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Why Not Talk About This Instead?

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.

Re: Why Not Talk About This Instead?

Postby Peter Kirby » Sat Sep 12, 2015 4:13 pm

MrMacSon wrote:
Peter Kirby wrote: Rejecting a part of it is not to vindicate the views of these critics.

'it"? Rejecting a part of mythicism (Doherty's), or rejecting a part of Doherty's propositions?


The latter... and both, I don't see a big difference in the meaning or truth value of those statements.
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Re: Why Not Talk About This Instead?

Postby MrMacSon » Sat Sep 12, 2015 4:16 pm

I have deleted that but I meant a "?" in there; thus -

Rejecting a part of mythicism (Doherty's?), or rejecting a part of Doherty's propositions?
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Re: Why Not Talk About This Instead?

Postby Aleph One » Sat Sep 12, 2015 4:28 pm

Peter Kirby wrote:
Ben C. Smith wrote:If Jesus was imagined as both killed and buried in the nether realm, what would the imagined purpose be, to your mind, of him being made to look like a human (Romans 8.3-4; Philippians 2.5-11; Hebrews 2.14-18)? If his identity was to be a secret (1 Corinthians 2.6-9), is he simply supposed to look like a still living, human intruder into the realm of the dead, like Orpheus? A hero, as it were, instead of a god?

The most straightforward explanation seems to be that doing so allowed himself to end up getting killed by those who killed him, while not doing so (and retaining his original image and showing the true form of his body) would have not resulted in that. It's straightforward because it's basically what more than one of these texts say.

Maybe you addressed this adequately already, and I'm a little dense for it, but I think his question isn't quite that.

All of this may stem from confusion about the metaphysics inside these systems of layered cosmology, but I don't even understand the terms and diagrams enough to say for sure. I think the question is: if Jesus's main job is to be sacrificed down in the layers of hell (where the kings of death are), and the only reason he need take the form of a fleshly man is to quickly sneak through the worldly realm on his way to the next layer down, then what's with Paul's (and others') decided emphasis on the transformation of his into the form of flesh? There seems to be a disconnect there.

I wonder, though, if our modern/popular/non-technical understanding of "heaven and hell" might be confusing things here though. Speaking for myself, I naturally assume (if you will) that when your fleshly body dies on earth, just your soul or spirit would make any descent to hell. But is it possible the ancients here are imagining a hell populated by entities in some sense still with the 'form of man?' Or some kind of 'spiritual flesh?' Etc.?

In other words, if Jesus being sacrificed in the underworld means all the important stuff happened to him in "ghost" form, then why mention so often that he took on the flesh of man?
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Re: Why Not Talk About This Instead?

Postby MrMacSon » Sat Sep 12, 2015 5:15 pm

Aleph One wrote: .. why mention so often that he took on the flesh of man?

b/c the new idea of 'sacrifice of a person' was the ultimate clutch (?)
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Re: Why Not Talk About This Instead?

Postby maryhelena » Sun Sep 13, 2015 5:21 am

Peter Kirby wrote:Famous examples that are candidates for interpolation include Romans 1:3 (and surrounding), Galatians 1:19 (and surrounding), and the phrase in Galatians 4:4.

The refutation will be that there is absolutely no case for interpolation in any of these instances, but at least we could argue about that instead of pounding our heads against the brick wall that is the implausible interpretation of these verses proposed by Doherty and those who have followed him.



The simple answer to the three problems referenced above is that the Pauline writer knows the Jesus story. Even if, for the sake of argument, the Pauline writer put pen to paper before a gospel writer, the Jesus story would be know if Jesus was historical - hence these three problems would not be problems at all. Deciding for the ahistorical position does not cancel out an oral tradition. If there is a historical reflection within the gospel story - then recording that historical reflection in a written format is secondary to any oral traditions about historical events. Thus, the Pauline writer could be aware of the oral traditions about a Jesus story prior to any written form of it.

If one views the gospel Jesus story as a creative flight of imagination devoid of any historical relevance - then, yes, one then has the three problems mentioned above. But that position is not a necessary position for a ahistoricist/mythicist to take.

It's not a choice between three interpolations and a historical Jesus. The choice is between acknowledging a historical reflection within the gospel story or not doing so. Choosing a historical reflection within the gospel story does not equate to a historical Jesus. It does equate to asking
what historical realities the gospel writers found to be important and meaningful for their developing theology/philosophy.
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Re: Why Not Talk About This Instead?

Postby GakuseiDon » Sun Sep 13, 2015 6:36 am

Peter Kirby wrote:(1) The “Middle Platonism” thought by Doherty to lurk in Paul’s writing is abandoned as an explanation of Paul. Instead, Paul does not have anything but a popular Jewish and/or Hellenistic conception of God, spirits, and the world. Paul’s beliefs about Jesus do not regard them as timeless and ideal but as occurring in time (even recently) and with a body, in places.

I think Doherty had largely abandoned the use of Middle Platonism as an explanation for what was in Paul, except in the most general terms. I remember that he and I would argue often about Middle Platonism on IIDB and FRDB, using the content of Dillon's "The Middle Platonists", which surveyed the writings of the major philosophers writing from 1st C BCE to about the 3rd C CE.

But I noticed that in Doherty's last book "Jesus: Neither God Nor Man", he barely touched upon Middle Platonism. I certainly can't remember him evaluating any explicit statements in Paul in Middle Platonic terms.

Peter Kirby wrote:(1) No Middle Platonism in Paul

I haven’t found it anywhere in Paul’s letters.

Hebrews and Revelation are a different subject. Paul’s letters may represent a different viewpoint, even if Hebrews or Revelation evinced any kind of Platonic or Middle Platonic interpretation.

So, where would these things take place, if not in Judea and under Pilate?

The candidate that comes to my mind is ‘under the earth': that Jesus descended under the earth and was crucified and buried by the demons there. Perhaps the reader has their own ideas or comments on the subject.

Carrier has also floated the idea that Jesus might have been killed in a mythical setting on earth, though this is more an aside than a theory. Carrier writes on page 563 of OHJ:

    The original 'revealed' death and burial could have been imagined as occurring on earth and still be (from our perspective) mythical, if, e.g., the passion sequence was 'revealed' to have occurred somewhere like the Garden of Eden, a place no one knew the actual location of and thus where no ordinary witnesses could have been available (of course, the earliest Christians thought even the Garden of Eden was in outer space: 2 Cor. 12.2-4; see Element 38)

So that's another possibility, though I'm not aware of any possible earthly mythical locations that were thought to exist at that time as possible candidates.

There is also GA Wells' idea that Paul thought Jesus had lived on earth but died long before, which to me is more plausible than the sublunar Jesus theories.
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Re: Why Not Talk About This Instead?

Postby GakuseiDon » Sun Sep 13, 2015 6:58 am

Peter Kirby wrote:So, where would these things take place, if not in Judea and under Pilate?

The candidate that comes to my mind is ‘under the earth': that Jesus descended under the earth and was crucified and buried by the demons there. Perhaps the reader has their own ideas or comments on the subject.

Just thinking about that: Was it thought that there were demons under the earth though? I'm not sure if there were any Jewish or early Christian belief of that time. According to Roman beliefs there were daemons who tortured the wicked underground (and there were locations in Europe where people could enter), and that idea eventually transferred over to Christianity, so Paul may have been an early adopter of those beliefs. But reading Paul, Satan is the prince of the powers of the air. The earth and the sea had the bodies of people, and their spirits were thought to be there as well. In the OT, the spirits of the dead were sometimes raised. But thinking back, I can't recall any passages supporting the idea of demons down there. I'm very happy to be shown otherwise!
It is really important, in life, to concentrate our minds on our enthusiasms, not on our dislikes. -- Roger Pearse
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Re: Why Not Talk About This Instead?

Postby Peter Kirby » Sun Sep 13, 2015 9:36 am

Some good questions here. Some replies:

(1) There appears to be an over-emphasis in some questions on the idea that a proposed understanding of the ancient person's belief is going to have to be shown to be in some way necessary or pre-determined. On the other hand, the idea that anybody's beliefs, let alone a set of new beliefs, are going to be strictly necessary or absolutely locked into a certain way of thinking doesn't seem to be all that apt of a description of how new beliefs arise, generally.

(2) Aleph One uses the assumption "the only reason he need take the form of a fleshly man is to quickly sneak through the worldly realm on his way to the next layer down" and then finds out that there is a "a disconnect" if one thinks that's not likely to be an "only reason." Perhaps drop the assumption? I didn't say that.

(3) Gakusei Don wonders whether there were "demons under the earth" and then goes on to say that "there were daemons who tortured the wicked underground" in "Roman belief," which seems to answer the question. Just drop the assumption that this could only ever be a "Roman belief." I don't believe that there's actually been an exhaustive search that would support the sharp demarcation suggested here or anything like an exhaustive search at all. It even seems to ignore the quotes from the Ascension of Isaiah up-thread, for example.
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Re: Why Not Talk About This Instead?

Postby GakuseiDon » Sun Sep 13, 2015 4:25 pm

Peter Kirby wrote:Some good questions here. Some replies:

(1) There appears to be an over-emphasis in some questions on the idea that a proposed understanding of the ancient person's belief is going to have to be shown to be in some way necessary or pre-determined. On the other hand, the idea that anybody's beliefs, let alone a set of new beliefs, are going to be strictly necessary or absolutely locked into a certain way of thinking doesn't seem to be all that apt of a description of how new beliefs arise, generally.

It depends on what the claim is. If the claim is that Paul is influenced by Middle Platonism, and that we can read passages through that lens, then it is worth determining whether Middle Platonism is accurately being represented. That was a large part of my battle with Doherty on IIDB. On the other hand, if the claim is that Paul has his own unique views, then such an approach is less applicable.

One of the things I really liked about Carrier's OHJ is that he spends a lot of time establishing the background knowledge in his "Background elements" section that he references throughout his book. Even for new beliefs, if they can be tied to some background detail, it makes them more plausible.

Peter Kirby wrote:(3) Gakusei Don wonders whether there were "demons under the earth" and then goes on to say that "there were daemons who tortured the wicked underground" in "Roman belief," which seems to answer the question. Just drop the assumption that this could only ever be a "Roman belief." I don't believe that there's actually been an exhaustive search that would support the sharp demarcation suggested here or anything like an exhaustive search at all. It even seems to ignore the quotes from the Ascension of Isaiah up-thread, for example.

"Just drop the assumption"? Okay. I'll be interested on where you take this. (Eventually an exhaustive search may become necessary, however, if we progress far enough)

On the Ascension of Isaiah (one of my favorite texts!), I was thinking about that. Text from here: http://www.earlychristianwritings.com/t ... nsion.html

In AoI, the Beloved goes past Satan and the demons in the firmament and the air. The Beloved then goes into Sheol to "plunder the angel of death":

    9.14. And the god of that world will stretch forth his hand against the Son, and they will crucify Him on a tree, and will slay Him not knowing who He is.
    15. And thus His descent, as you will see, will be hidden even from the heavens, so that it will not be known who He is.
    16. And when He hath plundered the angel of death, He will ascend on the third day, [and he will remain in that world five hundred and forty-five days].
    17. And then many of the righteous will ascend with Him, whose spirits do not receive their garments till the Lord Christ ascend and they ascend with Him.

The Angel of Death is not Satan. He is God's creature, but a terrifying one: kind of like the Grim Reaper. He kills people and takes their souls to Sheol. This includes the good and the bad. You can see above that the Beloved goes into Sheol and brings up the souls of "the righteous", whom had been waiting in Sheol. There is also in Chapter 10:

    10.8. "Go forth and descent through all the heavens, and thou wilt descent to the firmament and that world: to the angel in Sheol thou wilt descend, but to Haguel thou wilt not go.
Sheol is where the souls of people await. Even good people's souls can be there. Haguel is perdition, and presumably with only bad souls. It's like Sydney in Australia. No point for the Beloved to go there!

I'm not sure whether this hinders or helps with your candidate "Jesus descended under the earth and was crucified and buried by the demons there". But it is interesting and hopefully useful background knowledge.
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Re: Why Not Talk About This Instead?

Postby Peter Kirby » Sun Sep 13, 2015 4:30 pm

GakuseiDon wrote:I'm not sure whether this hinders or helps with your candidate "Jesus descended under the earth and was crucified and buried by the demons there".


I hope "demons" is understood as a very general term. If it isn't, then the general expression of this idea could use the word "angels" or (even better?) "powers" instead.
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