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Ask a Theologian II

Discussion in 'Off-Topic' started by Plotinus, May 9, 2008.

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  1. LightSpectra

    LightSpectra me autem minui

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    Jesus was considered divine in the earliest Christian circles. The Gospel of Mark calls Jesus the "Lord of the Sabbath", which is something that would've amounted to blasphemy if the early Christians didn't realize he was God.

    The Horus/Mithra connections to Jesus have been debunked many, many, many times over. Certainly the Christians in Rome or Egypt would've immediately renounced their faith had they thought that an earlier religion already made these stories, for one. Also, most of the events in Jesus' life were predicted in the Hebrew Bible, mostly the books of Wisdom and Isaiah; and these prophecies pre-date almost every myth of Horus.
     
  2. El_Machinae

    El_Machinae Colour vision since 2018 Retired Moderator

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    The myth of Horus seems to be much older than Isaiah.
    And it seems that a lot of the events of Jesus's life were invented in order to fit the prophecies. The story of his birth, for example
     
  3. RedRalph

    RedRalph Chieftain

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    In christianity, is there any account of why the devil went bad (from being an angel)? did it happen gradually, or what? Was it caused by external influences and if not, was he alwasy inherently given to becomming satan?
     
  4. LightSpectra

    LightSpectra me autem minui

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    The idea that he was visited by magi at his birth and gave an ethical sermon on a hill are not. Another monumental error (or perhaps, intellectual dishonesty) here is that Horus was never resurrected. He was reborn. Big difference.

    And where do you draw this conclusion from?
     
  5. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    I don't believe that Christianity is true, so from that point of view, none of them. I do suspect that if anything exists beyond the phenomenal world it is beyond our capacity to understand, though, so from that point of view, I'd say that those versions of Christianity which stress apophatic theology, such as the Rhineland mystics or much of the Orthodox tradition, seem most plausible.

    I don't think one can be as simplistic as that. At the very least, if all Christians believed Jesus to be divine, it would be impossible to explain how come there were such huge arguments about the subject later on. In the case of Mark 2:28, which is the verse you refer to, you can't draw such a strong conclusion, for two reasons. The first is that we can't be certain what Jews in Jesus' day would have regarded as blasphemous or not, because (a) Judaism was very varied, and (b) we don't know all that much about such things. And the second is that in that verse, "Son of Man" seems to have the same meaning that it does in the book of Ezekiel, namely a roundabout way of referring to human beings in general. Such an interpretation makes the most sense in the light of the preceding verse. So it's not at all clear that this is a christological statement at all, let alone one as strong as you imply.

    You're right about the Mithras and Horus bit, but it's not true that Christians would have renounced their faith if they thought that there were parallels with other religions. On the contrary, many Christians were perfectly happy to think that there were parallels between Christianity and other religions; they saw this as evidence that pagans had stolen ideas from Moses, or that God had inspired the pagans with foreshadowings of the true religion just as he had the Jews (depending on how favourably they regarded paganism). Indeed, Clement of Alexandria actively argued that there were close doctrinal parallels between Christianity and pagan religions, in order to make the point that pagans could hardly laugh at Christians for their beliefs when in fact they believed pretty similar things themselves.

    El_Machinae's answer about the prophecies is quite right. But much of the problem here is that many of the parts of the Old Testament that Christians interpreted as prophecies about Jesus don't seem to be prophecies at all. For example, the passages about the Suffering Servant in Isaiah 53, or Psalm 22, don't appear to be prophecies. They are not presented as such, and Jews in antiquity do not seem to have interpreted them as such, any more than they do today. When debating about such things with Jews, Christians typically had to spend most of their time not arguing that these prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus, but that they were prophecies in the first place. This shows why Christians have usually had little success converting Jews by arguing about the meaning of passages of the Old Testament. The Old Testament is a pretty big set of books. If you cherry-pick particular passages, and choose to interpret them as prophecies, you can construct a set of prophecies about more or less anything you want. That's exactly what moden "Bible code" conspiracy theorists do, and it's pretty much what ancient Christians did too.

    Finally, I don't know much about the cult of Horus, but I'm fairly sure that Isaiah - and very sure that Wisdom - do not pre-date it. Even if they did, I don't think one can really find the Christian doctrines in question in those books; if one could then most Jews wouldn't have been so resistant to Christianity when it emerged. In my opinion there are much better reasons for rejecting the theory that Christianity took these doctrines from these pagan cults, which I've already outlined.

    I don't think that there is. The notion of the devil as an angel who went wrong took some time to develop within Christianity anyway, as it is only hinted at in various bits of the Bible. In fact the earliest treatment of this that I can think of off-hand is Milton's Paradise lost. But I must admit that this is something I don't know much about.

    I think El_Machinae's right on this one. In short, the birth narratives of Matthew and Luke do not seem to agree on anything except that Jesus was born in Bethlehem although he grew up in Nazareth. They both use different devices to explain this (according to Matthew his parents lived in Bethelehem but later moved to Nazareth to avoid persecution, but according to Luke they always lived in Nazareth but visited Bethlehem to take part in a census). Luke's device, the census, is exceptionally implausable in itself and his chronology is impossible for reasons that are well known. It seems reasonable to conclude that these authors both believed that Jesus "should" have been born in Bethlehem because he was the new David, and they both invented different stories to support this. That's not dishonesty, it's just how ancient theological writers thought.
     
  6. eastsidebagel

    eastsidebagel Chieftain

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    My first question on this thread: Isn't God to blame that people are thrown to hell? Let me rephrase this: A man behaves his whole life like a total douche, doesn't believe in Jesus and even openly mocks Christians or Jews. If Christianity is right, then this man will bathe in a sea of fire for all eternity for just acting like an arse for about 70 years of his lifetime. I f hell is reality then God shouldn't be considered worth to worship him, since this whole "hell doctrine" is insane, totally unfair and horrifying.
     
  7. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Do you think the above position helps or hinders your reputation and/or capacity as a Theologian? (especially one who specializes in Christianity)
     
  8. LightSpectra

    LightSpectra me autem minui

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    Arius was trying to roll Christianity back to its more Jewish roots, away from the Roman empire. His followers may not have been aware of that.


    Certainly the Pharisees and Sadducees would have thought it to be blasphemous, and they were the only two groups in Israel who had any significant political influence. They asked him if it was acceptable to heal on the Sabbath, so as you can see, they were quite conservative, there; the fact that Jesus is the "Lord of the Sabbath" would either downplay God, or put himself as God.

    When Ezekiel says the "son of man", he is referring to the descendants of Adam as the human race. When Jesus says "son of man", he is clearly referring to himself only.

    There is actually at least one example of both being interpreted as prophecies. I mean, come on; how can look you at Wisdom 2:12-20 and not believe that this is referring to Jesus?

    Balogna. If anything, the anti-Christians were trying to re-interpret the Bible to make them out as allegories instead of prophecies.

    We recently looked at this in one of my theology classes. Luke's passage by no means suggested that they never lived in Bethlehem. Saying that they do not agree on a lot is odd, considering that they don't even cover the same events for the most part. Luke is mostly looking at Mary and Joseph, whereas Matthew is mostly focusing on Jesus and his heritage.
     
  9. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Many Christians would agree with that, which is why not all Christians do believe that such a person would go to hell. Some would say that he does go to hell, but only temporarily, because hell is not retributive punishment but a sort of rather unpleasant therapy whose purpose is to improve the person. Others would reject the notion of hell completely. So don't be so quick to attribute views to all Christians without distinction. Those Christians who do think that he would go to hell would say that he sends himself there by his own choices - he doesn't get chucked in there by God in a fit of pique. Of course that raises the question whether it is significantly morally different for God to allow someone to send himself to hell, compared to actively sending someone to hell. Personally I would be inclined to think that it isn't, so I would think that the "he sends himself to hell by his own choice" argument doesn't really work. I would think that if people really did go to hell for ever then that would be a good reason to think that any God that exists is not both omnipotent and morally perfect.

    I don't think it makes much difference. Of course, in some ways, holding certain religious views might make someone less objective in examining the evidence. For example, a Christian fundamentalist who believes that every word in the Bible is true will not accept, even as a possibility, that Paul did not write the book of Ephesians. So such a person isn't going to examine the evidence for or against pauline authorship of that text in an objective way. But on the other hand, of course, an atheist fundamentalist who thinks that all religious people are raving deluded nutcases who are incapable of doing any good in the world will not accept that xenodocheia were established with the genuinely altruistic aim of helping the poor and needy. What I mean is that everyone has bias or prejudices, no matter what their religious commitments. They simply differ from person to person. The mark of an objective commentator is someone who can recognise his or her own bias, acknowledge it, and take it into account. That's true of all historical activities. Is someone who thinks that Aristotle was right a better or worse Aristotle scholar than someone who doesn't? There isn't really an answer to that.

    Note: CFC moderators are unbiased in all matters.
     
  10. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    I don't know of any evidence for that interpretation. There has been a lot of controversy over Arius' motives ever since the work of Gregg and Groh, but I haven't heard of a theroy that he was trying to re-Judaise Christianity. Rather, it seems more reasonable to think that he was trying to adhere to the more subordinationist theology of his teacher, Lucian of Antioch, which owed a lot to Origen and, ultimately, Justin Martyr - whilst also rejecting the doctrines of eternal generation and the divinity of the Son, which Origen also taught. Arius probably regarded these as unacceptable innovations. But I don't think that it's necessary to attribute to him a desire to get back to Judaism to explain this.

    In any case, whatever Arius was thinking of, by no means all "Arians" agreed with him or took their ideas from him. In fact, there are several incidents in the fourth century when "Arians" stated that they had nothing to do with Arius. Arius himself, the Homoians, and the Anomoeans - all branded "Arians" by their opponents - had quite different understandings of the relation between the Father and the Son and different reasons for holding these understandings. So the array of views of this sort of thing among Christians even as late as this date was complex.

    I don't exactly follow your argument here or see what you're trying to demonstrate. The Pharisees didn't have any political power at all. Also, there were plenty of people who had political influence but who weren't Pharisees or Sadducess - for example, priests who weren't Sadducees. But this again is an area we know very little about. We know quite a lot about the Pharisees, because of the later rabbinical literature, but very little about other groups in Palestinian Judaism of the time, so it would be rash to make such clear-cut statements about their power or influence as you do here.

    I'm not sure what the issue of healing on the Sabbath has to do with what we were talking about before: the verse about being lord of the Sabbath comes from a story about eating grain on the Sabbath, not one about healing. Also, it's only the Pharisees who are represented as debating with Jesus about these things, not the Sadducees. In any case, questions such as those about healing on the Sabbath were perfectly common in religious and scholarly debates at this time. As I understand it, most Pharisees (at least) thought there was nothing wrong with healing on the Sabbath, per se. In the story where Jesus heals on the Sabbath (Mark 3:1-6), he does nothing to break the Law, because healing by merely speaking would have been quite acceptable. The Pharisees and others debated what actions one was permitted to do on the Sabbath. If Jesus had bandaged the man, that might - under some interpretations - have counted as "work" and been considered unacceptable, but just speaking to him broke no Sabbath regulations.

    I still don't think that the "lord of the Sabbath" saying is strong enough to bear the interpretation that you place on it. The preceding verse states that the Sabbath was made for man; the obvious conclusion is that everyone is the lord of the Sabbath. The argument that Jesus uses in this passage wouldn't make sense if he were claiming some kind of special power or authority over the Sabbath. The argument is intended to show that anyone may be justified in breaking Sabbath regulations if the situation calls for it. (It is, incidentally, a rather weak argument, especially the appeal to David - in the story Jesus appeals to, David wasn't breaking the Sabbath regulations at all, whereas in this incident Jesus' disciples are, although not very seriously. So the precedent doesn't really hold up.)

    It's not all that clear, really. Certainly the Gospel writers seem to think that "Son of Man" is always a reference to Jesus, but it's less obvious that Jesus himself intended it to mean that. Even if he did regard this as a title for himself, it doesn't follow that he always used it in that sense. And, finally, even if he did, it doesn't follow that he meant it to exalt himself. It could basically have overtones of "mortal man" (I think this is its meaning in Ezekiel, where it is always used to address Ezekiel himself). As I say, in the passage in question Jesus is arguing that people can override Sabbath regulations, and that the Sabbath is made for man (in general). If he then adds that "the Son of Man is lord of the Sabbath", it seems that he is lord of the Sabbath simply because he is a human being, on the basis of the preceding argument.

    Of course it might mean something more. I'm simply saying that you can't assume that it does.

    It's a description of a righteous man who is not very popular, and whom the wicked plan to make suffer at the end of his life. That fits Jesus and plenty of other people too. If, say, there were some bits in there about crucifying him, or that he would be from Galilee and have twelve disciples, or something more specific to Jesus, you might have a better case. But you can't point to something as vague as that - which, again, is not presented as a prediction of a future event at all - and conclude that it's a prophecy. I think that the only reason someone would believe a text like that to be a prophecy of Jesus is if they already believed, on other grounds, that the Old Testament (or the apocrypha, in this case) was full of such prophecies and they were seeking them out. There's no compelling reason in the text itself to inspire such an interpretation.

    Who are you thinking of here? As far as I can tell, anti-Christian writers such as Celsus typically insisted on taking the Bible far too literally, to make it seem like everything in it was crude nonsense. Christians such as Clement of Alexandria or Origen responded to such arguments by interpreting the Bible allegorically (just as pagans interpreted the poets allegorically) to show that in fact it wasn't crude or nonsensical but taught profound truths. And they, in turn, interpreted the poets literally and ridiculed them for teaching crude nonsense. So everyone read their own holy books allegorically and other people's literally, to the benefit of the former and the detriment of the latter.

    Well.. Luke does say in 1:26 that Mary was in Nazareth when she conceived Jesus; and then he explains in 2:4-5 why she and Joseph later went to Bethlehem, so the natural reading seems to be that they were living in Nazareth and only visited Bethlehem for the purposes of the census. There are of course other discrepancies, such as the fact that Luke dates Jesus' birth to AD 6 (when Quirinius was governor of Syria) whereas Matthew dates it to around 4 BC (before the death of Herod). But this sort of thing is perfectly common among ancient historians and isn't really to the point.
     
  11. Huayna Capac357

    Huayna Capac357 Chieftain

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    Celsius was an anti-Christian writer? :confused:
     
  12. RedRalph

    RedRalph Chieftain

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    I'm astonished that the origin of the creation of Satan is never really explained by christianity... surely the creation of evil is a fairly seismic event in that belief system?
     
  13. Bill3000

    Bill3000 OOOH NOOOOOOO! Supporter

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    No, Celsus.
     
  14. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Of course, but most of the Christian writers that I'm familiar with were interested in the origins and nature of evil conceived as either (a) a metaphysical problem, or (b) an existential problem. When they addressed (a), they pondered the nature of evil and particularly the question how a good God could create a world in which evil existed. In antiquity at least the common answer to this was that evil isn't a substance but a lack of substantiality, so God doesn't create it at all. When they addressed (b), they were thinking about what happens when a person chooses to sin, what that means, and how one might avoid it.

    What you're asking is about the origins of evil conceived as (c) mythological (in the broad sense of that word). Now some Christians, above all the gnostics, had a huge amount to say about that. But their answers tended to be about the pleroma, the Aeons, and the demiurge, not about the devil or Satan, which is why I didn't mention that in response to your question before.

    When orthodox Christians, such as Augustine, talked about why Satan sinned, they would have addressed it as an example of problem (a) and especially problem (b). So when we ask why Satan sinned, we're really asking what sin is and why anyone sins. Someone like Augustine would say that Satan sinned for just the same reasons that anyone sins: misuse of free will, through ignorance and pride.
     
  15. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    We do in Mormonism . . . though he didn't really create evil, he was just good at it.
     
  16. RedRalph

    RedRalph Chieftain

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    What are the origins of satan in mormonism?

    Plotonius, I'm not going to lie, I dont really understand much of that, but thanks for attempting to explain it to me anyway!
     
  17. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    The short version: God, Jesus, Satan, and all of us existed in some form even before the creation of the earth. The plan was that we would become mortal, get bodies, live, die, all that. Jesus knew that a redemption would be necessary, as it was pretty much certain we were going to sin. Satan (at that point one of the greatest among us) suggested another way - just don't give us free agency, we wouldn't do anything wrong, no one would be lost, and he would take the credit. This plan, among its other flaws, wouldn't work - if we can't make our own choices, we aren't going to grow or progress in any meaningful way. Having his idea rejected, and being prideful, Satan decided to fight the plan that was already in place.
     
  18. RedRalph

    RedRalph Chieftain

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    So in mormonism is a lack of free will seen as a definitive evil (moreso than most other religions)?
     
  19. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    Taking away someone's free will is usually a bad thing, yes (not always, of course; and our own choices can limit our free will) - because without it the whole purpose of life is lost.
     
  20. RedRalph

    RedRalph Chieftain

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    But is is considered 'the root of all evil'?
     
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