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Old 5th December 2017, 04:59 PM   #41
acbytesla
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Originally Posted by ddt View Post
His conversion story sounds very much like what modern conman still use: look, I once was zealously anti-christian but then I saw the light...

There's also his continuous collecting money "for the poor in Jerusalem". Why would the Christians in Jerusalem be poorer than those in Milete, Ephese, Saloniki, Athens or Corinth? At one time, he pressures the local congregation in giving him money because the congregation in the next town over gave generously. Of course, the next town over was 100 miles away, so nobody could check. Also, nobody's ever seen a CPA's audit report. Meanwhile, he travels around the whole (Eastern) Mediterranean; that cannot have been cheap. Who's to say nothing went to his own expense account?

And there's also his odd insistence that he, who only saw Jesus in a vision, knows Him better than Peter, James and the other apostles who spent several years day-in day-out with Him.

I wouldn't be surprised at all.
I'm not sure that Paul suggests this. But Paul would have been literate and it's highly doubtful the apostles were.

My guess has always been that Paul was extremely charismatic with a gift for languages and storytelling. And that got people to trust him enough to house him and donate to the cause. The number 1 cause was always himself. While the historicity of Jesus seems questionable to me, I find it difficult to believe that Paul didn't exist. I don't believe the words he uttered but it makes sense that someone like Paul certainly did...So why not Paul? Also why would there be other letters that historians don't believe we're written by Paul proclaim that they were? In a sense, this is why I believe there was Jesus. Why make up a story about a Jewish Messiah from Nazareth and then create the Bethlehem story?
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Old 5th December 2017, 05:11 PM   #42
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Originally Posted by smartcooky View Post
As soon as anyone proceeds from the assumption that the Bible is inerrant, they lose all credibility with me, because such an attitude shows me that the person is closed-minded, and prepared to automatically hand-wave away any contrary evidence. It would be like a scientist claiming that his theory is 100% correct, regardless of any results that might come along later and which don't fit. We should not accept either of these positions.
Me too.

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Old 5th December 2017, 05:29 PM   #43
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Originally Posted by Rougarou View Post
It has been a while since I last read the New Testament. Many of the letters were to churches, but some may have been to friends and relatives. I don't remember. I suppose even an illiterate relative could find someone to read the letter to them. In an illiterate society, I can image that being a service you could pay for.

Edit: According to Wikipedia, only four of the thirteen epistles are addressed directly to individuals, none of whom were family. And three of those four are widely considered by historians to be falsely attributed to Paul.

Edit again: Wait, you meant Jesus when you said "the guy in question". I thought you meant Paul. Paul wrote to the religious leaders of the church formed on the teachings of Jesus. I don't know if Paul communicated with anyone who actually knew Jesus.
The religious leaders iím referring to are James and Peter.
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Old 5th December 2017, 05:53 PM   #44
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Originally Posted by jond View Post
The religious leaders i’m referring to are James and Peter.
According to some more reading on Wikipedia, Paul knew James and Peter, but I don't think any of his letters were to either of them. Where are we going with this?
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Old 5th December 2017, 05:58 PM   #45
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Originally Posted by Rougarou View Post
According to some more reading on Wikipedia, Paul knew James and Peter, but I don't think any of his letters were to either of them. Where are we going with this?
Very minor sub-point from my earlier post about the supposed notion that the followers of Jesus were illiterate which is why there was nothing written by any of them. I was under the impression that some of Paulís letters were to their group.
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Old 5th December 2017, 06:05 PM   #46
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Originally Posted by ddt View Post
Surely you mean persecutor of (proto) Christians? That's his backstory in Acts. Moreover, he himself was a Jew according to the backstory, and he was privately educated by a prominent Pharisee (Galamiel?).
That's Gamaliel. He taught at the Temple which was not just a Temple, but a sort of University and also a bank. Paul's use of language and rhetorical tricks in his letters argue that he was well educated, whether or not he was taught by Gamaliel is uncertain, but not impossible.

Quote:
IIRC, this is only mentioned in Matthew, and only in one sentence. Moreover, Paul strikes a deal with Peter and James and the Jerusalem gang that he'll proselytize among the goyim and he won't impose the Judaic laws upon them. Circumcision was highly unpopular among Greeks and Romans, and the average Roman, like Obelix, also liked his Gallic pork.
Paul says that James and his gang in Jerusalem gave him permission to preach his "Christ Jesus" to the Gentiles, but the section of Acts known as the "we Document" (a section of the narrative that is told in the first person, unlike the rest of that book) depicts Paul being punished by James and the other leaders for teaching against the Law of Moses to Jews.:
Originally Posted by Acts
...
18 And the day following, Paul went with us unto James, and all the elders were present.
19 And when he had saluted them, he declared particularly what things God had wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry.
20 And when they heard it, they glorified the Lord and said unto him, “Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are who believe, and they are all zealous for the law.
21 And they are informed about thee, that thou teachest all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, nor walk according to the customs.
22 What is therefore to be done? The multitude must surely come together, for they will hear that thou art come.
23 Do therefore this which we say to thee: We have four men who have taken a vow upon themselves.
24 Take them and purify thyself with them, and bear their charges with them, that they may shave their heads; and all may know that those things of which they have been informed concerning thee are nothing, butthat thou thyself also walkest orderly and keepest the law...
https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Acts+21

Quote:
His conversion story sounds very much like what modern conman still use: look, I once was zealously anti-christian but then I saw the light...
He also repeatedly says "I'm not a liar", or "I'm not lying" or words to that effect quite often. I'm always deeply suspicious of people who have to constantly deny being a liar especially when no one appears to be accusing them.

Quote:
There's also his continuous collecting money "for the poor in Jerusalem". Why would the Christians in Jerusalem be poorer than those in Milete, Ephese, Saloniki, Athens or Corinth? At one time, he pressures the local congregation in giving him money because the congregation in the next town over gave generously. Of course, the next town over was 100 miles away, so nobody could check. Also, nobody's ever seen a CPA's audit report. Meanwhile, he travels around the whole (Eastern) Mediterranean; that cannot have been cheap. Who's to say nothing went to his own expense account?
Well apparently "The Poor" ("Ebionim") was what Jewish Christians of the time called themselves. The Greek form of that is "Ebionite" which was applied to followers of James who kept the Jewish Law and considered Jesus to have been a Prophet, not a god. It is also what the authors of the Dead Sea Scrolls called themselves.

Quote:
And there's also his odd insistence that he, who only saw Jesus in a vision, knows Him better than Peter, James and the other apostles who spent several years day-in day-out with Him.

I wouldn't be surprised at all.
Yes, I certainly doubt Paul's sincerity.

Originally Posted by acbytesla View Post
I'm not sure that Paul suggests this. But Paul would have been literate and it's highly doubtful the apostles were.

My guess has always been that Paul was extremely charismatic with a gift for languages and storytelling. And that got people to trust him enough to house him and donate to the cause. The number 1 cause was always himself. While the historicity of Jesus seems questionable to me, I find it difficult to believe that Paul didn't exist. I don't believe the words he uttered but it makes sense that someone like Paul certainly did...So why not Paul? Also why would there be other letters that historians don't believe we're written by Paul proclaim that they were? In a sense, this is why I believe there was Jesus. Why make up a story about a Jewish Messiah from Nazareth and then create the Bethlehem story?
There is also a possibility that "Nazarene" was a title having to do with a certain type of Jewish Holy Man and had nothing to do with the town in Galilee.

Here's what Wiki says about "Nazarene":
Quote:
Nazarene is a title applied to Jesus, who, according to the New Testament, grew up in Nazareth,[1] a town in Galilee, now in northern Israel. The word is used to translate two related terms that appear in the Greek New Testament: Nazarēnos (Nazarene) and Nazōraios (Nazorean). The phrases traditionally rendered as "Jesus of Nazareth" can also be translated as "Jesus the Nazarene" or "Jesus the Nazorean",[2] and the title "Nazarene" may have a religious significance instead of denoting a place of origin. Both Nazarene and Nazorean are irregular in Greek and the additional vowel in Nazorean complicates any derivation from Nazareth.[3]

The Gospel of Matthew explains that the title Nazarene is derived from the prophecy "He will be called a Nazorean",[4] but this has no obvious Old Testament source. Some scholars argue that it refers to a passage in the Book of Isaiah,[5] with "Nazarene" a Greek reading of the Hebrew ne∑tser (branch), understood as a messianic title.[6] Others point to a passage in the Book of Judges which refers to Samson as a Nazirite, a word that is just one letter off from Nazarene in Greek.[7]

The Greek New Testament uses "Nazarene" six times (Mark, Luke), while "Nazorean" is used 13 times (Matthew, Mark in some manuscripts, Luke, John, Acts). In the Book of Acts, "Nazorean" is used to refer to a follower of Jesus, i.e. a Christian, rather than an inhabitant of a town.[8] "Notzrim" is the modern Hebrew word for Christians (No∑tsri, נוֹצְרִי) and one of two words commonly used to mean "Christian" in Syriac (Nasrani) and Arabic (Naṣrānī, نصراني).
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazarene_(title)

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Old 5th December 2017, 06:08 PM   #47
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Originally Posted by jond View Post
Very minor sub-point from my earlier post about the supposed notion that the followers of Jesus were illiterate which is why there was nothing written by any of them. I was under the impression that some of Paul’s letters were to their group.
OK. Although, as I said earlier, one doesn't have to be personally literate in order to have a letter or book read or authored.

Last edited by Rougarou; 5th December 2017 at 06:15 PM. Reason: clarified my point about illiterate reading and writing
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Old 5th December 2017, 06:25 PM   #48
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Originally Posted by Brainache View Post

(snip)

He also repeatedly says "I'm not a liar", or "I'm not lying" or words to that effect quite often. I'm always deeply suspicious of people who have to constantly deny being a liar especially when no one appears to be accusing them.

(snip)
The Wikipedia article on Paul mentions his need to defend his position as an Apostle since he was not one of the Twelve.
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Old 5th December 2017, 07:14 PM   #49
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Originally Posted by Rougarou View Post
The Wikipedia article on Paul mentions his need to defend his position as an Apostle since he was not one of the Twelve.
That might be the case, if he only said it once or twice, but it is throughout the
Pauline corpus.

I can't remember who it was, but someone in one of the Historical Jesus threads posted the full number of times Paul says some variation of "I'm not lying" and it was a lot. Can't find it now. But here are a few samples:
http://biblehub.com/romans/9-1.htm
http://biblehub.com/2_corinthians/11-31.htm
http://biblehub.com/galatians/1-20.htm

But he says it's true, so it must be. Just like Trump: "Believe me"...
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Old 5th December 2017, 07:27 PM   #50
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Originally Posted by Brainache View Post
That might be the case, if he only said it once or twice, but it is throughout the
Pauline corpus.

I can't remember who it was, but someone in one of the Historical Jesus threads posted the full number of times Paul says some variation of "I'm not lying" and it was a lot. Can't find it now. But here are a few samples:
http://biblehub.com/romans/9-1.htm
http://biblehub.com/2_corinthians/11-31.htm
http://biblehub.com/galatians/1-20.htm

But he says it's true, so it must be. Just like Trump: "Believe me"...
I agree with your impressions. And, as acbytesla said earlier, it was probably Paul's charisma that got him by moreso than the convincingness of his claims of apostleship.
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Old 5th December 2017, 10:55 PM   #51
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Originally Posted by Skeptic Ginger View Post
Regardless that the texts exist, it's my understanding the earliest ones were written at ~75-100 years AD.

Which brings us to Paul. It makes sense to me he is the likely source of the Jesus cult, akin to a Joseph Smith for the Mormons. And in Paul's case, we have contemporary writing and other related evidence of the religion existing.
The earliest extent copies of the new testament are later. Fragment P52 believed to be a part of a copy of John is usually dated 125-175 but according Wikipedia it could be later. If you meant when the texts were originally written the earliest is usually believed to be Paul and if the Paul story is roughly correct they were probably written about 60. The dating of the Gospels is all over the place. But Mark the Gospel generally believed (but not by everybody) the first one written is dated somewhere around 70 to much later. Marcion might be a hard point on the oldest possible date. He had a collection of the Pauline epistles and some version of Luke and he is generally dated to 130 and it is usually believed that Mark preceded Luke.

As an aside: Marcionism had an interesting take on God. There were at least two of them, the old Testament God and the New Testament God. That seems like a pretty good idea to me because there isn't much apparent connection between the Old Testament God and the New Testament God. Alas, Marcion might have founded a major Christian sect but the Catholic leadership wasn't happy with his ideas and he was kicked out but Mariconism went on for quite awhile after that. Marcion is relevant to this discussion because there is a common theory that he wrote or in some way was responsible for Paul's epistles. I don't think there's a lot of scholarly support for that idea but it is possible that all the Pauline epistles known were collected by him. It seems at least possible that Acts was written in response to Marcionism. Marcion was attracting followers because he had a backstory for the creation of Christianity based on his ownership of the Pauline epistles and the group that included the author of Luke thought they needed their own Paul literature and they commissioned Luke to write a good Paul yarn to compete with what the Marcionites had. But he only had the gist of the Paul story available to him so he made most of his story up and he did a good job. Acts is the most entertaining part of the New Testament. The lack of an ending is strange. Did the author die before he could finish it? Why didn't anybody else finish it?
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Old 6th December 2017, 10:50 AM   #52
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Originally Posted by davefoc View Post
Acts is the most entertaining part of the New Testament. The lack of an ending is strange. Did the author die before he could finish it? Why didn't anybody else finish it?
The most obvious reason is that it was written while Paul was awaiting trial, and that the earlier Gospel was written while Luke was with Paul during the time he was under arrest in Palestine.

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Old 6th December 2017, 11:44 AM   #53
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Originally Posted by ehbowen View Post
The most obvious reason is that it was written while Paul was awaiting trial, and that the earlier Gospel was written while Luke was with Paul during the time he was under arrest in Palestine.
We do not know who wrote the gospel attributed to Luke. There are numerous conflicts between Acts & Luke. Further, theological concepts attributed to Paul in Acts sometimes vary markedly from what can be found in authentic letters of Paul.
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Old 6th December 2017, 11:53 AM   #54
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Originally Posted by ehbowen View Post
The most obvious reason is that it was written while Paul was awaiting trial, and that the earlier Gospel was written while Luke was with Paul during the time he was under arrest in Palestine.

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And how do you come to that conclusion? Keep in mind that we don't actually know who wrote Luke. Even the first account that Paul was executed didn't appear until 320 AD.

I absolutely love how this religion uses writings 30 to 250 years AFTER the lives of these people as proof of how they lived their lives.
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Old 6th December 2017, 12:19 PM   #55
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Originally Posted by Skeptic Ginger View Post
Which brings us to Paul. It makes sense to me he is the likely source of the Jesus cult, akin to a Joseph Smith for the Mormons. And in Paul's case, we have contemporary writing and other related evidence of the religion existing.
That seems very unlikely. In what has to be one of the most compelling single passages for the historicity of Jesus, in Romans, Paul makes the point that he received his knowledge of Christ through revelation, not through Peter or James (Jesus' brother), despite the fact that he had met them briefly.

Moreover, the Gospels are obviously composed from a multitude of interrelated but distinct, sometimes competing, oral and literary traditions. There just isn't a plausible timeframe for them to emerge if Paul just made everything up.

With the sheer wealth of literary and epistolary records around, in such a brief timespan, it remains quite amazing to me that anyone would draw the conclusion that Jesus didn't exist. It is in most cases I think hyperskepticism related to a lack of familiarity with how ancient historical inquiry occurs. There is simply no historical figure with the kind of corpus we have for Jesus that anyone would posit did not exist.
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Old 6th December 2017, 12:44 PM   #56
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Originally Posted by TubbaBlubba View Post
That seems very unlikely. In what has to be one of the most compelling single passages for the historicity of Jesus, in Romans, Paul makes the point that he received his knowledge of Christ through revelation, not through Peter or James (Jesus' brother), despite the fact that he had met them briefly.

Moreover, the Gospels are obviously composed from a multitude of interrelated but distinct, sometimes competing, oral and literary traditions. There just isn't a plausible timeframe for them to emerge if Paul just made everything up.

With the sheer wealth of literary and epistolary records around, in such a brief timespan, it remains quite amazing to me that anyone would draw the conclusion that Jesus didn't exist. It is in most cases I think hyperskepticism related to a lack of familiarity with how ancient historical inquiry occurs. There is simply no historical figure with the kind of corpus we have for Jesus that anyone would posit did not exist.
Absolute and utter nonsense. There are no CONTEMPORARY records of Jesus. The first stories begin to appear around and after Paul is said to have had his epiphany. 30 years AFTER the crucifixion. The idea That Paul himself could have created the original story himself is certainly possible and I would argue probable. Paul traveled from Palestine to Egypt to Greece to Rome founding churches and spinning his yarn. He clearly was a prolific writer. Why couldn't he have been a good con man creating a backstory and why wouldn't those that heard his stories try and write his stories down later adding their own takes on what he said? And those people had people who heard the stories and they created their own variations. I think there are around 3 dozen apocryphal gospels. How can anyone say that just the four are correct? How can anyone say that any of them are correct?
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Old 6th December 2017, 01:03 PM   #57
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Originally Posted by acbytesla View Post
Absolute and utter nonsense. There are no CONTEMPORARY records of Jesus. The first stories begin to appear around and after Paul is said to have had his epiphany. 30 years AFTER the crucifixion. The idea That Paul himself could have created the original story himself is certainly possible and I would argue probable. Paul traveled from Palestine to Egypt to Greece to Rome founding churches and spinning his yarn. He clearly was a prolific writer. Why couldn't he have been a good con man creating a backstory and why wouldn't those that heard his stories try and write his stories down later adding their own takes on what he said? And those people had people who heard the stories and they created their own variations. I think there are around 3 dozen apocryphal gospels. How can anyone say that just the four are correct? How can anyone say that any of them are correct?
There are countless figures for whom there are no contemporary records. 20-30 years is a VERY good timeframe for a first written reference in ancient, and even in later history. Sources written HUNDREDS of years after the fact are routinely used by historians.

I don't think any apocryphal gospel is remotely as close in time as the original four, but certainly some of them might contain true attributions. It seems less likely, though, as they tend to be more homogenized and confined to a single tradition, as far as I recall.

As for it all being the work of a con artist: There simply is no textual evidence for this. On the contrary, the Gospels contain all sorts of tensions that suggest early diversity in the traditions surrounding Jesus. They're written largely in a common Greek moral-biography style that values "the moral of the story" over the literal truthfulness of every account (similar to Plutarch's "Lives"). That Jesus existed is a very straightforward explanation of the historical record and the emergence of Chrisitanity that explains the available evidence perfectly and meshes well with how we understand the society he is supposed to have lived in.

There is simply nothing that suggests that we need to resort to some conspiracy theory that there exists no evidence for. Really, name one other historical figure that you would invoke this sort of skepticism for.
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Old 6th December 2017, 01:17 PM   #58
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Originally Posted by TubbaBlubba View Post
There are countless figures for whom there are no contemporary records. 20-30 years is a VERY good timeframe for a first written reference in ancient, and even in later history. Sources written HUNDREDS of years after the fact are routinely used by historians.
A couple examples please?
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Old 6th December 2017, 01:24 PM   #59
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Originally Posted by TubbaBlubba View Post
I don't think any apocryphal gospel is remotely as close in time as the original four ...
We don't know of any originals. The four canonical gospels have contemporaneous gospels that were in and out of favor for 2-300 years before being declared apocryphal. The earliest copies we have of any of the synoptic gospels & Acts date from mid-3rd Century with the exception of John which may be early 3rd Century. And Paul was writing in mid- to late 1st Century, before any of the canonical or apocryphal gospels was written yet the earliest known Pauline writings we have are from nearly 100 years later. Further, all the manuscripts we have, early & late contain numerous errors; the earliest known manuscripts are incomplete. You might wish to consult Bruce M. Metzger, The Text Of The New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption & Restoration, 1968, Oxford University Press, New York. Also the Ehrman works cited earlier in this thread.

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Old 6th December 2017, 01:24 PM   #60
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Originally Posted by TubbaBlubba View Post
It is in most cases I think hyperskepticism related to a lack of familiarity with how ancient historical inquiry occurs. There is simply no historical figure with the kind of corpus we have for Jesus that anyone would posit did not exist.
Well try this one on for size: I think that even if Jesus existed he wasn't real.

As in, I think any historical figure would have little enough in common with the character in the Bible that it would be misleading to suggest they are one and the same. We know the census thing isn't true. We know he wasn't the son of god and didn't really perform miracles. Continue on in that manner and look at what you have left - it's not a lot.

If someone told the police to be on the lookout for a white male who was also half alien, could control dogs with his mind, was born at the deepest point in the ocean and escorted to land by Poseidon, and once turned an entire factory into honey (sorry, no evidence!) then all they would really have to go on is "white male" and they would, reasonably, be skeptical of even that.

The tiny bit of Jesus' history that is plausible probably applies to any number of people from that time. It may have been a reference to one person in particular, but I don't see that it really matters.
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Old 6th December 2017, 01:32 PM   #61
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Originally Posted by TubbaBlubba View Post
There are countless figures for whom there are no contemporary records. 20-30 years is a VERY good timeframe for a first written reference in ancient, and even in later history. Sources written HUNDREDS of years after the fact are routinely used by historians.

I don't think any apocryphal gospel is remotely as close in time as the original four, but certainly some of them might contain true attributions. It seems less likely, though, as they tend to be more homogenized and confined to a single tradition, as far as I recall.

As for it all being the work of a con artist: There simply is no textual evidence for this. On the contrary, the Gospels contain all sorts of tensions that suggest early diversity in the traditions surrounding Jesus. They're written largely in a common Greek moral-biography style that values "the moral of the story" over the literal truthfulness of every account (similar to Plutarch's "Lives"). That Jesus existed is a very straightforward explanation of the historical record and the emergence of Chrisitanity that explains the available evidence perfectly and meshes well with how we understand the society he is supposed to have lived in.

There is simply nothing that suggests that we need to resort to some conspiracy theory that there exists no evidence for. Really, name one other historical figure that you would invoke this sort of skepticism for.
What conspiracy theory? It simply is a game of telephone.
Ever play it?

Would you trust an eyewitness in a trial who came forward 30 to 60 years later? I wouldn't. How about if it was an anonymous writing? That's what we have with the Gospels. Hell, that's what we have with the whole NT.

And what difference does it make that the apocryphal Gospels aren't like the other 4? There is no doubt in my mind that 3 of Gospels used 1 of the 3 as a template for the other 2. It's pretty obvious why they are similar.

What you have is 3 dozen variations of a story written about a man who lived decades to a century earlier and you think that 4 are reliable when in fact 2 of them are basic plagiarisms? Do you have any idea just how stupid that sounds? People today have different stories about 9-11 and many of them false.

How many people in the day of no internet, no telephone, no newspapers, no radio, no tv could have possibly heard the sermons of JC? How many could have heard more than a couple? How many could attest to where he was born and died? How many could accurately and honestly write about a good section of his life 3 to 7 decades later?

Seems far more likely to me that it was a yarn told over and over again and then people started to write it down. The idea that people take this as truth seems stark raving mad.
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Old 6th December 2017, 01:34 PM   #62
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Originally Posted by TubbaBlubba View Post
... the Gospels contain all sorts of tensions that suggest early diversity in the traditions surrounding Jesus. They're written largely in a common Greek moral-biography style that values "the moral of the story" over the literal truthfulness of every account (similar to Plutarch's "Lives").
Might that be the reason one can point to portions of the canonical gospels which do not appear in the earliest known manuscripts? And why they differ so markedly among themselves, especially on some of the more pivotal events being related?
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Old 6th December 2017, 01:37 PM   #63
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Originally Posted by TubbaBlubba View Post
Really, name one other historical figure that you would invoke this sort of skepticism for.
You might have fun toying with Appollonius of Tyana. Some of his (reputed) attributes wold make fine grist for the conspiracy crowd.
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Old 6th December 2017, 01:41 PM   #64
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Originally Posted by RecoveringYuppy View Post
A couple examples please?
OK. Lucius Cornelius Scipio Barbatus, grandfather of Scipio Africanus. I don't know if Polybius mentions him at all; he might since he wrote a good deal on Sc. Africanus; in that case the mentions date from 150 years after his death, otherwise it's closer to 250.

Titus Manlius Torquatus, Roman Consul of 299 BC, member of the prestigious Manlia gens. First mentioned by Livy, nearly 300 years after his consulship.

Bardylis, Illyrian king, who reigned 393Ė358 BC. AFAIK first mentioned by Diodorus Siculus about 350 years later.

And so on. There are also many, many important figures like say, Dionysius I, where we have a coin or two that may be contemporary, but where everything we know about them comes from works written 300-500 years later or more by the usual host of authors.

Probably the most extreme example of a character thought to have existed despite vast temporal separation would be Zoroaster. Though the Gathas (supposed to have been composed by him) were only written down about 400 AD, whereas Zoroaster would have lived around 1300 BC, the handful of biographical and contemporary details, long tradition, and linguistic considerations leads scholars to generally accept that he probably did exist, living in a pastoral society in Bronze Age Afghanistan or eastern Iran.
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Old 6th December 2017, 01:43 PM   #65
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Originally Posted by Peregrinus View Post
We don't know of any originals. The four canonical gospels have contemporaneous gospels that were in and out of favor for 2-300 years before being declared apocryphal. The earliest copies we have of any of the synoptic gospels & Acts date from mid-3rd Century with the exception of John which may be early 3rd Century. And Paul was writing in mid- to late 1st Century, before any of the canonical or apocryphal gospels was written yet the earliest known Pauline writings we have are from nearly 100 years later. Further, all the manuscripts we have, early & late contain numerous errors; the earliest known manuscripts are incomplete. You might wish to consult Bruce M. Metzger, The Text Of The New Testament: Its Transmission, Corruption & Restoration, 1968, Oxford University Press, New York. Also the Ehrman works cited earlier in this thread.
Sorry, I meant canonical four. I've probably read nearly everything Ehrman has written, and more, so I'm well aware of all this; no need to lecture me on this. It is very rare indeed to have anything close to an original manuscript with ancient texts.
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Old 6th December 2017, 01:46 PM   #66
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Originally Posted by SOdhner View Post
Well try this one on for size: I think that even if Jesus existed he wasn't real.

As in, I think any historical figure would have little enough in common with the character in the Bible that it would be misleading to suggest they are one and the same. We know the census thing isn't true. We know he wasn't the son of god and didn't really perform miracles. Continue on in that manner and look at what you have left - it's not a lot.

If someone told the police to be on the lookout for a white male who was also half alien, could control dogs with his mind, was born at the deepest point in the ocean and escorted to land by Poseidon, and once turned an entire factory into honey (sorry, no evidence!) then all they would really have to go on is "white male" and they would, reasonably, be skeptical of even that.

The tiny bit of Jesus' history that is plausible probably applies to any number of people from that time. It may have been a reference to one person in particular, but I don't see that it really matters.
So if there was a Jewish man called Jesus, with a mother named Mary, and brohters called Joses and James and Jude and Simon, baptised by John the Baptist, who preached apocalyptic teachings and was eventually crucified by Pontius Pilatius, you don't think that would matter? What matters, then? Isn't it interesting to understand how Christianity originated?
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Old 6th December 2017, 01:55 PM   #67
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Originally Posted by TubbaBlubba View Post
So if there was a Jewish man called Jesus, with a mother named Mary, and brohters called Joses and James and Jude and Simon, baptised by John the Baptist, who preached apocalyptic teachings and was eventually crucified by Pontius Pilatius, you don't think that would matter? What matters, then? Isn't it interesting to understand how Christianity originated?
Not really, because what seems to matter to Christians are the many sayings attributed to him, or things like the sermon on the mount for which there is no way of actually knowing that they happened at all, let alone as presented in the stories. To say nothing of the critical piece of the equation, the resurrection. If that didnít happen, whatís the point? Christianity revolves around beliefs, not facts, and whatever the original cult had to say was quickly superseded by Paul (whose existence or lack thereof) is the topic of this thread.
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Old 6th December 2017, 02:00 PM   #68
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Originally Posted by Peregrinus View Post
Might that be the reason one can point to portions of the canonical gospels which do not appear in the earliest known manuscripts? And why they differ so markedly among themselves, especially on some of the more pivotal events being related?
Depends on which portions you mean. There are all kinds of incorporations in the gospels.

As for why they differ on some important events (E.g. birth account) that's mostly down to the different focuses/motivations of the different authors (or maybe we should say compilers) of the gospels. Where Matthew looks in Jewish tradition, Luke might be more inclined to consider more Graeco-Roman narratives. By the time they're writing, there appears to have been a wealth of sources and accounts, probably only a portion of which were accessible to any one author and presumably they're making some judgment calls about which to incorporate, which gaps to fill in themselves to make a rhetorically compelling story, etc.

I think Mark's writing style is very instructive. Much of his gospel consists of long or pithy quotes by Jesus, frame by a narrative that seems to have been devised to explain or contextualized it, sometimes followed by an elaboration or explanation presumably inserted by Mark ("He said this because..."). I don't think he concerned himself with whether those narratives were true as much as relaying the teachings conveyed in the quotes he attributes to Jesus.

Originally Posted by Peregrinus View Post
You might have fun toying with Appollonius of Tyana. Some of his (reputed) attributes wold make fine grist for the conspiracy crowd.
Yeah, he would be the one possibility. Of course, the source situation is far worse with him than with Jesus.
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Old 6th December 2017, 02:01 PM   #69
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Originally Posted by jond View Post
Not really, because what seems to matter to Christians are the many sayings attributed to him, or things like the sermon on the mount for which there is no way of actually knowing that they happened at all, let alone as presented in the stories. To say nothing of the critical piece of the equation, the resurrection. If that didnít happen, whatís the point? Christianity revolves around beliefs, not facts, and whatever the original cult had to say was quickly superseded by Paul (whose existence or lack thereof) is the topic of this thread.
So nothing matters unless it's key to the Christian faith? I really don't understand this argument.
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Old 6th December 2017, 02:03 PM   #70
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Originally Posted by TubbaBlubba View Post
So nothing matters unless it's key to the Christian faith? I really don't understand this argument.
The point is, Jesus existence or lack thereof, is irrelevant to Christianity today. Paulís existence is far more important.
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Old 6th December 2017, 02:04 PM   #71
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Originally Posted by jond View Post
The point is, Jesus existence or lack thereof, is irrelevant to Christianity today. Paulís existence is far more important.
But what does that have to do with the value of historical inquiry?
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Old 6th December 2017, 02:06 PM   #72
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Originally Posted by TubbaBlubba View Post
But what does that have to do with the value of historical inquiry?
It has to do with the fact that the thread is about the existence (or lack thereof) of Paul.
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Old 6th December 2017, 02:13 PM   #73
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Originally Posted by jond View Post
It has to do with the fact that the thread is about the existence (or lack thereof) of Paul.
Consider what I responded to:

Quote:
As in, I think any historical figure would have little enough in common with the character in the Bible that it would be misleading to suggest they are one and the same. We know the census thing isn't true. We know he wasn't the son of god and didn't really perform miracles. Continue on in that manner and look at what you have left - it's not a lot.
SOdhner suggests that it doesn't matter if the accounts contain biographical details of a real man. That may be somewhat tangential to the topic of this thread, yes, but the point is that our historical inquiry certainly shouldn't be guided by what is theologically important to Christians today. We study these things in trying to understand where Christianity came from.
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Old 6th December 2017, 02:15 PM   #74
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Originally Posted by TubbaBlubba View Post
So if there was a Jewish man called Jesus, with a mother named Mary, and brohters called Joses and James and Jude and Simon, baptised by John the Baptist, who preached apocalyptic teachings and was eventually crucified by Pontius Pilatius, you don't think that would matter? What matters, then? Isn't it interesting to understand how Christianity originated?
You can't prove Jesus lived, let alone his brothers and his mother. All you can prove is that a story was written with those characters. That one could weave true people from history in the story doesn't make it true.

You don't believe that Jack and Rose were on the Titanic do you? Yet pretty much everything and everyone in that movie were accurate. Historical fiction is not new. So why would you believe a story written 2,000 years ago? How about the story of Moses? Do you believe that Moses really delivered the Jews out of Egypt?

I tend to think there was probably a rabbi named Jesus that preached and maybe was executed and the story was embellished later by Paul and others. But it just as easily could have been an entire fabrication of Paul's and his stories were the stories that evolved.
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Old 6th December 2017, 02:26 PM   #75
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Originally Posted by acbytesla View Post
You don't believe that Jack and Rose were on the Titanic do you? Yet pretty much everything and everyone in that movie were accurate. Historical fiction is not new. So why would you believe a story written 2,000 years ago? How about the story of Moses? Do you believe that Moses really delivered the Jews out of Egypt?
Genre analysis is a key aspect of any ancient source. Just look at the difficulties associated with Plutarch's "Lives" or the still-contentious matter of whether Herodotus of Halicarnassus invented the Median Empire for rhetorical purposes. Or look at the approach to medieval records of Irish oral traditions as it evolved in the 20th century.
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Old 6th December 2017, 02:35 PM   #76
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Originally Posted by TubbaBlubba View Post
So if there was a Jewish man called Jesus, with a mother named Mary, and brohters called Joses and James and Jude and Simon, baptised by John the Baptist, who preached apocalyptic teachings and was eventually crucified by Pontius Pilatius, you don't think that would matter?
If you could confirm all of that it would be academically interesting to me, sure. But I still wouldn't say that that person is the Jesus from the Bible. Clearly if all of that was true of one person (which I can't imagine we could ever know) you'd have an extremely compelling case for saying that this one guy was the primary inspiration for the character of Jesus and that would be neat.

But the thing is, if I could point to someone and say that they were the inspiration for Superman - sure, they didn't have any powers and didn't come from space and didn't fight supervillains but they were named Clark and they came from Kansas and they worked at a newspaper for a while... would you say that person was Superman? Of course not. You would acknowledge that it's possible or even likely he was one source of inspiration for Superman, and we still wouldn't know a lot about who this guy was and what he did or didn't do, historically. And Superman would still be fictional, and would still have other influences for other aspects of his character.

So it's not something where I think it would ever make sense to say *this* is the historical Jesus.

Originally Posted by TubbaBlubba View Post
That may be somewhat tangential to the topic of this thread, yes, but the point is that our historical inquiry certainly shouldn't be guided by what is theologically important to Christians today. We study these things in trying to understand where Christianity came from.
And I think in that context the Paul question is a whole lot more interesting. For Jesus, I don't think the historical source - if there even was one, as opposed to none or seven or whatever - is all that important because the more relevant thing is the made up parts of the story. Why did they include a virgin birth? What was the inspiration for the story where he cursed a fig tree? Was there a political commentary hidden in there that we don't understand anymore? When he walks on water, was that taken from another myth or was it common symbolism at the time or was it an original story?

But since the hypothetical "real" Jesus didn't do ANY of that stuff I don't see him as all that relevant. Don't get me wrong, if you can prove he existed that's pretty cool. I just don't think it's likely we'll ever know and I don't see that as being a big deal since the gap between any possible historical person and the fictional character of Jesus is so massive.
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Old 6th December 2017, 02:39 PM   #77
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Originally Posted by SOdhner View Post
If you could confirm all of that it would be academically interesting to me, sure. But I still wouldn't say that that person is the Jesus from the Bible. Clearly if all of that was true of one person (which I can't imagine we could ever know) you'd have an extremely compelling case for saying that this one guy was the primary inspiration for the character of Jesus and that would be neat.

But the thing is, if I could point to someone and say that they were the inspiration for Superman - sure, they didn't have any powers and didn't come from space and didn't fight supervillains but they were named Clark and they came from Kansas and they worked at a newspaper for a while... would you say that person was Superman? Of course not. You would acknowledge that it's possible or even likely he was one source of inspiration for Superman, and we still wouldn't know a lot about who this guy was and what he did or didn't do, historically. And Superman would still be fictional, and would still have other influences for other aspects of his character.

So it's not something where I think it would ever make sense to say *this* is the historical Jesus.



And I think in that context the Paul question is a whole lot more interesting. For Jesus, I don't think the historical source - if there even was one, as opposed to none or seven or whatever - is all that important because the more relevant thing is the made up parts of the story. Why did they include a virgin birth? What was the inspiration for the story where he cursed a fig tree? Was there a political commentary hidden in there that we don't understand anymore? When he walks on water, was that taken from another myth or was it common symbolism at the time or was it an original story?

But since the hypothetical "real" Jesus didn't do ANY of that stuff I don't see him as all that relevant. Don't get me wrong, if you can prove he existed that's pretty cool. I just don't think it's likely we'll ever know and I don't see that as being a big deal since the gap between any possible historical person and the fictional character of Jesus is so massive.
Honestly, this is all really more of a meta-discussion concerning historiography, what we mean by "history" vs. "the past", what it means to say we "know" something, what perspectives we use, what purpose we have, and so forth. I don't really think it's directly relevant to the evaluation of the sources, which is far more straightforward. Frankly, I think it's quite intuitive what it means when we say there was a "historical Jesus" and elementary genre analysis reveals how that is different from an "inspiration for Superman". Just because "the Divine" Caesar wasn't divine doesn't mean there wasn't a Caesar.
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Old 6th December 2017, 03:11 PM   #78
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Originally Posted by TubbaBlubba View Post
Genre analysis is a key aspect of any ancient source. Just look at the difficulties associated with Plutarch's "Lives" or the still-contentious matter of whether Herodotus of Halicarnassus invented the Median Empire for rhetorical purposes. Or look at the approach to medieval records of Irish oral traditions as it evolved in the 20th century.
Was there a point there? Because I can't find it. Anonymous stories written decades to centuries later regardless of their format/genre detract substantially from their credibility.
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Old 6th December 2017, 03:45 PM   #79
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Originally Posted by acbytesla View Post
Was there a point there? Because I can't find it. Anonymous stories written decades to centuries later regardless of their format/genre detract substantially from their credibility.
What "credibility"? What matters is who wrote it, in what context, for what purpose. May I suggest reading up on the basics of historiography of ancient sources?
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Old 6th December 2017, 03:57 PM   #80
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Originally Posted by davefoc View Post
Both Doherty and Carrier seem to have similar ideas about Paul. He was promoting a religion based on a mystical Jesus that didn't exist as a flesh and blood human.
That's not quite correct. Paul uses 'in the flesh' and 'flesh' and 'blood' when describing Jesus. He also calls Jesus a 'man' (anthropos), a Jew (descended from Jews). Doherty and Carrier propose that Jesus was a man who took on flesh and was crucified in the lower heavens.

Originally Posted by davefoc View Post
Among Doherty's arguments is that if Paul's writing were a second century forgery they would be focused more on what Christianity had changed to by then. I thought it was a good argument but I don't have a link right now for it.
In his letters, Paul refers to Caesar and Aretas, which seems to place him somewhere in the first half of the First Century CE. So, if the letters are forgeries, they seem to be based on the idea that Paul lived around that time, or intended to give the impression that Paul did. (And if they were forgeries for that reason, why didn't the forger be clear about the time he was trying to place Paul? Why place him in the First Century at all?)

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