The best case for Jesus's historicity: Mark Craig

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
andrewcriddle
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Re: The best case for Jesus's historicity: Mark Craig

Post by andrewcriddle » Mon Sep 11, 2017 11:40 am

neilgodfrey wrote:
Sat Sep 09, 2017 6:32 pm
andrewcriddle wrote:
Sat Sep 09, 2017 1:48 am

Very early interpolations have to be argued for entirely on internal evidence
Why?

(It point is a secondary one to the method I am attempting to argue for, but it's still of special interest since it sounds like another one of those idiosyncratic rules biblical scholars make to enable them to get the sources they want and need.)
My point is that if the interpolation is early enough in the tradition then all surviving manuscripts will have the interpolation and all citations of the text will be citing a text that has the interpolation.

To take an extreme case. Suppose that all our manuscripts of Galatians and all quotations from Galatians go back to an edition of Paul's letters prepared towards the end of the 1st century CE (some have suggested prepared by Onesimus) and that the editor added the Lord's brother to the reference to James as an explanatory gloss. In this case it would be a waste of time to look for evidence that some early Christian writers do not appear to have had this phrase in their text of Galatians. The only type of evidence available is arguments about whether Paul would have used the phrase and whether an early editor would have added it.

It is only with interpolations occurring later in the tradition that it makes sense to look for evidence of texts without the interpolation.

In the case of Plato it would be useless to look for external evidence of interpolations introduced by his disciple and posthumous editor Philip of Opus. However the much later changes to Plato's text probably made by middle Platonists such as Thrasyllus may have left evidence in the tradition.


Andrew Criddle

Bernard Muller
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Re: The best case for Jesus's historicity: Mark Craig

Post by Bernard Muller » Mon Sep 11, 2017 12:43 pm

to Neil,
Are you saying that plausibility of a narrative is a reason we should believe it to be true?
If a narrative is plausible, free of obvious unhistorical parts, with every parts documented, does not involve the extraordinary, does not require great gifts to the characters, yes I would say the plausibility goes a long way into establishing the narrative (such as http://historical-jesus.info/digest.html) as having a good chance to be true to the facts.
Are you saying that we can tell fiction from history by reading implausible details in fiction and plausible ones in history?
Yes, after a lengthy analysis of gMark, with complementary ones on other texts, more so the Pauline epistles, Josephus' works, Q, I could tell fiction from history with about 80% to 90% of confidence.
If so, I have to wonder if you have read very much fiction, including ancient fiction, at all. Pick up Rosenmeyer's Ancient Epistolary Fictions, or better still, read ancient critics discussions of rhetoric, including literary criticisms. Verisimilitude, plausibility, were what fiction writers very often strove to achieve, and very often did so most successfully. And even ancient biographies and histories included some very plausible details we learn from other sources were in fact fiction.
The gospel of Mark is not clean smooth fiction in the sense it entails all these against the grain bits that "Mark" had to answer for damage control.
What if Mark wanted to use "king of the Jews" because it fit in with a lot of other possible agendas of his -- including the culmination of the triumphal procession to the cross, and the dramatic effect it accomplished.
All of that could have been accomplished by Jesus being acclaimed "Christ" instead of "king" and being crucified as "the Christ" rather than "the king of the Jews", which is not something you would invent for a gentile audience.
There are dozens of reasons we can imagine why our unknown author chose to use "king of the jews"
And what would they be? How reasonable would they. Just because you can throw all kind of alternatives to some historicist evidence does not mean that evidence is voided.
If you want plausible historicity, then you imagine a scene where no-one sympathetic to Jesus even saw such a sign on the cross before it was taken down that same afternoon.
I do not have a clue about what you are trying to say here.
you would not plausibly have had a historical sign that just so neatly happened by luck to serve Mark's ironic agenda.
You are imagining an ironic agenda. Why would "Mark" use irony in a text meant for strengthening the faith of his audience?
It sounds like you are implying that an author is incapable of creating confusion and doubt for some of his readers. But surely whether confusion and doubt is created among readers depends entirely on the preconceptions of the first readers. How do you know who those first readers were and what their preconceptions were?
The preconception of the initial audience of gMark was that Peter & other Galilean disciples, were Christians, because they were the eyewitnesses of "wonderful" Jesus. But they did not hear a confirmation from them, more so Peter. That had to be explained.
Have you heard of a book by a certain WIlliam Wrede titled "The Messianic Secret"? That, and not a few other scholarly works since then, explain Mark's theological agenda by referencing the evidence of Peter's "secret confession".
William Wrede was a Lutheran theologian. I do not think you would be approving of his methods.
On what grounds do you determine the gospel's theological agenda by denying that parts of the gospel serve his theological agenda? That sounds like you are choosing to select just bits of the gospel that support what you think "should" be the gospel's agenda. That's a circular argument.
Again, by lengthy thorough analysis. The gospel was in favor of Christianity, that's rather certain (with Peter calling Jesus Christ and his disciples witnessing Jesus' extraordinary miracles. etc.). But bits here & there are not. That's what attracted my attention.
Why can't the whole story simply be a holy-fiction about Peter? Why do you think it has to be historical?
What story? If you mean the one where Peter says Jesus is the Christ but Jesus answered that the disciples should not say it, yes, I thing it is invented. And invented for the purpose of explaining why Peter never was heard saying Jesus was Christ.

Cordially, Bernard
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Bernard Muller
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Re: The best case for Jesus's historicity: Mark Craig

Post by Bernard Muller » Mon Sep 11, 2017 12:51 pm

to Neil,
Here is where you lose me, Bernard. You appear to be conceding that all the options you know of are flawed but for the sake of getting an outcome you jump in with one of them anyway. That sounds to me something like what the bad cop does just to get a result -- regardless of the justice of the outcome.
Yes, at the beginning I had assumptions in my mind on the topic, just as for any other green inquirers, such as Jesus was a charismatic teacher, speaking in parables, and his disciples founded the Christian church of Jerusalem. But as I was going along in my study, I had to discard all of that and instead found different things.
Frankly, I wish what I found was more mainstream, rather than defend the fact such as, for example, that Jesus did not teach in parables, or his disciples never became Christians, which put me in an extreme position in the spectrum of historical Jesus analysis. But certainly, there are sufficiently enough evidence that the man Jesus existed as from Paul, Tacitus and Josephus.
But mostly I simply don't understand why you seem to say that "just sitting on the fence is the only alternative" to your approach as if that is a bad thing.

Firstly, sitting on the fence is definitely preferable to diving in with a method you concede is flawed and so must yield a false result.
I did not concede my method was flawed and yielding a false result. Read again my statements. Actually, even if not perfect, I think my methodology, even if not elegant, is the best one relative to the subject of inquiry. Yes, staying in your ivory tower and constantly criticizing anything you see from the historicist side, is not a constructive attitude.
What you are doing here, Bernard, is a McGrath. If any historical method of research happens to leave historicity open to doubt and gives a mythicist interpretation a leg up, then it is by definition flawed.
Any historical method of research will leave historicity open to doubt and criticism by those who don't want to see any historicity. But why that should give mythicist far-fetched, unreasonable, biased interpretation a leg up? As far as I know, any mythicist reconstruction has been very much ill-evidenced, very different from each other, using very controversial methods if any, and they are much worse than any historicist's ones.
You seem to think if a historicist does not make a reconstruction with methods which are universally approved, then mythicism wins by default.
Secondly, there really is an alternative to sitting on the fence. It is, as I have argued earlier, taking a step back and tailoring our questions to what we have determined the data is able to answer.
What are your questions? It does not seem to me, that after all these years, you have come up with positive answers. And asking questions about the nature of the NT writings and the provenance of these writings, and an intimate knowledge of all their authors cannot be answered with certitude with the evidence we have.
Stepping back is not a step forward, and according to your method, which require information which simply are not available, that will not get you forward.
If an analysis of the data tells us it is not the sort of stuff that can answer certain questions, then we accept that limitation and ask of it questions that we know it is fit to answer.

That doesn't lead us to nowhere. That leads us to the best conclusions possible given the state of the evidence. What is wrong with that?
With all that caution, I think you'll be going nowhere except to wide open fuzzy answers, because the data will not be giving you straight evidence, or enough of them.
You can't just jump in with methods and questions you know are faulty simply because you can't think of an alternative and you are dead set on getting "answers" to the questions you want to know the answers to.
Again, I did not say my methods and questions are faulty. And I jump into them. That was rather a long process. And I looked for alternatives every step of the way. But that does nor mean you have to keep these alternatives. You also have to select the right one in order to go forward.

Cordially, Bernard
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Re: The best case for Jesus's historicity: Mark Craig

Post by Bernard Muller » Mon Sep 11, 2017 2:09 pm

to Paul the Uncertain,
Because "Mark" made excuse on some facts & sayings which was not serving his theological/christological agenda. If these facts and sayings were not believed true, then there could not be invented because that would create confusion and doubt.


Whose confusion and doubt about what?
Confusion and doubt about basic beliefs of the emerging Christian faith.
The plot portrays Jesus on a suicide mission, but being killed is insufficient to achieve the mission's objectives. Timing matters, too. Secondarily, it heightens the dramatic tension of a key scene, Peter's denial in the priest's courtyard, that Peter not be at liberty to explain his actual relationship with Jesus. It's a further grace note that that cat is already out of the bag, but Peter doesn't know it. That is an example of a craft technique, the motif of the command which continues in effect after its usefulness has expired. A necessary condition to use the technique is to issue the command.

I could go on, but good writing is its own explanation. Why should "Mark" be embarrassed that he is conspicuously skillful?
How do you know the plot is about Jesus on a suicide mission? Of course, when we know what happened next, the crucifixion, we can consider that the combination of royalish welcome near Jerusalem & the disturbance in the temple was asking for fatal retaliation, and therefore quasi-suicidal. But I have no reason to think that Jesus wanted to indirectly suicide himself. All the rest is your imagination and the scene in the high priest courtyard is something I would not vouch for.
Why? Claiming to be the Christ isn't even a Jewish religious offence, much less a Roman capital crime. Assuming some wish to reflect a plain reading of Paul's epistles, Mark has to get a dead Jesus hoist by somebody on something wooden. A stoning followed by a gibbeting would work, but then who gets the "Truly a son of a god" line? A Jewish character? How would the Psalm 22 thing work?
There is a considerable overlap in the OT for "anointed one" (messiah) and "king of the Jews". Ok, so maybe the "christ" would be too mild, but "Mark", writing for Gentiles, could have invented just "the king". But he did not. Let's note that "king of the Jews" for Jesus appears in gMark no less than five times and "Mark" did his best in order to reduce the impact on his audience as I explained here: http://historical-jesus.info/29.html
(IN)RI solves some problems, and there are constraints not of INRI's making if a relationship with Paul as a source is to be maintained. It's a good solution, and plainly has in fact enjoyed a high degree of audience acceptance. It is thus well within the scope of shrewd invention by a master craftsman.
Yes, INRI (latin) avoids "king of the Jews" (even if RI is drawn from that) but that comes late. The gospels show "king of the Jews" (18 times altogether, including 9 times in gLuke & gJohn, both of them meant for gentiles).
Note: "Luke" and "John" also tried to lower the impact of "king of the Jews.

Cordially, Bernard
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Re: The best case for Jesus's historicity: Mark Craig

Post by MrMacSon » Mon Sep 11, 2017 2:20 pm

Bernard Muller wrote:
Mon Sep 11, 2017 12:51 pm

But 'certainly', there are sufficiently enough evidence that the man Jesus existed as from Paul, Tacitus and Josephus.
Rubbish.

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Re: The best case for Jesus's historicity: Mark Craig

Post by Kapyong » Mon Sep 11, 2017 5:00 pm

Bernard Muller wrote:
Mon Sep 11, 2017 12:51 pm
But 'certainly', there are sufficiently enough evidence that the man Jesus existed as from Paul, Tacitus and Josephus.
Rubbish.

neilgodfrey
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Re: The best case for Jesus's historicity: Mark Craig

Post by neilgodfrey » Mon Sep 11, 2017 5:08 pm

outhouse wrote:
Mon Sep 11, 2017 8:46 am
neilgodfrey wrote:
Sat Sep 09, 2017 6:04 pm
. Only "biblical scholars" use plausibility as the criterion of historicity as far as I am aware.
It is all that can be used with such limited evidence, and it goes far past biblical scholars.

It applies to most anyone before said time period.
Oh baloney, outhouse. You have no idea what you are talking about. Plausibility is a criterion for good fiction. If plausibility were a criterion of historicity we would have all sorts of false claims posing as real history simply because they are plausible. People would believe anything that just happens to be plausible.

Right now there is a white car driving down the street outside my house. Plausible? Therefore true? But it's a lie I just made up, but you have to believe it because it is plausible.
Last edited by neilgodfrey on Mon Sep 11, 2017 5:32 pm, edited 3 times in total.

neilgodfrey
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Re: The best case for Jesus's historicity: Mark Craig

Post by neilgodfrey » Mon Sep 11, 2017 5:12 pm

Bernard Muller wrote:
Mon Sep 11, 2017 12:43 pm
to Neil,
Are you saying that plausibility of a narrative is a reason we should believe it to be true?
If a narrative is plausible, free of obvious unhistorical parts, with every parts documented, does not involve the extraordinary, does not require great gifts to the characters, yes I would say the plausibility goes a long way into establishing the narrative (such as http://historical-jesus.info/digest.html) as having a good chance to be true to the facts.
Now that's not relying upon plausibility, Bernard. That is called "shifting the goal posts".

In fact, you are now arguing my own point that actually has been raised against your claim that plausibility is the criterion for historicity. You know it's not. You know it needs to be "documented" -- by which I presume you mean it has independent attestation. That is what you mean, right?

The other qualifiers you add -- "obvious unhistorical parts", "the extraordinary" by which I presume you mean the supernatural -- are simply part and parcel of the definitions of plausible and implausible.

By the way, Pilate putting up a sign saying the crucified Jesus was actually the "king of the Jews" is an "obvious unhistorical detail". Didn't the inscriptions announce the crime? So the crime is pretender, or false claimant to kingship, etc. The "king of the jews" placard is just delicious Gospel of Mark irony consistent with the irony throughout his composition.

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Re: The best case for Jesus's historicity: Mark Craig

Post by neilgodfrey » Mon Sep 11, 2017 5:24 pm

Paul the Uncertain wrote:
Mon Sep 11, 2017 2:30 am
Neil
What other field of inquiry uses "embarrassment" as at least one criterion to determine and what is and what is not a "fact" in anonymous and unprovenanced documents?
The field you mentioned in a recent post with approval, judges and jurors. Statements against interest are an exception to the hearsay rule (that is, in civilian "English" legal sytems, unsworn statements made outside the presence of the court are generally inadmissible as evidence about what the statement asserts, except under specified circumstances). There is also a provision for spontaneous declarations being admitted, which is very similar in practice to statements against interest.
You get to the heart of the reason for my objection to the claim that so-called embarrassment is a criterion for historicity. In the forensic scenario you set out above we have mountains of evidence about provenance of sayings, the parties responsible for the sayings, their backgrounds, etc etc etc.

It is "embarrassment" in the context of all of that mass of hard evidence of identities and provenance that sways the case.

So-called postulated "embarrassment" alone can never establish historicity -- which is the claim of many biblical scholars.

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Re: The best case for Jesus's historicity: Mark Craig

Post by Paul the Uncertain » Mon Sep 11, 2017 6:31 pm

Neil
So-called postulated "embarrassment" alone can never establish historicity -- which is the claim of many biblical scholars.
There is little or no "establish" in anything discussed here. There is to accept a contingent proposition, or else to decline to accept it. Which it is may change if additional evidence comes to light, but it's always one or the other, anytime, whatever the amount and quality of the evidence in hand (hence, the "anytime" property demanded by modern, not to be confused with postmodern, normative uncertainty management).

Civil suits (as opposed to "forensic," which typically refers to criminal cases) are usually decided on the preponderance of admitted evidence actually in hand at the end of the trial.

(Criminal cases and some civil cases apply a different standard than in the usual run of civil cases, but also apply that standard to the evidence actually in hand at the conclusion of the trial, whatever that happens to be.)

You asked for somebody who does something. I told you somebody who does it.

Bernard

Thank you for your thoughtful reply.
Confusion and doubt about basic beliefs of the emerging Christian faith.
I am still unsure what those would be. The only near-contemporaneous portrayal we have of those basic beliefs is from Paul. There's nothing in Mark that I can see that contradicts anything in Paul. I also have seen no evidence, in Paul or elsewhere, of any conspicuous unformity of belief during the First Century.
How do you know the plot is about Jesus on a suicide mission?
He says three times that his death is scheduled, an ordained part of his role as Son of Man (etc.). He discusses his death again in the "anointing" scene. At the dramatic crisis, he only has to leave when Judas and the crowd approach, and Mark makes a point of having Jesus see that approaching band, and to understand its purpose.
But I have no reason to think that Jesus wanted to indirectly suicide himself.
He fairly plainly doesn't "want" it; it's the role which he has been assigned and accepts. "Suicide mission" refers to the forseeable likely outcome of a course of action being the death of the agent, not whether the agent likes it (nor whether the mission literally involves unassisted self-slaughter, although some do).
All the rest is your imagination and the scene in the high priest courtyard is something I would not vouch for.
What's on the page is that Peter receives a direct order of unspecified duration. The courtyard denial scene immediately follows Jesus' public announcement that he is the Christ (plus brief audience reaction), that which Peter was forbidden to disclose, an announcement orchestrated without tipping Peter that his continued compliance is moot.

The idea that constraints upon the options available to an agent are irrelevant to understanding the behavior actually chosen seems intuitively unappealing to me. I don't think that that has anything to do with imagination. It is a fact of Peter's decision space, laid out in black letters.
writing for Gentiles, could have invented just "the king"
Given that the execution is set in Jerusalem, king of whom if not of the Jews?

What do the Gentiles care anyway? Jesus doesn't say he's king of the Jews, and Mark's narrator doesn't say he's king of the Jews. Whoever wrote the sign said it, presumably somebody connected with the soldiers who moments before mocked Jesus on the same theme (rather the opposite of portraying Jesus as a king), or somebody connected with Pilate, who also uses the phrase.

Nobody who says it is depicted as knowing what they're talking about. Nobody who says it believes it to be the case. Their saying it does advance the plot, though.
Yes, INRI (latin) avoids "king of the Jews" (even if RI is drawn from that) but that comes late.
Sorry, I was just using INRI in an English sentence as an established abbreviation for "the content of Jesus' titulus." IN was in parenthesis, since the wording of the sign varies from Gospel to Gospel, and Mark only has the portion corresponding with the RI.

My intent was to assert that the plot development in Mark of having the Roman characters understand Jesus as a poltical criminal was a reasonable storyteller's choice to get the corpse up on something wooden, one of the few earthly details Paul harps on. In the event, that choice has attracted and held audiences rather well. The story element needs no other explanation.

Maybe something actually happened which resembled that, maybe nothing like it happened at all. Either way, there's nothing embarrassing about being a good writer, solving narrative problems in a way that fills the seats.

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