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eight bits

Ancient doubts that Jesus existed

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eight bits

DC

The canon wasn't on the agenda at Nicaea.

It's not clear what Thomas's actual problem was. Even its popularity among the Gnostics isn't decisive. Marcion's embrace (and alteration) of Luke didn't hurt that Gospel, and the Gnostics loved Paul (also a Marcion favorite).

It could be as simple as that no "sayings collection" made it into the canon as a standalone. The Gospels that did make it are not the "stories of Jesus." They are the stories of how the disciples acquired authority to teach and minister in Jesus' place. Any sayings gospel would emphasize Jesus himself, and not give enough help to the institution that would need to pay for copying and distibution of the book.

If there's some saying somneone especially likes, they can always simply insert it into the story somewhere. Look at the Adulterous Woman ... the whole pericope wandered into John, not just the take-home saying.

As to the Greek language, I'm not worried about it, either. Which leads nicely into...

3rd eye

It's worse than that. There are two pieces that are central to dogma, that visibly change through the Gospels. Other things change, too, but these are "mission critical" and what (if anything) Jesus said about them is just lost.

1. Did Jesus say he was coming back in glory during the lifetimes of his contemporaries (the "Olivet" prophecy)?

- Mark: yes, twice ... John: no, and on the contrary, he said that there was lots of work his contemporaries had to finish before he could come back.

2. Did Jesus say that the Kingdom (of Heaven, God or the Father, assuming that they are all the same, which isn't 100% sure) was already present on Earth?

- Thomas 113 and Luke 17: 20ff: yes ... elsewhere, no, the Kingdom is a future affair. "Elsewhere" includes Luke 17, keep "ff" ing: after saying yes to the public, Jesus says no to the disciples. Hmm.

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third_eye

@eight bits

~

Interesting that you raised the question of 'parts' ... was wondering if the rumored Gospel of Mary (complete) and The Gospel of Judas (complete) is also part of the whole equation that makes it all come together as a whole ~

THing is, these accounts were never meant as Gospel initially until it was all compiled solely for the purpose of the early Church to fit the purpose of Doctrine ~ I wonder if that should mean something in the final assessment as I should think it should ~

`

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Gigmaster

I have never heard that Skepticism of Christianity was a modern phenomena. I am certain that several million Jewish people would argue with you on that, because they never bought into the Jesus story, not even from Day One. The Romans didn't even buy it, until ordered to by Emperor Constantine I in 313 AD. The best evidence so far is that the Jesus story was created by Emperor Domitian sometime after 81 AD, as a way to quell civil unrest among the Jews in the occupied territories.

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eight bits

3rd eye

Interesting that you raised the question of 'parts' ... was wondering if the rumored Gospel of Mary (complete) and The Gospel of Judas (complete) is also part of the whole equation that makes it all come together as a whole ~

In other "historical Jesus" discussions, I've often remarked that apologists who insist that there was a "reliable oral tradition" to bridge the gap between Jesus and the first surviving Gospels (three or four decades) must either

- explain how and why that oral tradition mechanism would have shut down, or else

- explain how the gospels that didn't make the canon (especially the "Gnostic" ones) are not also witnesses to some branch(es) of a then-living oral tradition.

It is stunning that the canonical John 20 depicts the risen Jesus having a critical conversation with Mary Magdalene alone. So, from this we are to conclude that that was their first and only private conversation?

They don't have to be married to talk. Even in canonical Mark, different listeners have widely different experiences of Jesus. There's the public, the disciples together, and the special three: Peter, James and John.

Just that much leaves plenty of room for multiple traditions, not just one tradition. Add to that that in Mark, the male disciples couldn't find the balls on a bull, so the Gnostics, it seems to me, have a case. Maybe Mary actually understood what Jesus was talking about, reason enough for him to talk directly with her, and then Mary passed it on.

Just a hypothesis. However, in a scholarly field where there is so little evidence, it seems absurd to take a huge chunk of potential evidence and dismiss it.

Gigmaster

Welcome to active posting.

I have never heard that Skepticism of Christianity was a modern phenomena.

Skepticism of Christianity isn't the issue in this thread. The claim being examined is that skepticism about the ontological existence of Jesus is modern, a skepticism whose origin is often placed sometime in the Eighteenth Century, give or take.

It's a funny argument for Christians to make, first because so what if it were a modern question? But second, "Absence of evidence isn't evidence of absence" is one of the strongest planks in the shaky historical Jesus platform. It's not too smart to turn around and insist that because no ancient writing survives where Jesus' existence is questionned, therefore nobody questionned it back then.

Besides, the circumstantial evidence for questionning is pretty good, IMO. What's lacking is evidence of deciding the religious issue based upon Jesus' possible historical nonexistence. There are better reasons not to be a (proto-)orthodox Christian, then and now.

I am certain that several million Jewish people would argue with you on that, because they never bought into the Jesus story, not even from Day One. The Romans didn't even buy it, until ordered to by Emperor Constantine I in 313 AD.

Jewish reactions differ. There's a "Rabbi Jesus" core that some Jewish readers find attractive. Simple fairness requires not holding the ideas and actions of later Gentile fanatical admirers against the original Jewish man (if there was one).

The Gentile pattern of adoption by the Fourth Century is more complicated than you suggest. Constantine didn't compel ecumenical Christian adherence. That would come about two generations later, and even then it took a while to stick.

The best evidence so far is that the Jesus story was created by Emperor Domitian sometime after 81 AD, as a way to quell civil unrest among the Jews in the occupied territories.

Roman-psyops origin theories suffer from the obvious ineffectiveness of the Gospel Jesus in pacifying Jewish hearts and minds (or anybody else's, either), to say nothing of the effectiveness of organized passive resistance as a political tool when armed resistance is futile. Resisted occupation is expensive to maintain while frustration of it is inexpensive. Sooner or later cost-benefit analysis will win.

The mass market for this stuff was largely Gentile, so far as we have any evidence. Some of Jesus' ideas did well in the Jewish marketplace (after all, some of Jesus' ideas are Hillel's, among the most successful rabbis ever), but as a "way of life" in competition with other Jewish worship and social styles, it doesn't seem ever to have had much traction.

Edited by eight bits
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third_eye

@eight bits

For myself personally I have already disregarded the reliability of Canonical version of the events outright not so much for reasons of expediency but rather due to its historical and well referenced documentation on how it all came to be Doctrine. Thus far from the Nag Hammadi and Qumran material there is sufficient evidence that much of the early material were lifted from earlier customs and cultural references in the Jewish wilderness away from Rome and Jerusalem itself ... to include the Thomas, Philip, Judas and Mary' disciples outside of the Church recognized material and canonical Gospels we do see that much of the silence AND silenced is due to nothing else other than that schism between James at home in Jerusalem and the rest of the eventual Roman seat of power ... and the questions in regard as to how and why the Gospels ended up the way it is today is hardly a mystery nor questionable anymore ~

  • Historical reliability of the Gospel - wiki link

... and that is not mentioning the 'lost' 'apocrypha or pseudepigrapha' or Arian material :

Lost gospels

  • Gospel of Cerinthus – ca. 90–120 AD – according to Epiphanius[4] this is a Jewish gospel identical to the Gospel of the Ebionites and, apparently, a truncated version of Matthew's Gospel according to the Hebrews.
  • Gospel of Apelles – mid-to-late 2nd century; a further edited version of Marcion's edited version of Luke.
  • Gospel of Valentinus[5]
  • Gospel of the Encratites[6]
  • Gospel of Andrew – mentioned by only two 5th-century sources (Augustine and Pope Innocent I) who list it as apocryphal.[7]
  • Gospel of Barnabas – not to be confused with the 16th century pro-Moslem work of the same name; this work is mentioned only once, in the 5th century Decree of Gelasius which lists it as apocryphal.
  • Gospel of Bartholomew – mentioned by only two 5th-century sources which list it as apocryphal.[8]
  • Gospel of Hesychius – mentioned only by Jerome and the Decree of Gelasius that list it as apocryphal.[9]
  • Gospel of Lucius[9] – mentioned only by Jerome and the Decree of Gelasius that list it as apocryphal.
  • Gospel of Merinthus[10] – mentioned only by Epiphanius; probably the Gospel of Cerinthus, and the confusion due to a scribal error.
  • An unknown number of other Gnostic gospels not cited by name.[11]
  • Gospel of the Adversary of the Law and the Prophets[12]
  • Memoirs of the Apostles – Lost narrative of the life of Jesus, mentioned by Justin Martyr. The passages quoted by Justin may have originated from a gospel harmony of the Synoptic Gospels composed by Justin or his school.

  • The list of 'non canonical' Literature available on Wester Center online link

~

edit : context

Edited by third_eye
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eight bits

3rd eye

One problem is that so little survives except the canonical material. And then, you have to wonder how much the canonical writing was improved by later copy editors.

There was an interesting exercise a few years ago among "liberal" Bible scholars to propose a "new New Testament," selecting ten surviving works to incorporate into an expanded canon. "Expanded" means they kept the existing canon and added to it, with no subtraction. For example, they didn't remove the Pastoral Epistles, now recognized to be late forgeries of Paul.

The working group also had a cut-off year of 200, so an interesting and possibility authentic martyr's "prison diary" (with the execution recored possibly by Tertullian) didn't make the cut,

http://legacy.fordha...ce/perpetua.asp

This document may fall on the wrong side of somebody's arbitrary line (and why ten so very especially?, speaking of arbitrary lines), but could be important for understanding the mental states of early Christians generally.

Anyway, for a discussion of what they chose, with links to web versions of the material selected (not necessarily the same translations that they used):

https://uncertaintis...-new-testament/

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third_eye

@eight bits

Thanks for the links ... will take a bit of time to look it all over ~ a bit of disagreement on my side over improving the canonical material though ... I doubt that's something that will go down well when it is rendered as such... improving the understanding with greater clarity based on surviving historical documents would read much easier for the Theological argument ~

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eight bits

3rd eye

Personally, I don't think anything devoted to truth-telling survives from early enough to budge anybody's a priori estimate of the historical or fictive Jesus. If "easily overlooked fall guy goes viral" makes more sense to you than "the best selling authors of all time crafted a Jewish character who'd appeal to the goyim," then "Jesus was historical" is more likely than "Jesus was fictive."

The value of early Christian literature is what it says about the early Christian movement - early but not at the very origins, because all that survives is just too late.

But that still leaves lots of historical value, "indirectly" sometimes. For axample, in the Odes of Solomon, Second Century people are pretending to be Jesus (not talk to Jesus, but to be him).

That may help us to understand canonical material, as when Paul writes "not I, but Christ within me" (Galatians 2: 20). He may not be being poetic here, maybe he actually has done some spiritual exercise, and this is literally how it felt to him.

On the other hand, if you can be the Christ, and you're in a roomful of other people being the Christ, then what difference does it make whether some specific Jesus actually was doing the same decades before? "Theologically" maybe, but to the ability of the church to attract Gentiles?

It's just too easy for it to turn out either way, real Jesus or invented Jesus.

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DieChecker

DC

The canon wasn't on the agenda at Nicaea.

You are correct. Kuddos sir. I think I was remembering something someone had told me. :innocent:

The point remains however that if even the non-canon works have a singular Jesus, how could all of them have been found and edited, and then some rejected. It could have happened that way, but I doubt it.

It's not clear what Thomas's actual problem was. Even its popularity among the Gnostics isn't decisive. Marcion's embrace (and alteration) of Luke didn't hurt that Gospel, and the Gnostics loved Paul (also a Marcion favorite).

From what I've read it wasn't Who was reading Thomas, but How it was written.

If there's some saying somneone especially likes, they can always simply insert it into the story somewhere. Look at the Adulterous Woman ... the whole pericope wandered into John, not just the take-home saying.

You can say that the New Testament was altered later, but then why wouldn't the Old Testament have been altered also? Don't the Dead Sea Scrolls seem to indicate that the OT was copied relatively directly? If so, then wouldn't the NT have been copied directly also. I know... Kind of weak, but a real argument.... :innocent:

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eight bits

DC

The point remains however that if even the non-canon works have a singular Jesus, how could all of them have been found and edited, and then some rejected. It could have happened that way, but I doubt it.

You haven't established why there would be a need to edit anything. If I decided to write about Robin Hood, then it is very likely that there will be one Robin Hood in my story, because that's the tradition I'd be referring to. If I didn't want to write something in that tradition, then I'd write something else instead. Fans of Robin Hood stories wouldn't "edit" the novelty; they'd simply treat it as a different story altogether. Because it would be a different story altogether.

You can say that the New Testament was altered later, but then why wouldn't the Old Testament have been altered also?

By Christians, and apart from artful translation? The easy thing for a Christian is to canonize (or in most of Christianity, a patristic writing will suffice) an "interpretation" from a Christian author. Most of the Jewish Bible isn't relevant to Christian concerns anyway. The few parts that are (alleged prophetic portions, the peculiarly Christian take on the Eden incident, and so forth) can just be said to be as Christians like them to be. There's no need to go back and change anything.

Example To this day, typical Christians think that when Adam and Eve realized they were naked, they were ashamed.

http://lifehopeandtruth.com/bible/bible-study/bible-stories/adam-and-eve-and-the-two-trees/

The text says otherwise. Meh - the Jewish text says otherwise. The Christian tradition says ashamed, and that trumps mere black letters.

Also common sense - if married couples can't hack being naked alone together - and A & E are the only two people there are, so nobody else is going to walk in on them - then how come there are now seven billion people instead of two? No. They are afraid, because somebody who has threatened to kill them is about to confront them.

Black letter, common sense and plausible motivation in one pan of the balance, Christian body shame and projection in the other. No contest.

Conclude: there is no need to alter a text to make it say what you want it to say. Alter the reader instead. They'll see what you say is there. Young women become virgins, even after they've had babies. Why bother to change the text?

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DieChecker

DC

You haven't established why there would be a need to edit anything. If I decided to write about Robin Hood, then it is very likely that there will be one Robin Hood in my story, because that's the tradition I'd be referring to. If I didn't want to write something in that tradition, then I'd write something else instead. Fans of Robin Hood stories wouldn't "edit" the novelty; they'd simply treat it as a different story altogether. Because it would be a different story altogether.

Maybe I misunderstood. I thought the idea was that there were multiple teachers that were later morphed into one? To use your example of Robin Hood, there would have been a bandit leader, and also a completely separate nobleman, who both were outlaws in Sherwood Forest at slightly different times, and were morphed into one figure... This is not what you just stated, but you (I think) are implying that there can be multiple stories of one figure that disagree with each other on details. Which is not the same thing at all, in my opinion.

By Christians, and apart from artful translation? The easy thing for a Christian is to canonize (or in most of Christianity, a patristic writing will suffice) an "interpretation" from a Christian author. Most of the Jewish Bible isn't relevant to Christian concerns anyway. The few parts that are (alleged prophetic portions, the peculiarly Christian take on the Eden incident, and so forth) can just be said to be as Christians like them to be. There's no need to go back and change anything.

That still doesn't answer the question of why the pseudepigrapha still have a singular Jesus. Did the early Christians edit them and then discard them?

Example To this day, typical Christians think that when Adam and Eve realized they were naked, they were ashamed.

http://lifehopeandtr...-the-two-trees/

The text says otherwise. Meh - the Jewish text says otherwise. The Christian tradition says ashamed, and that trumps mere black letters.

In the Torah and in the Old Testament, as far as I can tell, it doesn't say they ashamed, but it does say they realized they were naked and then that they were afraid. And then the Lord made clothing of skins for them, before sending them out of Eden.

It is suggested they were ashamed, but not stated anywhere in the Bible of Torah. The assumption being, if they realized they were naked and created coverings of leaves, then they must have had a reason, which deductively would be shame. Do you have a different assumption to make off Genesis 1:3?

Conclude: there is no need to alter a text to make it say what you want it to say. Alter the reader instead. They'll see what you say is there. Young women become virgins, even after they've had babies. Why bother to change the text?

So then you basically agree there is no need for multiple Jesuses and instead that such an idea probably is based on someone wanting it to be so?

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eight bits

DC

Maybe I misunderstood. I thought the idea was that there were multiple teachers that were later morphed into one? To use your example of Robin Hood, there would have been a bandit leader, and also a completely separate nobleman, who both were outlaws in Sherwood Forest at slightly different times, and were morphed into one figure... This is not what you just stated, but you (I think) are implying that there can be multiple stories of one figure that disagree with each other on details. Which is not the same thing at all, in my opinion.

Actually, Robinson doesn't propose a specific mechanism for how two or three voices show up under one teacher in Q. Since Q isn't younger than Matthew, and if it existed separately from Matthew, then it could easily be older than Mark, maybe that was the "morph" step: just gather up sayings before any narrative existed. Mark reads the sayings and says "Hmm, suppose that that was one teacher, what would such a character be like?"

As for "editing," whether or not Q ever existed as a separate work, it doesn't anymore. So, it could have been labeled "Sayings of Peter, James and John" (say) and rather than being edited, it just isn't copied anymore. Problem solved.

BTW, there is an argument that the Robin Hood we know is a composite of earlier literary characters. The earlier ones leave few traces, however.

It is suggested they were ashamed, but not stated anywhere in the Bible of Torah.

No, it isn't. It's suggested that they are a married couple with the ultimate gurarantee of privacy. The only time shame is mentioned is to observe that they weren't (before the Gnosh of Destiny). As you point out, their emotional state afterwards is specified. It is fear.

So then you basically agree there is no need for multiple Jesuses and instead that such an idea probably is based on someone wanting it to be so?

Well, actually I don't see there's any need for even one flesh-and-blood Jesus (or even one flesh-and-blood Robin Hood). Robinson's basis for proposing two or three has been discussed; he didn't mention whether he was pleased at finding two or three voices or not. What I do see a need for is at least one good writer. "Mark," whatever his problems with the mechanics of writing, is a fine storyteller. Paul, Luke and John are all elite prose stylists.

Edited by eight bits
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