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 The 'Jesus is a myth' myth

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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Sun 27 Sep 2015, 12:35

Hi Nordmann

I trust that you are well? Much to my surprise I found in my spam folder a reply, not from you, to an earlier thread I had taken part in and so decided to pop in and have a look around for the first time this year.

I am giving a talk in November to a large group on the above topic and wondered if you could assist!  I shall be mainly dealing with various books by 'mythologists' and why they are overwhelmingly rejected by the academic world, but I also wanted to touch on various discussions on websites.  During the very long running debate on the BBC pages there were a couple of occasions when we were in rare agreement.  One was concerning one poster who claimed that Paul and Josephus were one and the same person.  My memory of the other is a little hazy and I wondered if you could remember more?  The poster claimed, I think, that the gospels were a secret code for the Roman Emperors at the time.  Any recollections?

regards

Tim
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Sun 27 Sep 2015, 13:09

I confess I don't recall either of those claims being made by anyone, Tim. Sounds all very "Dan Snowish" to me!  Smile

The Paul/Josephus conflation arises, I imagine, from William Whiston's assertion as a theologian in the late 17th century that both employed similar style in their writing. However I am not sure whether Whiston would be too pleased at such a jump being made logically from such a slender observation (he had a scientifically philosophical approach himself).

I'm not sure what the second point might have been. I have read in the past that the synoptic gospels' selection as canonical was down to the Roman elite under Constantine trying to rein in Mithraic theology and its followers within a Graeco-Mosaic theology, as Christianity would have been perceived by many literate Romans at the time. The idea sort of makes sense - except of course for that the timing of their adoption as canonical is all wrong in that theory, as well as the fact that many of the gnostic gospels might actually have suited that purpose better anyway. If the synoptic gospels paralleled Mithraic doctrine (of which we know almost nothing so can only guess what any parallel might have been and why it was important to the emperors) then one imagines they didn't need any particular enforcement from the Roman political top man to acknowledge that parallel. They just needed to circulate (as they did).
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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Fri 02 Oct 2015, 08:00

Thank you for your response Nordmann.  I perhaps remember the two better as being surprised that for once we were in agreement.  In fact in the first case another poster pointed out to the person that if both you and I were querying his claim then he should come up with some evidence.  From what I remember, his ‘evidence’ was that Paul and Josephus were both Jews and wrote.  You of course, unless you have changed your mind, claimed that Paul was Greek but failed to produce any evidence to substantiate it – not unusual for you!
On the second poster.  He was referring to the Julio-Claudian emperors so nothing to do with Constantine.  I agree that we now virtually nothing about Mithraic doctrine, a point I shall be mentioning in my talk – it was and is a ‘mystery’ religion.  The four gospels were written much earlier than the Gnostic gospels (whether there ever was any consistent Gnosticism has been queried and it now often split into different groups such as Valentinism.  There is a very strong academic consensus dating them between 70 and 100AD (some conservatives date them earlier) of which only the ‘Gospel of Thomas’ of the ‘Gnostic’ gospels comes close and that is not relay a ‘gospel’ but a collection of sayings attributed to Jesus – possibly ‘Q’ would have been in a similar form
Anyway thanks for trying – I will probably reappear at some in the future on the site.
Tim

Ps I am taking part in a seminar at Royal School of Mines at Imperial College on Saturday 10th October put on by Subterrain Britannica, details as below:
09:30 – 10:00 Registration and refreshments.
10:00 – 10:10 Welcome.
10:10 – 11:20 Deep Shelter. Chris Rayner explores Britain's wartime underground air raid shelters and the urge to go ever deeper.
11:20 – 11:35 Comfort break. Please note that refreshments are not available.
11:35 – 12:45 Pigs, Pipelines and PLUTO. Tim Whittle gets the juice flowing with a history of the United Kingdom's largest Oil Pipeline and Storage System.
12:45 – 13:45 Lunch. A buffet lunch is included for all delegates. This will be in a nearby room.
13:45 – 14:55 La Boisselle "Glory Hole" Project. Simon Jones delves into the most detailed ever study of a Western Front battlefield.
14:55 – 15:25 Afternoon break with refreshments.
15:25 – 16:35 Brunel’s Tunnel. Robert Hulse of the Brunel Museum chronicles the design and construction of Brunel’s tunnel under the Thames.
16:35 – 17:15 Members’ contributions. Members are invited to give a short presentation on their recent discoveries or activities.  Video and computer projection facilities will be available.
pps I have also started doing book reviews for a magazine which is a very good way of getting new books free, I have done 3 so far with a fourth waiting to be read.  One of the ‘benefits of religion’!
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Fri 02 Oct 2015, 09:31

And we remain in agreement on this one.

There is very little contemporary indication that the early emperors were even much aware of or cared much for what any individual Jewish sects, especially splinter ones, might be writing by way of doctrine - though some retrospective attribution to support this contention was indeed made by largely Christian sources later. This is not to say there wasn't interest, simply that we cannot say for certain that it extended beyond political considerations and their version of what we would call "state security".

However that one or several of them had either the motive or inclination to get involved in actually phrasing approved editions of the gospels so that they could contain some kind of coded exhortation to obeisance to their rule is far fetched indeed. While I might dispute the degree of certitude ascribed by anyone to what they assert is the earliest dates of the gospels etc I would contend that there is little evidence that anyone outside Christian communities was involved - or even interested much - in their compilation. Marcus Aurelius was known to consult Rabbi Yehudah HaNasi (The Prince of Judah) but that - while also contentious an assertion with regard to its degree - would still have had nothing to do with any interest on either person's part with Christianity per se, and definitely not the gospels which both would have seen as peripheral and probably quite irrelevant scripture.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Thu 18 Feb 2016, 09:04

Deleted - or transferred rather to Wilberforce thread.


Last edited by Temperance on Thu 18 Feb 2016, 12:39; edited 3 times in total
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Thu 18 Feb 2016, 09:33

Deleted.
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Sun 13 Mar 2016, 09:58

I might be going to regret this, and I hope it doesn’t stir up a hornet's nest of ill-feeling, but it is a genuine question, and I am asking from a position of comparative ignorance .....


Putting aside the New Testament, and in particular Paul’s letters, the Acts, and the Gospels, ie documents that are all essentially concerned with describing, posthumously, the Christ of divine myth/message, .... what evidence is there for the historicity of Christ the man?

I am aware of Tacitus ('Annals', written ca 116 AD) referring to the execution of 'Christus' by Pontius Pilate …. and of Josephus ('Antiquities of the Jews', written ca. 93-94 AD) and his references to a Jesus, which if not authentic in entirety, are probably authentic in essence.

However is there any other independent evidence for the life of Christ the man? ... And so then what actually is the sum of historical knowledge about the man some call Christ and others Jesus?
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Sun 13 Mar 2016, 16:59

Meles meles wrote:
I might be going to regret this, and I hope it doesn’t stir up a hornet's nest of ill-feeling, but it is a genuine question, and I am asking from a position of comparative ignorance .....


Putting aside the New Testament, and in particular Paul’s letters, the Acts, and the Gospels, ie documents that are all essentially concerned with describing, posthumously, the Christ of divine myth/message, .... what evidence is there for the historicity of Christ the man?

I am aware of Tacitus ('Annals', written ca 116 AD) referring to the execution of 'Christus' by Pontius Pilate …. and of Josephus ('Antiquities of the Jews', written ca. 93-94 AD) and his references to a Jesus, which if not authentic in entirety, are probably authentic in essence.

However is there any other independent evidence for the life of Christ the man? ... And so then what actually is the sum of historical knowledge about the man some call Christ and others Jesus?



My opinion of this person called Jesus Christ is that it was a person who did what  many hundreds of thousands of people doing at present all around the world trying to tell people about a belief that there is such a deity called GOD who created the world.
And if you are prepared to accept that and then live according to their belief you will be rewarded by an after life what ever that may be.

As I mentioned before, I accept that there was such a man calling himself Jesus Christ  living 2000 years ago and this man in one way or the other fell foul of the Romans and was sentenced to be crucified.

But what all happened to this person after the crucifixion is a belief and it is up to any person to follow this belief or do what I do and I am a non believer.
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Mon 14 Mar 2016, 13:23

Meles, this is from wiki, possible mentions of Jesus (Yeshu) in the Talmud;

Jesus in the Talmud

needless to say, much of this is controversial.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Mon 14 Mar 2016, 13:31

The mythology and religion aside, and one's personal faith or indeed absence of faith aside, MM's question relates directly to historically verifiable records contemporary to the man and to this the short answer is "none".

There are three possible reasons for this (excluding the one in which the data just never existed because the events never happened), at least if we are to take seriously the historical assertions relating to Jesus's activities as related in the New Testament, especially those which would have brought him into conflict with Roman policy in the region and executed as claimed.

The first is that these activities have been slightly misreported, in the sense that they indeed brought him into conflict but just not on a level sufficient to have this conflict recorded by the Romans. This has been a very old bone of contention regarding the Roman record, probably going back to when the Romans themselves subscribed to the subsequent myth in sufficient quantities to be motivated to check their own records. The traditional reason proffered for this omission or lack of verifying data is that Jesus was tried as a common criminal and therefore went "under the radar" regarding non-Judaean Roman attention and interest. This would also have the effect of increasing the plausibility of those post-contemporary records we know of and are offered as secondary evidence for his existence, so it has always been a popular assumption. However the assumption also is one that is difficult to square with the fact that the alleged crime was one of sedition, an issue the Romans normally took extremely seriously in almost all other circumstances that we know of historically, and for which therefore there really should be contemporary record.

The second reason is that everything was detected and recorded, but that possibly the Romans simply lost the records, or they were lost "over time". While this would be by no means a rare eventuality in examining events of the period it loses probability when viewed against the other post-contemporary data we are invited to rely on, which nearly all places a value on saving and even revering snippets of seemingly historical data about the man from a very early point in time. Had this view also been adopted in Rome (for example when the faith also was) then one would imagine it even less of a possibility, never mind a probability, that this ever occurred. The non-preservation of contemporary data and the obsessively careful preservation of near-contemporary data just doesn't square very well.

The third reason proffered is that data relating to the man and his crime was mismanaged afterwards or even intentionally erased, the normal assertion being that this would be in keeping with a regime who for a period actively put down this emergent faith and held it in contemptuously little regard anyway. There are several problems with this - there is no evidence that Rome ever subdued any faith in quite this way (and it subdued several over the years), there is no likelihood that they could have obliterated such records completely from existence even had they tried, and there is in fact even some doubt regarding the extent the "persecution" of Christians extended into punitive legislation anyway. The imperial edicts are vague as to what the punishments should have been at the time and the official records even vaguer regarding mass executions (mass confiscations was always more the Roman style and we don't have record of these either). The ecclesiastical histories however are in no doubt, and from an early stage depended very much on their version to justify the martyr cults they also encouraged based on the same assertions, something that historically actually should sway the pendulum of suspicion away from the Romans and in their direction. But ultimately all this actually means in historical terms is that the hard data, even if it ever existed, was actually very vulnerable indeed - liable to be expunged for quite different reasons on the one hand by the contemporary elite, and on the other by subsequent Christian potentates when they came into their ascendancy.

So one can say what one likes about Jesus and his potential historicity, really. You can say you "accept" or "believe" he lived. Or you can (as I do) express grave doubts given the huge amount of interference in the historical record along the way relating to this case. But whatever one says is predicated on quite a minefield of assertion masquerading as data, and a minefield that was quite early in the making - the evidence of invention, elaboration and redaction being almost as old as the written references of which we are aware. We have nothing from before its existence, and nothing 100% dependable from after it.



Last edited by nordmann on Mon 14 Mar 2016, 14:17; edited 3 times in total (Reason for editing : Had to change the sense of one sentence a bit, it was vague.)
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Mon 14 Mar 2016, 14:04

And can I add by the way that I object to the notion of "Jesus being a myth", at least in the sense that this thread's title suggests. For anyone reading my comments only in this thread and not in others where I have contributed which broach this topic, I regard Jesus as an essential part of a very powerful myth indeed. Much myth surrounds him, this is undeniable, but this neither detracts from the probability of his having lived nor supports it. It is a completely separate issue to his historicity and the two subjects suffer tremendously when attempted to be discussed at one time.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Tue 15 Mar 2016, 08:42

I am dying to say something here, but I am still collecting my thoughts. As they are scattered all over the place at the moment, you may all have to wait some time for anything resembling a coherent post from me.

Actually, I hate to admit it, but nordmann's right in most of what he says. The Big Question is, where does all this leave us? But then, if one can't talk about the Christ at the same time as one attempts to discuss the historical Jesus, one is rather restricted. But there isn't much to say about the historical Jesus is there - for those who need hard evidence, that is -  except that he was born and he died? Most scholars do seem to agree on those two facts, even if nordmann doesn't. Josephus' comment is interesting here, in that he was actually talking about an unpleasant Jewish high priest, Ananus, when he made his throwaway remark about Jesus. This Ananus had unlawfully condemned a certain "James, the brother of Jesus, the one they call messiah" to stoning. Josephus immediately moves on to relate what happened to Ananus after the new procurator, Albinus, arrived in Jerusalem, as replacement for the unfortunate Porcius Festus, who, not surprisingly, seems to have died of stress just after starting his new job in that most difficult of places (if you were a Roman procurator, that is). Is it not significant that the casual reference to James's fraternal connection is to someone with whom Josephus seems to assume his audience would be familiar?

A birth and a death - not much to go on - it's true; yet this Jewish teacher and healer lived what some have argued was the "most consequential life ever lived".

PS Ferval noted with some irritation over on the Religion Benefits thread that Nicky Gumbel, the Anglican evangelical, had quoted someone as saying that the resurrection of Jesus was one of the "best-attested events in ancient history". (Think I've got the quote right - will check in a minute). I quite understand her irritation, believe it or not. It is people's belief in the resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth that is one of the best-attested events in history: there is rather an important difference between the two statements - that I fully acknowledge.

But heck, I'm starting to rabbit and I haven't got time.


EDIT: I have found what ferval said:

ferval wrote:
When he quoted the resurrection of Jesus Christ is the best attested event of the ancient world I switched off. But maybe I only have one stomach and it was turned.

Even as an atheist I would class this guff as an insult to those who believe in a rabbi who proposed a better way to live and would cheerfully slap Mr Gumball around the head with a large wet fish.



EDIT 2: I have rather nervously used the word "procurator" above: I know Tim and nord had a huge row about the correct title for the Roman bloke in charge in Jerusalem at the time when Jesus didn't live. I can't remember what was decided. Sorry if I've put the wrong one - procurator or governor or prefect???
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Tue 15 Mar 2016, 15:28

A trip to the cinema for Temp ???

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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Tue 15 Mar 2016, 15:44

I'd better get in before nordmann does and note that the film grossed $11.8 million in its first week, but that it was beaten by Kung Fu Panda which raked in $12.5 million.

I was actually about to post a serious question for nord about Roman records, but must have something to eat first. The Boss doesn't seem to be about today anyway, so my query can wait till later.
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Tue 15 Mar 2016, 19:28

Risen?


This is surely more factual, and delivered by a priest as well.


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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Wed 16 Mar 2016, 07:21

Can we get back to the history?

nordmann wrote:
However the assumption also is one that is difficult to square with the fact that the alleged crime was one of sedition, an issue the Romans normally took extremely seriously in almost all other circumstances that we know of historically, and for which therefore there really should be contemporary record.

The second reason is that everything was detected and recorded, but that possibly the Romans simply lost the records, or they were lost "over time".



This business of the records is really interesting and prompts me to ask what, alas, may be an utterly ridiculous question. Where were such records kept? Were details of Roman trials and executions always sent back to Rome (Lord, where did they put them all?), or were such records kept locally, in the administrative capitals?

I ask this because, even before the Romans finally - quite literally - wiped Jerusalem off the map in 70 C.E., there had been mayhem, rebellion - and destruction -  in that city. I read the following in the Aslan book, Zealot: the Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth:

It was now 64C.E. In two years' time the anger, resentment and messianic zeal that had been steadily building throughout the land would erupt into a full-scale revolt against Rome...Menahem and the Sicarii...expelled all the non-Jews from Jerusalem, just as the Scriptures demanded. They tracked down and killed the high priest who had gone into hiding as soon as the fighting began. Then, in an act of profound symbolism, they set fire to the public archives...all of it...and public records went up in flames.

But I do not know if "public records" refers only to Jewish records - the ledgers of debt collectors, money lenders and property records etc. - and not to the Roman records.

One other detail I gleaned from Aslan was that, after the total annihilation effected by Titus and Vespasian in 70C.E., all of Palestine "became Vespasian's personal property as the Romans strove to create the impression that there had never been any Jews in Jerusalem. By the year 135 C.E. the name Jerusalem ceased to exist in all official Roman documents."

Another question that has puzzled me is about our knowledge of other messianic claimants. As the very clever scriptwriters of Life of Brian were well aware, countless  apocalyptic prophets, preachers and would-be messiahs tramped through the Holy Land during the first century; and we know of the names - and fates - of several of them.

Theudas - beheaded by the Romans.

The mysterious charismatic figure known only as "the Egyptian" - he and his followers were massacred by the Romans.

Athronges - his followers were killed by the Romans, but he may have been spared (?).

Another man, known only as "the Samaritan" - another actually crucified by Pontius Pilate!

There are  so many others - Hezekiah, Simon of Peraea, Judas the Galilean, Simon, son of Giora and Simon, son of Kochba - all of whom declared messianic ambitions and all of whom were executed/eliminated by the Romans for so doing: as you say, the Romans were extremely sensitive to any hint of what they called sedition; and for a Jew to declare himself messiah was tantamount to a declaration of war on Rome.

Are there any official imperial records of these troublemakers - and of how Rome dealt with them? Is the information about them only from Josephus again? (Theudas is mentioned in the New Testament, but is that reliable?)



PS I'm beginning to understand why Porcius Festus died of stress: being appointed to serve in Judea must have been something Roman administrators dreaded.
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Wed 16 Mar 2016, 08:37

Temp wrote:
But I do not know if "public records" refers only to Jewish records - the ledgers of debt collectors, money lenders and property records etc. - and not to the Roman records.

"Roman records" are not much different in terms of original source data, but with a hugely important addition that pertained exactly to the period in time in which this particular incidence of sedition would have occurred.

Roman intelligence reports that made it back to central administration in Rome and into public record were gleaned through two distinct channels - financial (especially regarding taxation) and military. At times these coincided, such as in the justification for the redesign of the Iberian peninsula provinces under Augustus. The real beef Augustus had with his Hispania province was that a mountainous north western region had resolutely resisted "pacification" (shades of Asterix) and prior to his intervention the matter had been addressed largely as a bureaucratic and diplomatic case. Successive attempts to inveigle the more conformist neighbours to settle the matter on Rome's behalf (even offering at one point a return to client state status if they succeeded) had failed. Augustus, confident he could at last solve the issue based on his realignment of Gaul's provinces which had also boosted the exchequer enormously, decided to get tough. How he prosecuted the change was purely through interpolating intelligence reports delivered through him to the senate in which he successfully argued that the matter deserved expensive military intervention. The Cantabrian chief of the tribal alliance which held out against Roman administration in the region was presented to the senate and public as "Viriatus Novus" (Mr Spanish Sedition himself, reinvented), and on this basis Augustus secured a huge commitment to his plan - 50,000 troops and what turned out to be a ten year war in the region (an ugly and unpopular guerrilla war in the main) which was finally deemed successful in 19BCE, but which still rumbled on for several more years. During this latter phase several locals were charged with sedition, sometimes purely on the basis that they publicly refused to acknowledge Roman gods, and we are fortunate to still have reference to some of these names thanks to senate debates regarding the cost of the war and later writers such as Tacitus who wrote summaries based on these records and upon what then would still have been relatively memorable and recountable events known to some of those among his many sources in the imperial court and senate. However even at the time I am sure that no one, in Rome or Iberia, saw all this talk of sedition as anything other than a rather blatant pretext to further consolidate Roman rule in the region at whatever cost.

You can see the parallel with Judaea of the period. Here also was a part of Rome's hegemony which was crying out for "rationalisation" under Augustus, and would continue to do so with his immediate successors. The Romans kept careful note of petitions from the client state for intervention, they took an increasingly bureaucratic role in taxes and levies such as Quirinius's later census, undertaken hot on the heels of a suppressed "zealot uprising" (which had been the pretext to finally eliminate any effective autonomy in the region under client kings and the like) might rightly be considered an important part of this development. And of course, as in Iberia, they drastically upped the military presence and expense of maintaining it in the process. We know that this process would have mirrored the similar intervention in the Hispanic provincial realignment. And we can be reasonably certain therefore that something which in Roman eyes was a drastic expansion of their Syrian province (something from which the public would expect to see some form of material return) would also have generated all the usual recordable data regarding the pretexts employed in this expansion. Yet to be honest, if it wasn't for Josephus (a Jewish historian but one very much conscious of his Roman readership) we would be hard put to link the general description of these developments as has survived through purely Roman sources to the detailed record of his which has survived. That which is noticeably missing from the Roman side, especially given that each advance they made in their establishment of control was based on an advertised response to local revolt and sedition, is the roll-call of those punished for sedition. It is noticeable because we have it in almost all other similar cases in which late republic and early imperial Rome became involved, and even more noticeably absent given the huge importance this particular piece of presumed sedition was to form in the minds of so many people so soon afterwards. Were we to be completely reliant solely on Roman records to piece together what happened in the region we would find a huge hole in the timeline, with pretty detailed records relating to their initial involvement, as well as of their their subsequent quashing of all possible Judaean sedition and revolt under Vespasian. However the intervening decades yield almost non-existent data from purely Roman records. Suspiciously little in fact. One can almost say that no region, let alone one so volatile and which ultimately would play a role in creating a new imperial dynasty in Rome, is so badly served by Roman records as Judaea in its transition from client state to part-province to province. A series of hugely important developments which at each turn placed significant political and financial demands on Rome's central administration, demands that would have exceeded the terms a unilateral imperial decree would have been sufficient to address, and which based on similar developments elsewhere required at least a nominal involvement of the extended political process, but which the Romans - if we are to believe certain historians - seemingly never bothered taking note of.
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Wed 16 Mar 2016, 10:52

Thank you for the detailed and interesting reply. I am completely out of my depth with the history here.


I go round in circles with all this, not knowing what to believe (like the unfortunate and bewildered tribune played by Joseph Fiennes in the new film - what would appear to be the dreadfully risible Risen - as mentioned by Trike yesterday). It seems that for every well-attested, heavily researched and eminently authoritative argument made about the historical Jesus, there is an equally well-attested, equally well-researched and equally authoritative argument opposing it. That, I suppose, is academia. Nobody really wants to find the truth - just argue about it.

But I am beginning to understand more and more what Oscar Wilde was trying to say about it all in De Profundis (remember his reference to the "prose-poems" of the Gospels?). These writings "creep up on us" (quote from A.N. Wilson during his atheist period), and we can perhaps conclude that the New Testament is not about history - or even theology! - but is comprised of works of a high imaginative order. I, like Wilson, use the word "imaginative" in the sense it was used by the Romantic poets and painters - Blake, Coleridge and others - not to mean "fanciful" or dishonest, but possessed with a capacity to remake the world. Blake understood this when he wrote: ' "What", it will be Question'd, "When the Sun rises, do you not see a round disk of fire somewhat like a Guinea?" O no, no, I see an Innumerable company of Heavenly host crying, "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty!" ' *

Blake also asked a correspondent**  "Why is the Bible more Entertaining and Instructive than any other book?" He answered his own question: "...is it not because (it is) addressed to the Imagination, which is Spiritual Sensation, and but mediately to the Understanding or Reason?"

But then, Blake was possibly crazy - whatever that word means - and Coleridge was stoned most of the time. So of course we must be wary.

And I digress yet again - back to history and those rational Romans and their usually meticulous record-keeping.


* William Blake: A Vision of the Last Judgement

**William Blake: Letter to the Revd. Dr Trusler, 23rd August, 1799.

PS Again not relevant, but what the heck:


http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/belief/2009/jan/14/religion-wilde


From the above link:

Christ is the supreme romantic artist.

For Wilde, Christ is the supreme romantic artist, a poet who makes the inward outward through the power of the imagination. Wilde goes even further and says that Christ makes himself into a work of art through the transfiguration of his suffering in his life and passion. Christ creates himself as a work of art by rendering articulate a voiceless world of pain. Wilde writes:


"To the artist, expression is the only mode under which he can conceive life at all. To him what is dumb is dead. But to Christ it was not so. With a width and wonder of imagination that fills one almost with awe, he took the entire world of the inarticulate, the voiceless world of pain, as his kingdom, and made of himself its external mouthpiece."

In his compassion for the downtrodden and the poor, but equally in his pity for the hard hedonism of the rich, Christ is the incarnation of love as an act of imagination, not reason, an imaginative projection of compassion onto all creatures. What Christ teaches is love and Wilde writes, "When you really want love you will find it waiting for you". The decision to open oneself to love enables an experience of grace over which one has no power and which one cannot decide. As Lacan writes, "love is giving what one does not have".


No doubt all this high falutin' stuff will provoke another daft YouTube link.   Embarassed
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Wed 16 Mar 2016, 11:17

I am not arguing a case for or against Jesus's historicity. I am setting out an argument as to why we are so reliant on conjecture and supposition in this instance, an argument which hopefully is more reasoned than the usual "we just don't have that data" summation of the gap in our knowledge which pertains here, and also hoping to illustrate in the process possible reasons why certain data has not survived which otherwise would have been of immense value in removing this dependency on conjecture at all.

A literary analysis of scripture is actually of little to no relevance at all in this process, at least the one I describe. And in fact it is telling indeed that recourse to such analysis forms a huge portion of the debate surrounding exactly what can be deduced historically that in turn might be related to the existence of a person called Jesus in modern parlance. It is, in purely historical terms, a red herring in fact. The real issue is the custody and management of the data afterwards. An analysis of this in any historical investigation reveals much from which more accurate deductions can be made regarding what the data would have actually comprised. Anyone genuinely interested in the historicity of one character in one period should always begin with an analysis of the treatment of all contextual data, data which normally serves as a primary reference but in this case has been demonstrably neglected to the point of its loss, often apparently redacted, or even possibly erased.
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Wed 16 Mar 2016, 11:33

I know, and I have no answer to that.

You sound just like Mr Spock. That's a compliment, by the way.

I continue to be haunted by this character - Jesus, I mean, not Mr Spock - against my better judgement, I might add.

I wish it were not so, but there you have it.

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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Wed 16 Mar 2016, 11:37

I would hope to out-Spock Spock in terms of logic. For all the spouting off he did about his supposed logicality he frequently behaved and reasoned in a most illogical manner. However as with another character composed by several authors, he was all the more enigmatic for all that.
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Thu 17 Mar 2016, 09:09

Another question about record-keeping, especially records of the executions of those seen by the Romans as the lowest of the low - slaves and "lestai" (a Greek word, meaning "bandit", but one used by the Romans as the common designation for an insurrectionist or rebel). Crucifixion was the punishment that Rome reserved almost exclusively for the crime of sedition; it was the sentence for minor(?) trouble-makers who were stupid enough to oppose Rome rule. It happened all the time - in huge numbers - throughout the Empire. No Roman citizen, however, could be crucified. That, if I understand it correctly, was the law. Would the Romans - who often crucified rebels in huge "batches" (Publius Quinctilius Varus, for example, crucified 2000 Jews in one go outside the walls of Jerusalem in 4BC in the chaos after the death of Herod the Great) - have kept details of all such rebels? Were such crucified minor rebels ever seen as being of sufficient importance to warrant a mention in the official records?

I have no idea - only asking. The trial of Jesus before Pilate himself after all, although a wonderful piece of dramatic writing, possibly never happened. Jesus of Nazareth perhaps was just not seen as being that important - to the Romans. He was just another tiresome but actually powerless Jew (no army, after all) who could nevertheless still stir up the local population. But his being relatively unimportant as a "rebel" does not mean that the man was not executed; he had to be dealt with. So was his a routine sentencing - no appearance before the Prefect himself necessary -  to the most humilitating and painful death the Romans could devise - the one reserved for trouble-making losers? Losers who never made it into anyone's official records?
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Thu 17 Mar 2016, 10:39

You are assuming a lot there regarding the existence of Jesus - but no matter. The truth is that yes, there is a lot that doesn't quite fit in the account with what is known regarding the normal prosecution of trial and punishment under early imperial law, both for common criminality and more serious charges such as treasonable behaviour against the state. If a man upon which the account was based was indeed crucified, then this actually fits better with the part of the account that states he was sentenced as a common criminal, given the rest of the parameters to be considered in this specifically reported instance. Crucifixion Roman-style was normally a premeditated and conscious tactic used to shock people into submission when it was deemed they were getting out of hand and was reserved for non-citizens and slaves. When recorded it was also largely a one-off gesture of intimidation or reprisal and therefore not used as a very frequent device - that would have robbed it of its impact. And it wasn't reserved for the crime of sedition, though often formed a very visible and effective reprisal after incidents deemed seditious. However at such times it seems also to have doubled as a handy way of conducting mass executions of low-life which of course added to the whole effect.

Of course what works against the whole sedition bit is that no such reprisal is on record for the period, but it still plays a role in the account however and is a very important component in that it is used to juxtapose the Roman, secular, notion of a "king of the Jews" against the metaphysical notion of dominion which a religious messiah would mean with such a claim in a Jewish context, and of course which would be used to demonstrate fulfilment of a prophesy announcing both his and the dominion's advent. Personally I reckon it is this last consideration which played the biggest role in the account assuming the details in this regard that it did.

If the sedition part is false or an exaggeration then the crucifixion punishment can still make total sense in that such an execution of common criminality could still have been deployed to show who was boss, as it would also make some sense then that the Romans had no reason to remember his name or to report the incident further. If the sedition bit is true however then an analysis of the threat he posed and how best to dispose of it and him would almost certainly have been made, especially if he was perceived as a ringleader. In Spain the ones taken seriously as ringleaders were transported and then publicly executed in Rome as enemies of the people. If taken less seriously they were executed in situ and the reason they were not classed as enemies of sufficient threat to be so disposed of were accounted for. None of them were crucified as far as we know, but many of their followers and family members were.
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Thu 17 Mar 2016, 14:44

nordmann wrote:


Of course what works against the whole sedition bit is that no such reprisal is on record for the period, but it still plays a role in the account however and is a very important component in that it is used to juxtapose the Roman, secular, notion of a "king of the Jews" against the metaphysical notion of dominion which a religious messiah would mean with such a claim in a Jewish context, and of course which would be used to demonstrate fulfilment of a prophesy announcing both his and the dominion's advent.


Well, the disciples clearly understood what could happen - reprisals -  that's why, with the exception of John, they all ran away.

I am still a bit confused - I never know if I understand you properly or not. Things never seem to follow on in these exchanges. Probably me not understanding at all.

The Jewish Messiah of course was really about a warrior king - a Davidic king - who could also double up a High Priest. Quite different from the abstract, purely metaphysical and spiritual implications of the Greek Christos of Paul. The two - Messiah and Chirist - were quite different concepts, although the words both translate as "anointed one". A successful and popular Jewish messiah-figure, a human, earthly fighter was obviously bad news for the Romans, but the arrival of such a messiah in his dual role as High Priest was also very bad news for Caiaphas. Temple tithes, after all, were a hugely profitable business. And didn't Caiaphas and Pilate develop an extremely good working - business - relationship? Together they both kept the masses in check; Rome's taxes were paid, and the Temple priestly aristocracy, headed by Caiaphas, got richer and richer. A good arrangement all round. A crazy miracle-worker from Galilee, stirring up the downtrodden and poor, a man who demanded that the Temple should be a house of prayer, not a business and banking centre, was the last thing the Prefect or the Priest needed. The man had to go.

From Wiki:

Caiaphas' legal position, then was to establish that Jesus was guilty not only of blasphemy, but also of proclaiming himself the messiah, which was understood as the return of the Davidic king. This would have been an act of sedition and prompted Roman execution.

The other thing that puzzles me if Jesus of Nazareth was a wholly invented figure is the disregard for what I believe you historians call the criterion of dissimilarity or the criterion of embarrassment. If you were inventing a god who died to bring salvation, crucifixion is the last death you would choose for him. It was the death of slaves; of the scum of the earth (as you have said); of (for Jews) those cursed by God. It was humiliating in ways we even today choose not to think about. Jesus is usually shown sanitised - a bit of blood and sweat maybe, nothing else - and still allowed a loincloth. The terrible reality was rather different: criminals were hung on the cross naked, left in the scorching sun, sometimes for two or three days, and in the slow process of dying would lose, repeatedly, in their nakedness, control of bowel and bladder function. The ultimate humiliation for all spectators to see - and jeer at. Birds of prey would attack flesh and eyes. And finally, rather than a decent burial, the victim's body would more likely have been left to rot, or been thrown to the wild dogs.

All in all, a terrible business; and an extremely odd way to present a new idea of a glorious god. Dramatic maybe, but a bit of a risk for the authors if the accounts were total invention.
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Thu 17 Mar 2016, 15:40

I'm not sure your analysis of the fiscal policy in operation is supportable outside biblical claims. Rome tried several times to stop revenues being siphoned off into that black hole which was "the temple" and just about every huge conflagration in their relationship with the locals kicked off over this issue, including the one that effectively ended in calamity for the local culture for good. Despite their own estimation of the true relationship between Rome and the temple bosses the gospel writers certainly ignored a whole bunch of stuff they surely would have known about that Josephus, for example, gave almost headline billing.

Your depiction of what the reality of dying on a cross was like is pretty accurate. Much more accurate than the one in the narrative we are discussing, in fact. If there is anything odd it is the solid determination to misrepresent these rather well known at the time realities, a determination that marks the narrators out primarily as myth makers in my view, rather than recounters of actual historical fact. And I would say this was totally in keeping with their willingness to depart even from rather basic natural laws of physics too. They weren't describing any reality recognisable to ordinary people. That was probably the whole point. They were constructing a metaphysical universe with elements from reality but in no way dependent on that reality being tested. Myths have their own logic.
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Thu 17 Mar 2016, 18:42

nordmann wrote:
I'm not sure your analysis of the fiscal policy in operation is supportable outside biblical claims. Rome tried several times to stop revenues being siphoned off into that black hole which was "the temple" and just about every huge conflagration in their relationship with the locals kicked off over this issue, including the one that effectively ended in calamity for the local culture for good. Despite their own estimation of the true relationship between Rome and the temple bosses the gospel writers certainly ignored a whole bunch of stuff they surely would have known about that Josephus, for example, gave almost headline billing.



This is exactly where it is so difficult to trust what one reads. I had assumed that a "special relationship" did indeed exist between Pilate and Caiaphas (seems Vitellius had his suspicions too) having read this - and other comments like it from what, alas, I thought were reputable sources:

Although little is known of Caiaphas, historians infer from his long tenure as high priest, from 18 to 36 C.E., that he must have worked well with Roman authority.  For ten years, Caiaphas served with Roman prefect Pontius Pilate.  The two presumably had a close relationship.  It is likely that Caiaphas and Pilate had standing arrangements for how to deal with subversive persons such as Jesus.

Caiaphas's motives in turning Jesus over to Pilate are a subject of speculation.  Some historians suggest that he had little choice.  Others argue that Caiaphas saw Jesus as a threat to the existing religious order.  He might have believed that if Jesus wasn't restrained or even executed that the Romans might end their relative tolerance of Jewish institutions.

High priests, including Caiaphas, were both respected and despised by the Jewish population.  As the highest religious authority, they were seen as playing a critical role in religious life and the Sanhedrin.  At the same time, however, many Jews resented the close relationship that high priest maintained with Roman authorities and suspected them of taking bribes or practicing other forms of corruption.

In the year 36 C.E., both Caiaphas and Pilate were dismissed from office by Syrian governor, Vitellius, according to Jewish historian Josephus.  It seems likely that the cause of their dismissal was growing public unhappiness with their close cooperation.  Rome might have perceived the need for a conciliatory gesture to Jews whose sensibilities had been offended by the two leaders. Josephus described the high priests of the family of Annas as "heartless when they sit in judgment."




nordmann wrote:
 They weren't describing any reality recognisable to ordinary people. That was probably the whole point. They were constructing a metaphysical universe with elements from reality but in no way dependent on that reality being tested. Myths have their own logic.



I'm sure you are absolutely correct. But does that matter? There's a ghost in Hamlet; does that make the whole play ridiculous - with nothing to teach us about our human predicament?
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Thu 17 Mar 2016, 20:08

Temp wrote:
I'm sure you are absolutely correct. But does that matter? There's a ghost in Hamlet; does that make the whole play ridiculous - with nothing to teach us about our human predicament?

You are also absolutely correct. There is much to be judged in scripture in terms of how didactic it might be. But if you are looking for historical background to the events featured in the gospels then it is to Josephus & Co you turn, not Matthew, Mark & Co.
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Fri 18 Mar 2016, 07:02

I want to finish my part in this discussion by quoting a chunk from A.N. Wilson's book Jesus which I have read several times now: I have found it immensely useful and oddly comforting. It was written in 1992 when Wilson, who had read both English Literature and Theology at Oxford (Lord help him!), had abandoned his faith. Yet he was honest enough to write this:


For all that the evangelists have done to Jesus, like creative artists fashioning a painting or an icon of a figure to the point where it is all but impossible to guess the true appearance of the original sitter, they cannot quite obscure the figure of Jesus himself within their pages. He is more than their creation. In spite of them, he fascinates us, as a figure independent of their fantastical visions. And, inevitably, like the disciples in Matthew's Gospel, we ask ourselves the unanswerable question: "What manner of man is this?" Granted the human capacity to mythologise anything and anyone, to make immortal gods out of such unpromising material as Julius Caesar or Elvis Presley, what was it about the figure of Jesus which so inflamed the imaginations of his early followers...
...What leads us back to the "blind alley" pursuit of the Jesus of History is the power of his recorded utterance, and the fascination of the figure the different evangelists have drawn. Though the New Testament writers seem to have done their best to obscure Jesus altogether in an encrustation of fantasy, he won't quite be pinned down. He struggles free of the evangelists sometimes...
...nor can we ignore his power. I am speaking neither of the power of the Christian Church, nor of the New Testament writings...I am speaking of those moments when imagination and instinct are shocked into recognition, and he stands before us. "Then Jesus came forth, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe, and Pilate saith unto them, 'Behold the man!"



Ecce homo indeed. Sorry about such a long quotation, but it's interesting stuff from an atheist - well, I think so.

PS Wilson has recently returned to his faith - he explains why here. The article has been much mocked, especially as it was published also in that organ of faith, the Daily Mail:

http://www.newstatesman.com/religion/2009/04/conversion-experience-atheism



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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Fri 18 Mar 2016, 10:06

He's speaking quite cogently - about myth though, not history.

Substitute "Arthur" for "Jesus" and "Geoffrey of Monmouth and New Age Druids" for "Evangelists" and every point he makes is almost equally as valid with only minor alterations to the details cited from the myth, if of understandably less concern to quite so many people regarding just what importance be attributed to the myth being discussed. But it is analysis of myth nevertheless, not of history. One only has to notice the historic assumption made in the first sentence to see to which rhetorical category all subsequent comments must adhere.
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Fri 18 Mar 2016, 17:54

nordmann wrote:
He's speaking quite cogently - about myth though, not history.

Substitute "Arthur" for "Jesus" and "Geoffrey of Monmouth and New Age Druids" for "Evangelists" and every point he makes is almost equally as valid with only minor alterations to the details cited from the myth, if of understandably less concern to quite so many people regarding just what importance be attributed to the myth being discussed. But it is analysis of myth nevertheless, not of history.  



No watery tarts (arms clad in the finest shimmering samite) throwing swords about in the New Testament, nordmann. You can't seriously compare King Arthur and Jesus of Nazareth. Can you?   Shocked

nordmann wrote:
One only has to notice the historic assumption made in the first sentence to see to which rhetorical category all subsequent comments must adhere.



Is it Apologetics?   confused


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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Fri 18 Mar 2016, 18:35

Each myth has its own logic. The tart would be as out of place in his as he would be helping the lads in their search for his lost cup.
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Sat 19 Mar 2016, 06:59

nordmann wrote:
Each myth has its own logic.


But I thought we hankerers after "myth" are the most illogical of humans? What would we be doing with a mythical logic? Surely it would unsettle us all dreadfully?

You are forever throwing this word "logic" in people's faces: is it possible that you cling to your "logic" the way the Fundies cling to their insistence on the inerrancy of the Bible? I wish I could be so sure of anything as you and they are: it must be a great comfort. I am not trying to be offensive here; I envy you and them. Doubting Thomas has my complete sympathy.

I'm reading Angelus Silesius at the moment: when in doubt, go all mystic.

GOD IS NOT GRASPED
God is an utter Nothingness,
Beyond the touch of Time and Place:
The more thou graspest after Him,
The more he fleeth thy embrace.



PS My reference to Holy Grail watery tarts above was Friday evening silliness, and I wish I had not attempted the feeble joke: however, will not delete it as it would make nonsense of your last comment.
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Sat 19 Mar 2016, 08:49

Temp wrote:
You are forever throwing this word "logic" in people's faces:

Do forgive me ma'am. I had assumed you dexterous enough to have caught it when it was hurled. I employed no underhand spin or googly in the execution of the lob. Allow me to peel the logic from your boat race so, and explain its constituents before I hurled it.

Logic - as Aristotle agreed - only requires three component characteristics to be deemed a "system", consistency, soundness and completeness. One can have several systems however - the flaw with the "logic" (if you know what I mean) is that consistency can occur even within false reasoning, that soundness (the likelihood of truth within any premise) is therefore inferred but not provable, and then completeness - which should have been a rational and irrefutable outcome denoting a "truth" - becomes simply another assertion which will potentially fail when tested against another logic, which itself might well fail when tested against yet another, and so on. This, according to several of the lads, proved that the hunt for the "logos" was a bit of a non-starter - and they devised other modes of rationale to analyse really important stuff like spirituality, the nature of the universe, and how long it takes (really) to boil a perfect egg. But for myth, and especially for religious myth, the logos hunt goes on, and moreover contained within one logic system that suits each myth's particular assertions.

But it's not all bad. Having potentially trillions of different logic systems, and the ability to accommodate several at one time in all our heads, allows us to enjoy a good page-turner and get lost in a film or two occasionally, not to mention devotion to deities, political party allegiances, football club fandom (Aston Villa fans at the moment will recognise this acutely), and belief in Virgin train timetables. If we couldn't we'd never have heard of Mr Spock.

Next time I'll lob it gently.
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Sat 19 Mar 2016, 09:17

nordmann wrote:
  

Logic - as Aristotle agreed - only requires three component characteristics to be deemed a "system", consistency, soundness and completeness. One can have several systems however - the flaw with the "logic" (if you know what I mean) is that consistency can occur even within false reasoning, that soundness (the likelihood of truth within any premise) is therefore inferred but not provable, and then completeness - which should have been a rational and irrefutable outcome denoting a "truth" - becomes simply another assertion which will potentially fail when tested against another logic, which itself might well fail when tested against yet another, and so on. This, according to several of the lads, proved that the hunt for the "logos" was a bit of a non-starter - and they devised other modes of rationale to analyse really important stuff like spirituality, the nature of the universe, and how long it takes (really) to boil a perfect egg. But for myth, and especially for religious myth, the logos hunt goes on, and moreover contained within one logic system that suits each myth's particular assertions.

But it's not all bad. Having potentially trillions of different logic systems, and the ability to accommodate several at one time in all our heads, allows us to enjoy a good page-turner and get lost in a film or two occasionally, not to mention devotion to deities, political party allegiances, football club fandom (Aston Villa fans at the moment will recognise this acutely), and belief in Virgin train timetables. If we couldn't we'd never have heard of Mr Spock.



May we also include Garfield's reasoning about the carrot-cake in your list?    


You sound just like my late friend who had the rather impressive philosophy degree from Cambridge: I never knew what she was on about most of the time either. She considered me to be the most illogical person she had ever met, but she never gave up on her efforts to get me to reason things properly. Alas, I fear it was a futile exercise. She converted to Roman Catholicism in the end - for her, she claimed, a perfectly logical step  Suspect . Philosophy and theology are indeed great mysteries to us lesser mortals.

As ever, I feel very embarrassed with this logic smeared all over my face. I have clearly lost something here, be it face, plot or argument. Possibly all three at one fell, nordic swoop. Oh well. Think I'll go back to the poo thread for a bit of a break: some pithy rudeness from two of my favourite lads - More and Tyndale - seems somewhat appropriate.  Smile


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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Sat 19 Mar 2016, 17:01

And  to make the explanation of "LOGIC" even more confusing:

 http://www.iep.utm.edu/explanat/
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Sun 20 Mar 2016, 05:49

They do seem to complicate things unnecessarily, don't they, Dirk?


http://www.luminarium.org/editions/morejest.htm


But then:



Wise men alway,
              Affirm and say,
That best 'tis for a man,
              Diligently,
              For to apply
The business that he can;

              And in no wise
              To enterprise
Another faculty,
              For he that will
              And can no skill
Is never like to thrive...


...When an hatter
              Will go smatter
In philosophy,
              Or a pedlar
              Were a meddler
In theology,

              All that ensue
              Such craftes new,
They drive so far a cast,
              That evermore
              They do therefore
Beshrew themselves at last.
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Sun 20 Mar 2016, 18:44

One man's "confusing" ...

I found that a very concise and eminently fair assessment of naturalism versus non-naturalism, Dirk, and their almost opposing stances in the current thinking about the thinking behind thinking.

Temp wrote:
They do seem to complicate things unnecessarily, don't they, Dirk?

Even if the "unnecessarily" bit were true, I would still say as crimes go it is by far the lesser, if the alternative is to "simplify things unwarrantedly".

More's entreaty to everyone to stick to what they were ordained by society to do, made when still a devil at Lincoln's Inn, was sadly for him advice which the author and budding lawyer of precocious ability himself failed to take. Though we have many reasons to be grateful he chose to ignore it. As we often have indeed when others also ignore such dispiriting stricture. I believe, for instance, that there are many fans of an alleged first century Jewish carpentry apprentice who may also agree with me. (Though many who might wish that tent-makers never felt such compunction to diversify)
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Mon 21 Mar 2016, 07:05

Direct hit, sir. Smile

Seriously, point(s) taken.


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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Mon 21 Mar 2016, 14:35

Deleted - Thomas More's satirical poetry is off-topic.

Apologies to the instigator of the thread.
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Tue 22 Mar 2016, 09:39

Just in case you haven't noticed this Temp.    BBC1, Friday morning;

In the footsteps of Judas
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Tue 22 Mar 2016, 18:29

Triceratops wrote:
Just in case you haven't noticed this Temp.    BBC1, Friday morning;

In the footsteps of Judas



Oh, thank you, Trike - that was really thoughtful of you. I actually hadn't noticed! My recorder is now set.

Judas is such an interesting character - but then the whole cast is. Don't think even WW could have done a better job of making so many people so fascinating. If it is all made-up - a mythic fantasy - then someone should get an Oscar for original screenplay.
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Wed 23 Mar 2016, 07:29

Bishop John Spong believes Judas was a "literary creation", a "device" to vilify the Jews, "not a character of history, but a composite figure drawn from many sources". Lord, no wonder the ultra-orthodox Christians hate this man with all their hearts and with all their souls and with all their strength and with all their minds - Spong, I mean, not Judas. Fundies send him death threats quite regularly. Spong is a retired bishop and a theologian, but seems to me he's a pretty good historian too. He's also a good Christian.

http://chqdaily.com/2012/06/29/spong-breaks-down-literary-myth-of-judas-iscariot/


Here's the lecture he gave on this subject in 2012:


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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Wed 23 Mar 2016, 07:53

Temp wrote:
If it is all made-up - a mythic fantasy - then someone should get an Oscar for original screenplay.

Fantasy seems a strange word to use, almost disparaging of the notion that that which is not strictly factual still contains relevance, something one who has invested anything in the myth should actually adopt as a first principle, I would have thought.

But I concur completely with the idea that the narrative is greatly improved by bringing principal characters into conflict. Jesus V Peter at one point. Jesus V Thomas at another point. Pilate V the pharisees, Pilate V Jesus of course, Judas V the gang, Judas V Jesus, Jesus V almost everyone when it comes to admonishments, and so on. The writers knew their rules of philosophical discourse, even if it was all new stuff to anyone not already exposed to Hellenic tradition. However it doesn't really translate into great drama - passable, but not great. Too many side plots and contradictions in the sense of character consistency and motive for that. Which of course themselves are a direct result of imparting didactic and explanatory messages within the story - the whole point of its composition, not to create a great screenplay with Robert Powell or Jim Caviezel etc in the lead role. A lot of good screenplays have been made out of the material, but every one in its own way has had to ditch quite a lot in the process to make it interesting for film audiences.
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Wed 23 Mar 2016, 09:47

Yes, I admit "fantasy" was rather an infelicitous choice of word, as was my reference to "screenplay"; but it was very early, and before my third cup of tea - that's my excuse, anyway.

You could write a publisher's rejection note, nordmann, one for each evangelist. Here are some good examples of a few such unfortunate missives (not that your wit would need an example). You could perhaps adapt this one:


"You’re welcome to le Carré – he hasn’t got any future."



http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/books/booknews/10877825/The-rejection-letters-how-publishers-snubbed-11-great-authors.html



I had hoped you would want to discuss Judas, but I suppose Spongy has said it all, really. No fun when people don't thrash about trying wretchedly to argue with you, is it?  

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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Wed 23 Mar 2016, 09:54

Gosh, this thread is heading for 1000 views - and it's achieved fiery feather status. And that's without Priscilla!
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Wed 23 Mar 2016, 10:08

Temp wrote:
No fun when people don't thrash about trying wretchedly to argue with you, is it?

I just couldn't see how a discussion of that particular character would be pertinent to the thread topic. Spong is quite correct to surmise that Judas (like others in the story) is an archetype, and this squares with common myth creation, not just that pertaining to Christianity's particular version. The most powerful myths are spare in their use of character - one tends to end up with archetypal and rather one dimensional characters as a result. But this isn't necessarily a bad thing in the context of the narrative - the simpler the character sketch the more dramatic any slight deviation or contradiction then appears to the reader. Jesus going ape-shit in the Temple, for example, just wouldn't work that well if he went around thumping people into submission with his adze in the story up to that point. However this narrational trick - like many others - was missed in the case of Judas Iscariot. A few nice things pointed out about him (as with some other apostles) beforehand would have really emphasised the whole treachery thing later.
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Wed 23 Mar 2016, 11:01

It's true there is some poor writing in the Bible (didn't Hitchens, in one of his bitchier moments, note that it was odd, the Bible being the inerrant word of God and all, that Shakespeare and most of the great Victorian novelists were obviously better writers than the Almighty?); however, there is much magnificent stuff too. There are some cracking characters - in both the New and Old Testaments - characters who live on in a remarkable way.

Pilate is a supreme example, as, of course, is Peter; not to mention Moses and Joseph and Job and Sarah and...and...and... Even that mysterious, fleeting, naked boy who ran away into the night from Gethsemane (Mark's Gospel). What a brilliant little touch that was.

And some of the poetry in the OT is sublime - God was obviously a better poet than novelist. That 23rd Psalm, for example, still has 'em weeping nearly three thousand years on. Not bad for a short poem, written - possibly - by some Iron Age king. Joseph Heller, in God Knows, actually has Bathsheba writing the psalms when she's bored. "The Lord is my shepherd, Bathsheba? It's obvious you've never been up to your knees in sheep-shit," an amused, possibly bemused, King David tells her when he reads one of her efforts.

But I do not for one minute imagine you will agree with me, and anyway I don't know enough about Hebraic literary technique to comment intelligently. Furthermore, as you point out, such discussion is not relevant to the thread.

Pity Tim's not around: I wonder what his take on all this would be?


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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Wed 23 Mar 2016, 11:17

Of course language plays a big part in all this. Let the happy-clappy brigade near any of this stuff and it becomes less legend and more bell-end. That's the problem with myth - those who contribute to its upkeep rarely know how to quit when they're ahead.
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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Wed 23 Mar 2016, 11:19

So should I quit - stop worrying and enjoy my life, as the Dawkins bus advert advised - or keep fighting (fight the Bell-End Brigade, I mean) for my version of truth? Does anyone care anyway?





Poor Tyndale. We let him - and the ploughboys - down if we do give up. The language is so beautiful, and the meaning so profound and so important - but yes, some people do make complete and utter nonsense of it all; and of what he - and so many others - died for. It sickens me.

But some would say that's just my elitist snobbery...


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PostSubject: Re: The 'Jesus is a myth' myth   Wed 23 Mar 2016, 12:02

Well, if it's the preservation of the KJV language you're after you'll even find Richard D. on your side, I'd say.

I don't get the "snobby elitism" thing. It's a derogatory way of referring to people who hold to the rather basic and self-evident concept that some people are simply just better, cleverer and more likely to contribute something worthwhile to the common good than others. When you think about it (and especially if such an accusation is made by a so-called Christian) without this being the case then they wouldn't have a religion at all.

Actually there's a bit of the narrative that is sorely lacking too and would have helped the story (and indeed the myth) along nicely; the bit where all the other local carpentry apprentices criticise Josh for going all snobby elitist on them on their tea breaks, when all they want is to discuss how Maccabee Haifa fared at the weekend and Mary M's knockers, while he is intent on presenting his latest ideas regarding the moral consequences of metaphysical belief.
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