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April 05, 2013

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What convinces you that the gospels are reliable eyewitness accounts? Reading them from oldest to newest you can see how Jesus is turned more and more into a god and miracle-worker. Every time the same event is mentioned in a different gospel the details have changed. The earliest gospel, Mark, has no virgin birth and no post-resurrection accounts. Not until John do we find an eternal immortal responsible for creating the universe. The gospels alone convinced me that they were not reliable eyewitness accounts while I was still a committed Christian.

"The earliest gospel, Mark, has no virgin birth and no post-resurrection accounts."

Though it does, in the first passage, identify Jesus as YHWH, the LORD of the Old Testament.

And, BTW, there is no reason to think Mark is earliest. Early church historians placed Matthew first, and there is very little reason to think differently.

You know what's funny, J? The truth is actually why I de-converted. The Bible makes the mistake of making a number of specific promises and assurances that can be easily seen to be false and misleading. In everyday practice, I saw people lying for the lord constantly, even on the pulpit; in fact lies seemed to be about the only way the religion moved forward. I could not stay in a religion that lied like that, especially when it also makes a number of completely unsubstantiated threats. The Bible, at its core, is a marvel of advertising; it creates a need, and fills it at the same time.

I'm not going to say I hope you wake up, because that would be arrogant. If you truly feel that Christianity works for you, great, I won't gainsay you. From this blog post, I don't think that it is, but that's really your call, not mine. But I will say that this is the only life we know for 100% sure we're going to get. It is painful to read your own account of wasting that life on something that is clearly *not* working for you. Christianity has a number of costs, both overt (financial, time) and opportunity (refraining from a lot of fun, restricting your lifestyle choices). If you're going to be entering into a contract like that, it's wise to make absolutely sure that the other party to the contract is actually doing what s/he/it/they have promised.

PS: Jesus (or the character of Jesus as portrayed in the NT) was not actually very smart. Most of what he "taught" was either common sense generic morality, or rehashes and outright plagiarisms of other Jewish and pagan philosophers. If he'd been really smart, he'd have been frantic to ensure that his teachings got passed down a bit better than he did rather than trust people to eventually, decades after his supposed death, to write one or two lines about him. Check out the writings of Philo, which many historians suspect were in great part responsible for the modern conceptualization of the myth of Jesus, along with those of Jesus ben Sirach, a 2nd-century BCE Jewish wizard. As FreeAtLast has written, the gospels are a mismash of a number of revisions, plagiarisms, and insertions. If you converted over that, then it's definitely true that the easiest person to con is a smart person. ;)

WisdomLover, can you please explain what you mean and where you're getting the idea that Matthew came first? Because that flies in the face of the two-source hypothesis, which is the generally accepted view.

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

I'm suddenly feeling like a kid arguing about continuity in an anime series.

The late Robert Funk, founder of the radical Jesus Seminar, used to complain bitterly of the chasm that exists between high scholarship and popular beliefs about Jesus. Funk was thinking primarily of the insulation of popular piety from historical Jesus scholarship; but nowhere does the chasm yawn wider than between popular impiety and historical Jesus studies.

The Free Thought movement, which fuels the popular objection that Christian beliefs about Jesus are derived from pagan mythology, is stuck in the scholarship of the late nineteenth century. In one sense this is flabbergasting, since there are plenty of contemporary sceptical scholars, like those in the Jesus Seminar, whose work Free Thinkers could avail themselves of in order to justify their scepticism about the traditional understanding of Jesus. But it just goes to show how out of touch with scholarly work on Jesus these popularizers are. They are a hundred years out of date.

Back in the hey-day of the so-called History of Religions school, scholars in comparative religion collected parallels to Christian beliefs in other religious movements, and some thought to explain those beliefs (including belief in Jesus' resurrection) as the result of the influence of such myths. Today, however, scarcely any scholar thinks of myth as an important interpretive category for the Gospels. Scholars came to realize that pagan mythology is simply the wrong interpretive context for understanding Jesus of Nazareth.

Craig Evans has called this shift the "Eclipse of Mythology" in Life of Jesus research (see his excellent article "Life-of-Jesus Research and the Eclipse of Mythology," Theological Studies 54 [1993]: 3-36). So James D. G. Dunn begins his article on "Myth" in the Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels (IVP, 1993) with the flat disclaimer, "Myth is a term of at least doubtful relevance to the study of Jesus and the Gospels."

Sometimes this shift is referred to as "the Jewish reclamation of Jesus." For Jesus and his disciples were first century Palestinian Jews, and it is against that background that they must be understood. The Jewish reclamation of Jesus has helped to make unjustified any understanding of the Gospels' portrait of Jesus as significantly shaped by mythology.

This shift is pronounced with respect to the historicity of Jesus' miracles and exorcisms. Contemporary scholars may be no more prepared to believe in the supernatural character of Jesus' miracles and exorcisms than were scholars of previous generations. But they are no longer willing to ascribe such stories to the influence of Hellenistic divine man (theios aner) myths. Rather Jesus' miracles and exorcisms are to be interpreted in the context of first century Jewish beliefs and practices. Jewish scholar Geza Vermes, for example, has drawn attention to the ministries of the charismatic miracle workers and/or exorcists Honi the Circle-Drawer (first century B.C.) and Hanina ben Dosa (first-century A.D.), and interprets Jesus of Nazareth as a Jewish hasid or holy man. Today the consensus of scholarship holds that miracle-working and exorcisms (bracketing the question of their supernatural character) most assuredly do belong to any historically acceptable reconstruction of Jesus' ministry.

The collapse of the old History of Religions school took place for primarily two reasons. First, scholars came to realize that the alleged parallels are spurious. The ancient world was a virtual cornucopia of myths of gods and heroes. Comparative studies in religion and literature require sensitivity to their similarities and differences, or distortion and confusion inevitably result. Unfortunately, those who adduced parallels to Christian beliefs failed to exercise such sensitivity. Take, for example, the story of the Virgin Birth, or, more accurately, Jesus' virginal conception. The alleged pagan parallels to this story concern tales of gods' assuming bodily form and having sexual intercourse with human females to sire divine-human progeny (like Hercules). As such these stories are exactly the opposite of the Gospel story of Mary's conceiving Jesus apart from any sexual relations. The Gospel stories of Jesus' virginal conception are, in fact, without parallel in the ancient Near East.

Or consider the Gospel event of most interest to me: Jesus' resurrection from the dead. Many of the alleged parallels to this event are actually apotheosis stories, the divinization and assumption of the hero into heaven (Hercules, Romulus). Others are disappearance stories, asserting that the hero has vanished into a higher sphere (Apollonius of Tyana, Empedocles). Still others are seasonal symbols for the crop cycle, as the vegetation dies in the dry season and comes back to life in the rainy season (Tammuz, Osiris, Adonis). Some are political expressions of Emperor worship (Julius Caesar, Caesar Augustus). None of these is parallel to the Jewish idea of the resurrection of the dead. David Aune, who is a specialist in comparative ancient Near Eastern literature, concludes, "no parallel to them [resurrection traditions] is found in Graeco-Roman biography" ("The Genre of the Gospels," in Gospel Perspectives II, ed. R. T. France and David Wenham [Sheffield: JSOT Press, 1981], p. 48).

In fact, most scholars have come to doubt whether, properly speaking, there really were any myths of dying and rising gods at all! In the Osiris myth, one of the best known symbolic seasonal myths, Osiris does not really come back to life but simply continues to exist in the nether realm of the departed. In a recent review of the evidence, T. N. D. Mettinger reports: "From the 1930s. . . a consensus has developed to the effect that the 'dying and rising gods' died but did not return or rise to live again. . . Those who still think differently are looked upon as residual members of an almost extinct species" (Tryggve N. D. Mettinger, The Riddle of Resurrection: "Dying and Rising Gods" in the Ancient Near East [Stockholm, Sweden: Almquist & Wiksell International, 2001], pp. 4, 7).

Mettinger himself believes that myths of dying and rising did exist in the cases of Dumuzi, Baal, and Melqart; but he recognizes that such symbols are quite unlike the early Christian belief in Jesus' resurrection:

The dying and rising gods were closely related to the seasonal cycle. Their death and return were seen as reflected in the changes of plant life. The death and resurrection of Jesus is a one-time event, not repeated, and unrelated to seasonal changes. . . . There is, as far as I am aware, no prima facie evidence that the death and resurrection of Jesus is a mythological construct, drawing on the myths and rites of the dying and rising gods of the surrounding world. While studied with profit against the background of Jewish resurrection belief, the faith in the death and resurrection of Jesus retains its unique character in the history of religions. The riddle remains (Ibid., p. 221).

Notice Mettinger's comment that the belief in Jesus' resurrection may be profitably studied against the background of Jewish resurrection beliefs (not pagan mythology). Here we see that shift in New Testament studies I flagged above as the Jewish reclamation of Jesus. The spuriousness of the alleged parallels is just one indication that pagan mythology is the wrong interpretive framework for understanding the disciples' belief in Jesus' resurrection.

Second, the History of Religions school collapsed as an explanation of the origin of Christian beliefs about Jesus because there was no causal connection between pagan myths and the origin of Christian beliefs about Jesus. Take, for example, the resurrection. Jews were familiar with the seasonal deities mentioned above (Ez 37.1-14) and found them abhorrent. Therefore, there is no trace of cults of dying and rising gods in first century Palestine. For Jews, the resurrection to glory and immortality would not take place until the general resurrection of all the dead at the end of the world. It boggles the imagination to think that the original disciples would have suddenly and sincerely come to believe that Jesus of Nazareth was risen from the dead just because they had heard of pagan myths about dying and rising seasonal gods.

But, in a sense, all this is irrelevant to your main question, Kevin. For, as you indicate, the people you're talking to are impervious to scholarship. When you point out to them the spuriousness of the alleged parallels, then you're accused of "working too hard to save your religion." This is a no win situation for you. So I'm inclined to say that you should not go about "trying to refute every single similarity." Rather I think a more general and dismissive attitude on your part may be more effective.

When they say that Christian beliefs about Jesus are derived from pagan mythology, I think you should laugh. Then look at them wide-eyed and with a big grin, and exclaim, "Do you really believe that?" Act as though you've just met a flat earther or Roswell conspirator. You could say something like, "Man, those old theories have been dead for over a hundred years! Where are you getting this stuff?" Tell them this is just sensationalist junk, not serious scholarship. If they persist, then ask them to show you the actual passages narrating the supposed parallel. They're the ones who are swimming against the scholarly consensus, so make them work hard to save their religion. I think you'll find that they've never even read the primary sources.

If they ever do cite a primary source passage, I think you'd be surprised what you find. For example, in my debate on the resurrection with Robert Price, he claimed that Jesus' healing miracles were derived from mythological healing stories like those concerning Asclepius. I insisted that he read to us a passage from the primary sources showing the purported parallel. When he did so, the tale he produced bore no resemblance whatsoever to the Gospel stories of Jesus' healing miracles! It was the best proof that the stories were not genealogically related.

Remember: anyone pressing this objection has a burden of proof to bear. He needs to show that the narratives are parallel and, moreover, that they are causally connected. Insist that they bear that burden if you are to take their objection seriously.

Read more: http://www.reasonablefaith.org/jesus-and-pagan-mythology#ixzz2PckeDfAs

Shaugnessy-

First, there is no generally accepted view. There are no fewer than 1400 theories, and dozens that have generated plenty of 'scholarly' ink.

Second, the reason for the two source hypothesis is the assumption that Mark is first. You seem to need Q if Mark is first. It supposedly explains the common material between Luke and Matthew. (With that said, there are Markan prioritists who reject Q.)

If Matthew is first. The common material for Luke and Matthew might just come from Matthew. And Mark is almost entirely found in Matthew. So you have three synoptics Matthew, Mark and Luke in that order. The later ones are influenced by the earlier ones and add some independent material.

The external evidence, what early historians said, all favors Matthew.

The reason people believe that Mark is first is that they make the ridiculous claim that it shows a less-divine Jesus...allowing them to assert that the deity of Christ was a later addition.

The fact that the early questions about Christ were not about His deity, but His humanity are lost on them of course.

Shaughnessy, if you read the Gospels, and I mean truly read the Gospels, then you'd realize that Jesus was not only smart, but brilliant.

Learn your Jewish history, then learn the OT, and then read the words that Jesus spoke. Jesus was the greatest apologist that ever walked this planet--why ? Because He is God.

Honestly, I feel sad for you--not sad, in a condescending way--but, truly sad for you that you left your faith because of poor leadership from what I gathered from your post.

You seem like someone who has committed yourself to a viewpoint that you aren't going to waver from (your sarcastic side comments prove that), so I'm not going to waste my time, and yours, by giving arguments as to why you should believe. That's between you and God. But, what I will say is go re-read your Bible with an open-mind. Maybe, just maybe, a light will shine on you.

God bless :)

Liberator-

Next time, please just link to Dr. Craig's website. You can embed HTML in your comments. No need to reproduce the quote in full.

This line would have done it:

<a href="http://www.reasonablefaith.org/jesus-and-pagan-mythology#ixzz2PckeDfAs">Dr. Craig has a great answer to Shaugnessy</a>

Here it is in action:

Dr. Craig has a great answer to Shaugnessy

"YHWH, the LORD of the Old Testament."

"The" lord of the OT? And who was the Elohim of Genesis 1? Who was the "us" who created? There was no concept of a trinity when those words were penned. And their was no monotheism. El was above YHWH, as well as the gods of the non-Hebrew tribes. YHWH had a wife named Asherah.

Regardless, to say that Mark 1:3 "identifies" Jesus as YHWH is a stretch, certainly not something that has reached a reasonable scholarly consensus.

"Truly" read the gospels.

Wow.

So, the claim is that the gospels cannot give us an accurate picture of the historical Jesus.

To the contrary:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WzvPLGXEHzc

http://www.reasonablefaith.org/rediscovering-the-historical-jesus-the-evidence-for-jesus

http://theophilogue.com/2010/02/24/book-review-jesus-and-the-eyewitnesses-by-richard-bauckham/

http://www.4truth.net/fourtruthpbbible.aspx?pageid=8589952775

FL-

John is identified as the voice crying to prepare a way for the Lord in the wilderness. A way for the one whose sandals that John was not worthy to unclasp.

The one John was preparing a way for had sandals, He had feet, He had a body. He was a man.

What man?

Well, clearly, from Mark 1:9-14, when Jesus appeared, John's ministry was over. So the man that John was preparing the way for was Jesus.

But the passage is referencing Isaiah 40. And who was it that the voice calling in Isaiah was preparing a way for?

YHWH.

Jesus = YHWH

What a stretch!!!

No, actually, this is an occult power that I have. It is called "The ability to read".

Now, everything you said about Elohim and El and Asherah is utter nonsense.

But that is really neither here nor there.

The question is not what the Jews of 500 B.C. believed. Let us suppose that they were polytheists (or whatever you like).

The question is what the Christians of the First Century believed.

Had you made any of those claims about God that you made in your prior post, the Jews of the first century, the people from whom the first Christians were called, would have started picking up stones.

To say Jesus = YHWH, as Mark does, was, at the time Mark was written, to make an unmistakable claim of the Full Deity of Christ.

You won't find the followers of Jesus in the Gospels calling themselves "Christians." They were Hebrews, following a Hebrew radical. And you are correct that the authors of the gospels did not have a clue about Elohim or the Old Testament in the original Hebrew. That's how they eventually ended up with bogus prophecy fulfillments which only made sense in reference to the Greek Septuagint (virgin birth, anyone?).

FL-

So you've given up on your original claim that the Gospels seem made up because they progressively make Jesus more divine.

Each and every one of them claims that Jesus = YHWH.

BTW, you really don't know what you are talking about on the other claims either.

Freeat Last,

How is your post relevant to what WisdomLover just put down?

Deal with his arguments. Take them down and then build up your case.

You seem to be proposing questions to the veracity of certain historical events (without proposing data to support it) which is not only irrelevant to what WisdomLover wrote but also irrelevant to your initial claim.

Liberator, you make some astonishing claims, and ones that are certainly not held by any reputable scholars I've ever read. It is sheer blindness to not realize that Jesus--the myth of him as a half-god-half-man running around doing miracles exactly like those of the other demigods like him during his day, dying just like they did, rising just like they did--is not modeled very closely on prevailing pagan stories and myths. It's telling that the Jews of his time certainly weren't taken in by the weird melding of Jewish and pagan lore that the new myth represented. By the way, on a side note, it's simply amazing how convoluted the history of the NT is, isn't it? Almost as if there was no divine hand guiding any of it--that it was just another text that got copied, recopied, mangled, and adulterated along the way like any other text. You'd think an all-powerful deity would know how to transmit his message in a way that it wouldn't be misinterpreted and mangled into 40,000 denominations, all with their own take on the same words, all convinced they're right and everybody else is wrong, all able to back their positions up with Bible verses cleverly contorted to support themselves.

WisdomLover (oh the irony), there are entire websites devoted to debunking the half-baked apologetics fallacies used by WLC. Not impressed. WLC doesn't do evidence. He does contortions intended to logic himself into a god in the total absence of all evidence. You might want to branch out a bit and check out those sites. They're not hard to find.

John, you make equally astonishing and arrogant, condescending assumptions about my past and knowledge base. It's insulting that you assume I did not "truly" read the Bible. I've probably read it more than you have. It was reading it that de-converted me, not "poor leadership" -- what, am I just some poor widdle child who can't figure stuff out on my own? Why didn't you just *ASK* me why I deconverted instead of making assumptions (you know what they do, right)?

You are falling for yet another tactic that Christians use to protect their delusions against the messy reality presented by people like me: You are trying your hardest to invalidate me as a person so I fit neatly into your worldview. If I did truly read everything honestly and truly, if I was sincere, if I walked the walk as well as talked the talk, if I was a True Christian, if I was completely on fire, but I still left, that leaves you in some really uncomfortable territory. You also make a lot of assumptions about me as a person in terms of what I'm "committed" to. I've never said a word about just what I'm "committed" to, nor will I, because THAT IS IRRELEVANT. All you need to know is: I saw there was no evidence for Christianity's validity, and saw how much contradicted its validity. So I left. The burden is on the proponents of Christianity to offer genuine and real evidence for their claims. Not upon me to work my rear end off to satisfy YOU that I did enough to be allowed to leave without your judging my sincerity and pooh-poohing me. If you have to denigrate me and treat me like that in order to feel more comfy in your bubble, may I gently suggest that maybe it's not a good bubble to maintain?

Christians, I'm going to be quite serious and kind here when I tell you that how you're treating me, the insane "logic" you're twisting, the demands you're making, the assumptions you're blithely soaring into the air about me, *these* are why people leave your religion. Engage with reality. Engage with me. Stop talking at me and making assumptions about me. I'm not going to be converting back, no, but there may be other people reading this who are having trouble who may see you treating outsiders with respect and empathy and thereby are saved from having to confront Christianity's gruesome history with non-believers. Continue to live in the bubble, safely ensconced away from anything that looks like reality, or, you know, do what Jesus told you to do and get out into this big bad messy world. Your choice.

Shughnessy-

For starters, I'm pretty sure that WLC, himself a reputable scholar, is a lot smarter than any of the 'reputable scholars' that you've read.

The fact that there are entire websites devoted to attacking him (oooooh!) is, believe it or not, not very impressive to me.

Did you know that fire can't melt steel? Google It!

Second, I'm not a regular reader of WLC. I referenced WLC only in an effort to show Liberator how to embed a link. I used the article he had just finished quoting at length to do so.

Did you have something to say to any of the arguments I've made? Or were you just going to sit pat with a nice mock of my handle?

Shaughnessy,

With respect to the Zeitgeist theory, my friend, you're just mistaken that this is represented in scholarship. You may argue otherwise but that ship is just going to crash upon the rocks. They are other, more plausible ways to argue against Christianity. Why not take up the arguments of the Jesus seminary folks or Gerd Ludemann? At least, that would have some slice of scholarly credence to it- respectable skepticism. What you offer just is not because it isn't represented. My friend, it just is not.

If you don't want to be a Christian I guess that's fine. I don't know why you don't but... I guess that's just the way it is. But don't think that you're justified because of the objections that you raised. As I wrote, you just don't have any argument there because no one- no scholar- would back you up. Any that would would be so marginal so as to be statistically meaningless. I heard of one scholar who did a head count of all of the other scholars who had entertained the possibility of Christ-myth and it was something like four scholars in forty years, in three languages, amidst tens of thousands of publications to the contrary in that time span and in those languages.

The Zeitgeist theory is supposed to be the most well represented argument against Christianity on the web. Something like 90% of all of the skeptical websites. This is not respectable; it would be funny if it were not so sad.

So, don't be a Christian, Shaughnessy, fine. But don't use the arguments that you presented because you just don't enjoy any precedence.

WisdomLover, you didn't actually present any evidence to evaluate. Would you care to do so? You've made some assertions that Matthew came first, then the others, and you seem to have asserted this purely because the idea of a less-divine Jesus makes you sad. The hypothesis I named is the dominant one in the field at present. Q is not a document but a hypothesis based on the many similarities between the synoptic gospels. You can't really use it as a potential source because nobody has ever found even a scrap of it. I'm open to the idea that Matthew came first--any opinion must be formed by facts--but I'm not going to change my mind just based on what you've presented so far.

WLC doesn't actually ever present evidence. His entire arguments are just the standard twists of irrational BS (like Kalam) that apologists must use because they have no evidence for Christian claims. You make a false comparison with sites debunking him and "truther" sites; "truther" sites are using pseudo-science to push through a conspiracy theory, while sites debunking WLC are using real logic and ration to debunk someone using pseudo-science and twisted logic. I don't doubt that WLC has a lot of education in theology, but that doesn't make him inerrant. He's definitely not a scientist or historian despite his obvious and earnest desire to discuss both subjects. And as to my teasing about your handle, I don't find it very wisdom-loving to engage in pseudo-science and irrational arguments, no. Nor do I think how you treated me made you sound particularly wisdom-loving. More like "loving to feel like he's always right and superior to everybody else," but that isn't wisdom!

It's so true that one can see the validity of Christianity by how its adherents treat others. What's that verse in Paul's letters about a man's words displaying his true feelings about something? Bitter waters cannot flow from a sweet fountain! ;) Or is turning the other cheek even if you feel hard-done-by, being meek, and loving your neighbor just some of those many optional things for Christians can ignore nowadays, like not wearing mixed fibers or stoning to death rape victims who didn't cry out enough? I'm not a Christian, so I'm certainly under no obligation to swallow my pride, but that's definitely a law you're under. So, uh, is there some apology you'd like to offer at this point for offending me and mistreating me? Oh, and I'd like $100 as I'm broke. And your shoes. ;) J/k. But for real, stop being a jerk.

WL & L,

I have not given up any claims.

My claims, again, were that the gospel of Mark had no virgin birth and no post-resurrection appearances (in the most reliable manuscripts, I will add). Would you like to dispute this? Before you accuse me of not knowing what I’m talking about and not addressing your arguments I would appreciate an answer to my own. Unlike those you appear to be demanding that I answer, they have been intentionally pithy.

So, first, I would like to request that you back up your claim that Matthew was written prior to Mark.

Second, please provide your explanation of the term “Elohim” used in the first chapter of Genesis. I can provide examples of what the words El and Elohim were used to refer to in various contexts if you like.

FL

I can grant you that Mark was written first. Maybe it was and maybe it wasn't. Let's concentrate on your claim that it proposes no resurrection appearances. Your claim is that this suggests a legendary development within the early Christian community. A low Christology to a high. But this can't bear under 1 Corinthians 15: 3-11. Herein we have an empty tomb and eye witness appearances. What's important about this text is that it predates Marks account- it's dated to like within two years of the events. Also, what's interesting about this is that Paul theologizes more about the resurrection than Mark does and he was writing, plausibly, earlier. (Paul wrote 1 Corinthians I think in the fifties while Mark wrote his gospel no earlier than the fifties).

With respect to the the verses mentioned, Paul received that shortly after his conversion. That's why he uses the words "that which I received I passed on to you".

You've made some assertions that Matthew came first, then the others, and you seem to have asserted this purely because the idea of a less-divine Jesus makes you sad.
What I said is that all the arguments for an early Mark are based on the (false) idea that Mark presents a less divine Jesus.

I also noted that the early historians that actually wrote about this all put Matthew first. That, presumably, is not evidence.

Q is not a document but a hypothesis based on the many similarities between the synoptic gospels.
I know that Q isn't an extant document...it exists only in the minds of 'reputable scholars'. That's part of the reason I don't accept the Two-Document Hypothesis.

It's actually only based on the similarities between Luke and Matthew that are not paralleled in Mark. And, BTW, some of those similarities are pretty slim.

Nice rant against WLC, someone who, as I noted before I consider pretty smart (based on limited knowledge of him) but don't really follow.

I'm guessing, though, that WLC must really get under your skin. I'll have to widen my perspective and take a better look at him.

Apparently I've gotten under your skin as well. I think I may have poked fun at you two times. Once for the use of the ad internetum fallacy. And honestly, how could I be expected to resist that? And the second time for your (lame) abuse of my handle.

Still, they must have hurt, since you complained about them for the last paragraph and a half of your post. In that section you managed to heap further scorn on my moniker (and me for having it) and provide, at the same time, a mini-webinar on Christian ethics. (OK, that's three times I've poked fun at you.)

You concluded your remarks with this.

But for real, stop being a jerk.
I'm so sorry.

You done skooled me.

I am so humbled.

FL-

(If you want to know about Matthean priority, take a look at the answer I gave to Shaughessy in this very thread.)

As for first talking about El and Elohim and Francesca Stavrakopoulou's fantasy about YHWH and His wife, no, I don't think I'll get sidetracked.

Here was your initial claim

Reading them from oldest to newest you can see how Jesus is turned more and more into a god and miracle-worker.

You later indicated that Mark was first. So you seem to be saying that Mark presents a less divine Jesus.

This is not so.

Mark says that Jesus = YHWH.

In the first century, this is as full a claim of Deity as it would have been possible to make, no matter what else Mark did or did not say.

"(Jesus = YHWH) + anything" implies a fully divine Jesus.

Because of this, even if you were right about Markan priority (which you are not), you still cannot "see how Jesus is turned more and more into a god".

Since this seems to be the basis of your argument against the reliability of the Gospels, your argument falls flat.

The fact that Mark portrays a less miraculous Jesus has nothing to do with the facts supporting it's earlier writing. The oldest gospel manuscripts that we have are of Mark. The oldest quotes that we have are from Mark. The overwhelming scholarly opinion from Christian scholars is that Mark is the oldest gospel. The sources of this information are easy to find.

You interpret Mark's jumbled quotation from Malachi and Isaiah as Jesus=YHWH, but that's not what it says. "Prepare the way for the Lord" doesn't come close to the claim in the gospel of John that "The word was God....in Him all things were created."

Paul is another matter. Paul's writings present a completely different picture of Jesus. Aside from references to the last supper he does not present a single teaching coinciding with what Jesus is said to have taught in the gospels.

Anyone can read their Bible and see this. The New Testament is not very long.

If I fail to respond further, it won't be that I've conceded anything. It will be that I've lost interest.

Shaughnessy-

In re-reading this thread, there is one slight to you which I have committed too many times here. That is misspelling your name. That one I really do apologize for. It was not intentional.

If you don't mind, because your name is a bit of a handful, and I have fat fingers, in any future posts I will refer to you as SMG. Even I should be able to type that.

FL-

"The oldest gospel manuscripts that we have are of Mark."

The oldest manuscript is the Rylands fragment, which is from John.

""Prepare the way for the Lord" doesn't come close"

When the OT reference uses YHWH in the position that "The Lord" is used, it most certainly does come close (and surpass) John's opening.

It is possible to read John 1 so that the Word is God, but Jesus is not fully the Word. Of course, John himself uses the connection with Isaiah to make it clear that Jesus = YHWH. All four Gospels do. So it is not as if John presents a less divine Jesus either.

As with other matters, I'll refrain from getting sidetracked into talking about Paul. You made a claim about how Mark represented Jesus that has been shown to be false.

Will you acknowledge that or not?

BTW-

The oldest quotations are newer than the oldest manuscript which, once again, is from John.

And the argument from overwhelming scholarly opinion does not impress me.

Most of these scholars argue that Mark is earliest from their assumption that it presents a less divine Jesus. So pardon me for not thinking that their opinion is a reason I should think the earliest account shows a less divine Jesus. I like circles as well as the next man, but not in my arguments.

"You made a claim about how Mark represented Jesus that has been shown to be false.

Will you acknowledge that or not?"

No. I disagree. If the author of Mark believed in a virgin birth and resurrection appearances, why would fail to mention them?

FL

Right, so what I think you're saying about Paul is that he doesn't really represent the early Christian community and thus 1 Corinthians 15: 3-7 doesn't either.

But my argument was that Paul received that passage, which was originally an early creed, from the Christian leaders themselves- James and Peter, just after his conversion. This creedal statement, which was the earliest gospel proclamation, Paul rechecked with the earliest disciples to see if he really had it right about fourteen years or so after.

So, you were saying that a full fledged resurrection account is the result of legendary development. My answer is that Paul- who is getting his material from the early Christian leaders- has recorded in 1 Corinthians 15: 3-7 material that goes back to within no more than three years of the events. So, a legendary development hypothesis with respect to the resurrection account doesn't hold up.

I can expand on this further if you like.

"why would [Mark] fail to mention them?"

If Matthew was first, it seems that Mark might have thought it unnecessary to talk about them. Matthew, after all, had already said plenty.

Perhaps Mark thought it important to get into more depth on some of the material, but because of space decided to leave out other (admittedly important) material.

But that is neither here nor there. Let us suppose that I have no explanation at all about for why Mark omitted what you wish he had included.

That does not undercut the fact that Mark did say Jesus = YHWH.

And that is as much as he needs to say to claim the full Deity of Christ.

Before we address Paul, why would later translators find it necessary to add to Mark's account, bringing up an account of Jesus appearing and talking about his disciples being impervious to snake-bites?

and if John did precede the synoptics (which it DID NOT), why leave out HUGE details like the virgin birth and post-resurrection appearances? It's not like 1st century Christians had entire Bibles to reference. Why write another gospel at all?

Not to get all theological here, but technically if you are a Christian it is because God first loved you and chose you "before the foundation of the world". Of course, it is comforting that Christianity fits very nicely with the actual world as we observe it, but we should never forget that God is the one who enables us to see clearly in the first place.

"why would later translators find it necessary to add to Mark's account, bringing up an account of Jesus appearing and talking about his disciples being impervious to snake-bites?"

Let's say I have no explanation. Mark still said Jesus = YHWH.

"why leave out HUGE details like the virgin birth and post-resurrection appearances? It's not like 1st century Christians had entire Bibles to reference. Why write another gospel at all?"

Let's say I have no explanation. Mark still said Jesus = YHWH.

"and if John did precede the synoptics (which it DID NOT)"

I'm wondering what this comes from. The fact that the earliest manuscript fragment is from John doesn't imply any claim about whether John came before or after the synoptics. All it shows is that you were wrong when you claimed that the earliest manuscript fragments are from Mark. And ipso facto wrong when you claimed that as evidence for an earlier Mark.

http://anglicanink.com/article/first-century-fragments-marks-gospel-found

Mark calls Jesus immediately preceding that quote “son” of God, which has been said about many. If he wanted to call him YHWH he would have called him YHWH. John was announcing Jesus as the second and greater messenger of YHWH. “Prepare the way for YHWH (tribal god); make straight in the wilderness a highway for our Elohim (gods).”

I find it interesting that we have secular accounts from the period mentioning John the Baptist but not Jesus (or Joshua/Y’shua).

BTW: The “did not” shouting came from Scotch Whiskey and not taking the argument very seriously at the time. I no longer need to care. I’m free. I would like others to be free.

If you are happy with your religion, I’m happy for you. Just don’t use it to wage wars and restrict other people’s freedoms. If you suffer from cognitive dissonance, I would like to help to free you from that.

The best societies have outgrown much of the bad stuff that YHWH is said to approve of in the Bible. If something in there seems bad to you, that’s probably because it is bad (not in an objective sense but a collective sense).

"first-century-fragments-marks-gospel-found"

Wallace's find doesn't even rise to the level of controversial at this time. Wallace has published nothing about the new fragment that can be reviewed. All we have is his public claim that the fragment exists. The picture you see in the article is a picture of the Rylands fragment (of John). We don't know if it is really as old as Wallace claims. I don't think there's a fragment designation yet (the Rylands frament is called P52). I don't think we even know what part of Mark is on the fragment.

But even if we accept Wallace's claim as proven, the fact that for over half a century almost everyone agreed that the oldest fragment was from John and during that same time almost everyone thought that Mark was older than John shows just how dodgy the argument proceeding from oldest manuscript to oldest autograph is.

"Mark calls Jesus immediately preceding that quote “son” of God, which has been said about many."

Relevant how? Mark still says Jesus = YHWH. All this shows is that at least one part of Trinitarian thought was an extremely early belief.

"If he wanted to call him YHWH he would have called him YHWH."

Thanks for the insight into Mark's psyche. Maybe he had his reasons for an easily inferred identification instead.

"John was announcing Jesus as the second and greater messenger of YHWH."

Nice try. But it doesn't work. If that were Mark's point, then it is Jesus, not John who was the voice calling to prepare the way of the LORD. But Mark said that was John, not Jesus. And if Jesus isn't YHWH, but the voice calling, when does YHWH actually show up? Also, I really didn't remember the Isaiah passage saying "The voice of one calling, in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of someone else who will call prepare ye the way of the LORD".

And it's not like this is the only NT-OT link that identifies Jesus as YHWH. It's all over the place. This is how they said "Jesus = YHWH" in the NT.

"Prepare the way for YHWH (tribal god); make straight in the wilderness a highway for our Elohim (gods)."

The Isaiah passage actually goes like this

A voice is calling,
Clear the way for the LORD (YHWH) in the wilderness;
Make smooth in the desert a highway for our God (Elohim).
The poetic structure of what the voice calls is:
A1 for B1 in C1,
A2 in C2 for B2
where A1 = A2, B1 = B2 and C1 = C2. The Bs and Cs create what is called a Chiasmus (or "X-shaped thingy"). It is a common poetic form in many languages including English. Matthew's double vision on the donkeys is sometimes attributed to the idea that he didn't understand that (though of course, the best explanation, given that donkeys form buddy-pairs, is that there were two donkeys).

In any case, the Chiasmus of Isaiah 40:3 identifies YHWH and Elohim.

YHWH is sometimes called YHWH-Elohim in the OT. And if you buy the documentary hypothesis, it is in the oldest parts of the Torah.

So maybe we can just put to rest your silly notion that YHWH and Elohim are somehow different.

"I find it interesting that we have secular accounts from the period mentioning John the Baptist but not Jesus (or Joshua/Y’shua)."

OK, so now Jesus didn't exist.

Thought we might get to that sideshow eventually.

You know that's the NT History equivalent of 9/11 truth don't you?

Not gonna follow that sidetrack, sorry.

Mark still said Jesus = YHWH.

"If you are happy with your religion, I’m happy for you."

Yes, the first thing I think when I read your posts is, there's one happy fella who is overjoyed to let each pursue his own religion if it makes him happy. It just drips from your words.

"Just don’t use it to wage wars and restrict other people’s freedoms."

OK, here we go, the crusades mingled with just a touch of a desire to have sex with anyone you like without consequence or condemnation.

Happy happy. Joy joy.

"If you suffer from cognitive dissonance, I would like to help to free you from that."

Thanks for the offer, but I think I'm good on avoiding that. Projection too.

"The best societies have outgrown much of the bad stuff that YHWH is said to approve of in the Bible."

You mean like "Love thy neighbor as thyself?"

"If something in there seems bad to you, that’s probably because it is bad"

Is that just in the Bible? I mean, is it a unique Book where whatever seems bad to me probably is bad, or is it generally true? Is it just that whatever seems bad to me probably is?

If it's the latter, thanks for the vote of confidence in my moral intuition, but my reaction is: God save us from people who think that!

If it's the former, argument please. Actually, scratch that. For one thing, you can't do it, since you don't know what seems bad to me.

But besides that, it's just another sidetrack. At this point I'd rather either just have you admit that the Jesus = YHWH thing caught you flat-footed, or provide some argument against the claim that can actually get off the ground.

"not in an objective sense but a collective sense"

OK. Maybe this explains it. If it seems bad to me, then it probably seems bad to most other people too.

Not much better off with that either.

And anyway, Mark said Jesus = YHWH.

FL-

One more thing, on the "did not" bit.

I wasn't really asking about why you shouted "did not". I'm actually less sensitive to that and did not take offense. Typing in all caps for emphasis is easy. Using html tags for emphasis can get a bit wearing. Plus you can inadvertently set loose an italics monster if you fail to close the tag. I'd just assumed that you weren't feeling like messing with the html. Hope you enjoyed the scotch though.

What I was asking was why you thought anyone had said John came before the synoptics?

Plus you can inadvertently set loose an italics monster if you fail to close the tag.

Yup. Been there; done that.

italics monster <---LOL

"Hope you enjoyed the scotch though."
Thank you. I did.

"What I was asking was why you thought anyone had said John came before the synoptics?"
Oh, I think that I meant to say Matthew. I actually don't believe that anyone can be certain which gospel was written first, though Matthew and Luke provide more examples of attributing god-attributes to Jesus, and John outdoes all of the synoptics combined. I can see a clear progression from Mark to John when considering what I have learned so far.

"OK, so now Jesus didn't exist."
I did not claim that Jesus didn't exist. It just doesn't appear that he was as popular as John at the time. He probably would never have gained so much popularity if Paul had not removed the circumcision requirement with his new religion, which was in opposition to the Jewish churches of James and Peter. Are you interested in discussing that topic? I think I'm finished arguing that Mark came first and did not equate Jesus with YHWH. I still believe that the Isaiah reference was more of a kingdom/holy spirit reference.

Regarding Yahweh and Elohim, you at least see the syncretism, don't you? The words El and Elohim did not originate with the Jews. 'l-h-m is found in Ugaritic, referring to the pantheon of Canaanite gods, the children of El. The plural nature of the word is still detectable in Genesis 1, "Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness..."

Ahh, one of my favorite steps of deconversion.....learning about the Ugaritic texts.....those were the days! :/

The words El and Elohim did not originate with the Jews. 'l-h-m is found in Ugaritic, referring to the pantheon of Canaanite gods
What???

Hebrew was an organically developed natural language???

I thought it was a made up language like Esperanto specifically designed to convey Trintarian Monotheism!!!

Honestly, word origins do not equal theological, philosophical, ethical or political commitment. If they did, husbands would complain about not being married to their houses the way housewives do (either that, or housewives wouldn't complain any more than husbands do).

The term El was the Canaanite term for the chief or a chief deity. The Hebrews quite obviously adopt that term as a title like king or President.

Something similar happened in Rome. The proper name "Caesar" became the title for the emperor. Latinate and Latin-influenced languages still bear traces of that shift. But go try convincing someone that the Drug Czar, Gil Kerlikowske, is a member of Julius Caesar's family. See how that goes.

As for "Elohim", it is consistently used with singular verb forms. Christians take this as a proto-Trinitarian indicator. Jews take it to indicate fullness. No one takes it as polytheism. No one, of course, except reputable scholars.

Reputable scholars like to use exactly this sort of stuff to get published, get grants and so on. The defense of the radically unorthodox and unintuitive opinion has been a trick common in academia since Rousseau's First Discourse won the Dijon Prize. After centuries of tired repetition in the schools, it's become rather tedious.

I shouldn't take any of that rot too seriously.

And really, YHWH-Elohim is used, frequently, as a single appellation of God. YHWH is Elohim, Elohim is YHWH.

And Mark says Jesus = YHWH.

"Reputable scholars like to use exactly this sort of stuff to get published..."
Like the ones who used the word in plural form in Genesis 1?

"Hebrew was an organically developed natural language???"
You must not take the story of the tower of Babel literally.

Just like Hebrew myths arose organically from the myths of neighboring tribes???

Just like the Hebrew religion was an organically developed natural religion???

But, you see, Hebrew religion is monotheistic.

Do you believe in a literal Adam and Eve 6,000-10,000 years ago? A literal tower of Babel? A literal global flood? Humanity starting over with Noah's family? I would love to discuss those topics.

If you prefer New Testament, can we talk about the past popularity vs. current popularity of prophets, magicians and messiah figures of the time. Or we can discuss the various Christian movements, most of which appear to have been Gnostic, which were stamped out early on but keep popping up with every new archaeological find. Let's teach the controversy!

"But, you see, Hebrew religion is monotheistic."
Really? Then who were the "us" in Genesis 1? Did this monotheism predate Akhenaten, Marduk, or Zoroaster and Ahura Mazda?

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