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Historicity of Jesus
Posted: 19 March 2006 08:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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benefit of religion?

One thing that has become apparent is that religion harms cross culture interactions. A state religion was fine when all others states were enemies and killing off infidels was considered fair play. Needless to say, this no longer works.

Religion surely meets some individual human need. Until we breed out that need, religion will stick around. Hate to be the one to point this out, but we are the minority. The majoarity of people in the world either don’t have the intellectual capacity to critically examine their beliefs, or lack the inclination. Many people are happier with the worm fuzzy feeling religion gives them.

Can we also admit that many people publish scholarly works claiming things like Jesus never existed for reasons other than strong evidence. Inquiry can be like a maze where we don’t yet know the way out, we have a good idea where that way is, but there are still untraveled paths. Scholars will champion these untravelled paths just to see where it goes and to close off that path when if proves fruitless. We also need the obstinate types who maintain that their barely supportable view is correct since they are the only way we can determine if those corridors are truly dead ends. Even if there are scholars motivated merely by the income and fame of their controversial but poorly supported view, their studies help us.

The problem is many people are convinced by these people and push unscientific views. The fundamentalists have their Scientific Creationism, the anti-christianity group has their Jesus-never-existed lobby.

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Posted: 01 April 2006 02:21 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Re: benefit of religion?

[quote author=“dmoreau”]The problem is many people are convinced by these people and push unscientific views. The fundamentalists have their Scientific Creationism, the anti-christianity group has their Jesus-never-existed lobby.

Hello dmoreau,

In general I agree with you, although I don’t think I would equate “scientific creationism” with the notion that Jesus didn’t exist. They are quite separate. “Scientific creationism” is an anti-scientific thesis, which is either vacuous or unfalsifiable and which has produced absolutely no worthwhile scholarship.

The claim that Jesus didn’t exist is a falsifiable claim, and indeed one might argue is still under (some) investigation. To a certain extent it also depends on what we mean by “Jesus” ... there are many things that are written in the Bible about Jesus that he never said or did. So those who argue that Jesus didn’t exist are making a historically meaningful and interesting claim.

They may also be right, for all I know. My argument, however, is that I believe that the majority opinion even in nonsectarian religion departments is that Jesus did exist. And at any rate, I don’t think we, as atheists, should make his nonexistence the center of our arguments against Christianity. Just grant that he existed. So long as we deny the miracles, nothing interesting follows about holding to particular religious practices and beliefs. Jesus was one of many preachers and prestidigitators in the Roman Middle East. Some of the stuff he said was worthwhile, some not. So what?

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Posted: 02 April 2006 02:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Paul Kurtz on Jesus

[quote author=“wesmjohnson”]Doug noted <But nothing interesting follows from that, except maybe that he said some good things about morality. (So did Buddha).>  What were they?  Do they stack up to any modern day statements on morality?

Doug replied
“Well, as I recall he did have things to say ... like that it was easier for a camel to get through the eye of a needle than a rich man into heaven ... that the meek would inherit the earth ... blessed are the peacemakers ... judge not lest you be judged yourself ... if someone strikes you on the cheek, turn the other one as well ... etc.

These in general show a nonjudgmental pacifism as well as care for the poor, downtrodden and peaceful. To that extent he was at least someone worth listening to.

Doug and Wes,
I remember Paul Kurtz saying that Jesus did make a contribution to our moral growth.
Bob

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Posted: 06 April 2006 06:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Re: Historicity of Jesus

Doug,
Just heard that The Gospel of Judas has been found. A 24 page manuscript that contradicts the other Gospels in many ways. It was found by archaeologists in an Egyptian desert. It was apparently written in the 3rd century.
Bob

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Posted: 07 April 2006 01:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Yes, I heard about that yesterday; there’s a large front-page piece in the NYTimes this morning. It’s interesting news, though I don’t think it will shed much light on the issues of Jesus’s historicity ... it was written, as I recall, in the second century CE. Long after Jesus was gone.

IMO it is an example of the ferment and schisms among early Christians ... trying to figure out what to believe, making up their own stories. One has to struggle to remember that there was no Church back then to stifle dissent. That came later.

:wink:

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Posted: 07 April 2006 09:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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Judas

[quote author=“dougsmith”] I don’t think it will shed much light on the issues of Jesus’s historicity ... it was written, as I recall, in the second century CE. Long after Jesus was gone.
wink

Doug,
It may provide a great deal of information on Jesus’ historicity because Judas was the only one of the Gospel writers who actually knew Jesus. Don’t you think?
Bob

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Posted: 07 April 2006 09:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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Re: Judas

[quote author=“Bob”]
Doug,
It may provide a great deal of information on Jesus’ historicity because Judas was the only one of the Gospel writers who actually knew Jesus. Don’t you think?
Bob

Well, but Bob, you’re assuming that a second-century parchment about Judas was written by Judas. At this point it seems just as likely to have been written by members of a Judas-worshipping sect.

My understanding is that the other gospels (including perhaps some of the other apocrypha?) were written about a century earlier ... which at least makes them marginally more likely to have been historically accurate.

But it would be nice to get some expert opinion on it ...

:wink:

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Posted: 24 April 2006 02:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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To The Best Of Our Knowledge, the oft-misnamed NPR show had an interesting and probably misnamed show on March 26 regarding this question to some extent.  

I found the position of Garry Wills, historian and believer, to be very refreshing. He said that the historical Jesus is virtually non-existent. You either believe the testimony from the letters of Paul and The Acts of the Disciples (the promoters), the only (and scant) direct testimonial evidence for Jesus or you don’t. He also said that those people trying to shave off a science based Jesus couldn’t and shouldn’t do it. His main point was you either buy or reject it in its entirety.  He also made some very refreshing (from a true believer) statements about religion.

Karen King ad E.O. Wilson also had a lot of interesting things to say.

Cheeers,

Chris

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Posted: 24 April 2006 03:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 24 ]
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[quote author=“cgallaga”] He said that the historical Jesus is virtually non-existent. You either believe the testimony from the letters of Paul and The Acts of the Disciples (the promoters), the only (and scant) direct testimonial evidence for Jesus or you don’t. He also said that those people trying to shave off a science based Jesus couldn’t and shouldn’t do it. His main point was you either buy or reject it in its entirety.  He also made some very refreshing (from a true believer) statements about religion.

Interesting, thanks Chris.

If I get some time I will check this out. At any rate I’d want to distinguish two things one can “believe”:

(1) That there was some relatively radical Jewish preacher who fit the rough picture of Jesus in the early first century CE, who falsely claimed for himself many magical powers and whose disciples falsely claimed more for him, and who was crucified under Roman occupation.

(2) That there was a son of God, born of a virgin, who preached in the early first century CE, who did all sorts of real miracles and ascended into heaven after crucifixion.

I suggest that even though the evidence is relatively scant (it does include some extra-Biblical sources), we just grant #1.

Of course, the evidence is nowhere near good enough to accept #2.

But #2 is the only thing that has any real religious importance.

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Posted: 24 April 2006 11:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 25 ]
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(1) That there was some relatively radical Jewish preacher who fit the rough picture of Jesus in the early first century CE, who falsely claimed for himself many magical powers and whose disciples falsely claimed more for him, and who was crucified under Roman occupation.

There were probably many men of that time period that fits his description…

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Posted: 25 April 2006 01:09 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 26 ]
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[quote author=“Jayhox”]There were probably many men of that time period that fits his description…

Yes, there were certainly various “holy men” in the ancient Middle East who fit his vague description. But all we need is one.

LOL

Of course, for a believer, particularly a fundamentalist believer, all this is problematic—they need the story all to be literally true.

For a non-Christian it really isn’t a big deal.

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Posted: 26 April 2006 09:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 27 ]
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In my admittedly amateur studies (a lot of Ehrman, et. al.) I do think an apocalyptic Jew named Jesus lived and was the source of the Jesus of the Gospels.  What I really wish I knew was:

1.  What went on from the time of his crucifixion until Paul’s hallucination?

2. Would the Jerusalem church (Peter, James etc) have survived even a generation without Pauls fabrication of Christianity, or would they have just remained a sect within Judaism.

Fascinating stuff.

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Posted: 26 April 2006 02:30 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 28 ]
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I’m back. I grew up accepting the proposition that the best proof of existence for a historical Jesus was Josephus commentary. This is back in the 40’s - the church was still in charge of history and Josephus, a Jewish historian was invariably pointed to when any question came up about Jesus really living -

Now we know that the commentary found in Josephus was a much later addition. Josephus just didn’t write it. And that’s that. the piece was written so that it covers every aspect of christian belief, birth, life, death and resurrection in about three paragraphs. Once that piece was written the author, if it was Josephus - a very organized and detailed historian, never mentions Jesus name again in some 20 volumes.
It is fair to say that no one who is a scholar working on the history of the period believes the piece about Jesus was written by Josephus, unless the scholar is an apologist for christian doctrine.
So - the single independent source for a live Christ is not credible. What of the rest?
Before I go on let me say I don’t think Jesus alive or dead makes any difference - there is no rational basis for the tenets of the christian religion, but I do think it is a very worthwhile subject.

A great thing to investigate because if we ever establish beyond doubt that the biblical Christ is but a creature of Pauline invention existing in a different higher spiritual sphere, not intended by Paul to be anything beyond that, then we have the ammunition to isolate the fundies and perhaps protect the rest of western Hemisphere society from them.

In any event with Josephus discredited what can we discern about Jesus from Paul and the gospels? Tacitus?

I have no time left for now but will be back later to discuss the evidence for and against a living Jesus from the biblical sources and others left.

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Posted: 26 April 2006 04:09 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 29 ]
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[quote author=“jimmiekeyes”]Now we know that the commentary found in Josephus was a much later addition. Josephus just didn’t write it. And that’s that. the piece was written so that it covers every aspect of christian belief, birth, life, death and resurrection in about three paragraphs. Once that piece was written the author, if it was Josephus - a very organized and detailed historian, never mentions Jesus name again in some 20 volumes.
It is fair to say that no one who is a scholar working on the history of the period believes the piece about Jesus was written by Josephus, unless the scholar is an apologist for christian doctrine.

Interesting, Jim. How do we know this? Do you have some sources? I don’t doubt you; I know the Smith book I cited is somewhat controversial, although in fairness he is no apologist for christianity.

I gotta learn more about this ...

:wink:

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Posted: 27 April 2006 01:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 30 ]
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I got it from the book,

(Jimmie Keyes) An amateur historian who has delved deeply into the sources, posited a theory and written a reasonably competent book on the subject, Jesus not Vonnegut, is Earl Doherty, the book is “The Jesus Puzzle” published by the Age Of Reason Publications in Canada 2005 (sounds like might be self published a normal thing of late)

But

The best work in my view is that of Robert M. Price, “The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man” is a first rate discussion of the reliability of gospel tradition. That work is published by our own Prometheus. If I had to select two books on Jesus I’d pick these two.

In fact I have both and with the volume of essays Price edited titled “The Empty Tomb” the three volumes make a good start for anyone who wants to look into the reality of the stories that are the supposedly factual basis for Christianity.

The one I used for Josephus is the Price book cited above. But if one thinks about it - the only reference in all of Josephus is the one blurb, it is written so as to support every major tenet of the Pauline division of then infant religions. There was at the time a division in the religion(s) that would ultimately be solved by the Council of Nicea and the Nicene creed.
The Josephus blurb supported the Pauline religion that we are stuck with now, not the Gnostic faith that would have been so much better.
The sentence structure and the clear intention from the words of the writer to support the Pauline religion just makes it well nigh impossible to accept the proposition that a historian was writing the paragraphs.

Remember Josephus was an observant Jew writing a history of the Jews. He had no interest in supporting one side or the other in a dispute between members of a a gentile religion.

Jim

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