Tuesday, September 16, 2008

 

Billy dismisses all things theological

ORIGINALLY POSTED SEPT. 5. ... IT IS *STILL* ALIVE & KICKING. AND MOSTLY SNARK-FREE.

Somebody feel free to come to my temporary aid. Rian's strategy seems to be the rope-a-dope, and I'm about pooped. Yes, I realize that I'm the dope in that equation! Thanks to Alan for his generally amiable perseverance.

I think I consider less-than-hardshell atheism -- and I consider any atheist who is ALWAYS talking about atheism to be less than hardshell -- my mission field. Not to persuade them. Just to stand there and not be a judgmental jerk (at least not very often).

--ER


Billy, one of the UK atheists I enjoy bantering with, has a couple of interesting posts up. Some of y'all will enjoy them, especially the comments, I mean, and I encourage you to go ye therefore and engage.

Billy gets a letter to the editor, trouncing all theology, published in the Metro, which is sort of a British version of "USA TODAY" for commuters.

Billy, self-declared "atheist until such times as someone produces some real evidence that does not constitute wishful thinking, lying or recycled mythology," says, "Convince me that Jesus existed," and poses questions that, I guess, he thinks no Christians have ever asked themselves.

Seriously, we've kept it amiable. This is no invitation to fuss. I just find him interesting.

--ER

Comments:
Ah, the apples n' oranges are at it again, I see.

I recently found myself saying out loud that I don't really talk about religion with strangers any more, because it's mostly a matter of opinion, and I'm not trying to change anyone's mind, while I deeply suspect that there's lots of people who'd change mine if they could.

Funny thing about it is, I think I may very well have said, "Belief just Is," or something pretty close to what you said about theology over there.

And of course, a reason to talk about it is that it is a subject pretty constantly on the minds of most people on Earth, but still...
 
"Convince me that Jesus existed"

I used to think that such things were the crux of my faith. That has long since past.

In my studies I ran across the Buddha Guan Yin. She is:
"Guanyin and the Thousand Arms:
One Buddhist legend presents Guan Yin as vowing to never rest until she had freed all sentient beings from samsara, reincarnation. Despite strenuous effort, she realized that still many unhappy beings were yet to be saved. After struggling to comprehend the needs of so many, her head split into eleven pieces. Amitabha Buddha, seeing her plight, gave her eleven heads with which to hear the cries of the suffering. Upon hearing these cries and comprehending them, Avalokitesvara attempted to reach out to all those who needed aid, but found that her two arms shattered into pieces. Once more, Amitabha came to her aid and appointed her a thousand arms with which to aid the many."

Avaloitesvara a.k.a. Guanyin came into Buddhism around the time that the Nestorian Christian entered Nepal and China. It seems that Jesus may have metamorphosised in to the Buddha Quan yin , who is also venerated as an immortal in Taoism.

So I guess what I am saying is, if the effect is real, does the cause have to be real as well?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guan_Yin

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nestorianism
 
LOL, am I the apple or the orange? :-)

DrLobo, maybe I have a Nestorian streak ...
 
Same old same old... I grew up hearing all this stuff from my father.
Doesn't even cause my heart to stir.
I know what I know, and what always amazes me is that I find my knowledge mirrored in all sorts of other people's experiences, throughout the ages.
So it's not just me...
 
Ah, the apples n' oranges are at it again, I see.

Not sure this analogy works...

Science and theology are more different than two fruits

Maybe 'the old testable and untestable are at it again' might be closer?

Or the ‘shown to be useful and no use found’ would be either better?

I used to think that such things were the crux of my faith. That has long since past.

So Jesus actually existing isn't important anymore to a Christian?

Lee
 
Here's another place where I have nothing to add as far as theological insights go, but...

The Asian art wing of the Portland Art Museum has a fantastic representation of the Guanyin Bodhisattva. It's from the fourth or fifth century B.C., and it is made of wood. Therefore; the damn thing's old, and pretty fragile.

It has a motion senser alarm in front of it, which howls if someone touches it. One day, I heard it going off in one long, extended blast as opposed to the short burst I was used to hearing.

I found an old woman standing there, hand on the leg of the guanyin. I said, "So you hear that annoying alarm, right? That's because you're standing here touching this ancient, insanely fragile thing."

"Yes, but it's so tactile," she said.

"Yes it is," I said. "But it also has had to have its leg replaced at least once since we've owned it, since it is very old and made of wood. As far as 'tactile' goes: so is the wall. Maybe you should touch that."

There may or may not be an allegory here. I'll leave it to the more allegorical amongst y'all.
 
Rich, oooh, that story requires some thought. But at first blush, I'd say, echoing DrLobo's point: If she thought it was, but it wasn't, but it gave her the desired effect, then it was actually was. For her, which is what mattered, to her. :-)
 
Lee said, " "Ah, the apples n' oranges are at it again, I see.' Not sure this analogy works ... Science and theology are more different than two fruits."

No, they're not, if by "fruit," in the analogy, one means, "method used to learn."

Re, "Maybe 'the old testable and untestable are at it again' might be closer?"

Not closer. You're the only one insisting on scientific "testability" as a way to judge the worth of theology.

Re, Lee saud: "Or the ‘shown to be useful and no use found’ would be either better?"

Don't be so insulting. Obviously, I find it useful, or I wouldn't pursue it. You have yet to give me any reason for me to stop. So, gosh, we disagree on how useful theology is. No need to be an ass about it.

Lee said, quoting DrLoboJo: "I used to think that such things were the crux of my faith. That has long since past." Then Lee said, "So Jesus actually existing isn't important anymore to a Christian?"

DrLoboJo? He's talking to you, not me.
 
Re a Lee statement: "DrLoboJo? He's talking to you, not me."

No ER, he's not talking to me. He is talking to himself, simplifying something that he doesn't understand into something that he does, transforming the mystical into the astigmatic myopic.
 
Ha.

One, "simplifying something that he doesn't understand into something that he does"

Like every other fundamentalist.


Two, "transforming the mystical into the astigmatic myopic"

THAT is a beautiful phrase.
 
Don't be so insulting. Obviously, I find it useful, or I wouldn't pursue it.

I’m not insulting you ER so please don’t take offence. I’m sure theology can ‘stand up’ for itself by showing its usefulness if needs be.

Look, some people like stamp collecting, just because I find it a waste of time doesn’t mean I will insult those that do enjoy it.

Lucky for me though stamp collectors know their value.

You have yet to give me any reason for me to stop.

Not trying to stop you… if you enjoy it, go for it. It can be very interesting I am sure… just trying to get two theologians to agree must be fun in itself.

So, gosh, we disagree on how useful theology is. No need to be an ass about it.

I hit a raw bone somehow – sorry.

This is what happens when I try and be brief.

I don’t mean to ‘be an ass about it’ just wanted to comment quickly – I better take more time it appears next time so I do not offend anyone.

My apologies again – but I hope you know me well enough to know I was not trying to insult any person here – just challenging and questioning ideas.

No ER, he's not talking to me.

I’m just amazed that the existence of Jesus is NOT important to a Christian – no more, no less.

He is talking to himself

It does seem like that at times…

simplifying something that he doesn't understand into something that he does, transforming the mystical into the astigmatic myopic.

You are right about my understanding… Christianity without Jesus – I didn’t think it was possible. You have shown me wrong once again.

Have to go now to a BBQ.

Sorry again for being brief.

See ya

Lee
 
THAT is a beautiful phrase.

I can think of an English one that describes it better - but my humour may not be working here so I will say nothing.

Have to go

Lee
 
I do so like it when Lee comes around, has his limitations and ignorance exposed, and then insists he didn't actually say what he quite clearly said.

My response to people like Lee is simple - you do not know what you're talking about. Bye-bye.

Rude? Yes. Trying to explain to Lee that science is a wonderful tool for doing all sorts of things, but very limited things all the same is a bit like trying to explain Picasso's Blue Period to someone who doesn't get art. If you don't get it, you don't get it. If you can't find beauty in Picasso, me trying to explain it to you will only reduce what is, in the end, inexplicable. Same thing with religion. He doesn't believe? I'm not asking him to, and I do not believe anyone here is, either. He, however, is most definitely demanding that we produce an answer that only he can judge as correct.

Sounds a bit authoritarian to me. I'd rather not play that game.
 
Hi Geoffrey Kruse-Safford,

I do so like it when Lee comes around

Oh thanks… glad to make you happy

has his limitations and ignorance exposed

Happens all the time… though I don’t find this problem - I actually want to be ‘exposed’ so I can learn further.

So what limitiation and ignorance have I exposed today? I don't agree with you so you say I am ignorant? Nice

and then insists he didn't actually say what he quite clearly said.

Eh? I clearly wrote what I wrote… you can see that by just scrolling up the page a bit – the problem seems to be I was 'understood' as if I was trying to offend.

Not so.

If I wanted to insult and offend people I’m sure it would not be difficult – thing is, I don’t want to do that.

That is what I was apologising for – nothing more.

I don't see any value in theology, plain and simple.

If you want to convince me otherwise then please do, I am open to your argument/evidence/reasoning.

My response to people like Lee is simple - you do not know what you're talking about.

Fair enough, I never said I did of course – but I can offer an opinion which I did.

Bye-bye.

Nice speaking to you :-)

Rude? Yes.

It's not the worst I've heard so I guess I got of lightly

Trying to explain to Lee that science is a wonderful tool for doing all sorts of things, but very limited things all the same is a bit like trying to explain Picasso's Blue Period to someone who doesn't get art.

Would you want to try and convince me that understanding ‘Picasso's Blue Period’ will gain me a greater understanding on how the universe works, or maybe how to improve the quality of life for the sick?

I am all ears…

No?

So you are not giving a fair comparison.

I've no problem with music, art, sport etc… all wonderful stuff in their own right – but these do NOT make claims about any understanding of the universe.

Religion with it’s theology is trying to do just that… explain the universe, it fails in my book. Unless you want to show me otherwise?

No? Just wish to shoot the messenger? No problems…

If you don't get it, you don't get it. If you can't find beauty in Picasso, me trying to explain it to you will only reduce what is, in the end, inexplicable. Same thing with religion. He doesn't believe?
I'm not asking him to, and I do not believe anyone here is, either.


True, and I am not asking you to throw any your theology either if it makes you happy… just if you wish to suggest it helps understand the universe – show it.

At the moment all I hear is that theology is a little like art… if you like, you like – if you don’t, you don’t… all rather subjective then isn’t it? Pretty meaningless.

So like one form of art, another likes a different form.

Nice and pretty pictures... isn't that sweet?

Does it solve anything? Answer anything? No... enough said.

He, however, is most definitely demanding that we produce an answer that only he can judge as correct.

Sounds a bit authoritarian to me.


Interesting… Only I can judge? You have missed the point

I'd rather not play that game.

OK

Lee
 
Picking apart an argument in the fashion Lee does is a wonderful demonstration of his ability to change the meaning of words to fit his style.

You claim that my analogy of attempting to explain art is wrong because it doesn't explain how the universe works. Art has nothing to do with the workings of the Universe? Beauty is not a part of the Universe? The human species' ability to translate that perception of beauty in to something ineffable, yet very specific is not a part of the Universe?

This is what I mean. Words mean things, yet Lee is as much a literalist as any Christian fundamentalist, displaying an inability to grasp the simple fact that words are used to mean many things, sometimes simultaneously. Religion offers a way of living with and in the world; in that sense, as much as it may be a human attempt to grasp at what is ungraspable, it nevertheless, simply by existing, is part and parcel of the Universe, and therefore helps explain how the Universe works simply by being.

If he means, however, that the analogy is inapt because it doesn't explain the mechanics of the Universe, well obviously not. That's why we have celestial mechanics. If he is confused, I can recommend a few good works. If he thinks that at its core, religious belief concerns itself with such mundane matters as the motions of the start and galaxies, that proves he doesn't know what he is talking about.

Now, I realize that there are Christians who do believe this about their religious faith. That's OK. That doesn't make them right, and even a cursory examination of the history of pretty much any religious belief will expose the fact that, other than certain mythological trappings (creation stories, etc.), they do not concern themselves with such things. Reducing all of Christian faith to certain relatively recent developments among a very small but vocal minority is intellectually dishonest and ignorant as well.
 
Geoffrey,

I have to disagree. Art is useful because it is testable. (Clearly the two words are synonyms.) That is, the value (ie. usefulness) of art is testable. Didn't your college Art History textbooks have lists of equations on the inside back cover like mine did? everyone knows that the value of art can be expressed via the following relationship:

value = inflation + price at last auction.

See? Completely testable. Picasso's work is valuable because people buy it. It, of course, has no other value to teach us about the world, our feelings, our thoughts, our understandings of ourselves and each other, because those so-called Picasso scholars can't agree on precisely what every piece of his work means, thus the entire enterprise is useless. All that matters is that a particular painting matches the drapes and the couch.

Sheesh, Geoffrey, and I thought you were educated. You should engage in a serious, deep, broad, and thorough study of art. I suggest reading blog comments.
 
The teacher in me has sucumb to Lee's statement, knowing what the outcome will be, even so:

"You are right about my understanding… Christianity without Jesus – I didn’t think it was possible."

Guan Yin is Jesus. Jesus is real even if he did not exist in history. If he walked the face of the earth, the better it is. What we worship of him today however bears small relationship to that entity if he was there.

And of course God is science but science is not God.
 
A couple things: I suppose that story of mine about the statue and the wall suggests that divinity resides within them both, and...

The apples and oranges thing was just my way of saying that there will probably not be any common ground found in this particular discussion, even though it's always worth it to try.

I just wrote a post in which my girlfriend and I find a copy of whatever Alcoholics Anonymous calls their bible -'cuz that's pretty much what it is, all the way down to Bill W. more or less being St. Paul- lying on the beach. We cracked a couple of beers, and sat down to check it out.

Thing is, the whole reason for that whole "higher power" descriptor in lieu of just "God" is that apparently Bill W. really despised religion. Really, really hated it; he goes on at length about how much. But for some reason, he's okay with an amorphous Something, and it caused him to have strength enough to quit drinking.

So as long as it's indefinable, it's okay? That's pretty much what I took away from it.
 
Rich, as a young man I became acquainted with many recovering alcoholics (the story is too long to tell here), and one told me a story about a man he knew whose higher power was . . . the doorknob to his apartment. Knowing that, should he choose to use that doorknob to leave his apartment, he would go buy alcohol and drink, he understood that it was the key to his sobriety, at least at that point in time.

There are recovering addicts who are devout Christians. There are atheists in recovery who see "higher power" as a euphemism for whatever "thing" an individual chooses to invest with the power to assist them in their return to sobriety and sanity. Bill W. may have been non-religious, but he understood that there is a difference between helplessness and empowerment.
 
Alan, you are a wit! :-)

I don't know about a lot of things, but I think the bald assertion that the man Jesus never existed to be about the most ludicrous thing to come from "the opposition," as it were. Gah!

Tell it to Paul. Tell it to Peter. Tell it to Mary. Tell it to the rest of the earliest followers.

Now, is the historical Jesus, whatever that means, covered in layer after layer of myth? Sure. Hell's bells, Ronald Reagan is covered in layer after layer of myth, and his body is barely cool, relatively speaking. So what?

LOL. Not even the Jesus Seminar people -- not friends of orthodoxy! -- say the man Jesus didn't exist.

Gah again. I'd give such an assertion an edge over the equally ludicrous claim made that evil doesn't exists just because of that boneheaded character in red tights, with horns, toting a trident.

Bah.
 
Phew... that could have been worse. I was worried how much mud was going to fly on this one.

Everyone still playing with words – that’s nice.

ER,

For the record, I don’t recall saying anywhere that Jesus (the man) did NOT exist.

Whether he did and didn’t isn’t important to me (of course) It is the claims attributed to him that I challenge.

It is clear with some of the comments here that such facts about whether the man existed or not are not important one way or the other their faith (which I cannot understand, I freely admit that).

What I have said is that from what little we have in the written record, we cannot know with any certainty specific details about the man. This includes were he was born, lived, how he died or indeed whether such a person really existed.

The strongest evidence for me that Jesus the man did exist is that fact the gospels go to so much trouble to shoe horn prophecy onto him. If Jesus never existed, why bother? That said, we don’t know if many ‘Jesus’ folk existed and the ‘history’ just got mixed up. It isn’t as clear as I would have expect for claims attributed to Jesus, but that’s just me

Lee
 
Lee, Lee, Lee - you contradict yourself so quickly my head hurts from snapping around so fast.

What I have said is that from what little we have in the written record, we cannot know with any certainty specific details about the man. This includes were he was born, lived, how he died or indeed whether such a person really existed.

The strongest evidence for me that Jesus the man did exist is that fact the gospels go to so much trouble to shoe horn prophecy onto him. If Jesus never existed, why bother? That said, we don’t know if many ‘Jesus’ folk existed and the ‘history’ just got mixed up. It isn’t as clear as I would have expect for claims attributed to Jesus, but that’s just me


If anyone can follow the logic in that, as well as the historical ignorance, please tell me exactly how to unjumble it.

Setting aside the lack of any logical thread in those paragraphs, as well as the whole "Did Jesus really exist?" hoo-hah, let us just take the whole "we cannot know with any certainty" thing. Now, Lee, as I understand it, is British, but let us assume he is at least casually following the American Presidential campaign. In the past two weeks, the Republican nominee for VP has repeatedly stated that she opposed a prominent federally funded project known in the press as "The Bridge to Nowhere". In fact, the record is quite clear that she supported that project. Furthermore, her support came in the form of lobbying for more funds after the project was canceled. It is important to note that these events took place before she was elected Governor of Alaska. She saw the federal funds coming in through the Juneau Bridge and Highway project as part of a larger program of federal largesse, and she was hoping for a piece of the pie for her village of Wasilia.

This has been pointed out again and again, just in the past two weeks, viz., that she is lying. Yet she continues to do it in order to confuse enough people who aren't aware of the details about whether or not events transpired in the way she describes them, or her opponents.

This all has occurred in the past two weeks. Now, Lee wants "certainty" about events that happened two thousand years ago. Of course, he doesn't tell us what "certainty" means for him, assuming I guess that we all know what the word means. Me, I'm fairly "certain" that it is Sunday evening, that I live in the state of IL, that I have two beautiful daughters and a wife who loves me. Beyond that, all bets are off for me, and I have no clue what relevance "certainty" would play outside that small circle of immediate understanding.

As Lee says, however, that's just me.
 
"Art is useful because it is testable."

And measureable = Phi.
 
And measurable as in = Phi = Φ = golden ratio = 1:1.6 ... = 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, ... and so on and so forth balance, beauty, and gravity.
 
Hi Geoffrey Kruse-Safford

Lee, Lee, Lee - you contradict yourself so quickly my head hurts from snapping around so fast.

Don’t mean to cause you any pain... I am obviously blind to my contradictions, so I look forward to being put straight on the matter.

If anyone can follow the logic in that, as well as the historical ignorance, please tell me exactly how to unjumble it.

I didn’t know my use of language was so confusing – but I will apologise for it anyway.

Which bit did you not understand or wasn’t clear?

Let’s see if I can dig my hole any larger for you – I will try and break it down and reword where necessary.

What I have said is that from what little we have in the written record, we cannot know with any certainty specific details about the man.

Are you getting hung up on ‘certainty’ or ‘specific’?

I meant in a historical sense – the same certainty I know when, say, Henry VIII married his wives or which battles he thought as king. Too much to ask?

Hope that makes it clearer.

This includes were he was born, lived, how he died or indeed whether such a person really existed.

Well, the bible does say one thing (well, some things actually)... but then of course there other writings such as the gnostic gospels - do you think they agree with one another?

Does the Jesus in the bible agree with the Jesus in the gnostic gospels?

This was the problem I am trying to highlight – does this make more sense now?


The strongest evidence for me that Jesus the man did exist is [the] fact the gospels go to so much trouble to shoe horn prophecy onto him. If Jesus never existed, why bother?

Does this part of my reply confuse you still? I did make a silly typo – so sorry about that.

You realise of course that some people use the writing in the Old Testament as prophecy for Jesus coming – you must also know that this prophecy wasn’t actually that good – hence my ‘shoe horning prophecy’ statement.

Why else have they written about a virgin Mary giving birth in Bethlehem? A little silly if you ask me – but you won’t

That said, we don’t know if many ‘Jesus’ folk existed and the ‘history’ just got mixed up. It isn’t as clear as I would have expect for claims attributed to Jesus, but that’s just me

Looking at the bible and Gnostic gospels, do you think they are talking about the same Jesus? Which version is correct and why?

Oh, and where was my contradiction precisely? You have not said, I am still too blind to see

Setting aside the lack of any logical thread in those paragraphs

Was my English that confusing for you? I am sorry – I’m no philosopher or anything – but you are getting me worried about my English.

as well as the whole "Did Jesus really exist?" hoo-hah

As I said, I don’t have a problem with this – I talk about how much we actually do know about Jesus and no more. I don’t think we can be certain (oh know there that’s word again) on much

What has surprised me on this thread are those who I thought were Christians saying that whether Jesus existed or not isn’t important. Don’t shoot me – it wasn’t I who said this.

let us just take the whole "we cannot know with any certainty" thing.

I should have guessed this would be jumped upon – I will have to be more careful with my words.

Now, Lee, as I understand it, is British, but let us assume he is at least casually following the American Presidential campaign.

I am British living in Australia – if that helps.

And no, I’m not really following the campaign, would it make a difference if I did?

Now, Lee wants "certainty" about events that happened two thousand years ago. Of course, he doesn't tell us what "certainty" means for him, assuming I guess that we all know what the word means.

I will repeat what I said at the beginning of this reply – ‘historical certainty’.

This is pretty vague certainty – but maybe it is something we can agree on.

Let’s just say as much certainty as I have for Socrates walking around and teaching stuff

Though of course, this chap never performed any miracles.

Lee
 
ER: Tell it to Paul. Tell it to Peter. Tell it to Mary. Tell it to the rest of the earliest followers.
Paul doesn't seem to know much of anything about Jesus as presented in the gospels (written much later, of course), not much of anything concerning an historic Jesus at all.

ER: LOL. Not even the Jesus Seminar people -- not friends of orthodoxy! -- say the man Jesus didn't exist.

The Jesus seminar folk, I seem to recall, assumed the historicity of Jesus, and attempted to remove the mythical elements.
 
Howdy, Rian.

Granted, Paul, as far as we know, wrote nothing that is echoed later in the Gospels. Beyond that, it depends on what your definition of "historical" is: I accept Paul's claim that he met the risen Christ as historical.

Jesus Seminar: I don't think that accurately chatacterized their work. Drlobojo, you know their work better than I do. What say ye?
 
Glad to see you attempt to take art up a notch in Lee's estimation, DrLobojo. Somebody needed to.
 
ER: I accept Paul's claim that he met the risen Christ as historical.
Pauls "meeting" of the risen Jesus, being some light and noise, is also easily explained by temporal lobe epilespy, among other things. He describes his encounter as revelatory or spiritual, not physical. He also also equates the appearances to the others (1 Corinthians 15:3-9) as being of the same kind - revelation or a spiritual encounter, not the physical encounters we find in the gospels. Assuming that it was Paul who wrote that, and not a later redactor.

ER: Jesus Seminar: I don't think that accurately chatacterized their work.
Granted it is from wikipedia, but:
"The scholars attending attempt to reconstruct the life of the historical Jesus."
Seems to indicate that they start with the belief there was an historical jesus. Glad to be shown wrong, as I'd like to read their reasoning for accepting Jesus as an historical figure :-)
 
Initially the JS was "seeking the historical Jesus." Now they have actually assumed the existence of Jesus and are seeking his "historical voice". In fact several of the fellows are atheist and there are others that don't believe Jesus was a historical personage. They vote using the principle that if he were real this is what he would have said.

There are a myriad of sources that claim and give "proofs" that Jesus existed, didn't exist, was a fabrication of Emperor Vespasian, was a Essene, was a fabrication of Paul based on the Greek God-Man, and so forth.
Most people who study Jesus study him from a pre-conceived view point and are simply trying to compile sources supporting their own belief and position. Thus most of what "sells" about Jesus is polar opposites in content.

If you want to break away, and study him anew, I would first recomend an old book: Albert Schweitzers "The Quest of the Historical Jesus (1906)". From there on read 'radical' and a full range of such.
 
Lee, your detailed exegesis only showed that there was no logical thread through the comment I cited. You also admit a carelessness with words which, while certainly understandable (this is a blog comment, not a graduate school seminar), makes the point clearly enough.

As for "historical certainty" - all that does is beg the question once again. Ask a practicing historian what "certainty" means, and all you get is a shrug. Some might cite baptismal records, or birth certificates, or other such data. Others might cite something else. Yet, since all of this data is itself produced by human beings and therefore subject to limitations, most historians take it with a grain of salt. For example, Shakespeare's birth date is usually calculated from his baptismal record, but how can we know whether or not his parents did things the usual way?

I have a biography of Geoffrey Chaucer. The problem with Chuacer's life is there are few records of his life other than his writings. In fact, he just disappears from history. There is no record of his death, no grave, no signature somewhere of the ritual of Christian burial. Does that mean he didn't die? It only means we have no idea when he died. Or how.

The entire premise behind your supposed doubt shows that, in fact, you really don't understand the issues involved. Even though you concede that you accept that a person with the Hellenized name of Jesus lived two thousand years ago, you doubt that the build-up of legend and Divinely-inspired myth about him accords with what you might consider historical fact.

You sound like a New Testament scholar.
 
Hi, Rian:

Re, "He describes his encounter as revelatory or spiritual, not physical."

I know, but that doesn't make it not historical. On the "assumption" thing -- a great word, that, for stating a logical position, much less valuable for most other things -- I think they all agreed from the outset that Jesus existed in history. No mroe assumption needed, perhaps, than for me to "assume" my wife; she simply (and wonderfully complicatedly) IS.
 
Hi ER,

Glad to see you attempt to take art up a notch in Lee's estimation, DrLobojo. Somebody needed to.

I like art – I just don’t go to a painter when I am feeling ill.

+++++++++

Hi Geoffrey Kruse-Safford,

Lee, your detailed exegesis only showed that there was no logical thread through the comment I cited.

Then I am stupid and I apologise – I cannot see the problem, it seems rather clear to me but then I did write it.

If you have any difficulties understanding my points, could you tell me which ones are so confusing to you?

I will, as I said, try and re-phrase them.

Just telling that I am wrong will not help me improve unless you tell me why I am wrong. If you want to move the discussion forward, this is what is required it seems.

Thanks

You also admit a carelessness with words

This happens all the time with me – so guilty as charged.

Sorry for any confusion caused as I said.

which, while certainly understandable (this is a blog comment, not a graduate school seminar), makes the point clearly enough.

Not really – one word “that” instead of “the” ??? You want to crucify me for that?

A small amount of imagination could have resolved this grammatical mistake – you have been reading blogs for sometime so I am sure you have found the need to substitute the occasional word here and there to make sense of what author was trying to say?

I feel like I am back at school.... I’ll go stand in the corner should I?

As for "historical certainty" - all that does is beg the question once again.

Are we playing words again? This could start to get dull...

Ask a practicing historian what "certainty" means, and all you get is a shrug.

Ask a practicing historian what "historical certainty" means... they might know what you are getting it; they understand their limits after all.

However, since you are so hung up on this phrase of mine - could you help me out, what simple phrase or word should I be using for the ‘conviction’ a historian has in their data, in just a couple of words?

Remembering of course that the historian knows and understands the limitation in their field.

Thanks again.

Some might cite baptismal records, or birth certificates, or other such data. Others might cite something else. Yet, since all of this data is itself produced by human beings and therefore subject to limitations, most historians take it with a grain of salt.

It adds up... maybe to a pillar of salt.

For example, Shakespeare's birth date is usually calculated from his baptismal record, but how can we know whether or not his parents did things the usual way?

Or indeed whether Shakespeare the man actually existed :-)

I have a biography of Geoffrey Chaucer. The problem with Chuacer's life is there are few records of his life other than his writings.

So Chaucer is one step up on Jesus... no writing known from Jesus :-)

In fact, he just disappears from history. There is no record of his death, no grave, no signature somewhere of the ritual of Christian burial. Does that mean he didn't die?

Erm... let me think now.

What is more likely – an immortal writer, or missing records?

The entire premise behind your supposed doubt shows that, in fact, you really don't understand the issues involved.

You have not actually addressed any of the problems I have highlighted.

Nice trick :-)

I think it is you who do not understand the issues involved – the written record you have for Jesus is contradictory (or do you think otherwise... you have not challenged this point – can I assume you agree? If not, please say why you disagree and don’t just ignore the point)

So although contradictory evidence “could” be used as evidence for a Jesus existence all those years ago - you cannot learn, with any confidence, much about the man.

To try and illustrate my point... please tell me what YOU think you know about Jesus, then we can assess the level of confidence we should have in each point you make. Let’s see where historians agree or disagree.

Would this be fair?

I am arguing after all that we cannot have much certainty – you claim otherwise, so lets compare notes

Even though you concede that you accept that a person with the Hellenized name of Jesus lived two thousand years ago

I have no problem in accepting a person lived 2,000 year ago... lots of people lived back then :-)

you doubt that the build-up of legend and Divinely-inspired myth about him accords with what you might consider historical fact.

Myth and legend – how very interesting.

You used the phrase ‘Divinely-inspired’ as well, you have now inserted an unknown – God – can you can justify this claim? No? Then why did you use it in this discussion?

I thought we were only talking about what (if anything) about the man known as Jesus can be gained from history – I didn’t know you wanted to prove the existence of God in this conversation first?

Also, I spoke of ‘historical certainty’ (the fool that I am) and you attacked me with your “ask a practicing historian...” issue...

NOW you throw out “historical fact”... what should I make of this?

You sound like a New Testament scholar.

Erm... thanks?

Lee
 
ER: I know, but that doesn't make it not historical.
It could well be an historical event. I have no problem with the assertion that people suffered from mental illness in the past :-)

ER: On the "assumption" thing -- a great word, that, for stating a logical position, much less valuable for most other things -- I think they all agreed from the outset that Jesus existed in history. No mroe assumption needed, perhaps, than for me to "assume" my wife; she simply (and wonderfully complicatedly) IS.
Ahh, but your wife currently exists, and should I want to verify that it would be a simple (yet somewhat expensive) exercise to travel to where you live and see her etc.
For this Jesus fellow you're equating her to, all we have are documents which seem to contain so many mythical elements, that upon removing them you're left with next to nothing - so little it would seem that the Jesus whom the stories discuss could easily be part a further mythical element.

After removing the mythical elements, what is there left to the "historical" Jesus worthy of worship?
 
Rian: "After removing the mythical elements, what is there left to the "historical" Jesus worthy of worship?"

Excellent question, if indeed it was a historical Jesus we worshiped.
 
drlobojo: Excellent question, if indeed it was a historical Jesus we worshiped.

This is where I get confused.
Without an historical Jesus, I can't see where there is any basis for "Christianity", at least not of a remotely orthodox variety.
Gnosticism, or perhaps Paul's spiritual saviour, who never walked the earth and was "crucified" at some unspecified, but likely not recent, time in the past, would perhaps "work" without an historical personage.
 
Lee wrote, "I like art – I just don’t go to a painter when I am feeling ill. "

Um.... yeah.

Huh?

Personally I'm far more disappointed by Lee's lack of appreciation for the arts than I am his atheism. The latter only shows lack of imagination, the former demonstrates lack of something far more basic and necessary.
 
Rian, re: "For this Jesus fellow you're equating her to, all we have are documents ..."

Ahhh, no, that's all *you* have. I'm almost positive that your blindness extends to any and all evidence of Jesus's current presence as surely as it extends to past evidence.
 
Oh, and re: "After removing the mythical elements, what is there left to the "historical" Jesus worthy of worship?"

Not to split hairs that you may not even be aware of, but within the faith are various emphases on "following Jesus" versus "worshiping the Christ" and the gamut between. Myself, I trend more toward "following Jesus," especially inasmuch as he generally directed people to give their attention and worship to God, not to himself, and to love others as they love themselves. Having said that, there is plenty to adore in Jesus, and that I do; worship being an experience, not an overt act, in my opinion, I admit that my worship of God includes something more than aodoration of Jesus.
 
Re, "Excellent question, if indeed it was a historical Jesus we worshiped."

Excellent point, DrLoboJo, if indeed it were possible to get across the distinction! :-)
 
Rian, Re, "Without an historical Jesus, I can't see where there is any basis for "Christianity", at least not of a remotely orthodox variety."

I think you're mixing up some things. We all here, I think, accept that Jesus the man existed in time and place. But Jesus the man who existed in time and place is not, and never has been, the basis for Christianity or the object of worship or adoration. It is now, and always has been, the Risen Christ that is the basis for Christianity and the object of worship and adoration. Now, some of us are more exclusivist than others, and some of us emphasize what Jesus is said to have said and done more than what others have said about Jesus, in figuring out what it means to be a Christian. Count me among the former: What Jesus is said to have said, and the actions he is said to have left as examples for living, are way more important than what anyone has ever said ABOUT Jesus.
 
"After removing the mythical elements, what is there left to the "historical" Jesus worthy of worship?"

"Love your neighbor as yourself", perhaps? And who is your neighbor? Everyone. That's pretty worthy of "worship". Emphasis on serving "the least of these". Also not bad, just to name a couple.

Standing around with my hands in the air (I call them "spiritual antennae") speaking in tongues, and handling snakes isn't how I worship Christ. I do it by getting out there and following His commands. *That* is the worship God requires.

But even if one didn't believe that anyone named Jesus ever existed on the planet, you could certainly do a lot worse than to follow the example made up by someone and written about in the Bible.
 
Alan said:

"Personally I'm far more disappointed by Lee's lack of appreciation for the arts than I am his atheism. The latter only shows lack of imagination, the former demonstrates lack of something far more basic and necessary."

Are you claiming that all atheists have a lack of imagination, or is it just Lee? Seems a bit of a generalisation to me- but then I am an atheist.
 
Good Lord, if you read a generalization into that specific remark about a specific person, we should all just give the hell up trying to communicate.
 
"Are you claiming that all atheists have a lack of imagination, or is it just Lee? Seems a bit of a generalisation to me- but then I am an atheist."

While I have been making serious points about 1) the fact that any of your folks' objections to theology can be rightly directed at nearly any other field on the planet, 2) that your shallow attempts to understand theology from blog comments should be thoroughly and consistently mocked, and 3) Lee's casual dismissal of art is itself pretty sad for any number of reasons, I have been doing so with humor and satire because these discussions never go anywhere ever. So I may as well amuse myself.

I should have guessed that my humor would be misunderstood, as I'm sure that you folks have never used good-natured humor or pointed satire to mock theists for believing in some invisible dude in the sky. After all, to quote another atheist, "Humor is not logical."

My apologies.

However, for future reference, when I specifically use someone's name in a comment, I'm specifically talking about that particular person. I know grammar cannot be scientifically verified, but it's a pretty useful thing to study nonetheless. Look up the term "subject" as it relates to the thing a sentence is talking about. "Proper names" might also be a useful thing to look up, and how they're often used as subjects in sentences. I'm sure you can find some in-depth info on the web, perhaps in a blog comment. ;)
 
Sigh- I was joking as well! Guess I'll have to start leaving smiley faces at the end of my attempts at humour. :-)
 
That's what I do, though that doesn't always work either. ;)
 
These Internets is hard to communicate through sometimes, especially continent to continent, culture to culture and dialect to dialect!
 
This comment has been removed by the author.
 
Hi Alan,

I deleted my previous comment, since I realised that I just might be missing your joke and replying to what I thought was a serious observation – I will re-read your comments after lunch wearing my “funny hat and glasses”.

ER These Internets is hard to communicate through sometimes, especially continent to continent, culture to culture and dialect to dialect!

Yep... the humour is certainly hard to pick up by me.

Chicken Noddles time!

Lee
 
ER: Ahhh, no, that's all *you* have. I'm almost positive that your blindness extends to any and all evidence of Jesus's current presence as surely as it extends to past evidence.
A pretty broad statement there ER. As far as I can tell, you folk have or have had some kind of subjective, mental experience which you claim is of the "risen christ" as (somewhat) described in the gospels. This would be same as Hindu's having experiences of Krishna or Vishnu, or Muslim's experiencing the presence of Allah.
Buddhists, who arguably spend more time contemplating this inner "subjective" realm than other faith groups, seem to feel the "oneness" or the connectedness of all life and the universe, or something similar, and not the specific person of the "risen Christ" (nor Allah or Krisha/Vishnu etc).

ER: Having said that, there is plenty to adore in Jesus, and that I do;
Do you also adore and "worship" Krishna and the buddha? Other "holy" men who have said and done great things, and just as worthy of adoration as Jesus?

ER: But Jesus the man who existed in time and place is not, and never has been, the basis for Christianity or the object of worship or adoration. It is now, and always has been, the Risen Christ that is the basis for Christianity and the object of worship and adoration.
But without the mythic elements of the gospels (including the resurrection), you don't really have a "risen christ"; you have a preacher who was crucified at best.
I don't understand what the basis for Christianity is if you remove the obvious examples of mythology from the "Christ Myth" portrayed in the NT?

ER: What Jesus is said to have said, and the actions he is said to have left as examples for living, are way more important than what anyone has ever said ABOUT Jesus.
And I'd reply that nothing Jesus is supposed to have said or done was particularly innovative or "new", even for the ANE around the 1st century. You don't seem to hold in as high regard or venerate other people who had the same ideas etc (often earlier, as mentioned above), which is confusing and inconsistent.

Alan: "Love your neighbor as yourself", perhaps? And who is your neighbor? Everyone. That's pretty worthy of "worship". Emphasis on serving "the least of these". Also not bad, just to name a couple.
As I said above to ER, nothing "said" by Jesus was particularly innovative or new. You don't seem to be a Buddhist, yet I think most or all of the "good" things attributed to Jesus can also be attributed to the Buddha, and at an earlier time. The same can probably be said for Krishna, and probably Zoroaster etc. Why single out this Jesus guy?

Alan: But even if one didn't believe that anyone named Jesus ever existed on the planet, you could certainly do a lot worse than to follow the example made up by someone and written about in the Bible.
Agreed, there is good to be found in the bible, as there is in many many other books, such as the Koran, teachings of Buddha, the works of Homer, Plato , etc. Though you guys seem to be "liberal" in your interpretaion of the bible, and in your Christianity, you still place the OT and NT as being somehow "greater" or more than these other works.
It's the focus on the OT/NT as being somehow more than a book which puzzles me.
 
Rian wrote, "As I said above to ER, nothing "said" by Jesus was particularly innovative or new. "

OK. And? Sorry, I just don't get that objection. That is, it makes absolutely no sense, if it is meant as an objection of some sort.

Of course, you're right, as much of what he said can be found in the OT too. But, for me, neither newness nor originality are either necessary or sufficient for an idea to be important.

"Though you guys seem to be "liberal" in your interpretaion of the bible, and in your Christianity..."

I don't really think that statement is accurate. Taken together, the folks who comment here represent quite a large continuum of Christian thought, from the liberal to conservative (though I don't think those labels have much use in theology anymore, if they ever did.) We also represent a variety of Christian (Protestant) backgrounds. While we agree on many things, I'm sure we could find a host of things to disagree about. Best not to try to lump us all together, I think.
 
Rian:

"This would be same as Hindu's having experiences of Krishna or Vishnu, or Muslim's experiencing the presence of Allah."

Perhaps.

"Do you also adore and "worship" Krishna and the buddha? Other "holy" men who have said and done great things, and just as worthy of adoration as Jesus?"

Not personally, no. I'm a Christian, not a Krishna, not a Muslim. However, anywhere the spirit of Christ is -- love God, love neighbor as yourself -- whether Christ is named or not, there God is. I rather like contemplating the notion of Wisdom-Sophia-Logos-Christ, that is, the glimpses God has given of God's self through time, which some of us now, in this time, call Christ.

"But without the mythic elements of the gospels (including the resurrection), you don't really have a "risen christ"; you have a preacher who was crucified at best.
I don't understand what the basis for Christianity is if you remove the obvious examples of mythology from the "Christ Myth" portrayed in the NT?"

Uou're the one forcing the emoval of the mythic elements from the Jesus stories and the Christ experience. it doesn't surprise me that you don't understand something after you've deconstructed it from the way it was, and is, meant to be presented. When I say, or suggest, that I don't feel threatened, or upsrt, or distuebed when people strip away the mythologies of my faith tradition, that doesn't mean that I strip them away myself.

"And I'd reply that nothing Jesus is supposed to have said or done was particularly innovative or "new", even for the ANE around the 1st century."

I'd probably disagree, mainly as regards the utter insanity of the Sermon on the Mount. Bu maybe that's all retreaded, too. I'm not sure.

"You don't seem to hold in as high regard or venerate other people who had the same ideas etc (often earlier, as mentioned above), which is confusing and inconsistent."

Oh, I do hold them in high regard, and I see that as testimony to the probable truth of what Jesus said, not detracting from him in any way. But, as I've said, I am a Christian. It would be confusing and inconsistent if I wore that label and did NOT hold Jesus in higher regard.

"Why single out this Jesus guy?"

OK, don't laugh. But most of us would say that he singled *us* out, not the other way around.

"There is good to be found in the bible, as there is in many many other books, such as the Koran, teachings of Buddha, the works of Homer, Plato , etc. Though you guys seem to be "liberal" in your interpretaion of the bible, and in your Christianity, you still place the OT and NT as being somehow "greater" or more than these other works."

Here, let me break it down better. I, myself, place the NT over the OT -- I'm a Christian, not a Jew. But I consider both the NT and the OT as "sacred" -- not because of what they say, necessarily, but because of their place in the history of my faith tradition.

"It's the focus on the OT/NT as being somehow more than a book which puzzles me."

I'll have to think about whether I consider the Bible as "more than book." ... Thinking over. Of course I do. In the same way I think of the U.S. Declaration of Independence as more than a piece of paper.

Now, pray tell, why in the world are you puzzled that Christians would hold the Bible in a special place in their estimation?
 
Alan We also represent a variety of Christian (Protestant) backgrounds

So no one likes the Pope then? Never trust a man in a dress wearing funny shoes I say :-)

Lee
 
Alan: Of course, you're right, as much of what he said can be found in the OT too. But, for me, neither newness nor originality are either necessary or sufficient for an idea to be important.
But you attribute some kind of greater "quality" to a particuler supposed proponent of those ideas in preference to others (who had the idea earlier). Why Jesus? is probably what I'm asking.

Alan: I don't really think that statement is accurate.
It's why I used the scare quotes :-)
Alan: Taken together, the folks who comment here represent quite a large continuum of Christian thought, from the liberal to conservative (though I don't think those labels have much use in theology anymore, if they ever did.) We also represent a variety of Christian (Protestant) backgrounds. While we agree on many things, I'm sure we could find a host of things to disagree about. Best not to try to lump us all together, I think.
Well, you all seem willing and able to discuss these sorts of ideas, such as an ahystorical Jesus, mythic elements in the gospels etc, which many on these interwebs aren't willing to event entertain. Guess I should have found another way to express that :-)

ER: Not personally, no. I'm a Christian, not a Krishna, not a Muslim. However, anywhere the spirit of Christ is -- love God, love neighbor as yourself -- whether Christ is named or not, there God is.
But the "god" of Krishna (Vishnu) is vastly different to Yahweh, and there are quite large differences between the 3 major classifications of Yahweh.
ER: I rather like contemplating the notion of Wisdom-Sophia-Logos-Christ, that is, the glimpses God has given of God's self through time, which some of us now, in this time, call Christ.
At times you seem to be a universalist, along the lines of "all paths lead to god", and I find it confusing that you seem to, at times, accept all other faiths, yet find Christianity to be more true, and I can't quite grasp "why" that is. Perhaps I'm completely off track here, or perhaps I'm simply poor at expressing something which I've not quite grasped myself.

ER: Uou're the one forcing the emoval of the mythic elements from the Jesus stories and the Christ experience. it doesn't surprise me that you don't understand something after you've deconstructed it from the way it was, and is, meant to be presented. When I say, or suggest, that I don't feel threatened, or upsrt, or distuebed when people strip away the mythologies of my faith tradition, that doesn't mean that I strip them away myself.
Well, I understand it within the context of the story told. Just as I understand the Islamic perspective from within the context of the story of the Koran. The thing is, it seems once you remove the obvious embellishments etc from the story to try to reconstruct what happened in history, you don't end up with anything much to go on. Remove them from the Koran, and you have a guy syncretically welding together judaism, Christianity, Arab beliefs etc. Remove them from the gospels and you have one (perhaps more, perhaps none) apocalyptic preachers during a time of many many apocalyptic preachers.
As far as I can tell (and granted I've had more conversations with literalists on these points) Christianity seems to rise and fall on the historicity of the resurrection (and other large parts of the gospels), and therefore on the "specialness" of the man (and incarnation) of Jesus, both pre and post death.
Strip away the myth and there doesn't seem to be anything "special" about the character, should he have existed at all.

ER: I'd probably disagree, mainly as regards the utter insanity of the Sermon on the Mount. Bu maybe that's all retreaded, too. I'm not sure.
I'm pretty sure it was all retreaded, though I'm happy to find out I'm wrong.

ER: Oh, I do hold them in high regard, and I see that as testimony to the probable truth of what Jesus said, not detracting from him in any way. But, as I've said, I am a Christian. It would be confusing and inconsistent if I wore that label and did NOT hold Jesus in higher regard.
Do you see Jesus as testimony as testimony of the truth of what the Buddha, Krishna, Mohammed etc said?
It's the holding Jesus in higher regards than these others which I suppose I find confusing. They all seem to be of the same basic mythic archetype. Strip the myth away from all of them and you're again left with basically the same content. I don't see the reason to elevate one above the other.

ER: OK, don't laugh. But most of us would say that he singled *us* out, not the other way around.
If I tell you I didn't laugh, would you believe me ;-)
Are you sure it wasn't Krishna or Allah who singled you out? Perhaps it was something completely different which has nothing to do with Yahweh/Jesus?
Maybe it was a a neurological/psychological phenomenon which you interpreted as such ;-)

ER: Here, let me break it down better. I, myself, place the NT over the OT -- I'm a Christian, not a Jew. But I consider both the NT and the OT as "sacred" -- not because of what they say, necessarily, but because of their place in the history of my faith tradition.
That's fair enough. I would expect a Christian to be that way. I suppose, as I was graspingly trying to say above, I don't understand why you are a Christian, given your almost universalist beliefs.

ER: I'll have to think about whether I consider the Bible as "more than book." ... Thinking over. Of course I do. In the same way I think of the U.S. Declaration of Independence as more than a piece of paper.
I grant that some ideas found in the bible are great, as are those found in the declaration of independance etc. It is the dichotomy between simply accepting the ideas as somewhat profound, to venerating the person to whom those ideas are attributed. I find Relativity to be quite a profound idea, but I don't venerate Einstein. He was brilliant, but if not him, someone else would have made the same or similar leap.
Perhaps that's the root of my confusion. You seem to venerate the supposed source of the ideas along with the ideas themselves, even when those ideas had been expressed by others independantly. Like venerating me for expressing the "Love thy neighbour as thy self" message, though I got it from elsewehere. It seems strange to me :-)

ER: Now, pray tell, why in the world are you puzzled that Christians would hold the Bible in a special place in their estimation?
Well to be fair, I expect Christians to place the bible in a special place. I have trouble understanding why you are a Christian. I've read more of your comments than others here (and elsewhere), so while I think some may or may not be just as confusing (or confused :-) as yourself, I'll single you out for the time being :-)

Oh, and sorry if the fisking is troublsome. I vaguely remember it being mentioned around these parts some time ago. If it's a problem, I'll try to avoid it in future posts :-)
 
And to get things mildly on-topic for the thread, the study of "god" which, when looked at seems to have originated in ancient myths from "primitive" peoples does seem to be somewhat "useless".
There are other disciplines (ethics, anthropology, even cosmology etc) which would seem a better course of study and investigation given the current "probably not there" status of the "big guy in the sky", at least from my (and probably from Billy's and Lee's) perspective.
 
Lee writes, "Why Jesus? is probably what I'm asking."

Same reasons I and everyone else here have given before. I'm assuming those reasons haven't changed much for anyone else. They haven't for me. But, if you'll remember, you don't buy any of those reasons, so why keep asking the question?

Rian wrote, "There are other disciplines (ethics, anthropology, even cosmology etc) which would seem a better course of study and investigation given the current "probably not there" status of the "big guy in the sky", at least from my (and probably from Billy's and Lee's) perspective."

Of course the knowledge of those fields (and many more) can be brought to bear on informing theological investigation. But better? Depends on the questions being asked. If you want to answer theological questions though, it's hard to beat theology.;)
 
Alan, it was me that asked why jesus. I haven't read ER's blog that frequently, and don't remember any specific answers to that type of question. Sorry if it's a repititious bore :-)

Alan: Depends on the questions being asked. If you want to answer theological questions though, it's hard to beat theology.;)

What is a Theological question, and how does it get answered, or at least approached?
"Does (a) god exist?" Would seem to be philisophical question, and possibly amenable to scientific investigation.
"Does (a) god intervene in the world?" is certainly amenable to scientific investigation.
Without a reasonable answer (with some decent argument and possibly evidence to back them up) any other theological questions would seem to be a little premature to me :-)
 
"What is a Theological question, and how does it get answered, or at least approached?"

I would say an example of a classic Christian theological question would be something like, "What is the nature of salvation?"

To answer this question, we start with the text itself. In order to understand the Bible, we need to understand the language in which it was written. So, linguists spend their time trying to understand the words in the Bible, comparing that language with texts that are contemporary to it. Cultural anthropology is utilized to understand the societal, political, and cultural contexts in which the text is written. Archeology contributes greatly to that study as well. Literary criticism is brought to bear in an attempt to understand the style of the text (ie. poetry or allegory or narrative).

If one wants to study, for example, the nature of salvation, one then examines every text one can find in the Bible on that topic, as it relates to every other text in the Bible on that topic. Studying each of those texts for the proper context, utilizing the methods I outlined above.

One also studies what previous generations had to say about this question. From what context did they arrive at their conclusions? Are those conclusions supported by the text itself?

One also needs to understand how the topic of salvation interacts with other topics such as justification, repentance, grace, sin, etc.

Now, different Christian traditions have different ways of working their way through all this stuff, and the various assumptions they use in their interpretations, etc. which are some of the reasons why different traditions may arrive at different answers to similar questions.
 
Re, "So no one likes the Pope then? Never trust a man in a dress wearing funny shoes I say :-)"

Ha! (Dr. ER is a cradle Catholic, BTW). :-)

Maybe because of the time difference it won't matter, but this busy day will keep me away until later. Rian asks good questions, and I intend to continue. :-)
 
"Never trust a man in a dress wearing funny shoes I say "

You guys need to get out more. ;)
 
Alan, it seems to me you've jumped the gun a little with your "Nature of salvation" theological question.
Without the risen Christ, there is no Christian salvation to speak of.
I don't see how in an orthodox tradition, you can have the risen Christ (whether spritually as per Paul, or Physically as per the later gospels) without a miracle working historical incarnation in the man Jesus.
Critical study of the bible texts seems to place this miracle working incarnation in the man Jesus as an historical figure in serious doubt.
To have the incarnation in the man Jesus, you need to have a god (Yahweh in this instance), and as far as I know, there aren't any convincing arguments to support that assertion as being more probable than not.
Perhaps I'm being far too pedantic (or simply annoying), but talking about the nature of salvation seems to have skipped a few steps.
 
ER said: Not personally, no. I'm a Christian, not a Krishna, not a Muslim. However, anywhere the spirit of Christ is -- love God, love neighbor as yourself -- whether Christ is named or not, there God is.

Rian said: But the "god" of Krishna (Vishnu) is vastly different to Yahweh, and there are quite large differences between the 3 major classifications of Yahweh.

ER repeated: "anywhere the spirit of Christ is -- love God, love neighbor as yourself -- whether Christ is named or not, there God is." ???


ER said: I rather like contemplating the notion of Wisdom-Sophia-Logos-Christ, that is, the glimpses God has given of God's self through time, which some of us now, in this time, call Christ.

Rian said: At times you seem to be a universalist, along the lines of "all paths lead to god", and I find it confusing that you seem to, at times, accept all other faiths, yet find Christianity to be more true, and I can't quite grasp "why" that is. Perhaps I'm completely off track here, or perhaps I'm simply poor at expressing something which I've not quite grasped myself."

ER said: At times, I believe that the mesaage of Jesus is a "universal" message -- which is reflected in the Bible about as much, I think, as exclusive ideas are. .. Christianity as "more true"? No, as utterly true, transcending not only other religions but any interpretation of itself, as well.

ER: Uou're the one forcing the emoval of the mythic elements from the Jesus stories and the Christ experience. it doesn't surprise me that you don't understand something after you've deconstructed it from the way it was, and is, meant to be presented. When I say, or suggest, that I don't feel threatened, or upsrt, or distuebed when people strip away the mythologies of my faith tradition, that doesn't mean that I strip them away myself.

Rian said: Well, I understand it within the context of the story told. Just as I understand the Islamic perspective from within the context of the story of the Koran. The thing is, it seems once you remove the obvious embellishments etc from the story to try to reconstruct what happened in history, you don't end up with anything much to go on."

ER said: You equate "obvious embellishment" with "false". I don't. The embellishments themselves, reflect Jewish-Christians' attempts to communicate their encounters with the divine.

Rian said: Remove them from the gospels and you have one (perhaps more, perhaps none) apocalyptic preachers during a time of many many apocalyptic preachers.

ER said: Only if you assume that the embellishments were "false" and that the ones making the "embellishments" were "making stuff up" on their own.

Re: "Christianity seems to rise and fall on the historicity of the resurrection"

Yes. But it really depends on what your definition of "historicity" is -- and, I swear (so to speak), I am not trying to be clever with words! Mere bodily resuscitation is one thing, and it is NOT what is meant by the Resurrection.

Rian said: It's the holding Jesus in higher regards than these others which I suppose I find confusing. They all seem to be of the same basic mythic archetype. Strip the myth away from all of them and you're again left with basically the same content. I don't see the reason to elevate one above the other.

ER said: Maybe it's because you're trying to weigh evidence and come to a logical conclusion. Although I enjoy these discussions, and I find myself having to rely on logic and argument in the middle of them, ultimately, I do not rely on logic for anything to do with matters of faith. I mean, come one. Faith, by definition, is one thing, and things that are evident are another.

Rian said: Are you sure it wasn't Krishna or Allah who singled you out? Perhaps it was something completely different which has nothing to do with Yahweh/Jesus?
Maybe it was a a neurological/psychological phenomenon which you interpreted as such ;-)"

No, I am certain that it was a manifestation of the Judeo-Christian God, since 1., God, by whatever definition or meaure, must love me, and 2., the main way God, considering my raising and my geography and place in time, would be able to make God's self heard in a way I would understand would be thusly.

ER: Here, let me break it down better. I, myself, place the NT over the OT -- I'm a Christian, not a Jew. But I consider both the NT and the OT as "sacred" -- not because of what they say, necessarily, but because of their place in the history of my faith tradition.

Rian said: That's fair enough. I would expect a Christian to be that way. I suppose, as I was graspingly trying to say above, I don't understand why you are a Christian, given your almost universalist beliefs.

ER said: Ah! That is probably because I tend to see the whole messaage of Christianity as one of universalism: God. God is. God is love. That's Jesus's main message and example, I think.

Rian said: Well to be fair, I expect Christians to place the bible in a special place. I have trouble understanding why you are a Christian."

Well, to be honest, and I always do try to be honest, I have trouble with it myself. It's called "doubt." Sometimes I consider myself a Christian agnostic, but usually not for very long.

Rian, for an answer, go here, and read an essay that is somewhat close to my own thinking and experience:

http://eruditeredneck.blogspot.com/2008/09/
tethered-to-christianity.html

Sorry, this is all I have time for tonight. I will return to some of your other comments if they are directed at me. :-)
 
Hi Alan,

Lee writes, "Why Jesus? is probably what I'm asking."

Not guilty... but I suppose both Rian and I can sound the same sometimes – it’s all the brainwashing we had at school :-)

RE: "Never trust a man in a dress wearing funny shoes I say "

ER Ha! (Dr. ER is a cradle Catholic, BTW). :-)

I learnt that joke from a catholic friend – just goes to show...

Alan You guys need to get out more. ;)

Am I missing out on something good? :-)

Lee
 
"Without the risen Christ, there is no Christian salvation to speak of."

Someone else would have to speak to that. I believe that Christ has been raised, and the theological tradition of which I am a part proclaims the risen Christ. Whether someone out there has come up with some theological formulation that explains salvation without a resurrection, I don't know, but the notion doesn't make much sense to me.

"To have the incarnation in the man Jesus, you need to have a god (Yahweh in this instance), and as far as I know, there aren't any convincing arguments to support that assertion as being more probable than not."

Yes, you do not. Oh well. Again, this isn't an argument. It isn't about making an argument. That's not to say there isn't evidence, but the evidence is not of the type you folks seem to find convincing (ie. personal testimony, for example.) But overall, I don't know many people who come to the Christian faith by reading The Institutes, or the Summa Theologica. Theology is an interesting, but mostly unnecessary study that has little to do with faith, and unfortunately far too much to do with religion.
 
Rian, Re, "probably not there" status of the "big guy in the sky"

Um, hrm. Well, "probably not there," itself, is a statement of faith, in my view. And, I no more imagine a "big guy in the sky," or a Santa Claus, than you do. No sure I, or anyone, has anything approaching a firm concept of God -- although many people think they do.
 
ER: . .. Christianity as "more true"? No, as utterly true, transcending not only other religions but any interpretation of itself, as well.
I don't understand that statement. A person of basically any other religion or faith could make the self same statement, and me, being an outsider, can find nothing to distinguish between those "faith" statements. Do you mean Christianity as presented in the bible, or some form of meta-christianity which encompasses all faith traditions in to one big ecumenical soup?

ER: You equate "obvious embellishment" with "false". I don't. The embellishments themselves, reflect Jewish-Christians' attempts to communicate their encounters with the divine.
Do the accounts of the gods aiding certain warriors as depicted in the "illiad" reflect the greeks attempts to communicate encounters with Zues, Athena etc?
Perhaps the accounts of Apollinus of Tyana are attempts to communicate encounters with the divine?
The problem is, their encounters with the divine, and yours seem to be incompatible, and I doubt you could enforce ecumenism upon all of the faith traditions and stories which have been written.

ER: Only if you assume that the embellishments were "false" and that the ones making the "embellishments" were "making stuff up" on their own.
I don't think the writers were making stuff up on their own. There are long traditions of this within cultures. See the book of Enoch for an example, which was written not long before the time of Jesus. The Jew's had a long tradition of attributing works to or about some or another character, to get some message across. No need for any of it to have "actually" happened.

ER: Yes. But it really depends on what your definition of "historicity" is -- and, I swear (so to speak), I am not trying to be clever with words! Mere bodily resuscitation is one thing, and it is NOT what is meant by the Resurrection.
Well, it does depend. Paul goes for a spiritual resurrection, with the physical body being discarded. Mark implies somewhat the same, though is not so straightforward. The orphic elements of the tomb references certainly add weight to Jesus having left his physical body behind. It's only the later gospels which have an explicitely physical resurrection body, though "glorified". And then we have things like the gospel of Peter, which has "the true cross" talking at the tomb while Jesus is escorted by 2 angels.

ER: Maybe it's because you're trying to weigh evidence and come to a logical conclusion. Although I enjoy these discussions, and I find myself having to rely on logic and argument in the middle of them, ultimately, I do not rely on logic for anything to do with matters of faith. I mean, come one. Faith, by definition, is one thing, and things that are evident are another.
Your faith is in an interventionist and relational being who seems to go to extraordinary lengths to keep itself hidden. Something it certainly didn't do in the past, when people were much more credulous and superstitious. This is more consistent with Yahweh's nonexistence than with it's existence.

ER: No, I am certain that it was a manifestation of the Judeo-Christian God, since 1., God, by whatever definition or meaure, must love me, and 2., the main way God, considering my raising and my geography and place in time, would be able to make God's self heard in a way I would understand would be thusly.
Why must "god" love you? Deism is at least as internally consistent as Christian theism. Also, your point 2 seems to undermine your certainty of it being the Judeo-Christian god. Perhaps "God" tries to relate to people in whatever way it can, and as such, you feel visited by Yahweh/Christ, someone from a Hindu culture feels visited by Vishnu/Krishna, and someone from a Muslim culture feels a visit from Allah (though that is bordering on the Judao-Christian god anyway). I'm also unsure as to why it must have been a visitation from the all powerful creator of the universe and not simply a psychological phenomena you experienced.

ER: Ah! That is probably because I tend to see the whole messaage of Christianity as one of universalism: God. God is. God is love. That's Jesus's main message and example, I think.
Well, you should more be saying Yahweh, as "god" means many things to many people. There are many other attributes given to Yahweh, regardless of what the main message attributed to Jesus is.
If your main point is that "God. God is. God is Love" I really can't see the need to take the techings and doctrine of Christianity seriously (and I'm sure the Evangelicals would tell you guys that you don't) :-)
Also, if god is love, then I have no understanding of any doctrine of hell, or why everyone wouldn't simply be resurrected (or perhaps, as implied in the letters of Paul, anihilation awaits those who do not live in Christ), but that's likely a whole nother thread :-)

ER: Well, to be honest, and I always do try to be honest, I have trouble with it myself. It's called "doubt." Sometimes I consider myself a Christian agnostic, but usually not for very long.
I'd say I'm an athiest agnostic all the time. I don't see any evidence of a god, and see some fairly good evidence against the claims of the various religions and religious people, but that doesn't mean I know that I'm right :-)

Alan: Someone else would have to speak to that. I believe that Christ has been raised, and the theological tradition of which I am a part proclaims the risen Christ.
The problem I see is, there is little evidence that a historical Jesus existed, let alone was resurrected. Surely before ironing out the details of the salvation which Christ offers, you need to sort out the source of that salvation?
You could probably get by with a Pauline wholy spiritual jesus never having walked the earth, but I don't see too many advocates of that position.

Alan: Whether someone out there has come up with some theological formulation that explains salvation without a resurrection, I don't know, but the notion doesn't make much sense to me.
Well, the Muslims seem to have salvation through Allah, no resurrected Jesus required. The Jew's would appear to be similar - through faith and works a good Jew will be a part of the general resurrection. Again, no Jesus required. I'm not familiar enough with Hinduism to make comment.

Alan: Yes, you do not. Oh well. Again, this isn't an argument. It isn't about making an argument.
I'm simply curious as to why people believe. I honestly do not understand it. Damn my mother for being so agnostic concerning belief ;-)

Alan: That's not to say there isn't evidence, but the evidence is not of the type you folks seem to find convincing (ie. personal testimony, for example.)
I'm happy to hear about any sort of evidence, personal testimony included. The problem with personal testimony, as far as I can see is, it seems to have a cancelling out effect. You testify concerning Jesus, Muslims testify concerning Allah, Hindu's testify concerning their god/trinity/gods etc, buddhists testify concerning enlightenment. You're all testifying different "faiths" with no way to differentiate.

Alan: But overall, I don't know many people who come to the Christian faith by reading The Institutes, or the Summa Theologica. Theology is an interesting, but mostly unnecessary study that has little to do with faith, and unfortunately far too much to do with religion.
So you admit that theology is mostly useless, and can be dismissed? I guess we can close this thread now ;-)

ER: Um, hrm. Well, "probably not there," itself, is a statement of faith, in my view. And, I no more imagine a "big guy in the sky," or a Santa Claus, than you do. No sure I, or anyone, has anything approaching a firm concept of God -- although many people think they do.
If a god or gods are not required to explain things (which is the case as far as I know), then that makes a deity less likely rather than more likely, hence probably not there. Pretty much all of the things which used to have "god" as an explanation no longer do. We know that none of Thor Zues nore Yahweh throw the lightning bolts. We know that Yahweh didn't create man from dust and breath life into him. We know Yahweh didn't drown the world in a flood.
What does a god explain? And why is it specifically your god which is the explanation?

I'll read that essay when I get a chance - must go and get a bike wheel repaired before the shops close :-)
 
"Your faith is in an interventionist and relational being who seems to go to extraordinary lengths to keep itself hidden. "

Hidden? None of us are claiming that. The fact that you neither seek nor find doesn't mean I haven't been sought out by Him. Unless you're certain that because you do not have a relationship with God then one isn't possible. An rather odd hypthesis, based on a single data point, it seems to me. :)

The heavens declare the glory of God. I'd say He goes to great lengths to make himself obvious. But, as often happens in all our lives, we often cannot see what's directly in front of our eyes.

"I'd say I'm an athiest agnostic all the time. I don't see any evidence of a god, and see some fairly good evidence against the claims of the various religions and religious people, but that doesn't mean I know that I'm right "

Not bad. As someone once said, the opposite of faith is not doubt. The opposite of faith is certainty.

"You could probably get by with a Pauline wholy spiritual jesus never having walked the earth, but I don't see too many advocates of that position."

:) Including Paul.

"So you admit that theology is mostly useless, and can be dismissed? I guess we can close this thread now ;-)"

No, that's not what I said. I said it isn't required for faith.

"We know that Yahweh didn't create man from dust and breath life into him. We know Yahweh didn't drown the world in a flood."

Meh. Just because it didn't happen that way doesn't make it untrue.
 
Picking and choosing because it gets tedious after a while:

ER: . .. Christianity as "more true"? No, as utterly true, transcending not only other religions but any interpretation of itself, as well.

RIAN said: I don't understand that statement. A person of basically any other religion or faith could make the self same statement, and me, being an outsider, can find nothing to distinguish between those "faith" statements.

ER REPLIES; True, and true. Try harder. Or don't. It's not like you can think yourself to God.


RIAN said: Do you mean Christianity as presented in the bible, or some form of meta-christianity which encompasses all faith traditions in to one big ecumenical soup?

ER REPLIES: I mean Christianity as I experience it, which I share, more or less, with some Christians, but not all.


RIAN: Do the accounts of the gods aiding certain warriors as depicted in the "illiad" reflect the greeks attempts to communicate encounters with Zues, Athena etc?
Perhaps the accounts of Apollinus of Tyana are attempts to communicate encounters with the divine?

ER REPLIES: Maybe. My view is that the Bible is best seen as a record of men trying to explain their encounters with the divine. I do NOT say that the Bible is the ONLY of men trying to explain their encounters with the divine, only that is the best -- although not the only -- record of Jews, and then Christians, trying to understand and explain their encounters with the divine.

RIAN: The problem is, their encounters with the divine, and yours seem to be incompatible, and I doubt you could enforce ecumenism upon all of the faith traditions and stories which have been written.

They don't seem incompatible to me, and while I'm not out to enforce anything, i can imagine a time with the search for truth, and a mutual acceptance of one another's testimony as to his-her encounters, could be the basis for peaceful ecumenism. Call me a dreamer!


RIAN SAID: I don't think the writers were making stuff up on their own. There are long traditions of this within cultures. See the book of Enoch for an example, which was written not long before the time of Jesus. The Jew's had a long tradition of attributing works to or about some or another character, to get some message across. No need for any of it to have "actually" happened.

ER REPLIES: I agree, but "something" happened. Something happened. As a journalist, I've come to understnad that every rumour has some nuggest of truth, or fact.


RIAN said: Paul goes for a spiritual resurrection, with the physical body being discarded. Mark implies somewhat the same, though is not so straightforward. The orphic elements of the tomb references certainly add weight to Jesus having left his physical body behind. It's only the later gospels which have an explicitely physical resurrection body, though "glorified". And then we have things like the gospel of Peter, which has "the true cross" talking at the tomb while Jesus is escorted by 2 angels.

ER REPLIES: Yes. Your point? Like one of 10 people who witness a car wreck, I know what I saw. So do the other nine witness. The narrative that emerges is, opf necessity, a synthesis. I can live with that, in reporting -- and in the stories of the Resurrection. What *I* see is something close to a resuscitated body glorified, but I'm not wedded to that. The Jesus that road with me to see my mama as she was dying had no body. Go figure. (I must confess though, that, although I've mentioned Jesus in my truck to go see Mama before, I've come lately to understand the Presence as being closer to the Comforter, the Holy Spirit.)

RIAN on "hidden" -- what Alan said.

RIAN said: Why must "god" love you? You ask as if this is something I've merely read about. As if this is all an intellectual exercise that can me quantified. I experience God's love; that's how I know God loves me.

RIAN: Perhaps "God" tries to relate to people in whatever way it can, and as such, you feel visited by Yahweh/Christ, someone from a Hindu culture feels visited by Vishnu/Krishna, and someone from a Muslim culture feels a visit from Allah (though that is bordering on the Judao-Christian god anyway).

ER REPLIES: Perhaps!

RIAN said: I'm also unsure as to why it must have been a visitation from the all powerful creator of the universe and not simply a psychological phenomena you experienced.

ER REPLIES: I'd say it was both. How could it not be both?


RIAN: If your main point is that "God. God is. God is Love" I really can't see the need to take the techings and doctrine of Christianity seriously (and I'm sure the Evangelicals would tell you guys that you don't) :-)

ER REPLIES: Huh? Where do you thinkm I got the ideas?? FROM CHRISTIANITY. It's in there. I can't help it that most of the Christians getting most of the attention these days are assholes.

RIAN: Also, if god is love, then I have no understanding of any doctrine of hell, or why everyone wouldn't simply be resurrected (or perhaps, as implied in the letters of Paul, anihilation awaits those who do not live in Christ), but that's likely a whole nother thread :-)

ER REPLIES: Me either. Ask someone who is sure of his concepts of those doctrines. I am not. I can live with or without hell. Heaven, too, when I'm feel especially alive and filled with the Spirit, for lack of a better way to put it.

RIAN SAID: And why is it specifically your god which is the explanation?

ER REPLIES: One God. Mahy perceptions. Not "my" God versus "some other" God.

FISKING ALERT: It's getting to be too much. Be selective, please. :-)
 
Egad.

"The Jesus that road with me ..."

RODE with me.


Although, there is the whole Jesus Road thing ... :-)
 
Fixing this:

RIAN said: Why must "god" love you? You ask as if this is something I've merely read about. As if this is all an intellectual exercise that can me quantified. I experience God's love; that's how I know God loves me.


Should be:

RIAN said: Why must "god" love you?

ER REPLIES: You ask as if this is something I've merely read about. As if this is all an intellectual exercise that can be quantified. I experience God's love; that's how I know God loves me.
 
ER: FISKING ALERT: It's getting to be too much. Be selective, please. :-)
But I want to repond to everything! :-)
 
LOL. In the name of freedom, you may proceed. ... But I may not engage every fine point! :-)
 
Alan, Yahweh is supposed to be an interventionist deity. The bible describes all sorts of "supernatural" acts by this deity. Yet we don't see these sorts of acts anymore. This is consistent with an increase in understanding and a decrease in superstition. It doesn't seem to be consistent with the deity described in the Judeo-Christian holy books.

What do you mean the "heavens declare the glory of god"? Are you refering to a feeling of awe you get when viewing the universe, or is there something specific you think of as "evidence" (of whatever kind) for Yahweh?
Basically everything we see in the universe seems to be the result physics, much of which we now understand. I'm unsure as to what you are refering to as the work or glory of Yahweh.

On Paul's saviour. If you ignore the majority of the gospel accounts, which were written later and which Paul shows little to no knowledge of, it is quite straightforward to interpret Paul's letters as describing an "Anointed Saviour" or "Christ Jesus", something of a title, which was a spiritual being whom never walked the earth. It was not the second coming which Paul was expecting within his lifetime, but the first.

What do you mean, Alan, when you say that simply because the genesis account of the creation of man didn't happen doesn't make it true? I assume you take it to be symbolic or allegorical for Yahweh choosing man or giving mankind a soul. Was there a point where your god decided to embue some ancestor of homo sapiens sapiens with a soul, is that your "Adam"?
 
ER, if there is no way to distinguish between all of the various faith claims made by men throughout human history, why should any of them be taken seriously? Perhaps the Heaven's Gate people had it right, and their souls did escape on a space ship trailing the hale-bopp comet, and the rest of us are doomed? Perhaps the JW's or the Mormon's have things right? If you admit that there is nothing to distinguish the faith claims, then I see no reason why you make claims such as Christianity being "utterly true". How can that be so, and yet have no mechanism differentiating. I find that a strange position to hold.

You say that the bible is a record of mans encounter with the divine, but why? The record of exodus and the conquest of canaan seems to be entirely fabricated. They appear to be the attempts of a people who wanted to justify or rationalise their "difference" from the surrounding peoples, when there wasn't much of a difference to justify. The town in which your saviour is supposed to have been raised, Nazareth, does not appear to have existed during the time he is supposed to have lived. As I mentioned in response to Alan above, Paul seems to be speaking of a spiritual saviour. The gospel of mark, the earliest of the canonical gospels, looks to be symbolic allegory, drawing upon the Jewish scripture as well as the epics of Homer and other influences (such as the orphic traditions). There doesn't appear to be a need for an "actual" historic man Jesus, and certainly no need for the divinity which appears to be the core of Christian faith and belief, even your own.

Your ecumenicism is a nice thought, but if you resolve all of the differences between people's encounters with the divine, you'll likely end up with something like the whispy "god" which theologians seem to endorse. I doubt that is the sort of deity you feel exists, even though you claim not to know much of anything about it/him/them.

I don't know much more about your "encounter" than you just described there, but I would be interested in reading more. You also ask "How could it not be both?" regarding it being an encounter with Yahweh as well as being simply a psychological event. If it was simply your "mind playing tricks" which appears to be the simplest explanation and has ample evidence to endorse it, I don't know why it therefore "must" have been Yahweh/Jesus/Spirit. What was it which caused you to "know" that it was a manifestation of the Judeo-Chrsitian deity and not, for example, Vishnu, or a delusion?

I've tried to make more narrative posts to avoid fisking badly, though I think I've managed to cover the major points of both of you. Is there format preferable, or should I simply stick with covering a small number of points per post? :-)
 
Since, as I've said -- or I meant to say, anyway -- I see the Bible as a record, but the only record, of Jews's, then Christians' attempting to explain their encounters with the divine, I'm not overly concerned with such specifics. As for Paul, among the many other things he said, had to do with seeing through a glass darkly. Call it an easy out, but my faith, for that and other reasons, does not require the kind of specificity or certainty that you're talking about.

The early Christians expected the end of the world in their lifetime. They were wrong. It doesn't change the basic narrative of the Christian story.

Christians in the 1950s and early '60s, in the U.S., at the height of the Cold War, thought the world would end in their lifetime. Thankfully, they were wrong. It doesn
t change the basic narrative of the Christian story.
 
"The bible describes all sorts of "supernatural" acts by this deity. Yet we don't see these sorts of acts anymore."

Says you.

"I'm unsure as to what you are refering to as the work or glory of Yahweh."

Everything.

" it is quite straightforward to interpret Paul's letters as describing an "Anointed Saviour" or "Christ Jesus", something of a title, which was a spiritual being whom never walked the earth. It was not the second coming which Paul was expecting within his lifetime, but the first."

Interesting interpretation, but obviously not the only one, and not one I find much evidence for within Scripture.

"What do you mean, Alan, when you say that simply because the genesis account of the creation of man didn't happen doesn't make it true? I assume you take it to be symbolic or allegorical for Yahweh choosing man or giving mankind a soul."

Maybe. I wasn't there. Yes, it happened, but since I'm not God, I couldn't tell you how or when.
 
Fisking or narrative. A mix is best. I only dislike fisking when it becomes unwieldy.

Now, I'll try bullets. :-)

All faith claims should be talken seriously, taking times, culture, etc., into consideration.

I did not say there is nothing to distinguish the various faith claims!

Re, "I see no reason why you make claims such as Christianity being 'utterly true.'"

Reason has little to do with it. Reason is a great tool for many, many things. But not all.

On the alleged fabrication of the exodus and Canaan: I didn't mean a "record" of "verifiable" "facts" as the word "record" suggests now. Sorry. ... A couple of examples of likely fabrications that nonetheless impart truths and therefore should be taken seriously and pondered: In the Bible, Jesus walks on water, and Peter does, too, until he falters in his faith and Jesus "catches" him or whatever. Factual or not, one truth I get from that is: Sink or swim, God loves me and Jesus saves. Take it or leave it. ... Not from the Bible: Early-American lore had it that a young George Washington chopped down his dad's cherry tree and hid the fact, but admitted it when confronted: Poppycock. BUT, the story served a real purpose in imparting the idea that Washington was human, but a transparently honest man, as much a rarity then as now. Important for the creation of the American myth, and our national character.

Re, "The town in which your saviour is supposed to have been raised, Nazareth, does not appear to have existed during the time he is supposed to have lived." I keep seeing my atheist friends saying this. I've never heard such a claim until very, very recently. Source?

On Paul and his encounter on the Damascus Road. What Alan said.

Re, "Mark ... looks to be symbolic allegory, drawing upon the Jewish scripture as well as the epics of Homer and other influences (such as the orphic traditions)." SO WHAT? As a writer, when I tell a story I draw on numerous sources for context.

On, "no need for an "actual" historic man Jesus, and certainly no need for the divinity which appears to be the core of Christian faith and belief, even your own."

Sorry. If you have no need, cool. But it's a huge leap from "I have no need" to "there is no need."

On the "whispy 'god' -- actually, it's human perceptions of God that are whispy, not God.

Maybe I'll write about encounters sometime. I have to be ready to be ridiculed for them, though. To be frank, my life is in such upheaval right now, I'm not sure I want to do that right now.

Oh, there is nothing "simple" about either an encounter with God OR a psychological event!

Oh, I don't profess to "know" -- in the sense that I know the chair I'm sitting in exists anything like "it was a manifestation of the Judeo-Chrsitian deity and not, for example, Vishnu, or a delusion?"

If I said or implied "know" in that sense, consider it retracted. I "believe" it. There's that pesly faith again! But don't insult me -- not that you have! -- by equating it with make-believe or fantasy.

Back to the chair I'm sitting in: Away from my house, if someone were to ask me, "Is there a chair in your place at your kitchen table," I'd probably say, "Yes," but I would harbor some doubt, 1., because I would be able to see it at that instant; my wife might have moved it; an earth tremor might have moved it; or, I might simply not remember for sure whether I'd moved it to stand on to change a lightbulb or something and forgotten to move it back.

At this moment, whether or not I believe this chair exists is an utterly moot question. I'm sitting in it. I am "faithing" in the chair -- resting in it and trusting it to hold me up. THAT's faith. Not intellectually assenting to a set of alleged facts.

Most of the questions you've been asking about the exact nature of God my concepts of God, are sort of the equivalent of you asking me the kind of wood that went into this chair, the style, how it fits the decor of my kitchen, etc.

Great questions! But they have nothing to do with the reality that I am sitting in the chair, in "faith."
 
ER: but my faith, for that and other reasons, does not require the kind of specificity or certainty that you're talking about.
I'm not certain we can be "certain" of anything, so I'm not asking for that :-)
I'm trying to figure out what your faith is based upon and why. Curiosity and all that :-)

ER: The early Christians expected the end of the world in their lifetime. They were wrong. It doesn't change the basic narrative of the Christian story.
Mark wrote symbolic allegory not history and Paul wrote of a spiritually resurrected, Christ, but it doesn't change the basic narrative of the Christian story? Well, the gospel of Mark has Jesus stating that the apocalypse will occur during the lives of those present (which would be in the 30's). If it's taken as a history, then there are issues with Jesus himself getting the time of the apocalypse badly wrong which alters the Christian story (along with other reasons why a history doesn't stack up).
It seems more likely that 'Mark' was writing symbolic allegory and not history, but this radically alters the Christian story.
There are great stories from most times and peoples. I still don't understand what is special about the "Christian" story which leads you to think it "utterly true".

Alan, Regarding "supernatural" acts. In the Old Testament Yahweh was very big on appearances. Smiting cities, parting waters, going into battle with/for a people/tribe/nation, drowning the world. It seems these days Yahweh is reduced to immaterial visions, superficial healings, oh and appearing on pieces of toast ;-).
Can you point to anything you see as a definite act of Yahweh?

Is it simply the feeling of awe you have when viewing or contemplating the mind boggling size and indifference of the visible universe that leads you to feel the "heavens declare the glory of god"?
What is it about the "heavens" which makes you think of an immaterial being?

Alan: Interesting interpretation, but obviously not the only one, and not one I find much evidence for within Scripture.
It seems a fairly simple matter if you take Paul's letters at face value and ignore later writing which he demonstrates no knowledge of (ie. the rest of the New Testament).
If by Scripture you mean the entire Christian canon, then you're taking into account later works which Paul would have been unaware of. You'd have to restrict yourself to the Hebrew bible (and probably other works such as 1 Enoch and similarly "inspired" works).

Alan: Maybe. I wasn't there. Yes, it happened, but since I'm not God, I couldn't tell you how or when.
How do you "know" it happened at all? What evidence do you cite for this knowledge? You seem pretty confident of it and I'm curious as to what gives you that confidence.

ER, if there is some way to distinguish between faith claims, why do you say reason is not the right tool and what tool or method can be used?

The archaeological evidence from the Nazareth area doesn't support the existence of a town or village at the site of Nazareth in the early first century. There are no references outside of the bible until around the 4th century, I think, even though Josephus provides a seemingly comprehensive list of the towns and cities of Galilee.
The area was used as a burial ground for the nearby town of Japha during the early 1st century, and Jewish burial laws of the time seem to forbid anyone from living near to the dead.
http://www.nazarethmyth.info/scandalfive
Has some references to the archaeological findings.

Paul's encounter on the Damascus road is described as entirely "revelatory" in his letters. This is consistent with temporal lobe epilepsy, among other things. What reason to ascribe an appearance from the divine when a simpler explanation would suffice?

ER: Sorry. If you have no need, cool. But it's a huge leap from "I have no need" to "there is no need."
I'm saying that there seems to be no need for an historic man Jesus/Joshua to explain either Paul's letters, nor the gospel of mark (of which the other gospels borrow heavily for the narratives).

ER: On the "whispy 'god'" -- actually, it's human perceptions of God that are whispy, not God.
What do you mean by that? If you say our perceptions of god leave us with the wispy fragments resembling the god of theologians , or the indifferent god of deism, or such things which can be credited as having a neurological source, how can you say there is a god at all, with any sort of confidence (and you seem very confident on the existence of a god)?

ER:Oh, there is nothing "simple" about either an encounter with God OR a psychological event!
But one is vastly simpler than the other. A psychological event requires a brain, something whose existence I can demonstrate with nothing more than a bone saw (or a hammer, should I wish to be crude and damage the subject) :-)
An encounter with your omni-everything god requires not only a brain to experience, but the vastly more complex god which is encountered.
If there is no way to differentiate between the two, shouldn't we prefer the simpler explanation? If not, then how do we distinguish between the infinite number of possible explanations for any event?

ER: At this moment, whether or not I believe this chair exists is an utterly moot question. I'm sitting in it. I am "faithing" in the chair -- resting in it and trusting it to hold me up. THAT's faith. Not intellectually assenting to a set of alleged facts.
It's basic empiricism, not faith :-)

There, hopefully a reasonable mix of narrative and fisking ;-)
 
"Alan, Regarding "supernatural" acts. In the Old Testament Yahweh was very big on appearances. Smiting cities, parting waters, going into battle with/for a people/tribe/nation, drowning the world. It seems these days Yahweh is reduced to immaterial visions, superficial healings, oh and appearing on pieces of toast ;-).
Can you point to anything you see as a definite act of Yahweh?"

Sure ... pretty much everything. You're also assuming I believe that throwing down a giant mountain of fire on Sodom is an accurate historical account of the event. I'm not sure lots of those things are objectively historical accounts of the events themselves. So, it's probably easiest to say that I don't expect God to make the world stop spinning, since I don't necessarily think that's actually what happened in the past.

"It seems a fairly simple matter if you take Paul's letters at face value and ignore later writing which he demonstrates no knowledge of (ie. the rest of the New Testament)."

Nope, I meant just restricting yourself to his letters, that is, the letters believed to have been actually written by him, and not just those attributed to him. It's pretty clear that he believed Jesus walked the earth. His emphasis on "the resurrection of the body" in this letters wouldn't make much sense otherwise.

"The archaeological evidence from the Nazareth area doesn't support the existence of a town or village at the site of Nazareth in the early first century. "

Outside the little town I in which I was raised is a place we used to call "Cooks Corners." It used to have a little general store, and even a little elementary school. It even appears on some state maps, and Google maps.

The problem is that it's not really there. The school has been leveled, and the store is gone. Today there's a stoplight there. That's it. And, if you asked most younger people in town where Cooks Corners is, they wouldn't be able to tell you, as it's a name only used by older folks.

So, which is right? It isn't an incorporated village, or even an unincorporated one, and never was. Today, it's simply a place where two state roads meet. And, if I were to say that I used to live in Cooks Corners in the 70's and you asked around town, depending on who you asked, and what map you used, that would either be true or false. (Our mailing address was not Cooks Corners, but the nearby larger town. Even the three small incorporated villages near my little hometown don't use their village names as mailing addresses, though they do appear on maps.)

All that confusion and it's here it is, 2008. Go back 2000 years, and I'd wager things get even murkier.

"You seem pretty confident of it and I'm curious as to what gives you that confidence."

All sorts of reasons, including personal experience and the vast array of experiences of others. BTW, confidence is a much better description than certainty.
 
Jeez. This sandbox needs to be cleaned out.
 
Reading all this I hear my Dad's rants against it all, same arguments, same phrases.

I am the only Christian in a family that was consciously raised Atheist. No matter what the arguments are for either side, it all boils down to getting on your (not necessarily physical) knees and taking the risk to psychologically accept what is already right there for you to access.

In a previous life, when I still had time to read non-academic writings, I came across a book about the impact of the gospel on individuals through short-wave radio. As far as I remember, it was a "pop" type Christian book - but one of the stories struck me: the person involved had heard the salvation message on his short-wave radio, and decided he would pray, saying: "I don't believe you exist, I don't know if you exist, but if you do, come and enter into my existence and show me you're there". This person claims that that was the moment he came to know that Jesus really existed/exists.

When I prayed for the same thing (in a different way), I had no idea if anything would "happen". But there was an invisible line that was crossed (I actually saw that line, mentally), and I went from reading the Bible and yawning, to being amazed that I could "see" that it was true.

Nonetheless, I think the hardest thing to do is to come to that point where you're brave enough to say the words above, or think them, and take that risk.

It is a hugely dangerous step into a frightening unknown, one that will change your whole way of seeing things and how they work, crush your nice little context you've constructed to better understand your existence, and pull you out of a comfortable way of thinking into an exciting wilderness yet to discover, where you too can join RB in saying "Belief just is".
 
Alan: His emphasis on "the resurrection of the body" in this letters wouldn't make much sense otherwise.
His emphasis seems to be on gaining a new spiritual resurrection body, which he equates with the last adam (Christ), as apposed to the mortal physical bodies we have, which he equates with the first adam.

Alan: All that confusion and it's here it is, 2008. Go back 2000 years, and I'd wager things get even murkier.
But you could still find the remains of the school and the store, as well as the stoplight and the roads. For Nazareth there is nothing indicating habitation in the early first century, though there is evidence of it being used as a graveyard of sorts. So, there is archaeological evidence from the early first century, just none which supports a town or village there.
 
Karen: Nonetheless, I think the hardest thing to do is to come to that point where you're brave enough to say the words above, or think them, and take that risk.
I've heard of converted Muslims say the same thing concerning accepting Allah into their lives.
 
ER, I just noticed your edit to the original post.
If I've been playing rope-a-dope, it's not been a conscious or intentional strategy.
I'm curious as to what and why people believe, and most of the people I "harass" on the interwebs aren't as willing to continue a discussion as you folk are.
I'll try to use less rope in the future ;-)
 
ekbmActually, I think that that's neat - although there's so much proscriptive prescription in modern day faiths of every kind, that it may not be the same thing we're talking about.

What I'm talking about is "come as you are, at any time, right now", no matter how grubby you are, and not(although some Christian churches would like it that way as well!) come when you've put in the work, done the courses, been educated in the ways and are ready, acceptable...
 
Ha! Rian, I didn't necessarily mean the rope remark as a jab. I'm really just pooped. :-)
 
Hey, Rian, here's a little something that I adhere to, more or less -- more more than less sometimes, more less at other times. It may raise more questions than it answers, and I freely acknowledge that most Christians probably the originators, and myselk, way off base, but here it is, the first of the Phoenix Affirmations, which are easy enough to find online:

xxx
Affirmation 1: Walking fully in the path of Jesus, without denying the legitimacy of other paths God may provide humanity;

Matthew 11:28-29; John 8:12; John 10:16; Mark 9:40

As Christians, we find spiritual awakening, challenge, growth, and fulfillment in Christ’s birth, life, death, and resurrection. While we have accepted the Path of Jesus as our Path, we do not deny the legitimacy of other paths God may provide humanity. Where possible, we seek lively dialog with those of other faiths for mutual benefit and fellowship.

We affirm that the Path of Jesus is found wherever love of God, neighbor, and self are practiced together. Whether or not the path bears the name of Jesus, such paths bear the identity of Christ.

We confess that we have stepped away from Christ’s Path whenever we have failed to practice love of God, neighbor, and self, or have claimed Christianity is the only way, even as we claim it to be our way.
xxx
 
Bring on that marvelous "tether".
 
:-)
 
I realize I'm jumping in fairly late, but . . . Nazareth didn't exist at the time? So, when the Gospel accounts were written, from the late first through mid second centuries, Nazareth suddenly appeared and they decided to put Jesus there? Is that what I'm gathering.

Honestly, that's about the dumbest thing I've heard in a long time, as far as "debunking Jesus" is concerned.

I like Alan's little parable of Cook's Corners. I like the fact that so much of this debate swings around the hinge of what people deem acceptable as "evidence" and what level of "certainty" they prefer in their lives. If someone wants to think they have enough evidence that Nazareth didn't exist in the early 1st century, and that this is enough to disprove the entire Gospel account - go for it. I mean, we've had the whole James ossuary thing, people who take The DaVinci Code seriously, even serious debates, back in the late 1960's thanks to authors Erik von Daniken and Velikovsky (can't remember his first name) on Noah's Ark and the story in Joshua about the sun standing still. There was even something about fifteen or so years ago about the real Ark of the Covenant being found in a monastery in Ethiopia.

If that's the way you wish to measure faith, either yours or others - go for it. Since I and others here don't however, and seem to think that their measure of certainty and acceptability not only works for them, but provides them with a richer, more abundant life, I fail to see where there is anything more than a disagreement about the meaning of words here.
 
And then there's this, previously posted here on Nov. 4, 2007:

By Robin Meyers
Senior Minister
Mayflower Congregational-UCC Church, Oklahoma Ciry

(From the March 14, 2007, Oklahoma Gazette)

In case there is anyone out there who hasn't heard yet, filmmaker James Cameron, who gave us such believable movies as "Titanic," has made a new documentary called "The Lost Tomb of Jesus." In it, he claims that several "ossuaries" or limestone tombs unearthed by construction workers in Jerusalem in 1980 once contained the bones of Jesus, Mary, members of Jesus' family, and his son Judah by Mary Magdalene, who had a tomb of her own.

If true, this would contradict the claim that Jesus was bodily resurrected, as most Christians believe -- and that, therefore, Easter is a myth and Christianity is a lie. In the post-"DaVinci Code" world, there is big money to be made in the myth-busting business.

The only problem is, the validity of these claims notwithstanding, Cameron's project will produce what the media always gives us when it practices theology without a license: all heat and no light. Those who base their faith on a physical Resurrection will condemn it, and those who don't, or who are hostile to all religion, will use it to cast doubt on what they have already judged to be ancient superstition. Are you with us, or against us?

Not long ago it was the Shroud of Turin that was reputed to be the burial cloth of Jesus, his visage imprinted on the cloth as he was raised from the dead. Millions claimed that this was finally "proof" of the Resurrection, until the cloth was carbon-dated and found to be from the 11th or 12th century. The faithful regrouped, and the nonbelievers scoffed.

Now comes the latest effort to disprove the Resurrection by the discovery of tombs inscribed with what were common names in first-century Palestine, but whose appearance together is said to be against great odds. The "discovery" of the tomb reputed to be that of Mary Magdalene is the weakest link, but if you are making a movie, this is irresistible.

What Cameron and his ilk don't realize is that Christians are not a bipolar monolith consumed by endless arguments over "dueling artifacts." Some of us understand Easter as a spiritual phenomenon, not a physical one, and we wouldn't care is someone found the entire skeleton of Jesus -- we would still believe that Easter is real and that God raised Jesus from the dead.

We are not interested in magic, or in special effects, or in the disassembling and reassembling of molecules -- as if Easter were some first-century version of "Beam me up, Scotty!" Instead we are heirs to the story of how ordinary, clueless, even cowardly disciples experienced the mysterious presence of Jesus after his execution, and it transformed them into new human beings. In response to this mystery, they formed communities that welcomed everyone, and dared to say that he was the Son of God, not Caeser. They ceased all animal sacrifice, believing that God no longer needed to be bargained with, and ultimately gave their lives in service to an alternative community where the only creed was "Jesus Christ is Lord."

What, I ask, is a box of bones compared to that? Perhaps if we could stop confusing faith with magic for just one moment, we might turn our attention to something more important than miracles as the suspension of natural law -- like the Sermon on the Mount, or nonviolence, or peace and justice.

Then, every time we act like true disciples in the world, the Resurrection becomes present tense, not past tense. And every time the church acts like the body of Christ in the world, it becomes self-evident that he lives.
xxx

ER here: Amen.

And Rian, here is my answrr, today, to the question you pose to me so directly: Why are you a Christian?

"Instead we are heirs to the story of how ordinary, clueless, even cowardly disciples experienced the mysterious presence of Jesus after his execution, and it transformed them into new human beings. In response to this mystery, they formed communities that welcomed everyone, and dared to say that he was the Son of God, not Caeser. They ceased all animal sacrifice, believing that God no longer needed to be bargained with, and ultimately gave their lives in service to an alternative community where the only creed was 'Jesus Christ is Lord.' "
 
Amen.
 
Sigh. This has got my wannabe-a-seminarian lobe all throbby again. If not for debt! It truly would take a "God thing" to get me able to do something so drastic.
 
Going further off subject:

GKS said: "There was even something about fifteen or so years ago about the real Ark of the Covenant being found in a monastery in Ethiopia."

Say, they still say it is there.
I was at Axum (Aksum) in 1967 with a Pentecostal and a Jewish friends of mine. We tried to get into the compound where the little chapel where the Ark is being kept was. No way they said. We even tried bribing them. No luck. Mind you we only want to see the building that the Ark was in. We had no illusion that they would let us see the Ark.


Here is a Smithsonian article talking about the same place.

"...through the centuries, Ethiopian Christians have claimed that the ark rests in a chapel in the small town of Aksum, in their country's northern highlands. It arrived nearly 3,000 years ago, they say, and has been guarded by a succession of virgin monks who, once anointed, are forbidden to set foot outside the chapel grounds until they die."

http://www.smithsonianmag.com/people-places/ark-covenant-200712.html

Now the Ark may not (probably is not) in there, but they "know" that it is, and that it has been there since Sheba stole it from or was given it by Solomon.
 
Geoffrey, the archaeological evidence does not seem to support the town of Nazareth existing in the early 1st century, simple as that. Instead the evidence from that period supports the location being used as a graveyard of sorts.
The town may have been settled during the scattering of the Jews during/after one of the Jewish wars.
As for placing Jesus there, it could have to do with scriptural references to the messiah being a nazarite, or Isaiah 11:11 where a reference is made to being a "branch" (Hebrew: netzer) from the stump of Jesse.
Geoffrey: If someone wants to think they have enough evidence that Nazareth didn't exist in the early 1st century, and that this is enough to disprove the entire Gospel account - go for it.
It's not that there is evidence that it didn't exist. It's that there is no evidence that it did.
I suppose what you take Jesus being placed in the town of Nazareth for is up to you, I'm simply pointing out that the evidence seems to be against the town existing at the period Jesus is purported to have lived.

ER (quoting an article): Instead we are heirs to the story of how ordinary, clueless, even cowardly disciples experienced the mysterious presence of Jesus after his execution, and it transformed them into new human beings.
The issue is, what if the story of these clueless and cowardly disciples is allegorical and not historical ie. the story did not happen. A string case can be made that the gospel of mark is just such a story, and with the other gospels (and acts) using and embellishing this tale, I don't see the grounds to be confident in the historical content of the gospels.
The story "the lord of the rings" conveys a tale of hope against overwhelming odds, about how the smallest of people can make a difference. Great story, but it didn't happen, and I won't be praising Gandalf or fearing Sauron any time soon ;-)

drlobojo, I though the US govt had their best men keeping the Ark in a secret facility after Indiana Jones aquired it from the Germans during WWII? :-)
 
Rian wrote: "His emphasis seems to be on gaining a new spiritual resurrection body, which he equates with the last adam (Christ), as apposed to the mortal physical bodies we have, which he equates with the first adam."

Well, as I keep saying, that's one interpretation, and an odd one, which it isn't supported by his writings.

Rian wrote: "But you could still find the remains of the school and the store, as well as the stoplight and the roads."

Nope. Nice try, though. :) The school is gone. As is the store. Torn down, foundations torn up, holes filled in. I haven't been there in a long time, but I think it's now just part of a farmer's field. (Farming, BTW, is a great way to completely eliminate archeological evidence.)

So if the evidence is gone, does that mean it never existed?

And, what about our modern "accurate" maps. They show it's there, but clearly they're wrong. Does that mean it does exist now?

"For Nazareth there is nothing indicating habitation in the early first century, though there is evidence of it being used as a graveyard of sorts. So, there is archaeological evidence from the early first century, just none which supports a town or village there."

I guess it all comes down to certainty and evidence. I don't find the fact (if indeed it is a fact) that there is currently no archeological evidence of a peasant village from 2000 years ago all that convincing that it didn't exist, for all the reasons I previously stated.
 
On Nazareth: Places exist long before place names, do. I have ancestors who moved to "Oklahoma," people say, in the 1870s. But it wasn't Oklahoma; it was Indian Territory. And, actually, if all that was there was a burial ground, that lends credibility to the overall personage of Jesus as an outsider who hung out with outcasts who was a Jew but certainly no "Jew's Jew." Ceremonial laws be damned, among others.

Re, "The issue is, what if the story of these clueless and cowardly disciples is allegorical and not historical, i.e. the story did not happen."

But the story is happening. Is happening now. I'm as clueless and cowardly, at times, as my ancestors in the faith. What we're arguing about are the details of the origins of the story. But the story, including the Resurrection itself, continues, and that cannot be denied. You may reject some details, even the Resurrection. But the story IS.

Re, "A string case can be made that the gospel of mark is just such a story, and with the other gospels (and acts) using and embellishing this tale, I don't see the grounds to be confident in the historical content of the gospels."

Speaking only for myself: There is very little historical content in the Gospels, to be confident in or lack confidence in. Very little. What I have great confidence in, because I am a part of it, is the story.

Re, "The story 'the lord of the rings' conveys a tale of hope against overwhelming odds, about how the smallest of people can make a difference. Great story, but it didn't happen, and I won't be praising Gandalf or fearing Sauron any time soon ;-)"

Whether it "happened" or not, actually, is an existential debate waiting to happen! But that's irrelevant to the reality that wisdom and grace and other wonders can be drawn from the story. Who's to say that Galdolf shouldn't be praised or that Sauron shouldn't be feared?
 
Hey, Rian, re: "most of the people I 'harass' on the interwebs aren't as willing to continue a discussion as you folk are."

This thread could just be getting warmed up. :-) With Lee's assistance, I surpassed 400 comments on one thread ahile back.

:-) There's a folktale that if a snapping thunder bites you, he won't let go until it thunders ... Kinda like that on these kinds of threads (although I do flag periodically.)
 
Hundredth!

w00t!
 
Rian:"drlobojo, I though the US govt had their best men keeping the Ark in a secret facility after Indiana Jones aquired it from the Germans during WWII? :-)"

The confusion there is that the Germans found the one from the Temple that was built later in Egypt, not Jerusalem. The Egyptian one entrusted by God to the Diaspora at a later date was much more elaborate and displayable, more Hollywood if you please than the smaller, more tribal, one kept in Axum.

You saw what happened when they opened the secondary Ark, just imagine what would happen if the original was messed with. By the way, I think that the secondary Ark was actually sold as surplus to a collector that lives somewhere North of Paris. He donated it to the Vatican and it resides in the secret and private museum of the Pope. ;-)
 
Rian, I don't mean to rain on your parade, but since I took a seminary class with a past President of the Society of Biblical Archaeologists who actually did the whole "digging" stuff in Israel and Jordan until his Parkinson's became a liability, I think I might have heard something like this.

Contrary to what many who aren't in "the know" might think, most Biblical scholars are better described as "scholars who study the Bible". Even if they are ordained clergy, most take a skeptical view of the "historical claims" contained in all manner of stories. For example, in the Book of Joshua, there are the many stories of the people destroying this, that, or the other city. Except, of course, there is no evidence the walls of Jericho ever fell to any invaders until long after the city became a part of the Kingdom of Israel. The city of Ai, mentioned in passing as one ransacked, was already destroyed half a millennium before even a round figure for the dates of these events could have taken place. The word "Ai" in Hebrew means "ruin" which is kind of a clue. There is abundant evidence that the glorious "Kingdom" described in the OT was actually pretty much a vassal state of the surrounding Empires, as there is much evidence, from Stele's and other records, of ambassadors from Israel paying obeisance, and even taxes in the form of grain, livestock, and other goods, to a variety of Imperial courts.

As to the whole Nazareth thing, your formula doesn't make sense at all. "No evidence it did exist" is not even scientific. I could produce all sorts of "evidence" that, for example, my hometown of Waverly, NY exists, from satellite photographs to phone books, from Census Data to the testimonials of people who actually live there, and some skeptic could produce enough counter-questions to declare all that evidence irrelevant because the standard of proof being demanded dismisses such accounts as irrelevant, not satisfying scientific rigor, or whatnot.

I ask again, and it was not a mere rhetorical question - the Gospel accounts, most of which were written toward the end of the first century (within a generation or two of Jesus) to the mid-second century name Jesus as a Nazarean. So, I ask, again, this town which apparently did not exist as a population center in the first thirty years or so of the first century suddenly was named as the hometown of Jesus. Please remember, Rian, that the audience for the earliest Gospels would have been residents of Judea and Galilee, so they would know the area, and had some Gospel writer been foolish enough to do something as place Jesus in a non-existent town, another enterprising soul might have clued him or her in, saying something like, "You know, Nazareth is a kind of new town, so Jesus couldn't have lived there." Just because they lived two thousand years ago and were quite full of religious fervor doesn't mean these people were stupid.

Honestly, I just don't understand the argument. Nazareth was a graveyard that morphed in to a population center where later generations of Christians claimed Jesus lived? If you could just site one reputable source for this claim of yours - and by reputable, I mean a scholarly archaeological journal or monograph, peer reviewed, etc. - I would be interested in reading it.
 
ER: And, actually, if all that was there was a burial ground, that lends credibility to the overall personage of Jesus as an outsider who hung out with outcasts who was a Jew but certainly no "Jew's Jew." Ceremonial laws be damned, among others.
You require a village/town/city filled with other Jews, not just a single guy flouting ceremonial laws.
I don't see mention of Nazareth from any ancient historian or geographer until the 4th century.
Josephus mentions the nearby town of Japha, 1 mile away from Nazareth, where he lived for a time, and seems likely to be the source of the tombs from the early first century.

drlobojo: He donated it to the Vatican and it resides in the secret and private museum of the Pope. ;-)
Yikes! Can the Pope and the Vatican be trusted with this weapon of mass destruction? ;-)

Alan: I ask again, and it was not a mere rhetorical question - the Gospel accounts, most of which were written toward the end of the first century (within a generation or two of Jesus) to the mid-second century name Jesus as a Nazarean.
Was the initial naming of Jesus as a Nazarean intended to imply place of birth, or the Jewish sect from which he was said to have come (the Nazarenes)?
I've not looked into when the earliest manuscript evidence for "Jesus the Nazarean" was written, and what form the reference takes. I'm not sure that it is clear cut that they refer to Jesus as hailing from a location of that name, and not as some form of title.
If you've got some references regarding that, I'd love to read them.

Alan: Please remember, Rian, that the audience for the earliest Gospels would have been residents of Judea and Galilee, so they would know the area, and had some Gospel writer been foolish enough to do something as place Jesus in a non-existent town, another enterprising soul might have clued him or her in, saying something like, "You know, Nazareth is a kind of new town, so Jesus couldn't have lived there." Just because they lived two thousand years ago and were quite full of religious fervour doesn't mean these people were stupid.
I thought the gospel of Mark was thought to have been written by a diaspora Jew in or around Rome?
If the initial audience would have taken this gospel as allegorical or metaphorical - i.e. as a story with a message and not as actual history, then what be the problem of Mark inventing a town with a name which suited his purposes? Why would anyone have complained?
And if it was mostly read by gentiles and diaspora Jews, as a part of a small obscure cult, who would bother to question it?

Regarding published papers for the Nazareth area, I was unable to find it online, but a survey conducted by the Israel Antiquities Authority, published as "Nazerat (Nazareth) Area, Survey" in Hadashot Arkheologiyot 1999; English p. 90, Hebrew p. 113 concludes that "Sherds, mostly dating to the Late Roman period (2nd–4th centuries CE), were scattered on the surface.". And does not support the conclusion of an inhabited village in the area.
The wikipedia page seems to have some (possibly) useful references as well.
That the evidence supports a burial ground and not a town or city in the early first century seems to be the consensus of most of the material I find which I stumble across. I don't think I'm too biased in this regard, as I don't think it too problematic should Jesus and Nazareth have actually existed in the early first century.

If you know of other work which comes to different conclusions, which you feel is reputable, I'd love to read it as I don't want to peddle baseless assertions :-)
 
Rian, here's how anthropology works. Some folks on a dig fins some pot sherds, maybe the remnants of a few fire pits. There is a slag heap with accumulated garbage. Within walking distance - a mile or so, there is evidence of planned graves in the form of semi-regularly placed skeletons. There might be, should enough careful work be done, the bare outline of a dwelling or two. Or maybe not.

This is what is left of a town in upstate NY that disappeared just before the Civil War. All that's left are a few bones, some broken pottery, and a semi-fossilized garbage.

You site an untitled Israeli survey that mentions pot sherds. You admit you know of nothing off hand, but claim to have seen other sources.

As for the whole issue of the Gospel writers placing Jesus in the non-existent town of Nazareth - and doing so within a generation or two of Jesus' death, and considering both the authors and intended audiences would have been well aware that no such place existed in which to put Jesus, I hear only crickets.

Do you assume that people in 1st century Judea and Samaria and Galilee were stupid? Do you assume that their level of credulity was such that they could believe a man grew up and lived most of his life in a non-existent town?

Again, the entire premise is absurd. It is based either on shoddy archaeological work (you mention that Nazareth was a cemetery; cemeteries tend to be close to, you know, population centers where people die a lot and need to be buried) or the assumption that 1st and 2nd century Christians were dumber than a herd of elk.
 
Rian, So, the Gospel writers made up a place name, which then actually came to be, taking the very name the Gospel writers gave it? Considering the hostility visited upon the Christians in this early-early era, that's about as hard to believe as the notion of someone walkin' on water.
 
Nazareth a made up name, a place that didn't exist? Let's see what a totally deferent type of source says of Nazareth. Dr. Thiersing on the Essene scrolls found at the Dead Sea compound of Qumran:

1. "The hermits were not, however, entirely alone in their retreats. Two other kinds of solarist ascetics shared the territory with them. One consisted of married men who had left their families for short periods in order to engage in prayer and meditation, a practice referred to by Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:5. These were the Nazirites, a higher order of married men, whose main organisational centre was in Nazareth in Galilee. The Essene Nazirites practiced a higher discipline, with longer periods of retreat, than the more orthodox kind, whose Nazirite vow lasted 30 days. For these men, the shortest possible period was 40 days, next 50 days, then 60, 70, 80 and 90 up to 100. The Hebrew letters used for numbers were applied, letters that also indicated the grades of education for the ministry. Thus a 40 day man was a Mem (40), a grade 9 baptisand, and so on:"

2. "Their retreats were spent in the caves that lined the rocky heights all along the route from Mar Saba to Mird Minor. The Nazirites of the pre-initiate grades, 40 and 50 days, spent their retreat periods in Jerusalem, being considered not hardy enough to endure the dry barren conditions of the Wilderness of Judea. At Mar Saba itself was to be found a 60, of the initiate grade, and a 70, a deacon. This retreat spot was for the lowest of the advanced members, and was used as a school for boys being trained for the ascetic way of life. It was called Nazara, after the main centre in Galilee, in the form of the word ending in "a". This was the Nazara in which Jesus had been brought up, according to Luke 4:16. The next spot, an hour further away, was close to the position that was also called "Emmaus". This was for the 80 day men of grade 5, presbyters. It was called "Nazareth" in a variation of the name. The principle was being employed, as in the case of "Galilee", that a minister brought his village with him wherever he went."

source:

http://www.pesherofchrist.infinitesoulutions.com/index_Word_for_Word_QR1.html

Now the researcher of the Dead Sea Scrolls named Dr. Barbara Thiering is the one who has published the Pesher of Christ. The New Testament interpretation is in much (mucho) dispute but the basics of the Scrolls and the Essene order and structure is considered accurate.

So as early as a 150 years before Christ there was a group (sect) of men from Nazareth that bore the name of the village and transferred the name to a site within the Qumran area. Now here is one of the places that Thierings interpretation gets different.
"This was the Nazara in which Jesus had been brought up."
She is contending that Jesus was born raise and lived at Qumran. Thus the Narareth of the New Testament is actually a "boys school" near where the Nazarites did their thing.

Thiering has been held in "contempt" by many Bible Scholars. Of course they would for what she is studying is "outside" Biblical sources and a far depature from the last 2000 years of "Christian" interpretation of who Christ was and what he meant. That "contempt" is beginning to erode however as the concept of Pesher writing is better understood.

Anyway if you actually want to study two of the sources check these out, and please don't regurgitate some fundamentalist or wiki type sites back to me on this.
Remember the existance of Nazareth is one subject. The reliance of Pesher to interpret the New Testament is a whole nother subject. Enjoy.

The Pesher of Christ:
http://www.pesherofchrist.infinitesoulutions.com/index_Word_for_Word_QR1.html

The Dead Sea Scrolls:
http://www.ibiblio.org/expo/deadsea.scrolls.exhibit/intro.html
 
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