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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 1: Sun Nov 10, 2019 8:59 pm
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Historical Questions about Jesus

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Here is an exchange that exhibits a common historical lack of perspective among skeptics:

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Jesus performed many miracles and if He did it before He can also do it now.

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RESPONSE: Let's be a little more precise. Jesus was executed around 30 AD. The gospels were written between 70 and 95 AD by non-witness "believers" 40 to 65 years after the event was said to have occurred.

What might be the logical objection to their accuracy?


This is a popular attack against the gospels: they were written later than the events they describe (and apparently, 40 years is a long time. One does wonder whether those who use this argument are younger than 25!!). And... they were not written by eye-witnesses.

I do not think such conclusions are the result of serious historical inquiry. Here are some other questions:

1) How likely is it that a Jewish rabbi who did nothing but wander around and preach moral platitudes eventually acquire the reputation of performing numerous, NUMEROUS, miraculous healings: a) within 40 years of his life, b) by both friend and foe alike (it is highly significant that enemies of Jesus did not deny his ability to perform miracles; they merely attributed them to the power of the devil or to magic. Such attributions are made within and without the bible).

We have examples of numerous Jewish Rabbis, and to almost all, zero miracles are ascribed. Thus "non-miracle worker" is the default position for most Jewish Rabbis, indeed most teachers at all. Plato never said Socrates performed miracles; and Plato was by no means adverse to the miraculous, as anyone who has read him will acknowledge.

So why did friend and foe ascribe miracles to Jesus? What historical reason can we give for this unanimous concensus?


2) general consensus has the synoptics being published between 69 and 90 A.D. Many scholars think Mark began circulation prior to the destruction of the Jewish temple.

A major objection of skeptics is that the gospels were written by non-witnesses. That is fine; most of our historical beliefs are based on the work of non-witnesses: after all, do any of us really believe that what we believe about ancient Greece or Rome is based entirely on autobiographies? Do we really believe Livy, or Plutarch, or Herodotus, were personal eyewitnesses of what they report? Or even that what they report occurred ten years within writing it?

The real questions we should be asking are a) how likely is it that zero eyewitnesses of Jesus were alive and available for interview within a mere 40 years of his death? Why or why not?

b)how likely is it that the gospel writers did not consult a single eyewitness of Jesus, but were fine "making it all up"? Why or why not?

c) Are we really to believe it plausible that the author of Mark, who published his work by 70 A.D., had zero motivation to travel and interview someone who knew something about the most significant topic of his life?! Why or why not?

d) Is it plausible that people who knew Jesus simply sat at home in isolation their entire lives, never talking about their experiences with him? Why or why not?

e) Is it plausible that the closest associates of Jesus knew he was just a teacher; and yet invented stories of miracles and a resurrection? Why or why not?

These are a mere sampling of historical questions which those truly interested in historical research would ask.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 2: Sun Nov 10, 2019 9:24 pm
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Like this post (3): benchwarmer, Difflugia, bluegreenearth
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Uncle Ralph says that when he was a mere snip of a lad, fifty years ago, he heard that someone flew by flapping his arms. Some of his buddies said that they actually saw the flapping; unfortunately, they are all senile or dead now – but we can take their word that it actually happened. There was an article written about the flapping: although the original is lost someone made notes about what it said.

Let’s make life decisions based on that story -- and build monuments.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 3: Sun Nov 10, 2019 10:07 pm
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Zzyzx wrote:

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Uncle Ralph says that when he was a mere snip of a lad, fifty years ago, he heard that someone flew by flapping his arms. Some of his buddies said that they actually saw the flapping; unfortunately, they are all senile or dead now – but we can take their word that it actually happened. There was an article written about the flapping: although the original is lost someone made notes about what it said.



I noticed you have not answered a SINGLE question asked in the OP. I regard this as insulting and UNMANLY. Please answer the questions.

If you wish to draw an analogy from your bit above, then make it an ANALOGY; if you do not know how, then ask someone.

In short, do more than merely CAPITALIZE and give loose analogies.

Here are some points to consider when you next revise your analogy:

1) In your analogy, Uncle Ralph is reporting something spectacular; he is not performing something spectacular, yes? He is thus parallel not to Jesus but the disciples of Jesus. And thus your "flapping" guy does not pertain to anyone.

2) Was the "flapping" of someone was reported to have occurred again and again and again? That is, "some of his buddies" did not say, "oh yeah, on such and such a date, we saw it." RAther, they said, "Oh yeah, we followed this guy for several months and he flapped his arms every couple of days and would fly, EVERY COUPLE OF DAYS".


IS THAT WHAT YOUR STORY IS SAYING?

Or have you presented an anecdote that has no parallel with the gospels OTHER than that you don't believe either; in which case, you have presented an entirely SUBJECTIVE argument...?


I've read it again, and am dissapointed by the lack of contact with the current topic. Did people actually say, "yes, I saw George, the local mechanic, flap his arms and levitate?"

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 4: Mon Nov 11, 2019 1:02 am
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Re: Historical Questions about Jesus

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[Replying to post 1 by liamconnor]

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So why did friend and foe ascribe miracles to Jesus? What historical reason can we give for this unanimous concensus?

Who, specifically, are these friends and foes and where can we see their testimony?

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 5: Mon Nov 11, 2019 2:04 am
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Re: Historical Questions about Jesus

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liamconnor wrote:

These are a mere sampling of historical questions which those truly interested in historical research would ask.


The questions you ask are NOT historical questions. We have absolutely no reason whatsoever to believe that the "Jesus" described in the Gospel rumors reflects the actions or verbatim words of any actual person.

liamconnor wrote:

1) How likely is it that a Jewish rabbi who did nothing but wander around and preach moral platitudes eventually acquire the reputation of performing numerous, NUMEROUS, miraculous healings: a) within 40 years of his life, b) by both friend and foe alike (it is highly significant that enemies of Jesus did not deny his ability to perform miracles; they merely attributed them to the power of the devil or to magic. Such attributions are made within and without the bible).


But this simply isn't true. All we have that makes these claims are the Gospel rumors. There isn't any independent texts that back up the Gospel rumors.

Also many of the claims made by the authors of the Gospel rumors don't even add up with respect to a larger picture. If Jesus really was as well-known for having done all those miracles we should most definitely expect to see a lot of independent historical rumors written about this man. But the fact is that we don't.

liamconnor wrote:

2) general consensus has the synoptics being published between 69 and 90 A.D. Many scholars think Mark began circulation prior to the destruction of the Jewish temple.


I agree that the belated writings of these rumors is highly suspicious. But it really wouldn't even matter if they were written right after Jesus had died. They still wouldn't be compelling.

liamconnor wrote:

The real questions we should be asking are a) how likely is it that zero eyewitnesses of Jesus were alive and available for interview within a mere 40 years of his death? Why or why not?


This isn't even a consideration for me. The Gospel rumors aren't compelling even if told by people who claimed to have been eyewitnesses.

liamconnor wrote:

b)how likely is it that the gospel writers did not consult a single eyewitness of Jesus, but were fine "making it all up"? Why or why not?


I don't think they had to "make it all up". I would suspect that many of these rumors were already "in the air". Just like there were rumors about Elvis Presley being seen after he had died too.

liamconnor wrote:

c) Are we really to believe it plausible that the author of Mark, who published his work by 70 A.D., had zero motivation to travel and interview someone who knew something about the most significant topic of his life?! Why or why not?


Who cares what Mark's motivation might have been? His Gospel rumors clearly contain obvious falsehoods:

Mark 16:
[16] He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.
[17] And these signs shall follow them that believe; In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues;
[18] They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.


We know that these claims are not true. So why should we trust anything attributed to this author?

liamconnor wrote:

d) Is it plausible that people who knew Jesus simply sat at home in isolation their entire lives, never talking about their experiences with him? Why or why not?


I think it's far more plausible that they were very sociable and were easily influenced by superstitious rumors and conspiracy theories. I doubt very much that they made up their stories in isolation. In fact, Matthew and Luke were clearly regurgitating many of the rumors that had been previously attributed to Mark, and we already know that Mark's words cannot be trusted as he clearly said things that are definitely not true as I pointed out above.

liamconnor wrote:

e) Is it plausible that the closest associates of Jesus knew he was just a teacher; and yet invented stories of miracles and a resurrection? Why or why not?


It's far more than merely plausible. This is typical human behavior. Did you ever hear of the myths of the Greek Gods and Goddesses?

Why would you think those people made up stuff that wasn't true?

It's human nature to tell whoppers. Face it.

So yes, it more than just plausible, it's actually quite common. Let's not forget that Islam is based on similar rumors about Muhammad. And there are many other cultures that have many rumors about their imagined gods as well. The Aztecs, the Incas, the North American Indians, and even the Egyptians.

Making up stories about Gods is apparently a very common pastime for a lot of people.

So there's nothing surprising about people making up stuff about "Jesus". Yes, there may indeed have been a real person who sparked these rumors, but this is true of a lot of fictional characters. I've heard historians claim that there most likely were people associated with the rumors of Apollo, and Hercules, etc. In fact, I've even heard that there may very well have been a real logger named Paul Bunyan. Of course the tales told about him were no doubt highly exaggerated.

People love to make up stories and claim they are real. So there's nothing surprising about that.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 6: Mon Nov 11, 2019 2:53 am
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Like this post (1): benchwarmer
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[Replying to post 3 by liamconnor]

It almost seems as though you doubt that the tale is true -- after applying critical thinking and asking about sources.

Good start toward understanding the real world vs fiction

Another potential consideration: the likelihood of flying by flapping arms.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 7: Tue Nov 12, 2019 2:44 pm
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Re: Historical Questions about Jesus

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liamconnor wrote:
I do not think such conclusions are the result of serious historical inquiry.

So, let's do some serious historical inquiry.

liamconnor wrote:
1) How likely is it that a Jewish rabbi who did nothing but wander around and preach moral platitudes eventually acquire the reputation of performing numerous, NUMEROUS, miraculous healings: a) within 40 years of his life, b) by both friend and foe alike (it is highly significant that enemies of Jesus did not deny his ability to perform miracles; they merely attributed them to the power of the devil or to magic. Such attributions are made within and without the bible).

You're already mischaracterizing the evidence a bit just by your wording. "Friend and foe alike" weren't claiming miracles within 40 years, at least in what we have preserved.

Thea earliest foe that I'm aware of is Celsus, who wrote in the latter half of the second century, about a hundred years after the Gospels. Celsus wrote that Jesus was a sorcerer, but was merely responding to the content of the Gospels themselves. At least that's how it appears, because we don't actually have the writings of Celsus. Origen wrote a comprehensive refutation, though, and we do have that ("history is written by the victors" and all that). Origen's Contra Celsum ("Against Celsus") is Origen's reply to Celsus' A True Discourse. Origen claims, and we have little reason to doubt, that both Celsus' accusations and Origen's responses were from the Gospel stories themselves.

The Gospels claimed miracles within (perhaps) forty years or so, but opponents whose claims were preserved didn't do so until the mid-to-late second century. By that time, the Gospels were already considered to be historical sources themselves. This is exactly counter to your argument.

liamconnor wrote:
2) general consensus has the synoptics being published between 69 and 90 A.D. Many scholars think Mark began circulation prior to the destruction of the Jewish temple.

And many don't. According to The New Oxford Annotated Bible:
Quote:
Early church tradition saw ties to the Christian community in Rome, where Nero punished Christians as scapegoats for the fire in 64 ce, which raged for nine days and devastated much of the city (see Tacitus, Annals 15.44). Most scholars today opt for a different context in the same time period. They argue that specific details in Mark 13.9–13 are better suited to a setting in Syria-Palestine, where Jesus's followers may have been hated by both Jews and Gentiles for not taking sides, in the Jewish War (66–72 ce).

As you can see, it's an open question, with "most" scholars taking the post AD 70 view.

liamconnor wrote:
The real questions we should be asking are a) how likely is it that zero eyewitnesses of Jesus were alive and available for interview within a mere 40 years of his death? Why or why not?

Keep in mind that the Romans sacked Jerusalem in AD 70 such that "the Temple courts ran with blood." This was after a Roman siege. Between the siege-induced famine and the Roman breach, Josephus claimed that over a million people were killed. So, let's just say that the answer to your question is that it's reasonably likely.

As a corollary, perhaps you might think about why the documents we have were written in Greek, the language of Paul's gentile churches that were based outside of Jerusalem.

liamconnor wrote:
b)how likely is it that the gospel writers did not consult a single eyewitness of Jesus, but were fine "making it all up"? Why or why not?

How many eyewitnesses did Homer consult when he wrote his history of Odysseus' journey?

Again, you're assuming that the Gospels were meant to be read as history rather than fictionalizations, even if of a historical series of events. When the story involves a dead guy coming back to life, at least part of it is probably made up. If your question is going to be meaningful, then you're first going to have to convince us that the Gospels were meant to be nonfictional history in the first place.

liamconnor wrote:
c) Are we really to believe it plausible that the author of Mark, who published his work by 70 A.D., had zero motivation to travel and interview someone who knew something about the most significant topic of his life?! Why or why not?

Yes. First, it matters if Mark was written before or after AD 70. If after, the eyewitnesses were probably dead.

Second, Mark's Gospel is the worst one for an apologist to pick for that question. Mark's Gospel is all about events that were kept secret from outsiders. Mark's Jesus exhorts nearly every character within the story to "tell nobody." The Gospel originally ends with the women telling nobody, but fleeing in terror. That's how Mark answers his readers' anticipated question about why they hadn't heard about this before. Mark's Gospel is addressed to a small group that were lucky enough to hear the story in time to gain their salvation.

Mark's Gospel was written with the assumption that the story isn't common knowledge and provides plausible excuses. It's almost like Mark was making excuses for the lack of witnesses. Why would he write like that if there actually were?

liamconnor wrote:
d) Is it plausible that people who knew Jesus simply sat at home in isolation their entire lives, never talking about their experiences with him? Why or why not?

Of course not. They talked about it with all of the other people in Jerusalem. Until AD 70, anyway.

liamconnor wrote:
e) Is it plausible that the closest associates of Jesus knew he was just a teacher; and yet invented stories of miracles and a resurrection? Why or why not?

Is it plausible that after the closest associates of Jesus were gone, that members of Paul's churches would want details of Jesus' life and ministry? Paul's letters were notoriously deficient in such details. Would people be so hungry for information that they might invent stories?

Before you answer that, at least skim the Protevangelium of James. The canonical Gospels contained very little information about Jesus' childhood. The Prootevangelium supplied it. The details are almost certainly made up, but were considered canonical by many Christians. Whether the canonical Gospels were invented or not, the very existence of the Protevangelium and others means that it's plausible that the canonical Gospels include fabrications.

liamconnor wrote:
These are a mere sampling of historical questions which those truly interested in historical research would ask.

Or at least a sampling of historical questions worded the way an apologist wants them to be asked.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 8: Wed Nov 13, 2019 1:51 pm
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Re: Historical Questions about Jesus

Like this post (1): historia
Difflugia wrote:
liamconnor wrote:
1) How likely is it that a Jewish rabbi who did nothing but wander around and preach moral platitudes eventually acquire the reputation of performing numerous, NUMEROUS, miraculous healings: a) within 40 years of his life, b) by both friend and foe alike (it is highly significant that enemies of Jesus did not deny his ability to perform miracles; they merely attributed them to the power of the devil or to magic. Such attributions are made within and without the bible).
You're already mischaracterizing the evidence a bit just by your wording. "Friend and foe alike" weren't claiming miracles within 40 years, at least in what we have preserved.
I think you may be misunderstanding what liamconnor has suggested here. I don’t think he meant “friend and foe alike were claiming miracles within 40 years.” I think he meant that 1) within 40 years miracles were attributed to Jesus as well as 2) miracles were attributed to Jesus by both friend and foe. Those are two separate propositions. There’s no timeline assertion by liamconnor, as far as I can see, as to when the “foe” may have attributed miracles to Jesus. Only that “foes” did not deny the miracle claims.

Quote:
Thea earliest foe that I'm aware of is Celsus, who wrote in the latter half of the second century, about a hundred years after the Gospels. Celsus wrote that Jesus was a sorcerer, but was merely responding to the content of the Gospels themselves. At least that's how it appears, because we don't actually have the writings of Celsus. Origen wrote a comprehensive refutation, though, and we do have that ("history is written by the victors" and all that). Origen's Contra Celsum ("Against Celsus") is Origen's reply to Celsus' A True Discourse. Origen claims, and we have little reason to doubt, that both Celsus' accusations and Origen's responses were from the Gospel stories themselves.

The Gospels claimed miracles within (perhaps) forty years or so, but opponents whose claims were preserved didn't do so until the mid-to-late second century. By that time, the Gospels were already considered to be historical sources themselves. This is exactly counter to your argument.
I don’t understand how that would be counter to liamconnor’s argument that enemies did not deny the miracles of Jesus. Indeed you seem to be supporting it.

Quote:
liamconnor wrote:
2) general consensus has the synoptics being published between 69 and 90 A.D. Many scholars think Mark began circulation prior to the destruction of the Jewish temple.
And many don't. According to The New Oxford Annotated Bible:
Quote:
Early church tradition saw ties to the Christian community in Rome, where Nero punished Christians as scapegoats for the fire in 64 ce, which raged for nine days and devastated much of the city (see Tacitus, Annals 15.44). Most scholars today opt for a different context in the same time period. They argue that specific details in Mark 13.9–13 are better suited to a setting in Syria-Palestine, where Jesus's followers may have been hated by both Jews and Gentiles for not taking sides, in the Jewish War (66–72 ce).

As you can see, it's an open question, with "most" scholars taking the post AD 70 view.
Yes the question of dating is an open one so to speak and yes many current scholars would put them post 70 AD.

Quote:
liamconnor wrote:
The real questions we should be asking are a) how likely is it that zero eyewitnesses of Jesus were alive and available for interview within a mere 40 years of his death? Why or why not?

Keep in mind that the Romans sacked Jerusalem in AD 70 such that "the Temple courts ran with blood." This was after a Roman siege. Between the siege-induced famine and the Roman breach, Josephus claimed that over a million people were killed. So, let's just say that the answer to your question is that it's reasonably likely.
This is an interesting counter argument. But I think upon scrutiny it is quite weak.

Firstly, a minor point. There is some doubt among modern scholarship that Josephus’ estimates were even possible. By about 132 AD (60 some odd years later) there was a Jewish fighting force of as many as 400,000 men according to some sources in the Bar Kokhba Revolt against the Romans in Judea. Cassius Dio estimates 580,000 Jews were killed in that revolt (Dio, Roman History 69.14.1). If these estimates hold water, there quite clearly had to be a large Jewish population remaining after the events of 70 AD.

Secondly, and most importantly, an underlying assumption in your argument here is that all the witness were in Jerusalem during the events of 70 AD. What evidence supports that? Because there is some evidence that would falsify that assumption.

Quote:
liamconnor wrote:
b)how likely is it that the gospel writers did not consult a single eyewitness of Jesus, but were fine "making it all up"? Why or why not?
How many eyewitnesses did Homer consult when he wrote his history of Odysseus' journey?
Ah, but you see Homer’s Odyssey was the genre of Greek Epic Poetry. A genre known to be mythology. See Aristotle’s Poetics where he uses Homer’s works as case studies on how to create the plot, characters, etc. of Epic Poetry.

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Again, you're assuming that the Gospels were meant to be read as history rather than fictionalizations, even if of a historical series of events.
The Gospels are not thought to be poetry or even, strictly speaking, the genre of a history. The Gospels are thought to be a type of ancient biography.

“Many recent scholars have come to recognize that the New Testament Gospels are a kind of ancient biography.” - Bart Ehrman, The New Testament: An Historical Introduction To The Early Christian Writings, 1997, p. 54

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When the story involves a dead guy coming back to life, at least part of it is probably made up.
It wasn’t uncommon for ancient historians to create speeches and other minor details to fill in the blanks so to speak. But it doesn’t follow from this practise that the core of the story was “made up.”

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If your question is going to be meaningful, then you're first going to have to convince us that the Gospels were meant to be nonfictional history in the first place.
This doesn’t follow. Convincing you doesn’t follow from the question being meaningful.

As for the Gospels being intended to record history Luke, in the opening of his Gospel, explicitly tells his audience that what he has recorded was meant to be taken as a factual account.

    ”Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, 3 it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; 4 so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.”


Quote:
liamconnor wrote:
c) Are we really to believe it plausible that the author of Mark, who published his work by 70 A.D., had zero motivation to travel and interview someone who knew something about the most significant topic of his life?! Why or why not?
Yes. First, it matters if Mark was written before or after AD 70. If after, the eyewitnesses were probably dead.
Why were they probably dead? By 70 AD they might have been around 60-70 years old. Plenty of evidence that people of that era were able to live well past the age of 70. See Lucian’s Long Lives.

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Second, Mark's Gospel is the worst one for an apologist to pick for that question. Mark's Gospel is all about events that were kept secret from outsiders. Mark's Jesus exhorts nearly every character within the story to "tell nobody."
That’s overstated. There are numerous examples in Mark of Jesus performing miracles with no following instruction from Jesus to “tell no one.” For just a few examples see Jesus’ casting out of the unclean spirit (Mark 1:21-28), the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:29-31), many more healings and casting of demons (Mark 1:32-34).

Quote:
The Gospel originally ends with the women telling nobody, but fleeing in terror. That's how Mark answers his readers' anticipated question about why they hadn't heard about this before. Mark's Gospel is addressed to a small group that were lucky enough to hear the story in time to gain their salvation.
You are assuming it is the case Mark ended at 16:8. There are some good reasons to think so, but it’s far from conclusive. You are also assuming Mark meant that the women at the tomb continued to tell no one. I don’t see the text necessarily implying that at 16:8. The Greek verbiage Mark employs at 16:8 leaves the door open to the expected and inevitable telling by the women.

Quote:
Mark's Gospel was written with the assumption that the story isn't common knowledge and provides plausible excuses. It's almost like Mark was making excuses for the lack of witnesses. Why would he write like that if there actually were?
This is an odd argument. Mark explicitly states on several occasions that despite the warning from Jesus to not tell anyone of the miracle the healed person went and told anyway.

” [A]nd [Jesus] said to [the healed leper], “See that you say nothing to anyone; but go, show yourself to the priest and offer for your cleansing what Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” 45 But [the healed Leper] went out and began to proclaim it freely and to spread the news around, to such an extent that Jesus could no longer publicly enter a city, but stayed out in unpopulated areas; and they were coming to Him from everywhere.” – Mark 1:44 - 45

”And He gave them orders not to tell anyone; but the more He ordered them, the more widely they continued to proclaim it. – Mark 7:36

Mark expected his readers to think the women at the tomb told no one about Jesus’ resurrection when on numerous occasions in Mark’s Gospel the lesser miracles of Jesus are being reported so extensively that Jesus could no longer even enter a city? That seems very unlikely.

Quote:
liamconnor wrote:
e) Is it plausible that the closest associates of Jesus knew he was just a teacher; and yet invented stories of miracles and a resurrection? Why or why not?

Is it plausible that after the closest associates of Jesus were gone, that members of Paul's churches would want details of Jesus' life and ministry? Paul's letters were notoriously deficient in such details. Would people be so hungry for information that they might invent stories?
What people are those making up the stories though? Paul’s letters themselves refer to Jesus’ resurrection and divine status. So the resurrection story must at least predate Paul or have originated with Paul. And we know from Paul’s own letters he had contact with the disciples. So it would seem either Paul was making up a resurrection story or the disciples were if in fact resurrection stories were being made up. The question not clearly answered here is why would they do that?

Quote:
Before you answer that, at least skim the Protevangelium of James. The canonical Gospels contained very little information about Jesus' childhood. The Prootevangelium supplied it. The details are almost certainly made up, but were considered canonical by many Christians. Whether the canonical Gospels were invented or not, the very existence of the Protevangelium and others means that it's plausible that the canonical Gospels include fabrications.
That’s not particularly meaningful to simply argue from plausibility. No one is denying that fabrications are plausible. I could similarly counter argue the simple fact numerous details in the Gospels have been confirmed by archaeology and other historical sources mean that it’s plausible the Gospels include no fabrications.

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 9: Wed Nov 13, 2019 5:34 pm
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Re: Historical Questions about Jesus

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liamconnor wrote:

Here is an exchange that exhibits a common historical lack of perspective among skeptics:

Quote:
Jesus performed many miracles and if He did it before He can also do it now.

Quote:
RESPONSE: Let's be a little more precise. Jesus was executed around 30 AD. The gospels were written between 70 and 95 AD by non-witness "believers" 40 to 65 years after the event was said to have occurred.

What might be the logical objection to their accuracy?


This is a popular attack against the gospels: they were written later than the events they describe (and apparently, 40 years is a long time. One does wonder whether those who use this argument are younger than 25!!). And... they were not written by eye-witnesses.

I do not think such conclusions are the result of serious historical inquiry. Here are some other questions:

1) How likely is it that a Jewish rabbi who did nothing but wander around and preach moral platitudes eventually acquire the reputation of performing numerous, NUMEROUS, miraculous healings: a) within 40 years of his life, b) by both friend and foe alike (it is highly significant that enemies of Jesus did not deny his ability to perform miracles; they merely attributed them to the power of the devil or to magic. Such attributions are made within and without the bible).

We have examples of numerous Jewish Rabbis, and to almost all, zero miracles are ascribed. Thus "non-miracle worker" is the default position for most Jewish Rabbis, indeed most teachers at all. Plato never said Socrates performed miracles; and Plato was by no means adverse to the miraculous, as anyone who has read him will acknowledge.

So why did friend and foe ascribe miracles to Jesus? What historical reason can we give for this unanimous concensus?

2) general consensus has the synoptics being published between 69 and 90 A.D. Many scholars think Mark began circulation prior to the destruction of the Jewish temple.

A major objection of skeptics is that the gospels were written by non-witnesses. That is fine; most of our historical beliefs are based on the work of non-witnesses: after all, do any of us really believe that what we believe about ancient Greece or Rome is based entirely on autobiographies? Do we really believe Livy, or Plutarch, or Herodotus, were personal eyewitnesses of what they report? Or even that what they report occurred ten years within writing it?

The real questions we should be asking are a) how likely is it that zero eyewitnesses of Jesus were alive and available for interview within a mere 40 years of his death? Why or why not?

b)how likely is it that the gospel writers did not consult a single eyewitness of Jesus, but were fine "making it all up"? Why or why not?

c) Are we really to believe it plausible that the author of Mark, who published his work by 70 A.D., had zero motivation to travel and interview someone who knew something about the most significant topic of his life?! Why or why not?

d) Is it plausible that people who knew Jesus simply sat at home in isolation their entire lives, never talking about their experiences with him? Why or why not?

e) Is it plausible that the closest associates of Jesus knew he was just a teacher; and yet invented stories of miracles and a resurrection? Why or why not?

These are a mere sampling of historical questions which those truly interested in historical research would ask.


What are your answers to these historical questions? Is it possible to reasonably test your proposed explanations to determine if they might be false? What would those tests look like?

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Post BBCode URL - Right click and save to clipboard to use later in post Post 10: Wed Nov 13, 2019 9:24 pm
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Re: Historical Questions about Jesus

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Goose wrote:

I think you may be misunderstanding what liamconnor has suggested here. I don’t think he meant “friend and foe alike were claiming miracles within 40 years.” I think he meant that 1) within 40 years miracles were attributed to Jesus as well as 2) miracles were attributed to Jesus by both friend and foe. Those are two separate propositions. There’s no timeline assertion by liamconnor, as far as I can see, as to when the “foe” may have attributed miracles to Jesus. Only that “foes” did not deny the miracle claims.

You may be right, but then I'm not sure what the point is. I understood his question to mean that Jesus developed a reputation for miracle working with both His supporters and detrators, implying that there was stronger evidence of His having worked miracles. If the question was only meant to imply that His followers developed a tradition of Jesus working miracles and their foes a hundred years later took them at their word, then I don't disagree.

Goose wrote:
I don’t understand how that would be counter to liamconnor’s argument that enemies did not deny the miracles of Jesus. Indeed you seem to be supporting it.

As I said, I thought the claim was that the foes developed a tradition for Jesus as miracle worker prior to the Gospel stories.

Goose wrote:
Quote:
Keep in mind that the Romans sacked Jerusalem in AD 70 such that "the Temple courts ran with blood."
This is an interesting counter argument. But I think upon scrutiny it is quite weak.

Firstly, a minor point. There is some doubt among modern scholarship that Josephus’ estimates were even possible. By about 132 AD (60 some odd years later) there was a Jewish fighting force of as many as 400,000 men according to some sources in the Bar Kokhba Revolt against the Romans in Judea. Cassius Dio estimates 580,000 Jews were killed in that revolt (Dio, Roman History 69.14.1). If these estimates hold water, there quite clearly had to be a large Jewish population remaining after the events of 70 AD.

I understand liamconnor's argument to be, in essence, that it's implausible to think that Mark wrote his Gospel without consulting eyewitnesses. This part of my response is to say that, independent of other factors, it's not implausible that enough of the eyewitnesses were killed by the Romans in AD 70 such that "zero eyewitnesses were alive and available for interview." Whether the number given by Josephus was correct, the slaughter was such that witnesses to the crucifixion (to pick one of few events that most scholars would agree happened and wasn't completely made up) were perhaps in short supply.

Goose wrote:
Secondly, and most importantly, an underlying assumption in your argument here is that all the witness were in Jerusalem during the events of 70 AD. What evidence supports that? Because there is some evidence that would falsify that assumption.

The argument in the OP was that there were enough witnesses that it didn't matter if the Gospels were written by witnesses themselves. I suspect that most or all of the Jerusalem Church (as described by Paul in Galatians 1) were killed by the Romans in AD 70. This is speculation, but I think it's reasonable speculation. Without the Jerusalem Church, there was nobody left to tell the real story of Jesus to the four evangelists. Do you have evidence that such speculation is unreasonable?

Goose wrote:
Ah, but you see Homer’s Odyssey was the genre of Greek Epic Poetry. A genre known to be mythology. See Aristotle’s Poetics where he uses Homer’s works as case studies on how to create the plot, characters, etc. of Epic Poetry.

The Gospels are not thought to be poetry or even, strictly speaking, the genre of a history. The Gospels are thought to be a type of ancient biography.

But not clearly so, particularly in light of what's been called "mimesis criticism", or examining a text (the Gospels, in this case) as the product of imitation (conscious or unconscious) of other source Material. Dennis R. MacDonald sees direct, conscious imitation of Homer in Mark, Luke, and Acts, as well as several extrabiblical, Christian writings.

I quote from the introduction of MacDonald's The Gospels and Homer: Imitations of Greek Epic in Mark and Luke-Acts:
Quote:
Mark’s imitations of Homer can account for much of the information about Jesus in Mark that outstrips anything found in Paul or the lost Gospel [reconstructed by MacDonald in Two Shipwrecked Gospels as The Logoi of Jesus -Diff.]. In the Odyssey one finds adventures at sea, feasts for thousands, cavemen, inept and cowardly comrades, a meeting with the dead, murderous rivals, the hero’s secrecy, and the recognition of his true identity. Here too one finds analogs for many of Mark’s most memorable characters, such as the Gerasene demoniac, the Syrophoenician woman, blind Bartimaeus, the woman who anointed Jesus, the naked youth, Judas Iscariot, Barabbas, Mary Magdalene, and Joseph of Arimathea. Mark’s account of Jesus’ death resembles the violent death and burial of Hector, whose god had abandoned him. Mark’s authorial voice is different from that of Q/Q+ in large measure because he imitated or, better, emulated Homeric epic.


For perspective, an interesting disagreement with MacDonald can be read in the Open Access collection of academic essays, Christian Origins and the ​New Testament in the Greco-Roman Context: Studies in Mimesis Criticism. Kay Higuera Smith argues in "Mark and Homer" that while she agrees with MacDonald that Homeric style influenced Mark:
Quote:
I will challenge MacDonald on this assertion and argue that indirect influence is a much more plausible contention.

My point is that the genre of Mark has not been fixed. Since liamconnor argues (without other apparent argument) that it's implausible that Mark would have consulted no witnesses, I pointed out a genre of which some scholars see at least unconscious imitation and which wouldn't create an expectation of eyewitnesses.

I'm not saying that necessarily is what happened, but there is at least enough uncertainty that one can't convincingly argue, as liamconnor did, that we should assume of course that Mark interviewed eyewitnesses.

Goose wrote:
It wasn’t uncommon for ancient historians to create speeches and other minor details to fill in the blanks so to speak. But it doesn’t follow from this practise that the core of the story was “made up.”

Is the dead guy coming back to life part of a speech or "other minor detail?" If it is, I'll concede that part of the argument.

Goose wrote:
As for the Gospels being intended to record history Luke, in the opening of his Gospel, explicitly tells his audience that what he has recorded was meant to be taken as a factual account.

    ”Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile an account of the things accomplished among us, 2 just as they were handed down to us by those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and servants of the word, 3 it seemed fitting for me as well, having investigated everything carefully from the beginning, to write it out for you in consecutive order, most excellent Theophilus; 4 so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught.”

In the foreword to A Princess of Mars, Edgar Rice Burroughs presents the book itself as the work of the fictional main character, John Carter. Though undeniably an integral part of the fiction, it is presented as though it were a message to the reader that is independent of the story. Considering the number of obviously fictional elements in Luke, I consider it reasonably likely that Luke used the same sort of rhetorical device as Burroughs.

Goose wrote:
Why were they probably dead?

The Roman soldiers killed them in Jerusalem.

Goose wrote:
You are assuming it is the case Mark ended at 16:8.

Yes.

Goose wrote:
There are some good reasons to think so, but it’s far from conclusive.

The OP is the one arguing implausibility, remember.

Goose wrote:
You are also assuming Mark meant that the women at the tomb continued to tell no one. I don’t see the text necessarily implying that at 16:8. The Greek verbiage Mark employs at 16:8 leaves the door open to the expected and inevitable telling by the women.

Maybe explain what you mean. All I'm assuming is what Mark wrote, which is the women fled the tomb and "said nothing to nobody" because they were (and continued to be; imperfect past tense) scared. You're right that they could have later overcome their fear and told somebody later, but then what does 16:8 mean? Are you saying that Mark just neglected to finish the story?

But even if he did and intended us to think that the women told everybody, everywhere, the OP's argument is that it's implausible that the "people who knew Jesus simply sat at home ... never talking about their experiences." That's exactly what Mark told us happened, though. The women said nothing to anyone.

Goose wrote:
This is an odd argument. Mark explicitly states on several occasions that despite the warning from Jesus to not tell anyone of the miracle the healed person went and told anyway.

Maybe, if Mark was actually trying to recount history or trying to be consistent. Now that I read it that way, there are "crowds," so you can have crowds. I also notice (and didn't before) that Mark makes a big deal about two of the witnesses being from Decapolis. It's not relevant to this discussion, but it makes me curious.

Goose wrote:
Mark expected his readers to think the women at the tomb told no one about Jesus’ resurrection when on numerous occasions in Mark’s Gospel the lesser miracles of Jesus are being reported so extensively that Jesus could no longer even enter a city? That seems very unlikely.

I disagree. I still think that Mark's audience is a small, gnostic-like group. Even if the crowds proclaimed the miracles, the disciples were told to tell no one and they, at least, kept the secret. Verse 9:9 says that they were to "tell no one" until Jesus had "risen from the dead." I hadn't thought of it this way, but if the women didn't tell the disciples and the disciples therefore didn't go to Galilee, none of them knew that Jesus had risen. We're back to a small, chosen group that were lucky enough to hear Mark's story.

Goose wrote:
What people are those making up the stories though? Paul’s letters themselves refer to Jesus’ resurrection and divine status. So the resurrection story must at least predate Paul or have originated with Paul. And we know from Paul’s own letters he had contact with the disciples. So it would seem either Paul was making up a resurrection story or the disciples were if in fact resurrection stories were being made up. The question not clearly answered here is why would they do that?

I'm not claiming that no Jesus traditions whatsoever predated the Gospels. Let's say that the James, John, and Cephas that Paul met played the same roles in the actual life of Jesus that the Gospels say they did. That's not a foregone conclusion, but I'll grant it for the sake of this particular argument. Let's also say that Paul knew every single detail about the real life of the real Jesus. As far as his epistles are concerned, the Jesus story began when He was crucified. Whether he didn't know or didn't care, the fact is that he didn't talk about it. I see no reason to think that Paul was any more vocal about the pre-resurrection Jesus in person than he was in his letters.

Goose wrote:
That’s not particularly meaningful to simply argue from plausibility. No one is denying that fabrications are plausible.

On the contrary, I'm pretty sure that was exactly the point of the OP and what I was responding to. If you're right and that's not what the OP meant, then I agree with you.

Goose wrote:
I could similarly counter argue the simple fact numerous details in the Gospels have been confirmed by archaeology and other historical sources mean that it’s plausible the Gospels include no fabrications.

Did you mean that to be a non sequitur? No matter how many commemorative Quirinius plaques they find, a Roman census based on where one's great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great grandfather lived will never be plausible.

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