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

Post by Charles Wilson » Sun May 31, 2020 6:59 pm

John2 --

Josephus, Antiquities..., 15, 9, 3:

"About this time it was that he sent five hundred chosen men out of the guards of his body as auxiliaries to Caesar, whom Aelius Gallus led to the Red Sea, and who were of great service to him there..."

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

Post by Stuart » Mon Jun 01, 2020 2:05 pm

This thread is all speculation. At it's best these are worthy "who done it" plots for an Agatha Christie novel. At it's worst (or best, depending on the entertainment value) little better than an Alex Jones conspiracy theory rant. But since this thread is all speculation, I'll throw my opinion there.

First, there are a number of assumption built into the OP. None are more egregious than the assumption that a human messiah was invented sometime after the cosmic savior, and that the invention manifested itself in the gospel stories. While it is true that the details of the human messiah were invented and developed in the gospels, and little doubt many of these gospel details of people, names and places of the stories were taken from popular literature (i.e., Josephus), the origins of a human messiah and of the name Joshua (Jesus) derive much prior to the gospels. What is going on is akin to a debate about the origins of the fine dinnerware at the table, whether the Chinese or Germans made these porcelain plates, instead of where the concept of the dinner ware came from in the days before porcelain fancied the tables.

What more likely happened is Christianity grew out of interpretation of the Jewish Scriptures, especially the Greek LXX as this accelerated the separation from Judaism. Part of what that exegesis led to the concepts of both earthly and heavenly messiahs. For the earthly messiah we see residual evidence seed of Joseph slain messiah of Israel left in the text, and of course the seed of David Kingly messiah of Judah (the openings of Matthew and Romans, heading both gospel and apostle collections). These messiah concepts far predate the gospels. The notion of a human savior were present from the beginning. So this search is not for a human messiah, but the placing of it upon Jesus of Nazareth -- himself a slippery concept, as Nazareth is likely the concept of Nazarite (Numbers 6:1–21) morphed into a township.

Now Jesus is the same name as Joshua, distinguished mostly so we don't confuse them. But there are many who think Jesus, son of God, Savior is derived from Joshua ben Nun (or son of the Fish, the ichthys in view), the successor to Moses, who succeeded in delivering the people to the holy land, crossing the river Jordan, which Moses could not do. You have a Moses to Jesus/Joshua juxtaposition in the exegesis of the OT, perhaps leading to the NT.

Now if we are correct that the gospels derived from a pre-Synoptic prototype, then we need to examine it's format closely. When you strip away the sectarian elements, and set aside the passion sequence, what you find are a series of teachings and miracles that could be placed at anytime and in pretty much any place (walking on the water, healing Simon's mother in law, teaching in a synagogue, etc). In fact if I am correct the prototype likely began as we see in Matthew 3:1 and Mark 1:9 with "in those days", which is to say timeless. The sending out of the disciples looks very much parallel with the code of the Didache, and seems to be codifying and sanction of already (and probably long standing) occurring missions of itinerant preachers. The unknown exorcist (and it's counter in Acts with Philip and Peter over Simon Magus) concerns questions of sectarian differences in teaching and how to deal with them. I could give other examples, but the point is these are concerns of an extant movement that is quite diverse; and diversity is not something that happens quickly in a movement, rather requires at least a few generations to develop. These elements seem to suggest the gospel material accumulated over quite some time.

So how did it go from "in those days" to "the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar"? That is where it started to fix in time. But even before that it seems the passion sequence entered and with it Pontius Pilate. Unless "the governor" in Matthew 27:2,11,14,15,27 is in fact the original (I don't think so, these look secondary; but if it is ...). So already a placement in time has occurred. The Marcionite gospel may well have been the first to affix the 15th year of Tiberius, but this may already have been circulating, to place Jesus/Joshua prior to the fall of the Temple, even though this Jesus was supposedly not corporal. Matthew creates the seed of David, but this is merely placing an existing messiah definition on Joshua/Jesus.

So we have the name, place and human messiah all coming in separately. Names and elements of the Passion story and other stories even in the prototype (common to all Synoptic) appear to already incorporate some elements from Josephus.

This leads me to the conclusion that the culprit is scribal accumulations, existing traits input by various sectarian writers. The accelerant was sectarian competition. If this were a murder, then we would say it was committed by a thousands cuts from a hundred blades.
Last edited by Stuart on Mon Jun 01, 2020 11:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.
“’That was excellently observed’, say I, when I read a passage in an author, where his opinion agrees with mine. When we differ, there I pronounce him to be mistaken.” - Jonathan Swift

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

Post by Giuseppe » Mon Jun 01, 2020 8:41 pm

Hi Stuart,

interesting as usual with any your post. But when you write about an "human savior", do you mean a saviour who is meant to work on the earth?
Nihil enim in speciem fallacius est quam prava religio. -Liv. xxxix. 16.

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

Post by Giuseppe » Mon Jun 01, 2020 9:22 pm

Another question: when you write:
What more likely happened is Christianity grew out of interpretation of the Jewish Scriptures, especially the Greek LXX as this accelerated the separation from Judaism
are you assuming that the early exegesis was a Gnostic exegesis (the Serpent of Genesis as friend of the humanity) or was started only by adorers of YHWH as supreme god?
Nihil enim in speciem fallacius est quam prava religio. -Liv. xxxix. 16.

Stuart
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Re: Top suspects that could have invented the historical Jes

Post by Stuart » Tue Jun 02, 2020 11:56 pm

Secret Alias wrote:
Tue Mar 15, 2016 9:01 am
It's all a lie. Come on. Isn't it funny the way the same names keep recycling in early Christian sources (which Josephus as we have it now is)? Look at Onesimus in Paul and Ignatius. It's like the whole world comes down to 12 people.
The most accurate observation you have had.

It dovetails well into what I said, that the gospels started with timeless stories in vague locations. But when they were attempted to be place din a specific time and place the scribes and editors/authors turned to popular literature to fill in the details. It looks for all the world many of the names were pulled straight out of Josephus.

But this is the way our favorite television or movie series work. The longer it goes the more details we get about the back stories. That "man #2 at the bar" who had one line in the first episode, comes back in episode 4 as "Larry the sleazy plumber, who is married to Beth's younger sister", and in episode 11 he is featured, and we learn all about his history. Same happened in the gospels, Acts, the letters of Paul, and continued when canon was closed in apocryphal acts.
“’That was excellently observed’, say I, when I read a passage in an author, where his opinion agrees with mine. When we differ, there I pronounce him to be mistaken.” - Jonathan Swift

Didymus914
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Re: Top suspects that could have invented the historical Jesus?

Post by Didymus914 » Tue Jun 16, 2020 8:51 am

Marcion? Cerdo? Cephas? Ebion? Clement? Simon? Basilides? Paul? Cerinthus? Justin?
1. Which authors on your list wrote about Jesus as an historical figure?

2. Which ones wrote prior to Mark?

The anonymous author of the Gospel According to Mark, ca 70 CE" seems to be the most parsimonious answer.

An author is a suspect only if he meets both criteria. From your list that leaves only Cerinthus as a remote possibility: Marcion was late; Cerdo was way late; Cephas didn't write; Ebion didn't write; Basilides was late and his writings are lost; Paul's Jesus wasn't historical; Justin was late.

Whether the gnostic Cerinthus' gospel describes Jesus as an historical figure is unknown; i.e., there's no evidence that he invented the historical Jesus.

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

Post by Chris Hansen » Thu Jun 25, 2020 11:39 pm

"Paul's Jesus wasn't historical"

I would highly contest this. 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 (for example, 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). For Rom. 1:3 there is only one singular manuscript which lacks it, but that is not due to it not being written but because there is a huge lacunae where ink was unfortunately erased (Codex Boernerianus). 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 argument for the style being different was based on a sample bias of Paul's style (see J. Weatherly and Todd Still's work). That the language is antisemitic is simply wrong and does not account for various other ways that Jewish writings referred to persecutions and other issues (see Jeffrey Lamp and Rob van Houwelingen). 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. Rom. 1:3 alone to me disproves this, because the interpolation thesis is dead in the water, and that leaves Carrier's "cosmic sperm bank" which is a quite literally worthless hypothesis because it has no prior probability in support of it, has no precedent in the ancient world, and has no precedent within Judaism as a whole either.

The only solution is to then just argue that none of the epistles were written by Paul, which at that point I will just reference the works of Eduard Verhoef and Willem Christiaan van Manen's dissertation and leave it at that, because I don't care to argue the dead hypothesis of the Dutch Radicals, which, imo, is simply skepticism for the sake of skepticism, not methodological reasoning.

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

Post by Giuseppe » Fri Jun 26, 2020 12:14 am

Chris Hansen wrote:
Thu Jun 25, 2020 11:39 pm
"Paul's Jesus wasn't historical"
Against the details raised by you as historicist clues, I would answer by quoting:

It is the general tenor of these scriptures that must decide, and as to this there cannot be the slightest doubt in the mind of the unbiassed. This general tenor gives great dogmatic value to the Death of Jesus as a God, but does not recognise at all the Life of Jesus as a Man. The very few exceptions are trivial, and only apparent ; but even if they were not trivial, and not merely apparent, it would still not matter—they could not weigh against the utterly unequivocal general tenor. Many more important isolated statements may have been, and confessedly have actually been, interpolated into the text, no one knows when or how, but the general tenor is unmistakable and determinative. The general tenor cannot have been interpolated or corrupted.

(W. B. Smith, Ecce Deus, p. 23, cursive original)
Nihil enim in speciem fallacius est quam prava religio. -Liv. xxxix. 16.

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

Post by Chris Hansen » Fri Jun 26, 2020 12:39 am

The problem is that I would rebut that the "general tenor" is not particularly relevant. I could also point to the general tenor of the biographies of noted ancient historical figures like Alexander the Great. The conception of one as God, dogmatically revering them, but this general tenor is not in any way indicative of an ahistorical setting. I could also point to Kamil Gregor and how he has demonstrated that the general tenor of the Gospels would indicate that Jesus was most likely historical, even if the whole biography was false, because when a person is portrayed as existing in a historical timeframe, they are 99/100 a real person, regardless of whether or not the biography is historical. This means that the general tenor is not, in fact, decisive as W. B. Smith would have had us believe. My own opinion is that the appeal to a general tenor argument is more just an attempt to ignore the exceptions which would prove him wrong. Furthermore, if there are exceptions (which Smith admitted to) then the general tenor must be actually different than what he is making it out to be, thus accounting for them. As such, the argument fails to convince me.

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

Post by Giuseppe » Fri Jun 26, 2020 1:21 am

Chris, my reasons to have a celestial crucifixion in Paul are exposed here.

Basically:

1) we have independent evidence that the Valentinians, even if they were historicists and separationists, placed the crucifixion of the Aeon Christ in heaven as a distinct event from the historical event of Golgotha.

2) the celestial crucifixion believed by the Valentinians (point 1) was a glorious cosmic event when compared to the humble crocifixion of Jesus on earth.

3) Jean Danielou has proved that "The sign of the cross is seen to have its origin, not in an allusion to Christ’s passion, but as a signification of his divine glory" (Primitive Christian Symbols, p. 145, my bold)

4) therefore: Since the celestial crucifixion (point 1) is a more “glorious” event (talking in ‘cosmic’ terms) than the humble earthly crucifixion (point 2), the cross of glory found in Paul (point 3) is more probably the celestial crucifixion than the earthly crucifixion.
Nihil enim in speciem fallacius est quam prava religio. -Liv. xxxix. 16.

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