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Re: [XTalk] historicity of Jesus

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  • Leon Albert
    Richard: Good point. I m reminded of that famous scene in A Miracle on 52th Street, where the existence of Santa was proved in court when the post office
    Message 1 of 13 , Oct 2, 2000
      Richard:

      Good point. I'm reminded of that famous scene in "A Miracle on 52th
      Street," where the existence of Santa was proved in court when the
      post office delivered bags of mail addressed to him. But...I assume
      Jim would would find a way around that were I to offer a similar
      demonstration of my own existence. The mind of the philosopher/
      theologian is often a wonder to behold.

      Leon
    • Sam Gibson
      This is so much fun. I was going to shave with a cheese grater but this is a little bit more entertaining. With respect to the group, I will attempt to tread
      Message 2 of 13 , Oct 2, 2000
        This is so much fun. I was going to shave with a cheese grater but this is a little bit more entertaining.
         
        With respect to the group, I will attempt to tread lightly as I think that if we are going to discuss this at all that we need to define our parameters. So... I have a question.
         
        >A. I started off questioning the existence of any relatively
        solid
        >   evidence for the existence of the historical Jesus,
        and asked
        >   for a prioritized listing of 5 such
        items.
         
        What would constitue as sufficient evidence? Short of a video tape, snapshots, etc, - what would you accept as "relatively solid evidence"?
         
        OK, OK... a couple more. If we take the answer to this first question and apply the same criteria to other figures from history that we accept existed a priori, how many of our historical figures will disappear? I think that we could pretty much say goodbye to Socrates, couldn't we? Anyone else?
         
        I will state that despite the (insert word here to keep Watts and Jerez out of my shirt - midrashing? mythologizing? embellishment? artistic license?) that occured within the gospels, we have at least one piece of evidence right there, if not two depending on the number of early sources you are willing to grant. We also have numerous historians (and I include Josephus, as the interpolation thing makes more sense to me rather than the whole thing being added to different manuscripts) who wrote about the Jesus movement (sometimes referred to as Christianity) and seemed to take the existence of an historical person as its founder for granted. That seems like evidence to me. Pushing the envelope on the whole argument from silence thing, how about the fact that there were Christians throughout the empire relatively early in the second half of the first century CE and no writings from anyone disputing the story that they spread? That's at least three and all that you will get from someone who only reads scholars and makes no claim to be one himself. I won't even claim that these are prioritized and leave that to someone else to do.
         
        I would ask that before the Jesus-Mythers tear my list apart (and does anyone really doubt that they will?), that they first deal with my questions at the top and apply them to some historical figures.
         
        Sincerely,
        Sam Gibson
         
         
         
      • Antonio Jerez
        ... Leon, what exactly are you trying to claim. That there were two different interpolators - one who wasn t as skillfull in soaking up Josephus style and
        Message 3 of 13 , Oct 4, 2000
          Leon Albert wrote:

          > 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!

          Leon,
          what exactly are you trying to claim. That there were two different
          interpolators - one who wasn't as skillfull in soaking up Josephus style
          and wrote the Testimonium Flavianum and another one who was very
          skillfull and wrote the passage about James? What evidence do you have
          for this? I do get the impression that you are arguing just for arguments
          sake.

          Best wishes

          Antonio Jerez
          Göteborg, Sweden
        • maertens
          Dear listers, I hope I don t join the discussion too late... In logic, the material truth and the formal truth of a statement are independent. Their validity
          Message 4 of 13 , Oct 5, 2000
            Dear listers,
             
            I hope I don't join the discussion too late...
             
            In logic, the material truth and the formal truth of a statement are independent. Their validity is situated on different levels. The material truth can only be stated by extrinsic elements. When one state "it rains", the material truth can only be established by checking out empirically. When there are no extrinsic elements, nothing can said about the material truth. Take the statement "x=y". If we don't know the value of one of the variables, we can't know if "x=y" is materially truth. But we can say that according to the statement "x=y".
            Applying this to the Gospels, this implies that they can't prove the historicity of Jesus. We only can say that according to Mark or Matthew or Luke or John, Jesus was so and so. The same counts for Josephus. It cannot be said that Josephus (if his reference is genuine) proves the historicity of Jesus. It can only be said that according to the text of Josephus, Jesus existed. So, no statement "en soi" can prove the existence of Jesus. But the concordance of different statements independent one from the other can be an indication that Jesus existed. So I guess that the question to provide 5 proofs of the existence of the HJ cannot be answered positively. One can only give convergent statements (which, taken independently, can of course be questioned on their historical value...). And having plausible reasons to estimate the HJ as  a reality (and not as a fabrication) does not imply the knowledge of his biographie.
             
             
            Best regards,
             
            Philip
          • Corey W. Liknes
            ... Yes, Philip, well said. Besides, in any undergraduate historiography class one learns that historians don t deal in facts but rather in inferences. If
            Message 5 of 13 , Oct 5, 2000
              >>So I guess that the question to provide 5 proofs of the existence of the HJ cannot be answered positively. One can only give convergent statements (which, taken independently, can of course be questioned on their historical value...). And having plausible reasons to estimate the HJ as  a reality (and not as a fabrication) does not imply the knowledge of his biographie
               
              Yes, Philip, well said. Besides, in any undergraduate historiography class one learns that historians don't deal in "facts" but rather in inferences. If one wanted 5 proofs (facts) of Jesus existence I suppose we could simply trot out each of the gospel accounts, letters of Paul, letters of other leaders in the earliest church, even Josephus orPilate (if my last posting was accurate -- no-one has mentioned it). Individually each of these testimonies can be questioned -- but together they do infer the existence of Jesus, at least they do to this historian's mind; especially when that information is coupled with the growth of the Christian community in the 1st century.
               
              There just doesn't seem to be a good reason for people to go through all this mythologizing if there was no singular personage around whose teachings this edifice could be built. If we were going to build a myth (or a mystery religion lets say) don't you think we would construct it to be more appealing than what we have in the gospels? I recall doing some work on the beginnings of the Masonic movement in the early 1800's. The rituals and ideas were designed specifically to appeal to urban, middle-class men who felt left out of what had become a "feminized" Christianity -- the myth served a purpose and appealed to a certain group. The Jesus myth appeals to no-one!
               
              I wonder if there are 5 definitive proofs that Jesus did not exist?
               
              Corey Liknes
               
            • Antonio Jerez
              Cory Liknes wrote: I foundf ... I do find the last comment strange: the Jesus myth appeals to no-one . Well it must have had an appeal from the beginning
              Message 6 of 13 , Oct 5, 2000
                 
                Cory Liknes wrote:
                I foundf
                >There just doesn't seem to be a good reason for people to go through all this mythologizing if there was no singular personage around
                >whose teachings this edifice could be built. If we were going to build a
                myth (or a mystery religion lets say) don't you think we would >construct it to be more appealing than what we have in the gospels? I recall doing some work on the beginnings of the Masonic >movement in the early 1800's. The rituals and ideas were designed specifically to appeal to urban, middle-class men who felt left out of >what had become a "feminized" Christianity -- the myth served a purpose and appealed to a certain group. The Jesus myth appeals to no->one!
                I do find the last comment strange: "the Jesus myth appeals to no-one". Well it must have had an
                appeal from the beginning since we know that some Jews and Pagans became Christian. And it
                still has appeal since people still become Christians. The promise of a saviour from heaven and
                eternal life to the faithful will always have an appeal to some people.
                But I do agree that the early Christians could have invented an even more easily appealing
                myth if they hadn't been constrained by some historical facts. Jesus crucifixion being the main
                one. What Paul, Mark, Matthew and the others had to do was to wrap the disgraceful execution
                in a package that would give it a positive meaning. They did this through creative reading of
                the OT and by finding proof texts that showed that it was all part of God's plan from the beginning.
                Paul walked around with a collection of these proof texts and their "correct" interpretation
                during his missionary journeys (see Acts 28:23). The gospels are an exampel of the process
                taken a step further - here we find the proof texts turned into a continous story that makes
                Jesus into the Suffering servant, Son of God and Son of Man (among other things).
                 
                 
                Best wishes
                 
                Antonio Jerez
                Göteborg, Sweden
              • Tony Buglass
                ... this mythologizing if there was no singular personage around whose teachings this edifice could be built. If we were going to build a myth (or a mystery
                Message 7 of 13 , Oct 6, 2000
                  Cory Liknes wrote:
                  >I found
                  >There just doesn't seem to be a good reason for people to go through all
                  this >mythologizing if there was no singular personage around >whose
                  teachings this edifice >could be built. If we were going to build a myth
                  (or a mystery religion lets say) don't you >think we would >construct it to
                  be more appealing than what we have in the gospels?

                  Antonio Jerez replied:
                  > it must have had an appeal from the beginning since we know that some
                  Jews and >Pagans became Christian. And it still has appeal since people
                  still become Christians. >The promise of a saviour from heaven and eternal
                  life to the faithful will always have an >appeal to some people.

                  > But I do agree that the early Christians could have invented an even more
                  easily >appealing myth if they hadn't been constrained by some historical
                  facts. Jesus >crucifixion being the main one. What Paul, Mark, Matthew and
                  the others had to do was >to wrap the disgraceful execution in a package
                  that would give it a positive meaning. >They did this through creative
                  reading of the OT and by finding proof texts that showed >that it was all
                  part of God's plan from the beginning. Paul walked around with a collection
                  >of these proof texts and their "correct" interpretation during his
                  missionary journeys (see >Acts 28:23). The gospels are an example of the
                  process taken a step further - here we >find the proof texts turned into a
                  continous story that makes Jesus into the Suffering >servant, Son of God
                  and Son of Man (among other things).

                  Yes, possibly - but why? Doesn't this just beg the question - there must
                  have been something about Jesus of Nazareth which was powerful enough to
                  drive this process. There were lots of other "failed Messiahs" who didn't
                  have an atoning death/vindicating resurrection mythology constructed around
                  them - what was it about Jesus that meant his followers couldn't let go?

                  Corey's question reminds me of the old story about the tourists in Ireland
                  asking how for directions, and getting the answer "Sure now, and if I was
                  going there, I wouldn't be starting from here." If the aim was to provide
                  another religion or mythology, there were lots of building blocks in
                  existing redeemer myths and cults - there was no need to include something
                  which was a scandal and a stumbling block. Unless it happened something
                  like that.

                  They were obviously "constrained by historical facts" (Antonio's phrase),
                  whether or not all those facts are accessible to us. The question is what
                  drove the Jesus movement in spite of unpalatable facts. Cognitive
                  dissonance isn't enough - Jesus' original followers might have had powerful
                  motivations for not wanting to go back to the old humdrum ways, but that
                  doesn't account for Paul. There has to be something in the resurrection
                  experiences which drove the movement to become what it did, otherwise there
                  would have been no need for Paul and co to apply the OT traditions as they
                  did.

                  Cheers,
                  Tony Buglass
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