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Is Anything in the Bible True?
Posted: 28 August 2007 03:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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dougsmith - 28 August 2007 09:52 AM

It is sort of an axiom of any competent historiography that one does not have to accept every sentence in an account as true. That is, that some parts of an account may hang together, and be reconstructed into a consistent and believable narrative, while other parts must be discarded as clearly false, historically implausible or inconsistent. The job of any professional historian is to do just this work.

I do take issue with the reaction among many in the atheist community that anyone who believes that the Jesus account was based on a real person is ipso facto an “apologist”. Once again, the vast majority of professional historians who deal with this time period believe that the New Testament is based on a real person. The vast majority of these historians also discount all the clearly mythological aspects of the account as later interpolations or exaggerations.

And the point of Sanders’s book is not to “prove” Jesus existed. One can’t “prove” anything historically. What he is doing is attempting to do the most plausible reconstruction of what Jesus’s life might have actually been like. And no, this does not include the miracles.

I don’t know.  I’m quite happy with the Gnostic and Docetic view.  I just can’t accept it as being historical and as far as I know, Jesus never existed.  He was just a story fabricated from other myths.  Like many who study the various religious texts and myths and found such similarities I have had my own experience of being shocked into realizing Jesus never existed.

I’ll make you a deal though, you read Tom Harpur’s Pagan Christ (there’s two in this series) and I’ll read the book you recommend.  Fair deal?

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Posted: 28 August 2007 04:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Mriana - 28 August 2007 03:43 PM

I’ll make you a deal though, you read Tom Harpur’s Pagan Christ (there’s two in this series) and I’ll read the book you recommend.  Fair deal?

You mean THIS Pagan Christ book? There is a review on the page by the Toronto Star that says:

... [Harpur] believes that the real Christ is a universal archetype; a classic, pre-existent myth, known essentially by all humanity. He believes we need to re-mythologize, not de-mythologize (or historicize) that Jesus.

Truths at the heart of Christianity flow from the deep well of the human unconscious whose core ideas were planted there by God, he says.

<snip>

Harpur believes he now possesses an awareness of the cosmic Christ he has so long sought.

Ancient symbols and metaphors, existing yet hidden in biblical literature, have been clarified for him.

This sounds like Jungian nonsense. Indeed, the reviewer claims that Harpur got a lot of his inspiration from the neo-Jungian Joseph Campbell, who is about as poorly respected as a religious historian as anyone.

Really, mriana, this is not a serious book. Indeed, it pretty neatly fits your notion of “Christian apologetics” ... someone trying to reform a faith-based Christianity with some sort of amorphous “universal myth” rather than doing any sort of detailed exigetics or work in archaeology.

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Posted: 28 August 2007 04:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Alright then… You believe JC once lived and walked the earth if you like and I’ll believe he was a myth written from other templates.  I cannot believe the JC was anymore than a mythical character.  To me, he was just another in a long list of other Hercules.

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Posted: 28 August 2007 04:40 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Mriana - 28 August 2007 04:35 PM

Alright then… You believe JC once lived and walked the earth if you like and I’ll believe he was a myth written from other templates.  I cannot believe the JC was anymore than a mythical character.  To me, he was just another in a long list of other Hercules.

Fair enough, Mriana. It can’t be definitively proven either way. However, I do think that we should give the NT the benefit of the doubt and at least see if we can come up with a coherent and reasonable narrative based on it. Do remember that for many years it was assumed that Troy was a myth, until Schliemann dug it up. (As discussed on the most recent PoI). This doesn’t establish that everything in the Iliad is true ... far from it. Indeed, it shows that insofar as the Iliad is true, it must be VERY distorted; probably during a long oral tradition in which facts got embellished and garbled.

There are degrees of accuracy to any text. Just because a text is false in places does not establish that it is false throughout. Each claim must be dealt with separately.

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Posted: 28 August 2007 04:44 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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IMO, to believe the NT, is to believe in an abusive type Zeus.  IF JC is to be three in one, the most he can be is a myth and at best one can take a Gnostic view of the stories at most. 

However I am glad you think our individual beliefs on it, to agree to disagree is fair.  smile

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Posted: 28 August 2007 04:49 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Mriana - 28 August 2007 04:44 PM

IMO, to believe the NT, is to believe in an abusive type Zeus.  IF JC is to be three in one, the most he can be is a myth and at best one can take a Gnostic view of the stories at most.

As I’ve said many times before, I do not “believe the NT”—I have already said that much of it is false. I do not believe in God, Yahweh or Zeus. I do not believe that JC is “three in one”. So I don’t know why you are bringing all of that up, as though it responded to something I was saying. I get the feeling we’re talking past one another.

confused

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Posted: 28 August 2007 05:17 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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I’m with Doug on this one. I have no idea if there was an actual man behind the myth that has arisen around Jesus, but I think a reasonable case can be made either way. I think the historical question is separate from the theological questions, and I think they are unrelated. The mythology has been so altered and magnified since its inception, that it likely carries very little relationship to what, if anything, happened or was said by such a historical figure. There is no need to reject a possible historical core to the story in order to reject the supernatural aspects of the story.

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Posted: 28 August 2007 05:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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For those with an interest, HERE is one article on the web by EP Sanders entitled Jesus in Historical Context. It should at least give an idea about his approach and scholarship.

THIS is his Historical Figure of Jesus.

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Posted: 28 August 2007 07:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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dougsmith - 28 August 2007 04:49 PM
Mriana - 28 August 2007 04:44 PM

IMO, to believe the NT, is to believe in an abusive type Zeus.  IF JC is to be three in one, the most he can be is a myth and at best one can take a Gnostic view of the stories at most.

As I’ve said many times before, I do not “believe the NT”—I have already said that much of it is false. I do not believe in God, Yahweh or Zeus. I do not believe that JC is “three in one”. So I don’t know why you are bringing all of that up, as though it responded to something I was saying. I get the feeling we’re talking past one another.

confused

No that’s not what I meant.  Oh geeze, I’d always get myself in trouble for this even as a girl.  rolleyes  Some people maybe have to have an evemerist view of the Jesus myth and yet not fall for the whole shabang, however, I have never been able to believe that way even when I was a “Christian child”.  Of course, the extremists saw me as a infidel and other names for holding the Gnostic’s metaphoric view I described, which is also essentially saying “God in us”.  For me, if the Christ myth has any historical value beyond the metaphor of “we are all Christ cruxified, the redeemed redeemers”, then holy horror that humans did to the man making him a pagan human sacrifice would be even more repulsive.  My mother said I was the only one who had that “romantic” thought about God.  She was wrong.  I wasn’t the only one.  While I don’t take the metaphor literally now, I do believe we have an inner drive and that we are “gods” of our own lives, but it is a view I can appreciate and accept better than the historical one.  Make sense?

I’d always get myself in trouble for that even as I girl because I could not accept the barbaric cruxifiction.  Thus, the image I get of those who accept the Christ myth as historical.  Except I think I’m getting into trouble this time not because I don’t accept it, but for the idea/concept I have of one who accepts it.  In some respects, I think I’m still Gnostic about it.  The idea/concept as I know it, is repulsive. The only way it would work, in my mind, is if the man was buried deep in mythology or we end up believing primitive man was an extremely violent society.  Although primitive man did practice the pagan ritual of human and animal sacrifice to their gods as seen in the OT, which contributed to the need to have one last sacrifice for all time.

Does that make anymore sense?

BTW, I never heard of the Gnostic Gospel of Thomas as a child nor was I privied to it until I was an adult, but once I read it as an adult I realized that was how I had always viewed the myth.

[ Edited: 28 August 2007 07:52 PM by Mriana ]
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Posted: 28 August 2007 08:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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I just read your link to the article, Doug, and the view still makes no sense to me as historical.  It still seem nothing more than a story with an attempt to make it historical.  Maybe because it is only part of the book.  Who knows.

[ Edited: 28 August 2007 08:04 PM by Mriana ]
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Posted: 28 August 2007 08:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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To All

I had no idea this question would generate such a response.  There’s no way I’ll be able to keep up with this pace, given job and family!  grin

Here’s a quick comment that may be useful.  I have always felt the word “agnostic” was under-used.  Seems to me it’s useful at times like these.  Was there a historical Jesus?  Perhaps the academic consensus is yes, but that has to be a provisional judgment to be revised on the appearance of new evidence and acknowledging a certain possibility of error.  I’m not informed in this area enough myself, but I’m prepared to trust the consensus of experts (if such a consensus exists).  Ultimately, for myself, I have to say that on the question whether the Jesus myth is based on a real person I’m agnostic.  Was Christ a rabble-rousing priest?  Probably.  Is the story just a re-cast of extant mythological material from the Middle East?  Possibly.  Could the extant mythological material have been grafted onto the life story of a real rebel?  Easily.

I’m also agnostic on the existence of a real person who may have inspired the myths of King Arthur.  Could the “real” Arthur have been the last Romanized Britannic dux bellorum of the dying Roman province of Britannia?  Yes.  Are we sure?  Of course not.  Did his tale grow in the telling?  Demonstrably.

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Posted: 28 August 2007 08:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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I wish Bob Price was on this board so that he could jump in and give his views.  He so often says, “If there ever was an historical Jesus, he is too buried in myth…”  This topic would be right up his alley.  Hey, could anyone get the wonderful Bob, the Bible Geek, here to contribute his comments to this thread?  :D I’d love that.  He’s great!  And you can tell him Mriana said that too.

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Mriana
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Posted: 28 August 2007 09:47 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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Mriana - 28 August 2007 08:01 PM

I just read your link to the article, Doug, and the view still makes no sense to me as historical.  It still seem nothing more than a story with an attempt to make it historical.  Maybe because it is only part of the book.  Who knows.

Just to be clear, that is not part of his book. It’s a separate essay. And what exactly isn’t historical about it? I wonder if the problem is one of hearing a history about ancient Judaea, simply because of its implicit link to the time of the NT. But that seems to me irrational.

Re. crucifiction, there is no doubt at all that that happened a lot in the ancient world. It was not a particularly unusual method of punishment at the time. Once again, we have to be careful not to allow our emotions to get the better of the evidence.

[ Edited: 28 August 2007 09:49 PM by dougsmith ]
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Posted: 28 August 2007 09:53 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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No, the part about the Jews I got as historical, but not the Jesus bit.  Why is he only mentioned in the Bible if he is historical?  Why haven’t the Jews made a note of him some where if he was historical?  You find the guy who created Buddhaism in history books and you find Mohammed in history books, but you do not find Jesus.  Why?  There is something truly amissed for a man that is suppose to be so important to the history of Christianity.  There is nothing found in history books about him, yet we go back as far as the Egyptians in 5000 BCE and earlier.  Where is this man called Jesus if he was so important?  Why are the Gospels dated between the late 1st centry and the 2nd century?  None of them, admittedly by religious scholars are eyewitness accounts.  Humm…  Things to think about.

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Mriana
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Posted: 28 August 2007 10:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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Mriana - 28 August 2007 09:53 PM

No, the part about the Jews I got as historical, but not the Jesus bit.  Why is he only mentioned in the Bible if he is historical?  Why haven’t the Jews made a note of him some where if he was historical?  You find the guy who created Buddhaism in history books and you find Mohammed in history books, but you do not find Jesus.  Why?  There is something truly amissed for a man that is suppose to be so important to the history of Christianity.  There is nothing found in history books about him, yet we go back as far as the Egyptians in 5000 BCE and earlier.  Where is this man called Jesus if he was so important?  Why are the Gospels dated between the late 1st centry and the 2nd century?  None of them, admittedly by religious scholars are eyewitness accounts.  Humm…  Things to think about.

Right. All of it is entirely consistent with his being a minor Jewish figure with a very dedicated, cult-like following. Material about Jesus was written down originally by a small group of Jesus’s closest followers. Later it was significantly embellished. Sanders discusses one potential reconstruction of all this. As for the (other) Jews, they did not see him as particularly important.

... although I would say that the evidence for Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha) is significantly weaker than that for Jesus. Nothing was written down about his life for literally centuries after his supposed death, around the 5th c. BC. We have perhaps 70 years’ difference for Jesus.

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