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August 23, 2013

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In American court cases, one side will present its position at various times such as motions, evidentiary hearings or the trial itself. They put forward the best possible argument and/or evidence portrayed in the best possible light favorable to their own position. Sit through any motion call, and you will witness this over and over. And after the first person has presented, it would seem they have an air-tight case, one thinks, “Wow! What a great argument—the judge will certainly rule in their favor, nothing the other side could say will prevent it.”

But then the other said stands up and says, “Here are a few additional items you need to know…” and then explains how the original presenter was not providing ALL the facts, or perhaps a few incorrect ones, and it turns out the original argument was not air-tight after all. Indeed, sometimes all the air is let out after the second person replies. “The first to plead his case seems right; until another comes and examines him.” Proverbs 18:17.

This is exactly what J. Warner Wallace has done here in his depiction of the written record of Jesus. Argued all the possible evidence most favorably to the position he desires to buttress the reliability. He fails to mention numerous counter-arguments and evidences. A very few examples someone might point out as being overlooked:

1) The first records (Paul) recount nothing regarding any miracle, sermon, parable or specific teaching of this teacher. Indeed, these records specifically reject miracles as being proof of the teacher. Almost no facts regarding this teacher except one small incident (Eucharist) and the general proposition the person actually lived.

2) The next chronological record, (Mark) written 35 years or so after the teacher, is written in a specific style, NOT historical genre. It utilizes chiasm, midrash and Tanakhan themes throughout its record, as well as liberal uses of irony and reversal of expectation. It is more closely aligned with bios and even elements of Greek novella. It contains geographical and historical errors regarding Palestine, and some correct elements as well.

3) The next chronological records (Matthew and Luke) utilize the previous records in their accounts, sometimes correcting the previous account’s errors, sometimes introducing elements of their own. Again, there are some errors and some correct statements. We witness legend development and modification to the teacher’s statements to conform to the writer’s desire.

4) The next chronological records (take your pick regarding the gospels) demonstrate even more legend development and doctrinal introductions to suit the writer’s needs. Gaps of time (the teacher’s childhood, the time after the resurrection) are “filled in.” More and more miracles, stories and teachings are introduced. We observe the teacher is used to provide the writer material for the writer’s agenda.

We provisionally accept Josephus’ historical accounts, but do not hold his miracle accounts as historical. We provisionally accept Tacitus’ historical accounts, but do not hold his miracle accounts as historical. We provisionally accept Suetonius’ historical accounts, but do not hold his miracle accounts as historical. We provisionally accept Cassius Dio’s historical accounts, but do not hold his miracle accounts as historical. (The list could go on at some length, of course.)

Why should the gospel accounts be different? We certainly accept some of the historical record contained therein (Pilate governor of Judea, Herod the Great was king. There was a 6 CE census in Judea. Passover, temple guards, a town called Bethlehem.) But….like Josephus, Tacitus, Suetonius, Cassius Dio, etc., etc., et.,…we do not find the miracle accounts contained therein as historical. Shouldn’t our methodology be consistent? Can you explain why we should accept the miracle accounts in the gospels and consistently reject the miracle accounts in the other historical accounts of the time?

I am unaware of a historian who states the gospels are unreliable because Jesus taught moral precepts. Yes, we may question when the account was written, or whether the author was using Jesus as a tool to portray the author’s own moral concepts, (such as Luke against the rich), but simply because there are moral claims does not mean the documents must not be historical. In fact, as far as I know, unless someone can point out differently, every person who holds to a historical Jesus all but insists he DID teach on moral principles. It would be a defining characteristic. What those specific principles are may be a matter of contention, but I do not know anyone who says Jesus lived and did NOT teach on morality.

This blog entry fails to account for skeptics who have studied the Christian apologist’s position and familiarizing themselves with the full range of arguments and evidences, then deciding to consistently determine the miracle accounts are not historical, just like other records of the time.

If the Gospels did not include supernatural elements and a moral prescription, I doubt anyone would find them historically unreliable.

As if supernatural claims ought to be accepted as readily as everyday claims like: I had lunch a little early today.

RE: moral prescriptions: I find the Gospels are mixed in this department. In any case, desiring to be free of a particular moral prescription does not make that system true.

DagwoodS,

Nice!

DagoodS,

I'm having trouble following your thinking. Here are a few questions to that may help me understand better:

1) What MUST follow from your statement #1?
2) What are the characteristics of Hebrew historical records from antiquity?
3) This seems like an opinion rather than an established fact. In other words, this is your and others explanation regarding similarities and differences between these accounts. Mr. Wallace has also proposed a rational explanation to account for these. Would you agree?
4) Again, this statement appears to be more opinion than fact. This is a perspective that you and others prefer. Would you agree?

I agree that no one that I know rejects the reliability of the gospels because of the moral precepts. I believe that because of the moral precepts people choose to prefer explanations, such as those proffered above, to avoid the moral obligations contained in them.

Rejecting the miracles is to be expected from anyone who rejects the Divine Inspiration of Scripture. Regardless of the "apparent" things pointed out by DagwoodS, there is a significant difference between the words penned by secular writers and those of the gospel authors, writing under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Carolyn,

Who do you expect will reject the DIS?

How did you come to expect that?

DagoodS,

Read and re-read your initial post. Took time to mull over your points. So many ways to respond. So much to consider. I could discuss your four examples one at a time, but they intertwine by implying a phased-in structuring of the NT starting with Paul and ending I'm not quite sure (John, Gospel of Thomas,Gnostic gospels, ???). I'll start with your first and try hard not to ramble on.

>>1) The first records (Paul) recount nothing regarding any miracle, sermon, parable or specific teaching of this teacher.
Inaccurate on at least two points. The nature of Paul's epistles was to proceed on the Apostolic minstry dictated by Jesus (Luke 24: 47 ... that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name to all the nations), and this would mean moving from city to city proclaiming such gospel. The specific role of an epistle was to direct attention to issues that came up after Paul's departure to other places. To deal with such matters doesn't mean rummaging through the life and episodes in Jesus' life unless direct application was there. After all, what happened to DagoodS on Nov. 23, 2008 may have educational content, but there would be better avenues to teaching doctrinal concepts. But you are also incorrect in asserting that Paul is not acquainted with the life of Jesus. It is granted more by implication, Jesus' birth (Gal. 4: 4, a verse implying virgin birth as well), death (1 Cor. 2: 2), resurrection (1 Cor. 15), teachings (Paul's teaching on Christian love [1 Cor. 13] reflect Jesus' instructions in John 15: 9ff; Paul's teachings on Christ's reconciliation and redemption [2 Cor. 5: 21] squares with Jesus' assertion about His ministry [Mk. 10: 45]).

The problem with argument 1 leading into argument 2 is that many scholars now are beginning to see an early-dating of original documents. The Gospel of Mark could have been in production in the heyday of Paul's mission activity. An Aramaic Gospel of Matthew could have been in circulation prior to this, which would be expanded in the Grecian version. Luke had his sources and eye-witnesses in the latter fifties A.D. in the two years of Paul's Caesarean imprisonment. The death of James bar-Zebedee and threats of exection of Peter could have prompted a written document of Christ's life, or more accurately, His ministry as the Messiah.

As to your second argument, Mark's gospel studied in view of " chiasm, midrash and Tanakhan themes throughout its record" seems to be a bizarre blend of conflicting genres. Particularly the midrashic element. Jesus in His teachings appeared to be anti-rabbinic, especially in the transition of a priestly religion centered about Temple life and sacrifices to a purely legalistic presentation of the synagogue's rabbi. Jesus' gospel teaching of grace and forgiveness was a refreshing change from the teachings of the scribes and Pharisees. to insist that Mark could be examined on such criterion seems so much like pseudo-scholarship.

To the point, C.S. Lewis complained of the methods of the critical scholars of his day (as Bultmann) and debunked them by stating that, in matters of critical appraisal of his works, these mavens were prone to dismal failure. If such scholarship was paltry poor on the works of living authors, what hope of being accurate in the works of those long dead (and incapable of call the critics to account)?

Historical narratives never contain dialog, conversations with people [and magical beings] all speaking in complete sentences. Only fictive narratives are written in the style the gospels are and there are no exceptions to this in anceient literature. When we hold the gospels up to standard literary criticism they fail every test there is for historicity and pass all the tests for fiction with flying colors. I know Christians want their magic book given a special pass on criticism but they cannot give us one good reason why we should do this.

C.S Lewis was dreary and absurd and he never debunked anything other than himself. He's infamous for his argument for the deity of Jesus which is of course a false dichotomy. "Either Jesus was who he said he was or he was a liar and a mad man, take your pick." I pick a third and much more logical and evidence based conclusion which is that Jesus Christ never even existed at all. Poof.

Brianehunt,

Let me clarify. Skeptics find portions (not ALL) of the gospel accounts unreliable because;

1) of Evidence and arguments not addressed by J. Warner Wallace in this blog entry; and
2) to keep a consistent methodology when reviewing other records of the time.

It is not—repeat NOT—a simple matter of “Gee, this contains miracles and moral precepts so I disregard the whole thing as unreliable.” Depicting the skeptic’s position as such is simplistic, dismissive, inaccurate and even…dare I say…a bit rude.

Disagree—fine. Inaccurately depict—not so fine.

When I listed the few things I did, I was only trying to put forward a very, very few smidgens of items not considered by Mr. Wallace, but are considered by skeptics. To respond to your four questions:

1) What MUST follow is that this evidence needs to be addressed. (I would even state it must be addressed in a persuasive manner, but since it is not even addressed in this blog entry, we should start off recognizing it.)

2) Not sure what you are asking. We typically categorize in genre (history, poetry, prophecy) the Tanakh. What I am saying is Mark is following a particular thematic practice, and is more interesting in following that theme than necessary historical accuracy.

3) Well…yes. It is my opinion. Based upon evidence and arguments. But so is what J. Warner Wallace arguing—opinion. We all have opinions on…for example…the date Mark was written. Hopefully based upon some facts, evidence and argument. This is exactly my point. We look to that evidence, facts and argument, find one position persuasive and develop an opinion on the matter. Not “A Miracle? Then Mark must have been written in the Spring of 72 CE.”)

I would additionally note…by the way…it is also the opinion of Dr. Daniel Wallace (if you learn Koine Greek, he probably wrote the textbook and the leading textual critic in the world) that Matthew and Luke copied from Mark. I am in pretty good company with my “opinion” here.

Yes, J. Warner Wallace has presented a “rational explanation.” Is that so high a bar? Every day defense counsel present a “rational explanation” why their client is innocent. And every day, those same defendants are found guilty. Not such a big deal. What I am saying, is Mr. Wallace fails to present a persuasive explanation.

4) It has nothing to do with preference. I don’t care whether the Gospel of Peter, the Gospel of Thomas (either), the Gospel of John, the Gospel of the Hebrews, etc. have legendary material. I simply see where it exists. A brief example.

1) Paul says there will be no signs (miracles) regarding Christianity. 1 Cor. 1:22-23.
2) Mark agrees. No signs. Mark 8:11-13.
3) Matthew and Luke say there will be one (1) sign—the sign of Jonah. Matt. 16:4 & Luke 11:29.
4) John has so many signs, he has to count them! John 2:11; 4:54; 20:30.

This is legendary development.

DGFischer,

Thank you for reading and interacting with my comment. It is that type of interaction (and argumentation such as you present) I find lacking in Wallace’s blog entry. While you and I may disagree, at least it is a disagreement on a scholarly, evidentiary, arguments level and not the dismissive, “You disagree ‘cause there are miracles.”

To address some points you raise:

1) What is curious is how Paul fails to cite Jesus as an authority when it would be beneficial to do so. For example, Paul repeatedly says the commandments could be summed up in “Love your neighbor” Romans 13:9; Gal. 4:14, but never references Jesus’ golden rule, or statement on the commandments? Matt. 22:36-40. Paul has to explain what resurrection of the dead means (1 Cor. 15). Curious no reference to Lazarus, or Lazarus and the rich man, or Jesus’ discussion on heaven, or…well…ANYTHING regarding what Jesus said.

Can you give a single example where Paul ever says, “Hey…to address this issue, let me point out what Jesus said, or a parable Jesus made, or an action Jesus did.”? The closest I can think is 1 Cor. 7, and Paul differs from what Jesus explicitly stated. (Jesus said they CAN re-marry if pornea is involved.)

Yes, Mark “could have” (your words) been written during Paul’s heyday. Matthew “could have” been an Aramaic writing in circulation. James, son of Zebedee’s death and Peter “could have” prompted a written account of Jesus.

Equally, the gospels “could have” been written after 135 CE. The gospels “could have” been forgeries written in the time of Constantine (early 300’s CE) along with all the other Church father’s writings. What is so great about “could have”?

Based upon the evidence, even though the gospels “could have” been written after 135 CE, or forgeries, I do not find this “could have” persuasive. Equally, I do not find the “could have” attempts to place Mark prior to 70 CE persuasive. (As Matthew, Luke and John follow Mark, their dates would be later.) This is based upon consistent methodology, the apocalyptic genre in Mark 13, and Mark more familiar with post 70’s CE, then prior to 70’s CE. Notice this has nothing do with miracles (albeit one may argue prophecy is miraculous, opening another can of worms) or moral precepts. It has to do with evidence and arguments.

2) Not sure why midrash, chiasm (even some Tanakh is written in chiasm) and Tanakhan themes is conflicting. Indeed, the brilliance that is Mark is how the author masterfully intertwines his themes. Again, I was making only brief mention, and to go into all the details would require a far, far longer comment. As to the teaching of the Scribes and Pharisees—what source do you use to determine what their teaching was in 1st Century?

Therefore when you meet together, it is not to eat the Lord’s Supper, for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk. What! Do you not have houses in which to eat and drink? Or do you despise the church of God and shame those who have nothing? What shall I say to you? Shall I praise you? In this I will not praise you.

For I received from the Lord that which I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus in the night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He broke it and said, "This is My body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of Me." In the same way He took the cup also after supper, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in My blood; do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me." For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until He comes.

Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner, shall be guilty of the body and the blood of the Lord. But a man must examine himself, and in so doing he is to eat of the bread and drink of the cup. For he who eats and drinks, eats and drinks judgment to himself if he does not judge the body rightly. For this reason many among you are weak and sick, and a number sleep.

(I Corintians 11:20-30

This looks an awful lot like Paul referencing a teaching of Jesus in order to settle a dispute in the church at Corinth.

Paul also places that greatest miracle of Christ, the resurrection, at the center of the Christian faith. Saying that if Christ is not raised then the whole faith is in vain.

So there is at least one miracle and one teaching in the writings of Paul the refers to stuff that the Gospels record Jesus doing. I'm sure that there are others...this is just what I came up with after five minutes of thought.

Then there is this "Indeed, these records (Paul's writings) specifically reject miracles as being proof of the teacher."

I do not doubt that Paul thought this...it is a truth, not only of theology, but of logic...so what else could he say? Of course, this is also something that Jesus also taught.

The Pharisees and Sadducees came up, and testing Jesus, they asked Him to show them a sign from heaven. But He replied to them, "When it is evening, you say, 'It will be fair weather, for the sky is red.' And in the morning, 'There will be a storm today, for the sky is red and threatening.' Do you know how to discern the appearance of the sky, but cannot discern the signs of the times? An evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign; and a sign will not be given it, except the sign of Jonah." And He left them and went away.
(Matthew 16:1-4

A Mormon apologist could make the same arguments about the book of Mormon. A Muslim apologist could make these arguments about the Quran and the Hadiths. It is only your presuppositions and desires that are keeping you from accepting every claim made in those sources.

Historians must use the same criteria when evaluating the claims of all historical sources, religious or non-religious. I cannot claim as a historian that Al-Buraq carried Mohammed from Mecca to Jerusalem and back in one night, although I might make that claim if I were a Muslim. If I were to make that claim, it would be as a Muslim, not as a historian. The same is true for the way Christians view the miraculous accounts in the gospels.

If you find the account of Al-Buraq unbelievable, then should you be surprised if non-Christians find the miraculous accounts in the gospels to be unbelievable?

"1) Paul says there will be no signs (miracles) regarding Christianity. 1 Cor. 1:22-23. 2) Mark agrees. No signs. Mark 8:11-13. 3) Matthew and Luke say there will be one (1) sign—the sign of Jonah. Matt. 16:4 & Luke 11:29. 4) John has so many signs, he has to count them! John 2:11; 4:54; 20:30. This is legendary development."

Along the same lines WL, I would address this claim by reading the scriptures to see if DagoodS is justified in his complaint....it doesn't really look like it.

Now I haven't read any commentaries or searched to substantiate my plain reading of these texts, but it is painfully obvious that DagoodS is taking extreme liberty to avoid a simple explanation so he can claim legendary developement".

He equivocates Paul in 1 Cor 1, although it is nuanced. Even if he wants to rigidly interpret though, it supports Jesus in Mark 8, but neither of these scriptures conflict with Matt/Luke/John as DagoodS desires them to do. They dont conflict because the Jewish nation did not get an attesting miracle, although many individuals did. Paul and Jesus were talking in terms of national[this generation] or in the case of Pauls nuanced Greek/Jew distinction [cultural tendencies] where whole groups of people were in view. Matt/Luke/John depict attesting miracles as Jesus interacted with specific persons or local groups...oftentimes these were intermingled with Gentiles.

An attesting miracle [sign], was not foreign to national Isreal, its long history of prophets included many accounts of "signs" to attest that they were in fact prophets of God. Jesus' statement was true, no sign would be given[to national Israel]...except the sign of Jonah when it would be too late-they would have already killed Him.


It is hard to take DagoodS's other criticisms seriously when such lack is found in these [few answered by WL and I] wreckless defamations against scripture. I guess if I have time I'll look at some of the other claims.


"A Mormon apologist could make the same arguments about the book of Mormon. A Muslim apologist could make these arguments about the Quran and the Hadiths. It is only your presuppositions and desires that are keeping you from accepting every claim made in those sources."
Or Caleb G, the critical inspection of the testimony reveals such internal incoherence that the Book of Mormon, and the Koran disqualify themselves as being authoritative, such that they ought to be believed.

DagoodS,

Please allow me to explain my "could have" notions. I am merely expressing solutions within the possible. It is contrasted with the phrase "could have never," the highly unlikely or impossible. Your suggestion that the Gospel corpus could have been drafted after 135 CE is rejected on the evidence of the earliest Apostolic Fathers, Clement, Ignatius, and perhaps Polycarp. In their recognized epistles, there is too many direct quotes from and allusions to the Gospels. I would suggest trongly that a defined compilation of Apostolic writings was in circulation by 135 CE.

A pleasure conversing with you.

Brad B,

Of course you are welcome to not be persuaded by my statements (not sure I would use the word “criticisms”). The idea behind my responding at all was so we (Christians and non-Christians) can at least interact with each other’s claims based upon the evidence, arguments, statements, etc. Not to claim “I don’t believe it because there is a miracle” or “I don’t believe it because you are a Christian.”

Let’s at least address the actual evidence and develop a consistent methodology to determine reliability.

I was only mentioning certain skeptical concerns; I wasn’t trying to do an in-depth or comprehensive response. Many of these topics have books and books written on the subject, so covering it even sufficiently in a blog comment is far too lengthy.

As for the signs, I would agree with you Paul was making a general proposition regarding the propensity of Jews to look for signs (miracles) and Greeks to determine through wisdom (philosophy and rhetoric.) However, he does specifically contrast this with what Christianity brings to the table—namely Christ crucified. (Curiously, not resurrected.) In keeping with Pauline approach—he never uses miracles to persuade the viability of Christianity.

However by the late first century or early second century, we have at least some Christians claiming all the signs of Jesus are being recounted specifically to persuade regarding the viability of Christianity. Most times we would never have the ability to see the progression of thought, but here we happen to be lucky enough to see it in the synoptic gospels.

Mark, (in typical Markan irony) has Jesus agreeing with Paul that “this generation” (note that would include Hebrews, Greeks, everybody) will not get a sign. The irony is Mark’s placement within numerous miracles (signs) being performed by Jesus, especially the blind seeing and the deaf hearing. (This is in reference back to Mark 4:12.) In other words, Mark recognizes Jesus was doing sign after sign after sign and then telling the Pharisees, “You don’t get any signs” (whereas actually they were) making them the people of Mark 4:12)

Matthew and Luke (as typical removing Markan irony) deliberately modify what Mark was saying, and making it one (1) sign to the generation—the sign of Jonah. That. That right there is where we see how legendary development happens. Was it huge? No. Was it some grand point? No. But it was a minor adjustment we can see, and why and how and when.

DGFischer,

A pleasure conversing with you as well. I hope you understand I wasn’t trying to be dismissive or derogatory regarding your “could have.” Biblical studies are so varied and we have so little information, we are all stuck with “could have”s. I hope we (both Christians and non-Christians) can understand the others “could have,” exert some charity and recognize we both (Christian and non-Christian) have some arguments, evidence, scholarship, study and determination regarding our positions beyond, “You just like it.”

Again, like you did in interacting with me and contrasted with how this blog entry was put together. Thank you.

"Mark, (in typical Markan irony) has Jesus agreeing with Paul that “this generation” (note that would include Hebrews, Greeks, everybody) will not get a sign."

Hi DagoodS, I can appreciate your words to develope a consistent methodology, [I really dont think the OP was offensive], so I want to lete you know that my motivation I think like WL's was to check your claims against scripture to support your complaint toward Wallace. Not to defend the OP per se, but to keep it all consistent/faithful with genuine Christianity. Because of this[what scripture actually is saying], I dont think you can take this and run with it to prove your point because you cannot cavalierly dismiss or redefine generation without justifiable reason.

National Isreal would be the only group who'd understand the concept of attesting miracles, and taking into consideration the covenantal nature of the relationship between Yahweh and His vassle people it fits but, you cannot simply declare this to be intilligible to Greeks.

Jesus' ministry was to the nation Israel--His parable about the wicked vinegrowers in Matt 21 speaks to this. After Pentecost, the intention to speak to all peoplse came into effect. Jesus' words were only for national Israel. He didn't have to prove anything to to them, as told in the story of Lazurus going to Abe's bosom...in the end Jesus said ""But he said to him, 'If they do not listen to Moses and the Prophets, they will not be persuaded even if someone rises from the dead". Your mistake is that you presuppose that Jesus was sent to everyone [all nations] during His earthly ministry...He wasn't.

Perhaps the most important question to ask when examining the gospels is if Jesus resurrected from the dead or not. Very few who study these documents, Christian or otherwise, argue that Jesus was not crucified and buried, or that people did believe he had resurrected from the dead. Of course, I then think that common sense makes us think that Jesus did resurrect from the dead, but since that sits outside our common experience (we know from experience dead people don't appear bodily later), many cannot swallow that.

For those of you claiming that Jesus never existed, you have aligned yourself with the world of kookdom. In Biblical scholarship and also historical scholarship, no one takes that claim seriously. That is because of an overwhelming amount of evidence. Even the staunchest atheist historian would acknowledge that Jesus existed. As a person who has read most of the NT in Greek and many other ancient documents besides the Bible in Greek, and have given lots of study to the period (the original documents) of second temple Judaism and the Roman empire, even if I became an atheist, I would NEVER come to believe something absurdly ridiculous as the idea that Jesus never existed. I'm really surprised to see comments on here like that from people who clearly are intelligent enough to know otherwise. I thought people knew better, but I guess there is some real hatred for Christianity out there and people will latch on to anything as an argument against it.

Boris said: "Historical narratives never contain dialog, conversations with people [and magical beings] all speaking in complete sentences. Only fictive narratives are written in the style the gospels are and there are no exceptions to this"

Boris, could you provide a first century example of a "fictive narrative" for us to compare?

Goat Head 5

The people to whom Jesus said "This generation seeks after a sign" in Mark 8 were Pharisees from Dalamanthua and it was the first thing they asked of Jesus.

So there is no irony here based on the idea that signs were being done right before their eyes and they still did not seeing them. This is the first time those individuals had ever seen Jesus.

There may indeed have been some irony in Mark's 'placement' of this saying after the feeding of the four thousand.

I would prefer to say that Jesus Himself is the one who uttered this statement in irony at least twice, once directly after feeding the four thousand (per Mark and Matthew) and earlier after exorcising a demon (per Matthew and Luke).

Of course, that just underscores the fact that the irony of placement is equally present in Matthew and Luke.

Matthew's account is the one that best explains what the sign of Jonah is, since Jesus predicts his own death and resurrection right after the second instance of the saying. And indeed, if you want to find some Mark 4:12-style irony between those asking for a sign and the signs Jesus actually did, you need look no farther than the sign of Jonah. For it is not as though the resurrection happened out of people's sight. Jesus was dead. He was crucified and stabbed in the heart with a spear. Then He was seen preaching and teaching just a few days later. As no-miracle Paul says...there were at least 500 witnesses to this.

I appreciate your comments here, WisdomLover. Just hearing Scripture accurately described is like a breath of clean, pure air. Thank you for your ongoing defense of our faith.

Boris, you're incorrect about Lewis's argument. People often cite it out of context, so it's not your fault. His trilemma was given in response to the claim that Jesus was merely a good person. That claim begins with the idea that he existed. Lewis said, you cannot say Jesus was merely a good person because a person who said the things he did would be a liar, lord, or lunatic.

He wasn't exhausting all possibilities for Jesus, he was responding to the very particular claim that Jesus was merely a good person. That's all he was addressing. The fact remains that a person who said the things he said would fall into one of those categories. A non-existent person would, of course, fall into none of those categories, but that's not the argument Lewis was addressing. He was merely ruling out one possibility--the possibility that Jesus was merely a good person.

"For those of you claiming that Jesus never existed, you have aligned yourself with the world of kookdom. In Biblical scholarship and also historical scholarship, no one takes that claim seriously. That is because of an overwhelming amount of evidence."

Now THAT is hilarious! What is this evidence? Name it and claim it. The existence of Jesus Christ and the apostles cannot be verified by ANY independent sources. If there really were any evidence to support a historical Jesus we would never hear the end of it from Christians. Instead the Christians humiliate themselves by having to resort to passages supposedly written by men who were not alive when Jesus supposedly was. However even the most conservative scholars admit that the mentions of Chrestus [no Jesus is ever mentioned] by Pliny, Tacitus, Suetonius and Josephus are rank Christian forgeries. However even if they are real they are still nothing but hearsay and way to late to be used as proof of anything, except maybe just how desperate Christians are to prove their mythical godman was real. He surely was not. Jesusneverexisted.com. The cat is out of the bag.

Goat Head 5
That is what is called shifting the burden of proof. No YOU provide an historical narrative that contains word for word conversations with people and magical bogey entities all speaking in complete sentences. Good luck with that. Haha

"I cannot claim as a historian that Al-Buraq carried Mohammed from Mecca to Jerusalem and back in one night"

I'm not sure why one cannot make that claim as an historian. What if it happened?

I think you have to make a judgment about how reliable the Sahih al-Bukhari proves to be on other historical matters.

Unless, of course, you carry an a priori rejection of miracle into the discussion.

"That is what is called shifting the burden of proof. No YOU...."snip

Hi Boris, nice try at deflection. No, now that I think about it's NOT a nice try. I see no burden on The Goat Head to do your work for you. You made the claim...you have a burden because of that. All GH5 is asking for is ONE piece of supporting evidence...is that too much to ask?

"Gen 17:7"I will establish My covenant between Me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you. Gen 17:8 "I will give to you and to your descendants after you, the land of your sojournings, all the land of Canaan, for an everlasting possession; and I will be their God." Gen 17:9 God said further to Abraham, "Now as for you, you shall keep My covenant, you and your descendants after you throughout their generations."

Just a little supporting evidence of how the nation viewed "generations" when it comes to covenant continuity. Jesus' ministry to national Isreal, that generation of the nation of Isreal is all that is in view. His business was to fulfill all that had been prophesied...to the nation of Israel

Just to follow up to show connection to Jesus' earthly ministry and covenental promise, and thus Abrahams generations to the NT, the apostle Pauls helps us explain the mystery.

"Gal 3:16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, "And to seeds," as referring to many, but rather to one, "And to your seed," that is, Christ.

Gal 3:17 What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise.

Gal 3:18 For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.

Gal 3:19 Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made.

Gal 3:20 Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one.

Gal 3:21 Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.

Gal 3:22 But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

Gal 3:23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed.

Gal 3:24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith.

Gal 3:25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.

Gal 3:26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus.

Gal 3:27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

Gal 3:29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's descendants, heirs according to promise.

Ooops, should've said: "the Apostle Paul helps us by explaining the mystery".

DagoodS wrote:

"The first records (Paul) recount nothing regarding any miracle, sermon, parable or specific teaching of this teacher"

This is unremarkable. Although the written records that we now call the Gospels were not in existence at the time of Paul's writings, the oral traditions that preceded them had been in circulation for quite some time (cf. 1 Cor 15:1-11). The churches that Paul wrote to already had these traditions - the miracles and the teachings of Jesus - that's what made them churches. He didn't write to evangelize (the purpose of the Gospels). He wrote, by and large, to encourage, rebuke, and exhort them to live based on the info they already had.

"We observe the teacher is used to provide the writer material for the writer’s agenda."

And what agenda would that be? You know, if I were a gospel write/compiler/redactor at the time, especially one with an agenda, I'd make good use of the position I was in. I'd take some of the theological axes I had to grind and put words advantageous to my positions on the lips of Jesus. The problem is, we know what pressing issues the early churches faced from Paul's letters- Jew/Gentile relations, items of the Mosaic Law that needed to be retained/left behind, roles of women, issues of dress, how worship was to be organized, church polity, and so on. How easy to settle some of these issues with the stroke of a pen by having none other than Jesus himself weigh in. But that's exactly what we don't see.

"the written records that we now call the Gospels were not in existence at the time of Paul's writings"

I know this is the received view. I'd be curious to know exactly what real evidence there is for it.

I'd be willing to bet that half the 'evidence' is evidence for nothing and the other half is based on the very thing that the early dating of Paul's writing is supposed to prove: That the earliest writings present a less miraculous and divine Christ.

Note that I have little doubt that if you compare Paul's own claims in his letters about where he is, and you compare that with Acts, you will get a pretty good idea of when the letter was written. I just really doubt that any of that will show you, for example, that Paul wrote Romans before Matthew wrote Matthew.

bc307: “How easy to settle some of these issues with the stroke of a pen by having none other than Jesus himself weigh in.”

I agree. This was my point regarding the greatest commandment, Divorce, resurrection, following Mosaic law, marriage, etc. Paul could easily settle these issues with the “stroke of a pen” by referring to Jesus’ statements on the matter(s). Instead Paul goes through his own argumentation, bolstering it by his own claims of being credentialed. Either Paul did not know the Jesus of the Gospels, or Paul did not think the recipients would find Jesus’ statements authoritative.

Either is a headache. Parsimony (and observation) would weigh towards the Jesus of the Gospels hadn’t been created yet. (Please note, I am NOT claiming Jesus is mythical—I am stating the Gospels’ Jesus contains legendary elements not in existence at the time of Paul.)

I agree Paul wrote primarily to encourage, rebuke and exhort the churches. What information they had is a matter of some discussion. You refer to 1 Cor. 15:1-11…this is a double-edged sword. If they already had the information (and I think they did), Paul has no problem repeating it. Therefore Paul doesn’t hesitate to refer to Jesus’ life in making an argument. As I already pointed out, Paul refers to one incident in Jesus life—the Eucharist—again demonstrating his willingness to utilize elements in Jesus life.

It seems…fantastic…to me Paul would use some incidents, but not bother with such things as the greatest commandment. For Paul to specifically say the Jews were looking for a sign, and none would be provided by Christianity, yet be aware of the Jesus who healed thousands and fed ten’s of thousands.

All writings have agendas—even Stop signs convey a meaning….to “Stop!” To determine an agenda, we look to the writing itself, and the response of the recipients. This is a consistent methodology for all writings—the Gospels are no different. Again, I agree a writer would be inclined to have some “theological axes to grind” and put words advantageous to their position in Jesus’ mouth. Again, that is exactly what we skeptics see in the legendary development of Jesus.

Here, I’ll give another example. In Mark 16:7, the young man at the tomb tells the women Jesus is going to Galilee to see his disciples. Mark has no appearances, of course. Matthew (copying Mark) likewise has both the angel at the tomb and Jesus himself saying the disciples need to go to Galilee to see Jesus. Matt. 28:7-10. Unsurprisingly, Matthew then has the disciples going to Galilee to see Jesus. Matt. 28:16.

Now Luke has Mark. And (I am persuaded) Matthew as well; at the least Luke is familiar with the notion of the disciples being told to go to Galilee to see Jesus. But Luke (for hotly debated reasons) desires to disassociate from the Galilean connection, and establish the primacy of the church in Jerusalem. So Luke makes a small modification regarding what the angels said to “Remember what Jesus said in Galilee, how he would be raised on the third day.” [paraphrased] Luke 24:6-7. Luke retains the reference to Galilee but removes the concept the disciples must go to Galilee to see Jesus. (By the way, Jesus stated he would be raised on the 3rd day at least twice—once not in Galilee. So there is no significance in the statement being made in Galilee.)

And…surprise, surprise…Luke’s post-resurrection appearances are NOT in Galilee, but in Judea. Luke’s agenda of moving the appearances is demonstrated in the legendary development.

Paul said that Jews seek after a sign, but he preaches Christ crucified...a stumbling block to the Jews. Later in the same letter he says that if Christ is not raised our faith is in vain. Thus he views the preaching of Christ crucified as involving the resurrection.

In other words, no sign will be given to the Jews except the sign of Jonah.

On another matter, I usually found the most useless teachers in school to be those that simply moved through the book and recited the truths found therein.

It usually found that the better teachers would assume that I'd read the book and then explain the things it said in different words, fill in arguments that it left as implicit, tease out implications of what it said and so on. I've been in more that a few class sessions where one could use DagoodS' argument to say that Descartes, or Leibniz, or Rousseau or Plato was legendary and largely unknown to the teacher.

As for Jesus going into Galilee, whatever the angel said, Jesus in fact appeared to the eleven in Jerusalem. Luke, Mark and Matthew, and John for that matter, agree on this point, for all have him appearing to the eleven on Easter Sunday...and the eleven could not have traveled to Galilee in one day. While there He Himself told His disciples to go to Galilee.

As for Luke mentioning Jesus' prediction in Galilee of His own death, the angel was speaking to the Holy Women. Most of the time, the gospel writers describe these predictions as being made privately to the twelve. It may be that it is only a prediction made in Galilee that the Holy Women were privy to.

"the written records that we now call the Gospels were not in existence at the time of Paul's writings"
Sure, there were no leather bound NIV’s with maps in the appendix. Fine but that doesn’t mean there was nothing written down nor that there weren’t letters being passed to churches and accounts used for teaching.
When Paul writes to Timothy in 2Tim 3, notice verses 14-15 (often over shadowed by the love of v16).
“14 You, however, continue in the things you have learned and become convinced of, knowing from whom you have learned them, 15 and that from childhood you have known the sacred writings which are able to give you the wisdom that leads to salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
This does not suggest only OT documents that Timothy had been taught from since childhood.

WisdomLover: “I've been in more that a few class sessions where one could use DagoodS' argument to say that Descartes, or Leibniz, or Rousseau or Plato was legendary and largely unknown to the teacher.”

Not what I am claiming.

DagoodS,

I mused over your idea of the miraculous element of Jesus' life lacking in the Pauline epistles. Then I began considering the possible element of the supernatural within Paul's letters.

Paul was not avoiding the supernatural element. He spoke of signs and wonders Christ granted him in his mission work (noted in Rom. 15: 19; 2 Cor. 12: 12, with a warning of Satanic forms in 2 Thess. 2: 9). The writer of Hebrews, though not Paul, knew of Paul's character in writing in 2: 4: God also bearing witness with them, both by signs and wonders, and by various works of power, and by gifts of the Holy Spirit, according to his own will?

Paul, acquainted with the miraculous, posited the miracles in his teaching, but did not address such individual stories in his epistles as he was applying the Gospel of Christ to the life of the individual. These records of Paul's signs and wonders are in Luke's Acts, which followed his Gospel accounts. The latter 50's would have been an ideal time for the composition of both pieces seeing that Paul's incarceration granted the compatriot of the missionary time and opportunity for drafting.

By your reasoning, Mark (and perhaps Matthew) would have been one of the sources Luke acknowledges in his prologue (Lk. 1: 1-4). Twenty to thirty years is hardly time for legendary development. Accurate retelling of events, yes.

I also felt John's gospel was an emphasis of Jesus' Judean ministry, written to fill in the gaps of the prior gospels, thus presenting the Galilean instruction cited by the others, but never detailed (John 21).

DS-

I think it is precisely what you are claiming.

Paul could easily settle these issues with the “stroke of a pen” by referring to Jesus’ statements on the matter(s). Instead Paul goes through his own argumentation, bolstering it by his own claims of being credentialed. Either Paul did not know the Jesus of the Gospels, or Paul did not think the recipients would find Jesus’ statements authoritative.

Either is a headache. Parsimony (and observation) would weigh towards the Jesus of the Gospels hadn’t been created yet.

And what I am claiming is that there is a third alternative. To wit, that Paul and his readers were both well aware of what Jesus said and that Paul was teaching them by explaining the things Jesus said in different words, filling in arguments that He left as implicit, teasing out implications of what He said and so on.

DGFischer,

Yes, Paul incorporated spiritual elements. (He was, after all, a life-long theist who always believed in supernatural.) He refers to direct revelation from God, going to the third heaven, and as you point out, he makes passing reference to “signs and wonders.” In addition to the resurrection and appearances of 1 Cor. 15, of course.

He does not, though, is ever refer to a miracle of Jesus. It is odd he is writing to a church, presumably of Christians, who are confused about what happens when we die. Nothing about Jesus post-resurrection activities? Nothing about the story of Lazarus (either one)? Or Jesus’ teaching on paradise? According to some, Paul and his readers were both well aware of what Jesus said—does it strike you as peculiar if they were both so well aware that Paul would need to go to some length attempting to explain the resurrection? (And even then, somewhat confusingly.) Twice? Or if they were both so well aware, why explain divorce? Or go through the summation of the Commandments?

Look, if the only thing Paul said was, “In addition to what Jesus said, here are some things to talk about” then we could consider they already both knew about the Gospels Jesus. Certainly there IS some of that in his letters. It is when Paul touches on the same subjects Jesus discussed and displays no knowledge whatsoever Jesus talked or acted on the topic…that is far more troubling to me. *shrug* It clearly does not bother many (if not most) Christians.

I do not Acts in the 50’s. Staying consistent in my methodology, it is more persuasive Luke used Mark, and Mark is not dated until post 70’s CE. Yes, I am extremely aware of JAT Robinson’s arguments regarding earlier dating…I do not find them compelling. (For more reasons than a blog comment can contain.) Not sure why 20-30 years is “hardly enough time for legendary development.” First, because we see it in the copying from Mark to Matthew to Luke. Second, because we observe legends develop much more quickly than 20-30 years.

Lucian (mid 2nd Century) records he was telling people the death of Peregrine and making up stories as he went along. Including an earthquake, and a vulture flying out from the flames, speaking human languages. Lucian amused himself in making up these incidents. However, on the same day, someone came up to him and told him about this vulture appearing from the flames! As Lucian aptly puts it, “…and on the top of all this he brought in the vulture, solemnly swore that he had seen it himself flying away from the pyre,--my own vulture, which I had but just let fly, as a satire on crass stupidity!”

This legend developed in a matter of hours—20-30 years is even more possible in comparison.

The Gospel of John makes no record regarding angels at the tomb, or any statement regarding Galilee. Actually, John’s gospel is a compilation of multiple writings (there are still tell-tale signs--the most obvious is the well-known double ending of John 20 & John 21). John includes both Judean and Galilean appearances.

According to some, Paul and his readers were both well aware of what Jesus said—does it strike you as peculiar if they were both so well aware that Paul would need to go to some length attempting to explain the resurrection? (And even then, somewhat confusingly.) Twice? Or if they were both so well aware, why explain divorce? Or go through the summation of the Commandments?
Given that there were teachers who followed Paul around and tried to undo his teaching wherever he went, it would strike me as peculiar that Paul doesn't explain the resurrection, divorce, the ten commandments and so forth. Even granting that the words of Jesus as presented in the Gospels are well known. People can easily get turned around even on the plainest teaching.

Good point WL, in support of your answer, Paul was the Pharisee of Pharisee's, there was no Jewish scholar with more credentials than him yet until his Demascus encounter, he too was misusing the OT scriptures to the extent that his jealousy for them inspired an agressive persecution of the Church.

Having this groundword behind him, he knew all too well that tradition of men infected the OT Church and its doctrines--encountering Jesus, coming under the care of other believers and the Holy Spirit, Paul began to see the OT in light of fulfillment of the prophecy concerning the Christ in Jesus. Everywhere he went as was his custom he went to the synagogues to reason from the scriptures[OT] to show why Jesus is the Messiah. All of the OT points to Jesus, a lot of doctrine to untangle. Even the apostle Peter needed rebuking having followed the Judaizers. No, not paculiar at all, but probably even necessary as you allude...from a most qualified if not the most qualified individual.

To add, when Jesus spoke, even if He made a stir, it wasn't always clear, so much so that one would/might say it doesn't need repeating or reinforcing.

"Mat 13:9 "He who has ears, let him hear."

Mat 13:10 And the disciples came and said to Him, "Why do You speak to them in parables?"

Mat 13:11 Jesus answered them, "To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been granted.

Mat 13:12 "For whoever has, to him more shall be given, and he will have an abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.

Mat 13:13 "Therefore I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand.

Mat 13:14 "In their case the prophecy of Isaiah is being fulfilled, which says, 'YOU WILL KEEP ON HEARING, BUT WILL NOT UNDERSTAND; YOU WILL KEEP ON SEEING, BUT WILL NOT PERCEIVE;

Mat 13:15 FOR THE HEART OF THIS PEOPLE HAS BECOME DULL, WITH THEIR EARS THEY SCARCELY HEAR, AND THEY HAVE CLOSED THEIR EYES, OTHERWISE THEY WOULD SEE WITH THEIR EYES, HEAR WITH THEIR EARS, AND UNDERSTAND WITH THEIR HEART AND RETURN, AND I WOULD HEAL THEM.'

btw, caps from NASB-quoting OT, not my emphasis.

DagoodS wrote:

"Either Paul did not know the Jesus of the Gospels, or Paul did not think the recipients would find Jesus’ statements authoritative."

When we look at Paul's writings, I'm not sure how either option could be open to us.

Regarding authority, look at 1 Cor. 7:10 and 9:14. These are two rare instances of Paul citing Jesus, with the expectation that what Jesus taught was authoritative. In the case of 7:10, Paul is using a teaching of Jesus to address the issue of divorce, contrary to your earlier assertion. That he does not quote the Synoptic tradition verbatim in either instance should be of little concern - as we have already agreed, Paul likely wrote before the Gospel writers, and within an orally dominant culture, it is the concepts that are preeminent, not necessarily exact wording (Even Paul's OT references are usually paraphrased, though the wording is usually close, and the OT Scriptures would have been hammered into him all his life).

Again, Paul's language of exhortation need not include constant appeals to explicit teachings of Jesus. That such appeals to the words of Jesus in Paul's writings are so infrequent is not a good case for the Synoptic Jesus tradition to have been invented or substantially altered. Look at Acts - we know that Acts proceeds Luke, Mark, and probably Matthew - how many instances of Luke citing the earlier Jesus tradition do we find, even in cases where the early church faces problems where the words of Jesus may prove beneficial? Hardly ever. We don't even have record of the early church fathers citing Jesus to settle in-house matters until Irenaeus.

Wish I had time to address more, but my time is short this week.

Bc307,

Thanks for the response. We are all hindered by the amount of hours in the day.

Whether 1 Cor 7 is the same as Jesus’ teaching on divorce is not precisely clear. Notice initially 1 Cor. 7 is talking about sexual immorality, whether Christianity required embracing asceticism, and the issue people ended up having sex with others than their spouses. Paul makes no reference to Jesus’ teaching on sexuality. In 7:14, he does state a wife must not separate from her husband if she does, must remain unmarried. Likewise a husband must not divorce his wife. (Paul goes on to add his thoughts on believer/unbeliever marriage and divorce.)

So how similar is this to Jesus’ teaching? In Mark 10:1-10, Jesus says no divorce (in a circumspect way) and additionally if they remarry it is the same adultery. Matthew 19:1-10 provides an exception for re-marriage if the divorce arises from pornea. (A general sexual sin.) Luke 16:18 follows Mark without the pornea exception.

First, we see Matthew modifying Mark’s provision on divorce by:
1) adding the pornea exception; and
2) removing the wife divorcing the husband. (see below)

Paul demonstrates no knowledge regarding the pornea exception in Matthew, despite having previously specifically mentioned sexual immorality (indeed 1 Cor. 7:2 uses the word pornea). Perhaps the oral nature of transmitting Jesus’ life resulted in this part being left out.

[Now, contrary to my position, there are some arguments that Paul WAS using Jesus’ teaching. Mark 10:1-10 is a curious anomaly on Jewish divorce in that it refers to a woman divorcing her husband—something unheard of in Hebrew law. Was Mark mistaken in thinking Mosaic Law was similar to Roman law that did allow women to divorce? Regardless, Mark does cite both a husband divorcing and a wife divorcing and so does Paul in 1 Cor. 7. While Paul was writing to a Gentile audience (thus it would be expected to go both ways) Jesus certainly was not. Does this mean Paul was following Jesus? Or Mark was following Paul? Or Mark was mistaken? Things to ponder….]

In the end, I fall (slightly) on the side this was general asceticism and Paul was incorporating his personal conservative views on the subject rather than citing a specific statement of Jesus. The skipping over pornea may be an oversight, a Paulean intention or Paul not knowing any statement of Jesus on the subject.

As to your second example, we can back up a bit and see more of the same problem. 1 Cor. 8, Paul refers to whether they could eat food sacrificed to idols. Notice no reference to Jesus’ powerful statement regarding all foods being clean in Mark 7:1-23. In 1 Cor. 9 (while on the subject of food) Paul launches into a defense regarding being fed. Apparently there were complaints about the amount of assistance he received while at homes in Corinth. [See Didach 11:3-6] He indicates in v. 14 those who preach should receive their living “from the gospel.” Jesus never directly referred to that, and this is easily derived from Mosaic law. In Matthew 10, when Jesus sends out the 12, he makes no mention regarding food being provided (although it is implicit in staying in a house.) Luke 10, which knows both Matthew 10 and Pauline corpus, adds the language regarding food in v. 7. Demonstrating (in my opinion) the legendary development in Luke from Matthew and Paul.

In 1 Cor. 10, Paul continues on about the food given to idols, again failing to mention Jesus’ words on the subject.

You indicated “…Acts proceeds Luke, Mark and probably Matthew.” I was unclear whether that was a mistype or what you were indicating. Acts does not cite Jesus tradition (again, curiously on the food issue with Mark 7), because it did not conform to the author’s intentions. He had already cited Jesus’ life in his first book—Luke.

"As to your second example, we can back up a bit and see more of the same problem. 1 Cor. 8, Paul refers to whether they could eat food sacrificed to idols. Notice no reference to Jesus’ powerful statement regarding all foods being clean in Mark 7:1-23."
More scripture twisting by DagoodS, it is so painfully obvious that you've determined to build a case to a predetermined outcome that you dont even seem to take the time to understand what is going on in the scripture references you offer. This is getting tiresome to even follow anymore.

btw, Paul is neither disagreeing with Jesus' words, nor addressing an illegitimate concern about "loving a neighbor". Two separate issues, obviously, in one case Jesus made all things clean objectively, in the other case "weaker brothers" consciences are bothered...by the fact that what was once declared clean might have been defiled again by sacrifice to an idol. This comparison, as with prior examples you've offered, in no way makes any point for your flimsy attack on scripture DagoodS.

DagoodS,

I did not suggest that Paul was citing Jesus in those two passages because of any similarity found to the teachings of Jesus in the Synoptics, although I think there are (see Matt. 10:10 and Luke 10:7 for a possible referent to Paul's claim in 1 Cor. 9:14). Rather, I suggested Paul was citing Jesus in those two cases because, in both passages, Paul says the command is from the Lord. That alone should be enough to show that Paul did indeed take the teachings of Jesus as authoritative and knew his audience would as well, contra the suggestion you made earlier that Paul must not have thought those he wrote to would see Jesus as an authority, otherwise he would have cited him more (I think Brad B has it right, by the way, about why Paul wouldn't have used Mark 7 anyway to remedy the food sacrificed to idols controversy, as Jesus's audience would have taken that statement as removing the levitical ban on animals that were categorically unclean).

My point regarding Acts is that, with all of the issues present in the early church, Paul nor Peter nor anyone else mentioned is citing the Jesus tradition to address anything, and there are no parenthetical insertions by Luke referencing a Jesus teaching. However early or late you date Acts, no one claims it was written before Matthew, Mark, or Luke. The material was there, and Luke doesn't use it. That Luke "had already cited Jesus' life in his first book" is irrelevant - based on your reasoning, if he had a Jesus teaching to address a given situation, he should have used it.

Bc307,

My final reply, I think. There is so much we could cover, and this conversation could go on forever. It has been a pleasure conversing with you.

It is my position the Jesus of the gospels was not in existence at the time Paul was writing—at best he was beginning to form through oral legendary tradition. For those who claimed the Jesus of the Gospels was already known both to Paul and his audience, one alternative I proposed was that apparently Paul did not think Jesus would be authoritative to his recipients—why else would he not use him? If you don’t buy it…fine by me.

As for my “twisting scripture,” perhaps I will flesh this out a bit more. Paul addresses an issue the Corinthians were having regarding eating meat sacrificed to idols. (I presume people reading this blog are familiar with Roman festival customs.) In 1 Cor. 8:4-8, Paul lays out an argument for why the food is not harmful, culminating in v. 8: “But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat, and no better if we do.”

Likewise Jesus also dealt with food in Mark 7. (and yes, I actually can and do read. I understood Jesus was referring to Mosaic Law with Hebrews and Paul is referring to gentiles.) Jesus states, “Nothing outside a person can defile them by going into them. Rather it is what comes out of a person that defiles them.” (v. 15) and “Don’t you see that nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them? For it doesn’t go into their heart but into their stomach, and then out of the body.” (v. 18-19)

It would seem to me…if Paul and/or his recipients were aware of Mark 7 Jesus…this would be an appropriate application of Jesus’ words regarding food. Now…if one is insistent on attributing deceptive motivations to me, one could claim the difference between rabbinical law (Jesus) and gentile application (Paul) was so great no one but a rotten, twisting infidel would ever say Paul would have used Jesus’ words to bolster Paul’s position. *shrug* A cross I must bear.

While I am aware of numerous situations in Paul where (at least to this twisting, deceptive infidel mind) stating a Jesus Gospel event or teaching would support Paul’s position, I am not aware of similar situations in Acts, where Jesus’ words would support. Indeed, part of our consternation is why Jesus would again have to explain to Peter that all food was clean, given Mark 7.

Hi DagoodS, you might be mixing responses between bc307 and I, since a lot of what you've written seems to be in response to my somewhat snarky reply to you where bc's response isn't snark laden. Since I see that you took time to post the scriptures in view, I would want to suggest to you that I never doubted that you are reading the scriptures to compare...that is not the point, it is that you are dismissive of reasonable interpretations in lieu of your preferred outcome.

It seems to me that all of your challenges have a degree of this kind of pre-determination imposed on them. btw, I want you to know that I dont think that your motivations are from any kind of intellectual dishonesty, more from wanting to justify disbelief in the authenticity and of the true authorship of the scriptures. Anyway, I agree with bc307's last paragraph as it sums up the inconsistency in your strategy to imply that something is wrong if Jesus' words from a Gospel account weren't cited verbatim [or near verbatim] by apostolic writers.

DagoodS,

I enjoyed our exchange, and agree that we indeed could go on arguing minutiae way past the point of productivity. I appreciate your tenor and your knowledge of critical issues in biblical scholarship. Should you post again, I'll let yours be the final word.

I think we can both marshal reasonable arguments for why we think Paul and the Gospels look the way they do. In a good many cases, you and I would probably agree on more than you know. I am not a strict inerrantist, and while I do believe the Bible is inspired, I probably cash out that view a little differently than those who hold firm to inerrancy.

Though I don't fully agree with your historical-critical view, even if I were to grant most of what you advance - that Paul would not have recognized the Gospel tradition as we now have it, and the Gospels display marks of progressive legendary development - we can still parse particulars of Paul's beliefs that he and the early church held at the time of his writings: Jesus is God, he was killed, and he was seen alive after his death. These are the salient details of Christianity from within about 20 years of his death (and, I would argue, earlier still), and they are still the bedrock of Christianity today.

What keeps modern skeptics from accepting this testimony is not, I suspect, a matter of progressive legendary development in the Gospels. I'd wager the resurrection would be no more likely to be accepted by skeptics if we had a set of writings from antiquity from which no such progression could argued, yet still testified to the same supernatural event.

Accepting or rejecting the resurrection is not, then, a matter of inadequate or suspect historical data. Even by secular standards, Luke is considered a careful and detailed historian of antiquity, excepting his references to supernatural events. It is one's plausibility structure that rules out the supernatural from the outset - controlling which conclusions are acceptable, preferring any natural explanations of an alleged supernatural event, even if such natural explanations are not evidenced, nor fit the evidence provided. This commitment to naturalism renders impossible the task of ever concluding that a supernatural event occured in the past.

I read one honest skeptic's words (I wish I could remember who) who wrote that, even if he personally witnessed a supernatural event, he would sooner believe that his senses had failed him than believe that supernatural events were possible. The dogma of naturalism is as entrenched in some circles as the dogmas of Christianity within the church.

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