Like many other pro-life voters I was inspired by the story of the Republican Candidate for Vice President, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. She is a mother of five. Her most recent child has Down syndrome. Gov. Palin learned this well before the birth, but -- living up to her pro-life beliefs -- did not abort.
While reading about Gov. Palin, I ran across a shocking New York Times story about babies with Down syndrome. Perhaps I was naive, or just uninformed, but I had no idea that the abortion rate for the unborn diagnosed with Down syndrome is 90 percent. I like to think that this is not representative of parents nationwide. I have known women who were reluctant to take such tests or rejected them outright because they knew the results would not affect their decision. Still, 90% is a shocking abortion rate.
In addition to the high percentage, the raw number of such abortions continues to grow. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists is recommending that all pregnant women be screened to determine whether their unborn babies have the syndrome. The inevitable result of its decision will be many thousands more abortions.
The article is also revealing in some of the assumptions that leak through the text. For example, the article discusses the efforts of those who seek to educate parents with an eye towards preventing more abortions. The author writes about drawing a line "between preventing disability and accepting human diversity." The fact is -- whatever one's political views on abortion -- the only thing abortion prevents is the continuation of a life that already exists. The "disability" is not prevented, it is made to go away by killing the life in which it has already manifested.
Next up is this comment, "Yet some see themselves as society’s first line of defense against a use of genetic technology that can border on eugenics." This practice "borders" on eugenics like Kansas borders on being in the United States. Of course this is eugenics. Any defense of the practice must not deny the obvious, but justify it.
Returning to the ACOG's decision and the destruction of pre-natal Down babies, the tragedy is that while Down babies face a life with more health challenge and reduced mental capacity, they are capable of having full lives, including gainful employment, reading and writing, enjoying sports and music, and forming close relationships. This is simply not one of those cases were the parents face the agonizing choice of bringing a baby to term who will die quickly and suffer greatly for whatever measure of life it can eek out. The average life span of a person with Down is 50. In reality, the abortion in Down cases appears to be based much more on the challenge faced by the parents rather than the challenges faced by the child.
Columnist George Will, who has a son with Down, wrote a touching column about his son and the implications of the ACOG's recommendation. I have not been able to find the full article online, but a substantial excerpt is available here. Will takes the ACOG's decision personally and after reading even parts of his column you can see why.
I do not pretend that raising a Down child is easy or without challenge. I am fortunate enough to have had four healthy children untouched by Down. Raising them is challenging enough, without the added burden of increased health problems and mental challenges. It would not be a moral issue, however, if it were an easy choice. And there is help (Families Exploring Down Syndrome and National Down Syndrome Society).
Sometimes these kinds of issues are like the proverbial frog in the pot of heating water. Decisions are made with tremendous moral and ethical implications by some in society with very different values and perspectives than the society at large. But the rest of society is not asked, not informed, and not involved. By the time the issues get notoriety, there is a big head of steam up and most of the decisions have been made. At this point, Roe v. Wade remains the law and states are almost helpless to assist the unborn. Providing information, however, about Down and abortion and available assistance is still on the table. Helping people make an informed decision will prevent the destruction of more Down babies.
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Like many other pro-life voters I was inspired by the story of the Republican Candidate for Vice President, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. She is a mother of five. Her most recent child has Down syndrome. Gov. Palin learned this well before the birth, but -- living up to her pro-life beliefs -- did not abort.
Atheists demand "evidence." I don't think atheists care about evidence. Evidence just means that one has something to reason from. What atheists demand is absolute proof, and at a level that can't be given for anything. I would bet that if for some reason atheists didn't like science, no amount of scientific "proof" wood suffice to prove to them that science works; because they would demand absolute proof, which can't be gotten.
In thinking about the two other threads I initiative over the last few days, and the atheist take on my arguments and their 'dicing' of my thought processes, and their refusal to acknowledge standard resiances that I give all the time, I find the following state of affairs to be a good description of the current state of dialectic between atheists and theists on the boards:
(1) Theists have a vast array of knowledge and argumentation built up over 2000 years, which basically amounts to a ton evidence for the existence of God. It's not absolute proof, because true, sure enough, actual absolute proof is just damn hard to come by on anything--even most scientific things; which is why they invented inductive reasoning. Science accepts correlation's as signs of caudal relationships, it doesn't ever actually observe causality at work. But that kind of indicative relationship is not good for atheists when a God argument is involved. Then it must be absolute demonstration and direct observation.
(2) This double standard always works in favor of the atheist and never in favor of the theist. I suspect that's because Theists are trying to persuade atheists that a certain state of affairs is the case, and at the same time we are apt to be less critical of our own reasons for believing that. Atheists make a habit of denial and pride themselves on it.
Why is it a double standard? Because when it works to establish a unified system of naturalistic observation the atheist is only too happy to appeal to "we never see" "we always see" and "there is a strong correlation." We never see a man raised from the dead. We never see a severed limb restored. The correlation's between naturalistic cause and effect are rock solid and always work, so science gives us truth, and religion doesn't. But when those same kinds of correlation's are used to support a God argument, they are just no darn good. to wit: we never see anything pop out of absolute noting, we never even see absolute nothing, even QM particles seem to emerge from prior conditions such as Vacuum flux, so they are not really proof of something form nothing. But O tisg tosh, that doesn't prove anything and certainly QM proves that the universe could just pop up out of nothing!
(3) "laws of physics" are not real laws, they are only descriptions, aggregates of our observations. So they can't be used to argue for God in any way. But, when it comes to miraculous claims, the observations of such must always be discounted because they violate our standard norm for observation, and we must always assume they are wrong no matter how well documented or how inexplicable. We must always assume that only naturalistic events can happen, even though the whole concept of a naturalism can only be nothing more than an aggregate of our observations about the world; and surely they are anything but exhaustive. Thus one wood think that since our observations are not enough to establish immutable laws of the universe, they would not be enough to establish a metaphysics which says that only material realms exist and only materially caused events can happen! But guess again...!
(4) The Theistic panoply of argumentation is a going concern. Quentin Smith, the top atheist philosopher says that 80% of philosophers today are theists. But when one uses philosophy in a God argument, it's just some left over junk from the middle ages; even though my God arguments are based upon S 5 modal logic which didn't exist even before the 1960s and most of the major God arguers are still living.
(5) They pooh pooh philosophy because it doesn't' produce objective concrete results. But they can't produce any scientific evidence to answer the most basic philosophical questions, and the more adept atheists will admit that it isn't the job of science to answer those questions anyway. Scientific evidence cannot give us answers on the most basic philosophical questions, rather than seeing this as a failing in science (or better yet, evidence of differing magister) they rather just chalice it up to the failing of the question! The question is no good because our methods dot' answer it!
(6) What it appears to me is the case is this; some methods are better tailed for philosophy. Those methods are more likely to yield a God argument and even a rational warrant for belief, because God is a philosophical question and not a scientific one. God is a matter of faint, after all, and in matters of faith a rational warrant is the best one should even hope for. But that's not good enough for atheists, they disparage the whole idea of a philosophical question (at least the scientistic ones do--that's not all of them, but some) yet they want an open ended universe with no hard and fast truth and no hard and fast morality!
(7)So it seems that if one accepts certain methods one can prove God within the nature of that language game. now of course one can reject those language games and choose others that are not quite as cozy with the divine and that's OK too. Niether approach is indicative of one's intelligence or one's morality. But, it does mean that since it may be just as rational given the choice of axioms and methodologies, then what that taps out to is belief in God is rationally warrented--it may not be only rational conclusion but it is one ratinal conclusion Now i know all these guys like Barron and HRG will say "hey I'm fine with that." But then when push comes to shove they will be back again insisting that the lack of absolute proof leaves the method that yields God arguments in doubt, rather than the other way around. I don't see why either should be privileged. Why can't we just say that one method is better suited for one kind of question, the other for the other?
and if one of them says 'why should I ask those questions?' I say 'why shouldn't we leave the choice of questions to the questioner?
The desperation with which Jesus Myth sympathizers cling to the possibility of Christian copying of Mithraism is good evidence of their willingness to sacrifice reason and dispassionate inquiry. As a mini-case study I will look at the way a Jesus Myth website (jesusneverexisted.com) advances the Mithra-Christianity Copycat Theory (in an article titled, "Dress Rehearsal for Christianity"). This is Part 1. The article itself is not well organized, so please have patience as I work through it section by section.
The site leads off with a list of 14 impressive sounding books identified as “Sources.” Although a few choice quotes are extracted from some of these books, most of the site's assertions are unsupported by any reference (to the listed sources or otherwise). For those tidbits that have citations, they generally are unrelated to the task of proving that Christianity copied Mithraism. Indeed, one of the books they cite so completely contradicts the site’s theory that it is hard to see how they can claim to have read it, much less claim that it is as a source. Everett Ferguson’s Backgrounds of Early Christianity states that “chronologically and geographically any influence by Mithraism on the origins of Christianity seems excluded.” Page 271 (emphasis added).
Ferguson acknowledges some interrelated exchanges of surface elements of the mystery religions and Christianity in the fourth century, but firmly rejects the notion that the formation of Christianity is indebted to Mithraism:
[T]here is very little evidence for much Christian indebtedness in the first century, and especially in Palestine. Hence, the search for pagan influences in early Christianity has focused on Hellenistic Christianity and especially on Paul as channels through which pagan ideas reached a religion that began on jewish soil. This too has failed to be substantiated.
Backgrounds of Early Christianity, page 280.
Ferguson goes on to explain that these mystery religions, including Mithraism, were “worlds apart” from Christianity on the issue of resurrection, redemption from sin, baptism, the sacramental meals, and even vocabulary. Id. at 280-82.
The actual argument apparently starts out referring to Mithra as the “Bull Slayer” and characterizing its success throughout the Roman Empire. There is not a single primary or secondary source cited. The only parallel suggested with Christianity is between Mithra slaying a bull and Saint George slaying a dragon. It is hard to imagine that even the authors of the site find any significance in this “parallel,” given that the first narrative of St. George and the Dragon dates to the Eleventh Century. Saint George himself is a figure from the Third Century.
Origins of Mithraism
The site then goes on to claim that Mithraism goes back “in one form or another” for two thousand years. The site claims that Mithraism worked its way into the Roman Empire when Pompey’s troops entered Syrian in the 60s B.C. Again, there is not a single primary or secondary source offered. Moreover, the devil is in the details. The worship of a Mithra god does go back beyond Christianity. But that is not to say that the mystery religion form of Mithraism goes back beyond Christianity. Most historians believe that the mystery religion form of Christianity was quite different than the Persian form of Mithra worship. The mystery religion version, or western Mithraism, did not become established in the Roman Empire until the late first or, more likely, second century.
Furthermore, the reference to Pompey is quite distorted. There is no evidence that Mithraism became established in the West through Pompey’s troops. In actuality, as record by Plutarch in his Life of Pompey, there were a band of pirates operating out of Cilicia. Some of them, according to Plutarch, practiced a form of Mithraism. What that form is or what the details of its observance were we do not know. Pompey cleared the seas of the pirates, destroyed their bases, and dispersed their community. There is no evidence that any of the pirates practiced the western form of Mithraism. There is no evidence that this point of contact lead to the spread of Mithraism into the Roman Empire. Indeed, given that there is no evidence of a substantial Mithriac presence in the Roman Empire until the second century, it seems unlikely that this episode lead to anything.
The site claims that the Mithraic ritual of descending into a pit and being sprinkled with the blood of a bull is the “forerunner of Christian baptism.” Again, there is no reference to any secondary or primary source. So there is no evidence about the specific nature of the practice, when it was practiced, or where it was practiced. If we do not know when this practice began, how it can it be claimed to have been a forerunner of Christian baptism?
Further, even assuming chronological priority, the comparison hardly demands a judgment that Christianity copied Mithraism. The Christian ritual obviously involves water instead of the blood of an animal. This suggests relation to the use of water to represent cleansing. Even if the Christian ritual is to be related to blood in some way, it would be the blood of Jesus -- the God Himself -- rather than that of an animal (and one killed by the god at that).
Additionally, the most likely and plausible explanation of origins is Jewish. The Gospels all record that the Christian forerunner to Christian baptism was a Jewish ritual practiced by John the Baptist. That John the Baptist was baptizing believers in water is confirmed by Josephus. Given the assured presence of this practice in Palestine during the time of Christianity, and that early Christian writers’ express indebtedness to a Jewish teacher for the practice, why would we make the leap to claim that a very different ritual from another time and geographical location was responsible? The answer is that only those determined to find a pagan link to Christianity and promote the notion that Jesus did not exist would do so.
The site next contends that Mithras had a rock which was his tomb and place of “re-birth.” Again, there are no cites supporting the assertion that this was a tomb, much less a place of re-birth. It is generally recognized that Mithras was “birthed” out of a rock. Whether this “tomb” and “re-birth” is attested anywhere, and just as importantly, from when such concepts might date, is nowhere supported.
Next, the site claims that “The rock connection was later re-worked into the legend of Saint Peter.” Again, there is no discussion or evidence explaining the “legend” or the “connection.” In what way is the figure of Peter supposed to have been based on a story of a god being birthed out of a rock? It is not as if Peter is Jesus’ father after all. Indeed, Peter was Jesus’ follower. Here, the simplest explanation is the most likely. There was a prominent figure named Peter in early Christianity (Paul’s letters refers to Peter as a leading figure in the 50’s, 1 Clement refers to him similarly in the 90s) and it is not a stretch for someone -- either the founder of Christianity or one of its early members -- to make the connection that this foundational figure name means “rock.” Once again we see how the copycat enthusiasts are willing to grasp at exotic, unnecessary straws to the detriment of simple, direct facts supported by all of the evidence.
The site claims that “the most popular Romanised form of Mithraism was Sol Invictus, the Unconquerable Sun, whose re-birth was celebrated as the climax of the mid-winter Saturnalia, on 25th December.” This is, at best, an oversimplification. Mithra played a role in Sol Invictus for a while, but so did two other gods.
Part 2 will continue taking up the supposed parallels in order as time permits.
Occasionally, I have a question from a skeptic that really makes me think. It doesn't make me think, "Gee, maybe Christianity is wrong after all." I have responded to enough skeptical ideas over the last 10 years that I believe it is highly doubtful that any atheist will ever actually shake my confidence in Christianity (but they are welcome to keep trying). Rather, the question (which is usually designed to shake my confidence) usually makes me look prayerfully and more deeply into my own understandings of Christian philosophy. One such question came up earlier this week.
Since I don't have permission from the skeptic to repost his question word for word, I will paraphrase the challenge. The anonymous skeptic was discussing the question of why there was evil in the world. Certainly, I have heard that question many times, and I have my approach for answering the question and it involves the Free Will Defense. For those unfamiliar with the Free Will Defense, here is a fairly decent description from The Problem of Evil: How Can A Good God Allow Evil? by Rick Rood of Probe Ministries:
The key to the resolution of this apparent conflict is to recognize that when we say God is all powerful, we do not imply that He is capable of doing anything imaginable. True, Scripture states that "with God all things are possible" (Mt. 19:26). But Scripture also states that there are some things God cannot do. For instance, God cannot lie (Tit. 1:2). Neither can He be tempted to sin, nor can He tempt others to sin (James 1:13). In other words, He cannot do anything that is "out of character" for a righteous God. Neither can He do anything that is out of character for a rational being in a rational world. Certainly even God cannot "undo the past," or create a square triangle, or make what is false true. He cannot do what is irrational or absurd.
And it is on this basis that we conclude that God could not eliminate evil without at the same time rendering it impossible to accomplish other goals which are important to Him. Certainly, for God to create beings in his own image, who are capable of sustaining a personal relationship with Him, they must be beings who are capable of freely loving Him and following his will without coercion. Love or obedience on any other basis would not be love or obedience at all, but mere compliance. But creatures who are free to love God must also be free to hate or ignore Him. Creatures who are free to follow His will must also be free to reject it. And when people act in ways outside the will of God, great evil and suffering is the ultimate result. This line of thinking is known as the "free will defense" concerning the problem of evil.
However, this particular skeptic took a different tact then I anticipated and asked a question to which I hadn't previously given much thought. He said (paraphrasing):
The Free Will Defense doesn't work. Assuming that God is omnipotent and never does evil then he could have freely chosen to make us in a way that we would not choose evil, as well. Indeed, if God never does evil then He would have been required to make us that way knowing that the alternative was going to result in the existence of evil. A totally good God who never chooses evil would would never have chosen to create us in a way that we would choose evil.
Do you see what this skeptic has done (even if he didn't intend to)? He is asking a perfectly legitimate question that may circumvent the Free Will Defense. Instead of challenging the logic of the Free Will Defense (which I believe is perfectly logical), he asks why God couldn't have created us in a way that would make it almost automatic that we would choose good over evil. This would still allow for the opportunity to sin, but reduce the possibility that we would do so to almost zero.
It's like asking if God were creating automobiles in 2003 why God, with all of his knowledge and power, would create us to be Kia automobiles (which, according to a 2003 J.D. Powers survey, was the least dependable car of 2003) when he could create us to be the extremely dependable Lexus automobiles (rated most dependable car in 2003 by the same survey). Given that God is supposedly loving, why would he create us in such a way that it seems as if we regularly break down and choose evil instead of good. Why wouldn't he have created us in such a way that we could still choose evil instead of good, but where we would be so much more likely to choose good that those who choose evil would be doing so against their nature.
That's a great question. I have a pretty good answer, but it is going to take a couple of posts to get it in place. (For those of you visiting from the Internet Infidels, this means that the answer is more complex than the usual fare that passes for depth on that website -- especially since the main argument found there is usually to deride others' opinions without any serious analysis.)
In the meantime, I would be interested if anyone who is a thoughtful person (meaning that they don't spend time at the Internet Infidels board) has a preliminary answer to this question. For my part, my answer begins with Part II (to be posted shortly).
I enjoy reading bumper stickers. Some seem to manage to capture a real truth in a very few words. Others, however, substitute a pithy saying for real thought or analysis. One of the latter is the bumper sticker that is rather prevalent in my area of the country that reads: "God bless the whole word, no exceptions."
Obviously, this is a response to the bumper stickers that say, "God bless America." The person with the "God bless the whole world" bumper sticker apparently thinks that the person with the "God bless America" sticker is being too provincial and wants to be more inclusive. But is there really anything wrong with saying "God bless America"?
Certainly, when a person says "God bless America" they are not saying "God bless America and no other country." When the people at an American baseball game stand in the seventh inning and sing the song by that title, they are not trying to gain God's exclusive favor for the United States. Rather, those call for God's blessing on America are doing simply that: they are asking God to grant his blessing upon this particular country.
Christians who pray do this kind of thing all the time. They often pray, for example, for God's blessing on their family. Does that mean that they don't want other families to be blessed? Does that mean that they don't want their friends' families to be blessed? Of course not. It is simply the case that they are praying at that moment for God's blessing on something that is near and dear to them, personally. The same holds true when American Christians pray for America. It does not mean that they want God's blessing only on America, but rather that they are praying at that moment for God's blessing on the country that is near and dear to them.
So, to the extent that the bumper sticker suggests that the person saying "God bless America" is asking for that blessing in exclusion to other countries receiving God's blessing, the bumper sticker is wrong.
But the better question is to ask whether the person who puts this bumper sticker on their car really supports its many meanings. To the extent a person may put it on the car to show their support for the idea that they want all of the world to be blessed by God with peace, freedom and prosperity, I can largely support such a wish. But the problem is that the bumper sticker is responsive to the "God bless America" bumper sticker and specifically says "no exceptions." Keep in mind that the person asking for God's blessing on America is asking for a blessing of the government as well. In other words, it is necessarily a call for God's blessing on every single country in the world and the government of these countries -- not the people in these countries generally.
Does the person putting on this bumper sticker really want God's blessing on the government in Iran -- a country which is known to sponsor worldwide terrorism and in which occurs large-scale arrests, incommunicado detention and torture? Does that include a call for God's blessing on the government of the country of Ethiopia which is responsible for the people of Somalia being "killed, raped, tortured; looting is widespread and entire neighbourhoods  being destroyed"? If they are praying simultaneously for a turnaround of and repentence by those governments then the "no exceptions" bumper sticker has a viewpoint I can support. But I doubt that the person with the "no exceptions" bumper sticker has thought it this far through.
The point of this blog is not to condemn the person with the "no exceptions" bumper sticker. They are largely being reactionary to the "God bless America" stickers and trying to show their inclusiveness. But sometimes it is the case that reducing a complex issue to a bumper sticker can lead to meanings that the person never intended.
There are two basic reasons we can put this nonsense behind us:
(1) There is no reason why we have to theorize that the original evangelists strooped to copying pagan lore when all the elements of the dying rising messiah were present in Judaism.
(2) We can prove Jesus existed as a man in history.
The Whole thesis that the story of Jesus is shaped out of bits and pieces of the mono myth, archetypes from all cultures that make up the basis of all mythology, is extraneous to the facts. All the elements of the Jesus story come from Judaism, including that of the suffering Messiah whose death has atoning implications for his people. This is nothing new. This fact has been known for more than two decades. It comes from several fragments found at Qumran, suggesting that Messiah would atone for the sins of Israel. In fact, the atonement implications were discussed in his book The Dead Sea Scrolls by John Allegro as ealry as 1962. But fragments from Qumran were discovered in the 80s.
Dead Sea Scrolls Isaiah 9
[John Allegro, The Dead Sea scrolls, Pelican, 1956] Allegro was the only member of the original translation team who was neither Christain nor Jew, but claimed "nutrality." However, he was criticized by other members of the team as being anti-Chrsitian and skeptical]
[the most ancient source--pre Christian]
"In one of their hyms the sect pictures itself as a pregant woman suffering the pangs of parturition as she gives birth to her 'firstborn' who is described in terms reminiscent of the Child of Isaish 9:6, the 'Wonderful Counsellor.' Most scholars agree that the passage retains its biblical Messianic significance, in which case it appears that the Sect believed that out of its suffering of atonement for 'the land' would come the Anointed One or Christ."(161).
DSS Testament of Levi-- 2.1 4Q541 frag. 9 col. I/
2.2 4Q541 frag. 24 col. II
Messianic Hopes in the
Florentino Garcia Martinez
Florentino Garcia Martinez is professor at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands, where he heads the Qumran Institute. This chapter is reprinted from The People of the Dead Sea Scrolls, ed. Florentino Garcia Martinez and Julio Trebolle Barrera (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1995).
"In spite of that, the general lines of the text are clear enough to assure us that in Qumran interpretation, Jacob's blessing of Judah was seen as a promise of the restoration of the davidic monarchy and of the perpetuity of his royal office. And since the future representative of the dynasty is identified not only as the shoot of David, but also explicitly as the "true anointed," there remains no doubt about the "messianic" tone of the text. Unfortunately, the details which the text provides about this "Messiah" are not many."
"... However, a recently published text enables us to glimpse an independent development of the hope in the coming of the "priestly Messiah" as an agent of salvation at the end of times."
"It is an Aramaic text, one of the copies of the Testament of Levi, recently published by E. Puech,32 which contains interesting parallels to chapter 19 of the Greek Testament of Levi included in the Testaments of the XII Patriarchs. From what can be deduced from the remains preserved, the protagonist of the work (probably the patriarch Levi, although it cannot be completely excluded that it is Jacob speaking to Levi) speaks to his descendants in a series of exhortations. He also relates to them some of the visions which have been revealed to him. In one of them, he tells them of the coming of a mysterious person. Although the text is hopelessly fragmentary it is of special interest since it seems to evoke the figure of a "priestly Messiah." This "Messiah" is described with the features of the Suffering Servant of Isaiah, as J. Starcky indicated in his first description of the manuscript.33 The two longest and most important fragments of this new text can be translated as follows:
2.1 4Q541 frag. 9 col. I
1 [. . .] the sons of the generation [. . .] 2 [. . .] his wisdom. And he will atone for all the children of his generation, and he will be sent to all the children of 3 his people. His word is like the word of the heavens, and his teaching, according to the will of God. His eternal sun will shine 4 and his fire will burn in all the ends of the earth; above the darkness his sun will shine. Then, darkness will vanish 5 from the earth, and gloom from the globe. They will utter many words against him, and an abundance of 6 lies; they will fabricate fables against him, and utter every kind of disparagement against him. His generation will change the evil, 7 and [. . .] established in deceit and in violence. The people will go astray in his days and they will be bewildered (DSST, 270).
.... The priestly character of this figure is indicated expressly by his atoning character: "And he will atone for all the children of his generation...."
The agreement of the person thus described with the "Messiah-priest" described in chapter 18 of the Greek Testament of Levi is surprising.34 At least it shows us that the presence of this priestly figure in the Testaments of the XII Patriarchs should not simply be ascribed to interpolations or Christian influence. Rather, it is a development which exists already within Judaism. This text also shows us that the portrayal of this "Messiah-priest" with the features of the "Suffering Servant" of Deutero-Isaiah is not an innovation of purely Christian origin either, but the result of previous developments. Our text stresses that although he would be sent "to all the sons of his people," the opposition to this figure, "light of the nations" (Isaiah 42:6) would be great: "They will utter many words against him, and an abundance of lies; they will fabricate fables against him, and utter every kind of disparagement against him" (compare Isaiah 50:6&endash;8; 53:2&endash;10). What is more, according to the editor, it cannot be excluded that the Aramaic text even contained the idea of the violent death of this "Messiah-priest." In other words, this opposition would reach its ultimate outcome as in Isaiah 53. His argument comes from the other fairly extensive fragment of the work, in which possible allusions to a violent death by crucifixion are found. However, to me this interpretation seems problematic. The fragment in question can be translated as follows:
2.2 4Q541 frag. 24 col. II 2 Do not mourn for him [. . .] and do not [. . .] 3 And God will notice the failings [. . .] the uncovered failings [. . .] 4 Examine, ask and know what the dove has asked; do not punish one weakened because of exhaustion and from being uncertain a[ll . . .] 5 do not bring the nail near him. And you will establish for your father a name of joy, and for your brothers you will make a tested foundation rise. 6 You will see it and rejoice in eternal light. And you will not be of the enemy. Blank 7 Blank (DSST, 270).
... Whatever might be the possible allusion to the death of the expected "Messiah-priest," the identification of this figure with the "Servant" of Isaiah seems confirmed by the parallels indicated in fragment 9. In any case, the idea that the eventual death of the "Messiah-priest" could have an atoning role, as Christian tradition attributes to the death of the "Servant," is excluded from our text since the atonement he achieves (frag. 9 II 2) remains in the perspective of the cult.
As far as I know, this is the only text which in the preserved sections deals with the priestly "Messiah" alone. However, many other texts refer to this figure when speaking of a two-fold messianism. This is the two-headed messianism in which we are presented with the "davidic or royal Messiah" and the "levitical or priestly Messiah" together. They are called the "Messiahs of Israel and of Aaron" respectively."
[Martinez urges scholarly caution as the scrolls are very fragmentary, there is no guarontee they do not contiain references to other Messianich figures as well, and the notion of a curcifiction for the presitly Messiah is doubtful for several reasons, pertaining to the nture of the text--but his overall opinion seems to be that the concept of a Preistly Messiah on the order of the suffering servant is vindicated]
Qumran text, 4Q521
Hebrew Scholars Michael Wise and James Tabor wrote an article that appeared in Biblical Archaeology Review (Nov./Dec. 1992) analyzing 4Q521:
"Our Qumran text, 4Q521, is, astonishingly, quite close to this Christian concept of the Messiah. Our text speaks not only of a single Messianic figure.but it also describes him in extremely exalted terms, quite like the Christian view of Jesus as a cosmic agent. That there was, in fact, an expectation of a single Messianic figure at Qumran is really not so surprising. A reexamination of the Qumran literature on this subject leads one to question the two Messiah theory. As a matter of fact, only once in any Dead Sea Scroll text is the idea of two Messiahs stated unambiguously.
"There is no doubt that the Qumran community had faith in the ultimate victory of such a Messiah over all evil. However, a closer reading of these texts reveals an additional theme, equally dominant-that of an initial, though temporary, triumph of wicked over righteousness. That is, there was the belief among the Qumran community that the Messiah would suffer initial defeat, but that he would ultimately triumph in the end of days."
Of course I'm sure that mythers will reach for straws and argue that there was earlier pagan influence upon the Jews from Egypt. At that point we are just not talking about the same things anymore. The bread and whine are found in the passover ceremony which do have roots in arab culture, but thousands of years back. There is just no reason to pushing the pretense at that point. We don't need to reach for the pagan parallels to explain the major elements in the story.
In the words of the great scholar Franz Cumont, often quoted and admired by the Mythers themselves: "resemblances do not necessarily suppose an imitation," (The Mysteries of Mithra, p 194).
In terms of the second point: We can prove Jesus existed in history.
First, there are two important observations to make about the myther's standard of evidence:
(1) They do not use a historical standard. the demand a level of documentation that would only be possible in the modern world with the 6:00 news.
They do not seem to understand that documented sources on scene, form the hour,t he day even same year as the events are extremely rare. They poo poo the use of any historian because historians write years after the event and the level of documentation they exact is up to the minute. But no other figure in history can be documented in this manner prior to the invention of the telegraph. Almost all reports from the ancient world are written years after the fact. Now it's true that most are not written sixty years after, but even a couple of years is rare. This is not impossible but its not the norm either. Arguments made by mythers about trying to compare the solidity of documents proving Caesar existed to those of Jesus, are silly comparisons. Of course Cesar can be documented more easily than Jesus Caesar controlled the known world, he was the most important man in his day from the perspective of the world as such. Jesus was an unknown peasant. Events in the Roman world had importance only in relation to Rome. Jesus did not have much proximity to Rome, Geographically, politically, culturally, economically or otherwise.
Most of the Mythicist arguments turn on an argument from silence that fails to appreciate the true nature of history or documentation in the Roman world. For example, some will argue Philo doesn't mention Jesus, as though he should hear all about some guy in Palestine with no polsitical position, money or military accomplishment. With Messiahs and saviors and prophet figures cropping up every day out in the desert, and Philo in Rome or elsewhere most of the time, why should he hear about Jesus? If he did why should should he take note? Most of these internet sketpics seem obvious to the fact that they did not have the evening news.
(2) the use a totally a historical standard of proof.
Historians used to believe that Pilate didn't exist, because he was not mentioned outside the Bible. Then they found two mentions of him and now they accept his existence. But Jesus mythers want to see birth certificate, driver's license appearance on the 6:00 news and so on. There doesn't have to be that much material to demonstrate Jesus existence. Two good reasonable mentions by historians or sources who were in an authoritative position or in a position to know should do it. There are many more than two references. Let's go with three.
(1) The Gospels Themselves: all 34 of them.
The Mythers just refuse to the accept the Gospels at any price, but that is not the standard used by historians or scholars. The former darling of the atheists, John Dominick Crosson hinsts that Doherty doesn't know much and states explicitly that he acceptes Jesus as historical becasue he is testified to in the Gospels.
If I understand what Earl Doherty is arguing, Neil, it is that Jesus of Nazareth never existed as an historical person, or, at least that historians, like myself, presume that he did and act on that fatally flawed presumption.
I am not sure, as I said earlier, that one can persuade people that Jesus did exist as long as they are ready to explain the entire phenomenon of historical Jesus and earliest Christianity either as an evil trick or a holy parable. I had a friend in Ireland who did not believe that Americans had landed on the moon but that they had created the entire thing to bolster their cold-war image against the communists. I got nowhere with him. So I am not at all certain that I can prove that the historical Jesus existed against such an hypothesis and probably, to be honest, I am not even interested in trying.
It was, however, that hypothesis taken not as a settled conclusion, but as a simple question that was behind the first pages of BofC when I mentioned Josephus and Tacitus. I do not think that either of them checked out Jewish or Roman archival materials about Jesus. I think they were expressing the general public knowledge that "everyone" had about this weird group called Christians and their weird founder called Christ. The existence, not just of Christian materials, but of those other non-Christian sources, is enough to convince me that we are dealing with an historical individual. Furthermore, in all the many ways that opponents criticized earliest Christianity, nobody ever suggested that it was all made up. That in general, is quite enough for me.
There was one other point where I think Earl Doherty simply misstated what I did. In BofC, after the initial sections on materials and methods (1-235), I spent about equal time in Galilee (237-406) , or at least to the north, and in Jerusalem with pre-Pauline materials (407-573). I agree that if we had a totally different and irreconcilable vision/program between Paul and Q (just to take an example), it would require some very good explaining. Part of what I was doing, for example, in talking about the Common Meal Tradition was showing how even such utterly distinct eucharistic scenarios as Didache 9-10 and I Cor 11-12 have rather fascinating common elements behind and between them. It is a very different thing, in summary, for Paul to say that he is not interested in the historical Jesus (Jesus in the flesh) than to say that "no Galilee and no historical Jesus lie behind Paul."M
Crosson's Asnwer:I am not certain, Neil, that I have much to add to my previous post. I do not claim "ideological immunity" against the possibility that the historical Jesus never existed. That such a person existed is an historical conclusion for me, and neither a dogmatic postulate nor a theological presupposition. My very general arguments are: (1) that existence is given in Christian, pagan, and Jewish sources; (2) it is never negated by even the most hostile critics of early Christianity (Jesus is a bastard and a fool but never a myth or a fiction!); (3) there are no historical parallels that I know of from that time and period that help me understand such a total creation. There is, however, a fourth point that I touched on in BofC 403-406. It is crucially important for me that Jesus sent out companions and told them to do exactly what he was doing (not in his name, but as part of the Kingdom of God). The most basic continuity that I see between Jesus and those companions was, as I put it, not in mnemonics, but in mimetics. In other words, they were imitating his lifestyle and not just remembering his words. I find that emphasized in the Q Gospel’s indictment of those who talk, but do not do, and in the Didache’s emphasis on the ways (tropoi) of the Lord (not just words/logoi). When, therefore, I look at a phrase such as "blessed are the destitute," and am quite willing to argue that it comes from the historical Jesus, I am always at least as sure that it represents the accurate summary of an attitude as the accurate recall of a saying. For analogy: If Gandhi had developed a large movement after his death of people who are living in non-violent resistance to oppression, and one of them cited an aphorism of Gandhi, namely "if you do not stand on a small bug, why would you stand on a Big Bug," I would be more secure on the continuity in lifestyle than in memory and could work on that as basis.
It doesn't matter that these were not the eye witnesses the Gospels were named after. The whole community was witness to Jesus existence.
It's not just the canonicals. There are 34 Gospels that are known are thought to exist, taking into account, fragments, theories such as Q and so forth. Many of them are dated to the first century. They all depict Jesus as flesh and blood. Not one of the early one's depicts him in any other way. All the lost Gospels take him to be a man in history.
Story by Kay Albright, (785) 864-8858
University Relations, the public relations office for the University of Kansas Lawrence campus. Copyright 1997
LAWRENCE - Fragments of a fourth-century Egyptian manuscript contain a lost gospel dating from the first or second century, according to Paul Mirecki, associate professor of religious studies at the University of Kansas.
Mirecki discovered the manuscript in the vast holdings of Berlin's Egyptian Museums in 1991. The book contains a rare "dialogue gospel" with conversations between Jesus and his disciples, shedding light on the origins of early Judaisms and Christianities.
The lost gospel, whose original title has not survived, has similarities to the Gospel of John and the most famous lost gospel, the gospel of Thomas, which was discovered in Egypt in 1945.
The newly discovered gospel is written in Coptic, the ancient Egyptian language using Greek letters. Mirecki said the gospel was probably the product of a Christian minority group called Gnostics, or "knowers."
Mirecki said the discussion between Jesus and his disciples probably takes place after the resurrection, since the text is in the same literary genre as other post-resurrection dialogues, though the condition of the manuscript makes the time element difficult to determine.
"This lost gospel presents us with more primary evidence that the origins of early Christianity were far more diverse than medieval church historians would tell us," Mirecki said. "Early orthodox histories denigrated and then banished from political memory the existence of these peaceful people and their sacred texts, of which this gospel is one."
Mirecki is editing the manuscript with Charles Hedrick, professor of religious studies at Southwest Missouri State University, Springfield. Both men independently studied the manuscript while working on similar projects in Berlin.
A chance encounter at a professional convention in 1995 in Philadelphia made both men realize that they were working on the same project. They decided to collaborate, and their book will be published this summer by Brill Publishers in the Netherlands.
The calfskin manuscript is damaged, and only 15 pages remain. Mirecki said it was probably the victim of an orthodox book burning in about the fifth century.
The 34 Gospels
Bible Review, June 2002: 20-31; 46-47
Charles W. Hendrick, professor who discovered the lost Gospel of the Savior tells us
Mirecki and I are not the first scholars to find a new ancient gospel. In fact scholars now have copies of 19 gospels (either complete, in fragments or in quotations), written in the first and second centuries A.D— nine of which were discovered in the 20th century. Two more are preserved, in part, in other andent writings, and we know the names of several others, but do not have copies of them. Clearly, Luke was not exaggerating when he wrote in his opening verse: "Many undertook to compile narratives [aboutJesus]" (Luke 1:1). Every one of these gospels was deemed true and sacred by at least some early Christians
These Gospels demonstrate a great diversity among the early chruch, the diminish the claims of an orthodox purity. On the other hand, they tell us more about the historical Jesus as well. One thing they all have in common is to that they show Jesus as a historical figure, working in public and conducting his teachings before people, not as a spirit being devoid of human life.Hendrick says,"Gospels-whether canonical or not- are collections of anecdotes from Jesus' public career."
Many of these lost Gospels pre date the canonical gospels, which puts them prior to AD 60 for Mark:
The Gospel of the Saviour, too. fits this description. Contrary' to popular opinion, Matthew, Mark, Luke and John were not included m the canon simply because they were the earliest gospels or because they were eyewitness accounts. Some non canonical gospels are dated roughly to the same period, and the canonical gospels and other early Christian accounts appear to rely on earlier reports. Thus, as far as the physical evidence is concerned, the canonical gospels do not take precedence over the noncanonical gospels. The fragments of John, Thomas and theEgerton Gospel share the distinction of being the earliest extant pieces of Christian writing known. And although the existing manuscript evidence for Thomas dates to the mid-second century, the scholars who first published the Greek fragments held open the possibility that it was actually composed in the first century, which would put it around the time John was composed.
Using the science of Textual criticism http://www.doxa.ws/Bible/Gospel_behind2.htmlHelmutt Koestler demonstrates that the Gospel material was written and circulated in written form as early as mid century, and this includes the story of the empty tomb. Many sources can be shown to per date Mark. The Gospel material was circulating in many forms prior to its final closure in the form of the four that we know as canonical. There was Thomas, Peter, the saying source Paul used, Q, Pre Mark non Q and so on. see my pages on: Gospel Behind the Gospels (2 pages). What all of this means is the figure of Jesus as flesh and blood human was circulating from a verity of sources, not all of them acceptable to Orthodoxy as early as the middle of the first century. As far back as that period Jesus is a flesh and blood man in history.
(2) The Talmud
Talmudic Evidence is hard to sift through.
Jews self censored the Talmud to remove mentions of Jesus, thus modern Jews deny that it is talking about him, while ancient rabbis used examples supposedly speaking of him for centuries. But what cannot be denied is that the Talmud gives evidence of Christians believing in Jesus as a flesh and blood rabbi from the late first century, which contradicts the Jesus myth theory.
There is a history of the Talmud
The Babylonian Talmud
translated by MICHAEL L. RODKINSON
Book 10 (Vols. I and II)
The History of the Talmud
from Vol I chapter II
Thus the study of the Talmud flourished after the destruction of the Temple, although beset with great difficulties and desperate struggles. All his days, R. Johanan b. Zakkai was obliged to dispute with Sadducees and Bathueians and, no doubt, with the Messiahists also; for although these last were Pharisees, they differed in many points from the teaching of the Talmud after their master, Jesus, had broken with the Pharisees
This clearly indicates that Jesus was followed by Christians who understood him as a Rabbi in the late first century, but the Jesus myth theory says that it was only in the second century that began to put a concrete history to Jesus. Note this history indicates that they had a history about him as they said he had been a pharisee.
The index indicates that this statement is from the time covering the late first century.
Index to the wrok
The Talmud is Rabbinical commentaries that begin about the second century but they draw upon even older material. some parts of the Jerusalem Talmud go back to the frist century and even before:
Michael L Rodkinson
"History of Talmud"
"The Talmud is a combination of Mishna and Gemara, the latter is a collection of Mishnayoth, Tosephtas, Mechilta, Siphra, Siphre and Boraithas, all of these, interpreted and discussed by the Amoraim, Saboraim, and also Gaonim at a later period. "The Mishna is the authorized codification of the oral or unwritten law, which on the basis of the written law contained in Pentateuch, developed during the second Temple, and down to the end of the second century of the common era." The author of which was R. Jehuda, the prince named "Rabbi" (flourishing toward the end of the second century), taking the unfinished work of R. Akiba and R. Meir as basis."
It seems pretty obvious that the Talmud is discussing Jesus, at least in some enstances. A summary of what the most liley passages say about theone I take to be Jesus of Nazerath makes this clear:
a Summary of what is said about the charactors who seem go by these names:
*He was born under unusual circumstances, leading some rabbis to address him as ben Pandira and " a bastard of an adulteress."
*mother Mary was Heli's daughter.
*was crucified on the eve of Passover.
* made himself alive by the name of God.
* was a son of a woman. (cf. Galatians 4:4)
* claimed to be God, the son of God, the son of man.
* ascended and claimed that he would return again.
* was near to the kingdom and near to kingship.
* had at least five disciples.
* performed miracles, i.e. practiced "sorcery".
* name has healing power.
* teaching impressed one rabbi.
The Talmud essentially affirms the New Testament teaching on the life and person of Jesus Christ, God's unique Son and Savior of the world.
Before going into that we need to understand what we are looking for. The Talmudic writters don't say "O Jesus of Nazerath is who we are talking about." The counch things in langaue form their world is very different to anything modern Christian would expect to find. they have many nicknames for Jesus, both as derogatory and as part of the self censering. soem of these can be translated as "may his name be blotted out" Others are of doubtful origin, but it is asserted strongly by Rabbis over the centuries that they are Talking about Jesus.Some of htese names include:
The pagan detractor of Christianity,Celsus, demonstrates a connection to the material of the Talmud, indicating that that material about Jesus was around in a least the second century. Since Jewish sources would not have been available to Celsus it seems reasonable to assume that this information had been floating around for some time, and easier to obtain. Therefore, we can at least went back to the early second, late first century.
Origin quoting Celsus: Jesus had come from a village in Judea, and was the son of a poor Jewess who gained her living by the work of her own hands. His mother had been turned out of doors by her husband, who was a carpenter by trade, on being convicted of adultery [with a soldier named Panthéra (i.32)]. Being thus driven away by her husband, and wandering about in disgrace, she gave birth to Jesus, a bastard. Jesus, on account of his poverty, was hired out to go to Egypt. While there he acquired certain (magical) powers which Egyptians pride themselves on possessing. He returned home highly elated at possessing these powers, and on the strength of them gave himself out to be a god."
So we estabilsh:
(1) Mary was poor and worked with her hands
(2) husband was a carpenter
(3)Mary committed adultery with Roman soldier named Panthera. (where have we heard this before?)
(4) Jesus as bastard
(5) driven to Egypt where Jesus leanred magic.
All of these points are made in the Talmudic passages. This can be seen both above and on the next page. The use of the name Panthera is a dead give away. Clearly Celsus got this info from the Talmud. Christians never used the name Panthera. He could only have gotten it form the Talmud and these are very charges the Talmudists made.
Here is a Mishna passage, which makes most of the points. Being from the Mishna it would draw upon first century material:
If one writes on his flesh, he is culpable; He who scratches a mark on his flesh. He who scratches a mark on his flesh, [etc.] It was taught, R. Eliezar said to the sages: But did not Ben Stada bring forth witchcraft from Egypt by means of scratches [in the form of charms] upon his flesh? He was a fool, answered they, proof cannot be adduced from fools. [Was he then the son of Stada: surely he was the son of Pandira? - Said R. Hisda: The husband was Stada, the paramour was Pandira. But the husband was Pappos b. Judah? - his mother was Stada. But his mother was Miriam the hairdresser? - It is as we said in Pumbeditha: This is one has been unfaithful to (lit., 'turned away from'- satath da) her husband.](Shabbath 104b)
In fact Origin himself almost hints at special knowledge of Jesus "true" origins, what would that knowledge be? Christian knowledge would be positive and not contain many of the points, such as Mary being a spinner or hair dresser. No Christians ever said that. It was suspect for a woman to work. That's an insult to her.
The following quotes are taken from Celsus On the True Doctrine, translated by R. Joseph Hoffman, Oxford University Press, 1987:
"Let us imagine what a Jew- let alone a philosopher- might say to Jesus: 'Is it not true, good sir, that you fabricated the story of your birth from a virgin to quiet rumourss about the true and insavoury circumstances of your origins? Is it not the case that far from being born in the royal David's city of bethlehem, you were born in a poor country town, and of a woman who earned her living by spinning? Is it not the case that when her deceit was uncovered, to wit, that she was pregnant by a roman soldier called Panthera she was driven away by her husband- the carpenter- and convicted of adultery?" (57).
why a Jew? or Philospher? Celsus was obviously reading the Jewish sources. This is one of the charges made in the Talmud.
Here he claims to have secret knowledge that Christians don't have:
"I could continue along these lines, suggesting a good deal about the affairs of Jesus' life that does not appear in your own records. Indeed, what I know to be the case and what the disciples tell are two very different stories... [for example] the nonsensical idea that Jesus foresaw everything that was to happen to him (an obvious attempt to conceal the humiliating facts)." (62).
where is that from? It has to be the Talmud, or sources commonly drawn upon by the Talmud.
But how does this prove it was Jesus? Celsus sure thought it was. Apparently his Jewish contacts told him this is the straight scoop on Jesus' life. We see that everywhere in the Talmud Jesus is talked about as a living person,and connections are made to his family and genealogy.
R. Shimeaon ben 'Azzai said: I found a genealogical roll in Jerusalem wherein was recorded, "Such-an-one is a bastard of an adulteress." McDowell and Wilson state, on the authority of Joseph Klausner, that the phrase such-an-one "is used for Jesus in the Ammoraic period (i.e., fifth century period)." (McDowell & Wilson, p. 69)
According to the Jewish Tractate of Talmud, the Chagigah a certain person had a dream in which he saw the punishment of the damned. In the dream, "He saw Mary the daughter of Heli amongst the shades..." (John Lightfoot, Commentary On the New Testament from the Talmud and Hebraica [Oxford University Press, 1859; with a second printing from Hendrickson Publishers Inc., 1995], vol. 1, p. v; vol. 3, p.55)
Celsus pushes the knowledge back to late second century, but due to the access for Rabbinical writings it must have been around for some time before that. The Jews were very consicous of geneologies and family connections. why wouldthey not pick up on the fact that Jesus had none and no one had ever seen him personaly, if indeed that was the case?
(3) Josephus' "brother" of James passage.
Despite hoards of evidence, skeptics have managed to convence themselves that the Testimonium Flavianum is fabricated (here's proof that it isn't). The way atheists on the net work is, if certain websites say something is the csae, it is the case and to deny it is so stupid one darn attempt the denial. If the IIB said grass is pink and grows down instead of up, there's just another reason to assume Christians are stupid! Therefore, they treat the TF's alleged fabrication as an absolute fact and if one doesn't go along with it one is just denying something so obvious he might as well deny that life is real. In a sort of guilt by association move they have managed to convence themselves that since the TF is fabed then it only follows that the brother passage must be too.But in point of fact there are no scholarly arguments for this, the same kind of evidence for that does not exist. There is no good reason to assume that the brotehr passage is not a frank and authentic historical reference to Jesus' existence:
But the younger Ananus who, as we said, received the high priesthood, was of a bold disposition and exceptionally daring; he followed the party of the Sadducees, who are severe in judgment above all the Jews, as we have already shown. As therefore Ananus was of such a disposition, he thought he had now a good opportunity, as Festus was now dead, and Albinus was still on the road; so he assembled a council of judges, and brought before it the brother of Jesus the so-called Christ, whose name was James, together with some others, and having accused them as law-breakers, he delivered them over to be stoned.(Jospheus "brother of James passage")
Lacking any real evidence of fabrication, atheists just assume it by association but I've seen two arguments which, as my old sainted granny would say, "take the cake!" The first one is a frank denial that it's the same guy! This is rich, there was another James with another brother named Jesus who just happened to also be thought of as the Messaih! The other argument is more particle but shows a real ignorance of historical method: "it was written several years after his death." That's the demand for a report from the 6:00 news again. The fact of the matter is, this constitutes a valid and authentic historical reference from outside the new testament. If we treat those 34 lost Gospels as one source, this makes three reference. Its' actually a mot more than that because we 34 lost Gospels, the four canonicals, Talmudic references and Celsus, Jospheus brother passage and we are not even counting Papias and Polycarp who appeal to eye witness testimony.
The hilarious nature of the charge that there's a different James and a different Jesus just staggers the imagination. Think about it. We are supposed to believe that not only was there another guy named Jesus was had a brother named James, who was head of Jerusalem church and was taken to be Messiah, but somehow that Jesus, who apparently was a historical guy, didn't ground the Jesus myth in a concrete history, some how the fictional Jesus and the real Jesus were kept separate until the second century when the fictional Jesus could be given a real background, which included James his bother as head of the church stoned in the same circumstances of which Josephus speaks. Of course the skeptics could say well this Josephus James taken to be the real one and his brother Jesus was confused with the mythological Jesus and so that gave him a concrete history earlier than we thought. But then what's the difference in that a real historical Jesus? Any way you look at it it's stupid! It's all going come down to saying "there was a real guy but we don't know much about him." However, if they say that, the Jesus myth is gone. Its' not a mythology anymore, its' a real guy whose history is kind of shadowy and we have to dig to learn more about him. I predict that will not satisfy the mythers.
Not only do they muliply Jameses and Jesus's but also Peter's and Paul's. Now they deny that Paul was a real guy. So we have a myth spreading the gospel of another myth. Nothing short of absurd. Everything time anything counts against their view they try to same the paradigm by violating Occam's razor and Multiply Jesus and his side kicks beyond necessity.
The obvious simple logical solution is just to admit there was a guy named Jesus who was some kind of Rabbi, probably taken to be Messiah by some set of groupies, and now we can happily blog away arguing about how much we really know about him!
Glenn Miller of the Christian Thinktank has a detailed new article that covers a series of subjects related to the Jesus Myth. He covers:
* The meaning of Paul's reference to "the brother of the Lord."
* Paul's knowledge of the historical Jesus.
* The meaning of Paul's references to "the Lord."
* The meaning of Paul's reference to Jesus being "born of a woman."
* The growth of the Jesus Myth.
* Paul's references to the Incarnation.
* The plausibility of construing Paul's references to Jesus as examples of Middle Platonism.
* Isis/Osiris in Middle Platonic thought.
* Paul's relationship with Middle Platonism.
It is very good and for those still unclear about the meaning of Middle Platonism Miller does an excellent job of laying it out.
First Post, the online daily magazine, has an short article on the new atheists entitled The horror of a New Atheist world by Andrew Brown. He makes some interesting observations about the New Atheist movement that I think is worth reading. He notes:
Are we seeing a resurgence of reason in a world suddenly threatened as never before by superstition?
Well, all of the books hammer home a simple world view. In this, religions are distinguished from all other belief systems by 'faith' which they define as the quality of believing things that are untrue just because you have been told them.
This is an extraordinarily popular argument, despite its self-evident absurdity - obviously, if you define faith as irrational, unwarranted belief, then it is not difficult also to conclude that faith is irrational, unwarranted and evil. But these word games are the only intellectual novelty in Hitchens (left) and Dawkins, and they are carried to quite absurd lengths. Hitchens denies that Martin Luther King was a Christian; Dawkins tries to prove that Hitler was really a Roman Catholic.
This is an excellent point. I have previously pointed out that it is a logical category error to try to group all religions together as these New Atheists seek to do when accusing "religion" for all of the evil that has ever befallen mankind (as if the word "evil" actually has meaning outside of religion). Just because they all fall under the general rubric of "religions" doesn't mean that Christians should not be blamed for the atrocities committed in the name of Islam or Hindusim any more than the fact that simply because they are both considered "art" should mean that the carefully crafted paintings classical paintings of Michaelangelo belong in the same category as the randomly produced works of Jackson Pollock.
But it is also true that the New Atheists go beyond simply examining the truth claims of the various religions in the world. They simply assume that they are irrational because they are based on "faith." "Faith" means to these New Atheists the end result of the absense of thought -- the blind leap into superstition. Nothing could be further from the truth, and it takes someone who wants to bury their heads in the sand to believe otherwise.
While it is true that not everyone who believes in God has arrived at such a faith by a thorough examination of the evidence, it is equally true that the vast majority of atheists in the world have also arrived at their beliefs without a careful examination. This is not to say that none of them have -- many atheists have committed a vast amount of time and energy to defending their beliefs. But the typical garden variety atheist has committed only a superficial amount of time to her decision to reject God. In my experience, many atheists doubt in God's existence on such slender threads as, "I have never seen any proof of his existence." Personally, I don't see how you can miss the evidence for His existence, but they aren't really looking for evidence -- they seek some indisputable evidence of God's existence. Since "indisputable" is a very difficult and subjective standard, it is generally very difficult to overcome this objection.
But I digress....
What I found equally interesting is that the article reports that Mr. Hitchens has argued that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was not a Christian. This was new to me. (I have previously heard atheists push for the idea that Hitler was a Christian -- a ridiculous argument. For arguments disputing that claim, see some of the resources on our CADRE Hitler page.) A short reading of Dr. King's letter from a Birmingham Jail tells you how absurd that point of view must be. Simply consider this short portion of the letter:
One may well ask: "How can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?" The answer lies in the fact that there are two types of laws: just and unjust. I would be the first to advocate obeying just laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws. Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws. I would agree with St. Augustine that "an unjust law is no law at all."
Now, what is the difference between the two? How does one determine whether a law is just or unjust? A just law is a man made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out of harmony with the moral law. To put it in the terms of St. Thomas Aquinas: An unjust law is a human law that is not rooted in eternal law and natural law. Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality. It gives the segregator a false sense of superiority and the segregated a false sense of inferiority. Segregation, to use the terminology of the Jewish philosopher Martin Buber, substitutes an "I it" relationship for an "I thou" relationship and ends up relegating persons to the status of things. Hence segregation is not only politically, economically and sociologically unsound, it is morally wrong and sinful. Paul Tillich has said that sin is separation. Is not segregation an existential expression of man's tragic separation, his awful estrangement, his terrible sinfulness? Thus it is that I can urge men to obey the 1954 decision of the Supreme Court, for it is morally right; and I can urge them to disobey segregation ordinances, for they are morally wrong.
If Dr. King was not a Christian, he certainly adopted and used the arguments of Christianity to bolster his belief that segregation was wrong and to justify his rejection of unjust laws. I cannot fathom how someone as bright as Hitchens could countenance such an argument unless he was committed to a belief that religion is evil (as he apparently is).
Mr. Brown's article later notes:
Why is this view suddenly so popular? Many Americans clearly feel oppressed by Christian pieties, and practically everyone in Europe is afraid of being oppressed by Islamic piety. The belief in human progress with which we all grew up looks less and less like fact and more like yet another fallible 'faith'.
In this climate of uncertainty, the New Atheism spreads exactly like any other sort of fundamentalism. It offers a clear, compelling certainty at a time of economic and social confusion. It offers enemies (the religious) and wise, benevolent leaders (Dawkins, for example, whose name today appears on the front page of his website a mere 35 times). And in America, it is a heartfelt and admirable rebellion against the religiose hypocrisies of public life - imagine the horror of having to choose between the pieties of Mitt Romney and Hillary Clinton.
Could it be that the New Atheists are really fundamenalists who are clinging to their religion of atheism in antipathy to people who aren’t like them?
Certainly a theory worth considering.
Atheists and Jesus mythers have shaped Paul in the image they would like to see him. They have developed such a vast palimpsest over this material that it's almost impossible for them not to regard their twisted speculations as facts. It's time we did some straight talking about the factual knowledge of Paul.
The Fact that proto versions of the Gospels circulated in writing, with the story of the empty tomb as early as perhaps AD 50 is well proved by Helmutt Koester. See my Doxa pages Gospel Behind the Gospels. Many sources indicate multiple streams of gospel material flowing at the time Paul converted.
I.The Pauline Connection
The notion that there was "a Gospel" per se, that the message about Jesus was distinctive from the one about the Messiah, that Jesus gave it a kind of life of its own, was also slow in coming. The first real formation of it was the Apostle's Church council which we find in Acts . Before this time emphasis was upon Jesus as Messiah. Now Jesus did not cease to be the Messiah, but the church's vision of what that means in terms of the mission to the gentiles and something more than just liberation of Israel from the Romans began to dawn upon them at that council. The Word preached in Antioch, by Hellenistic Jews, the first to be called "Christians." The Antioch church knew their traditions independently of the Apostles. The Creedal formula Paul quotes probably came out of this this council.
"The creedal formula quoted in 1 Cor 15: 3-7 in which the "gospel" is defined as the death, burial, resurrection, and appearances of Christ make it possible that the understanding of the Gospel shared not only by the Church of Antioch from the very beginning but also by others who are named in the citation of those to whom Jesus appeared (Peter and James). This is confirmed independently in Paul's report about the Apostle's council" (Gal 2:1-10). (Koester p. 51)
"What Paul preached was never the subject of the controversy between Paul's Gentile mission and the church in Jerusalem. Jesus death and resurrection was the common event upon which their proclamation was based. Through the proclamation of this eschatological event the communities of believers became the New Israel. As new Believers came into the community they were baptized in the the death of Jesus so they would share also in Jesus' Resurrection." (Ibid.)
In other words the Antioch community didn't just Preach Paul's doctrine, they already had the basic core of the Gospel which they knew from their migration form Jerusalem. They knew the cross and the Resurrection from the beginning. Clearly they located these events in history, in their own recent past as did the Jerusalem church. This will be seen shortly.
Paul had several opportunities to Meet Peter and James, perhaps even other Apostles or those who saw Jesus in the beginning. He knew the stories to some extent, although perhaps not all of them and not well. But he clearly grounded himself in Jesus teachings. The creedal formula which he quotes places Peter and James in the thick of the action, ignoring the women witnesses of the Gospel (probably because they were women) and only counting these two men as early witnesses. Yet this was circulating during their life time. Peter and James knew this talk of Jesus resurrection and themselves as witnesses was being noised about the very city in which they lived. They clearly did nothing to hush it up! Why would they have no issues with Paul's basic message if that message was that Jesus was not an historical figure? The creedal statement says: "For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that the appeared to Peter, then to the Twelve..."
Why would an ethereal spirit require burial? Clearly the passage is speaking of events that occurred in space and time as we know it, in our world, involving flesh and blood historical figures. Paul knew those who were involved in the events and they had no problem with his understanding of those events or the core message.
First, there is no reason for Paul to include such references since the epistles are not an attempt to convert pagans, but letters to churches dealing with practical and theological matters. Secondly, Paul was an intellectual, a thinker and a theologian. His concern was theology. He sought to answer the hard questions about the faith which were not answered by mere repetition of the basic facts of Jesus life. Why should he go into detail about Mary and Joseph and Christ born in a manger when he had more lofty matters to deal with? Finally, he wasn't present during the ministry of Jesus and he was not an eye witness, it is doubtful that he he ever saw a copy of Mark, or any of the other Gospels, so he may not have known all the facts or all the sayings. But he knew enough to formulate a theology. (see Doxa: What did Paul know of Jesus?) Granted it is a lofty theology, he does have something of a "cosmic Christ," but Paul's Christ is not a Gnostic redeemer, and Paul does demonstrate many times a basic awareness of the core Jesus story. But we should not expect to find it in great detail. This is argument from Silence and proves nothing. I will argue that not only do we find many direct contradictions to Doherty's views, that the Gnostic redeemer myth is bunk, and that Paul saw Jesus was a flesh and blood man who lived in history, but that some traces of the Gospel theology and material come through in Paul's understanding.
II.Paul's Jewish Background.
In speaking about Jewish concepts, N.T. Wright tells us
"within this spectrum two points need to be made very clear: first, though there was a range of belief about life after death the word 'resurrection' was only used to describe reembodiment, not the state of disembodied bliss. Resurrection was not a general word for 'life after death' or 'going to be with God' in some general sense. It was the word for what happened when God created newly embodied human beings after whatever intermediate state there might be." (N.T. Wright The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering who Jesus was and is," Downers Grove, Illinois: Inter varsity Press, 1999, p. 134)
The Jews expected a flesh and blood Messiah! They never looked forward to a mere ethereal being. Gnosticism did originate in Judaism but not as "Christian Gnosticism" which developed in the second century (with forrunnigs in the first).
The theological background for a Gnostic redeemer myth existed among Jewish sources, but Paul was not a Gnostic.
Paul was a Pharisee, a student of great Rabbi (Gamaliel) he was very proud of his tradition. He could not be further removed form gnosticism. There is no point in assigning to him a Gnostic ethereal theory of the universe when plainly he did not hold to such clap trap. there is simply no reason to think that he believed this.
III. Paul Battles the Gnostics
Piece No. 3: REVEALING THE SECRET OF CHRIST
Paul and other early writers speak of the divine Son of their faith entirely in terms of a spiritual, heavenly figure; they never identify this entity called "Christ Jesus" (literally, "Anointed Savior" or "Savior Messiah") as a man who had lived and died in recent history. Instead, through the agency of the Holy Spirit, God has revealed the existence of his Son and the role he has played in the divine plan for salvation. These early writers talk of long-hidden secrets being disclosed for the first time to apostles like Paul, with no mention of an historical Jesus who played any part in revealing himself, thus leaving no room for a human man at the beginning of the Christian movement. Paul makes it clear that his knowledge and message about the Christ is derived from scripture under God's inspiration. [See "Part Two" and Supplementary Articles Nos. 1 and 6.] (Doherty)
As We have seen above this is totally false. There are Pre-Pauline and Pre-Markan references to Jesus as a flesh and blood man, and the basic historical setting of the Gospels existed in written and oral traditions from at least the middle of the century. We have no reason to assume that this doesn't' reflected the basic facts of the original events and Jesus' actual sayings. Even though Doherty tries to connect his theory to the Mystery cults, it really belongs more firmly in the realm of Gnosticism. The Gnostic redeemer myth was that of a ethereal being whose participation in history was margin and whose fleshly appearance only illusory. The Gnostics traded in "secret knowledge" and "hidden wisdom." It is really the Gnostics that fit the theory better, but they do not fit Paul at all.
Fred Layman, Northwestern Nazarene University, Wesley Center Online, "Male Headship in Paul's Thought", April 2004
Historical studies have increasingly shown the pervasive presence of Gnosticism in the background of several New Testament books, especially those which are important for this discussion-1 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, and the Pastorals. At this stage Gnosticism was not so much a defined religious philosophy as it was a radical pneumatic disposition which was diffused throughout many religions including Judaism and Christianity.
(He documents 12 Constance F. Parvey, "The Theology and Leadership of Women in the New Testament," in Reuther, Religion and Sexism, p. 121.13Ibid., pp. 121f.14Walter Schmithals, Gnosticism in Corinth (New York: Abingdon, 1971), pp. 160f.15Ernst Kasemann, New Testament Questions of Today (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1971), p. 71.)
Paul Does seem to know a wisdom saying source for Jesus' sayings but it is one that is also reflected in the canonical Mark. The believers in Corinth seem to have a different take on the Gospel than many others. In the first couple of chapters of 1 Cor. Paul uses a different terminology than he uses anywhere else. Mainly this consists of words like "wise" and "wisdom." He uses these 10 times in the first chapter, but only four times in all the rest of his corpus. Therse terms bring up a set of sayings from Mark that are noted as distinctly different from Jesus' other other sayings. Mark: 11:25,27, 13:16-17--Luke 10:21-24. The contrast between terms "wise" and "clever" found there are used nowhere else in Jesus' sayings. These refer to Isaiah 29:14:"I will destroy the wisdom f the wise and the cleverness of the clever I will thwart." Paul refers to this saying. Other contrasts include hidden and revealed. All of these concepts pertain to Gnostic ideas of the secret knowledge and those who possess it vs. those who possess it not. In 1 Cor. 4:5 "the Lord who will illumine the hidden things of darkness and reveal the councils of the heart." This is parallel by Mark 4:22 and also has a parallel in the Gospel of Thomas.
What's going on here? Does this mean that Paul was a Gnostic? It means that there was a Gnosticizing element in the early church, one which complied an early sayings list, and fragments of that list are used in the canonicals (perhaps because Jesus really said them?) But the Gnosticizers put their own Gnostic spin on these sayings. Such a faction existed at Corinth. Paul is entering their scheme and their language to deal with them.
Koester tells us
"Paul not only alludes to the sayings where were evidently of crucial importance to his opponents, he also adopts their schema of revelation which speaks of the things that were formerly hidden, but have now been revealed. This scheme is characteristic of the Q sayings...though it is not really typical of the Synoptic Saying Source as a whole. IN the genuine Pauline letters, it is used only in 1 Cor 2:6-16, while it occurs frequently in the deutero-Pauline letters and also appears in the secondary ending of Romans" (16:25-26).(Koster p.59)
"For the Corinthian wisdom theology this revelation schema, of central importance for their understanding of salvation, it related to the sayings tradition by another element, namely, the recourse to the authority of certain persons: Paul, Appeals, Cephas, possibly Christ "(1 Cor 1:12, 3:4-5, 22).(Koester p 62)
There are three elements which together call for an answer: (1) the Corinthians knew saying which they took to be a hidden wisdom saying source. (2) Paul rejects that his calling had anything to do with Baptism (1 Cor. 1:15-17) the claim of belonging to a specific person may have entered into this. (3) Several other sources indicate that Apostolic Authority and the name of a specific Apostle played a role in transmission of sayings for both Orthodox and Gnostic. These sources include: Gospel of Thomas, The Apocrypha of James and Ptolemy's Letter of Flora.
Koester concludes form all of this that at Corinth Paul faced a Gnosticizing faction which believed that they had been initiated into secret knowledge through baptism. "They understood particular Apostles as their Mystagogues from whom they received sayings from which they received life giving wisdom...Paul's arguments against this understanding of Salvation become quite clearer if they are understood against this background." (Koster, p.62).
As pointed out already, he only uses these terms of Wisdom and wise four other times in his whole corpus. Koester says that with this background in mind the way he speaks of the cross as hidden wisdom before the ages becomes understandable, because he is dealing with this Gnosticizing faction in their own terms. It is also important to note that the Cross was "hidden" to human understanding. The only verses about it in the OT are "hidden" and require interpretation, which even the Jewish people don't' accept today (Is 53, Ps 22, Zach.10:11).
Moreover, as Koster states: "Nowhere else does Paul speak about the Cross of Christ in such terms." (p.62). Doherty is merely confused and reversing Paul's meaning to place him in a position the opposite of which he was taking.
It does not require much persuading to get most knowledgeable Bible readers to agree that Paul was not pleased with the Corinthians, that only when he was flattering them to coax them into submission was he saying positive things about their behavior. In the opening chapter he is clearly arguing against everything they think. He denies the importance of attaching one's self to a famous Apostle but one should only follow Christ. He denies that his mission was baptism precisely because they thought baptism by an Apostle or noteworthy was initiation into the secret mysteries. That's why he says "I thank God I did not baptize any of you." The rest of the time he is telling them they are not wise. They do not have the full truth, they are immature.
Note: There probably wasn't a blow blown Gnosticism at Corinth since this doesn't show up tied to Christian Doctrine until the second century. The Corinthians probably didn't deny that Christ was a flesh and blood being, but just believed that they had "secret wisdom" that other churches didn't have. That is why Paul doesn't just come out and say explicitly "this is wrong, Christ was in history..."
Paul's repudiation of the Gnostic faction at Corinth can be seen as a repudiation of all Gnostic positions, especially any position that would detach Jesus Christ form Jesus of Nazareth, the Jesus of flesh and blood and history. Paul clearly rejected the hidden wisdom schema, why than assume that he rejects the rest of the Gnostic schema? Moreover, Doherty sites this Gnostic vocabulary as grounds for the assumption that Paul is working in the Mythos of a mystery cult. Yet Paul repudiates the mystery cult diatribe. Let's look further at some of the verses Doherty sites.
Doherty, Piece No. 4: A SACRIFICE IN THE SPIRITUAL REALM
"Paul does not locate the death and resurrection of Christ on earth or in history. According to him, the crucifixion took place in the spiritual world, in a supernatural dimension above the earth, at the hands of the demon spirits (which many scholars agree is the meaning of "rulers of this age" in 1 Corinthians 2:8). The Epistle to the Hebrews locates Christ's sacrifice in a heavenly sanctuary (ch. 8, 9). The Ascension of Isaiah, a composite Jewish-Christian work of the late first century, describes (9:13-15) Christ's crucifixion by Satan and his demons in the firmament (the heavenly sphere between earth and moon). Knowledge of these events was derived from visionary experiences and from scripture, which was seen as a 'window' onto the higher spiritual world of God and his workings." (See "Part Two" and Supplementary Articles Nos. 3 and 9)
As we have seen, Paul most certainly did place the Crucifixion in history, even tying it to historical witnesses Peter and James, and the Resurrection. But moreover the Pauline Verses (and Hebrews) Used to place the Crucifixion in this ethereal realm of The Gnostic Redeemer myth are totally misconstrued. Of course these other souces he he uses, the Ascension of Isaiah for example, has nothing to do with Pauline letters and was produced late in the first century. He can't tie that to Pauline thought at all.
This is a very deceptive statement Doherty makes above, for while many scholars do believe that the phrase "rulers of the age" could refer to demon powers, very few of them actually believe that Paul places the crucifixion in some ethereal Plaroma or nether world. In fact the statement does not have to be understood this way at all. The word Archon (ruler) merely means "firt" or "commander." It is used of human commanders and rulers all the time. While Aeon, "age" just means a period of time, or this epoch in history. So this statement could just as easily describe human rules as demonic ones. The statement , taken by itself, just in terms of its language, could as easily place the crucifixion in history as outside it. Since we have already shown so many ensconces where Paul thinks of the crucifixion as historical, it is foolish and absurd to make this one enstance into anything more, especially when we know that he is adopting the terminology of a Gnsoticizing faction in order to coutner their heresy.
Now it is probable that Paul did use this phrase of demonic powers. But he believed that demonic powers played a hand in the running of the world, the affairs of state, that they controlled governments. They were able to motivate the crucifixion for this very reason. That still means however that the crucifixion was in history. It is the demonic powers influence over human affairs of which he speaks, not some ethereal events in some realm removed form history (Whiteley, Theology of St.Paul Fortress:1965, 229).
2:7 "Now we speak of God's secret Wisdom. A wisdom that has been hidden and that God destined for our glory before time began. None of the rules of this age understood it for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of Glory. "(8)
He adopts the language of the Wisdom faction at Corinth while arguing with them. This is a basic Pauline strategy "I become all things to all men that I might win some for Christ." He's merely striving to appeal to his audience. Nothing in this statement implies that the crucifixion was not in history. Rather, it was motivated by the demonic powers since they control the worldly reigns of power, through their stooges the humans who are not clinging to God but sold out to the "worldly powers." This is clearly an event in history.
The framework of Palestine in the first century was a melting pot of several cultures cross fertilizing each other. "It must be remembered that Jewish and Hellenistic thought both grew up together in the Eastern end of the Mediterranean, both owed a little bit to Egypt and a great deal to the civilization of the Trigris-Euphrates valley. Both alike derived something form Aegean culture."(D.E.H.Whiteley, The Theology of ST Paul. Philadelphia: fortress press, 1964, p.5) It is not surprising then that some concepts and expression, modes of thought would be cross fertilized and "borrowed." This is a far cry form the "copy cat" savior theory that skeptics such as Dohrety often go in for.
As for the notion that Christianity was a mystery cult, D.E.H. Whiteley one of the greatest Pauline scholars tells us, "the subject need be considered only at the level of popular misconceptions. Most of our evidence for the extant mystery cults comes from after the time than that of ST. Paul. For example Apuleius whose Golden Ass is one of our sources for these cults wrote in the third quarter of the second century...St. Paul does not seem t have been the sort of man to barrow from pagan sources. He was brought up as a strict Jew...Col. 2:8 'do not let your minds be captured by hollow and deceptive philosophies' is a warning against the kind of thinking we find in the mystery religions." (p. 2). Moreover Whiteley points out had Paul borrowed from the mystery religions we should expect to find his "Judaizing opponents" attacking him for that.
"St. Paul does not seem to have been the Sort of man that we should expect to find borrowing from Pagan sources. He was brought up as a strict Jew (Phil 3:5) Col 2:8 'do not let your minds be captured by hollow and deceptive speculations'...this is the kind of thinking we find in the mystery religions: it is not directed against philosophy in any modern sense of the word." (Whiteley, p. 2).