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Old 7th November 2012, 06:25 AM   #81
HansMustermann
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I'm not sure some people would even change the definition.

E.g., since we're talking about real cities, there still is no evidence of a Bethlehem in Judaea at all. (There is one in Galilee though.) And if there were one where it's expected to be, then it couldn't be more than an insignificant village, rather than some place where you could call a million people for a census.

Not only we don't have evidence for it being there, but we actually have evidence that there wasn't one there. Sometimes absence of evidence is evidence of absence, if what is absent would be pretty much mandatory. In this case for example we know an aqueduct passed through that point, yet we find no trace of the mandatory water tower and reservoir to supply a city.

Yet you don't see people throwing the whole thing out the window because a city is fake, do you? The whole handwaving about real cities vs fake cities is a bit fake, when actually even a fake one makes no difference.

ETA: But even without the census in Bethlehem, there are literally tens of things which are clearly fake and never happened in the gospels, but you don't see people going "it has a fake element, therefore we can't trust it." The whole argument that if there was something fake you could throw it away, but if it isn't then you don't, is a bit nonsensical as long as nobody does the first part anyway. There's always that trying to salvage the rest. We're at a point where about 90% of the story has no reason to be taken seriously, and yet people cling to that incredibly shrinking Son Of Man and insist that yeah, but the parts you didn't check are still true.

I can't even imagine at this point what would it take for the story to be false.
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Old 7th November 2012, 09:27 AM   #82
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30 seconds with Google...
http://www.rkollp.com/attorneys-Daniel-Stein-Bio.html
.
As to the theme of the OP, with all the contradictions and errors and impossibilities that the original document contains, which clearly demonstrate flights of fancy, expecting the one of these about the supernatural made flesh to be anything else than fiction is naive squared!
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Old 7th November 2012, 03:48 PM   #83
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Originally Posted by pakeha View Post
I'm learning here, too.
Could you show us why those ideas are unique to that time and place and need a Preacher/HJ?
Not really. That would take several books worth of writing about socio-economics in Roman client states in the first century and their interaction with traditional Jewish beliefs about God and his relationship to the land of Israel. It would require explaining the various ways people dealt with the Romans as Occupiers and the Jewish Authorities who were collaborating with them.

If you are really interested in reading all about this idea, John Dominic Crossan is my source for this stuff. He has a few books about it where he argues for a Jewish Peasant Jesus. I don't agree with everything he says (I don't believe in God, for a start.), but he makes a good case for his version of Jesus.

The short version is that this idea of "God's Kingdom" is a Peasant's ideal. Specifically a Jewish Peasant raised on the idea that the land belongs to "God", not men. Maybe this idea isn't unique to that time and place, but the version of it under discussion now is the one that came from there.

In God's kingdom, money doesn't matter because you can't buy stuff from God. Birds and flowers don't need money or jobs... etc. That whole "Render unto Ceasar" thing was about "Ceasar wants money? OK he can have money, I don't want money anyway. I get food and drink for free because I live in God's Kingdom with all my God Kingdom buddies who share everything..."

As to why it needs a preacher, maybe it doesn't, but it isn't the sort of thing that comes out of a committee. Individual teachers is how these ideas generally arose in those days. In a society like the one we're talking about where the rich were very rich, the poor were destitute and the divide was fairly rigid, bypassing the whole system of Patronage was a radical idea. Radical ideas come from radical Idealists.

I'm going to go all "Hans Musterman" on you and try an analogy: Look at Marxism. It arose in 19th Industrial England, because of socio-economic reasons. It had a few pre-cursors in Utopian Socialism and other thinkers. It may or may not have arisen without Karl Marx, but Marx was the guy who put it all together and whose name we remember.

So maybe Jesus was just part of a tradition, with pre-cursors (John The Baptist etc), competing ideas (Sicarii, armed rebels etc) and contemporary influences (economics, corrupt Temple etc). It makes more sense to me to assume there was a Jewish Peasant Preacher at the heart of it all, than that these specific teachings were invented by an Author in Rome (gMark) who had never been to Judea and who didn't even speak the language.


Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
I'm not sure some people would even change the definition.

E.g., since we're talking about real cities, there still is no evidence of a Bethlehem in Judaea at all. (There is one in Galilee though.) And if there were one where it's expected to be, then it couldn't be more than an insignificant village, rather than some place where you could call a million people for a census.

...
This is the first I've heard of the non-existence of Bethlehem. Do you have a cite for this?
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Old 7th November 2012, 04:21 PM   #84
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I'm following up on the John Dominic Crossan lead you gave.
I'm limited to on-line sources but even so I'm getting an idea of what direction his studies take him.
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Old 7th November 2012, 05:01 PM   #85
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Lets open the evidence bag.
What have we here?
Shroud of Turin When I was younger this was THE physical evidence.
The Bible
Physical evidence linked with Jesus.
Evidence that Pilate orderred the death of Jesus.
Herod and Massacre of the Innocents.

If there was any evidence we would have been shown it. That guy in the Vatican would have shown us.
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Old 7th November 2012, 05:45 PM   #86
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Could someone provide a short reading list about research into Historical Jesus? Preferably something I could get at a library or on Amazon. I've never done any research on this, didn't know Josephus had his critics, and assumed that there was a consensus on Historical Jesus being real.
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Old 7th November 2012, 11:47 PM   #87
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Originally Posted by Spockette View Post
Could someone provide a short reading list about research into Historical Jesus? Preferably something I could get at a library or on Amazon. I've never done any research on this, didn't know Josephus had his critics, and assumed that there was a consensus on Historical Jesus being real.
There was something a while ago called "The Jesus Seminar" where all these Scholars got together and agreed that there was a Historical Jesus. Problem is they all seem to disagree about who he was, what he did, and what he said.
This book gives a summary of some of the main positions: The Jesus Debate: Modern Historians Investigate the Life of Christ
http://www.amazon.co.uk/The-Jesus-De.../dp/0745950132
Quote:
Book Description
Publication Date: 1 Oct 2000
This absorbing and enlightening account of modern Jesus scholarship provides a critical summary of the contemporary arguments. It focuses particularly on the aims, methods and conclusions of such important contributos as Robert Funk, Marcus Borg, E.P. Sanders, John Meier, and John Dominic Crossan.
...
That would be the HJ side of the argument. On the MJ side the main guy at the moment seems to be Earl Doherty:
http://www.jesuspuzzle.humanists.net/jpadvert.htm
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Old 8th November 2012, 02:58 AM   #88
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Originally Posted by BadBoy View Post
Hi

I heard an argument from a ex-catholic atheist who proposed that there is no physical evidence of Jesus's existance dated from around the time he was supposed to have been alive.

I was wondering if this is infact the case?
If we are talking strictly physical evidence directly relating to Jesus, then there is none.

The written evidence is fussy at best and the written records of Jesus that we have are copies of copies of copies of hearsay or proven fakes. So that is not very reliable.

Add to that the problem of Jesus being from Nazareth, a town that we have virtual no evidence for existed in the first century. The evidence is very thin for a historical Jesus.
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Old 8th November 2012, 03:10 AM   #89
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Originally Posted by Cavemonster View Post
I thought we could skip this tangent, but I guess we're doing all of them between you and Hans.

What you're doing is backwards from what I'm trying to explain.

As you add characteristics to a claim. Generally a probability goes down.

What are the odds of a random person having a child? Let's say I know nothing about this person, just someone picked randomly. Pretty high.
What about having a son? Around half what we started with.

What about brown haired son? The probability gets lower.

A brown haired son who plays cricket? Even lower

So you see, each addition to the CLAIM makes that claim statistically less probable. But I'm not talking about adding complexity to claims. I'm talking about how a static claim compares to real world evidence.
To address this too:

Except you just made my point. Adding a city or whatever DOESN'T and CAN'T make the probability of the actual claim go UP.

What is the probability that someone making the claim they're a lawyer is right? Well, P(X). What is the probability they're ALSO Jewish? Well, assuming they're independent, i.e., we're not stereotyping Jews as having more lawyers than the gentiles do, it's P(X)*P(Y). If not, well, it's simply P(X)* P(Y|X). I.e., now it went down. What's the probability that they're also a lawyer? It went down too. What's the probability that they're also in New York? Yep, it went down too.

If the question is whether that guy is really a lawyer, mixing such other elements in the mix can't make the probability go up, because the other probabilities you multiply with MUST be 1.0 or less. There's no way to multiply with a 2.0 probability for the extra elements.

Ditto for Jesus. It's nigh impossible to make the question of a HJ have a higher probability, by also mixing the city or whatever into the question. Best case scenario, you multiply by 1.0.

If a story contains some highly improbable element, like that Daniel Boone is a lawyer in R'lyeh, the probability goes down. But no matter how high a probability you multiply with, you can't push it higher than it was.

Well, not entirely. If you have some truly remarkable circumstances in some place and you know the condition to be true, that can differ from the baseline. E.g., if you knew that Jesus WAS crucified in Jerusalem, and that mostly rabbis got crucified in Jerusalem, that would push up your probability that he was a rabbi. But that still basically means you know that one of the probabilities you multiply with is 1.0, so you can take just the conditional part.
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Old 8th November 2012, 03:57 AM   #90
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Originally Posted by Brainache View Post
This is the first I've heard of the non-existence of Bethlehem. Do you have a cite for this?
Well, there was one, but in Galilee, i.e., the wrong place pretty much. Luke for example tells us that Joseph went into Judea for that census. A Bethlehem in Judea also probably existed at some time, but by the 1st century AD there's almost a complete lack of evidence that it was there (including that we found zero buildings from that time) and it definitely wasn't a large city where a government would call a whole tribe for a census. It was at best a tiny insignificant village, if it existed at all.

For a very condensed source, see for example: http://www.archaeology.org/0511/abstracts/jesus.html

There are more problems there, such as the lack of a water tower from the nearby aqueduct and stuff, but it will have to do. if nothing else, to show that I'm not making it up.
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Old 8th November 2012, 08:05 AM   #91
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Old 8th November 2012, 10:24 AM   #92
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This thread would be much shorter if people understood the Conjunction Fallacy.
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Old 8th November 2012, 11:36 AM   #93
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Well, there was one, but in Galilee, i.e., the wrong place pretty much. Luke for example tells us that Joseph went into Judea for that census. A Bethlehem in Judea also probably existed at some time, but by the 1st century AD there's almost a complete lack of evidence that it was there (including that we found zero buildings from that time) and it definitely wasn't a large city where a government would call a whole tribe for a census. It was at best a tiny insignificant village, if it existed at all.

For a very condensed source, see for example: http://www.archaeology.org/0511/abstracts/jesus.html

There are more problems there, such as the lack of a water tower from the nearby aqueduct and stuff, but it will have to do. if nothing else, to show that I'm not making it up.
OK, but given that all the Scholars I've read about this say the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke (the ones who mention Bethlehem) were invented to shoehorn Jesus into some old OT prophecy, I don't see how it's relevant to the question of a HJ.

Originally Posted by tkmikkelsen
...Add to that the problem of Jesus being from Nazareth, a town that we have virtual no evidence for existed in the first century. The evidence is very thin for a historical Jesus.
Well there's this:

http://israel21c.org/news/house-from...ime-excavated/
Quote:
For the first time, a residential building from the time of Jesus has been exposed, in the heart of Nazareth.
An archaeological excavation recently conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority adjacent to the Church of the Annunciation in Nazareth – where the traditional Christmas Mass takes place on December 24 – has uncovered remains of a dwelling that date to the Early Roman period.

According to excavation director Yardenna Alexandre, “The discovery is of the utmost importance since it reveals for the very first time a house from the Jewish village of Nazareth and thereby sheds light on the way of life at the time of Jesus.
...
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Old 8th November 2012, 12:30 PM   #94
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Originally Posted by Recovering Agnostic View Post
This thread would be much shorter if people understood the Conjunction Fallacy.
No, while it's true. I don't think that's relevant to the discussion we were having. It was actually the thing I was trying to avoid.

I don't think its the argument that originally was being made and it certainly wasn't the counter argument I was trying to make.
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Old 8th November 2012, 01:03 PM   #95
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This thread would be much shorter if people understood the Conjunction Fallacy.
It might help with some parts, but not with others.

It cannot be more credible that some poster has a son in New York than that the poster has a son, given the same condition for both propositions. However, that wasn't usually the issue in the lengthy debate.

We were comparing the credibility of

"the poster has a son" given "the poster says he has a son"

versus

"the poster says he has a son in New York" given that "the poster says he has a son in New York."

People can find the latter less credible than the former, but not because the poster has a son in New York implies that the poster has a son. The same analysis would apply to a claim to know Daniel, the Jewish New York lawyer.

A Witness who can withstand long cross-examination is often rewarded with increased crebility by fact-finders (juries, for example). The prior probability (say, to cite one popular model of rational belief) of "a few things" is greater than the prior probability of "a few things and a lot more," but the fact-finders' probability of "a few things" given that the witness says "a few things" may easily be less than the fact-finders' probability of "a few things and a lot more" given the witness testified to that, if doing so without contradiction and under stress would be difficult for a liar. It would be nice if the story "hung together," and that is usually a matter of the conjunction not losing prior credibility more rapidly than keeping it all straight impresses.

The main feature of the particular problem that made any of this on-topic is that it is just as easy to insert real-life elements into a work of fiction as to include them in a work of non-fiction. The mere presence of generally known real-life elements in a story (London in Harry Potter books or in a biography of Margaret Thatcher) is plausibly uninformative about the truthfulness of the rest of the narrative.

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Old 8th November 2012, 07:48 PM   #96
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Originally Posted by Brainache View Post
I see these debates on a Historical v Mythical Jesus as two competing hypotheses.

What these hypotheses are trying to explain is the origin of a specific set of beliefs. A set of beliefs that emerged in the first century in Judea.

The core of these beliefs is something called "The Kingdom Of Heaven" - a naive and impractical belief that "we should all just get along" and that the land belongs to God, not men. "Share all your food and money, forgive debts, be nice to each other and don't screw around"...If people everywhere start acting like this, then "The Kingdom Of Heaven" has arrived here on Earth. We don't have to wait for some distant future when justice will be done, we can have it here and now.

The HJ Hypothesis, AFAICT is that this idea was proposed by a particular Jewish Peasant Preacher called Jesus. HJ didn't do miracles or much of anything else that the gospels say he did, because those gospels were written a long way away by people who never met him. The HJ hypothesis assumes that the Romans didn't like this "Kingdom of Heaven" idea and nailed the Preacher to a post. That's it. No "Son of God", no walking on water, no raising the dead or turning water into wine, those are all just later Theological metaphors - Bells and Whistles demanded by the marketplace of Messiahs.

Any MJ hypothesis (there are several) needs to account for the emergence of this "Kingdom Of Heaven" idea without a particular preacher espousing it. It is all very well to talk about other ancient mythical beings like Mithras or Hercules, but don't forget that Jesus was associated with real people from their recent past like John The Baptist, Ciaphas and Pilate. (yeah yeah, Sherlock Holmes was associated with Queen Victoria and Scotland Yard, I get it) It still leaves the question of where "Kingdom Of Heaven" came from.

We know of at least one sect of ancient Jews who practiced a form of communal sharing of property, who performed rituals with wine and bread at every meal, who believed in an imminent apocalypse and a Heaven for the righteous and Hell for the sinners- the Dead Sea Scrolls community, but even those DSS religious nutjobs had a flesh and blood Teacher, not some ethereal "Zeitgeist" inspiration.

Until the MJ hypothesis can account for the ideas without the Preacher, I think it is inferior to the HJ hypothesis. But then again, I'm still learning about this subject, so my position is open to change based on further information...

The problem with this view are the parts of the MJ hypothesis in the Mead-Ellegård mold where this Preacher was mythical in the legendary sense of the word and actually lived c100 BCE.

Wells Jesus Legend (1996) and Jesus Myth (1999) which accept such a Preacher for the theorized Q gospel but that Paul's Jesus was about a mythical (legendary) Jesus about a century earlier have been called "Mythical Jesus" works by many scholars and armchair researchers alike.

According to Wells to make the Q Jesus fit Paul's account the entire trial and crucifixion fictions were created and the actual Q Jesus died in obscurity of old age.


The problem is too many people do not understand the proper definition of myth and think it means a made up story. In reality it more properly means a traditional story whose historical accuracy can range from close to nonexistent.

Here are some modern myths that at one time were presented as history:

Columbus sailed west to prove the Earth was round.

Medieval people believed the world was flat.

Thomas Edison invented the first electric light.

George Armstrong Custer was a brave soldier trying (and failing) to save his men and the Indians from the machinations of greedy corporations and politicians. (They Died with Their Boots On (1941))

George Armstrong Custer was a narcissistic egotistical maniac who leads his men to certain doom because he is essentially a military idiot (Little Big Man (1970))

The Tanaka Memorial was a genuine Japanese strategic planning document for world conquest. (Capra's Why We Fight Series 1942-45; Know Your Enemy-Japan 1945)

These are all myths once believed to be true and you can see with these example that were was at least the seed of truth behind every one of them.

Last edited by maximara; 8th November 2012 at 07:51 PM.
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Old 8th November 2012, 10:55 PM   #97
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post

Except you just made my point. Adding a city or whatever DOESN'T and CAN'T make the probability of the actual claim go UP.
Absolutely, that's why I'm not talking about adding anything.

I think a lot of this thread is bogged down with the example of the city, which is a shame because it's clearly the weakest of the examples I dashed off at the beginning of this thread.

It would be a much better application of the principle of charity, and probably a little less apt to fall into (at least some of these particular) misunderstandings and tangents, if we were to discuss the prevalence of proclaimed messiahs or of crucifiction.
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Old 9th November 2012, 01:05 AM   #98
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Originally Posted by pakeha View Post
I'm following up on the John Dominic Crossan lead you gave.
I'm limited to on-line sources but even so I'm getting an idea of what direction his studies take him.
Just a quick question, Brainache, please.
From what I can gather, Crossan's line of thought actually denies the divinity of Jesus.
Is that right or have I missed something?
As I mentioned, I'm limited to online reading here, so any sources to clear up any mistake of mine must have on-line sourcing.
Thanks!


Originally Posted by maximara View Post
...The problem is too many people do not understand the proper definition of myth and think it means a made up story. In reality it more properly means a traditional story whose historical accuracy can range from close to nonexistent. ...
Good point!
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Old 9th November 2012, 01:56 AM   #99
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Absolutely, that's why I'm not talking about adding anything.
You are, sort of. "Adding" elements may be a rough way to phrase it, but much of the usefulness of modern accounts of rational belief is that it makes possible to discuss hypothetically the influence of specific pieces of a body of evidence.

Already, we have put this capability to good use. We can see that the appearance of real place names isn't directly helping assess the truth of the story. It does, however, help identify the story's genre. It is either history or historical fiction, for example, or possibly an early version of "magical realism."

Luke is the only Gospel that explains its purpose and tells where its version of the story comes from. John addresses the point, but without any clarity or much detail. The other two canonical Gospels are silent. We also get a little bit of the Jesus story from Paul, and he spins his source (personal visionary experience, but probably also from exposure to a "Jerusalem church" which he says that he opposed as a cop, and doesn't get along with very well as a preacher, either.)

Luke is history, then, in the sense that it is offering an orderly hypothesis about real events, based on pre-existing stories about those events which are accessible to the author. On its face, an orderly hypothesis is not the same as an accurate hypothesis. It is unsurprising, then, that a work of this kind would have historically false elements, like an ecumenical census taken by moving the whole population around the ecumen. If such a story was in circulation, however, and its inclusion made the narrative more orderly, in the author's opinion, then by the stated objectives of the author, it would be included in his narrative.

In terms of the discussion to date, then, we are not assessing the moral equivalent of the credibility of

The poster has a son in New York given that the poster says he has a son in New York

but rather something more like the credibility of

The poster has a son given that the poster says he had a son and says that last he heard, that son was living in New York, although it might have been York, Maine according to his other informants.
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Old 9th November 2012, 02:02 AM   #100
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Originally Posted by Cavemonster View Post
Absolutely, that's why I'm not talking about adding anything.

I think a lot of this thread is bogged down with the example of the city, which is a shame because it's clearly the weakest of the examples I dashed off at the beginning of this thread.

It would be a much better application of the principle of charity, and probably a little less apt to fall into (at least some of these particular) misunderstandings and tangents, if we were to discuss the prevalence of proclaimed messiahs or of crucifiction.
But the same logic holds as for the city, I think. The city example is just much clearer and that's why we have jumped on it.

If these things were prevalent at the time and everyone knew about them then its not in the least bit unlikely that a made-up story would feature them.

I could easily invent a story about a catholic priest who went to the electric chair or a Mormon minister who was hit by a bus. The prevalence of all of these things doesn't lead me to think the stories are more likely to be true.
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Old 9th November 2012, 02:45 AM   #101
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The prevalence of all of these things doesn't lead me to think the stories are more likely to be true.
More likely than what? That a Mormon cleric was hit by a spaceship from the Andromeda galaxy? I don't know about you, but I think a Mormon cleric being hit by a bus is more credible story than that.

More to the point, I think that there is a possibility of fruitfully investigating the bus accident, so long as the speaker maintains that she is reporting something that happened, while there is nothing worth investigating (to me) in the other report. Although it is possible to distinguish the quality of "investigation-worthiness" from a quality of "uncertain credibility," and both can involve the use of evidence, I don't think that that distinction is really an issue here.

In religious terms, I wouldn't bother to investigate the Hercules stories as truth claims, because they are set in "mythological time and place," which at most is reminiscent of, and occasionally intersects, the real Earth. Ditto Genesis (except to note that the farther along in that book you get, the more its setting begins to resemble places on a plausible Earth).

It is a hoot that (much) later than the authors, some Christians conflate a facially mythological work and a facially historical work (in intention, not necessarily in performance, see earlier post for Luke's mission statement), and call the whole thing a conjunctive fact claim, and find all of it to be true. That some people do that, however, wouldn't seem to be our problem.

OK, then, the guy in clerical garb lying in the street wasn't hit by an intergalactic spaceship. So, is he a Mormon cleric and was he hit by a bus? That's our problem, and there is something to investigate. Let's get on it.

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Old 9th November 2012, 03:03 AM   #102
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Originally Posted by pakeha View Post
Just a quick question, Brainache, please.
From what I can gather, Crossan's line of thought actually denies the divinity of Jesus.
Is that right or have I missed something?
As I mentioned, I'm limited to online reading here, so any sources to clear up any mistake of mine must have on-line sourcing.
Thanks!
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I don't think so. Crossan is a Catholic. The books of his I've read assume some kind of divinity behind it all, but to me it seems unnecesary. I understand that any HJ would have been religious and would have preached what he preached because he believed it was true. I think he was fatally mistaken. It was extremely impractical and naive. Exactly the kind of stupid "let's all just be nice to each other" idea that Forrest Gump might have come up with.

Crossan seems to think Jesus was actually a Messiah sent by God to save the world through his teaching, not his suffering. In "Excavating Jesus" he calls the idea that Jesus was required by God to die a horrible death for human salvation, a "Theological obscenity". So he is Christian, but maybe not a mainstream Christian.
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Old 9th November 2012, 03:29 AM   #103
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Old 9th November 2012, 04:07 AM   #104
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Originally Posted by eight bits View Post
More likely than what? That a Mormon cleric was hit by a spaceship from the Andromeda galaxy? I don't know about you, but I think a Mormon cleric being hit by a bus is more credible story than that.

More to the point, I think that there is a possibility of fruitfully investigating the bus accident, so long as the speaker maintains that she is reporting something that happened, while there is nothing worth investigating (to me) in the other report. Although it is possible to distinguish the quality of "investigation-worthiness" from a quality of "uncertain credibility," and both can involve the use of evidence, I don't think that that distinction is really an issue here.

In religious terms, I wouldn't bother to investigate the Hercules stories as truth claims, because they are set in "mythological time and place," which at most is reminiscent of, and occasionally intersects, the real Earth. Ditto Genesis (except to note that the farther along in that book you get, the more its setting begins to resemble places on a plausible Earth).

It is a hoot that (much) later than the authors, some Christians conflate a facially mythological work and a facially historical work (in intention, not necessarily in performance, see earlier post for Luke's mission statement), and call the whole thing a conjunctive fact claim, and find all of it to be true. That some people do that, however, wouldn't seem to be our problem.

OK, then, the guy in clerical garb lying in the street wasn't hit by an intergalactic spaceship. So, is he a Mormon cleric and was he hit by a bus? That's our problem, and there is something to investigate. Let's get on it.
Hmm, actually if the Jesus story was that he arrived to Earth on a spaceship from Andromeda then we actually WOULD have something worth investigating and would actually add some credibility to the idea that Jesus might be something special.

The more likely comment was in relation to the fact that any story set in a real place is no more likely to be true than it is to be made up. The fact the location is real provides us with no information on the veracity of the rest of the story. Which I think you agreed with in your earlier post.
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Old 9th November 2012, 04:25 AM   #105
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Originally Posted by Brainache View Post
Ok, that I did not know off and I am probably wrong in thinking that there is no evidence of Nazareth in the 1st century.

Just one question to this excavation though. How do they know it is a 1st century city called Nazareth they excavating?
As far as I know, no known official record from that time mentions Nazareth. So is this a case of making the archeological find fit a myth, without much evidence of it being the actual Nazareth that Jesus supposedly grew up in that is being excavated?
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Old 9th November 2012, 05:12 AM   #106
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Originally Posted by BadBoy View Post
Hi

I heard an argument from a ex-catholic atheist who proposed that there is no physical evidence of Jesus's existance dated from around the time he was supposed to have been alive.

I was wondering if this is infact the case?
There is no physical evidence of the existence of most people from the first century CE.

What does that prove?
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Old 9th November 2012, 05:56 AM   #107
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Hmm, actually if the Jesus story was that he arrived to Earth on a spaceship from Andromeda then we actually WOULD have something worth investigating and would actually add some credibility to the idea that Jesus might be something special.
The historical claim is that he is a man who was born to a woman. Even the religious claim beyond that, if you went by the black-letter of Luke alone, is that God approved of the meeting of sperm and egg. Evidently, God approves of many such meetings.

Even if you try to reconcile Luke and Matthew (the only other canonical account of the circumstances of Jesus' arrival), which itself would overlook the (to me) plausible hypothesis that Luke is correcting his predecessor's error, then you hit a historical brick wall. There is no natural way that anybody would know Mary's sexual history generatations later. The only bases cited by the author for his report of her friutful virginity are her fiance's dream and the author's absurd misreading of a text which we can compare with what he says it said. It didn't say that.

Whatever historically apprehensible "specialness" Jesus had was for something other than the circumstances of his arrival. Luke seems to be our witness that this was a problem for some people, since John the Baptist, Jesus' early-career supervisor, apparently was said to have had a traditional Jewish miracle birth (the firstborn of a post-menopausal woman, which is socially verifiable, a handy feature from both a wonder-story and a historical perspective). Births to "virigns" were social problems, not miracles, then and now.

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The fact the location is real provides us with no information on the veracity of the rest of the story. Which I think you agreed with in your earlier post.
Yes, I did.

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Old 9th November 2012, 06:10 AM   #108
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Originally Posted by Cavemonster View Post
Evidence doesn't necessarily show that anything MUST be true. Evidence is information that changes the level of confidence that we can have that any particular hypothesis is true.

There is evidence FOR positions that are actually false.

For instance, a scientific trial is very good evidence, but it's not ENOUGH evidence until it's been replicated numerous times. And even then there's a non-zero chance it will lead to a false conclusion.


I think there is a fundamental misconception here about what relevant evidence actually is.

Any information may be evidence of something. But that fact is both trivial and irrelevant. The only relevant factor is whether your information is evidence of what is actually being claimed.

The information which Darwin collected about the physical characteristics of different plants and animals is considered to be genuine evidence for evolution because it supports evolution as an explanation for the origin of different species.

Information about the latest cricket score from Pakistan, is not evidence for the correctness or otherwise of relativity theory.

Evidence of the existence of a place called Galilee, is not evidence that a biblical preacher named Jesus ever existed. It may be evidence of something else, such as various aspects of civilisation in that region. But in itself, it is not evidence of Jesus.

IOW - what counts as "evidence" is only relevant if it is genuinely evidence of the truth of whatever is being claimed.
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Old 9th November 2012, 06:38 AM   #109
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Originally Posted by Last of the Fraggles View Post
No, while it's true. I don't think that's relevant to the discussion we were having. It was actually the thing I was trying to avoid.

I don't think its the argument that originally was being made and it certainly wasn't the counter argument I was trying to make.
You may be right. It seems to me that the entire thread's skirting around the issue, but that's my subjective impression, and I'm happy to admit that I could be wrong.
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Old 9th November 2012, 07:02 AM   #110
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Originally Posted by Recovering Agnostic View Post
You may be right. It seems to me that the entire thread's skirting around the issue, but that's my subjective impression, and I'm happy to admit that I could be wrong.
I think its partly my fault as I was struggling to express my point and find the correct way to express what we are talking about.

I think the issue at hand is whether there is a difference between the probability that historical Jesus is true and the conditional probability that historical Jesus is true given that, for example, Jerusalem exists or that crucifixion is a real thing.
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Old 9th November 2012, 08:08 AM   #111
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Originally Posted by Brainache View Post
OK, but given that all the Scholars I've read about this say the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke (the ones who mention Bethlehem) were invented to shoehorn Jesus into some old OT prophecy, I don't see how it's relevant to the question of a HJ.
Well, maybe not to HJ per se, but to the dishonesty of the apologies for him.

The fact is, I'm told that, basically, 'yeah, but if it involved a non-existent city, we'd know it's false, but since Jerusalem is real, Jesus is more likely'. Well, there we have a non-existent city, and you don't see them actually do that. And even without that, all the provably false elements in the story actually just get glossed over, and we're told that, basically, 'yeah, but everything else, which you haven't disproven, that's still true.'

Even the actual criteria proposed for Jesus contain a pair that can't possibly make anything false. Namely:

- if something DOES fit pre-existing story and traditions, then it's probably not made up, but actually happened (e.g., hey, an apocalyptic rabbi is nothing special, why not accept him as true?)

- if something DOESN'T fit pre-existing story and traditions, then it's probably true too, because, hey, why would they make something like that up? (E.g., a Messiah that got himself killed to save anyone is not something that most Jews were doing or expecting, so why would Paul make that up?)

There's no way to run anything through that pair, all the way up to Cthulhu rising from R'lyeh, without getting one or the other to tell you it's not something Lovecraft would make up
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Old 9th November 2012, 08:27 AM   #112
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Originally Posted by Cavemonster View Post
Absolutely, that's why I'm not talking about adding anything.

I think a lot of this thread is bogged down with the example of the city, which is a shame because it's clearly the weakest of the examples I dashed off at the beginning of this thread.

It would be a much better application of the principle of charity, and probably a little less apt to fall into (at least some of these particular) misunderstandings and tangents, if we were to discuss the prevalence of proclaimed messiahs or of crucifiction.
Except for the fact that you ARE adding stuff.

When I ask for example, if Paul actually knew anything about a pre-crucifixion Jesus, I am not putting any conditions of city, particular ideology, etc. He could be a Jesus from Rome for all I care. (I even speculated before about such a hypothetical Jesus Chrestus who lived in Rome and is the Chrestus that Suetonius mentions.) Just whether he knew anything about a live Jesus, period. Let's say that's P(X).

Especially since Paul doesn't exactly say much about such extra elements. Just because he claims some cultists in Jerusalem, doesn't necessarily mean that the whole ministry happened there. It may not be the most likely or plausible version, but a cult of Chrestus could have been expelled from Rome as Suetonius mentioned and decided to go back to their ancestral land, for lack of better ideas. Or they could have come from Galilee. Or whatever. I'm willing to just skip over that, and basically be OK with a Jesus from anywhere at all.

Introducing for example Jerusalem in the question, IS actually adding an extra element to handwave about. Now the question becomes: did Paul know anything about a Jesus AND was this Jesus from Jerusalem?

The most you can do with such a composite probability is get back to what it was before you introduced that element. If you can support that such a Jesus could ONLY come from Jerusalem, i.e., the second probability is 1.0, you're just back to the original question. It didn't raise the P(X) probability one iota.

What such elements can do is make it more improbable, not provide support for the actual question.

Yes, you could show for example that a Jesus from Jerusalem is more believable, and maybe even more probable, than a Jesus from R'lyeh, but both are subcases of the original question that didn't mention a city. You're just dividing the big cake into slices of different sized, and maybe even sorting those slices right, but that doesn't change the answer to the question of how big is that cake in the first place.

It's like if you asked me how much candy I gave my nephew and niece for Helloween, and I started to discuss how it makes more sense that the older and bigger nephew would eat more candy than his sister half his size. Sure, it may even be correct. I could make a pretty unequivocal case that probabilities are firmly in favour of his eating more candy than his little sister. But that doesn't answer the question of how much candy it was total.
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Old 9th November 2012, 08:42 AM   #113
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Except for the fact that you ARE adding stuff.

When I ask for example, if Paul actually knew anything about a pre-crucifixion Jesus, I am not putting any conditions of city, particular ideology, etc. He could be a Jesus from Rome for all I care. (I even speculated before about such a hypothetical Jesus Chrestus who lived in Rome and is the Chrestus that Suetonius mentions.) Just whether he knew anything about a live Jesus, period. Let's say that's P(X).

Especially since Paul doesn't exactly say much about such extra elements. Just because he claims some cultists in Jerusalem, doesn't necessarily mean that the whole ministry happened there. It may not be the most likely or plausible version, but a cult of Chrestus could have been expelled from Rome as Suetonius mentioned and decided to go back to their ancestral land, for lack of better ideas. Or they could have come from Galilee. Or whatever. I'm willing to just skip over that, and basically be OK with a Jesus from anywhere at all.

Introducing for example Jerusalem in the question, IS actually adding an extra element to handwave about. Now the question becomes: did Paul know anything about a Jesus AND was this Jesus from Jerusalem?

The most you can do with such a composite probability is get back to what it was before you introduced that element. If you can support that such a Jesus could ONLY come from Jerusalem, i.e., the second probability is 1.0, you're just back to the original question. It didn't raise the P(X) probability one iota.

What such elements can do is make it more improbable, not provide support for the actual question.

Yes, you could show for example that a Jesus from Jerusalem is more believable, and maybe even more probable, than a Jesus from R'lyeh, but both are subcases of the original question that didn't mention a city. You're just dividing the big cake into slices of different sized, and maybe even sorting those slices right, but that doesn't change the answer to the question of how big is that cake in the first place.

It's like if you asked me how much candy I gave my nephew and niece for Helloween, and I started to discuss how it makes more sense that the older and bigger nephew would eat more candy than his sister half his size. Sure, it may even be correct. I could make a pretty unequivocal case that probabilities are firmly in favour of his eating more candy than his little sister. But that doesn't answer the question of how much candy it was total.
Honestly, the fact that you keep concentrating on the city, when I thought I made it clear in my last post that the city was just one in a quickly dashed off list of examples of my broader point about evidence, and clearly the weakest one, makes me think you are having an argument with someone else, not me.
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Old 9th November 2012, 09:18 AM   #114
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It's an example like any other of an extra element which can't raise the probability for the original question. No matter what the element Y is, P(X) = P(X|Y) * P(Y) + P(X|~Y) * P(~Y), so arguing which of P(X|Y) and P(X|~Y) are larger, or whether P(Y) or P(~Y) is higher, it's still fully irrelevant fluff when the question is P(X). Now Y could be the city, or it could be the occupation carpentry, or crucifixion as a method of execution, or whatever else, but the principle is the same.

I'm using the city as an example because it doesn't matter which. In fact it doesn't matter at all which one I use. The same applies to all that extra fluff.

But the same can be said about any of those too, in case you need it spelled out.

E.g., about the job: carpentry doesn't make Jesus more likely. Not any more than the profession of journalist makes Superman more likely. And not any more than the profession of fisherman makes the Lovecraft's Dagon cultists more likely.

E.g., about the way to die, crucifixion doesn't make Jesus more likely to be true, any more than death in a duel makes Obi Wan Kenobi more likely to be true. (And hey, we know that in the high and late middle ages MUCH more people died in duels than in warfare. So it's a very believable way to die, you know?)
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Old 9th November 2012, 09:20 AM   #115
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Originally Posted by IanS View Post
I think there is a fundamental misconception here about what relevant evidence actually is.

Any information may be evidence of something. But that fact is both trivial and irrelevant. The only relevant factor is whether your information is evidence of what is actually being claimed.

The information which Darwin collected about the physical characteristics of different plants and animals is considered to be genuine evidence for evolution because it supports evolution as an explanation for the origin of different species.

Information about the latest cricket score from Pakistan, is not evidence for the correctness or otherwise of relativity theory.

Evidence of the existence of a place called Galilee, is not evidence that a biblical preacher named Jesus ever existed. It may be evidence of something else, such as various aspects of civilisation in that region. But in itself, it is not evidence of Jesus.

IOW - what counts as "evidence" is only relevant if it is genuinely evidence of the truth of whatever is being claimed.
Again, I wish I hadn't mentioned the city, it's the weakest example from my quickly dashed off list and everyone wants to concentrate on it.

Let's take the prevalence of populist preachers in ancient Jerusalem.

Since we know that new cults sprang up rather frequently around those parts around those days, and that someone seemed to be pronouncing someone the messiah every five minutes, does that make a historical person as the basis for the Jesus myth more or less likely?
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Old 9th November 2012, 09:41 AM   #116
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Let's look at 20'th century western world.

We know that neo-paganist cults sprang all over the place, including some reinvented from an almost complete lack of information about the original (e.g., neo-druidism), and some were even invented from scratch and with just the trappings of old religions and a good helping of satanism trappings (e.g., Wicca.) So doesn't an actual cult of Dagon sound believable in Innsmouth? Some fishermen praying for lots of fish to an old Mesopotamian god who actually granted lots of fish to fishermen, even makes sense. Plus, I mean, it would at most mean we have to push back the date when we know such cults gained popularity in America by a couple of decades, though a minor secretive cult doesn't even need that.

Or we know that the last half of the 20'th century was rife with apocalypticism. Not just half the Christians in America keep praying that an ancient God comes and kills them, but even UFO cults expect to be taken away by an UFO, and people buy every book predicting that some comet or planet alignment destroys the Earth, and, even more crucially, even old pagan prophecies like the Mayan one for this year are dug out and get people awaiting a supposed prophesied end of the Earth. So if I tell you that those Lovecraftian carols are sung by actual cultists of Cthulhu, it's not something unusual for the period or anything, right? Yet another cult praying to an ancient god to come back from his city of god and end humanity is just an ordinary thing to accept, right?

I mean, right?

The question is how well something can be supported, not whether someone's unsupported flights of fantasy are about mundane things.
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Old 9th November 2012, 09:46 AM   #117
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Just to make it clear, I'm not asking you to accept the miraculous parts of The Shadow Over Innsmouth or whatever. Why, clearly, people being the sons of their gods is clearly a metaphor. I'm not asking you to believe that the deep ones actually slept with human women. And going to live eternally underwater as the chosen people of an underwater god is a common afterlife belief of ancient sailors and fishermen and such, as a comforting thought about those drowning at work, not some transformation that happened while one was still alive. So, clearly, the oral tradition must have distorted those into actual practices of the good people of Innsmouth

But just a basic neo-pagan cult of Dagon is not that hard to accept, is it?
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Old 9th November 2012, 10:04 AM   #118
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Originally Posted by HansMustermann View Post
Just to make it clear, I'm not asking you to accept the miraculous parts of The Shadow Over Innsmouth or whatever. Why, clearly, people being the sons of their gods is clearly a metaphor. I'm not asking you to believe that the deep ones actually slept with human women. And going to live eternally underwater as the chosen people of an underwater god is a common afterlife belief of ancient sailors and fishermen and such, as a comforting thought about those drowning at work, not some transformation that happened while one was still alive. So, clearly, the oral tradition must have distorted those into actual practices of the good people of Innsmouth

But just a basic neo-pagan cult of Dagon is not that hard to accept, is it?
The reason we know Lovecraft's characters are not real is that we have tons of direct evidence about how these stories came to be written, we know how they fit into the tradition of modern fiction writing.

Imagine that Lovecraft lived 2000 years ago, in a culture removed from our own in which written recreational fiction did not exist as a form as far as we know.

Imagine we didn't have any of Lovecraft's actual writings, but we had other people's transcriptions of the stories from 100's of years later.

How would we know if the cult of Dagon were real, what things would we consider when making our guesses and assigning probability?
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Old 9th November 2012, 10:31 AM   #119
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Well, that's kinda my point. Lacking the information that something is (probably/plausibly/whatever) false, is not the same thing as having information that it is (probaly/plausibly/whatever) true. If you lack anything that would prove the story false, it's not the same as supported, it just means it's at a not-disproven stage.

And just because something is mundane, doesn't mean it's supported or actually even reasonable to assume.

Now don't get me wrong, I can see why you'd want to put everything that doesn't ring alarm bells in a history book. If nothing else because otherwise you'd have lots of empty pages. I'm just saying that having some background elements that aren't disproven isn't the same as having evidence of the main story.

If you found an ancient horror story about a cult of Dagon in some obscure village, say, near Corinth, I can see how you might take some information at least provisionally from there. E.g., that, hmm, the cult of Dagon seems to have lasted longer than we previously thought.

All I'm saying is that then:

1. all the other elements in there, like that indeed the village existed, and it had plenty of fishermen, and so on, aren't really evidence that the rest of the story is true too. E.g., the actual existence of that cult of Dagon. They're extra elements which could lower the probability if they were false, but they can't raise it. At the end of the day you'd still take the information from there just for not being disproven, not for having support.

2. something being mundane doesn't mean it's supported. E.g., a cult of Dagon somewhere in ancient Greece isn't anything incredible, but it's not corroborated either. You may be generous or just pragmatic with your time, and not waste your time with chasing such mundane claims, but it still doesn't make it supported.
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Old 9th November 2012, 12:26 PM   #120
eight bits
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Imagine that Lovecraft lived 2000 years ago, in a culture removed from our own in which written recreational fiction did not exist as a form as far as we know.
But that's the problem. We know that people in that time and place did write about their visionary experience as if the apparition was a real person, because that's what the epistles of Paul are. Pliny the Younger told a ghost story, more or less when the Gospels appear, about a real person, Athenodorus, encountering the ghost of a purportedly real person who, like Jesus, had some irregularity in his own burial arrangements, about which he wished to speak with somebody living. We also know that religious fiction featuring the pseudobiography of a charismatic preacher was a known genre, because we have the canonical Old Testament book, Daniel, which was written a few generations before Paul.

So, the inclusion of realistic place names, historical figures, occupations and police procedures allow us to narrow the plausible candidate genres of the literature that reaches us, but offers no discrimination among the genres remaining as viable, all of which demand ancillary realism. In some of those genres, Jesus would be a real person. In other genres, Jesus wouldn't.

Within the range of genres available to us in the actual problem, then, the evidence of "realism" doesn't discriminate between a real Jesus and an unreal Jesus.

Last edited by eight bits; 9th November 2012 at 12:28 PM.
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