The Best Case for Jesus

Discussion about the New Testament, apocrypha, gnostics, church fathers, Christian origins, historical Jesus or otherwise, etc.
Sheshbazzar
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Re: The Best Case for Jesus

Post by Sheshbazzar »

Bernard Muller wrote: Furthermore I studied the dating of 1 Clement and I found that 80-81 AD to be the most likely date for its final publishing:
hmmm ....a time frame certainly early enough to have 'goosed' and contributed material to the content of the written gospels.
_Allowing that at the inception, the various gospel texts were not as yet 'set in stone', or thought to be a 'complete' accounting of all things, there yet being a bit of 'leeway' and 'wiggle room' for incorporating additional 'convenient' material.

Not suggesting here that 1 Clement preceded the Gospels, or that the Gospels were fully fashioned upon Clement, only that certain of the Gospels content was contributed to by phrases drawn from Clement, the language polished, up and incorporated into the gospel.
The writers and/or editor/redactors 'working in' snippets of 1 Clement, rather than 'Clement', as is commonly assumed, 'quoting' (poorly) from the gospels.

Not that I think that any of these texts have been preserved 'pristine'. 1 Clement also has suffered its share of (well intended no doubt) church doctoring. Just the way I presently perceive this matter.

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Peter Kirby
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Re: The Best Case for Jesus

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GakuseiDon wrote:
Peter Kirby wrote:
GakuseiDon wrote:Okay, and in your view what did the Second Century redactor hope to accomplish by inserting "From him came our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh" there, given that he was probably aware of Paul's usage (since Paul is mentioned in the epistle already)?
The Jewish text has been redacted with a number of glosses of an explanatory or devotional nature, where the original was felt to be inadequate as a full expression of theological truth due to the absence of Christ in the Jewish text. You can see the identification of these additions at the link offered.
How do you read the meaning of "From him came our Lord Jesus Christ according to the flesh"?

To expand on this, it seems to me to indicate a belief that Jesus was a descendent of a man, and thus was a man himself. I'm not sure why the redactor thought the original was felt to be inadequate so this was necessary to insert, though it may not matter. It does provide an example of how "according to the flesh" was used. The next step would be determining whether the meaning of "according to the flesh" changed between the time of its usage in Paul and its usage when inserted in 1 Clement. Bayes Theorem might be useful in that regard.
Indeed.

I wonder if we've now gone far afield the "best case for Jesus." Unless you yourself would now like to develop an additional argument for the historicity of Jesus not covered in the OP.

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Paul Tanner
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Re: The Best Case for Jesus

Post by Paul Tanner »

This is my first post on the “Biblical Criticism & History Forum”. I’m a historicist who has read some of Richard Carrier’s books. I read Proving History and On the Historicity of Jesus in July/August 2014. In the following months, I followed up on quite a few of the end notes and footnotes in both books. I learned a lot in the process, but did not come away convinced by Carrier's case.

I think that the best case for historicity is the case that is found in a book that was published by Cambridge University Press in 2011.

The book that I am referring to is:
Humphreys, Colin J. The Mystery of the Last Supper: Reconstructing the Final Days of Jesus. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.

Humphreys' argument is lengthy and detailed. It would go beyond the reasonable scope of a single post to go into the details here. The best way to get a quick idea of what this book is about is to read two relatively short scholarly reviews that are available at:
http://www.bookreviews.org/pdf/8000_8750.pdf
http://www.bookreviews.org/pdf/8000_8824.pdf

On pages 423-25 of OHJ, Carrier gives the Markan Passion Narrative a good thrashing. Towards the end of the main text on page 425, he writes, “So as history, Mark’s narrative makes zero sense.” In footnote #75 (on the same page), he writes, “That John felt free to change the date (and thus the year), again for symbolic reasons, only goes to prove further how irrelevant historical facts were to constructing the Gospel narratives.”

However, if Humphreys’ theory is correct, then the most important objections that Carrier lodges on page 425 of OHJ are undercut and it becomes very likely that Carrier's conclusions are invalid.

I think the considerations above are important because even Carrier’s minimal theory of historicity (on page 34 of OHJ) is centered on the events that are narrated as having happened at the time of Jesus’ execution. If the accounts of the execution make “zero sense”, then it is possible that even minimalistic theories of historicity are in trouble. But, if Carrier’s most important objections to the Markan Passion Narrative are invalid and the accounts of the execution do make good historical sense, then I think that there may be more warrant for a minimal theory of historicity than Carrier would like us to believe.

For anyone that is interested in finding the best possible arguments for historicity, I think that Humphreys’ book is one of the best places to go.

Postscript:
In the last sentence of his response to Peter’s original article (http://www.earlywritings.com/forum/view ... 686#p28686), Neil Godfrey writes, "A best case scenario might attempt to apply memory theory to the literary evidence without any assumptions that need to be supported by logically fallacious criteria."

In the last ten minutes of his inaugural lecture at St. Mary's University (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KrESSC-w4Ig), Chris Keith said, "Since social memory theory seeks primarily to understand continuity and discontinuity in the formation of collective memory, it is most advantageous to historical Jesus scholars in instances of multiple particularly conflicting interpretations of Jesus. From these one can, in Le Donne’s words, triangulate a possible past reality that could have led to them. It is then the Jesus scholar’s responsibility to forward convincing arguments about precisely how a proposed past led to those early Christian interpretations. I should stop here just to comment. Historically these [points] where the gospels have contradictions or disagreements over Jesus ... One says he died on, you know, the Synoptic Gospels say that Jesus died on the day of Passover and the Gospel of John says Jesus died on the Day of Preparation and none of them say that he died twice and that would be a big theological problem if [they] did. But, historically, in Jesus studies these have kind of been a problem. ... But from this perspective [of social memory theory], this is great for the historian. It is these instances where we primarily have an opportunity to actually theorize something, because we have multiple interpretations and we can ask what led to both or all of those interpretations."

Colin Humphreys' book is basically a book-length attempt to answer the specific challenge that Chris Keith raises in the quotation above. As such, I think it counts as a valid (already existing) attempt to respond to Neil's challenge. Whether it is successful or not is open for discussion.
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GakuseiDon
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Re: The Best Case for Jesus

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Peter Kirby wrote:I wonder if we've now gone far afield the "best case for Jesus." Unless you yourself would now like to develop an additional argument for the historicity of Jesus not covered in the OP.
I think it is delving into the best case for Jesus. As you said in an earlier post in this thread on "according to the flesh" and "in the flesh": 'Yes, and similar passages are found in the letters attributed to Paul. It is a good question what to make of them.' I think seeing how the expression is used in other letters is a good way to make the best guess of what to make of them. So, whether the passage is original to 1 Clement, or inserted by a redactor, it helps provide input into a range of meaning. If the range of meaning supports a historical Jesus, then, by leaving it up in the air, you aren't producing the best case for a historical Jesus. Given the scarcity of data we have, any case for any version of a mythical or historical Jesus will be fought in a hundred little battles.
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Peter Kirby
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Re: The Best Case for Jesus

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GakuseiDon wrote:
Peter Kirby wrote:I wonder if we've now gone far afield the "best case for Jesus." Unless you yourself would now like to develop an additional argument for the historicity of Jesus not covered in the OP.
I think it is delving into the best case for Jesus. As you said in an earlier post in this thread on "according to the flesh" and "in the flesh": 'Yes, and similar passages are found in the letters attributed to Paul. It is a good question what to make of them.' I think seeing how the expression is used in other letters is a good way to make the best guess of what to make of them. So, whether the passage is original to 1 Clement, or inserted by a redactor, it helps provide input into a range of meaning. If the range of meaning supports a historical Jesus, then, by leaving it up in the air, you aren't producing the best case for a historical Jesus. Given the scarcity of data we have, any case for any version of a mythical or historical Jesus will be fought in a hundred little battles.
So what is the rest of the argument?

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neilgodfrey
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Re: The Best Case for Jesus

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Paul Tanner wrote: On pages 423-25 of OHJ, Carrier gives the Markan Passion Narrative a good thrashing. Towards the end of the main text on page 425, he writes, “So as history, Mark’s narrative makes zero sense.” In footnote #75 (on the same page), he writes, “That John felt free to change the date (and thus the year), again for symbolic reasons, only goes to prove further how irrelevant historical facts were to constructing the Gospel narratives.”

However, if Humphreys’ theory is correct, then the most important objections that Carrier lodges on page 425 of OHJ are undercut and it becomes very likely that Carrier's conclusions are invalid.
From what I understand on reading the reviews and some sections of Humphreys' book itself it appears that the fundamental difference between Humphreys and Carrier lies in their assumptions about the nature of the gospels. I think the same difference is at the heart of those on the two sides of a much wider debate that is found also among biblical scholars.

Humphreys' theory, as I understand it, assumes the evangelists were in full knowledge of the same historical facts and that they were interested in recording accurately some details of those facts. It also assumes that despite the evidence that the evangelists knew of each others' work, or at least the work of one other, they chose not to explain to readers why their accounts differed so starkly from an earlier work. They chose to write just enough from a clearly theological perspective even though their account sounded like a complete contradiction to another account all but those in the know.

Even though it's the default position among most scholars, it seems, I don't think there is any justification for believing that the evangelists were interested in "recording historical facts". Humphreys' offers a series of explanations that some will appeal to if they believe this is what the evangelists were doing. But others will see Humphreys' theory as just another apologetically motivated attempt at gospel harmonization.
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GakuseiDon
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Re: The Best Case for Jesus

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Peter Kirby wrote:
GakuseiDon wrote:
Peter Kirby wrote:I wonder if we've now gone far afield the "best case for Jesus." Unless you yourself would now like to develop an additional argument for the historicity of Jesus not covered in the OP.
I think it is delving into the best case for Jesus. As you said in an earlier post in this thread on "according to the flesh" and "in the flesh": 'Yes, and similar passages are found in the letters attributed to Paul. It is a good question what to make of them.' I think seeing how the expression is used in other letters is a good way to make the best guess of what to make of them. So, whether the passage is original to 1 Clement, or inserted by a redactor, it helps provide input into a range of meaning. If the range of meaning supports a historical Jesus, then, by leaving it up in the air, you aren't producing the best case for a historical Jesus. Given the scarcity of data we have, any case for any version of a mythical or historical Jesus will be fought in a hundred little battles.
So what is the rest of the argument?
As part of a cumulative case, it is:

(1) Arguably 1 Clement tells us of a belief in a historical man (descendent of Jacob, flesh-and-blood) who was killed recently (first-fruits) and interacted with the apostles and taught them (whether before or after death). All details are vague, which fits in well with the pattern we find in other letters, where we find similar vague expressions of belief in a historical man. It then becomes a question of when the key passages were written. I see that the key passages are all added by the Second Century redactor in your own analysis. If 1 Clement is dated to the 60s or 90s, then it becomes much more significant.
(2) We can compare elements of 1 Clement with similar elements in other letters, especially Paul's, to help us try to understand what is going on in those other letters.

We then go onto the next letter, like the Epistle of Barnabas, to gather further information and build up a cumulative case.
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Re: The Best Case for Jesus

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maryhelena
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Re: The Best Case for Jesus

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GakuseiDon wrote:
(1) Arguably 1 Clement tells us of a belief in a historical man (descendent of Jacob, flesh-and-blood) who was killed recently (first-fruits) and interacted with the apostles and taught them (whether before or after death). All details are vague, which fits in well with the pattern we find in other letters, where we find similar vague expressions of belief in a historical man.
Symbolism aside - descendant of Jacob can't be historically demonstrated - belief in a historical figure does not equate to that figure being the gospel figure of Jesus of Nazareth. All this flesh-and-blood talk indicates is that reality, historical reality, flesh and blood, is relevant to an interpretation of the gospel story. Or as Wells once said about Doherty' theory - it is not all spiritual. It is history, Jewish history, that can indicate what historical figures were relevant to the gospel writers in the creation of their Jesus story.

It then becomes a question of when the key passages were written. I see that the key passages are all added by the Second Century redactor in your own analysis. If 1 Clement is dated to the 60s or 90s, then it becomes much more significant.
(2) We can compare elements of 1 Clement with similar elements in other letters, especially Paul's, to help us try to understand what is going on in those other letters.

.
All that is going on is a contrast between flesh and spirit; between physical realities and spiritual 'realities'. To assume that 'flesh' = a historical Jesus of Nazareth figure is wishful thinking not objective evaluation of the NT story.
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Peter Kirby
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Re: The Best Case for Jesus

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GakuseiDon wrote:
Peter Kirby wrote:
GakuseiDon wrote: I think it is delving into the best case for Jesus. As you said in an earlier post in this thread on "according to the flesh" and "in the flesh": 'Yes, and similar passages are found in the letters attributed to Paul. It is a good question what to make of them.' I think seeing how the expression is used in other letters is a good way to make the best guess of what to make of them. So, whether the passage is original to 1 Clement, or inserted by a redactor, it helps provide input into a range of meaning. If the range of meaning supports a historical Jesus, then, by leaving it up in the air, you aren't producing the best case for a historical Jesus. Given the scarcity of data we have, any case for any version of a mythical or historical Jesus will be fought in a hundred little battles.
So what is the rest of the argument?
As part of a cumulative case, it is:

(1) Arguably 1 Clement tells us of a belief in a historical man (descendent of Jacob, flesh-and-blood) who was killed recently (first-fruits) and interacted with the apostles and taught them (whether before or after death). All details are vague, which fits in well with the pattern we find in other letters, where we find similar vague expressions of belief in a historical man. It then becomes a question of when the key passages were written. I see that the key passages are all added by the Second Century redactor in your own analysis. If 1 Clement is dated to the 60s or 90s, then it becomes much more significant.
(2) We can compare elements of 1 Clement with similar elements in other letters, especially Paul's, to help us try to understand what is going on in those other letters.

We then go onto the next letter, like the Epistle of Barnabas, to gather further information and build up a cumulative case.
My 'best case' does not become better from redundancy. For example, Lucian adds nothing really new as evidence that we don't already have in Tacitus, so I pass over any detailed analysis of Lucian.

1 Clement does not contain anything not found in 1 Corinthians and also refers to 1 Corinthians. Thus it does not add anything to our case of real incremental value. Unless you can show otherwise?
"... almost every critical biblical position was earlier advanced by skeptics." - Raymond Brown
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