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Author Topic:   The Time Problem With A Mythical Jesus
Jasonb
Inactive Member


Message 1 of 76 (137366)
08-27-2004 12:13 PM


We have a fragment of the gospel of John (John Rylands Fragment, p52) that has been dated to circa 125 AD. Unless we assume that we found the original manuscript, the gospel of John was written before 125 AD. Most biblical scholars place it around 90 AD. Biblical scholars also say that the gospel of John was the last gospel to be written and that the epistles where written earlier than the gospels, thus pushing the body of the New Testament extremely close to actual events around 30 AD.

These claims aside lets assume the first NT book written was the gospel of John and it was written sometime after the death of the last apostle, say 100 AD. This would give us a starting time of 70 years after the death of Christ for the second generation Christians to begin preaching a mythical Jesus.

This is simply not enough time for a mythical Jesus to emerge. No one could make these claims to so many people without them being refuted by the many religious groups in opposition to Christianity at that time, unless the claims were grounded in fact.

My grandfather told me that he had an uncle named Harry. Uncle Harry died in 1932 (about 70 years ago) at the age of 28. He was never married and had no children. To my knowledge there are no pictures of uncle Harry and I know of no one still alive who knew him, but there may be. I know of no official documents on him, ie birth or death certificate and I don’t even no where he is buried.

Now let’s say I want to start a new religion called the cult of uncle Harry. I’ll start my ministry by going into all the major cities and preach to the masses that my great uncle Harry was God who took the form of a man in 1904. I’ll claim that he performed many miracles, including healing the sick, giving sight to the blind, turning water into wine, and raising dead men from the grave.

I’ll even claim that he was murdered by his own town folk because of his claims but that three days later he was raised from the dead and was seen by many people before being taken up to heaven. As proof of all this I’ll write it all down in a book and claim that is was written by my grandfather and others who knew Uncle Harry.

How easy would it be to falsify my claims? We are only talking about the 1930’s here. There are probably people still alive that knew my great Uncle Harry. You could talk to them and prove that he wasn’t who I said he was. You could read old news paper clips of the time to see if anything I claimed can be substantiated. You could research the lives of my grandfather and the others I claim wrote these things down, and verify that claim.

For the ultimate proof, you could find Uncle Harry’s grave and show everyone his body. Or you could save yourself a lot of time by simply putting a gun to my head and telling me unless I take back my outrageous claims, you will kill me. Knowing my own lies, I will most likely take back my claims, not willing to die for a lie.

It is my assertion that even a liberal date of 70 years after the death of Christ for the first NT book to be written is simply not a sufficient amount of time for a legend like the mythical Jesus to even evolve, let alone spread.


Jason B

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AdminAsgara
Administrator (Idle past 1088 days)
Posts: 2073
From: The Universe
Joined: 10-11-2003


Message 2 of 76 (137724)
08-28-2004 8:44 PM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.

  
RAZD
Member (Idle past 191 days)
Posts: 20714
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004


Message 3 of 76 (137730)
08-28-2004 8:58 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jasonb
08-27-2004 12:13 PM


problems:

the basis of judging fact were different as were the means to record events, there were no newspapers or other means of mass communication, so the best way to do it in that time frame is to move outa town -- go to Rome say.

the cult of Mithraism was flourishing at the time
http://www.crystalinks.com/mithra.html

the parallels are stunning, but this cult predates the christian story by several hundred years.

Now if I want to start a new cult and gather a lot of followers ...


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Jasonb, posted 08-27-2004 12:13 PM Jasonb has responded

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portmaster1000
Inactive Member


Message 4 of 76 (137772)
08-29-2004 12:15 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jasonb
08-27-2004 12:13 PM


Normal Outrageous Claims
It's my understanding that during this era in history, what we would consider outrageous claims could be considered a norm. We have depictions of supernatural events from, I daresay, all ancient cultures. This time understood much of the world through what we today would consider magical means. I often wonder if the Gospels were making out of the ordinary claims from their original audience’s perspective.

In our day of "investigative reporting", "multiple 24 hour news networks" and "instant googling of everything", such claims would indeed be harder to fake. However, even with all the sources for news, facts and figures we have at our hands today, I myself seldom take time to investigate claims made on CNN. I might catch the same story on FOX but who can say that CNN and FOX didn't use the same source material. It becomes a very tedious life if I need to triple check everything I hear on the evening news daily and I have some free time each day. I can only imagine how a person two thousand years ago would have gone about it.

This message has been not edited by any intelligence, 17-17-1717 17:17

thanx
PM1K


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RAZD
Member (Idle past 191 days)
Posts: 20714
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004


Message 5 of 76 (137777)
08-29-2004 1:11 AM
Reply to: Message 4 by portmaster1000
08-29-2004 12:15 AM


Re: Normal Outrageous Claims
your point of magic in the air is valid. there were also a lot more cults available to mix things up as well.

don't worry about triple checking Faux News, a single check is usually enough to show their bias.

a survey showed that conservatives generally trust Faux compared to the others, but still rated it under 50% trustworthy. Liberals rated NPR\PBS the highest and trusted news more than conservatives. Liberals were also more likely to check their results ...

heh.


we are limited in our ability to understand
by our ability to understand

RebelAAmerican.Zen[Deist
{{{Buddha walks off laughing with joy}}}


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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portmaster1000
Inactive Member


Message 6 of 76 (137779)
08-29-2004 1:26 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by RAZD
08-29-2004 1:11 AM


Re: Normal Outrageous Claims
Member with the hands-down-best avatar writes:

a survey showed that conservatives generally trust Faux compared to the others, but still rated it under 50% trustworthy. Liberals rated NPR\PBS the highest and trusted news more than conservatives. Liberals were also more likely to check their results ...

This survey is an excellent example of how our biases effect what information we view as plausible or trustworthy. If we have a large percentage of the population that already believes in supernatural cult events then news of more supernatural events will probably be seen as plausible.

At first, I thought your "faux" (teehee) news remark was just an off topic comment but it's a rather excellent observation that's right on target, RAZD.

thanx
PM1K


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lfen
Member (Idle past 3463 days)
Posts: 2189
From: Oregon
Joined: 06-24-2004


Message 7 of 76 (137785)
08-29-2004 3:04 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jasonb
08-27-2004 12:13 PM


We have a fragment of the gospel of John (John Rylands Fragment, p52) that has been dated to circa 125 AD.

The p52 fragment is very small and there is considerable controversy regarding what it is a fragment of. [edit: I was misremembering. The controvery was over the date not the content. It appears the consensus is that it is John]. There are those that wish to use it to establish an early date for John but all I've read they are apologist seeking anything to bolster their position.

The Elvis myth is well underway. I don't think time is that big a problem.

The two problems I see are Paul and Mark. The mythicists have to show that Paul did not know or refer to an earthly Jesus and the Mark was doing a midrash. The debates on these issues involved language and textual analysis.

The historicist appear to have the broadest options. They only need a figure who caught the attention of a few who carried stories after his death, and those stories grew into a myth the way Elvis is becoming a myth.

[editing to add the below quote]

Dating the Rylands Papyrus to 125 (a common preference) or 130 CE is a case in point. No such narrow nicety is possible. As Robert Funk points out (Honest to Jesus, p.94), this fragment has been “variously dated from 125 to 160 CE.” Dating it closer to 150 would not require anything like a first-century composition for the Gospel of John, and in fact Justin, who writes in the 150s and refers to his “memoirs of the Apostles” quite frequently (mostly the Gospels subsequently ascribed to Matthew and Luke), seems not to know it. A. N. Wilson sums up the situation (Paul: The Mind of the Apostle, p.251): “In spite of claims by journalists and non-papyrologists in recent times, it is difficult if not impossible to date papyrus within a 50-year margin.”

We possess other fragments of the canonical Gospels from the end of the second century, and complete Gospels only from the middle of the third. The idea of a canon of four to be regarded as an historical record of Jesus comes not earlier than Irenaeus around 180 CE, and it was during this period that much collecting, weeding, and final redaction of texts was performed in order to arrive at a body of supposedly inspired and “foundational” literature to support the emerging orthodoxy of a church centered on Rome. (By that time, many many competing Gospels and other writings were in existence, reflecting a great variety of beliefs and presentations of a Jesus figure, both spiritual and historical. Nor, generally speaking, do the canonical ones enjoy an earlier attestation. Those not accepted into the canon became regarded as spurious or even heretical.)

As for recent claims that fragments of Matthew can be dated to the mid first century, or that Mark has been found at Qumran, these have been thoroughly discredited by reliable critical scholars. I don’t know what Internet location you are referring to, but the claims are those of Carston Thiede, who published a book a few years ago called Eyewitness to Jesus. In it, Thiede announced that he had examined fragments of Matthew which had lain in an Oxford College library since 1901, the so-called Magdalen Papyrus, and decided that instead of the late second century dating scholars had previously given them, they were likely from a decade or two after Jesus’ death. This also indicated to Thiede that they were written by an eyewitness. The book, together with Thiede’s press interviews, were seized on by the popular media, but fairly quickly shot down by more responsible scholarly voices.

Earl Doherty

http://pages.ca.inter.net/~oblio/rfset5.htm


lfen

This message has been edited by lfen, 08-29-2004 02:15 AM

This message has been edited by lfen, 08-29-2004 02:19 AM


This message is a reply to:
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PaulK
Member
Posts: 16733
Joined: 01-10-2003
Member Rating: 3.0


Message 8 of 76 (137792)
08-29-2004 5:31 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jasonb
08-27-2004 12:13 PM


Whie I don't beleive that Jesus was purely fictional the situation is not quite comparable to the situation in a modern first-world country.

Firstly transport is a lot worse. People did travel long distances but it was slower than car, aeroplane or even modern ships. Doing the checks would be more effort than most people would be prepared to (or could afford to) do.

Secondly people in general did not live so long. There would be fewer old people who could remember events.

Thirdly records were not so well kept. You couldn't expect to find a birth certificate. The best you could hope to find is a record of the execution order.

Finally - and most importantly - the region had gone through a major rebellion ending in 70 AD. Jerusalem itself underwent a long seige until the Romans stormed it. In terms of both paper records and human memory the effects of the revolt would make it much hardr to find any evidence.


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jar
Member
Posts: 33177
From: Texas!!
Joined: 04-20-2004
Member Rating: 4.5


Message 9 of 76 (137823)
08-29-2004 11:36 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by PaulK
08-29-2004 5:31 AM


Where was Kilroy?


Aslan is not a Tame Lion

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Chiroptera
Inactive Member


Message 10 of 76 (137825)
08-29-2004 11:47 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jasonb
08-27-2004 12:13 PM


quote:
This would give us a starting time of 70 years after the death of Christ for the second generation Christians to begin preaching a mythical Jesus.

This is simply not enough time for a mythical Jesus to emerge.


The first popular UFO reports started shortly after the second world war. By the time I was a kid, in the 1970's, UFO's were a big industry -- it seemed "everyone" believed in it, and there was a huge industry pumping out supposedly non-fiction magazines, as well as fictional TV shows and movies. This occurred in about 30 years.

In a time where communications were poor, the scientific method had not yet developed, and the miracles claimed by Christians were well withing mainstream thought, I see no reason that such legends and myths could not have developed in a generation or two.


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Kapyong
Member (Idle past 2228 days)
Posts: 344
Joined: 05-22-2003


Message 11 of 76 (137841)
08-29-2004 1:22 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Jasonb
08-27-2004 12:13 PM


Gospels are late legends
Greetings JasonB,

quote:
We have a fragment of the gospel of John (John Rylands Fragment, p52) that has been dated to circa 125 AD. Unless we assume that we found the original manuscript, the gospel of John was written before 125 AD.

Well,
The date found in NA27 is 2nd century.
Sometimes P52 is dated more specifically to early 2nd century (100-150).

This figure 100-150 is often expressed as c.125 (i.e. plus or minus 25 years or so.)

But it is not correct to argue a figure of EXACTLY 125 from this. This tiny fragment of G.John could have been as late as 150, or even later.

It does NOT prove the entirety G.John existed in 125

quote:
Most biblical scholars place it around 90 AD.

When was the first citation by name of G.John?

quote:
Biblical scholars also say that the gospel of John was the last gospel to be written and that the epistles where written earlier than the gospels,

Several of the epistles were written as late as 2nd century.

quote:
thus pushing the body of the New Testament extremely close to actual events around 30 AD.

But the epistles which are CLOSEST in time (e.g. Paul) to the alleged Jesus show the LEAST amount of information (no mention of the miracles, the empty tomb, the trial etc.)

quote:
These claims aside lets assume the first NT book written was the gospel of John and it was written sometime after the death of the last apostle, say 100 AD. This would give us a starting time of 70 years after the death of Christ for the second generation Christians to begin preaching a mythical Jesus. This is simply not enough time for a mythical Jesus to emerge.

But if there was NO historical Jesus, then this period is irrelevant. Paul preached a spiritual Christ in the 1st century, the various Gnostics taught a spiritual Christ in the 2nd century. The historical Jesus was a LATER invention, unknown to Christian writers until 2nd century.

If the original Jesus was a mythical being, then the story could have been developing for centuries - which is exactly what we DO see - the various elements of the Jesus story can be clearly seen in the prior Jewish scriptures and pagan writers.

quote:
No one could make these claims to so many people without them being refuted by the many religious groups in opposition to Christianity at that time, unless the claims were grounded in fact.

Many religious writings of this primitive period were not "refuted" - e.g. the Golden Ass of Apuleis written in the same period as the Gospels was not "refuted" - that does not make them true.

Anyway,

The Gospels only come to widespread knowledge in the mid-late 2nd century, and when they do the contemporary pagan critic Celsus attacked them as fiction based on MYTHS.

3rd century Porphyry also called the evangelists "INVENTORS, not historians".

4th century Julian too claimed Jesus was a fabrication.

quote:
It is my assertion that even a liberal date of 70 years after the death of Christ for the first NT book to be written is simply not a sufficient amount of time for a legend like the mythical Jesus to even evolve, let alone spread.

In 70CE the Romans conquered Jerusalem,
in 135CE they destroyed the whole city and dispersed the Jews that remained.

Only AFTER that, did the Gospels become known to Christians - 2 wars and several generations after the alleged events. Legends have been known to arise in DAYS.

Gospel evolution

Mention of some Gospel elements begins in early-mid 2nd century - e.g. Ignatius, the Pastorals, Barnabas.

The first mention of proto-Gospels is from about the 130s with Papias - he refers to writings by Mark and Matthew which are not quite like our moden Gospels. He considered these writings of little value. Eusebius considered Papias was not very smart (he did believe all sorts of other nonsense.)

The first evidence for a Gospel is from Marcion about 142CE - his Gospel is now lost, but we know it -

* was called just "the Gospel"
* did NOT have the genealogies of Jesus
* did NOT call Jesus son-of-David (several early Christians denied Jesus was son of David)

The first written quotations of Gospel-like writings is from Justin in about 150 - he refers to "memoirs of the apostles" which are also "called Gospels". He does NOT name or number the Gospels. He does give many quotes - some match our modern Gospels, some do not.

The first evidence for FOUR Gospels being important is possibly from Tatian's "diaTessaron" ((Harmony) From Four) dated perhaps 172CE.

The first Christian to NAME the four Gospels was Irenaeus in the 180s.

Aristides dates the Gospel

Interestingly, one Christian church father Aristides refers to "...the Gospel as it is called, which (has been) preached a short time among them".

This tells us that in his day -

* the Gospel was un-named,
* the Gospel had only been preached "a short time".

Aristides wrote 138-161CE (we can tell because he named the Roman emperor), so this is further evidence that the Gospels were still un-named and fairly new in mid 2nd century.

In summary
the trajectory of the Gospel formation is as follows -

* 1st century - no Gospels, no Evangelists known
* early 2nd century - first mentions of Gospels, Evangelists
* c.142 - first Gospel published (Marcion)
* mid 2nd century - first quotes of Gospel-like material
* c.172 - Gospels Numbered as Four.
* c.180 - first Naming of the Four Gospels.
* c.200 - first significant MSS of Gospels (e.g. P75)

The Gospels developed over time, probably starting from early 2nd century, growing and changing thru the mid 2nd century, to finally crystalize in late 2nd century. Some changes still occured as late as 4th century (e.g. the Trinity.)

So,
between the earliest evidence for the Gospels, and the events they allege, lies -
* 2 wars,
* the famous Roman destruction of Jerusalem,
* the dispersal of the Jews (and the erasing of Judea from the map),
* about a CENTURY (several generations)

Finally, the Gospels were largely written, and read, in Rome and elsewhere - NOT in Jerusalem at all.

Thus,
there is PLENTY of time and space between the alleged events and creation of the Gospel myths.

Iasion

(pressed Submit instead of preview, last fixups done in Edit)

This message has been edited by Iasion, 08-29-2004 12:38 PM


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RAZD
Member (Idle past 191 days)
Posts: 20714
From: the other end of the sidewalk
Joined: 03-14-2004


Message 12 of 76 (137856)
08-29-2004 2:29 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by portmaster1000
08-29-2004 1:26 AM


Re: Normal Outrageous Claims
Member with the hands-down-best avatar writes:

gosh thanks (blushes)

This survey is an excellent example of how our biases effect what information we view as plausible or trustworthy.

It goes further than that -- it shows that different factions within the US are getting their source of "facts" from sources splitting off into similar factions as they cater to their audiences, a divergence that will become accelerated, imho, until one no longer believes the other on anything. Two (or more) divergent societies living in the same geographical area but on different political continents. Possible even two "nations" if you will. How will that work?


we are limited in our ability to understand
by our ability to understand

RebelAAmerican.Zen[Deist
{{{Buddha walks off laughing with joy}}}


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Jasonb
Inactive Member


Message 13 of 76 (137884)
08-29-2004 4:28 PM
Reply to: Message 3 by RAZD
08-28-2004 8:58 PM


Hello RAZD.

the basis of judging fact were different as were the means to record events, there were no newspapers or other means of mass communication,

This does not mean that facts and history could not be checked. We often view people in the past as gullible and ignorant but the people of this era were prolific record keepers and writers. Also 70 years would allow for living witnesses to check stories against.

Legends do form given enough time. But I’m arguing that 70 years is simply not enough time for the Mythical Jesus legend to form and catch hold.

so the best way to do it in that time frame is to move outa town -- go to Rome say.

First off Jesus was also preached in Jerusalem, where the events took place. I don’t see how they could be fooled about recent history.

Many Jews stop practicing Jewish customs, eating pork, worshiping on Saturday, and followed Jesus. Jews had been following these customs for over a thousand years, yet a large number were compelled to give them up. I didn’t see them being moved this way unless thy believed the stories about Jesus. If the stories were mere legend, why did the take hold?

Also there were Jewish synagogues in many of the towns Jesus was being preached in. These people had a vested interest in debunking the Jesus claims. If Jesus was simply a myth they certainly could have stamped out this movement rather quickly.


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Jasonb
Inactive Member


Message 14 of 76 (137886)
08-29-2004 4:46 PM
Reply to: Message 7 by lfen
08-29-2004 3:04 AM


Hello IFEN,

The p52 fragment is very small and there is considerable …..

We can certainly debate the dating of p52, but please lets start a new thread for that, the crux of this thread is that 70 years is not enough time for a Jesus myth to start.

The Elvis myth is well underway. I don't think time is that big a problem.

I don’t understand. What Elvis myth? Do you mean the people who says he faked his death?

I don’t think Elvis faking his death compares to the claims made about Jesus.


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Replies to this message:
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Chiroptera
Inactive Member


Message 15 of 76 (137889)
08-29-2004 4:59 PM
Reply to: Message 14 by Jasonb
08-29-2004 4:46 PM


quote:
I don’t think Elvis faking his death compares to the claims made about Jesus.

Why not? Because the Jesus story is miraculous, where as the Elvis myth is not? But in the minds of people in the 1st century, miracles were very believable. Faith healers abounded. There were also accounts of people rising from the dead, so to someone living in the 1st century, the Gospel stories would not have been beyond reasonable belief.

This message is a reply to:
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