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eight bits

Ancient doubts that Jesus existed

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eight bits

It is often alleged that doubt that Jesus really existed is peculiarly modern. I have never been able to understand why apologists say that, or how it helps their case. Even if it were true that ancients accepted Jesus' existence without complaint, what does it matter when a hard question was first asked?

But is it even true? Very little serious counterapologetics survives from the first four Christian centuries, none of it from the First Century. Except for some brief snide remarks about Christians (e.g. Marcus Aurelius or Galen) and for some letters of Emperor Julian (~ 362 CE), all we have is the Christian reply to the critic, not the unimproved criticism itself.

A survey and assessment of what survives was recently blogged here,

https://uncertaintis...storical-jesus/

Ancient critics aggressively attacked the supposed factual basis of Christianity. Although no surviving work says "Jesus was made up," it sure looks like "Everything you say about Jesus was made up" was actuallly argued.

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DieChecker

It is often alleged that doubt that Jesus really existed is peculiarly modern. I have never been able to understand why apologists say that, or how it helps their case. Even if it were true that ancients accepted Jesus' existence without complaint, what does it matter when a hard question was first asked?

But is it even true? Very little serious counterapologetics survives from the first four Christian centuries, none of it from the First Century. Except for some brief snide remarks about Christians (e.g. Marcus Aurelius or Galen) and for some letters of Emperor Julian (~ 362 CE), all we have is the Christian reply to the critic, not the unimproved criticism itself.

A survey and assessment of what survives was recently blogged here,

https://uncertaintis...storical-jesus/

Ancient critics aggressively attacked the supposed factual basis of Christianity. Although no surviving work says "Jesus was made up," it sure looks like "Everything you say about Jesus was made up" was actuallly argued.

It makes sense to me. Those whos own religions and beliefs are threatened will often turn to denial of the validity of their opponents teachings.

Plus, like is always said, there isn't any real proof Jesus ever did live here on Earth. It's almost like someone would have had to have cleaned up any records, so Jesus would have to be believed on Faith alone.

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eight bits

DC

It's almost like someone would have had to have cleaned up any records, so Jesus would have to be believed on Faith alone.

...or as if somebody arranged things so that it was possible to believe in Jesus' existence with a straight face, unimpeded by inconvenient facts.

More likely, though, there never was any post mortem physical evidence of Jesus, assuming that he existed in the first place.

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Stubbly_Dooright

It makes sense to me. Those whos own religions and beliefs are threatened will often turn to denial of the validity of their opponents teachings.

Plus, like is always said, there isn't any real proof Jesus ever did live here on Earth. It's almost like someone would have had to have cleaned up any records, so Jesus would have to be believed on Faith alone.

Well granted. I kind of think, how is it, for a particular belief system and it's institution, based on a particular figure in supposed history, manages to survive over two thousand years. Granted, to go by that line of thinking, it does seem based in faith, doesn't it? *shrugs*

DC

...or as if somebody arranged things so that it was possible to believe in Jesus' existence with a straight face, unimpeded by inconvenient facts.

More likely, though, there never was any post mortem physical evidence of Jesus, assuming that he existed in the first place.

And I hope you and others can correct me. I also apologize that I hadn't read further on the articles and news bits that I gleaned from their headers, but what about certain archeological findings and such of certain finds? Were there? Or are guesses or educated and or professional guesses being made?

I understand, there will always have been the situations where certain records have been 'erased'. I think, from someone telling me, that the bible had been 'amanded' to take out various female characters, so to show that it's really a patriarchy? ( I could be wrong )

I have seen and read about in royal history, sometimes there were such who had the records, but none were found, ( from my understanding that is ) and I wonder, how do we learn more of that time. ( I think of the 'gossip' of Queen Elizabeth the first of England, and whether she actually had a biological child, ( if it was from her 'favorite' or her stepfathers, *shrugs* ) and if it lived or not, and grew to adulthood, and if there are actually descendents of her today! ( a crazy poster can dream, right?!?! :w00t: )

But despite heresay or records of what might have been found from what was put down, how do we find out for sure. We might not on that part.

Like King Richard the third of England, I wonder if we will find evidence of Jesus, and maybe other things.

So, I wonder, should we all just not take it for granted, until evidence can actually be found?

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DieChecker

DC

...or as if somebody arranged things so that it was possible to believe in Jesus' existence with a straight face, unimpeded by inconvenient facts.

More likely, though, there never was any post mortem physical evidence of Jesus, assuming that he existed in the first place.

Yeah, or that.... :innocent:

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DieChecker

Well granted. I kind of think, how is it, for a particular belief system and it's institution, based on a particular figure in supposed history, manages to survive over two thousand years. Granted, to go by that line of thinking, it does seem based in faith, doesn't it? *shrugs*

When you think about it, do we have physical evidence of Confucius, Mohammad, Krishna, or even Buddha? All of whom could be made up characters just as much as Jesus. Indeed, many believe Plato, or Socrates, weren't even real.

When you think about it, attesting works to Plato or Socrates basically takes the same kind of faith that they existed, that it takes to believe Jesus existed.

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Stubbly_Dooright

When you think about it, do we have physical evidence of Confucius, Mohammad, Krishna, or even Buddha? All of whom could be made up characters just as much as Jesus. Indeed, many believe Plato, or Socrates, weren't even real.

When you think about it, attesting works to Plato or Socrates basically takes the same kind of faith that they existed, that it takes to believe Jesus existed.

Yeah, and I would agree with you. We can say the same thing about Santa, ( although we have, or as I feel we do, a little more evidence from St. Nicholas or such............. anyways I digress... ) and yeah, countless other tales from long ago, that has survived. I think that is why they survive as well, because it has taken faith.

And I can understand that faith that fed it, could come from a grapevine, or something else, but for me, it gives me thought of how something survives so long. How long will it take before the Flying Speghetti Monster becomes more than what it's use for today?

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eight bits

Ms Mustard

There's no good archeological evidence. Are you speaking of "the James ossuary" and the "Jesus family tomb?" These are at best disputed as having any relevance for the problem of a historical Jesus.

DC

Yeah, or that.... :innocent:

It would have been the simplest thing in the world to preserve the criticisms with as much care as some of the rebuttals were preserved. Just that much would have increased the credibility of the church. People who aren't making up stories have nothing to fear from criticism.

Somebody did, in fact, arrange these things "so that it was possible to believe in Jesus' existence with a straight face, unimpeded by inconvenient facts." There's nothing innocent about what happened to Porphyry's Against the Christians. It must have been a blockbuster.

When you think about it, attesting works to Plato or Socrates basically takes the same kind of faith that they existed, that it takes to believe Jesus existed.

No. Somebody wrote the works of Plato (which are also half of what we have about Socrates). That I don't know his or her name is a different issue; I know that an author of Plato's works existed. I also have evidence bearing favorably on whether the works are singly authored, about when they were written, etc..

I have evidence that none of the works in which Jesus is discussed or quoted-in-translation are his works. For what product of Jesus, then, do I know there was some maker other than the authors of the New Testament?

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Davros of Skaro

When you think about it, do we have physical evidence of Confucius, Mohammad, Krishna, or even Buddha? All of whom could be made up characters just as much as Jesus. Indeed, many believe Plato, or Socrates, weren't even real.

Confucius among many other things wrote about the "Golden Rule" and he has a grave.

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=8152277

There's contemporary accounts of Mohammed (pbuh) by his enemies, and he has a grave.

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=8215419

Krishna is a Hindu deity. ;)

Buddha is problematic because information about him is from tradition developed centuries later after his supposed death.

When you think about it, attesting works to Plato or Socrates basically takes the same kind of faith that they existed, that it takes to believe Jesus existed.

Plato and Xenophon were students of Socrates that wrote about him. Aristophanes made a satirical play of Socrates that lead to his arrest and death. Jesus has no such contemporary accounts.

The earliest Christian writings is from Paul two decades after Jesus's supposed death as per the later Gospels. Paul writes about a celestial being. The first Gospel written at least four decades after Jesus's supposed death is wildly allegorical. The later Gospels copy from and expand on it.

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Davros of Skaro

It is often alleged that doubt that Jesus really existed is peculiarly modern. I have never been able to understand why apologists say that, or how it helps their case. Even if it were true that ancients accepted Jesus' existence without complaint, what does it matter when a hard question was first asked?

But is it even true? Very little serious counterapologetics survives from the first four Christian centuries, none of it from the First Century. Except for some brief snide remarks about Christians (e.g. Marcus Aurelius or Galen) and for some letters of Emperor Julian (~ 362 CE), all we have is the Christian reply to the critic, not the unimproved criticism itself.

A survey and assessment of what survives was recently blogged here,

https://uncertaintis...storical-jesus/

Ancient critics aggressively attacked the supposed factual basis of Christianity. Although no surviving work says "Jesus was made up," it sure looks like "Everything you say about Jesus was made up" was actuallly argued.

Great article. Thanks for posting.

I forget which early Christian apologist said it? He wrote that there was a sect of Christians who received teachings from Jesus by taking hallucinogenic Mushrooms. He cited the Gospels as pedigree for Jesus's teachings.

Paul talked of other Christians with false teachings.

The forged 2 Peter is a rebuttal to a sect of Christians that seen the Gospels as "sacred allegories" instead of literal doctrine. 2 Peter 1:16 forges an eyewitness account.

2 Peter 1:16

"16 For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty."

Looks to me that "Hidden Bible Code" fever was rampant for the outlook for a saviour messiah. If Philo can come up with a firstborn ArchAngel Logos (The Word) by twisting verses. So can people come up with anointed (Christ) saviour (Jesus). Later make an allegorical story set on Earth, and later it becomes literal doctrine.

On a sidenote I see on other sites that Christians still say "There's more evidence for Jesus than there's evidence for Julius Caesar".

LOL!

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eight bits

davros

2 Peter 1:16

"16 For we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty."

2 Peter is an interesting because it seems that Christians accused one another, and in reply defended themselves, just as later pagans accused Christians and the apologists defended.

"You're making it up!"

"No, we're not. Our scriptures were written by witnesses. Besides, your religion is full of made up stories."

"What about ...?"

"Wait, that's not ours. That's some heretical sect."

The issue in 2 Peter seems to be waiting for the world to end, and what to do in the meantime. Paul reports impatience about that decades before. Maybe party hearty. At least have a candy bar if you're not going anywhere for a while.

Edited by eight bits
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Stubbly_Dooright

Ms Mustard

There's no good archeological evidence. Are you speaking of "the James ossuary" and the "Jesus family tomb?" These are at best disputed as having any relevance for the problem of a historical Jesus.

Yes, I was. I hope I did infer, that I hadn't all of the info from anything media and records about them. So, I thank you for the update on that. I wasn't sure if that it was put down as being actually evidence. So, the OP is very interesting to reflect, I must say. :D
DC

It would have been the simplest thing in the world to preserve the criticisms with as much care as some of the rebuttals were preserved. Just that much would have increased the credibility of the church. People who aren't making up stories have nothing to fear from criticism.

Somebody did, in fact, arrange these things "so that it was possible to believe in Jesus' existence with a straight face, unimpeded by inconvenient facts." There's nothing innocent about what happened to Porphyry's Against the Christians. It must have been a blockbuster.

No. Somebody wrote the works of Plato (which are also half of what we have about Socrates). That I don't know his or her name is a different issue; I know that an author of Plato's works existed. I also have evidence bearing favorably on whether the works are singly authored, about when they were written, etc..

I have evidence that none of the works in which Jesus is discussed or quoted-in-translation are his works. For what product of Jesus, then, do I know there was some maker other than the authors of the New Testament?

So, I wonder, is a lot really built up through out the years, as heresay?
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eight bits

Ms Mustard

So, I wonder, is a lot really built up through out the years, as heresay?

Our writings from the First Century are very sketchy. Paul (assuming there is such a thing as a "genuine Pauline epistle," it is widely believed that there are seven) tells us that there was a very early Judean church, but tells us nothing of their doctrines.

Mark writes after Paul died. His Gospel features four of the characters from Paul's epistles: Jesus, Simon-Peter-Cephas, James and John and makes provision for another James who could be the "brother of the Lord." There is no indication where the author got his information from. maybe hearsay, maybe personal invention, maybe a mix of both.

The next two Gospels, Matthew and Luke, drew heavily from Mark, so that much is hearsay. Where they got their "independent" information ("Q," mostly sayings of Jesus, and a few things in each Gospel not found elsewhere) is unknown.

The Fourth Gospel claims it has a witness, mostly for some unique Passion and post-resurrection material. Some of it may be a commentary on the previous Gospels, or more hearsay.

Following any story through several Gospels shows a pattern of "a lot really built up through out the years." For example, the simple matter of when the soldiers mocked Jesus, they put something on him.

In Mark, they drape him in an unspecified something colored purple (= BOTH the color of dried blood AND the royal-imperial color of supreme rank - either a cheap stained cloth easily found in a place of bloody physical punishment or a very, very expensive dyed garment). In Matthew, it's a soldier's scarlet cloak. In Luke, Herod Antipas, king of Galilee, sends Jesus to Pilate with a purple garmet as a present. In John, Jesus is sent back from the scourging to Pilate wearing royal regalia for his presentation to the people.

Hearsay: no Christian saw how the Romans treated Jesus while he was briefly in their custody. Improvement in retelling: from plausible barracks humor to a Cecil B. DeMille production number.

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Doug1029

I forget which early Christian apologist said it? He wrote that there was a sect of Christians who received teachings from Jesus by taking hallucinogenic Mushrooms. He cited the Gospels as pedigree for Jesus's teachings.

That's in the Bible - Mark 17:1-5. Jesus and his followers go up a mountain and see beings clad all in white. They speak to Moses, Elijah and some other prophets. It may or may not have been mushrooms, but they were taking something.

So the boss did it. Why not the peons?

On a sidenote I see on other sites that Christians still say "There's more evidence for Jesus than there's evidence for Julius Caesar".

Caesar left us the "donut" fort at Alissia. His writings accurately describe it and it is still there for anyone to see. You would think Jesus would have left something more than five or six cords of "the True Cross."

Doug

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Stubbly_Dooright

Ms Mustard

Our writings from the First Century are very sketchy. Paul (assuming there is such a thing as a "genuine Pauline epistle," it is widely believed that there are seven) tells us that there was a very early Judean church, but tells us nothing of their doctrines.

Mark writes after Paul died. His Gospel features four of the characters from Paul's epistles: Jesus, Simon-Peter-Cephas, James and John and makes provision for another James who could be the "brother of the Lord." There is no indication where the author got his information from. maybe hearsay, maybe personal invention, maybe a mix of both.

The next two Gospels, Matthew and Luke, drew heavily from Mark, so that much is hearsay. Where they got their "independent" information ("Q," mostly sayings of Jesus, and a few things in each Gospel not found elsewhere) is unknown.

The Fourth Gospel claims it has a witness, mostly for some unique Passion and post-resurrection material. Some of it may be a commentary on the previous Gospels, or more hearsay.

Following any story through several Gospels shows a pattern of "a lot really built up through out the years." For example, the simple matter of when the soldiers mocked Jesus, they put something on him.

In Mark, they drape him in an unspecified something colored purple (= BOTH the color of dried blood AND the royal-imperial color of supreme rank - either a cheap stained cloth easily found in a place of bloody physical punishment or a very, very expensive dyed garment). In Matthew, it's a soldier's scarlet cloak. In Luke, Herod Antipas, king of Galilee, sends Jesus to Pilate with a purple garmet as a present. In John, Jesus is sent back from the scourging to Pilate wearing royal regalia for his presentation to the people.

Hearsay: no Christian saw how the Romans treated Jesus while he was briefly in their custody. Improvement in retelling: from plausible barracks humor to a Cecil B. DeMille production number.

Ok, good point.
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Davros of Skaro

That's in the Bible - Mark 17:1-5. Jesus and his followers go up a mountain and see beings clad all in white. They speak to Moses, Elijah and some other prophets. It may or may not have been mushrooms, but they were taking something.

So the boss did it. Why not the peons?

Mark is literary creation rather than documentation.

I have to dig long and deep to show what I meant. It's not important.

Caesar left us the "donut" fort at Alissia. His writings accurately describe it and it is still there for anyone to see. You would think Jesus would have left something more than five or six cords of "the True Cross."

Doug

The Cross burnt up on reentry. Jesus said "Oooops! My bad.".

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Bluefinger

It's almost like someone would have had to have cleaned up any records, so Jesus would have to be believed on Faith alone.

Like the Romans that sacked Christian churches and burned Christian writings during the systematic persecutions of Decian/Valerian and Diocletian in the mid-third and early fourth centuries? Additionally, Christianity spread very quickly in a short amount of time in all directions. Many believed without having ever seen or heard of Jesus. And with that, they lack evidence to prove to modern critics that Jesus was a real person.

However, we need not look further than a first century forgery to have confirmation that Jesus lived, died, and resurrected. We have, in the Book of Revelations, the preservation of history of the Jews, the history of Jesus, and the history of the first century church; all of which are confirmed by the other New Testament books. This isn't evidence, but a stronger argument than what the link provided.

The link provided arguments from no earlier than the late second century CE. The Apocalypse was written during the reign of Domitian in the late first century. Therefore, the quotes from people that doubted the historical Jesus would have to predate the writing of the Apocalypse.

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eight bits

Blue

The link provided arguments from no earlier than the late second century CE.

That's because the blog article is concerned specifically with ancient doubts about a knowable historical Jesus. The late Second Century is the earliest that there was (surviving) pagan scholarly interest in the Christian teaching.

That coincides with the rise of Christians themselves taking up institutionalized public scholarly activity, such as the Cathechetical School at Alexandria. So far as I know, that was the earliest opportunity an ordinary pagan would have had to study Christianity and its literature without having to profess an interest in joining.

If you look earlier in the Second Century, the more pressing concern is what Christians did at their secret meetings. The speculations were pretty lurid: incestuous orgies (everybody's brother and sister who really love each other), eating babies, cannibalism generally, worhipping a donkey headed god, ... not really much opportunity there for worthwhile intellectual exchange. There was also divided reaction to the martyr tradition, which alienated many observers for whom it confirmed an overall impression of an extremist and weird death-fixated cult.

A frequent refrain from the Christian side was that they were being persecuted for no reason except the use of the word "Christian." That is, the persecutors would kill anybody who identified themselves as a Christian, but the persecutors didn't actually know what the word means. The complaint is not necessarily justified. Pliny the Younger knows enough, that Christians don't worship the Emperor but do worship another human being. Regardless, that's further indication that the early level of intellectual discourse was low. Pliny really has no reason to care whether the human Christ actually lived or not, and if he did, what does anybody really know about him.

Nothing survives securely dated from the First Century by non-Christians about the origins of Christianity except maybe the neutral-if-genuine Flavian Testimony of the 90's.

Edited by eight bits
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Bluefinger

Blue

That's because the blog article is concerned specifically with ancient doubts about a knowable historical Jesus. The late Second Century is the earliest that there was (surviving) pagan scholarly interest in the Christian teaching.

That coincides with the rise of Christians themselves taking up institutionalized public scholarly activity, such as the Cathechetical School at Alexandria. So far as I know, that was the earliest opportunity an ordinary pagan would have had to study Christianity and its literature without having to profess an interest in joining.

If you look earlier in the Second Century, the more pressing concern is what Christians did at their secret meetings. The speculations were pretty lurid: incestuous orgies (everybody's brother and sister who really love each other), eating babies, cannibalism generally, worhipping a donkey headed god, ... not really much opportunity there for worthwhile intellectual exchange. There was also divided reaction to the martyr tradition, which alienated many observers for whom it confirmed an overall impression of an extremist and weird death-fixated cult.

A frequent refrain from the Christian side was that they were being persecuted for no reason except the use of the word "Christian." That is, the persecutors would kill anybody who identified themselves as a Christian, but the persecutors didn't actually know what the word means. The complaint is not necessarily justified. Pliny the Younger knows enough, that Christians don't worship the Emperor but do worship another human being. Regardless, that's further indication that the early level of intellectual discourse was low. Pliny really has no reason to care whether the human Christ actually lived or not, and if he did, what does anybody really know about him.

Nothing survives securely dated from the First Century by non-Christians about the origins of Christianity except maybe the neutral-if-genuine Flavian Testimony of the 90's.

Thanks for responding. Good points 8. It would seem to me that ancient criticism of the existence of Jesus would have been ineffective. Them merely questioning the existence of Jesus would not constitute a legitimate argument for the non-existence of Jesus. And, given the early documentation of his followers, it seems more than likely that Jesus did exist.

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Davros of Skaro

Thanks for responding. Good points 8. It would seem to me that ancient criticism of the existence of Jesus would have been ineffective. Them merely questioning the existence of Jesus would not constitute a legitimate argument for the non-existence of Jesus. And, given the early documentation of his followers, it seems more than likely that Jesus did exist.

Withering a fruitless Fig Tree even though it's not the season for Figs is attention to detail. ;)

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Stubbly_Dooright

Like the Romans that sacked Christian churches and burned Christian writings during the systematic persecutions of Decian/Valerian and Diocletian in the mid-third and early fourth centuries? Additionally, Christianity spread very quickly in a short amount of time in all directions. Many believed without having ever seen or heard of Jesus. And with that, they lack evidence to prove to modern critics that Jesus was a real person.

It's not that I don't believe you, I do. Is there a link to some site that I can read up more on this? I want to quickly read more on what you wrote here, without too much time weeding out sites that don't because of what may I have typed in a search engine.
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Davros of Skaro

It's not that I don't believe you, I do. Is there a link to some site that I can read up more on this? I want to quickly read more on what you wrote here, without too much time weeding out sites that don't because of what may I have typed in a search engine.

You can start here:

http://www.earlychristianwritings.com

If you want it summed up? You are probably have to get a Book.

Bart Ehramn (not his historical Jesus Book)

Robert M Price

These two are good starting material.

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Doug1029

Davros

Doesn't really matter whether Mark is a literary creation or something else. Either way, the story is in there and that was my point.

In Roman times, native plants were regarded not as something evil, but as the gods' gift to humanity, something put here for our enjoyment and healing. Thus, Jesus could introduce his followers to the intoxicating effects of an herb without any aspersions being cast upon them or him.

Personally, I think Mark was written by a person who was fearful that his creation would fall into the hands of the Romans and result in his own crucifixion. To avoid becoming the founder of another religion, he was somewhat vague with many of his references.

Doug

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Bluefinger

Withering a fruitless Fig Tree even though it's not the season for Figs is attention to detail. ;)

Understanding literary genre and how to interpret the Bible as literature is an even bigger deal.

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Bluefinger

Davros

Doesn't really matter whether Mark is a literary creation or something else. Either way, the story is in there and that was my point.

In Roman times, native plants were regarded not as something evil, but as the gods' gift to humanity, something put here for our enjoyment and healing. Thus, Jesus could introduce his followers to the intoxicating effects of an herb without any aspersions being cast upon them or him.

Personally, I think Mark was written by a person who was fearful that his creation would fall into the hands of the Romans and result in his own crucifixion. To avoid becoming the founder of another religion, he was somewhat vague with many of his references.

Doug

I disagree. Jesus was cursing the plant as a prophetic warning about Jerusalem. It was a literary use of foreshadowing.

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