The Raving Theist

Dedicated to Jesus Christ, Now and Forever

God Squad Review CLXX (Biblical Inerrancy)

June 5, 2006 | 85 Comments

“We don’t love the Bible because it’s old; we love it because it’s true,” said the God Squad. But that was last week. This week, in response to a question about conflicting scriptural accounts regarding the sequence of creation of men, animals, and women, they dismiss the book as a bunch of “legends.” Specifically, they embrace the “non-religious, scholarly view” known as the “Documentary Hypothesis”:

Under this hypothesis, the story of the creation of man in Genesis, Chapter 1 (the account where man and woman are created at the same time) was written by the P author, and the story of the Garden of Eden and the creation of Adam and Eve was written by the J author. So, there are two stories of the creation of man because there were two authors, and the authors reflected two different traditions of storytelling about the creation.

The Squad also presents a religious defense of the “storytelling.” Apparently, it can be explained by more storytelling — of a sort that has no scriptural basis at all:

For religious folk who believe that God wrote the Bible and that there can’t be contradictions of any kind in the text, these two stories were a big problem.

One very interesting Jewish commentarial tradition tries to reconcile the two stories by teaching that they describe the creation of two different women. The woman created with the man in Chapter One was called Lillith, and the woman described in the Eden narrative was, of course, Eve.

Lillith was, according to legend, the first wife of Adam. She had long, flowing red hair and was the first feminist! When Adam told her he was boss, she fought with him and ultimately flew away from him (OK, so we forgot to tell you, Lillith had wings!). Adam was so down in the dumps because Lillith had left him to make demon children at the Red Sea (it matched her hair) that he complained to God. That’s when God decided to make a second woman out of Adam’s rib so she would get the idea that Adam was No. 1. Lillith definitely got bad press from this story, but what do you expect from a legend that’s more than 4,000 years old?

In other words, you’d have to be a complete idiot to accept a literal interpretation of Genesis — it’s much to old to be true. Unlike the stuff written just 2,000 years ago, in which dead men fly to heaven without wings. Only angry atheists could doubt that.

Comments

85 Responses to “God Squad Review CLXX (Biblical Inerrancy)”

  1. Mister Swill
    June 5th, 2006 @ 9:13 am

    Excellent post.

  2. Lily
    June 5th, 2006 @ 10:10 am

    Yes, very interesting but you have drawn the wrong conclusion from what the squad said. This is all the more dismaying as I and others like SteveG, Mort, etc. have spent so much time and effort trying to educate the readers here about the Bible and it doesn’t seem to make the slightest impression. Let’s see if I can summarize:

    1. The Old Testament is a collection of writings (not dictated by God) in a number of languages written over a couple thousand years that document how the ancient Jews understood their history and their relationship with God. Believing, as we do, that God acts in history, we believe that the lessons there carry important messages for us today.

    2. Christians accept that the Old Testament accurately depicts what God wants to reveal about Himself there because Jesus did.

    3. Literal interpretations of a sacred text are to be expected from the uneducated. What else is new? Disagreement about how best to understand the ancient stories is also to be expected. That is why there are so many fields of academic study devoted to just that (archaeology, philology, etc.)

    There was a remarkably silly discussion in the forum I think it was, about the Tower of Babel. I don’t think a single person there could be bothered to spare 10 seconds to look at a commentary by someone who actually knows something about the OT, to see what s/he had to say about its meaning.

    Sometimes, I despair.

  3. Snap Crafter
    June 5th, 2006 @ 11:14 am

    1. Yet you expect us to believe it as literal. Or, atleast most christians do.

    2. So you do want us to believe in a talking snake and donkey correct?

    3. I’m sorry, why would a god be so cryptic? Why would he help atheists to disbelief? And I’m sorry, I do believe those fields do a bit more than try to prove your old dusty babble.

    It’s meaning is useless if you are expected to take it literally. And if you can’t take the entire bible literally, your essentially cherry-picking what you wish to believe. Why do you expect anyone with this type of wishy-washy mentality to garner any respect? Especailly among freethinkers.

  4. Lily
    June 5th, 2006 @ 11:31 am

    Free-thinkers? Don’t make me laugh. Most of you are non-thinkers, at least when it comes to religion.

    That is particularly true in this case. You haven’t read what I wrote, or else you didn’t understand it. If you had, you would know that every word of it had something to do with not taking everything literally.

    Try again. If you still don’t get it, I will explain a little further.

  5. June
    June 5th, 2006 @ 1:22 pm

    In the caves of the Neander Valley, we find primitive drawings from 10,000 years age. These are early records of contemporaneous events, but nobody collects these into a sacred text that passes important messages from God to us.

    Anyone who studies legends knows the folk tales collected by the Brothers Grimm. These are important stories filled with wisdom and lessons, but that does not mean Cinderella and Snow White really existed, or that God was speaking through them.

    And if you spend a little time studying the stars, you will sooner or later see the outline of figures like the Big Dipper and Orion the Hunter. But just because you can see them, and many others can see them, does not mean that they really exist, or that they carry important messages from God.

    What is important is to get a grip on your brain, to distinguish fact from fantasy, imagination from reality, wishes from dishes.

  6. Gathercole
    June 5th, 2006 @ 1:28 pm

    Lily, if you believe the Bible is not literally true, you would do better to “educate” Christians about that fact. After all, 0% of atheists believe the Bible is literally true, but 50-60% of Christians do (in the US). Incidentally, do you believe the New Testament (particularly the Gospels) are literally true?

  7. Snap Crafter
    June 5th, 2006 @ 1:36 pm

    Of course she does, cause they got Jesus! Right Lily? Cherry-picking, just like I said.

  8. Thorngod
    June 5th, 2006 @ 2:33 pm

    Lily surely does not take the NT literally, since it has Jesus countermanding several of Yahweh’s directives, notably the “eye for an eye” prescription (though Christians constantly appeal to Yahweh’s prescription instead of to that of Jesus).

  9. Lily
    June 5th, 2006 @ 3:15 pm

    We have been through this so many times! I don’t expect to convert you to belief in God but surely it isn’t too much to hope that over time you would come to a more sophisticated appreciation of the study of ancient texts!

    I never cease to wonder how many educated people there are on this forum whose brains close down when it comes to literature. Just recently another topic in the forums tackled the story of Job. Those commenters actually seemed to think that the story is to be taken literally, even though it begins with “once upon a time” (or close enough as makes no nevermind). What good is an education that leaves out any understanding of literature, history, etc?

    June almost comes close to understanding in her 2nd paragraph.

    Gathercole: Yes, I believe the Gospels are literally true. But I suspect that you and I don’t mean exactly the same thing by that.

    Snapcrafter, while I admire your skill at disrupting your high school graduation, you don’t know how to approach an ancient text of the sort the Bible is. Maybe, if you go to college, you might fulfill one of your basic studies requirements by taking a course like “The Bible as Literature”. It will open up an entirely new world to you and one that you might enjoy. Cherry-picking, which seems to be a favorite word among those who don’t have a clue, hardly enters into it.

    Thorn: A very interesting problem, indeed. Did Jesus countermand several of Yahweh’s prescriptions. How could he do that? Why? Do you think, maybe, that there is a reasonable explanation at your fingertips, when you read an actual New Testament account, instead of depending on hearsay?

  10. HappyNat
    June 5th, 2006 @ 3:29 pm

    Oh Lily, why do you bother with us close minded folks. Our brains just can’t comprehend the firm grasp you have on reality, let alone the truth of the bible.

    As someone who has read the bible, I feel my version may have been defective. When I read the bible and studied it was all passed off as truth. Where is the line drawn between the literal and the history/parable sections? Shouldn’t the parable sections be in italics or and different color ink or something? I just want to know what unbelievable stuff is true and what unbelievable stuff is to advance the plot so to speak.

  11. gravitybear
    June 5th, 2006 @ 3:50 pm

    Lily, I take it that what you mean by a “sophisticated appreciation” is the way you view it?

    Also, what else could be meant by “literally true?”

  12. Thorngod
    June 5th, 2006 @ 4:09 pm

    “Hearsay,” Lily?!!! I learned the Bible from the King James version, and this quote may not be precise, as I don’t have my copy at this location, but I think I remember quite well that Jesus is quoted therein as saying “Ye have heard it said, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but I say unto you, love your enemies; do good to those who persecute you.” If it was hearsay, it was not so noted in that Gospel….
    It is not any one, or any several, of the thousands of Biblical “discrepencies” enumerated by the scholars of “the higher criticism” that disprove the object of your faith. Judaism and Christianity are no more silly than any other spiritualist belief system. But the sheer weight of the fantasies, and the utter disconnect between the superstitions and reason, are just too, too much for an honest brain to entertain.

  13. Lily
    June 5th, 2006 @ 4:37 pm

    #10– You are not thinking, you are reacting blindly. I said nothing about grasping reality nor did I say anything about the truth of the Bible, except in so far as saying that I accept its claims. We are talking here about the Bible as a piece of literature.

    What does it mean to look at the Bible as piece of literature? It means, among other things, to understand that it contains a number of genres (types of literature). For example, poetry, history, chronicles, fable, etc.

    It means to understand that it is not “cherry-picking” to interpret a fable differently than one does a narrative that purports to be relating facts (e.g. a gospel). It is plain common sense. If you read the passage in which Jesus tells his disciples to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves, do you expect to read next that they began laying eggs and slithering on their bellies through Jerusalem?

    It means to understand something of the cultures that produced the writings. One expects the writings of an iron age author to differ from those of someone writing in 65 a.d. and for those writings to reflect the cultures of the authors writing in them.

    There is much more but you get the idea. To not understand this is to not understand how to read.

    #11. Yes, if you understood it the way I understand it, you would have a much more sophisticated appreciation. If you understood it the way thousands, literally, tens of thousands of educated people past and present, scholars and merely educated readers did and do, you would have a much more sophisticated appreciation of it than I do. Then you could help me with the harder parts.

    What else could be meant by “literally true”. I don’t know but usually when people here ask that, they are intending to pounce on the inconsistencies among the 4 narratives, just as if no one had ever noticed them before. Since those don’t pose much of a problem I was just trying to forestall another Bible 101 lesson.

  14. Lily
    June 5th, 2006 @ 4:46 pm

    Thorn: A quick answer– the hearsay I was referring to was that of other people telling you that Jesus was countermanding (I love that word in this context!!) God’s commands. If you read the Bible, as you say, you seem to have missed the part where Jesus explained that he had come to fulfill the law and to go beyond it and write it on our hearts.

    In other words, an eye for an eye (which is hardly a bad thing since the point of that was to forbid the punishment from exceeding the crime) gives way to forgiveness as a better way.

    And he can do it cuz he is God.

  15. Gathercole
    June 6th, 2006 @ 12:04 am

    Lily, you said that you believe the New Testament is literally true. Actually, I wasn’t going to pounce on contradictions, but rather ask you if believe Jesus actually performed all the miracles attributed to him by the Gospels.

  16. Lily
    June 6th, 2006 @ 2:04 am

    Yes, I do believe that he performed those miracles.

  17. bernarda
    June 6th, 2006 @ 3:45 am

    Lily, “It means to understand that it is not “cherry-picking” to interpret a fable differently than one does a narrative that purports to be relating facts (e.g. a gospel).”

    “Purports” is an appropriate word since there is no confirmed evidence, nor even a shred of evidence, that the Jesus fellow ever existed or that any of the stories in the gospels ever happened. All it is fable at the best and most surely just mythology.

    What do you make of Paul, the first xtian writer? He never even claimed to know much about Jesus the man. He said he got his information from visions and revelations. Yes, he thought he had a direct broadband link to the almighty.

    Is that fable or narrative that purports to be relating facts?

  18. Lily
    June 6th, 2006 @ 6:54 am

    Bernarda:

    Although you folks here love to profess that Jesus never existed, you must be aware on some level that the entire academic world, present and past finds this so risible, that they won’t even review the books the “Never existed” folks write, much less publish their articles. It would really do you all some good, intellectually, to accept that Jesus existed. It won’t necessarily mean that you will become believers but you will, at least, enter the mainstream of educated folk.

    To answer your question directly, Paul wrote letters to the various young churches. As you undoubtedly know, epistle is merely a fancy word for letter. In his letters he describes his ministry, encourages and admonishes the young congregations, and explains what is required of them by their new faith.

    So no, no fables there. Now you might doubt the truth of what he wrote, but that does not put it in any literary category other than the one it belongs in.

  19. JUST_ANOTHER_PRIMATE
    June 6th, 2006 @ 6:57 am

    I have heard more than once on christian radio that all these nonbelievers who challange the veracity of the bible are hopelessly wrong. Because, unless one is born again, one can not truly understand the bible – satan is at work when these nonbelievers (no matter how intelligent) read the bible and their interpretations can not be trusted.

    So there – all heathens need not critique the bible!

  20. Lily
    June 6th, 2006 @ 7:14 am

    That’s just dumb. But I do think it would help if non-believers actually did read the Bible once in awhile. The biblical commentary on the forums is just as ignorant and laughable as any “dreaded fundy” on evolution– despite their hilarious claims to know the Bible better than Christians do.

  21. Dada Saves
    June 6th, 2006 @ 8:00 am

    Lily’s world:

    Post #2 “There was a remarkably silly discussion in the forum …”
    Post #4 “Most of you are non-thinkers …”
    Post #9 “I never cease to wonder how many educated people there are on this forum whose brains close down …”
    Post #13 “You are not thinking, you are reacting blindly.”
    Posts #14 & 16 [Not one word of condescension. Alert the media!]
    Post #20 “That’s just dumb.”

    I know you’ve been called a cunt before, but that’s unfair to cunts. And I see why you’ve retreated from the forum: because there your pretensions to higher ‘education’ are quickly exposed as a sham, and remain indefinitely for all to gawp at and wonder, ‘How can someone so dense be so smug?’ In the comments section you can ooze your extreme unction (typically void of content), but the thread disappears in a day or two, after which you return and ‘never cease to wonder’ about atheist ignorance. You continue to give theists (and cunts) a bad name.

  22. bernarda
    June 6th, 2006 @ 8:19 am

    What is just dumb is to say something like,

    “you must be aware on some level that the entire academic world, present and past finds this so risible, that they won’t even review the books the “Never existed” folks write, much less publish their articles.”

    You should read something other than bible mumbo-jumbo.

    At best, serious scholars and not bible-thumpers will accept that maybe the Jesus fellow could have existed.

    A few of the “nonpublished” books on the nonexistence of Jesus-boy:

    Foundations of Christianity, Karl Kaustky

    Its Gods Word, and Forgery In Christianity–Joseph Wheless

    The Jesus Puzzle–Earl Doherty

    THe Christ Conspiracy–Acharwa S.

    The Incredible Shrinking Son of Man–Robert Price

    Can We Trust the New Testament–George Wells

    The Atheist Universe–David Mills

    To name just a few that you can find at Amazon.

    I recommend that last one first because it debunks all sorts of god myths.

    I never expect a christian to get any fact right. That would be a true miracle.

  23. Oz
    June 6th, 2006 @ 8:24 am

    Lily, several of the earlier books are straight law codes, and most of those laws are ridiculously oppressive with brutally disproportionate punishments. Before you get worked up about how those laws were meant for the Jews or how Jesus’ sacrifice erased the need for them, consider this: laws are supposed to reflect morality, and laws from God should reflect ultimate morality. Let’s assume that the OT laws are no longer any good and step through the possibilities:
    1. The OT laws were never right, which means God deceived the Jews. Why would I worship a liar?
    2. God has different laws for different people, in which case how do you know we aren’t following our divine laws? Of course, one might question why God would do that; it’s very confusing for us and seems to be counter-productive for him.
    3. God changes the law on a whim. Today you’re supposed to love your neighbor, maybe tomorrow you’ll be ordered to eat him. If this is the case then you are claiming that the only basis for morality is obedience – the repugnance of this stance is demonstrated throughout history.
    4. The laws were never God’s to begin with. Of course, the Church founders included them in their holy scripture and Jesus himself saw fit to educate himself in them, so if this is true it calls into question the truth of Jesus as well.
    5. Some other possibility?

  24. bernarda
    June 6th, 2006 @ 8:50 am

    This second part is about Paul. Paul wrote letters, so what? His ideas as he said were based on his visions and revelations direct from god. He didn’t need to know about Jesus-boy and his disciples.

    For an analysis of Paul’s writing,

    http://www.bowness.demon.co.uk/paul.htm

    “This article shows that there is no evidence that the Christianity spread by Paul was the same Christianity of the disciples in Jerusalem or was the same Christianity that lead to the production of the Gospels. Indeed, Paul had so little interest in what the disciples had to say about Jesus that he never mentions any person, who, according to Paul, saw Jesus while he was alive.”

    This guy though does seem to believe in at least the possiblity of a historical Jesus.

    For a more general analysis of the bible stories;

    http://www.bowness.demon.co.uk/christ.htm

  25. HappyNat
    June 6th, 2006 @ 9:57 am

    Lily said,
    “It means to understand that it is not “cherry-picking” to interpret a fable differently than one does a narrative that purports to be relating facts (e.g. a gospel). It is plain common sense. If you read the passage in which Jesus tells his disciples to be wise as serpents and gentle as doves, do you expect to read next that they began laying eggs and slithering on their bellies through Jerusalem?”

    The is a difference between taking a line for a story literally (they didn’t lay eggs, really?!?!?) and believing that the action in the bible actually took place. Since you know some parts of the bible actually happened and some did not I just asked how you (or anybody) knew which was which. This is not “plain common sense” or else there would be unbelievers in mass and there wouldn’t be 10,000 different christian factions.

    I will agree that the bible is a fine piece of literature. I’ve taken Bible as Lit at the high school and college level, wonderful interesting stuff to read, especially revelations which can actually make sense with the right narcotics.

  26. lily
    June 6th, 2006 @ 12:56 pm

    Wow, I can’t do justice to all that has been written here, since I last checked in. Let me try to answer a couple of things:

    Bernarda: I think you may have misunderstood what I wrote. I didn’t write that people who don’t believe that Jesus existed don’t write books. I wrote that no serious scholar bothers to review them (the books) because they are so far outside the pale of accepted knowledge. Likewise, the non-believers in the historical reality of Jesus can’t get published in the scholarly (peer reviewed) journals. One guy, whose name escapes me at the moment, got around that by starting his own journal. Serious scholars do not doubt the existence of the historical Jesus, even when they do not believe that He is God.

    This, from your next message, is just plain mistaken: His (Paul’s) ideas as he said were based on his visions and revelations direct from god. He didn’t need to know about Jesus-boy and his disciples.

    That is quite untrue. While Paul’s conversion took place after the resurrection his “ideas” were based on some 17 years of study with other Christians after conversion and he did meet with the Apostles both initially (after) conversion and after his studies to get their official OKEY DOKEY on his mission to the gentiles.

    Now it is quite true that he gave definitive shape to Christianity in the early years and some have tried to argue that he changed Jesus’ teaching but that view is mistaken. Paul’s contributions enabled gentiles to whom he was preaching, to understand the faith. The Jews could understand where Jesus was coming from far easier than the gentile converts.

    Dada: Whatever. At least you are an equal opportunity crank and potty-mouth, when you take things out of context. You don’t like me pointing out when the atheists are wrong (or silly) and you don’t like it when I do it to fundies (as in #20). I think I will change my wicked ways.

    Not.

    Oz: Yes, there is another possibility. You are right that many of the early books are books of the law. But you need to recognize that the law given by God to Moses in the form of the commandments are not unique. They are the same laws (with some shades of cultural differences) that are universal to mankind. That is to say that adultery, murder, etc. were prohibited in all cultures and the penalties for transgressions were stiff, to say the least.

    You say Lily, several of the earlier books are straight law codes, and most of those laws are ridiculously oppressive with brutally disproportionate punishments.

    For instance? Most of what I see makes perfect sense, the penalties for theft , deception, and lying would improve our society; but let’s discuss one or two that you find particularly egregious.

    HappyNat

    I can’t tell if we are talking about the same thing. You wrote:

    The is a difference between taking a line for a story literally (they didn’t lay eggs, really?!?!?) and believing that the action in the bible actually took place. Since you know some parts of the bible actually happened and some did not I just asked how you (or anybody) knew which was which. This is not “plain common sense” or else there would be unbelievers in mass and there wouldn’t be 10,000 different christian factions.

    If by an action you mean an event like the resurrection, there is nothing to interpret. The writers of the Gospels have made a claim and it is either true or false. One will accept or reject the claim based on the available evidence.

    What I am talking about are things like how one understands an episode like the tower of Babel or understands the Book of Job. To take that as a literal account of something that happened to a man named Job is quite unnecessary. The book starts out with “Once upon a time” (well, not exactly but close to that). It needs to be recognized as a clue that a story is coming.

    Likewise when the Psalmist writes that the “hills clapped their hands for joy”, one hopes that the reader will understand that hills don’t have arms and that we are looking at metaphoric language.

    I know that many people don’t understand this. When they are Christians, it puts them in the absurd position of assigning literal truth to things that are pretty clearly not to be taken literally. But I have no wish to defend that. I want people, believers or not, to read the Bible with literary appreciation. Apart from theological concerns, it is the single most important text for understanding most of the art, music, literature, etc. of the Western world. One can enjoy all of them in ignorance of the Bible, I suppose, but how much richer is one’s understanding and pleasure, if one does recognize the connections?

  27. June
    June 6th, 2006 @ 1:22 pm

    Another possibility for the early biblical laws is that they made sense in their time. Mankind had just evolved from the nomadic lifestyle to settling down to build farms and villages. They needed rules for coping with life in more permanent settlements, and their elders collected the rules as laws.

    Three thousand years later, some rules needed changing, and new rules were needed as they evolved culturally. Of course, in those days everything was interpreted as coming from God; later societies saw everything directed by a (divine) Emperor and King. And so they, literally, amended the Bible.

    Today, we have evolved to seeing that our rules come from ourselves, as a People, and our knowledge, our science, our medicine. We understand behavior such as sex, menstruation, masturbation a lot better and have adjusted our laws accordingly.

    Except, of course, for a few Christians with the itch to embed ancient discrimination into our Constitution.

  28. Thorngod
    June 6th, 2006 @ 2:43 pm

    It is fairly obvious, I think, that the more intelligent the believer, the less literal will be his or her interpretation of holy writ. One has to be an idiot, or purblind, to insist on the literal truth of contradictions. My own expression for the relationship of mental sophistication to religious bondage–which one or two may have read elsewhere–is, that the farther one goes into the jungle, the more religious it gets.
    And that applies literally: Those many Americans who actually believe that theirs is the most religious of countries–and it is religious aplenty–are apparently not well acquainted with Muslim societies, where the faithful kneel in prayer toward Mecca five times every day, and in even casual conversation preface every other remark with “If Allah will,….” Go farther into the bushes–the Amazon, or the jungles of the Phillipines or New Guinea–and you find that every ordinary act of the native bears its religious weight, and often requires a formulaic performance.
    The generally more sophisticated Christian, Muslim, Jew or Hindu, of course, would label the primitive as simply superstitious, not truly religious–and though some will admit the primitiveness of origin of their own faith, they will insist that their one and unchanging God was with them from the beginning, and only seemed to change his character as people became ever better equipped to understand his nature and his expectations of them, his chosen people. (“After all, look at our Bible at our sacred rituals, at our long history of learned religious scholars and their erudite exegetics. There is simply no comparison between our religion and the Muki or the Arark.”)
    Well, I’ll wager that if you write out in simple form the primary beliefs and rituals of the Christian, the Hindu, the Muslim, the Muki and the Arark, mixing them in random sequence, and then present them to an intelligent visitor from Tau Ceti, he will be unable to distinguish the supposedly higher religious beliefs and practices from those of the “merely” superstitious. Could you?
    I suspect that most intelligent believers have strong doubts (though perhaps largely subconscious) about the validity of their faith, but the doubt is suppressed by their terror of death, a terror augmented, in many cases, by the possibility of eternal punishment. They seem not to realize that they die every time the body “sleeps.” Every evening, when they lie abed, consciousness (the “I,” the self, or “soul”) ceases to exist, and is resurrected by the brain when the body has finished its housework and has need again of its seeing-eye dog. And when they take that final sleep, how do they propose to wake again as the same consciousnesses when the blueprints for their souls have been erased from their brains?
    When you sleep tonight, my brethren, if you continue to sleep forever, will you care? And if He wakens you to another world, and you had not worshipped or believed in Him, will He treat you less mercifully than I would? Forget about souls and heavens and hells. They are in His province. Your business is this mundane world and your fellow beings. If you do your best by them, then, if you have such a thing as a “soul,” you can be sure He’ll take good care of it.
    But if you just can’t face this cruel and godless universe alone, then have it yahweh. Amen.

  29. Chris Treborn
    June 6th, 2006 @ 6:16 pm

    it’s like a loop in time. Lily tries to calmly and eloquently explain her position, and then she is abused by nit picking ratbags who deliberately fail to understand what she is saying. Just as most university faculties are populated by people who are not allowed to think for themselves, so too are the RA members all part of a uniform custard brain cult. Even RA himself is villified because he doesn’t agree with you about abortion. You are like thought nazi’s. Those who don’t agree with you are scum. You constantly go on about how atheists have nothing in common other than a non-belief in god. This could be the subject of a Penn and Teller bullshit episode. Yopu all “think” in lockstep, and when a superior mind challenges you, you jump on her like vermin. In case you thiink universities are places of free thought, just try giving a lecture on the problems with evolution. No biology faculty member would even dare to suggest that evolution was incorrect. The hypocrisy is stifling.

    God bless you all , assholes.

  30. Rob
    June 6th, 2006 @ 7:49 pm

    Chris, I agree that Lily has calmly and eloquently explained her position, but so has most of the atheist commentators, too. Are our objections really nitpicking, or are you using that term to reduce in your own mind the qualities of the argument against her? Do we really deliberately fail to understand what she is saying or are we trying to point out a different view of things that she is overlooking? Are you really reading the other comments objectively, Chris or are you betrayed by your own biases?

    Its funny to hear you talk about how our hypocrisy is stifling, because it seems to me that you betray your own hypocrisy with everything you write, including with your mock-irony sign-off.

  31. June
    June 6th, 2006 @ 10:16 pm

    What a nasty case of paranoia you have there, Chris Trebuchet. What put you over the edge? One too many lectures on Evolution? Too much thinking about not being allowed to think?

    So you discovered how we control TRA. One week we kiss his ass about abortion, next week we vilify him.

    Oh, the carefree life of an atheist, trala trala!

  32. Chris Treborn
    June 7th, 2006 @ 3:45 pm

    Rob, there is no mock irony.

    I think you are an asshole, but as a christian I hope you can accept the love of our lord. Hence, god bless you, asshole.

  33. Mookie
    June 7th, 2006 @ 9:53 pm

    “No biology faculty member would even dare to suggest that evolution was incorrect.”

    Good one, Chris, I laughed very long and hard at that one.

  34. bernarda
    June 8th, 2006 @ 2:01 am

    Lily, just what journals and scholars do you consider to be serious? Apparently only those that agree with you. As I said, serious scholars at most can say that Jesus could possibly have existed. The burden of proof is on those who believe there was a historical Jesus. Where is the evidence?

    “We know virtually nothing about the persons who wrote the gospels we call Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John.”

    -Elaine Pagels, Professor of Religion at Princeton University, (The Gnostic Gospels)

    “Some hoped to penetrate the various accounts and to discover the “historical Jesus”. . . and that sorting out “authentic” material in the gospels was virtually impossible in the absence of independent evidence.””

    -Elaine Pagels, Professor of Religion at Princeton University

    For a nonserious source, but with serious references:

    http://www.nobeliefs.com/exist.htm

    Another: http://www.jesuspuzzle.com/

    As to Paul, you don’t seem to have consulted the analysis I linked. Paul did get his ideas from revelation, not by study, by which I think you mean the 17 years between his road to Damascus revelation and the apostalic council in 50 CE.

    Paul knew nothing of Jesus directly and claims to have met Peter and James, but for all of two weeks. Certainly a serious student, wasn’t he? Revelation was his source.

    “To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me.” 1 Corinthians.

    “11: But I certify you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached of me is not after man.
    12: For I neither received it of man, neither was I taught it, but by the revelation of Jesus Christ. ” Galatians.

    “I did not confer with flesh and blood,
    17: nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia; and again I returned to Damascus.
    18: Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Cephas, and remained with him fifteen days.
    19: But I saw none of the other apostles except James the Lord’s brother. ” Galatians.

    Paul was a real space case.

  35. Lily
    June 8th, 2006 @ 6:55 am

    Serious scholarly journals=peer reviewed (peer=by scholars working in the same field). Scholars=people who have studied and, usually, obtained the highest degrees possible in their fields of study. They regularly submit their work and ideas to the scrutiny of others in their fields. Scholarly journals do not publish work without submitting that work to a couple of reviewers who scrutinize it to see if it is a contribution to knowledge in the field worth publishing.

    Pagels is a feminist with an agenda. While she has done some extremely interesting work, it has to be taken with a large grain of salt, which is why people in her field are either vehemently for or against her. It is possible to be a legitimate scholar and hold opinions against the mainstream. But the usual writers that you all name to prove that Jesus didn’t exist, are (virtually all of them) not considered scholars in any relevant field.

    As for Paul, you need to read a little bit more about him by someone without an axe to grind. If you really would like me to address your questions, I will do so in another message.

  36. bernarda
    June 8th, 2006 @ 7:24 am

    Lily, I really don’t give a hoot about what you think or if you respond or not. As with all xtians, I just point out your errors and falsehoods and nonsense for others to see. You have yet to give an example of a “serious” journal. You use ad hominem on Pagels rather than addressing her points.

    Are you saying that Pagels does not meet your criteria of someone who is serious? Have you done as much research on the subject as Pagels? Have you read anyone who has? She has a “feminist agenda”! Holy Cow! That certainly proves she must be wrong! Do you even have a clue as to what it means to argue a point?

    Just who are the bible-thumping scholars you refer to?

    Your Jesus is just a fraud, a cartoon character made up of elements of many other superheros that existed earlier. Herakles is one notable example. It is just as reasonable to believe in Herakles as it is to believe in Jesus.

    Now you are probably cruising around to find some evidence that Paul was not a space cadet. Sorry, look as much as you want, there isn’t any.

  37. Lily
    June 8th, 2006 @ 8:25 am

    Actually, I am not “cruising around looking for evidence” of anything. Having read your diatribes before, I knew you weren’t interested in a serious discussion of anything.

    Sorry, I didn’t realize you wanted actual names of journals! These are quite easy to find but I don’t mind naming a few for you:

    1. Journal of the American Academy of Religion
    2. Anglican Theological Review
    3. Religious Studies (Cambridge)
    4. Journal for the Scientific study of Religion
    5. Journal of Early Christian Studies
    6. Journal of Cecclesiastical History
    7. The Catholic Historical Review
    8. Journal of Religious studies
    9. Religion (London, Eng.)
    10. Sewanee theological review
    11. International journal for the study of the Christian church
    12.Studia theologica (Oslo)
    13. The Princeton Seminary bulletin
    14. Union Seminary quarterly review

    This is just the tip of the tip of the iceberg. It doesn’t cover cross-disciplinary journals (archaeology, history, language, literature), nor the umpteen hundred produced by denominations or particular schools of thought. I am not sure what good this list really does.

    Did you really think that there weren’t a million and one scholarly journals in theology and religion? Or that religion and theology are subjects of serious intellectual study?

  38. Lily
    June 8th, 2006 @ 8:33 am

    Rats, that should read Or that religion and theology are not subjects of serious intellectual study?

    You sure are quick with the ad hominems and the insults. If you can find a word of criticism in what I said about Pagels, good on ya. I think you read and see what you want to. I guess you also want a list of “biblical scholars”?

    You won’t have heard of any of them, since your education doesn’t seem to extend into this area but if you are serious, I can compile a list. You might start with someone easy to investigate like N.T. Wright.

  39. bernarda
    June 8th, 2006 @ 10:11 am

    So, just what do these journals have to say? Give a link to the pertinent articles.

    Just by chance I chose the Journal for the Scientific(sic)study of Religion and typed in “jesus” in the search. Here is what I got:

    http://www.ingentaconnect.com/search;jsessionid=3q2sge14g02vb.henrietta?title=jesus&database=1&search.x=24&search.y=10

    Read the abstracts, they are quite amusing.

    I also looked up “pagels”. Not even a single reference.

    Of course judging by the titles, none of the others could have any bias could they?

    Still no reasoned defense of Paul the whacko.

  40. bernarda
    June 8th, 2006 @ 10:22 am

    I should say though that a found an interesting comment at the Journal of Religion and Society, not on your list:

    “The United States’ deep social problems are all the more disturbing because the nation enjoys exceptional per capita wealth among the major western nations (Barro and McCleary; Kasman; PEW; UN Development Programme, 2000, 2004). Spending on health care is much higher as a portion of the GDP and per capita, by a factor of a third to two or more, than in any other developed democracy (UN Development Programme, 2000, 2004).

    The U.S. is therefore the least efficient western nation in terms of converting wealth into cultural and physical health. Understanding the reasons for this failure is urgent, and doing so requires considering the degree to which cause versus effect is responsible for the observed correlations between social conditions and religiosity versus secularism.

    It is therefore hoped that this initial look at a subject of pressing importance will inspire more extensive research on the subject. Pressing questions include the reasons, whether theistic or non-theistic, that the exceptionally wealthy U.S. is so inefficient that it is experiencing a much higher degree of societal distress than are less religious, less wealthy prosperous democracies.

    Conversely, how do the latter achieve superior societal health while having little in the way of the religious values or institutions? There is evidence that within the U.S. strong disparities in religious belief versus acceptance of evolution are correlated with similarly varying rates of societal dysfunction, the strongly theistic, anti-evolution south and mid-west having markedly worse homicide, mortality, STD, youth pregnancy, marital and related problems than the northeast where societal conditions, secularization, and acceptance of evolution approach European norms (Aral and Holmes; Beeghley, Doyle, 2002).

    It is the responsibility of the research community to address controversial issues and provide the information that the citizens of democracies need to chart their future courses.

    http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/2005/2005-11.html

  41. Lily
    June 8th, 2006 @ 10:38 am

    I know I am going to regret taking you seriously (semi-seriously), but… What on earth are you talking about? What do you mean you “looked up” Pagels ? If you looked her up in any citation index, you would find hundreds and hundreds of entries. If you looked in any database (Ingenta ought to be one) that covers religion and theology, you should find quite a few, if you do a correct search. I am not sure that Pagels and Jesus will get anything. Pagels and Gnosticism should find plenty.

    If you mean you looked in JSSR and didn’t find that she had published in it, huh??? THere are hundreds of scholarly journals she hasn’t published in.

    Here is one search result in one database “Academic Search Premiere”

    IRENAUS, THE ‘CANON OF TRUTH,’ AND THE GOSPEL OF JOHN: ‘MAKING A DIFFERENCE’ THROUGH HERMENEUTICS AND RITUAL. By: Pagels, Elaine. Vigiliae Christianae, Nov2002, Vol. 56 Issue 4, p339, 33p; (AN 8783455)

    2. Exegesis of Genesis 1 in the Gospels of Thomas and John. By: Pagels, Elaine H.. Journal of Biblical Literature, Fall99, Vol. 118 Issue 3, p477, 20p; (AN 2222204)

    3. The social history of Satan, Part II. By: Pagels, Elaine. Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Spring94, Vol. 62 Issue 1, p17, 42p;

    4. The Pnematikos-Psychikos Terminology in I Corithians: A Study in the Theology of the Corinthain Opponents of Paul and Its Relation to Gnosticism (Book). By: Pagels, Elaine H.. Journal of Biblical Literature, Jun76, Vol. 95 Issue 2, p307, 2/3p; (AN 10882314)

    5. “THE MYSTERY OF THE RESURRECTION” : A GNOSTIC READING OF 1 CORINTHIANS 15. By: Pagels, Elaine H.. Journal of Biblical Literature, Jun74, Vol. 93 Issue 2, p276, 13p

    In the database “Research Library” I got the following result:

    24 documents found for: Pagels, Elaine (person) AND Christianity

    Two football fields would not hold all that has been written about Paul over the last 2000 years. You can be certain I am not going to bother to try and discuss him with you. You have not demonstrated any grasp of the details of civilized conversation much less any desire to actually learn something.

  42. Snap Crafter
    June 8th, 2006 @ 11:24 am

    Lily, post #35: “…read a little bit more about him by someone without an axe to grind.”

    Yet in post number 37, she lists a string of journals, half of which obviously of a christian origin, thus they would have the figurative ‘axe to grind’. Of course, me being the uneducated narrow-minded atheist, maybe she was just listing that string of journals for a different reason than to support her Jesus-myth. It just read like that to me.

    I guess anything is fine as long as it supports YOU right Lily? I guess it is alright, I will forgive you. One must forgive ignorance right Lily? I mean you do it SO often on this site right?

  43. Lily
    June 8th, 2006 @ 11:46 am

    Snappy,
    What on earth do you think you are playing at? You just finished high school. You don’t know what scholarly journals are, nor what the databases I alluded to are, nor whether the journals I named support my particular views or not.

    Let me send you a real flash—

    Many of the journals I named publish vast quantities of articles by non-believers! WOW!!! IMAGINE THAT!!! Not all scholars in the fields of theology and religion are believers. WHO COULD HAVE CONCEIVED OF SUCH A THING????

    Try a little experiment:

    Go to the Library of Congress catalog (the largest library in the world, by the by) : http://catalog.loc.gov/

    Click on “Basic Search”

    Enter in the search text box: theology periodicals

    be sure to choose “Subject browse” in the next box.

    Have fun looking at the 584 results. See how many you can identify as being ones that support my “point of view”.

    Then let me know so I can read them and not bother with the eclectic mix I currently read.

  44. Chris Treborn
    June 8th, 2006 @ 12:16 pm

    Snap is totally put down by logic from Lily. Will snap

    a) apologize

    b) make some insulting comment

    c) ignore the truth

    d) launch some hateful diatribe to obscure the humiliation

    or

    e) blaspheme our Lord

    Only time will tell.

  45. Thorngod
    June 8th, 2006 @ 1:02 pm

    Chris T- (# 29) – The “problems with evolution” are constantly being weeded out by natural selection (ref the increasing percentage of atheists in most western societies, and the gradual withering of ecclesiastical power and influence).
    — By the way: How many Chris Ts are there? The ChrisT of #29 was almost elequent compared to the one or more Chris Ts of previous comments!

  46. Lily
    June 8th, 2006 @ 1:09 pm

    Chris:

    Snap is what? 18? He is all full of himself for having successfully disrupted his high school graduation and is hanging on to his 15 minutes of fame, which have gone to his head. This is actually kinda cute.

    There is nothing new in youngsters thinking that they know it all.

    So I am not really annoyed with him. I am trying to mock him with the end in mind that he will either indignantly try to “show her” by doing some real research and thus learn something about scholarly peer review or, he will slink back to the forum and crow to the rest of the teenagers there about how he told me. And stay away from the adults.

    So many of these commenters are *really* young. It is easy to get angry with them but once you find out you are talking to a potty-mouthed 13 year old, you can be more forgiving.

    What I can’t forgive is the adults here, particularly on the forum, talking in terms so hideously vulgar to a 13 year old “theist” that they should have been arrested for child abuse. The forum is a sewer and I am sorry I ever stepped into it.

    It is one of the things that makes their claims of ethical superiority so gut-wrenchingly laughable.

    I really advise that all of us theists take the long view– many of them will grow up and become sane, sober citizens. Those that are old enough to have made a reasoned decision to believe what they believe (or don’t believe) … well, free will works for them just as it does for us. It ought to be possible to peacefully coexist.

  47. Chris Treborn
    June 8th, 2006 @ 1:35 pm

    Lily,

    I looked in at the forum a few times, and as you say it’s a horrible sewer, full of disgusting filth and self congratulation by poorly educated fools. I will never post there. I don’t know how you manage to remain so calm and collected, with all the unwarranted abuse you get here. Especially from Hermesten: he’s a very angry man. And Choobus? A genuine lunatic. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a conversation that didn’t eventually degenerate into pure rudeness. This seems to happen much more quickly when you expose a flaw in atheist “logic”. I am gkad that someone as clever as you is willing to descend into the mire to defend out lord.

  48. Lily
    June 8th, 2006 @ 2:22 pm

    Chris: You are too kind. I have had my share of snits– but it helps to keep in mind that the people here are our brothers and sisters for whom Christ died.

    As often as I get aggravated with their incivility (if not downright pornographic vulgarity), it is, to my way of thinking, proof positive, if any were needed, that our fight is not against flesh and blood and that we do well to keep that in mind.

    Many of the adults here are very well educated but they apear to be overwhelmingly educated in scientific and technology fields. They are stereotypical materialists, which isn’t a great surprise. I often wonder if they ever read good fiction, go to the opera, or to the theater, etc. They really seem to have no conception of what makes people tick and they are certainly short on historical imagination. I really think that makes a lot of difference.

  49. bernarda
    June 8th, 2006 @ 2:40 pm

    “I looked in at the forum a few times, and as you say it’s a horrible sewer, full of disgusting filth and self congratulation by poorly educated fools.”

    Why thank you Chris. I am honored, especially considering the source. An educated christian? Isn’t that an oxymoron?

    Poor Lily still hasn’t found an excuse for nutto Paul.

  50. Lily
    June 8th, 2006 @ 2:56 pm

    From post 41, which I devoted entirely to you, Bernarda. Couldn’t you please read it? I went to at least 5 minutes worth of trouble.

    “Two football fields would not hold all that has been written about Paul over the last 2000 years. You can be certain I am not going to bother to try and discuss him with you. You have not demonstrated any grasp of the details of civilized conversation much less any desire to actually learn something.”

  51. Facehammer
    June 8th, 2006 @ 3:46 pm

    How can Chris honestly, seriously say these things after his own conduct? I reckon he’s a vampire – he can’t see his own reflection. Chris, are you a vampire? That, or you’re a troll.

    Self-congratulation? Check – you and Lily’s mutual handjobs in these comments.

    Unprovoked, mindless abuse? Check – “God bless you all, assholes.”

    Poorly-educated fools? Check – “No biology major would ever publicly deny evolution” or whatever it was.

    I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: you’re either a dribbling, thrashing spacker or a master of your art.

  52. Snap Crafter
    June 8th, 2006 @ 3:58 pm

    Oh while I’m away the theists will play. All this self-congratulatory banter, it is almost like listening to two computer programs.

    So let’s see what I will address your highness.

    “What on earth do you think you are playing at? You just finished high school. You don’t know what scholarly journals are, nor what the databases I alluded to are, nor whether the journals I named support my particular views or not.”

    You are one to talk about ad hominems yes Lily? You keep prating on about that.

    But let me see if me positing something will throw you off. You argue that because the mainstream of scholars deny something, therefore it is wrong yes? (we will ignore the old testament, since you do not wish to admit that you think they actually happened) But consider this, is not the most of your scholarly repertoire christian? Therefore, would they not take a biased look at the evidence? And I’m curious why you want me to search so vehemently, you are already soiled are you not? You wouldn’t take an unbiased look at anything, your activity within the forum is proof enough of that.

    “So many of these commenters are *really* young. It is easy to get angry with them but once you find out you are talking to a potty-mouthed 13 year old, you can be more forgiving.

    Always taking the high road! Putting us poor ignorant atheists in our places.

    Tell me Lily, what are your evidences for a factual Jesus? Stop throwing articles at us, I barely have time to read it. (as you keep saying, I am only 18 and my mother as such has kicked me out of the house. I am forced to work a job, will probably have to take another atleast until I start my college education) I am fairly certain that paul never mentions a factual Jesus correct, atleast that is what I gather from your long diatribes with all that condescending nature to it. Your excellent at fluffing up your arguments with these flowery words. You are so like your hero Lewis. Well, he was better at it I must admit.

    And to christ reborn, whom has never shown respect and therefore will never garner respect. Have fun in your delusions, asshole.

  53. Chris Treborn
    June 8th, 2006 @ 4:20 pm

    Snap Crafter, I apologise. I did not know you were a child. I would never get involved in an argument with someone so young. It’s not your fault you haven’t had time to experience life.
    God bless you.

  54. Lily
    June 8th, 2006 @ 5:02 pm

    You are one to talk about ad hominems yes Lily? You keep prating on about that.

    Uh, no, Snappy, I don’t think I have ever complained about ad hominems, nor do I typically argue that way. I won’t swear it on the Bible but you would have to find one for me to believe it.

    But it would help if you would look ad hominem up. You are using it incorrectly. I have defended you here, albeit somewhat snarkily.

    Snap: you are so inexperienced that you just don’t get it. Theology and religion are fields of study just like mathematics or French. You can major in them in college. You could go to grad school and study them and get an MA or a PhD or an MDiv, etc. There is no believer’s admission test to get into graduate school. These subjects attract believers and unbelievers alike.

    If you had done as I asked and searched the Lib of Congress catalog, the first thing you would have noticed is that you will find journals dedicated to Islamic Studies, Judaism, Buddhism, etc. It is a huge, well developed field of study with scholars on every side of every question.

    You argue that because the mainstream of scholars deny something, therefore it is wrong yes? (we will ignore the old testament, since you do not wish to admit that you think they actually happened)

    That is a really garbled, incoherent sentence. I will try to decode it. If I get it wrong, please try again.

    The mainstream position on a question can be wrong. We have seen that in science, medicine, etc. However, some things are no longer arguable. For instance, the earth is not flat. No matter how earnestly, passionately and sincerely some individual or group might argue that it is, it is simply outside the pale of discussion.

    That is the case with the historicity of Jesus. It just isn’t worth arguing about. Now try to understand this. The fact that there was a Jesus has never convinced all scholars in the field of theology or related fields that he is God. That is a completely different question.

    There is only one thing that could possibly bring the historicity of Jesus into question (and I am sceptical about that). If a pile of new contemporaneous documents (i.e. never before discovered documents) were found or Herod’s archives miraculously survived and were discovered, then there would be the real possibility of adding solid factual information to what has historically been available. That could conceivably change things.

    But based on the available evidence, those who deny the historicity of Jesus are mistaken.

    I don’t think the Old Testament happened? What can you mean? I have spent much of the last 6-8 months addressing questions about the Old Testament and how it is to be understood. I can’t make heads or tails of your statement.

    And what do you mean that Paul never mentions a factual Jesus? If you mean that he never met him in the flesh, then that is correct. If you mean that he never talks about him, that is incorrect.

    I have taken an unusual amount of energy to answer you, Snap. It isn’t going to happen again. You just aren’t up to my level. Seriously. I am almost three times as old as you are and I have all the degrees, I had the energy to get. I am sorry that you think that is condescending (or that taking the high road is a bad thing, lol!).

    When I go to professional conferences in my field, I am surrounded by lots of people who are better informed, smarter, better read, etc. than I. From them I can learn. It isn’t nearly as likely that I can learn something from a youngster who hasn’t had time to even start seriously thinking or studying the subjects I am interested in.

    That ain’t ad hominem. That is the sober truth.

  55. Erik
    June 8th, 2006 @ 5:39 pm

    Lily,

    The historicity of Jesus is worth arguing about. Leaving aside for the moment the problems with the four canonical gospels, the only evidence that is anywhere close to contemporary is Josephus. But each of his two references show clear signs of having been tampered with in the interim centuries. One would have thought that if the evidence of Jesus’s existence was such a slam dunk, such fabrication of evidence would not only be unnecessary, but counterproductive. As a lawyer, I can tell you quite confidently that I could make hay with this in court — evidence that has clear signs of tampering is severely damaged, if not tossed altogether.

    The gospels themselves are highly problematic as history for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the oldest complete copies are in Greek, a language that presumably was not used in rural Galilee. Therefore, you have to trust no tonly the transcription of what appears to be said and appears to have happened, but the accurate translation of it.

    Another reason the gospels prove problematic is that they are generally dated later in time than the letters of Paul. But Paul’s letters show a definite lack of detail on the life of a recent itinerant preacher and carpenter. And it’s not just lack of detail — it’s lack of detail where you would expect it.

    Just to take a simple example: I have yet to meet a Christian who has visited Jerusalem that did not offer up a glowing description of the Via Dolorosa or the Church of the Holy Sepulchre. Theywere deeply touched to have visited these sites. This is fully understandable as they believe these places are where The Most Important Events in History took place. Is it really reasonable to believe that Paul, one of the foremost expounders of the faith, would not express the slightest interest in these? I mean, I don’t expect an album of travel photos, but wouldn’t you expect at least one mention of it, somewhere?

  56. Lily
    June 8th, 2006 @ 8:28 pm

    Erik: Great questions! Can I answer them to your satisfaction– I am a bit sceptical but I will try.

    Let me get a bit of a webliography out of the way, since I am hoping that you and/or some of the people who read and comment here would be interested in doing a little light research…

    A nice summary of what professional historians think of the “Jesus myth” (though without much of the attendant arguments, naturally, since this is a summary) can be found at http://bede.org.uk/price1.htm (Bede’s Library is a fascinating apologetics site. Anyone who has the time to peruse it will be well rewarded, even if not convinced).

    The same author does a nice round-up of the “History of Scholarly Refutations of the Jesus Myth” http://bede.org.uk/price8.htm Both of these articles are very short and can be adequately perused in 5 minutes (each).

    N.T. Wright (Bishop of Durham{Anglican}) is the grand old man of New Testament scholarship. His fans have gathered up numerous articles and lectures and have put them on an unofficial website at: http://www.ntwrightpage.com/

    If you scroll down a bit his work has been organized into 3 categories:

    Paul; Jesus; everything else (several articles/lectures about the Bible among many others)

    F. F. Bruce, another major star– this time of the Evangelical persuasion, wrote throughout his career about the historicity of the New Testament. Wikipedia has an article and short bibliography here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/F._F._Bruce

    What all this adds up to (when their work is read) is a refutation of your original premise. Scholars do not find the dating of the letters and of the Gospels a problem. I don’t mean that there isn’t still some debate or, rather, agreement to disagree but the debate doesn’t change the acceptance of the reliability of the documents.

    I found a quote from Richard Carrier (of Secular Web fame) on Bede that I think says it all:

    Amateurs often disregard the crucial importance of field-familiarity, i.e. that one must have a long and deep acquaintance with a particular time and culture in order to make reliable judgments about the probable and improbable, the expected and unexpected, and all the other background assumptions necessary to understanding the significance of any particular fact or claim–in short, one must be cognizant not merely of the literary context of a statement, but its entire socio-historical context as well. And that is no easy thing to achieve.

    This is particularly apt in regard to Paul. Paul had a very distinct mission– to announce that God’s covenant with the Jews had been fulfilled– that Jesus Christ was the promised Messiah and Lord of all the earth. So his emphasis is not on Christ’s life but on his kingship (and, in fact, not just the names of the sites but the veneration of the places associated with Christ’s life are a product of late antiquity and early medieval culture). Thus his mission to the gentiles.

    I really can’t do justice to a discussion of Paul in a combox and refer you to any of Wright’s articles/lectures. He is really readable (I think) and an eye-opener.

    As to the problem of language, there are some 5000+ manuscript versions and fragments of the Bible out there from all over the eastern world. They are in virtually complete agreement (a few have episodes like the “woman taken in adultery” that are always put in parentheses in modern Bibles with an explanation that some ancient manuscripts don’t include this episode).

    I think it is a bit too hopeful to dismiss Josephus and think that that ends it. There are no extant manuscripts of Caesar’s Gallic Wars early than approximately 1000 ad but, as I have said before, doubt their historicity and prepare to die. Hordes of aging Classics scholars will descend upon you. The result will be ugly. :-)

    The New Testament is much much closer in time to the events narrated and nowhere in the ancient literature will you find anyone who argues that Christ didn’t exist. They may, and many do, vehemently deny that he is the Messiah but they never deny his life. Why is that, if there is any doubt about his existance?

    There is scholarship in ancient languages and in paleography, etc. etc. that is brought to bear on the dating and reading of ancient manuscripts. For the experts, there is more than enough evidence to go on to be sure that Jesus was a real person

    As a lawyer, you know (at least if tv court room dramas can be believed), that a credible witness trumps a bad one every time. And the early Church appears to have been a credible witness and guardian of the faith entrusted to it.

  57. SteveG
    June 8th, 2006 @ 9:44 pm

    Erik Said:The gospels themselves are highly problematic as history for many reasons, not the least of which is the fact that the oldest complete copies are in Greek, a language that presumably was not used in rural Galilee. Therefore, you have to trust no tonly the transcription of what appears to be said and appears to have happened, but the accurate translation of it.

    I have a not so minor quibble with this statement. Greek was almost surely spoken and used in Galilee as it served as the lingua franca of the Roman empire.

    While it’s almost certain that rural Jews in the area would have spoken Aramaic in their day to day dealings with one another, it’s also quite probable that most had to have at least a working knowledge of spoken Greek in order to participate in commerce.

    In addition, of the traditionally held gospel authors (assume for the sake of argument that Matthew and Luke really are the authors of the gospels bearing their names), at least two of them would have been fluent in both spoken and written Greek.

    Matthew, as a tax collector for the Romans, would have been required to know both spoken and written Greek in order to simply do his job.

    Paul, as a Hellenized Jew most certainly was well educated in Greek, and Luke as a physician most definitely was as well.

    Again, you must realize that Greek was the lingua franca of the time and to hold that the oldest gospels manuscripts being extant only in Greek necessitates that they were translated, or that this fact presents a problem, is mostly unfounded.

    Even the NT itself hints at this. Look at John 19:19-20…

    19: Pilate also wrote a title and put it on the cross; it read, “Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews.” 20: Many of the Jews read this title, for the place where Jesus was crucified was near the city; and it was written in Hebrew, in Latin, and in Greek.

    In addition, of the surviving scraps of the earliest Greek manuscripts, there are even earlier non canonical writings of church fathers that have direct scripture quotes present ,that agree with the later extant manuscripts.

    The quotes being present in the writings of the fathers strongly suggests that the writers had access to even earlier manuscripts that have not survived, but whose content and existence are witnessed by the fact that they are already being quoted as accepted scripture as early as 90 to 110 A.D.

  58. Erik
    June 9th, 2006 @ 12:03 am

    Steve G.,

    Is there any evidence that rural Galileans spoke any Greek? Some tablets, perhaps? Some inscriptions? You may make assumptions if you like about the lingua franca of trade, but if I understand the state of the evidence, there earliest scraps of manuscripts from the area and the time period in question clearly show Aramaic being used. Second, are you really saying that the conversations related in the four gospels were all done in Greek? Are you really saying that the lessons that Jesus may have wanted to impart to the destitute of Galilee, Samaria and Judea were done in the lingua franca of the day as opposed to the native language? I find that very hard to believe, given the purported importance of the message. It would be like Singaporean Chinese telling each other The Most Important Message of All Time in English instead of their native Chinese. So you still have the problem of determining whether the translations from Aramaic to Greek are accurate.

    Lily,

    I haven’t the time this week to review the sites you gave, but I will try to digest some of it next week. If I hear what you are bsacially saying, it is that after an understanding of the cultural heritage of a guy like Paul, we shouldn’t be surprised if he was not interested in seeing and/or relating to others his impressions of the place where God was crucified, buried and resurrected.

    It’s a little curious that you mentioned Carrier, because if you read his refutation of the Jesus as myth idea, at least to me he seems to be unable to reach the conclusion that is staring him in the face, as if he just can’t imagine that the dominant religion of western culture could possibly be based on a myth. I found his reasoning, which is usually fairly sound, to have deserted him.

    As far as Caesar’s history of the Gallic Wars is concerned, I am not all that exorcised about their historicity, although there is plenty of external evidence to indicate that there is plenty of accuracy in them. The reason I don’t care about it is that the accuracy or not of The Gallic Wars does not dramatically affect our daily lives. The gospels and other New Testament books, however, are presented by believers as The Truth, and this supposed truth has consequences, not the least of which is a belief that your belief system is True and all others are False. No one is telling me that the rights of homosexuals to get married to each other or the ability to get federal funding for stem cell research is dependent on the accuracy or not of The Gallic Wars.

  59. SteveG
    June 9th, 2006 @ 7:57 am

    Is there any evidence that rural Galileans spoke any Greek? Some tablets, perhaps? Some inscriptions?

    Spoke, not wrote. If they weren’t literate, how could they have produced tablets with written Greek? I only suggested that they would have had to have had at least enough grasp of spoken Greek to do things like pay taxes, buy and sell with the ruling Romans, etc. It’s a pretty solid assumption but not worth arguing about because it really doesn’t get to the main point I was trying to make and was more of an aside.

    You may make assumptions if you like about the lingua franca of trade, but if I understand the state of the evidence, there earliest scraps of manuscripts from the area and the time period in question clearly show Aramaic being used.

    I don’t doubt for a second that Jesus and the apostles and the vast majority of 1st century Palestinian residents would have be using Aramaic in their day to day dealings with one another. I think I even admitted that in my comment.

    Second, are you really saying that the conversations related in the four gospels were all done in Greek? Are you really saying that the lessons that Jesus may have wanted to impart to the destitute of Galilee, Samaria and Judea were done in the lingua franca of the day as opposed to the native language?

    No, not at all. I think we may have a slight misunderstanding here. When you referred to translation issues with the Greek manuscripts, I assumed you were proposing that the originals would have been written in Aramaic, and then someone later translated that work into Greek. That is what I was addressing.

    If all you are really saying is that the writer had to ‘mentally’ translate what Jesus taught into Greek, I have no quibble with that as fact.

    I was trying more than anything to point out that even granting traditional authorship of the gospels, it’s well accepted that the entire NT was originally written in Greek, not Aramaic.

    There is some suggestion in the writings of the early fathers that Matthew also wrote a version of his gospel in Aramaic, but that is a strongly contested issue, and the evidence is much sketchier. Besides that one case, I am unaware of anyone suggesting that any of the rest of the NT was originally written in anything but Greek. If I read you correctly, I don’t think we necessarily have a disagreement there.

    So you still have the problem of determining whether the translations from Aramaic to Greek are accurate.

    I can see your point, but I think it’s overstating a very minor problem. As I pointed out, a fully Hellenized Jew, a physician, and a tax collector would have been extremely fluent in Greek, and the translation issues they would face would not be any worse than anyone very skilled in two languages would face. It could certainly cause misunderstandings, but it seems hard to argue that they would be anything other than minor.

    The gospels and other New Testament books, however, are presented by believers as The Truth, and this supposed truth has consequences, not the least of which is a belief that your belief system is True and all others are False.

    Not to speak for Lily, and not to argue with your essential poin here, which seems valid, but I think that at least for purposes of this discussion we are both talking about the NT as history only, asided from any claims to it’s ‘truth’.

  60. bernarda
    June 9th, 2006 @ 8:28 am

    Snap Crafter is quite right to mention Paul’s lack of mention of the “factual” Jesus. Paul says virtually nothing about that and nothing about the gospel stories. He did say though as I mentioned that he got revelations from Jesus. All of Paul is based on such revelations.

    As I also mentioned, Paul says he spent two weeks in Jerusalem and didn’t look to make contact with the disciples that might have been around. He said once again that his ideas came from revelation and not from men.

    I find it very pretentious and condescending that Chris mocks Snap because of his age. Whatever age Chris has, it is clear that he has not learned anything in his time on earth. Snap seems to have a much better analytical mind than Chris. Sorry, Snap, that is not much of a compliment.

    As for Lily, what does it matter that lots of people have written about Paul? That doesn’t make his delirious writing any more or less true. Paul knew nothing and made his doctrine up as he went along.

    In addition, only at most 8 of the 13 books attributed to Paul are now considered to be authentically by him. The others are gobblygook invented by other nutcases. Whatever Paul says can in no way be considered evidence that Jesus or the disciples existed.

    As Elaine Pagels says, there is no independent evidence. “The New Testament says” is not evidence. The New Testament talks about Jesus of Nazareth, doesn’t it? Tough luck, apparently no town or village called Nazareth existed at that time.

    Also as has been mentioned, Josephus’ comments have been discredited as to historical accuracy. In addition to having been altered, what he may have really written was long after the supposed events and was hearsay based on hearsay.

  61. Erik
    June 9th, 2006 @ 8:51 am

    Steve G.,

    I understand your point and don’t entirely disagree. I suppose the problem I have with the whole notion is that, being somewhat familiar with various foreign langauges besides my native English, I find it particularly troublesome to translate conceptual matters. It is easy enough to translate the phrase “I went to school today” from, say, English into Russian. It’s not terribly easy to translate “endless juke-joint bars and Valentino drag” from English to Russian. (One of the tests I have for my own command of a language is whether I can explain the game of baseball in that language.) If you want a real eye-opener on this process, try this sometime: write down a paragraph of your thoughts. Have it translated into a foreign langauge. Then have a third person translate it back into English.

    I am not a comparative language buff, so I am unfamiliar with the following question, but it’s answer would be of some interest: if Greek and Aramaic were used so interchangeably, would you expect to find some Greek linguistic influences in the Semitic languages? Are there any? It’s possible, but I’m not aware of it. Hebrew scholars, please weigh in.

    Back to the point: while Matthew may have had a good command of Greek as it related to tax collecting, I’m not so sure it is safe to assume he was capable of understanding and digesting Aristotle in Greek.

    I disagree with you that the issue is not significant. The primary actors in this passion play spoke Aramaic for the most part. Their conversations had to be translated in order for them to have been recorded in Greek. To expand on the thrust of my last post to Lily, if one of the goals of Jesus’s ministry was to bring to mankind The Most Important Message of All Time, why was it imparted in large part in a language that did not survive, requiring that it be translated into another language, with the attendant problems?

  62. Thorngod
    June 9th, 2006 @ 10:50 am

    I’ll see your forty eggheads and raise you two mandarins and a mesharet. . . .
    . However many authorities one can ferret out to bolster ones stand on a point of biblical textual meaning or on the acts, character, status, words or factual existence of a biblical personage, the impact will cause not the slightest dent in anyone’s faith. The atheist is at a disadvantage in such efforts, since the numbers of the prophets, apologists, soothsayers and scholars are myriad, and their verbiage over the millennia would fill a stack of volumes at least halfway to the moon. Pointing out the fallacy, inconsistency or dubiousness of any number of scriptural utterances or commentary thereon is fruitless, as the defender of the faith has unlimited others to sustain his or her illusions and to challenge your stamina.
    . But all the declarations of miracles and wonders, all the testimony of diciples, and all the subsequent mountains of cant and learned discourse devoted to supporting it all is utter nonsense. We humans have no warrant to believe what our eyes and their extensions cannot verify and what reason declares preposterous. If God is, then the laws of nature and physics are the laws of God. The desparate wishes and delusions of humans are obvious nonsense, and no amount of hoary scripture, scholarly commentary or “historical imagination” can convert it to the truth.

  63. Lily
    June 9th, 2006 @ 10:56 am

    I don’t think the language problem is nearly as severe as you are positing, Erik. I, myself, am fluent in German. When I studied in Germany the only problems I ever had were in explaining things that were culturally unknown to my German colleagues (you should try explaining what a cheerleader is). You made much the same point with your “valentino drag” analogy. But that is not a concept. That is a cultural artefact (for lack of a better term). A concept would be something like “salvation” honor” etc.

    The cultural world the hellenized Jews like Paul and the gentile Luke inhabited would have been completely familiar. I can’t see them or any other Greek/Aramaic speaker grasping for ways to translate unfamiliar concepts.

    You wrote this: , if one of the goals of Jesus’s ministry was to bring to mankind The Most Important Message of All Time, why was it imparted in large part in a language that did not survive, requiring that it be translated into another language, with the attendant problems?

    What possible way could it have happened otherwise? The translation problem has been with us for 2000 years. God intervened in history at a specific point in time.

    By the way, Aramaic still survives! According to one treatment of the subject I sought out, even though it has been succeeded in the semitic world by Arabic: … the Christians of Mesopotamia (Iraq), Iran, Syria, Turkey and Lebanon kept the Aramaic language alive domestically, scholastically and liturgically. In spite of the pressure of the ruling Arabs to speak Arabic, Aramaic is still spoken today in its many dialects, especially among the Chaldeans and Assyrians. http://members.aol.com/assyrianme/aramaic/history.html

  64. SteveG
    June 9th, 2006 @ 11:01 am

    To expand on the thrust of my last post to Lily, if one of the goals of Jesus’s ministry was to bring to mankind The Most Important Message of All Time, why was it imparted in large part in a language that did not survive, requiring that it be translated into another language, with the attendant problems?

    It’s a fair question, but again, I was mainly addressing this from the historicity of Jesus issue that Lily and you were discussing. I was arguing that the translation problem is not a big deal from that perspective. Your question now starts to move into the area of Theology and off the historical Jesus topic.

    For what it’s worth, I think the translation issue might be fairly legitimate for a Christian subscribing to Sola Scriptura (the bible alone as authoritative in the life of the believer).

    As a Catholic, it doesn’t trouble me to a great extent as we would look at Scripture not as an authority, but as a source upon which the authoritative Church (in the form of the bishops and pope) can draw to exercise authority. As we Catholics would have it (I take it for granted that few here would agree), ‘The Most Important Message of All Time’ as you put it is contained in full in the living institution of the Church.

    Dunno if that helps explain what I meant or not.

  65. June
    June 9th, 2006 @ 12:49 pm

    What Thorngod said!

    You guys sound like kids arguing over which cartoon character is mightier — Batman or Superman, Spiderman or Plasticman.

  66. SteveG
    June 9th, 2006 @ 2:12 pm

    June,
    Please, there is really no debate here. It’s obvious that Superman and Spiderman would wipe the floor with Batman and Plasticman respectively. ;-)

  67. June
    June 9th, 2006 @ 3:10 pm

    SteveG, you have been misled by the gospel of Superman, which was written by the Riddler during his Mesopotamian period. I’ll grant that Plasticman was a minor apostle, but he could miraculously morph into Superman! Also, Batman was trained in crimefighting and was impervious to Kryptonite.

    You have to read the old comics with care. Don’t read them too literally, and it helps if you are fluent in German.

  68. Snap Crafter
    June 9th, 2006 @ 5:48 pm

    I see your point, maybe batman could best superman, if he had time to prepare for the battle before hand. But let me posit this, what if we threw Magneto and the Green Arrow into the mix?

    I’m thinkin’ the Green arrow could take Batman no problem, and Magneto could take superman no problem (just ’cause he’s cool like that). Spiderman and plasticman, I don’t think they could last at all.

    But then we get to the inevitable conclusion, Chuck Norris would roundhouse kick them all in the face, settling the problem.

  69. Mijae
    June 11th, 2006 @ 3:52 pm

    It’s been a while since I was a Christian, but I think I still remember the real secret formula for figuring out which parts are “literature and legend” and which parts really happened.

    Whichever parts of the Bible clash most with modern society (making a daughter marry her rapist, stoning disobedient children, etc), or sound most ridiculous to modern ears (talking donkeys, etc), or just get you laughed at the most (Revelations, etc) = simple mythology. Or even better, try not to remember those parts exist. I know I never learned about most of that good stuff in Sunday school.

    Whichever parts of the Bible you can get away with talking about with only a minimum of atheists working up the guts to question you, and probably only on the internet anyway = 100% fact!

  70. Chris Treborn
    June 12th, 2006 @ 2:53 am

    Mijae, you are heading for hell, but you know better. Stop now while you can. God bless you friend.

  71. Snap Crafter
    June 12th, 2006 @ 12:08 pm

    What happened to ‘Asshole’ Chris?

  72. Erik
    June 12th, 2006 @ 12:34 pm

    Steve G.,

    The more I think this over, I think you are probably right about the effect of translations. The details may be affected, but it does not severely affect the historicity. I was perhaps thinking too much along the lines of legal rules for evidence; the problems with translation would bring the gospels into some difficulty as legal evidence.

    I am still a little confused, however — are you saying that the original gospels were written in Greek?

  73. bernarda
    June 12th, 2006 @ 1:30 pm

    “I am still a little confused, however — are you saying that the original gospels were written in Greek?”

    I am not speaking for Steve, but probably that is right. The first new testament texts were written by Paul, most likely in Greek, around 50/60 CE. the first gospel was written after 70 CE, also most likely in Greek.

  74. Lynette
    June 12th, 2006 @ 2:40 pm

    Read Misquoting Jesus: Who Change the Bible and Why by Bart Ehrman.

    This book will be one of the most influental books to you as far as explaining the thousands of errors in a book that didn’t just fall from the sky, didn’t just pop off of a printing press and didn’t even come from the hands of the people who traveled around telling the stories. Anything that has obvious errors in it is NOT innerrant. In fact, one scholar, before his death, found an estimated 300,000 in just the NEW TESTAMENT! After all, if it were innerrant don’t you think God would have gone to the task of making sure everyone had the book and the original documents that the bible was created from were saved to pass on? From a man who studied the bible and has several degrees as a result, you know his word is very trustworthy. The book isn’t written in an anti-religion way, it’s very factual so that anyone with a concern for his/her beliefs would enjoy it. However, I’ve read preachers bash him by saying, “Forget what you learned, think about what you’re doing…leading people away from God.” I would think that any responsible person who wanted to understand what it is that they’re supposed to be believing would WANT to figure out where the belief came from but instead people are suggesting IGNORE THE FACTS, JUST TAKE IT FOR WHAT IT’S WORTH. How awful to suggest ignorance.

  75. Lily
    June 12th, 2006 @ 3:13 pm

    What nonsense. There are not anything even close to 300,000 errrors in the NT. Ehrman, who is an internationally famous scholar and whose book you are recommending, says, just like everyone before him, that the errors that are there are almost all of them simple and do not change anything. He argues that some do and those who read his book will have to make up their own minds.

    Where do these numbers come from? Well, if one error gets copied into 4000 subsequent manuscripts is that one error or four thousand? I think we can all agree that that is one error.

    You also seem to believe that we think the Bible as we currently have is inerrant. Nope. Even the most fundamental fundamentalist claims only that the autographs (the originals) were inerrant.

    Heck, Saint Augustine wrote a whole book on the perils and issues of translation of the Bible (On Christian Doctrine) and that was in the late 4th century.

    Nothing new here.

  76. Thorngod
    June 12th, 2006 @ 3:43 pm

    To be fair, it is certainly true that at least ninety percent of the many thousands of discrepancies in the Bible, OT and NT, are of no real significance. Others are blatant. But the most significant error is found, not in the Bible, but in the minds of people who, though otherwise intelligent, attribute to it a supernatural source.

  77. Snap Crafter
    June 12th, 2006 @ 8:14 pm

    “You also seem to believe that we think the Bible as we currently have is inerrant. Nope. Even the most fundamental fundamentalist claims only that the autographs (the originals) were inerrant.”

    Hate to nit-pick there Lily, but I know off-hand that Pat Robertson, Kent Hovind, and Fred Phelps all agree that the King James version of the bible is the inerrant word of god.

  78. Lily
    June 12th, 2006 @ 8:43 pm

    You’d have to prove that to me about Robertson.

    I don’t know who Kent Hovind is and Fred Phelps is a certifiable lunatic, who, as I have said previously, might once have been a Christian but now only worships himself. Who knows or cares what he thinks about anything under the sun?

  79. Dave
    June 13th, 2006 @ 3:43 am

    [bowing my head in prayer]
    Lord? If you are out there. Save us from your followers!!!!
    amen.
    ;-)

    OK, now that “that” is out of the way….

    It blows my mind everytime I visit this site and find that there are “Bible Thumpers” – HERE?!?!?!?!?

    The last place that I would post a coment about my belief, or more correctly said – lack there of – would be on a site that professed to have the opposite view point.

    Lily, Chris (nice play on words there buddy), and others,
    Why are you here? Are you that hard up for someone to talk to? None of you “thumpers” seem to be open to the idea that the Old and New Testaments are fiction and myth based on historical events! That is the gist of what is being said here. You may as well visit a Harley Davidson forum and talk about how much you think the latest bike from Suzuki or Honda is “Sweet”!
    You are certainly not going to get any converts by belittling people either. You certainly don’t represent what is reasonable to expect from a group that professes to spread peace & love.

    My request is simple: that we all congergate with “like minded” people and we will find each other much more tolerable.

    Chris – Keep the name calling to yourself. I am not attacking you, only your actions.
    Also, since you mentioned something about it near the top of this comment thread.
    Evolution is a FACT. Not a theory. “Natural Selection” is the “theory” that Charles Darwin used to descibe how evolution works. The details of how evolution works is the only part that is ever questioned. Same goes for the “Theory of Gravity”, no one doubts that it happens, only “how” it happens. If you think otherwise, you are mistaken. Here is a link for the long version if you are interested.
    http://www.stephenjaygould.org/library/gould_fact-and-theory.html
    – peace

  80. Snap Crafter
    June 13th, 2006 @ 4:15 pm

    Lily, I may be mistaken about Pat. Some quick googlin’ said that he was against the KJV because of hidden homosexual agendas within the text or some such. I was mainly pulling from what I remembered when I watched the 700 club.

    But my point still stands, some people do believe that one translation or another is an inerrant word of god.

    Kent Hovind: http://www.drdino.com

    Fred Phelps, he’s still a christian though. You may disagree with his interpretation, but that doesn’t make him wrong. He’s merely expressing the faith as he sees fit.

  81. Erik
    June 13th, 2006 @ 5:12 pm

    Lily,

    I have managed to go through the cites you provided, and find not much there to change my mind. The reliance by the myth busters on historical references is nothing new, but not terribly convincing. Virtually all of the references, like Tacitus, are so long after the supposed events that they can hardly be said to be reliable. The reliability of the Josephus quotes is not at all settled, and again, one has to wonder why anyone would have wanted to alter them one bit if their historicity was so undeniable.

    The argument that Christian beliefs in a human Jesus would have been ridiculed is itself not terribly convincing, either. First, the myth theory holds that Jesus as human was not a prevalent idea until quite a bit after the supposed events, when virtually anyone who could have objected would have. Second, there are a few items that counter the idea — such as the Minucius Felix, which I could not find addressed anywhere in these sites. Finally, I cannot remember exactly where it is found (i’ll try to find the cite for you), but there is a quote from a Christian defending the faith who basically says to a pagan “Look, what’s so strange about believing in a human son of a deity? You guys have your stories like that, too.” In other words, instead of relying on the facts from the past, they relied on the story as their defense.

    The defense of Paul is nothing new, either. Basically it is that Paul had no reason to mention any details about Jesus’s earthly life because every would have already known about it. This is simply disingenuous. The use of examples from the gospels to illustrate a point is so common that one would expect that Paul would have used a few details, at least a couple of times. But what you find is deafening silence. And it isn’t just silence — there is silence where you would expect him to say something.

    The other problem with Paul is that he refers to learning about the gospel of Jesus from Scripture. I’m not sure how someone gets that when you could find out from the sources and in fact went to see them on two (?) occasions. It’s such a curious thing that I cannot even draw an analogy to it.

  82. Lily
    June 13th, 2006 @ 8:57 pm

    Your post deserves a good answer and I am too exhausted after an intense day at work to make one.

    I do want to make one comment that is pertinent in understanding what Paul is talking about. When Paul talks about scripture he is not talking about the New Testament which wasn’t in existence yet, but about the Old. You might recall that I said earlier that Paul’s focus was on presenting Christ as king and the fulfillment of the covenant God made with the Jewish nation. So, he was concerned to show from the OT how Jesus had fulfilled the promises made by God and the prophecies, etc. This is true in all the letters he wrote. There is an occasion in one of the letters to Timothy, when he exhorts him to continue to study scripture diligently. Same thing. He is talking about the OT.

    More on this later, if it is of interest to you.

  83. Erik
    June 14th, 2006 @ 7:49 am

    Lily,

    The discussion of what Paul was saying and how he got his gospel is indeed a long and detailed one, too much so, I believe, for a forum like this. I have reviewed a number of different sources on this (and not just the mythologists), so I am not a complete novice, and I will continue to study it. Frankly, my view is that neither case, for historicity or myth, is anywhere close to a slam dunk, and each side suffers from reading into the evidence what it wants to see.

    I did understand that Paul was referring to older scripture and not the NT. This is in fact one of the points: it looks like Paul is not just concerned about showing how Jesus fulfilled OT scripture; he seems to be saying that he learned about the good news from reviewing the OT, rather than from eyewitnesses. This is a most curious thing. It’s as if I said I learned about last year’s Super Bowl through the pre-game hype rather than from somebody at the game. It’s so curious that even that analogy is not very illustrative.

  84. Lily
    June 14th, 2006 @ 11:10 am

    Erik: You are right that it isn’t really something that we can discuss here. I think it could make a case for what Paul is doing, in an appropriate venue.

    The other thing that I should have said last night and would have, if I hadn’t been falling asleep on my feet was that I appreciate that you looked at the stuff that I cited, so that we could further the discussion. I have no problem with anyone honestly weighing the evidence and coming to a different conclusion than I have. I can still keep hoping, you know …

  85. Thorngod
    June 17th, 2006 @ 5:55 pm

    Erik, are you one of those rare specimens I call a “closet believer,” one who secretly “believes” but is reluctant to let his skeptical and atheistic friends know it? If you are trying to “prove” or to strengthen your belief, Lily is well qualified to help. If, on the other hand, you are not a closet freak, and are seeking enlightenment, you will not find it in theosophy. The “evidence” you and Lily are seeking, even if found, will establish nothing outside of the connections and relationships of Paul to early Christology and his authenticity (or lack thereof) as as a spokesman for the Jesus cult. If you are a budding theologian, you are on the right course; but if truth is what you seek, you are wasting time. You should be reading scientific literature and reports, surveying philosophy from Thales through at least Hume and Mills, perhaps studying logic, and above all, being bold and true to your own mind and senses. Perhaps I am being presumptuous in regard to your intelectual level; you are obviously intelligent and certainly seem to be the inquiring sort. But I am always suspicious of a “grown man” who insists on delving into the unfathomable depths of the offal of religion.

  • Basic Assumptions

    First, there is a God.

    Continue Reading...

  • Search

  • Quote of the Day

    • Fifty Random Links

      See them all on the links page.

      • No Blogroll Links