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historicity of Jesus

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  • albertlh@SoCa.com
    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
    Message 1 of 2 , Oct 2, 2000
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      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
      Jesus.

      Leon Albert
      Temple City, CA
    • forrest curo
      ... Perhaps for the same reason I find it unlikely. To create a singular personage with wisdom, you need a creator with wisdom of his/her own. Bokonon has some
      Message 2 of 2 , Oct 3, 2000
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        >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.)

        Perhaps for the same reason I find it unlikely.

        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
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