Thanks for the info. I should probably check out the Prometheus books sometime (Empty Tomb and Shrinking Son of Man are both by Prometheus Press). Coincidentally my cousin is also a professor of history and religious studies, and focuses on the early Roman time period, so I should probably talk with him as well ...
Prometheus is the publishing arm of the Center since Paul Kurtz is its owner. I’m sure there are aspects of what I just said that are not quite accurate but that statement can be taken as true in large measure.
I use Hoaxes. Myths, and Manias: Why We Need Critical Thinking in my English 100 classes as a required text. I have the students perform discursive group journals on the chapters, and they LOVE it. One semester, B. Radford came to CFI-West for a talk, and I offered extra credit to go. Several students came and had their textbooks signed.
I think this is a great thing to study because of its influence on so much of mankind. What is the need that is served by this story? When you look back at the words of any prime prophetic type (Jesus, Buddha, Mohamed) they all seem to try and minimize themselves and push people towards introspection and a direct, personal relationship with their god (if you meet the Buddha on the road kill him) Karen Armstrong said that homo sapiens could also be called homo religiosus. I agree, but that doesn’t answer why?
The historical Jesus can only be useful in promoting secularism if it can be proved conclusively that he didn’t exist at all (good luck with that). Without this proof are left with a wide gap filled by faith of what he said, meant and believed, as proposed by others (mostly dogmatic church leaders of one flavor or the other).
The root of the global problem of god and its requisite bloodshed is this homo religiosus phenomenon. What useful purpose does this overarching meme provide for so many people that science and secularism fail to meet?
That’s the big banana (as Kirk Cameron might say).
I don’t have the answer but I am fairly certain it is not a built in “I need a God to love and lead me” gene.
The great mass of humanity is brought up in a religion. Certainly that has been true for well over 4000 years. A blink in geologic time but 2/3rds of historic time.
It may be that someone, back when socializing became important decided the sun was a proper object of worship and that he should teach everyone how, but I doubt we evolved into a genetically predestined animal as a result.
What we need to deal with is today’s problem. That seems to be religions that teach their acolytes they will be rewarded in an afterlife if they die killing infidels.
We are social animals that’s for sure. The churches, mosques and temples provide a structured society of sorts that may be what is otherwise missing in human affairs. I don’t know.
I do know that the three one and only one true god religions are a problem we must somehow solve. Otherwise - when these acolytes manage to get portable wmds it will be the beginning of another dark age.
But this is a topic some one should start elsewhere but in this category - It is a bit off topic in this discussion.
We should use topics that describe the ongoing discussion to advertise the subject so all interested parties will take part.
I talked a bit with my cousin about the books you mentioned from Prometheus. His response:
“I don’t really respect stuff by Prometheus presss on western religion, but that’s okay—a lot of people like to read it ... With the arguments for Jesus’s being invented of whole cloth, I just find it a bit beyond historical sense. The literary evidence just isn’t so bad for that period of time—Mark, Q, Paul, and assorted other traditions.”
His suggestions as to books:
“I think the best objective stuff on Jesus is written by Geza Vermes, an elder Jewish scholar in England. It’s careful and straightforward. Books by E. P. Sanders are good too.”
I don’t want to “out” him on the board but he is a professor of history and religious studies at a state university, and not a Christian. FWIW his area of specialty includes the time-period around when Jesus was alive.
I’ve got a pile of books ahead of me to read, but these will be on my list as well.
Gotta get those books Doug, - Dang more money on books and she still wants the new outfit.
The Jesus Seminar is a body of historians, scientists, at the moment 100 strong that has as its work the study of the biblical and other sources for a real live Jesus.
The book I’m reading now by Price quoted above says over and over again that the stories told in the New Testament were written after the fact by Christian apologists with a mission. Thus they are not thought now to be evidence for the live Jesus. There are so many non-canonical sources equally ancient that tell more stories - for example the tale of Jesus childhood. Sort of a tale of Superboy before he turned into Superman.
I really think this is the stuff we all need to get our minds around so we can go right at the fundies on their own playground.
I am right now reading through E.P. Sanders’s The Historical Figure of Jesus (Penguin, 1993). I’m only about a third of the way through, but so far it has been generally quite good. He clearly believes that Jesus existed, and that the gospels were likely cobbled together from shorter accounts written on papyri, almost certainly not by their supposed authors. He also believes that Matthew, Mark and Luke (the “synoptic gospels”) were more credible than John. But I have yet to get to the meat of the matter, which is his reconstruction of what we know about “the historical Jesus”.
Sanders’s writing style is quite clear and direct, and easily readable. He does spend a lot of time at the beginning of the book going over the historical context and the difficulties involved in reconstruction.
I have The 5 Gospels from the Jesus Seminar, but I remember reading somewhere recently that their process was revealed to be fraught with error and deemed totally unscientific.
I really want to know. The author, Price is the guy who stands out in the extra material in the movie that Bruce Shermer hands out at churches on Easter Sunday. “The God Who Wasn’t There” Sadly the other stand out Dundes is dead.
The Price book “The INCREDIBLE shrinking SON OF MAN” is the same in the beginning. I’m reading the introductory chapters for about the 5th time. I read probably 10 times as fast as might be considered normal. The difficulty finding the time to sit and read the entire intro at one sitting.
Price is a member of the Jesus Seminar. It would be very like the fundies to discredit the work of the Seminar and thus discredit him. What else could they do the facts are lined up against them - their position on the gospels , that they were written by the authors named with the direct aid of the deity is so off base that they must do something. Easy, just discredit the entire research project.
I found the article in the last Free Inquiry by the religion chair of CFI to be very enlightening. I can’t find the magazine or I’d be more specific but it is in the Darwin Dover issue near the end of the series of essays. He argues that we can’t do much with the religious believers by telling them about the latest scientific wonder. He says we must meet them on their own ground by criticizing their beliefs.
From Library Journal
The Jesus Seminar, a group of scholars who have attempted to locate the authentic words of Jesus, made headlines two years ago by reporting that, of the entire Lord’s Prayer as found in Matthew, the only words that could conclusively be attributed to Jesus are “Our Father.” In this book they have published their results. This new translation of the four gospels, augmented by the noncanonical Gospel of Thomas, presents Jesus’ words printed in colored code: red for words Jesus almost certainly spoke, pink for his probable locutions, gray for the less than likely, and black for the implausible. The translation itself is far more colloquial than most. More germane, though, is that the four levels of authenticity were determined by the casting of ballots, which the editors admit is problematic and represents the fundamental weakness of the book. Whether Jesus actually spoke certain words matters little in the long view of Christianity, making this book a theological curiosity and religiously superfluous.
- W. Alan Froggatt, Bridgewater, Ct.
I went where you pointed me and fouind Robert Funk, author of the test described. He is too the Founder of the Jesus Seminar.
In reading his bio, he died last year, I was sent to “The Act of Jesus” a chronicle of the work of the Jesus seminar in assembling the 200 or so acts found in the various ancient documents that were the acts they voted upon to produce the results set out in the book by Funk entitled, “The Five Gospels : What Did Jesus Really Say? The Search for the AUTHENTIC Words of Jesus”
That book is the chronicle of the voting that took place upon each of the Acts by the members of the Seminar to produce their judgment abouit a particular event or series of events involving the historical Jesus of Nazareth.
T his probably the camel through the eye of the needle but here is a part of the introduction to the book’ the Acts of Jesus”
During the second phase of the Jesus Seminar, which lasted from 1991 to 1996, the Fellows examined 387 reports of 176 events, in most of which Jesus is the principal actor, although occasionally John the Baptist, Simon Peter, or Judas is featured. Of the 176 events, only ten were given a red rating (red indicates that the Fellows had a relatively high level of confidence that the event actually took place). An additional nineteen were colored pink (pink suggests that the event probably occurred). The combined number of red and pink events (29) amounts to 16% of the total (176). That is slightly lower than the 18% of the sayings—primarily parables and aphorisms—assigned to the red and pink categories in The Five Gospels.
For those who believe the Bible to be the word of God a 16% historical accuracy rate may seem ridiculously low. Why did the Seminar end up with so many black (largely or entirely fictive) and gray (possible but unreliable) reports? The results should not be surprising to critical scholars—those whose evaluations are not predetermined by theological considerations. Nevertheless, it is important to both the general reader and the scholars who participated in the Seminar to be as clear as possible about the reasons for this result.
The reason the Fellows colored so many of the events (84%) gray or black lies in the character of the gospels themselves. Although some twenty gospels have survived either in whole or in part from the first three centuries of the common era, only four were eventually included in the New Testament. The earliest tiny scraps of papyrus fragments are from a copy of the Gospel of John and the Egerton Gospel (consult the Dictionary of Terms & Sources for a description), and can be dated no earlier than about one hundred years after Jesus’ death. The earliest substantial physical evidence for the gospels comes from the end of the second century C.E., about 170 years after Jesus’ demise.
In the absence of hard information, scholars theorize that the New Testament gospels were composed during the last quarter of the first century by third-generation authors on the basis of folk memories preserved in stories that had circulated by word of mouth for decades. The oral stories the four evangelists recorded had been shaped, reshaped, augmented, and edited by numerous storytellers for a half century or more before achieving their final written forms.
Scholars also believe that written collections of sayings ascribed to Jesus had appeared perhaps as early as two decades after Jesus’ death. One such collection, known as the Sayings Gospel Q, seems to have been incorporated into the gospels of Matthew and Luke. In addition, Matthew and Luke adopted the Gospel of Mark, the first of the narrative gospels, as the basis for their revised works. In revising Mark, they had very little new or more reliable information to assist them, other than the sayings they took from Q. The written gospels were then copied and recopied, modified, corrected, and augmented for the next century or more before reaching the physical state in which modern scholars know them.
As they retrace the trail that leads backward from the earliest surviving papyrus records to the earliest written gospels, to the first storytellers and collectors of Jesus lore, scholars hope to isolate some traces of the historical Jesus of Nazareth. It is a long and faint trail often obscured by myth and legend. The quest for the historical Jesus is a subtle, often frustrating, but not entirely hopeless enterprise that requires an open mind and a reservoir of patience.
All the study I’ve done and everything I’ve read tends to make me think that the reality of the nature of Jesus of Nazareth lies buried and burnt in the papyrus rolls that were in the church libraries pre the council of Nicea.
I think no one alive can say with any certainty that Jesus lived or died on a cross if he lived.
Ijust cannot see why anyone would put much credence in the gosples: all those miralcles, demon possession and faulty morals. She who turns the other cheek , ends up in the hospital and she who doubles the robber’s take is a fool .And then there is the matter of Hell; even the errantists’ metaphor for Hell is inslulting to humanity. Why find it any more reliable than anyother myths? :idea: 8)