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Old 08-05-2013, 12:34 PM   #61
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I think perhaps what JT is getting at is that you would think that, if Jesus was what he is claimed to be in the gospels, there would be more historical texts (contemporary to his time) that documented his life, or at least made mention of him.
Fair enough. I guess all we can really "prove" is that there was a man named Jesus and many believed he was the Messiah - and it grew from there.
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Old 08-05-2013, 12:45 PM   #62
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My point is though that 50 years or 80 years (really, I didn't take much time to look up the number. I more or less just wrote it down) is irrelevant. Even if we take your lowest estimate, 20 years is a long time to have a story change. It's a long time to forget most of the details. It's a long time to remember things in a way that has little to do with the way they actually happened. It's a long time to change the way you tell a story. And when you also take into account the supernatural flourishes that were thrown in, what factual information does it still retain?
Honestly, I think it's unfair to say to suggest the supernatural flourishes were thrown in. If those immediately surrounding Jesus did not believe he was the Messiah - then nobody would have written anything about Jesus...ever.

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And I'm arguing that using the text to claim a realistic profile of a real man is not good science either.
I'll grant you that.


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I'm doubting that there is any actual accounts of who he really was.
I think that's true. The gospels weren't written as modern biographies with pictures and phone bills as supporting evidence.



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And we'd need secondary sources if we really wanted to investigate the actual man.
This is where I am in basic agreement. For the most part, Jesus can only be studied in a secular away through the religion that started around him.
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Old 08-05-2013, 12:54 PM   #63
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Honestly, I think it's unfair to say to suggest the supernatural flourishes were thrown in. If those immediately surrounding Jesus did not believe he was the Messiah - then nobody would have written anything about Jesus...ever.
But we've got a group of followers trying to get a religion off the ground and they are claiming their messiah was the son of god. You only need to look to modern religions that make similar supernatural claims to see the transparency.

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I'll grant you that.




I think that's true. The gospels weren't written as modern biographies with pictures and phone bills as supporting evidence.



This is where I am in basic agreement. For the most part, Jesus can only be studied in a secular away through the religion that started around him.
I think we probably agree on more of this than we disagree
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Old 08-05-2013, 12:57 PM   #64
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I guess one way to put it is, would you read the quran as an historical text about Mohammad the man? Would you include all the supernatural claims as if they were real? If we're truly interested in the unbiased history, we'd need to remain consistent across texts of different religions
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Old 08-05-2013, 01:24 PM   #65
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Try to tell a coherent (and factual) story about something that happened 5 years ago, never mind 50. Our memories are tragically flawed. 20 - 50 years is a long time for a story to trans-mutate/
Scholars traditionally tend to date Mark as the earliest of the written gospels, somewhere in the 50s -- twenty years after Jesus' death. However, the strong similarities in content as well as consistencies between Mark, Luke, and Matthew (together referred to as the Synoptic Gospels) indicate a couple of things:

A) that the oral tradition was indeed alive and well;

B) that the three gospels used other material that predated them in terms of content. (Some scholars refer to this source as "Q.") Which means that the basic facts of Jesus' life were actually set down much earlier than the 50s -- perhaps almost concurrently with his life, if not within 5-10 years. Given that the first Council of Jerusalem took place in 49 -- where the Jewish and non-Jewish followers of Jesus first gathered to formally discuss their theology -- it's entirely likely that they used these written texts to form their theology. So the process of back-dating the Gospels actually underlines their accuracy.

Again, when you're dealing with a society that was essentially illiterate, you wind up with a primacy on the oral tradition, and as AEON pointed out, when you only have the oral tradition, you make that your primary means of education. Priests placed a great deal of emphasis on getting the oral tradition right, and you could argue that the rise of alternative texts (whether Gnostic gospels in the NT or more fanciful legends in the OT) was precisely because they couldn't be shoehorned into established texts.

FF Bruce was one of the foremost scholars on the historicity of the NT texts; his book "The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?" was and is the gold standard in this regard. Well worth reading.
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Old 08-05-2013, 01:30 PM   #66
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I think that's true. The gospels weren't written as modern biographies with pictures and phone bills as supporting evidence.
To a certain extent yes, and to a certain extent no. Luke seems to be the most focused on getting the biographical information about Jesus right; he may have used "Q" for his primary source, with the rest of his information coming from eyewitness accounts that he researched. (His gospel seems to have the most "first-person" narratives, as well as specific details.) Given that he most likely wrote his gospel in the mid-60s, 30 years after Jesus lived, many/most of the people who encountered Jesus would still be alive.
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Old 08-05-2013, 01:34 PM   #67
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I'm not sure this evidence holds. Human civilization is littered with stories passed down through communities. These stories invariably get changed. Speech itself changes from generation to generation. There's no evidence that some ancient community was more adept at this than average. This sounds a bit like a weak point in the evidential chain being lauded as air tight. Where is the evidence of master teachers correcting every last mistake?
Dating the Old and New Testaments is a pretty intense scientific process. There have been charges that the documents have been re-translated and changed over time, but when you actually listen to the scholars who have looked at the different parchments and fragments (the famous Dead Sea Scrolls, for instance, as well as others), what you find is that the translations are remarkably consistent. I would agree with your contention if we were dealing solely with stories that had been passed down through the oral tradition, but the fact that the stories of Jesus were written down fairly soon after his passing actually changes the game a bit.
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Old 08-05-2013, 01:49 PM   #68
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you would think that, if Jesus was what he is claimed to be in the gospels, there would be more historical texts (contemporary to his time) that documented his life, or at least made mention of him.
This is a fair point. At the same time, we have to keep in mind that Israel was at this point a minor footnote in history. They had been conquered many times, and as a result didn't get much attention from Rome, which is why they put the Herods, a family of puppet rulers, in power -- the region didn't merit much attention. Additionally, there had been several Messiah-wannabes, all of whom had been put down remarkably easily by Rome.

This is where some of Aslan's assertions or critiques start to fall apart. Jesus' teaching style, as set down in the Synoptic gospels, reflects Stoic thought, as well as Hellenistic influence. ("Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's," etc.) Hardly the impoverished, nationalist zealot Aslan says he was, and indications that He may have actually hewed much closer to middle-class Jewish hellenism. (Which may have been reflected by his followers, which is what Rodney Stark argues in "The Rise of Christianity.") Additionally, there is evidence (again from the texts) that Jesus repudiated the idea of a politicized Israel. ("My kingdom is not of this world," etc.) His cousin John eventually adopted a more zealous, political methodology (attacking Herod Antipas for marrying his brother's sister), and was thrown in jail and eventually beheaded. Jesus, by contrast, distanced himself from this movement -- which may in fact have led to his betrayal, since there is evidence that Judas Iscariot may have been part of the zealot movement and had hoped that Jesus' movement would be more political.

In any event, Jesus would not have gotten much attention from the Romans, and it's clear that He didn't. In fact, the Jewish religious leaders -- who understandably watched Jesus' rise with great concern, since if his movement continued to gather steam, he could have become a political threat to their power (they were trying to keep Rome pacified in order to preserve some semblance of Israel as an independent nation-state) -- had to charge Jesus with a political crime in order to get Rome to pay attention to Him, and settled on sedition. But it's clear that Pilate had no interest in convicting Him, which shows that Rome had not yet paid Him much mind.

All of which says that the death of Jesus got very little attention from Rome and her historians. He was somewhat of a minor footnote at best -- an insignificant leader (in their eyes) of an insignificant country in a relatively insignificant part of their empire. Hardly the stuff of history. It wouldn't be until much later, when His followers had grown and "filled the earth" (to quote from Acts), that they even realized who He was...which is why it was only many years after His death that Romans started referring to His followers as "Christians" (initially a somewhat derogatory, mocking term meaning "little Christs").
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Old 08-05-2013, 02:56 PM   #69
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Old 08-05-2013, 03:17 PM   #70
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This is a fair point. At the same time, we have to keep in mind that Israel was at this point a minor footnote in history. They had been conquered many times, and as a result didn't get much attention from Rome, which is why they put the Herods, a family of puppet rulers, in power -- the region didn't merit much attention. Additionally, there had been several Messiah-wannabes, all of whom had been put down remarkably easily by Rome.

This is where some of Aslan's assertions or critiques start to fall apart. Jesus' teaching style, as set down in the Synoptic gospels, reflects Stoic thought, as well as Hellenistic influence. ("Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's," etc.) Hardly the impoverished, nationalist zealot Aslan says he was, and indications that He may have actually hewed much closer to middle-class Jewish hellenism. (Which may have been reflected by his followers, which is what Rodney Stark argues in "The Rise of Christianity.") Additionally, there is evidence (again from the texts) that Jesus repudiated the idea of a politicized Israel. ("My kingdom is not of this world," etc.) His cousin John eventually adopted a more zealous, political methodology (attacking Herod Antipas for marrying his brother's sister), and was thrown in jail and eventually beheaded. Jesus, by contrast, distanced himself from this movement -- which may in fact have led to his betrayal, since there is evidence that Judas Iscariot may have been part of the zealot movement and had hoped that Jesus' movement would be more political.

In any event, Jesus would not have gotten much attention from the Romans, and it's clear that He didn't. In fact, the Jewish religious leaders -- who understandably watched Jesus' rise with great concern, since if his movement continued to gather steam, he could have become a political threat to their power (they were trying to keep Rome pacified in order to preserve some semblance of Israel as an independent nation-state) -- had to charge Jesus with a political crime in order to get Rome to pay attention to Him, and settled on sedition. But it's clear that Pilate had no interest in convicting Him, which shows that Rome had not yet paid Him much mind.

All of which says that the death of Jesus got very little attention from Rome and her historians. He was somewhat of a minor footnote at best -- an insignificant leader (in their eyes) of an insignificant country in a relatively insignificant part of their empire. Hardly the stuff of history. It wouldn't be until much later, when His followers had grown and "filled the earth" (to quote from Acts), that they even realized who He was...which is why it was only many years after His death that Romans started referring to His followers as "Christians" (initially a somewhat derogatory, mocking term meaning "little Christs").
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Old 08-05-2013, 04:22 PM   #71
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This is a fair point. At the same time, we have to keep in mind that Israel was at this point a minor footnote in history. They had been conquered many times, and as a result didn't get much attention from Rome, which is why they put the Herods, a family of puppet rulers, in power -- the region didn't merit much attention. Additionally, there had been several Messiah-wannabes, all of whom had been put down remarkably easily by Rome.

This is where some of Aslan's assertions or critiques start to fall apart. Jesus' teaching style, as set down in the Synoptic gospels, reflects Stoic thought, as well as Hellenistic influence. ("Render unto Caesar what is Caesar's," etc.) Hardly the impoverished, nationalist zealot Aslan says he was, and indications that He may have actually hewed much closer to middle-class Jewish hellenism. (Which may have been reflected by his followers, which is what Rodney Stark argues in "The Rise of Christianity.") Additionally, there is evidence (again from the texts) that Jesus repudiated the idea of a politicized Israel. ("My kingdom is not of this world," etc.) His cousin John eventually adopted a more zealous, political methodology (attacking Herod Antipas for marrying his brother's sister), and was thrown in jail and eventually beheaded. Jesus, by contrast, distanced himself from this movement -- which may in fact have led to his betrayal, since there is evidence that Judas Iscariot may have been part of the zealot movement and had hoped that Jesus' movement would be more political.

In any event, Jesus would not have gotten much attention from the Romans, and it's clear that He didn't. In fact, the Jewish religious leaders -- who understandably watched Jesus' rise with great concern, since if his movement continued to gather steam, he could have become a political threat to their power (they were trying to keep Rome pacified in order to preserve some semblance of Israel as an independent nation-state) -- had to charge Jesus with a political crime in order to get Rome to pay attention to Him, and settled on sedition. But it's clear that Pilate had no interest in convicting Him, which shows that Rome had not yet paid Him much mind.

All of which says that the death of Jesus got very little attention from Rome and her historians. He was somewhat of a minor footnote at best -- an insignificant leader (in their eyes) of an insignificant country in a relatively insignificant part of their empire. Hardly the stuff of history. It wouldn't be until much later, when His followers had grown and "filled the earth" (to quote from Acts), that they even realized who He was...which is why it was only many years after His death that Romans started referring to His followers as "Christians" (initially a somewhat derogatory, mocking term meaning "little Christs").
But all of this is sort of irrelevant to my point. I'm not denying the existence of Jesus. I'm saying you need more than one source - a source with more than a sprinkling of the supernatural, no less - to build an actual picture of an actual person
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Old 08-05-2013, 04:29 PM   #72
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But all of this is sort of irrelevant to my point. I'm not denying the existence of Jesus. I'm saying you need more than one source - a source with more than a sprinkling of the supernatural, no less - to build an actual picture of an actual person
In the case of Jesus, you have at least four sources -- four different gospel accounts, three of which intersect and diverge in interesting ways, as well as letters written a decade or two after his death and that agree on core biographical information, as well as teachings and miracles. In the absence of anything else, what we have is what we have -- and the historical support for the veracity of those documents is pretty solid.

I almost wonder if the veracity of the supernatural claims of Jesus is deserving of its own thread. As I recall, we had a thread a few years ago on the subject of miracles. Maybe a thread on the supernatural might be in order?
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Old 08-05-2013, 04:31 PM   #73
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You can't use miracles as proof of anything. Unless of course you're willing to bring in the miracles in every other holy book, as well as claims of miracles in modern day 'prophets' as factual
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Old 08-05-2013, 04:33 PM   #74
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You can't use miracles as proof of anything
I'm not...?
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Old 08-05-2013, 04:34 PM   #75
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I'm afraid a thread on the supernatural might make my head implode
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