written for one purpose and taken for another.

Nobody is denying that the church existed. Nobody is saying that these ancient documents are not part of the faith. But neither of those things mean that the subject of the writing actually existed. That is a matter of faith, not history. Because at this distance it is impossible to tell.

quote:
I'm not arguing that you need to more than treat the document as genuine and very early evidence of the beliefs and motivations of a couple of sections of early believers, together with some chronological insights into the times at which such beliefs were held. In the terms you were using earlier, the letter is evidence that the "myth" of the resurrected man was a belief held in the 30s AD. Not conclusive, of course, but at least persuasive.
Only persuasive if it persuades you. The fact is that even if it was from 30 AD (which we can't possibly know), it wasn't kept in aspic. We have faith that it reflects the faith of the early disciples, but there is no way to actually know that historically.

quote:
It doesn't in itself prove Jesus rose from the dead. It does provide a major insight into original beliefs.
It really doesn't.

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Barnabas62
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Well, that's a level of scepticism that I can't achieve in real life. If it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck ..

Speaking from personal history, my take on Galatians actually pre-dated my conversion. It didn't seem at all far-fetched to me then, nor does it now. But as in all matters historical and theological, YMMV.

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Boogie

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quote:
Originally posted by Enoch:

That is why there is so much argument about the historicity of the resurrection. It matters, for those who'd rather it isn't history just as much for those for whom it is.

I'd much rather it was history. How simple life would be for us Christians!

But, say it were indisputed fact, would that not preclude the need for faith? Would any other religion exist?

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
Well, that's a level of scepticism that I can't achieve in real life. If it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck ..


I bet you can if you try. Do you believe in Muhammed's night flight from Jerusalem?

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BroJames
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Actually, the likely date range of the letter to the Galatians is well-established on historical grounds.

Evidentially its value is that it shows that within the Christian community the basic lines of the account still adhered to by Christians of Jesus death and resurrection were taken for granted within about 30 years of the death of Jesus, indeed, on the evidence of the letter, much earlier than that. It isn't that the letter advances any information about those things, it simply takes them for granted in its argument.

The challenge with this whole issue of whether Jesus existed is that for the very very large majority of professional historians (let alone theologians and biblical scholars) it is simply a non-question, so it's hard to find any making a case either for or against it.

It is also rathe easy to raise airy questions and ideas about what might have happened for which there is no evidence - only speculation "Maybe it happened like this…". Marshalling evidence to counter that sort of thing takes more time than is merited, and more space than is appropriate on a forum like this.

The atheist history blogger Tim O'Neill tackles the idea that Jesus was not a historical person in two parts here and here

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Barnabas62
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Don't really know enough about that background to the story to comment, mr cheesy. I appreciate it has significance for many Muslims, whether one sees it as a miraculous physical journey or a journey of the mind and imagination of the Prophet. Apparently, not all Muslims take it literally, but whether they do or not, the story explains the significance of Jerusalem as a place of pilgrimages for Muslims.

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Arethosemyfeet
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
Well, that's a level of scepticism that I can't achieve in real life. If it walks like a duck and it quacks like a duck ..


I bet you can if you try. Do you believe in Muhammed's night flight from Jerusalem?
I would draw a distinction between an event based on a record of the testimony of a single witness and an event based on records of the testimony of a great number of witnesses.
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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by Barnabas62:
Don't really know enough about that background to the story to comment, mr cheesy. I appreciate it has significance for many Muslims

Okay, but presumably you don't believe that Mohammed was the final prophet and flew around on a magic horse.

And presumably you are aware that Muslims claim that this was attested by reliable witnesses since the earliest days.

According to your reasoning, you ought to be believing it despite it having fundamental things to say about your theology and despite it apparently being impossible.

I'm not asking you how varied Muslims understand this event, I'm trying to establish if there is anything else to which you apply your idiosyncratic historicity criteria. It would appear not.

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Lamb Chopped
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Karl hit a really important point about the vested interest thing. There is fearful thinking as well as wishful thinking. I should have remembered this, since I naturally tend to believe the opposite of what I want to be true, being a pessimist by nature.

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Barnabas62
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So far as the credibility of the witnesses to the literal truth of the Jerusalem journey is concerned, they seem to me to have some difficulty in explaining a visit during Muhammad's lifetime to a mosque which did not exist in Muhammad's lifetime.

Which I would reckon may be one of the reasons why some Muslims prefer to see the journey as a matter of the mind and imagination.

Do I see the story as far-fetched? Sure. A lot more far-fetched than seeing Galatians as a genuine document providing evidence of very early beliefs in the infant church.

What criteria do I apply? Pretty normal historical critical criteria so far as I can see. A process which is understandably sceptical about accounts of the miraculous. Which is hardly the substance of Galatians, compared with the Jerusalem journey.

[ 13. April 2017, 13:02: Message edited by: Barnabas62 ]

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BroJames
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quote:
Originally posted by mr cheesy:
I'm not asking you how varied Muslims understand this event, I'm trying to establish if there is anything else to which you apply your idiosyncratic historicity criteria. It would appear not.

I think, mr cheesy, you are misunderstanding the claim Barnabas62 is making for Galatians. He is not arguing that it proves that Jesus existed. He is arguing that the incidental detail in the letter which is not central to the argument will be regarded as more credible because it is not being shaped to make the writer's case for him. He is also arguing, correctly in my view, that the letter is evidence that within the Christian community it was already uncontroversially accepted that Jesus was a real person who had really been born, lived, died, and (Christians believed) raised again.

You're correct that it does not prove that Jesus existed. It does, however, strongly suggest that if there was a myth-making process which led to the belief in Jesus it had fully completed its work and disappeared without trace by the time the letter to the Galatians came to be written.

After that there is a 'faith' question, namely which of these two possible explanations does one believe better fits the evidence? A real person whose existence lay at the heart of these writings, or a myth-making process, which thirty years after the supposed death of the mythical figure had led to a settled, uncontroversial belief that the person was real. And this within the lifetime of someone who had been in the city where the events took place only weeks after the mythical person's supposed execution, and maybe actually at the time of the execution.

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mr cheesy
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quote:
Originally posted by BroJames:


After that there is a 'faith' question, namely which of these two possible explanations does one believe better fits the evidence? A real person whose existence lay at the heart of these writings, or a myth-making process, which thirty years after the supposed death of the mythical figure had led to a settled, uncontroversial belief that the person was real. And this within the lifetime of someone who had been in the city where the events took place only weeks after the mythical person's supposed execution, and maybe actually at the time of the execution.

I don't know and you don't know either. It seems to me that it is entirely debatable as to the age of this document; it is therefore entirely debatable as to exactly what it is talking about; it is therefore entirely debatable as to whether the story that those who wrote the document is the same as the one from the gospels.

30 years ago something happened. A bunch of people wrote about it. Today, 30 years later, I have a collection of contradictory writings.

If I now choose a particular account and add it together with other accounts that agree with it, that self-evidently is not an indication of historicity of the event.

At best it might be an indication of what the people in the document believed. At worse, we could be interpreting the events depicted through the lens of the other documents - which simply add together to create a story that is nothing at all like the reality. How can we possibly know?

Now add in 2000 years, the fact that we don't know an awful lot about those who determined which accounts survived and so on - and we clearly can't be sure about any of the historicity. Claiming otherwise is disingenuous.

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