historicity of Jesus
- Responding to Sam Gibson's contention that evidence for the HJ
"is there in spades" in contemporary writings (message 5107),
I requested, in effect, a prioritized listing of just five such
items of relatively solid evidence indicating that Jesus was
something more just a Markan midrashic creation (message 5108).
Corey Liknes (message 5109) argued that there is a "singular
personage," "a kernel of biographical truth even if we strip
away the miraculous and the mythic." I pointed out (message
5111) that writers of fiction create "singular personages"
every day, the implication being that this does not make them
into historical figures. (Bob Schacht said he did not find this
suggestion "very persuasive," but does not say why.)
But, what if we do remove the miraculous and the mythic elements
(I presume we are referring here to items such as those identified
by Lord Raglan in his THE HERO)? What if we also discount the
midrashic elements, from biographical details through the passion
to underlying themes such as Wisdom personified and the rightous
suffering servant (re: B. Mack, A MYTH OF INNOCENCE,1988)? Suppose
we also strip away the non-singular rabbinic-type teachings (such
as are identified by Robert M.Price in his DECONSTRUCTING JESUS,
2000,pp 253-257)? What if we also remove the teachings that so
remarkably resemble the popular cynic philosophy of the time (Re:
Price and B. Mack's THE LOST GOSPEL)? Now delete even the very
Greek style of argumentation (re: Mack's RHETORIC AND THE NEW
TESTAMENT, 1990, and Mack and Robbins' PATTERNS OF PERSUATION IN
THE GOSPELS). And, what if we finally remove the contributions of
the mystery religions (e.g., the dying-rising salvic god-man, and
the sacred meal) that came to Mark via Paul? What then remains of
the "singular personage?"
Beyond this, as argued so persuasively by Earl Doherty at his web
site and in his book, THE JESUS PUZZLE, 1999, why do the NT
writings outside of the gospels, and the writings of the early
church make no reference to the "historical" Jesus depicted in
the gospels? Compare Jeffrey Gibson's Article for Review,
"Markan Fabrications: the Denial of Peter," which utilizes a
similar "argument from silence."
Bob Schacht very kindly pointed me to the June Cross-talk
discussion on Josephus and Jesus. While Schacht and liknes appear
to be at least somewhat convinced that the references to Jesus in
Josephus are not christian interpolations, I came away with just
the opposite impression (an impression reinforced by the more
current discussion - re Ken Olson's postings). Again, I was
particularly impressed by Doherty's arguments at http://www.magi
com/~oblio/jesus/supp10.htm (excuse me, I've yet to figure out
how to embed web addresses on my system).
Jerez's (9/30) contention that the alleged christian interpolator
would have to have been a "master forger" who "soaked up"
josephus' literary style perfectly fails at several points. If
the interpolator was a professional scribe producing a copy of
josephus' work, he would have naturally been "soaked" in his
style. The greco-roman school system required students to
replicate/imitate the styles of the models they studied.
Originality was not, then as now, all that desired by the
acadamies. Moreover, as Doherty points out very relevently, the
christian interpolator obviously did not "soak up" Josephus's
avowed aversion to rebellious Jews (which a "crucified" Jesus
would just as obviously have been). The interpolator also
apparently did not "soak up" Josephus' expressed opinion that
a Roman emperor was the messiah!
I agree with Jerez that historical "founders" of religions are
commonly mythologized. Price (2000) points this out with respect
to Ali and the shi'ites (pp. 240-241), and with respect to Rabbi
Schneerson and Hasidic Judaism (pp. 228ff). But, he also
identifys cases of totally mythological figures that were
historicized, e.g., William Tell. There may indeed have been an
actual historical figure, somewhere, sometime, that was, at least
in part, the grain, the bit of sand in the oyster around which
a pearl grows, that is somehow related to the figure we call
Temple City, CA
>I pointed out (messagePerhaps for the same reason I find it unlikely.
>5111) that writers of fiction create "singular personages"
>every day, the implication being that this does not make them
>into historical figures. (Bob Schacht said he did not find this
>suggestion "very persuasive," but does not say why.)
To create a singular personage with wisdom, you need a creator with wisdom
of his/her own. Bokonon has some good things to say, but you don't get
Bokonon without Kurt Vonnegut, who is in his own way a holy man in the
wilderness: clever, not always right, but standing bravely for the
transcending value of human suffering and happiness. (Jesus would differ
from him, in insisting that happiness without truth is not a viable
long-term possibility--and that while "we" are more temporary than we
realize, our spirits are not.)
In First-Century Judea, there were not too many publishing outlets for
fiction, as such. A sudden epidemic of wisdom among the peasantry is
possible, but unlikely, particularly one that taught a group of people to
speak and write in aphorisms of great elegance and depth. If instead, we
have one aphorist of great wisdom and distinctive poetic talent, would he
have invented fictions about Jesus and found a publisher? If he had such
fictions, wouldn't he have had to spread them about orally? And once he
did, what would have been the likely fate of such an author, in that time
and place, except to be killed by the Roman authorities, probably
encouraged by their Jewish collaborators? Might this author's name have
been 'Jesus,' a common enough name at the time? Or were Jesus' sayings said
by someone with a different name?
The creature of John and the church, the speaker of long, seemingly
meglomaniac discources evidently about himself, embodying that uniquely
tenacious and profitable meme: "Believe the right doctrine (what the church
says I say) about me and you don't have to die!"--seems to me a plausible
candidate for fictional character. (The meme served to carry the real
message, as a modified cold virus carries more desirable material in modern
genetic manipulations.) But this person is far from the man quoted in the
synoptics: "He who would save his life shall lose it."
I know, people of great spiritual discernment have found worthwhile truths
in John, interpreted symbolically, but only because they were finding those
truths in themselves.
Paul, a writer of some eloquence, who understood at least dimly a great
deal of what Jesus had to say, was not able to write anything of comparible
density and power. A handful of light-hearted socially-experimental
Hellenised residents of one of the Galilean cities, the gated communities
of their day?--no, I don't think so.
Forrest Curo again