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 Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged

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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Thu 18 Feb 2016, 22:19

Temperance you will be delighted to know that not only have I heard of Karen Armstrong but I have read 'The Case for God' in which she finds 'new atheists' "disappointingly shallow".  It is also a very appropriate book to bring up under this thread as in it she points out in it that the 'classic account' of Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford Debate was without any supporting contemporary evidence.  I did not find her 'mad', by the way.

sleep well

Tim
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Fri 19 Feb 2016, 09:33

Tim wrote:
what you are supposed to do is nod wisely in agreement and applaud

Not at all. Call me old-fashioned if you like, but a simple non-caustic, non-ad-hominem reply that doesn't drip with tu-quoqueisms is what tickles my own ossis gratum. I'm not actually a great fan of sardonic christianity (it grates, to be honest) - and, even allowing for my lack of a perfect understanding of the New Testament, I'm still nearly sure that this isn't a style of rhetoric adopted all too frequently by some of his "ardent" supporters about which Jesus would have been too crazy either, myth or no myth.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Fri 19 Feb 2016, 14:53





But, alas, the sardonic approach does tempt us all at times. Embarassed
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Meles meles
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Fri 19 Feb 2016, 16:54

I love that lass in the middle ... the one who, in contrast to the surrounding, frenzied, happy-clappy mob, is nearly immobile and just dragging deeply on a fag.  Sardonism indeed personified.

Smile
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Fri 19 Feb 2016, 18:01

On my telephone that's a slow handclap, Temp.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Sat 20 Feb 2016, 12:20

Meles meles wrote:
I love that lass in the middle ... the one who, in contrast to the surrounding, frenzied, happy-clappy mob, is nearly immobile and just dragging deeply on a fag.  Sardonism indeed personified.

Smile



My favourite is the one who looks as though she's on a bucking bronco.
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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Sun 21 Feb 2016, 15:14

Returning to the original topic and the question of the '19th C AD' age of the Sun and its impact on evolutionary theory.  Dawkins alludes to this in his book 'The God Delusion' taking the opportunity to make a derogatory comment concerning the eminent physicist Lord Kelvin.  Kelvin was a devote Christian, whether he was also sardonic I do not know, and spoke out against evolutionary theory applying physics to both the age of the Earth and of the Sun.  However, Dawkins, who was an evolutionary biologist, (now more of a professional atheist) rather than a physicist and misunderstood what Kelvin was saying concerning the Sun.

I will get back with a suitably sardonic response to the other outstanding issues when I have the time as the last thing I would want to do would be to  'tickle Nordmann's ossis gratum' or anything else for that matter. 

However, a simple non-caustic, non-ad-hominem question that doesn't drip with tu-quoqueisms for Nordmann - or rather two!

"Do you still maintain that Paul, earliest written source for the existence of Jesus, was Greek rather than Jewish?  If so, what is your evidence for this and what creditable academic support do you have for this view?"
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Sun 21 Feb 2016, 17:30

You say you are getting back to the original topic and then ask for clarification on a completely irrelevant point regarding another topic from some past discussion?

But I'll answer you anyway. Not speaking as a New Testament expert, of course, but it still strikes me that a lad growing up in the Greek city of Tarsus in Hellenic Mersin, who spoke Greek, wrote in Greek, whose pre-religious proselytism period saw him forge an allegedly successful career in a Greek part of the Roman bureaucratic and military machine, who then went on to proselytise to Greeks while moving freely around the Greek portion of the empire, while introducing some distinctly Greek philosophical takes on his newly adoptive religion which - for a lad who was also brought up by a pharisaical Jewish family - would have been quite a surprising move for a more orthodoxically traditional Jewish believer but more understandable for a hellenised individual with a mind open to Greek philosophical and religious sensibilities, might have been a bit Greek alright.

Now, while we're on the subject of unanswered questions from previous discussions, maybe you might be courteous enough to finally answer this one - which after all addresses the rather more pertinent subject of myth versus fact in the minds of a particular myth's subscribers, the largest stumbling block also in any so-called "debate" between creationists and evolutionists. Can you please - at last - tell me if you actually believe it is a fact that Jesus came back from the dead, walked and talked amongst his disciples, and finished off with an ascension into heaven?

Your answer would inform me greatly about the latitude you employ when discussing myth in the matter of the attribution of the quality of fact, however unproven or unprovable it may be, to those elements of profound importance to the ethos of the myth but in any other sense quite bizarre.

You cannot avoid tickling my ossis gratum. I am like Cicero in that regard. And like Cicero I would also ask a man who makes a literary criticism to at least cite the offending literature, which I feel I must ask you also to provide with respect to your specific assertion above concerning the book "The God Delusion". I have just read the passage to which I assume you refer in my copy of Dawkins' book and find no "derogatory" remark concerning Kelvin at all. In the book the author states that Kelvin was both an eminent scientist and a devout Christian (this is the topic of the chapter), that he disputed evolutionary theory on the basis that he reckoned there had not been enough time, that he did so because he had underestimated the age of the sun based on a theory of stellar combustion that was soon to be challenged and replaced, that he did this because nuclear energy was the crucial variable not known to Kelvin, that research by the Curies on the properties of Radium informed the world of this phenomenon, and that it was ironically Darwin's second son Sir George Darwin who presented the Curies' findings first to the British Science Association. He mentions that Kelvin was still alive at the time. Nothing derogatory there that I can see. Maybe you are referring to another passage in Dawkins' book that somehow hasn't made it into my Norwegian translation?
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Tim of Aclea
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Sun 21 Feb 2016, 20:59

Tut tut tut Nordmann this does not seem to be 'a simple non-caustic, non-ad-hominem reply that doesn't drip with tu-quoqueisms'.  It was in search of such a reply that asked the question, that and your failure to answer it previously over several years.

How do you know that Paul grew up in Tarsus?  Where in his letters does he say that he grew up in Tarsus?  Tarsus, as I am sure you are aware is in Greece?

Does Paul say in his letters that he is a Greek or does he say that he is a Jew?

Does Paul say his parents are Greek or are Jewish

Can you come up with any sources that say that he was Greek?

The argument that he wrote in Greek and spoke Greek and was therefore Greek is so incredibly stupid, and I know that a person as intelligent as you must know in your heart of hearts that it is incredibly stupid, that I cannot really cannot believe you have made it and my estimation of you is considerably reduced as a result.  Philo wrote in Greek and so did Josephus.  The entire New Testament was written in Greek.  The Old Testament at the time had been translated into Greek not into Latin.  Greek, as you know, was a widely spoken lingua franca in the Mediterranean world and beyond.  Do you think that Bede is not English because he wrote in Latin?  I am sorry but I find your argument truly pathetic and that is how regrettably I will remember you.  Your ego, led on by the adoration of others is unfortunately too big for you to admit that you are wrong.

Paul moved at ease amongst Greeks but he also moved at ease amongst non-Greeks, Jews, Romans, in fact everyone "I have become all things to all people".  Another pathetic argument.

Not that it particularly matter, but I notice that you, not surprisingly, are unable to muster any academic support for your views.  I am afraid that if I listed all the academic support for the view that Paul was Jewish it would fill up the page.

I do not believe that I have not made my position clear in the past concerning my belief in Jesus Christ. In fact having commented that I believed in his resurrection I can remember you replying on the BBC pages, quite kindly for you, that people do not rise from the dead.  Actually I agree but I believe that Jesus is the contingent aspect of God in human form and was raised by God (important theological point that he was raised by God not that he raised himself from the dead).  The historical evidence for the resurrection is set out in detail (800 pages) in NTWright's book, but I obviously do not expect you to accept it and I have not argued about it as I consider it a matter of faith.  However, it was the historical evidence for the resurrection, it pervades the whole New Testament, that convinced me of the truth of Christianity.  Concerning the Ascension.  Clearly Jesus' resurrection appearances could not just continue getting less and less.  There had to be a clear cutting off point at which the disciples knew they would not continue, how that was achieved I do not know.

Finally concerning Kelvin.  Dawkins is not that important to me that I have kept a copy.  However, my notes on the book state that he made a comment along the lines that Kelvin seemed to think that the Sun was a ball of burning gas or words to that effect.  By the way if the Sun that really been a ball of burning gas it would have lasted about 6 or 7,000 years.  However, next time I see a copy of the book I will check and send a message via Caro, Paul or Dirk.

I am really disappointed in you Nordmann.  I expected better of you.
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Sun 21 Feb 2016, 22:53

Tim wrote:
However, it was the historical evidence for the resurrection, it pervades the whole New Testament, that convinced me of the truth of Christianity.

And there you have it in a nutshell. N.T. Wright, like others, may produce books of 800 pages, or even longer, claiming to have addressed historical evidence for this particular resurrection having actually occurred, but understandably the best they can do is find historical evidence for belief in the fact that it occurred. Wright, and others, might even find historical justification for the reason behind this belief's own existence (such as his well argued contention that it reflects a particular Judaic belief of its time), but again this should not be confused with evidence that it occurred either.

What such an author can never explain however is why and how autolysis and putrefaction, a completely inescapable and natural sequence of chemical decomposition, should be seemingly reversed in this case. The why of it might be summarily addressed by a myth-provided motive which ignores the mechanics, but the how of it cannot. This, they know, is outside their remit, the parameters of which are set quite specifically by the myth in which they too have invested belief. The combination of reliance on mythical motivation and an absence of simple scientific explanation places all further deductions firmly outside the purely rational pale, rational history included. Hypothesis can still be formulated by the proposer, but its grounding in any reality recognisable outside the mythically defined version of that term has been seriously compromised by the exercise, be that for the historian or even the chemistry student in this case.

Also, within the terms of a deeply held faith in mythical constructs a question, for example, such as whether Jesus organised his own resurrection or God arranged it may be pertinent. However back where those contrived parameters no longer define such a limited scope magnifying the importance of that point, back in the world in which that myth is simply one of many devised by people proposing sometimes even more fantastic departures from reality, it is of far less significance than the question of why some people choose to believe in such departures from observable reality in any case, and why those who engage in such departures are content as a result to accommodate a cognitively dissonant view on reality which, if allowed to run unopposed or unchecked, can only serve in the long term to detract from an individual's capacity to appreciate reality at all.

This is why your answer was important to me, and I am grateful that within your reply you have at last been courteous enough to extend it.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Mon 22 Feb 2016, 10:16

On the Paul was a Greek argument - I have found this, from the Jewish Virtual Library. Perhaps, Tim, you will find it of interest. I did not know that the great Jewish teacher Gamaliel (wasn't Paul one of his students; or so he, Paul, liked to claim?) was interested in  "Greek wisdom" and that it was taught in Jerusalem. This is from the site:


Education was a key area of Greek impact. After the establishment of the gymnasium and ephebeion by Jason the high priest in pre-Maccabean times, there is no further information on Greek educational institutions established by Jews. However, in the first century Rabban Gamaliel had 500 students of Greek wisdom in addition to 500 students of Torah (Sot. 49b, et al.), although this permission to study Greek was granted to the house of Rabban Gamaliel only because of their special relationship with the Roman government.


http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/History/hellenism.html


I hesitate to wade in on the Resurrection. But I despair. Things have to be so black and white for you two. "Bones and all walking out of the tomb" v. putrefaction. Surely, whatever Easter was and is, it was and is more than such simple interpretations?
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nordmann
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Mon 22 Feb 2016, 10:29

I heartily agree with you, Temp, regarding the complexity of interpretation employed in the case of Jesus's resurrection, even (probably especially) amongst those for whom it represents a fundamental component of the entire myth. For me the complexity lies in the degree of adherence to irrational alternatives that abound in the exercise, even sometimes on the part of some who have invested nothing in the myth at all. But that is something symptomatic of a wider discussion regarding recurring symbolic motifs in myth based on aspiration, of which the Christian variety is simply one example and it would be foolish to get hung up on just that.

In the context of this thread the Paul/Greek aside is a complete red herring. Though bearing that in mind, at Tim's behest some years ago I did actually read books recommended by him, by my friendly Christian librarian here in Oslo, and a priest of my acquaintance, and was in fact pleasantly surprised to see that this issue bothered early Christians too much more than I had realised. Jerome, if I remember correctly, even wrote something of a thesis back in the 4th century firmly emasculating Paul of any Greek tendencies whatsoever. As with all such badly documented and contentious biographies one is reduced to taking refuge - as Tim so often recommends - in the infinite number of scholars defence, which tends to place Paul in Tarsus at or near his point of origin and later as administrative base for a while during his proselytising period. From my own limited research - admittedly inexpert - the bit about being educated in Jerusalem seemed particularly problematic for both sides even in the current ongoing debate about this, and the compromise appeared to be that he was, but was still open to certain non-Jewish influences, or at least very non-Sadducee influence, during this time.

But again, not belonging to this thread at all. A great subject for another one, right enough.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Tue 23 Feb 2016, 07:56

nordmann wrote:
I heartily agree with you, Temp, regarding the complexity of interpretation employed in the case of Jesus's resurrection, even (probably especially) amongst those for whom it represents a fundamental component of the entire myth. For me the complexity lies in the degree of adherence to irrational alternatives that abound in the exercise, even sometimes on the part of some who have invested nothing in the myth at all. But that is something symptomatic of a wider discussion regarding recurring symbolic motifs in myth based on aspiration, of which the Christian variety is simply one example and it would be foolish to get hung up on just that.



Don't understand.

"Irrational" is an interesting choice of adjective. Are all those who do not think as you do "irrational" then? What is an irrational answer - or person? I suppose you mean illogical, but the word does have other - unfortunately negative - connotations. It is such a sneaky idea to slip into a sentence. And what does it mean to have "invested in the myth"?


Only from Wiki the following, but Vermes has good credentials - think even Tim would concede that:


Biblical scholar Géza Vermes analyzes this subject in his book, "The Resurrection". He concludes that there are eight possible theories to explain the "resurrection of Jesus". Vermes outlines his boundaries as follows:

I have discounted the two extremes that are not susceptible to rational judgment, the blind faith of the fundamentalist believer and the out-of-hand rejection of the inveterate skeptic. The fundamentalists accept the story, not as written down in the New Testament texts, but as reshaped, transmitted, and interpreted by Church tradition. They smooth down the rough edges and abstain from asking tiresome questions. The unbelievers, in turn, treat the whole Resurrection story as the figment of early Christian imagination. Most inquirers with a smattering of knowledge of the history of religions will find themselves between these two poles.


Most rational enquirers that is?

I expect the discussion is over now, but will still send this.


PS  Tim seems to have retired from the fray. Frayed at the edges, no doubt. Shame, because I love listening to you two arguing. One learns such a lot.

PPS Wish we could resurrect the Saint Paul thread. The man fascinates me, but I think he bores rigid everyone else here. (Although ferval did admit to enjoying that programme on him at Christmas. Smile )
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Tue 23 Feb 2016, 09:16

Actually illogical would also have sufficed there too, so apologies if the other word somehow offended. But basically the sense is the same in this case. In theology, as opposed to philosophy, alternative explanations for the same phenomena do not require to be rationally cohesive. In fact they rarely are, in that competing explanations for often supernatural phenomena are tackled theologically often simply by focusing on, or even inventing, unique traits to the phenomenon which suit whichever theory being promulgated. In philosophy we learnt that this is "irrational", a watchword for alerting one to the fact that one is most likely going down a blind alley of reason if one pursues the assertion - either supportively or critically - which itself has ultimately been based on an another assertion rather than an observable, and therefore more logically dependable, state, behaviour, event or human action.

For what it's worth, I don't agree with Vermes' dichotomy above. Both the blind believer and the "inveterate sceptic" are prone to be fundamentalist in my view. While I am certainly cynical of many theological claims and practices, I regard everything that any theology throws up to have intellectual worth, if only as a stepping stone to understanding human nature. I dismiss nothing as "mere invention" on that score either. Invention is one of the most admirable and essential human abilities, and whatever one thinks of an individual's motives when inventing, one has to be very careful indeed when analysing inventions which lie at the heart of myths, especially ones in which many people have invested* very much. They have not done this for no reason, and the persistence of the myth suggests a very good reason indeed.

* "Investing in myth" is when one commits to a myth using all the faculties, credence, and intellectual vigour normally reserved for more tangible and experiential phenomena. It appears to be a very necessary first step in the process of assigning a lustre of reality to that which had origin as much in the imaginative process as the rationally deductive. A myth in which one does not invest to some degree is simply a collection of stories and unsupportable claims, so even a critical approach to myth (as mine) requires investment of a sort too.
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Temperance
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Tue 23 Feb 2016, 13:57

That's a gracious reply - really.

I wasn't actually offended at all, but, as I often think I could be coming across as irrational, the word makes me touchy.

Not to worry.

Tim is obviously having the mother of all huffs. A real shame.
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Tue 23 Feb 2016, 19:13

Why don't we as adults just admit that the whole issue of religion, irrespective whatever denomination one belongs to, is one of believing.
In other words you believe in what the Bible says or you don't believe what it says.

As far as the resurrection of a man called Jesus Christ is concerned depends entirely on that one word "BELIEVE" myth or no myth.
The question of whether GOD exists seems to be either unanswerable or irrelevant to many.


What I think?

Although I don't define myself as atheist or agnostic, I am not a believer. For me, the best way to live is to use common sense. That does not require belief in a deity
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Tue 23 Feb 2016, 20:14

I haven't anything to add to this thread at present but as I haven't welcomed Dirk Marinus to "Res Hist" I will do so now.
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Tue 23 Feb 2016, 21:08

I'm with Pratchett on this. All religions are true, for a given value of truth.
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PostSubject: Re: Huxley and Wilberforce and the Oxford 1860 debate – a long cherished myth challenged   Wed 24 Feb 2016, 09:32

Dirk Marinus wrote:
Why don't we as adults just admit that the whole issue of religion, irrespective whatever denomination one belongs to, is one of believing.
In other words you believe in what the Bible says or you don't believe what it says.

As far as the resurrection of a man called Jesus Christ is concerned depends entirely on that one word "BELIEVE" myth or no myth.
The question of whether GOD exists seems to be either unanswerable or irrelevant to many.


What I think?

Although I don't define myself as atheist or agnostic, I am not a believer. For me, the best way to live is to use common sense. That does not require belief in a deity



The expression "as adults" in Dirk's post caught my eye. I have thought for quite a while now that our various discussions here about religion illustrate rather well the old Transactional Analysis model of human behaviour: how we all shift about between various ego-states of parent (whether controlling or nurturing) - adult - child (whether free and happy, or defiant or fearful or submissive).





We all like to think we are permanently in "adult" mode, but, alas, we deceive ourselves: we need to be aware when our responses are between our defiant adolescent and another poster's sardonic, finger-wagging, controlling parent, or when our submissive, fearful child is cowering before a frightening parent - or seemingly all-knowing adult. It's not psychobabble this; it's good therapy! This sort of classic T.A. intercourse between us is, however, perhaps inevitable - at times - when we discuss a subject which has, whether we are prepared to admit it or not, emotional "investment" for us all.

I like to think I am securely  Suspect in adult ego-state when I say that I really do want to talk about history on this thread (although it is probably the wrong thread) - the history of the origins/development of Christianity, that is, and its links to earlier religions/philosophy. As you have all gathered, the topic fascinates me. I want to find out about that history, but also explore - as rationally as possible - how legend and myth probably did develop from it.

It's a tricky subject, all right. Usually, though, we do interact here as polite adults in our search for a difficult truth. Long may that continue.

Speaking of the development of the myth, I am surprised that no one (Tim?) picked me up on an earlier error. A few posts ago, I blithely declared this:


I wrote:
Isn't it accepted now that there are "two" ways of thinking about Jesus: the historical Jesus of Nazareth about whom we really "know" very little; and the mythical figure of the Christ? As I understand it, it is the mythical figure whom nordmann tells us (quite rightly) "did not exist", the figure largely created by Saint Paul and by the writers of the gospels (especially John), all of whom were profoundly affected by Paul's teaching. As you know, Paul's writings are not really concerned with the life of the teacher from Galilee, and the Pauline epistles are earlier compositions than any of the gospels. Paul's letters - and his concept of the "Christ" -  came before Matthew, Mark, Luke and John penned their accounts: few people - even church-going Christians - realise this, and so do not think about what this could mean: how it may have affected how the authors of the synoptic gospels and, later, John, presented their version of the life and times of Jesus of Nazareth.


But this was perhaps incorrect. (Made me realise that probably no one reads my posts - serves me right - pride comes before a fall and all that.)

Something I read last night in my Karen Armstong book, Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence, made me think again; made me wonder whether it really was Saint Paul who was responsible for the development of the "myth". I suppose we can say he started the process, but was the elusive Saint John (whoever he was - the authorities continue to argue: Rowan Williams and, of all people, Robin Lane Fox, believe he actually could well have been the only the eye-witness, that he was John, "the beloved disciple") - was this interesting character actually the evangelist who turned Jesus of Nazareth into a cosmic, mythical being, what came next, being as they say, history; or rather the history of the early Catholic church? Here is Armstrong:

"In Asia Minor, a number of Jewish-Christian assemblies, who traced their origins to the ministry of Jesus's apostle John, had developed a different view of Jesus. Paul and the Synoptics had never regarded Jesus as God; the very idea would have horrified Paul who, before his conversion, had been an exceptionally punctilious Pharisee. They all used the term "Son of God" in the conventional Jewish sense: Jesus had been an ordinary human being commissioned by God with a special task. Even in his exalted state, there was, for Paul, always a clear distinction between Jesus "kyrios Christos" and God, his Father. The author of the Fourth Gospel, however, depicted Jesus as a cosmic being, God's eternal "Word" ("logos") who existed with God before the beginning of time. This high Christology seems to have separated these congregations from other Jewish-Christian communities. Their writings were composed for an "in-group" with a private symbolism that was incomprehensible to outsiders..."

I wonder what Paul would have made of the Fourth Gospel? He had been dead for about forty years when it appeared (as far as is known - the dating of the Fourth Gospel, like the identity of its author, has been well chewed over, as is usual for everything about Christianity).
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