Message 1 of 2 (848574)
02-10-2019 4:43 PM
Is there any "evidence" that counts as such (to those who deny)?
Well, I will go straight to the horse's mouth.
(and Phat will want to kill me for this type of thingy I do so often.)
I will go to the self-described "Christian atheist" himself, Robert Price.
From the introduction to his 2011 book, The Christ-Myth Theory And Its Problems.
(I will change the paragraphing format to make reading easy on the eyes)
It is not as if I believe there is no strong argument for an historical Jesus. There is one: one can very plausibly read certain texts in Acts, Mark, and Galatians as fossils preserving the memory of a succession struggle following the death of Jesus, who, therefore, must have existed. Who should follow Jesus as his vicar on earth?
His disciples (analogous to the Companions of the Prophet Muhammad, who provided the first three caliphs)?
Or should it be the Pillars, his own relatives (the Sh'ite Muslims called Muhammad‟s kinsmen the Pillars, too, and supported their dynastic claims)? One can trace the same struggles in the Bah'i Faith after the death of the Bab (Mirza Ali Muhammad): who should rule, his brother Subh-i-Azal, or his disciple Hussein Ali, Bah'Ullah? Who should follow the Prophet Joseph Smith? His disciples, or his son, Joseph, Jr.? When the Honorable Elijah Muhammad died, Black Muslims split and followed either his son and heir Wareeth Deen Muhammad or his former lieutenant Louis Farrakhan.
In the New Testament, as Harnack and Stauffer argued, we seem to see the remains of a Caliphate of James. And that implies (though it does not prove) an historical Jesus. And it implies an historical Jesus of a particular type. It implies a Jesus who was a latter-day Judah Maccabee, with a group of brothers who could take up the banner when their eldest brother, killed in battle, perforce let it fall.
S.G.F. Brandon made a very compelling case for the original revolutionary character of Jesus, subsequently sanitized and made politically harmless by Mark the evangelist. Judging by the skirt-clutching outrage of subsequent scholars, Mark's apologetical efforts to depoliticize the Jesus story have their own successors. Brandon's work is a genuine piece of the classic Higher Criticism of the gospels, with the same depth of reason and argumentation. If there was an historical Jesus, my vote is for Brandon's version.
But I must point out that there is another way to read the evidence for the Zealot Jesus hypothesis. As Burton Mack has suggested, the political element in the Passion seems likely to represent an anachronistic confusion by Mark with the events leading to the fall of Jerusalem. When the Olivet Discourse warns its readers not to take any of a number of false messiahs and Zealot agitators for their own Jesus, does this not imply Christians were receiving the news of Theudas or Jesus ben Ananias or John of Gischala as news of Jesus‟ return? You don‟t tell people not to do what they're already not doing.
If they were making such confusions, it would be inevitable that the events attached to them would find their way back into the telling of the Jesus story. It looks like this very thing happened. One notices how closely the interrogation and flogging of Jesus ben-Ananias, in trouble for predicting the destruction of the temple, parallels that of Jesus, ostensibly 40 years previously. We notice how Simon bar Gioras was welcomed into the temple with palm branches to cleanse the sacred precinct from the "thieves" who infested it, Zealots under John of Gischala. Uh-oh. Suppose these signs of historical-political verisimilitude are interlopers in the gospels from the following generation. The evidence for the Zealot Jesus evaporates.
The Jewish Christian community seems to be recognized as the best evidence.
(Brandon was the scholar who, in the 1950s, questioned the Flight To Pella - Jewish Christian followers of James who left Jerusalem after he dies and just before the 60s war - as an historical event)
Earlier, in the introduction, Price said this:
There is no "secular" biographical information about Jesus. Even the seeming "facts" irrelevant to faith dissolve upon scrutiny. Did he live in Nazareth? Or was that a tendentious reinterpretation of the earlier notion he had been thought a member of the Nazorean sect? Did he work some years as a carpenter? Or does that story not rather reflect the crowd's pegging him as an expert in scripture, a la the Rabbinic proverb, "Not even a carpenter, or a carpenter's son could solve this one!"? Was his father named Joseph, or is that an historicization of his earlier designation as the Galilean Messiah, Messiah ben Joseph?
Then in the main body of the text
Again, as the Son of Man, his death would be of a piece with the primordial death of the Primal Man Purusha in the Rig Veda (10:90), whose self-sacrifice in the heavens gave rise to the creation.28
But what about the one whom Paul calls "James the brother of the Lord" (Galatians 1:19)? Paul says he met him, so mustn't he have understood Jesus to be a figure of recent history? That is indeed a natural reading, but it is not the only one. Wells cautions that "brethren of the Lord" (1 Corinthians 9:5) may refer to a missionary brotherhood 29 such as the Johannine Epistles presuppose, and need not refer to literal siblings of the Lord any more than 1 Corinthians 3:9's "the Lord's co-laborers" means Paul and Apollos had offices down the hall from God as "the Lord's colleagues."
After all, Paul does not say "James the brother of Jesus," and he might simply have meant to identify James as one of these itinerant evangelists. Wells' theory makes all the more sense in light of Walter Schmithals‟ argument 30 that in Galatians 1:19, Paul means by "apostles" (among whom he there counts James) simply itinerant preachers whose hub was Jerusalem; most of them were naturally out on the road at the time of Paul"s visit, which is why he met only two who happened to be there: Cephas and James.
In any case, there is the Taiping Messiah Hong Xiuquan,31 a nineteenth-century revolutionary leader: he proclaimed himself ''the Little Brother of Jesus'' Obviously he didn't mean he was a blood relative of the ancient Jesus of Nazareth. No doubt Hong Xiuquan believed in a historical Jesus, but what he had in mind was that he was the incarnation of a second heavenly Son-hypostasis of God. James' title may have implied something like that, especially since that is pretty much the same thing Gnostics meant when they called Thomas the Twin of Jesus, though they didn't think Jesus had been flesh-and-blood mortal.
On page 297, Price covers "Kinship in the kingdom", page 299 (section 22.a.), he cpvers "True relatives (Mark 3:31-35)", then, again, page 299 (section 22.b.), covers "Hating father and mother (Luke 14:25-26// Matthew 10:37//Thomas 55, 101)" then, again, on page 299 (section 22.c.), he covers "No respect at home (Mark 6:1-6)".
Then, on page 319, Price covers around a dozen pages on "James the Just: Achilles Heel of the Christ Myth Theory?".
Price has his arguments but I am not going to make them for him.
Others can make their OWN case.
My only other quote will cover the very real issue of a (almost) complete lack of any real quotations of Jesus in the rest of the New Testament.
Wells and others have insisted that it is just inexplicable, on the usual understanding of a historical Jesus, why the epistles never quote him. To be sure, the epistles do contain many gems that sound like variants on sayings that are ascribed to Jesus in the gospels. But none of these are attributed to Jesus by the epistolarians. James D.G. Dunn asks us to believe that Paul and James did mean the reader to detect dominical logia at such points but thought it best to leave them as allusions for those who had ears to hear ("wink, wink, nudge, nudge').32 With great respect to a great scholar, I must confess that this seems to me very strained. It is one of those arguments no one would take seriously except as a tool to extricate oneself from a tight spot. Surely if one wants to settle a question by appealing to the words of Jesus, one will make sure the reader understands that they are in fact words of Jesus — by saying so.
Along the same lines, Wells reasons that, if the writers of the New Testament epistles had access to anything like the sayings tradition of the Synoptics, they must surely have cited them when the same subjects came up in the situations they addressed. Is celibacy at issue (1 Corinthians 7:7, 25-35)? Why not quote Matthew 19:11-12? Tax-evasion (Romans 13:6)? Mark 12:17 would surely come in handy. Dietary laws (Romans 14:1-4; 1 Corinthians 8; Colossians 2:20-21) in contention? Mark 7:15 would made short work of that. Controversy over circumcision (Romans 3:1; Galatians 5:1-12)? Thomas 53 ought to settle that one fast. On the other hand, if there were originally no dominical sayings to settle the question, it is not hard to imagine that soon people would be coining them (as they still do today in illiterate congregations where debaters try to gain points by pulling a Jesus saying or a Bible verse out of their imaginations. No one can check to prove them wrong!)33 — or attaching Jesus' name to a saying they already liked, to make it authoritative.
I CALL for a dedicated thread for this "Jesus did/did not exist" debate.
My position is that the Jewish Christian community of Jerusalem offers some tough evidence for Jesus Mythers (and their followers) to sweep away. Also, the attempt to say that James was not presented as an actual blood brother (or an actual step-brother, half-brother, etc.) seems to be a bit on the "special pleading" side of things.
Paul was collecting money for the Jerusalem community, so perhaps the better Myther argument would be to say that it was a conspiracy to get $$$$, and perhaps a deliberately presented blood-relationship (with an invented brother "Jesus"?) was part of the deception?
Jesus Mythers suffer from having to argue a position that is full of their own historical (scenario) improbabilities.
But there are three pillars that commend the Myther school:
The fact that Paul said (almost) every theological argument he got was from mystical conversations (with Jesus), does mean that there should be ATTENTION PAID to his very claims.
Lack of actual (non Paul) documents until the period around 70 AD, which is almost a half a century after Jesus' life.
The amazing lack of evidence for any written or oral "Gospel" material until (again) around 70 AD. Little biographical details to boot.
The debate is necessary.
Edited by LamarkNewAge, : No reason given.
Edited by LamarkNewAge, : No reason given.
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