Sunday, August 28, 2011

John Warwick Montgomery on the New Testament

“To be skeptical of the resultant text of the New Testament books is to allow all of classical antiquity to slip into obscurity, for no documents of the ancient period are as well attested bibliographically as the New Testament.”

- John Warwick Montgomery
History and Christianity, p. 29.

26 comments :

CD-Host said...

I'm surprised this argument is still circulating.

1) There is a great deal of skepticism towards supernatural claims in other ancient texts and biographies. Generally there is a great deal of skepticism shown towards the exploits of supernatural beings whether Jesus, Achilles or Perseus.

2) All the gospels are highly theological. None appear to be intended primarily as biography.

3) Most ancient figures of massive importance have a much wider range of evidences.

royalcanadian2011 said...

Actually, Mr. Montgomery's support of the familiar apologetics is right on the money. When you dig into the numbers, the Gospels and other first century Christian literature are so well attested that it makes you doubt the equal validity of other ancient worths. Its pretty amazing.

They other points made are a sad repition of tired out skepical apologetics. Made by the authro of the previous post are massive generalities. People who doubt the validity of the Gospels give their reasons, believers defend with logic, history and common sense. It should be noted that Achilles and Perseus are characters who, if they lived, were not written about for a millenia after they supposedly walked the earth.

We have New Testament works stating that Jesus Christ is the Son of God, born of a virgin, suffered death, was buried and rose again, all within a generation of their occurence. Pauls early epistles echo Christs most impressive attribute, that being the Son of God. Thessalonians is dated to the 40's by many scholars, one decade after the event. And he is reporting to a people who all ready believe.

Also, it makes sense that the gospels woul dbe theological. They are about God. Jesus was a teacher of God, who lived for God, preached God's message, healed in God's name. One would be supprised if a biography about Jesus did not contain theology. To say otherwise is biased against the idea of God and the supernatural.

The point is, that CD's arguments hold no weight. Rather than casting doubt on the Christian faith, when examened, they cast doubt on the doubters.

CD-Host said...

The claim was the gospels were biography not whether they should be theological. If you agree that the gospels are primarily theological and not biography you are disagreeing with the idea that they should be compared to biographies. Once they become religious statements, about supernatural being then they are little different than various books about Isis or Zeus. The claim was that the comparison should be historical figures not theological figures.

And the issue is not that the biography contains theology but rather it is teaching theology. Authentic biography are frequently not written in a way consistent the viewpoints of their subjects. Biographies of Andrew Jackson talk about him in terms of founding the modern Democratic party, in terms of nullification. The issues that Jackson himself would have been concerned with like tariff policy. Same thing with a biography of Julius Caesar, his issue about the specific constitution reforms aren't a major focus because while Julius himself spent a great deal of his life on them they had no lasting impact.

So no... you would not expect a biography of a living Jesus if it were authentic to be in accord with his teachings. You might expect that if it were sectarian theological writing and not biography.

Brian Auten said...

You might want to read Mark D. Roberts work on the subject, as he has specialized in this area. See here.

Mary said...

CD wrote: "Most ancient figures of massive importance have a much wider range of evidences."

Actually, that isn't true. We have far more information about Jesus than we have about most ancient figures including Julius Caesar or Cleopatra.

Historians are thrilled when they have a goodly number of accounts to study on any given person, topic or event. Today, we have a Bible consisting of many books and it's viewed as a whole. However, at the time of their writing, the gospels as well as Acts, Revelation and the epistles were individual texts, written independent of each other. And that's how historians view them, as a multiplicity of sources. Therefore, they consider the sources for information about Jesus quite rich.

CD wrote: "You would not expect a biography of a living Jesus if it were authentic to be in accord with his teachings."

So you're saying that no biography ever written accurately reflects the life and beliefs of those being written about? Then why bother to read them? And does that mean that only autobiographies are trustworthy? Are you not concerned that the writer of one's own life story might not bend the truth to make him look better than he really is? Do you dismiss them summarily as well?

You then go on to say that neither Jackson's biography nor Julius Caesar's accurately reflect their lives or views. How do you know that? They couldn't have told you that themselves. You must have read about what they believe in a historian's biography of them. Given your theory on biographies being inaccurate, how did you choose to believe one thing about Jackson from one biography and not something else from a different biography?

CD wrote: "Once they become religious statements, about supernatural being then they are little different than various books about Isis or Zeus. The claim was that the comparison should be historical figures not theological figures."

You seem to be saying that all supernatural beings are mythological. Therefore, Jesus, being supernatural, didn't exist. However, mainline historians accept Jesus as a real historical figure be they Christian, agnostic, Buddhist or whatever, and they do so, based on the historical evidence from within the Bible and from extra-biblical sources.

There is no evidence that Isis or Zeus existed. There is plenty to attest to the reality of a man named Jesus Christ. What people question is whether he was God and whether he really could do miracles. And I wouldn't call Isis or Zeus "theological figures". They're mythical, not theological.

Archaeology has confirmed people, places and events written about in the Bible time and time again. If we actually viewed history according to the impossible rules atheists establish re: the Bible and the person of Jesus Christ, then we wouldn't know anything about anybody or any event that ever took place in the past. And yet, I notice that many atheists change their own rules when it comes to assessing anything outside of religion and when it suits their needs. I'm not saying you do that, CD, because this is my first encounter with you. I'm just remarking on what I have found in discussion with a number of atheists regarding how we can assess truth in history.

CD-Host said...

Actually, that isn't true. We have far more information about Jesus than we have about most ancient figures including Julius Caesar or Cleopatra.

Lets examine this.

1) We have 2 books directly by Caesar:
Commentaries on the Gallic War
Commentaries on the Civil War

2) We have 3 books by Caesar or by those generals working with him at the time:
On the Alexandrine War
On the African War
On the Hispanic War

3) We have notes and comments about a book of poems Caesar directly wrote.

4) We have frequent mentions in Catullus a contemporary poet

5) He plays a role in Virgil's Aeneid which can be definitely dated within a few generations, something that is not true of any NT work.

6) We have a 3rd party biography within a century, the Pharsalia

What do we have for Jesus:
Mark -- A theological book which is essentially a construction from the Septuagint.

and possibly the gospel of Signs.

We have a few references that are ambiguously about his life from early epistles.

And that's it. And then in the 2nd century we have some heavily theological works which may or may not have any genuine material at all.

And there are references to Isis and Osiris as ancient pharaoh of Egypt and stories about them involving all sorts of magic. We then have many many works which talk about Isis and present her doings in a theological light. I don't see much difference between the evidence for Isis and the evidence for Jesus. And that evidence is nothing like the evidence for Gaius Julius Caesar.

And just to end lets take that last name. Even if we had nothing on Gaius himself we know a great deal about gens Julia (his house). Tacitus, Caecillius, Coccocianus, Suentonius, Livius, Siculus,, Ciceros, Suda, Nepos and Seneca all discuss at length gens Julia and we could learn a great deal just from these references. How many books do we have about Jesus' family?

CD-Host said...

which can be definitely dated within a few generations,

What should read
within one generation or
within a few decades

CD-Host said...

However, at the time of their writing, the gospels as well as Acts, Revelation and the epistles were individual texts, written independent of each other.

Not true. We know that Luke, Matthew and Mark are not independent... the typical synoptic gospel problem. Acts shows clear knowledge of Luke.

Some of the epistles themselves can be dated early but almost all show no knowledge of historical events at all. In fact just the opposite.

____

You then go on to say that neither Jackson's biography nor Julius Caesar's accurately reflect their lives or views. How do you know that? They couldn't have told you that themselves.

Well actually we do know. Because in Jackson's or Julius case we do have their writings and their opinions from both followers and independent sources and critics. I know what Jackson was interested in because I can read the federal register.

______

You seem to be saying that all supernatural beings are mythological. Therefore, Jesus, being supernatural, didn't exist. However, mainline historians accept Jesus as a real historical figure be they Christian, agnostic, Buddhist or whatever, and they do so, based on the historical evidence from within the Bible and from extra-biblical sources.

Yes and no. Mainline historians accept that there is some vague figure likely involved in Christian origins. Steamboat Willie was the first widely distributed Mickey Mouse feature and it was based on the Buster Keaton movie Steamboat Bill Jr. which while fictional was not mythical. That doesn't mean there is a historical Mickey Mouse.

But even if we use their language and say take Burton Mack and assign the sayings of Q1 to a "historical Jesus", so what? So we have 100 aphorisms typical of what any Cynical philosopher would say. Or we make Qumran dissident per Allegro, a a gnosticisng Jew (Koester).... Then what? To even begin to start treating the gospels as biography you have to go well beyond what the historians are willing to assert.

_____


Archaeology has confirmed people, places and events written about in the Bible time and time again.

Agreed and it has disconfirmed them. The first third of the bible is even worse shape than the NT. But that's a separate argument. We are focused right now on one question, whether the claim that we have a rich record of Jesus is true.

Mary said...

Thanks for taking the time to write all of that out, CD. I really appreciate it. It helps me understand where you’re coming from and it’s definitely a different place than I am! I – and a great many historians – consider there to be many more sources both in number and in reliability than you do. Therefore, when I say that Jesus is the most attested figure in ancient history, I have a far greater list than yours. You cite these:

“Mark and possibly the gospel of Signs. We have a few references that are ambiguously about his life from early epistles. And then in the 2nd century we have some heavily theological works which may or may not have any genuine material at all.

Here’s the list I am working from. I gather I will have to split my post up as you did because there is a word count. So here it goes:

Ancient pagan references from people who were not fans of Jesus (some of them despised him and Christians outright) and who had no vested interest in writing about him:

Celsus (Greek intellectual, A.D. 175) in True Doctrine which makes it clear that no one doubted Jesus’ existence, but thought him a charlatan.

Suetonius (Roman historian, A.D. 120) in Lives of the Caesars wherein his talk of “Chrestus” is generally taken by historians to refer to “the Anointed One” meaning Jesus.

Lucian of Samosata (A.D. 115-200) refers to Jesus in his satire, The Death of Pereginus. It’s not a history, but that doesn’t make it any less credible.

Tacitus (considered Rome’s greatest historian, A.D. 36-120) gave us information about where Jesus lived and how he died.

Pliny the Younger (Roman administrator, A.D. 61-113) tells us about early Christian life and Christians’ devotion to Jesus “as if he were a god”.

Mara Bar Serapion (possibly a Stoic philosopher) wrote of “a wise king” that, while he didn’t name him, gave enough information about him for historians to determine he was speaking of Jesus simply because there is no other figure from that time period that fits his description.

Thallos (another historian) gives us the earliest mention of Jesus in A.D. 55 in his Histories that speaks of a darkness coinciding with the crucifixion of Christ. (Interestingly, ex-atheist Lee Strobel says it was this piece of information that made him wake up to the fact that Jesus was real).

Mary said...

Part 2 of my post: Jewish sources (again these were NOT fans of Christ or Christianity and had no interest in propagating his cause):

Talmud (Jewish law): The text makes it clear that the Sanhedrin were behind Christ’s crucifixion. It sets the time of the crucifixion at Passover and refers to Jesus as a “sorcerer”. The is also a passage questioning Jesus’ parentage.

Josephus (Jewish historian): While some scholars believe his work has been tampered with, there is a wide consensus among mainline historians that Josephus wrote the main sentences referring to Jesus as a real person in his Jewish Antiquities. In other words, if you take out the suspect parts, there is still enough information to affirm that Jesus existed.


New Testament:

As I said, historians treat the books of the Bible as individual sources. Yes, Mark was the first of the gospels written and Luke, Matthew and John probably used it as an authoritative source given written by Mark “as told to” by Peter, an eyewitness. However, all three of their gospels contain information that isn’t included in Mark’s which means they had other sources as well. Historians consider them to be three independent compilations. Therefore, we have four Gospels which all offer some similar information as well as some new information. It’s rather like having four newspapers report on the same event. Some of the information will be the same. Some won’t. I’m a journalist by trade and I can tell you that we borrow from each other, but also bring our own perspectives to events.

Then there are the letters written by Paul (14 epistles, 15, if you consider him the author of Hebrews which I don’t), three letters and Revelation by John, two letters by Peter, a letter by Jude, a letter by James, and the book of Acts written by Luke who was a careful and thorough historian. Check out this link for some evidence of that:

http://www.pleaseconvinceme.com/index/The_New_Testament_Is_Verified_Archeologically

So that gives us 27 texts in total.

Then, of course, we have the early church fathers, people like Polycarp who was a student of John and, as such, was considered an authoritative source because of his direct link to Jesus through his teacher. Then there was Clement. He knew Paul and wrote what is considered to be the first preserved Christian writing outside of the texts included in the New Testament, written about A.D. 95. Then there was Ignatius of Antioch and Tertullian who gave us much information about the martyrdom of the followers of Christ.. Then there are texts such as the Didache and the Shepherd of Hermes. There are over 2500 ancient New Testament documents which gives historians a lot to work from.

Why don’t we have information about Jesus’ family, you ask. Well, why would we? Why would anybody have written about Joseph, an obscure Jewish carpenter, for posterity’s sake?

But now you can see why I say Jesus is the most attested figure from ancient history. You have quoted less than 10 for Julius Caesar. I have given you several dozen for Jesus. And I can argue why each of these sources is valid, but there really isn't room for that here.

And again, as far as comparing him to Isis and Zeus, as I said, there is NO evidence that they ever existed. Therefore, comparing Jesus to them is like comparing your mother to the tooth fairy.

My wrists are too sore to continue and I am not going to bother to read over what I wrote so please forgive for the typos.

I would recommend the following reading:

The Historical Reliability of the Gospels by Craig Blomberg

F.F. Bruce's The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?

The Story of Christian Theology by Roger Olson.

John Dickson's The Christ Files: How Historians Know What They Know About Jesus

Mary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary said...

Thanks for taking the time to write all of that out, CD. I really appreciate it. It helps me understand where you’re coming from and it’s definitely a different place than I am! I – and a great many historians – consider there to be many more sources both in number and in reliability than you do. Therefore, when I say that Jesus is the most attested figure in ancient history, I have a far greater list than yours. You cite these:

“Mark and possibly the gospel of Signs. We have a few references that are ambiguously about his life from early epistles. And then in the 2nd century we have some heavily theological works which may or may not have any genuine material at all.

Here’s the list I am working from:

Ancient pagan references from people who were not fans of Jesus (some of them despised him and Christians outright) and who had no vested interest in writing about him:

Celsus (Greek intellectual, A.D. 175) in True Doctrine which makes it clear that no one doubted Jesus’ existence, but thought him a charlatan.

Suetonius (Roman historian, A.D. 120) in Lives of the Caesars wherein his talk of “Chrestus” is generally taken by historians to refer to “the Anointed One” meaning Jesus.

Tacitus (considered Rome’s greatest historian, A.D. 36-120) gave us information about where Jesus lived and how he died.

Lucian of Samosata (A.D. 115-200) refers to Jesus in his satire, The Death of Pereginus. It’s not a history, but that doesn’t make it any less credible.

Pliny the Younger (Roman administrator, A.D. 61-113) tells us about early Christian life and Christians’ devotion to Jesus “as if he were a god”.

Mara Bar Serapion (possibly a Stoic philosopher) wrote of “a wise king” that, while he didn’t name him, gave enough information about him for historians to determine he was speaking of Jesus simply because there is no other figure from that time period that fits his description.

Thallos (another historian) gives us the earliest mention of Jesus in A.D. 55 in his Histories that speaks of a darkness coinciding with the crucifixion of Christ. (Interestingly, ex-atheist Lee Strobel says it was this piece of information that made him wake up to the fact that Jesus was real).

Part Two of this post to follow

Mary said...

I have no idea what's going on here. I always have trouble posting herem, but it has never been this bad. I posted part one and it didn't show up. So I posted part 2 and now it hasn't shown up, but I have two copies of part 1. When I tried to delete one of them, I was told I didn't have the right to do that. So now I am going to try to post part 2 here and we'll see what happens.

Jewish sources (again these were NOT fans of Christ or Christianity and had no interest in propagating his cause):

Talmud (Jewish law): The text makes it clear that the Sanhedrin were behind Christ’s crucifixion. It sets the time of the crucifixion at Passover and refers to Jesus as a “sorcerer”. The is also a passage questioning Jesus’ parentage.

Josephus (Jewish historian): While some scholars believe his work has been tampered with, there is a wide consensus among mainline historians that Josephus wrote the main sentences referring to Jesus as a real person in his Jewish Antiquities. In other words, if you take out the suspect parts, there is still enough information to affirm that Jesus existed.


New Testament:

As I said, historians treat the books of the Bible as individual sources. Yes, Mark was the first of the gospels written and Luke, Matthew and John probably used it as an authoritative source given written by Mark “as told to” by Peter, an eyewitness. However, all three of their gospels contain information that isn’t included in Mark’s which means they had other sources as well. Historians consider them to be three independent compilations. Therefore, we have four Gospels which all offer some similar information as well as some new information. It’s rather like having four newspapers report on the same event. Some of the information will be the same. Some won’t. I’m a journalist by trade and I can tell you that we borrow from each other, but also bring our own perspectives to events.

Then there are the letters written by Paul (14 epistles, 15, if you consider him the author of Hebrews which I don’t), three letters and Revelation by John, two letters by Peter, a letter by Jude, a letter by James, and the book of Acts written by Luke who was a careful and thorough historian. Check out this link for some evidence of that:

http://www.pleaseconvinceme.com/index/The_New_Testament_Is_Verified_Archeologically

So that gives us 27 texts in total.

Then, of course, we have the early church fathers, people like Polycarp who was a student of John and, as such, was considered an authoritative source because of his direct link to Jesus through his teacher. Then there was Clement. He knew Paul and wrote what is considered to be the first preserved Christian writing outside of the texts included in the New Testament, written about A.D. 95. Then there was Ignatius of Antioch and Tertullian who gave us much information about the martyrdom of the followers of Christ.. Then there are texts such as the Didache and the Shepherd of Hermes. There are over 2500 ancient New Testament documents which gives historians a lot to work from.

Why don’t we have information about Jesus’ family, you ask. Well, why would we? Why would anybody have written about Joseph, an obscure Jewish carpenter, for posterity’s sake?

But now you can see why I say Jesus is the most attested figure from ancient history.

And again, as far as comparing him to Isis and Zeus, as I said, there is NO evidence that they ever existed. Therefore, comparing Jesus to them isn’t valid. It's like comparing your mother to the tooth fairy.

My wrists are too sore to continue and I am not going to bother to read over what I wrote so please forgive any typos you find.

For more reading check out Craig Blomberg's The Hisotircal Reliability of the Gospels and F.F. Bruce's The New Testament Documents.

Mary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Mary said...

I always have trouble posting at this site, but today I'm having a terrible time! I keep either getting a double post or I end up deleting my first post with my second. Hopefully, this time it will work correctly. Here's part two.

Jewish sources (again these were NOT fans of Christ or Christianity and had no interest in propagating his cause):

Talmud (Jewish law): The text makes it clear that the Sanhedrin were behind Christ’s crucifixion. It sets the time of the crucifixion at Passover and refers to Jesus as a “sorcerer”. The is also a passage questioning Jesus’ parentage.

Josephus (Jewish historian): While some scholars believe his work has been tampered with, there is a wide consensus among mainline historians that Josephus wrote the main sentences referring to Jesus as a real person in his Jewish Antiquities. In other words, if you take out the suspect parts, there is still enough information to affirm that Jesus existed.


New Testament:

As I said, historians treat the books of the Bible as individual sources. Yes, Mark was the first of the gospels written and Luke, Matthew and John probably used it as an authoritative source given written by Mark “as told to” by Peter, an eyewitness. However, all three of their gospels contain information that isn’t included in Mark’s which means they had other sources as well. Historians consider them to be three independent compilations. Therefore, we have four Gospels which all offer some similar information as well as some new information. It’s rather like having four newspapers report on the same event. Some of the information will be the same. Some won’t. I’m a journalist by trade and I can tell you that we borrow from each other, but also bring our own perspectives to events.

Then there are the letters written by Paul (14 epistles, 15, if you consider him the author of Hebrews which I don’t), three letters and Revelation by John, two letters by Peter, a letter by Jude, a letter by James, and the book of Acts written by Luke who was a careful and thorough historian. Check out this link for some evidence of that:

http://www.pleaseconvinceme.com/index/The_New_Testament_Is_Verified_Archeologically

So that gives us 27 texts in total.

Then, of course, we have the early church fathers, people like Polycarp who was a student of John and, as such, was considered an authoritative source because of his direct link to Jesus through his teacher. Then there was Clement. He knew Paul and wrote what is considered to be the first preserved Christian writing outside of the texts included in the New Testament, written about A.D. 95. Then there was Ignatius of Antioch and Tertullian who gave us much information about the martyrdom of the followers of Christ.. Then there are texts such as the Didache and the Shepherd of Hermes. There are over 2500 ancient New Testament documents which gives historians a lot to work from.

Why don’t we have information about Jesus’ family, you ask. Well, why would we? Why would anybody have written about Joseph, an obscure Jewish carpenter, for posterity’s sake?

But now you can see why I say Jesus is the most attested figure from ancient history.

And again, as far as comparing him to Isis and Zeus, as I said, there is NO evidence that they ever existed. Comparing Jesus to them is like comparing your mother to the tooth fairy.

My wrists are too sore to continue and I am not going to bother to read over what I wrote so please forgive any typos.

For further reading, check out F. F. Bruce's The New Testament Documents,Craig Blomberg's The Historical Reliability of the Gospels or The Christ Files: How Historians Know What they Know About Jesus by John Dickson.

CD-Host said...

Mary its interesting I'm getting your posts by email fine. You may want to check it isn't something like your browser cache or something. Regardless, good luck with whatever is going wrong. If you click on my name you will get to church-discipline which you might find easier in terms of posting.

First off let me make it clear I believe there was first century Christianity and that by the early 2nd century Christians were starting to identify their founder as a historical figure with this being mostly universal by the late 2nd century. Celsus doesn't prove anything he's too late.

Pliny is just proving the existence of Christianity. I agree Suentos is referring to the Jesus of the Christians, but again he doesn't have any actual historical content about Jesus. Tacitus again talks about the existence of Christianity.

Thallos is interesting, you don't run into that one much. The quote is in the context of the 167th Olympiad (109 BCE), and he's an early historian. We don't have the quote but rather a criticism of it by a 9th century monk, which seems focused on an eclipse. The reason this one doesn't get brought up a lot is there is a real lack of evidence its even in the right century or has any content.

I'm hard pressed to see how these brief mentions compare with a 1/2 dozen whole books and chapters by historians. Remember the original claim was that we have more on Jesus than Gaius Julius Caesar.

I'll respond in the next post to the stuff that didn't get posted here.

CD-Host said...

Talmud (Jewish law): The text makes it clear that the Sanhedrin were behind Christ’s crucifixion. It sets the time of the crucifixion at Passover and refers to Jesus as a “sorcerer”. The is also a passage questioning Jesus’ parentage.

Do you really want to consider the Talmud a historical source? For example you have the Sanhedrin 43a site which makes him a sorcerer who was stoned and hung, who had 5 disciples.

a) This is true which means the NT is virtually total fiction.
b) This is so far from true that it doesn't constitute a source at all.

Most importantly the Rabbinic sect that compiled most of the Jesus material is centuries later and are glancing references, the way Essenes are usually treated. If we are arguing full blown Christ myth, I'd agree the Talmud strengthens the anti-case. But I'm trying to keep the much more narrow on the comparison with Caesar. We do not have historians disagreeing when Gaius Julius Caesar did anything by a year much less a century.

Josephus (Jewish historian): While some scholars believe his work has been tampered with, there is a wide consensus among mainline historians that Josephus wrote the main sentences referring to Jesus as a real person in his Jewish Antiquities.
In other words, if you take out the suspect parts, there is still enough information to affirm that Jesus existed.


Really? And he said what exactly that survived? In a book whose main theme is about how messianic cults led to the destruction of Judea we have a page talking about how this particular messiah is the real deal and then the book goes back to its main theme?

What is left after you take out the suspect parts? Oh and the dates are also wrong if you want it to be your Jesus.

As for some of the other mentions like the epistles and Jude that teaches nothing about a historical Jesus. I certainly agree Jude is early and teaches us about Christianity but the question is whether we know anything about Jesus.

As for the borrowing, if they are copying they aren't independent by definition they are dependent sources. And what "new" information is in the later stuff. Lets take John...

Is the later information the relationship between the theos and the logos?
Is the later information that Jesus is the 7 truths: bread of life, light of the world, gate of the sheep, resurrection and life, way / truth, real vine.
Is the later information the reorganization of signs into the 7 signs?

John is not history it is a brilliant sermon. Even those early authors who believe that Gaius Julius was a god do not speak of him in those sorts of theological terms, they don't use the language of myth to recount his actions because his actions are historical. Contrast that with say Dante's treatment 1300 years later, where Julius Caesar is holy myth.

You keep using Paul as a source of historical verification. If you ask the question based on Paul's work, "where was Jesus crucified" and "by whom" 1Cor 2:6-10 he was crucified in the lower heavens by sky demons (the archons of the aion). What you get from Paul is deafening silence on the historicity of Jesus time and time and time again.

Same with revelations. You point to John, 1John opens by talking about how Jesus was manifested and John bears witness to the light and life within the father. 1John 2:27 John specifically claims it is the initiations, the rites that bring what you need to know.

This is the language you here towards Isis not towards Caesar. You used the term tooth fairy, I can go with that.
The tooth fairly lives somewhere, was born if at all in the mythical past and now comes down to children to take their teeth from under their pillow. That sort of mythical vagueness is the stuff you don't want to see in a historical account.

The Talmud stuff is better in that respect incidentally.

CD-Host said...

Finally on Jesus' family, I agree with you we should know less about his family that Caesar's. But the claim remember was that we know more about Jesus not that there are good reasons why we should know less.

And BTW if you let me count every book about the roman empire from the first 100 years I'd be in the tens of thousands. You aren't using the same standard in your 27 for Jesus and my 17 for Caesar. What was the didache teach about the historical Jesus?

As for the manuscript evidence for the NT starting from the mid 3rd it is excellent. You have more problems for the 2nd century edits but even then its not terrible. We would have to go book by book and possible chapter by chapter but I'm not going to blow you away with skepticism about the degree of the NTs preservation.

Good talking to you Mary.

Mary said...

I see that my second post is gone although it was visible here at one point in time. I'm glad you were able to get it by email, CD, so that I didn't waste my time. I apologize for filling up your inbox with multiple copies of what I wrote. It never occurred to me that that would be happening when I was posting and deleting and reposting here the other day.

I have no idea why I have so much trouble posting here with my Google account. I don't have any trouble anywhere else. Unfortunately, all my activity here was viewed as "suspcious" by Google so they deactivated my account. I only got it reactivated this morning.

Hopefully, I can post this without hassle. If I'm successful, I will post a response to you, CD. Thanks again for taking the time to peruse what I wrote and respond thoughtfully.

Mary said...

Maybe we need to determine exactly what we mean by biography, CD. Craig Blomberg in The Reliability of the New Testament says the Gospels fit the genre because they focus on “one central historical character as the main subject of the narrative throughout” (302). The fact that they are also theological in nature doesn’t preclude their being biographies. Any genre can carry a message of any kind. The poetry of Allen Ginsberg and Pablo Neruda comes to mind. Their poetry carried strong political and social messages.

Every book in the Bible, whether it’s historical narrative, poetry, epistle, etc., is infused with theology and every book is Christological in focus whether it mentions Christ’s name or not. That includes Paul’s letters. They are all Christocentric. It’s true that he doesn’t give us a biography of Jesus, but why would he? He is writing to Christians who would know about Jesus’ life. Paul wrote to address issues within individual churches.

However, that doesn’t mean that we don’t get biographical information from his letters. He gives us almost two dozen pieces of information about Christ’s birth, beliefs, death, burial and resurrection in five letters whose authorship isn’t in question.

Blomberg also notes an accepted principle in historical study – “unless there is good reason for believing otherwise, one will assume that a given detail in the work of a particular historian is factual” (304). Atheists tend to look at the Bible the opposite way, assuming it isn't factual and the historian must prove it is. They throw out the N.T. books because of the supernatural elements. But good historians realize there is verifiable historical content in them, even if they don’t believe in miracles.

No more time. Thanks for reading, CD.

CD-Host said...

Mary --

Glad you could post.

Craig Blomberg in The Reliability of the New Testament says the Gospels fit the genre because they focus on “one central historical character as the main subject of the narrative throughout”

That's not a definition of biography. The Fatty Arbuckle and the Time Pirates books all focus on a historical character but the situation is non-historical. I wouldn't call those biographies. Or Elliot Roosevelt's novels which had his mother (Eleanor) as a detective solving mysteries also focus on a historical character (her) but the stories are fictional. Further you are begging the question by saying the character is historical.

I would say biography needs to meet the following:
1) Detailed account of someone's life
2) Subject's experience of those events
3) Analysis of the subject's personality.

In the gospel's we do get a detailed account, of part of a life. What's is totally lacking is the subject's experience of events. We never get inside Jesus's head nor an analysis of his personality. Think about heroic novels, legends they tend to be missing these aspects.

The fact that they are also theological in nature doesn’t preclude their being biographies.

Actually it does. Once the being being described no longer has a meaningful human psychology to experience events that can be analyzed like any other human's response..... then it isn't biography anymore.

“unless there is good reason for believing otherwise, one will assume that a given detail in the work of a particular historian is factual”

I agree with that criteria, though it is a bit strong. I'd say more that I consider a historian to be mostly factual and that it is more likely than not. The problem is the gospel writers aren't writing a history and they aren't historians. So it is not applicable. Now someone like Eusebius is trying to write propaganda and we can grant historical intent for his work. I don't see that as applicable to the gospels.

But good historians realize there is verifiable historical content in them, even if they don’t believe in miracles.

Some, not very much and what there is that is verifiable mostly fails to be verified.

CD-Host said...

It’s true that [Paul] doesn’t give us a biography of Jesus, but why would he?

Because in context it would be appropriate.

a) 1 Thes 4:9 Wouldn't you expect the love one another to be attributed to the founder?

b) Gal 2:8 Wouldn't you expect a longer argument about how Paul's apostles ship is identical to Peter's given Peter knew him and Paul didn't?

c) 2 Corinthians 6:1-2. Why is Paul talking about the prophets foretelling of his preaching rather than Jesus' recent activities?

d) 1 Corinthians 15:12-16 Paul makes it clear that belief in Jesus' resurrection is a matter of faith not of historical fact. Knowledge of Jesus' resurrection comes from God not historical witness.

e) Romans 6:2-4 How can he not mention Jesus' baptism?

etc, etc... There are some striking lack of biographical details where you would expect them.

Almost all the epistles talk about the "Gospel of God" not about a messages and teachings of a recently deceased founder. You wouldn't expect that phrasing.

There is a serious lack of detail in every book. Missing phrases where context demands it. The impression one gets from Paul is that he knows nothing or almost nothing about Jesus' life. You see the same thing in other books as well:

Hebrews 9:19-20 how could you not mention Jesus' establishment of the Eucharist here? There are lists of literally hundreds of examples like this where biography is missing.

royalcanadian2011 said...

As well as being obviously sophomoric begging of the question, this argument concerning the lack of laborious biographical mentioning of Jesus' life faily because of the relationship Paul had with the other apostles.

Paul was in conflict with them from the start. He persecuted them. Why? For their teaching. He was aware of what they taught, including the life, death, and resurrection of Christ.

Then, when he had an encounter with the Lord and became a Christian. He had a sometimes contentious relationship with the apostles, but these struggles concerned issues of following the Mosaic law, not a death on the cross or rising from the dead.

The take-away is this: Paul had every opportunity to become very familiar with the mortal life of Jesus Christ. To say that he did not know about Jesus is foolish and to maintain this argument goes against the simplest logic and reasoning (but not pleading the question).

CD-Host said...

royalcanadian2011 --

If someone is rejecting the ideas that the gospels are fundamentally truthful they are most likely rejecting the historicity of Acts as well. You are assuming what you are trying to prove.

tony Schaapman said...

CD Host seems to be getting his scholarship from the internet. Arm chair scholars. A waste of time.

Post a Comment

Thanks for taking the time to comment. By posting your comment you are agreeing to the comment policy.

Blog Archive

Amz