Top suspects that could have invented the historical Jesus?

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
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neilgodfrey
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The Social Chit Chat Method of Biblical Studies Debates

Post by neilgodfrey » Fri Jun 26, 2020 5:58 pm

Chris Hansen wrote:
Thu Jun 25, 2020 11:39 pm

. . . the only way to make this work is either to have some of the least parsimonious interpretations of Rom. 1:3, Gal. 1:18-19 and 4:4-5, 1 Thess. 2:14-16, and others or to adhere to unsubstantiated interpolation theories which have been thoroughly rebutted by academics of all kinds ... i.e. we cannot conclude whether the absence of a text is because Marcion omitted it himself, Marcion never had it, the Church father's omitted it, the Church father's simply didn't quote it, that it was never original, etc. All of these are possible and we have no evidence to conclude . . . . . . The 1 Thess. 2:14-16 interpolation arguments have been addressed en masse and I find no legitimate reason for considering it an interpolation. . . . The form critical argument has been met with skepticism because there is no form critical reason to consider it inconsistent with Paul, because Paul does not have an entirely consistent form of writing (see John C. Hurd's work). Next, the ending reference about the doom occurring is easily interpreted not as historical about the Temple but as apocalyptic (as Luckensmyer has shown), and even if it was historical there are numerous other events that occurred which could account for this (such as all the massacres and deportations and such which occurred during Paul's life as well).

I ultimately don't see anything about a non-historical Jesus in Paul's writings to be even remotely convincing. . . .
and so on and so on -- but I select this comment only because it is the last one I read and it is typical of so very many, perhaps even most, ways of arguing one encounters in so many aspects of biblical studies (not only the historical/mythicist Jesus question). . .

What it boils down to so very often is:
  • They say X and list reasons a, b and c for concluding X;
  • Those say Y and list reasons d, e and f for rebutting X and supporting Y.
  • I find that Y is persuasive, and that X is an invalid conclusion because of d, e, and f; you, meanwhile, find d, e, and f are overturned by another way of looking at a, b and c.
All that has happened is that each side, "They" and "Those", expresses their personal preference for their own sets of arguments and conclusions. Each side has a scholar or school they identify with and they side with that point of view and set of arguments because, well, they like them better than the others. The "others" might even be frankly distasteful.

It's like two sides barracking for their team at a football match.

So often the division of points of view comes down to values, tastes. When two sides get to the bottom lines of their disagreement, how often is there are serious engagements about assumptions, about background information, that might possibly lead to a resolution? I suggest that the parting of the ways comes prior to that stage and perhaps even to avoid confronting that stage of discussion.

Ultimately, so many differences appear to me to boil down to aesthetics cleverly disguised as "rigorous intellectual reasoning". Clever minds can always find good arguments to rationalize whatever they want to believe.

We see these fashion preferences in arguments over the history of certain debates: perspectives change without any change in the evidence itself and often in sync with social changes and newly emerging values. Thus we see the influence of social attitudes towards Jews and women changing and rubbing off onto new arguments in the scholarly debates.

The bottom line in so many discussions is taste, fashion, aesthetics. The intellectual scaffolding is there for show, to justify one's taste, sense of fashion, aesthetics.

Without an agreed upon method of historical verification it will always be this way. In biblical scholarship, especially with the studies of Christian origins and Jesus, I have rarely seen any application of serious historical methods that would be acknowledged as such in history departments.

Instead, we have a free for all where each person can effectively decide to follow whatever line of reasoning and "method" sounds good, has respect among insider peers, and allows us all to continue in our rationales for whatever point of view we find most pleasing.
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Chris Hansen
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Re: Top suspects that could have invented the historical Jesus?

Post by Chris Hansen » Fri Jun 26, 2020 6:22 pm

I don't really find the "others" distasteful. In fact, I have the highest respect for the Dutch Radicals who I think are some of the most ingenious and necessary theorists in the history of New Testament critical studies. I actively support that these debates happen and that these ideas be exchanged, and I think that attempts to dismiss them as just "fringe" is intellectually disingenuous.

And I agree with you that this is all seriously problematic. I think actually the largest impetus to progressing to having proper methodology in this debate is the lack of metacritique especially in the historicity debate. Mythicists refuse to acknowledge their own biases, and historicists would rather point out biases and then dismiss mythicists based on that, then actually engage. Historicsts also insist, because of their own traditionalist attitudes, on maintaining corrupt and defunct methodology (like the forsaken criteria methodology). Mythicists have offered a lot to this debate that I think is valuable. I honestly very closely fall close in line with the works of Kalthoff, Kryvelev, and I do have sympathy for some of Carrier's ideas. But, I just think they are completely overzealous and build their cases for ahistoricity, like you said, more on taste than their own consistently applied methodological rigorousness. The same can be said of the entirety of the Quest of the Historical Jesus, which I think is a waste of time and will never be resolved until we get more data.

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neilgodfrey
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Re: Top suspects that could have invented the historical Jesus?

Post by neilgodfrey » Fri Jun 26, 2020 6:48 pm

Proof-texting was the term I was looking for in my initial post. Each side has its list of "proof-texts" or "dot points" to rebut the other case and buttress their own. It's an elaborate form of fundamentalist-style arguments, each with its briefcase of proofs and arguments to make their case.

One sees this especially when one reads a scholar saying "Such and such's idea can be rebutted" and "So and so has written a rebuttal."

Sometimes one sees subtle ad homina creep in, too -- like "I just think they are completely overzealous". What objective evidence is there for such a perception?

Again, Chris -- what's this blanket grouping of "mythicists" behave like this while "historicists" behave like that? Do all mythicists really "refuse to acknowledge their own biases?" Seriously? Is it really valid to say that "historicists ... dismiss mythicists based on" their biases? Surely these generalizations are easily falsified. But why do they arise in the first place? That is my point.

Europeans, Brits, North America -- some views and interests coincide with geographical divides. Others over time periods. That's a sure sign that we are looking at social affiliations rather than genuine academic engagement.

As for the question of the historicity of Jesus, that has been answered according to historical methodology (as found in history departments) by Moses I. Finley. It is ultimately a theological question, not a historical one. The serious historical question is to explore the origins of Christianity, imo.
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Chris Hansen
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Re: Top suspects that could have invented the historical Jesus?

Post by Chris Hansen » Fri Jun 26, 2020 7:38 pm

Not all, but most do. I've read a huge amount of literature and very rarely, so much they are an exception which proves the rule, do they acknowledge these biases. Agnostics on Jesus I've seen historically been the best on this. I never said this applies in all cases, and I've written extensively that this is not the case, and also that not all biases are the same and come from various places.

If you would like, I could work on a full length paper on just this topic for you to peruse.

And I agree, the historical question is to explore its origins. That is why I am in Kalthoff's company. The historical Jesus is largely irrelevant.

lsayre
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Re: Top suspects that could have invented the historical Jesus?

Post by lsayre » Fri Jun 26, 2020 11:41 pm

If the Romans can perceive their former Caesars to be god(s), why can't a group of Jews likewise come to perceive their fallen who aspired to the title of King of the Jews to similarly be god(s)? And thereby transform them from human to god, and write of them accordingly.

Charles Wilson
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Re: Top suspects that could have invented the historical Jesus?

Post by Charles Wilson » Sat Jun 27, 2020 7:38 am

lsayre wrote:
Fri Jun 26, 2020 11:41 pm
If the Romans can perceive their former Caesars to be god(s), why can't a group of Jews likewise come to perceive their fallen who aspired to the title of King of the Jews to similarly be god(s)? And thereby transform them from human to god, and write of them accordingly.
Genesis 3: 19 (RSV):

[19] In the sweat of your face
you shall eat bread
till you return to the ground,
for out of it you were taken;
you are dust,
and to dust you shall return."

Ecclesiastes 9: 1 - 6 (RSV):

[1] But all this I laid to heart, examining it all, how the righteous and the wise and their deeds are in the hand of God; whether it is love or hate man does not know. Everything before them is vanity,
[2] since one fate comes to all, to the righteous and the wicked, to the good and the evil, to the clean and the unclean, to him who sacrifices and him who does not sacrifice. As is the good man, so is the sinner; and he who swears is as he who shuns an oath.
[3] This is an evil in all that is done under the sun, that one fate comes to all; also the hearts of men are full of evil, and madness is in their hearts while they live, and after that they go to the dead.
[4] But he who is joined with all the living has hope, for a living dog is better than a dead lion.
[5] For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward; but the memory of them is lost.
[6] Their love and their hate and their envy have already perished, and they have no more for ever any share in all that is done under the sun.

This works until the Platonists arrive with the concept of an Eternal Soul hovering over an un-animated body.
Next stop: Hellenist Structures - "Where's outhouse when you need him?" - "Yes, that body-thing has no Soul but it's there..."

John 11: 32 - 36 (RSV):

[32] Jesus answered them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of these do you stone me?"
[33] The Jews answered him, "It is not for a good work that we stone you but for blasphemy; because you, being a man, make yourself God."
[34] Jesus answered them, "Is it not written in your law, `I said, you are gods'?
[35] If he called them gods to whom the word of God came (and scripture cannot be broken),
[36] do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, `You are blaspheming,' because I said, `I am the Son of God'?

The Pauline Material, designed to point to the Platonic Roman Empire (of the Flavians) is at odds with the Israelite Concepts of God and Man at just this point.

Guess who won?

Charles Wilson
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Re: Top suspects that could have invented the historical Jesus?

Post by Charles Wilson » Sat Jun 27, 2020 8:11 am

Matthew 19: 16 - 2 (RSV):

[16] And behold, one came up to him, saying, "Teacher, what good deed must I do, to have eternal life?"
[17] And he said to him, "Why do you ask me about what is good? One there is who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments."
[18] He said to him, "Which?" And Jesus said, "You shall not kill, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness,
[19] Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
[20] The young man said to him, "All these I have observed; what do I still lack?"
[21] Jesus said to him, "If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me."
[22] When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful; for he had great possessions.

Compare to Josephus, Antiquities..., 17, 9, 6 - 7 (in part):

"...for nothing which is here accused of injustice has been done but what was derived from them as its authors; nor are those things evil in themselves, but so represented only in order to do harm to Archelaus. Such is these men's inclination to do an injury to a man that is of their kindred, their father's benefactor, and familiarity acquainted with them, and that hath ever lived in friendship with them; for that, as to this testament, it was made by the king when he was of a sound mind, and so ought to be of more authority than his former testament; and that for this reason, because Caesar is therein left to be the judge and disposer of all therein contained; and for Caesar.... Caesar will not therefore disannul the testament of a man whom he had entirely supported, of his friend and confederate, and that which is committed to him in trust to ratify; nor will Caesar's virtuous and upright disposition, which is known and uncontested through all the habitable world, imitate the wickedness of these men in condemning a king as a madman, and as having lost his reason, while he hath bequeathed the succession to a good son of his, and to one who flies to Caesar's upright determination for refuge. Nor can Herod at any time have been mistaken in his judgment about a successor, while he showed so much prudence as to submit all to Caesar's determination."

7. Now when Nicolaus had laid these things before Caesar, he ended his plea; whereupon Caesar was so obliging to Archelaus, that he raised him up when he had cast himself down at his feet, and said that he well deserved the kingdom; and he soon let them know that he was so far moved in his favor, that he would not act otherwise than his father's testament directed, and than was for the advantage of Archelaus. However, while he gave this encouragement to Archelaus to depend on him securely, he made no full determination about him; and when the assembly was broken up, he considered by himself whether he should confirm the kingdom to Archelaus, or whether he should part it among all Herod's posterity; and this because they all stood in need of much assistance to support them.

Jokes aplenty here but notice that the Josephus Passage is a good Template for the question: "What must I do to obtain Eternal Life?"

You think this is "Jesus": "There is one who is good and that is Caes---Uhhh, where was I in this conversation?"

"Ya'wanna get Eternal Life?" Become a Caesar...or get on his Recommended and Approved List. Yeah, that's it. Be a Stooge for Caesar when the Jerusalem Coup takes place and you're in Jerusalem 'n Nicholas of Damascus' brother Ptolemy carries Herod's Seal and he can verify that it's YOUR NIGHT IN THE BARREL.
****
HBO's "Chernobyl":

Legasov: I'm not good at lying.

KGB Head Charkov: Statecraft Valery, Statecraft.
***
Creating the "Jesus" character was easy. How do you get the Transcendent, Transvalued part? That's the trick.

CW
Last edited by Charles Wilson on Sat Jun 27, 2020 7:05 pm, edited 1 time in total.

Charles Wilson
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Re: Top suspects that could have invented the historical Jesus?

Post by Charles Wilson » Sat Jun 27, 2020 5:06 pm

Genesis 2: 7 (RSV):

[7] then the LORD God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.

[Edit Note: That is, we ARE our bodies. This is, in some ways, as important as Monotheism. "The same breath is in us all."]
What has to be done in the Paulines is to replace this idea with the Platonic one, the immortal soul hovering over the inanimate body:

1 Corinthians 15: 39 - 41, then 42 - 50 (RSV):,

[39] For not all flesh is alike, but there is one kind for men, another for animals, another for birds, and another for fish.
[40] There are celestial bodies and there are terrestrial bodies; but the glory of the celestial is one, and the glory of the terrestrial is another.
[41] There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.

Maccoby has looked at this (See: The Mythmaker). It is setting the stage for a Swerve, something that imitates the Judaic "qua val homer" Logic and replaces the Genesis-Ecclesiastes view of "that which lives with the breath of Life" with the "Eternal Soul that hovers over the lifeless body", giving the appearance of life.

[42] So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable, what is raised is imperishable.
[43] It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power.
[44] It is sown a physical body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a physical body, there is also a spiritual body.
[45] Thus it is written, "The first man Adam became a living being"; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.
[46] But it is not the spiritual which is first but the physical, and then the spiritual.
[47] The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven.
[48] As was the man of dust, so are those who are of the dust; and as is the man of heaven, so are those who are of heaven.
[49] Just as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the man of heaven.
[50] I tell you this, brethren: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable.

"...flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable".

The Judaic Priestly "Realm of Heaven" is now a Spiritual Place, not a Physical Place. "The Jews" of the NT (esp. in GJohn) cannot understand this and their perishing is therefore of no concern. Only those who understand where heaven is and who descended from heaven matter. If Caesar is god, then those who came from him are also gods. Since those of the flesh cannot comprehend those of the spirit, it is the job of those who descended from heaven to teach those of the flesh a lesson.

Who could have invented the historical Jesus? Those who did the teaching - the Romans, of course...
You can find it in the Book of Plato.

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MrMacSon
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Re: Top suspects that could have invented the historical Jesus?

Post by MrMacSon » Fri Jul 03, 2020 2:25 am

Chris Hansen wrote:
Thu Jun 25, 2020 11:39 pm
... the attempt to use Marcion to demonstrate Gal. 1:18-19 or 4:4 were interpolations, but ignoring that he includes 1 Thess. 2:14-16, and then also ignoring the hugely problematic epistemic limits we have with Marcion's fragments... i.e. we cannot conclude whether the absence of a text is because Marcion omitted it himself, Marcion never had it, the Church father's omitted it, the Church father's simply didn't quote it, that it was never original, etc. All of these are possible and we have no evidence to conclude which of these is the most probable, therefore Marcion's texts are worthless).
The issue with Gal 1:18 into the start of Gal 2 is not that Marcion may have omitted it, it's that Tertullian (at least) fails to give any indication he's seen it.

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Re: Top suspects that could have invented the historical Jesus?

Post by Chris Hansen » Fri Jul 03, 2020 7:26 am

Same epistemic problem applies.

1) Tertullian may have seen it and not cared
2) Tertullian may have seen it and not seen how to use it against Marcion or perhaps Marion had a solid argument as to why the passage did not violate his position (as with Rom. 1:3 we know from Origen that Marcion likely had it and had a diatribe about it which Origen condemned, perhaps Tertullian, as with Rom. 1:3 simply had no answer)
3) Tertullian may have seen it and not wanted to admit James was Jesus' brother (i.e. violating the purity of Mary)
4) Tertullian's manuscripts were corrupt
5) Tertullian did not have the passage but Marcion did, thus Tertullian had no idea how to respond
6) Tertullian did know of the passage but did not see a need to quote it given he had the Gospels (note, Against Marcion 4:19 Tertullian actively fights in favor of Jesus having blood relatives including brothers, so this invalidates 3 to some extent).

I see no method that has been proposed which is not just based on a series of assumptions about the texts which can indicate which of these is more likely than not. As such, the silence of Tertullian cannot indicate the textual reliability of the passage either.

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