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Old 08-02-2013, 05:37 PM   #41
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So he's a Muslim first and a scholar second?
I typed this up a few times and kept hating the way I was wording things, so I hope I don't screw this up and you can get the gist.

He's not just studying scripture and teachings and writing about the nature of religion. He's aiming to write an historical book about an historical figure. That's not the same kind of scrutiny.

That he is a believer at all, of any religion, is the bias against historical objectivity in this pursuit. His Islamic belief is potentially a separate bias. Taken together, along with the FOX News debacle, makes the subject much more muddy than it needs to be.

If he were a believing Christian writing the same book, it's the same issue with objectivity. So why is Aslan supposed to be offered more benefit of the doubt? That he's also both a Muslim and an ex-Christian makes his intent more suspicious. But we don't really need to know his intent to question the validity of his objectivity. But the issue of intent might just reaffirm that he is truly biased. That's what I meant by "double whammy".

The method to research the historical Jesus is heavily...clouded. Bias is grand sin to that pursuit. Is Aslan is a believer (or specifically a Muslim) because of the result of his academic research? If he claimed he is, this by itself would call into a question the very methods of his academic pursuit. Otherwise he isn't using that objective approach in order to become a believer regardless. So either way, I don't like his approach to historical Jesus. It's a much more complicated matter, to me, than simply saying A) this man is a vaunted religious scholar and having this as an 'accepted wisdom' and B) this man is a Muslim, therefore will not be fair and is seeking to debunk Jesus the Christ. I am very much in the middle of that and it is not the easiest thing to articulate in a few paragraphs on a message board.

Anyhow, I wouldn't personally say he was trying to debunk Christianity. I'd say he was genuinely trying to write a secular historical book. But, that said, he has to be simply biased on the subject. And along with his active belief in a 'competing' religion, it leaves the charge of biased 'debunkery' as possible.

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Shouldn't we at least accord him the respect he deserves based upon his academic and publishing history and weigh his arguments rather than summarily dismissing him because he's a Muslim?
We shouldn't dismiss him just because he's Muslim. But also, we shouldn't coddle him because he's Muslim. We should treat purported historians the same and call them out on their potential biases. When someone writes a book or even a simple article regarding any political subject discussed here in FYM, the author is always called into question. I don't see a difference here aside from the fact that a FOX News anchor didn't handle herself real well in trying to be critical in somewhat the same manner I am.
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Old 08-02-2013, 05:51 PM   #42
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What sort of person could write that book and have it taken at face value?
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Old 08-02-2013, 06:03 PM   #43
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What sort of person could write that book and have it taken at face value?
Probably nobody? Not even Jesus of Nazareth himself.
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Old 08-03-2013, 05:06 PM   #44
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That's an unfair opinion to hold
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Old 08-03-2013, 09:17 PM   #45
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Full disclosure, I didn't finish his book and mostly went through some of the major points he was making.

I don't believe he was biased, as he argues the same things many Christian scholars have been arguing for decades, and even cites them. None of the information in his book, at least from what I read, was new to me. Many people who have studied these things from a historical perspective taking more into account than just the bible hold similar conclusions. Some do disagree, for a variety of reasons. What I personally can't stand is that a man who is arguing something many Christian scholars have argued is being accused of "bias" solely because he's Muslim. It's just not a fair opinion. There are some historical topics related to Jesus that I didn't see in his book that anyone with anti-Jesus bias could have easily used in order to "smear" Jesus. He didn't use that information, even though other scholars whose work I have read have used it.
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Old 08-04-2013, 01:20 AM   #46
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A thoughtful critique:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/greg-c...b_3679466.html
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Old 08-04-2013, 02:09 AM   #47
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Am I the only one who thinks anything more than a dozen or so pages on 'historical' Jesus is mostly conjecture and a waste of time? How much information really exists about the man? (actual information. The bible doesn't count)
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Old 08-04-2013, 06:50 AM   #48
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what do you want, a fucking passport? Ancient sources include the whole kit and kaboodle. I would imagine scholars do the best they can.
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Old 08-04-2013, 12:09 PM   #49
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I would imagine scholars do the best they can.

Yep, which is why there is never really a consensus.
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Old 08-04-2013, 01:01 PM   #50
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what do you want, a fucking passport? Ancient sources include the whole kit and kaboodle. I would imagine scholars do the best they can.
What does this even mean?
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Old 08-04-2013, 02:32 PM   #51
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Am I the only one who thinks anything more than a dozen or so pages on 'historical' Jesus is mostly conjecture and a waste of time? How much information really exists about the man? (actual information. The bible doesn't count)
Agree with the Biblical record or not, most historians -- even liberal ones like the Jesus Seminar, who embrace gnostic gospels as well -- look to the Scriptures as valuable sources of history regarding this man whose life and ministry had more than a little impact on history, particularly given the historical veracity of the documents, many of which date to within decades of Jesus' life and ministry, as well as their correspondence to historical locations and events.

If you're genuinely curious about the historicity of the texts, there are a number of archaeologists, scholars and historians who have done fascinating work in this area. As I'm currently working on a documentary that's dealing in exactly this subject matter, I'd be happy to send you some authors who've written extensively on this that may be of interest...
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Old 08-04-2013, 05:42 PM   #52
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If you're genuinely curious about the historicity of the texts, there are a number of archaeologists, scholars and historians who have done fascinating work in this area. As I'm currently working on a documentary that's dealing in exactly this subject matter, I'd be happy to send you some authors who've written extensively on this that may be of interest...
I'm fascinated with religious history, so send away Thanks!

But how do you take a document on its word when it includes supernatural claims? What document of Jesus' life exists from his time?
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Old 08-04-2013, 08:19 PM   #53
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What does this even mean?
It means that the gospels are information. Not to be taken uncritically, and to be cross referenced with political records, such as they survive, but information nonetheless.
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Old 08-04-2013, 08:29 PM   #54
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It means that the gospels are information. Not to be taken uncritically, and to be cross referenced with political records, such as they survive, but information nonetheless.
sketchy information at best. What are they cross referencing with respect to historical jesus? What is there to cross reference? If I'm going to make up stories about a person from 80 years ago, I'm not going to make up fictional cities to place him in. The historical accuracy of the locations says nothing about the accuracy of the descriptions of the person
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Old 08-05-2013, 01:22 AM   #55
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If I'm going to make up stories about a person from 80 years ago, I'm not going to make up fictional cities to place him in.
Paul's letters are often dated only 20-50 years after Jesus' death.

Also - the oral tradition was still very strong in Israel (most rabbi's had the entire Torah memorized, which is FAR larger than of the gospels). This oral tradition was considered extremely accurate (more accurate than scribes) because the community of listeners would correct mistakes. The "game of telephone" analogy does not work when dozens of listeners and master teachers are around to correct even the slightest error in the story.

Paul's letters make several references to a gospel (which may have still been oral at this point) in his letters.

Of course, this does not prove they didn't make everything up - but there is quite a bit of evidence that "Christianity" (the most important bit is the fact that it even exists as a religion at all) started just after Jesus' death, with or without a formal gospel.

All that being said - the gospels are really the only picture of Jesus we have. You can agree it's a false image, but I think you can only do so based on faith/non-faith. There is nothing immediately outside of the gospels that directly discredits or proves their portrayal of Jesus. That is why the vast majority of the scholarship out there deals with what is written in the text.
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Old 08-05-2013, 02:48 AM   #56
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Paul's letters are often dated only 20-50 years after Jesus' death.
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

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Also - the oral tradition was still very strong in Israel (most rabbi's had the entire Torah memorized, which is FAR larger than of the gospels). This oral tradition was considered extremely accurate (more accurate than scribes) because the community of listeners would correct mistakes. The "game of telephone" analogy does not work when dozens of listeners and master teachers are around to correct even the slightest error in the story.
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?
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Old 08-05-2013, 10:40 AM   #57
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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
No, my point was that Paul was writing in real time of his own conversion experience, his interaction with the Apostles (those that were actually with Jesus), discussing the Christian walk, and explaining the intricacies of the Christian faith as early as 20-50 years after Jesus. This contradicts the point that Christianity was made up 80 years after Jesus died and that it was dependent on the written gospel.

Regarding the accuracy of the oral tradition - most of the research I've read comes from a Jewish or Christian author, and even though they site "secular" research - I doubt you would accept it.

Even if we reject the accuracy of the gospels - it is still the only record we have of what Jesus said and did. Trying to paint a total picture of Jesus outside of those gospels is not good science. Sure, you may be able to discover a little more about what food he possibly ate or what sort of home he possibly lived in - but that's really what you are limited to. You cannot accurately accept/reject anything about the story of Jesus Christ unless it is by debate of those texts.

For instance - you read the Gospel of John the other night. You came away with a picture of who Jesus was - but you were not convinced he was the Son of God, even though he claimed to be. You rejected his claim. And that's fine. That's a valid conclusion. But it wouldn't be valid if you read the same text and came away thinking Jesus a wall street trader.
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Old 08-05-2013, 11:15 AM   #58
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Am I the only one who thinks anything more than a dozen or so pages on 'historical' Jesus is mostly conjecture and a waste of time? How much information really exists about the man? (actual information. The bible doesn't count)
very little
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Old 08-05-2013, 12:07 PM   #59
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No, my point was that Paul was writing in real time of his own conversion experience, his interaction with the Apostles (those that were actually with Jesus), discussing the Christian walk, and explaining the intricacies of the Christian faith as early as 20-50 years after Jesus. This contradicts the point that Christianity was made up 80 years after Jesus died and that it was dependent on the written gospel.

Regarding the accuracy of the oral tradition - most of the research I've read comes from a Jewish or Christian author, and even though they site "secular" research - I doubt you would accept it.

Even if we reject the accuracy of the gospels - it is still the only record we have of what Jesus said and did. Trying to paint a total picture of Jesus outside of those gospels is not good science. Sure, you may be able to discover a little more about what food he possibly ate or what sort of home he possibly lived in - but that's really what you are limited to. You cannot accurately accept/reject anything about the story of Jesus Christ unless it is by debate of those texts.
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.

Whether the gospels support the claim that he's the son of God is kind of beside JT's point (correct me if I'm wrong here, JT).
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Old 08-05-2013, 12:25 PM   #60
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No, my point was that Paul was writing in real time of his own conversion experience, his interaction with the Apostles (those that were actually with Jesus), discussing the Christian walk, and explaining the intricacies of the Christian faith as early as 20-50 years after Jesus. This contradicts the point that Christianity was made up 80 years after Jesus died and that it was dependent on the written gospel.
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?

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Trying to paint a total picture of Jesus outside of those gospels is not good science.
And I'm arguing that using the text to claim a realistic profile of a real man is not good science either.

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For instance - you read the Gospel of John the other night. You came away with a picture of who Jesus was - but you were not convinced he was the Son of God, even though he claimed to be. You rejected his claim. And that's fine. That's a valid conclusion. But it wouldn't be valid if you read the same text and came away thinking Jesus a wall street trader.
Right. But I also, given the scarcity of evidence of the real man, come away believing that what I had just read were not factual accounts of actual events. I'm not doubting Jesus was a real person - the way he's shoe horned into the prophecies is reason enough to believe he existed - I'm doubting that there is any actual accounts of who he really was.


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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.

Whether the gospels support the claim that he's the son of God is kind of beside JT's point (correct me if I'm wrong here, JT).

And we'd need secondary sources if we really wanted to investigate the actual man.
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