1. We have added a Gift Upgrades feature that allows you to gift an account upgrade to another member, just in time for the holiday season. You can see the gift option when going to the Account Upgrades screen, or on any user profile screen.
    Dismiss Notice

Ask a Theologian II

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

Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.
  1. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2003
    Messages:
    16,810
    Location:
    Somerset
    Not particularly, to be honest. I don't see any particular reason why, if Christianity hadn't happened, any other religion would have risen to take its place. Without Christianity, I suspect that some cult based on northern European paganism would eventually have predominated, at least in Europe. The interesting question is whether Judaism and Islam would have developed differently without Christianity, and if so how - but that is almost impossible to answer.

    Yes, terrible "yoke" - apart from the aqueduct, sanitation, roads... in reality the Romans didn't really do much to Palestine either positive or negative. It wasn't like Ben Hur.

    Also, there aren't actually all that many prophecies about a Messiah in the Old Testament or in intertestamental Jewish literature.

    There were plenty of itinerant preachers, plenty of miracle-workers, and also plenty of rabble-rousers, some of whom led uprisings against the Romans and got squashed for their pains. And some of these did claim to be the Messiah. It is of course unlikely that Jesus ever did, although we can't really know for certain.

    No, it is pretty unlikely that Jesus claimed to be divine at all.

    As I said, there were plenty of such people. The most obvious example is John the Baptist, who at the time was very probably much more popular and better known than Jesus.
     
  2. Miles Teg

    Miles Teg Nuclear Powered Mentat

    Joined:
    Oct 19, 2006
    Messages:
    5,817
    Location:
    One Flag Short of a Theme Park
    Allow me to rephrase myself then. Jesus (As a person or as an author mouthpiece) referred to the Gold Rule once, and he cited Jewish law as the source of that moral guideline. Trying to scope out an a-religious source for the morality presented in the Gospels strikes me as reading things into text that aren't there.
     
  3. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2005
    Messages:
    49,429
    Location:
    Stamford Bridge
    And I'm sure it wasn't quite like The Life of Brian's portrayal of the various "liberation" groups either, but I was under the impression that there was strong opposition to Roman rule.

    Really? I was under the impression that the Jews are still waiting for their Messiah. Does this not have roots in scripture, or am I just totally wrong about it?

    Aren't there plenty of quotes from the Bible that indicate otherwise? ie. "Forgive them Father, etc."

    Ahh.. Well, I suppose we then would have had to have that person crucified by the Romans.. and a very specific chain of events would have had to take place for something like Christianity to evolve.

    Then again, maybe I don't know what I'm talking about ;)
     
  4. MagisterCultuum

    MagisterCultuum Great Sage

    Joined:
    Feb 14, 2007
    Messages:
    16,061
    Location:
    Kael's head
    Sure he did, he quite clearly said "I am DiVine, you are DiBranches." ;) :p
     
  5. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2006
    Messages:
    16,080
    Location:
    In orbit
    Right...

    You may be right as well, but being an animal might indeed not be essential to being a cat - but let's not get into that (I'm ignoring that anima suggests that animals have a soul - just like humans are supposed to).

    So... he didn't claim to be the Son of God? (I must say, from a Judaic viewpoint that indeed strikes me as being blasphemous at least - and quite possibly sufficient grounds to have him stoned.)

    I'd say limited opposition to Roman rule; Palestina was ruled by a client prince until it became a Roman province proper, after which military (not popular) revolt forced the Roman hand. Uprisings occurred in many Roman provinces, usually when Roman rule was not yet firmly established (like when Caesar had just conquered Gaul). Speculating about popular support for any such uprising is tricky, as the sources are usually Roman only (Josephus' Jewish War being a famous exception as well as confirmation, as it was written by a Jew from the Roman viewpoint mainly, but with local insight). BTW, what Life of Brian accurately depicts is the futility of resistance to Roman rule, as well as - as Plotinus already pointed out - the appearance of other teachers than Jesus at the time (not to mention it was much more fun than The passion of the Christ). Obvously the life of Jesus inspired many a tale - to begin with the gospels (both canonical and apocryphical).
     
  6. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2003
    Messages:
    16,810
    Location:
    Somerset
    I don't think that where the Golden Rule appears in the Gospels Jesus is presented as giving any source for it. He just says it. Of course, it came not from the Jewish Law but from common Jewish teachings of the time. According to the Mishnah, Hillel had said something similar:

    But I think JELEEN's point was that irrespective of the original context of the saying, the principle itself has no intrinsic religious character, and could equally well be followed or recommended by a person of any religion or of none. Which is obviously correct. Although I think one could find better principles.

    There will always be opposition of some kind or another when a country owes allegiance to a larger, external power - just look at UKIP. But JEELEN is right to say that in Jesus' day there was not much serious opposition, partly because there wasn't much, in practical terms, to oppose. The Roman authorities had about 3,000 troops in total and spent most of their time cooped up in Caesarea on the coast, trying to avoid the natives. The actual running of the whole of Palestine was left up to native rulers - even Jerusalem, which was administered by the high priest of the Temple. This changed after Jesus' death as a series of heavy-handed prefects created more resentment that eventually boiled over into the First Jewish War, but that was thirty-five years after the time of Jesus. There is no evidence that the fanatical groups of this period, such as the Zealots or the Sicari, even existed in Jesus' day (in fact the title "Zealots" seems not to have been used until after the war began).

    I think that this is an assumption that Christians or those raised in a Christian culture make about Jews. Christians believe that the Messiah has come, so they assume that the Jews, who didn't believe in him, must still be waiting. I think that Jews do believe that the Messiah is yet to come, but this expectation is not a very important element of Judaism. I'd suggest asking a Jew and seeing what they say.

    No, and that quote doesn't indicate anything of the kind, as I'm sure we discussed only a couple of pages ago. Surely Jesus is just forgiving them for executing an innocent man - assuming he ever said it.

    That still assumes that Jesus' own personality and distinctive teachings had no influence on the emergence and development of Christianity, which seems implausible to say the least. After all, John the Baptist was also executed, and also had many followers, who outnumbered those of Jesus; these followers continued to exist after his death, like those of Jesus. So why did Jesus' followers end up founding a major religion and John's dissipate? There's no definite answer to that other than the exigencies of history. And, of course, the fact that Jesus' followers were convinced that he had risen from the dead and bestowed his spirit upon them. But why was that?

    Maybe it is and maybe it isn't (although I hardly see how it could not be), but the point is that an argument of that kind doesn't show it. You can have an argument with true premises and a true conclusion, but if the latter does not follow from the former, that is a worthless argument.

    Yes, but that's non-controversial because "soul" in this sort of context just means "whatever makes something alive", which carries no weird metaphysical baggage.

    I wonder how many times I'm going to have to repeat myself on this. "Son of God" is practically meaningless in a first-century Jewish context. It just means someone whom God regards with favour. It has this meaning throughout the Old Testament and is applied to all sorts of people, including the entire Jewish people on occasion. If Jesus had "claimed" to be Son of God it wouldn't have meant much and certainly would not have had any overtones of actual divinity. The title "Son of God" acquired those overtones only later, in the third and fourth centuries, when Christian theologians who were ignorant of its original meaning assumed that it was a reference to Jesus' divinity, just as "Son of Man" was a reference to his humanity.
     
  7. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2006
    Messages:
    16,080
    Location:
    In orbit
    Fair enough. (And sorry for making yourself repeat yourself - again...) Keep it up! ;)
     
  8. Maimonides

    Maimonides Chieftain

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2006
    Messages:
    1,078
    Location:
    Kansas, USA
    I just want to affirm Plotinus' response. Jews view G-d as the Creator of everything, therefore there's nothing unusual & it's certainly not blasphemous to refer to any person as His child.

    The "Ask a Jew" threads always end in total disaster.:p There's too much trolling, baiting, anti-Semetism, religious nuttery & bigotry in OT for them to be sustainable.

    Plotinus is pretty much correct once again. We don't believe that the messiah has come.

    The Jewish prophecies & traditions regarding the messiah are very different than the Christian views. The Jewish messiah isn't divine. He doesn't have any super powers. He is supposed to be an descendant of King David. The tradition is that world peace will be achieved when he comes, but we don't have any idea how. The tradition also says that the dead will be ressurrected by G-d when the messiah comes so that everyone will be able to enjoy the peaceful times.

    The messiah isn't mentioned once in the Torah which is the very heart of Judaism. The messianic prophecies come from the prophetic writings, mainly Isaiah. My brother-in-law is a rabbi so I asked him about this at dinner a couple of nights ago. He says that the Talmud also contains a total of about 15 pages referring to the messiah. That's it. It's not a big deal to us although it does affect our burial rituals. We don't have anything like Apocalypse that lays out specific signs leading to the messiah's arrival. There is a prayer asking G-d to send the messiah within our lifetime, but that's just because we just like the idea of world peace.:)

    This issue is the heart of the rift between Christianity & Judaism. Christianity is based on the belief that a messiah fulfilled Jewish prophecy, but not even the Gospels contain anything that relates fulfillment of those prophecies &, furthermore, the writers didn't seem to know very much about Jewish prophecy or tradition. It's no wonder that Christianity took off only after expanding beyond the Jewish community.
     
  9. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2006
    Messages:
    16,080
    Location:
    In orbit
    No argument here - and good to know. The idea that the messiah should be from the house of David also inspired early Christianity to try and establish such a (non-existent) link, I gather. (An idea that is still being held by some Christian traditions, if I'm not mistaken. But then, there's also the view that Jesus visited North America, that his own line lived on in the Merovingian kings, etc. etc.)
     
  10. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

    Joined:
    Nov 14, 2003
    Messages:
    16,810
    Location:
    Somerset
    I won't disagree with anything else Maimonides said, but I'd like to point out (as I've said before) that there is great uncertainty over the extent to which early Christianity was Jewish (as well as what that even means). There are good reasons for thinking that Christianity expanded largely or even mostly exclusively within the Jewish community for a long time after the first century, perhaps even until the time of Constantine. One reason is that ancient Judaism was far more diverse than modern Judaism, to the extent that Christianity and Judaism might be best viewed not as distinct religions but as a single continuum, with Marcionites at one end and anti-Christian rabbinic Jews at the other, and much diversity between. Or to put it another way, ancient Judaism was largely ended with the destruction of the second Temple, and both rabbinic Judaism (the ancestor of Judaism as we know it today) and Christianity emerged at roughly the same time out of its rubble. If it is true that Christianity remained Jewish for longer than is traditionally supposed, then both of these two religions could be considered "new" Judaisms, based on the old, but with new ideas, and with much cross-fertilisation between them. The whole thing is really very complex.
     
  11. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

    Joined:
    Aug 28, 2005
    Messages:
    49,429
    Location:
    Stamford Bridge
    Thanks for responding to my questions - Fascinating.
     
  12. Maimonides

    Maimonides Chieftain

    Joined:
    Dec 15, 2006
    Messages:
    1,078
    Location:
    Kansas, USA
    That's one tradition that Christianity did get right, but I've been told that the geneology layed out in the Gospels to connect David & Jesus doesn't actually work. I haven't studied Christianity in enough depth to really say one way or the other.

    The former is obviously Mormonism, but I thought the latter was just a recent conspiracy theory popularized by Dan Brown's book. Do any Christians actually believe this?

    (Quoted for context & continuity.)

    I've seen you write this before, but it puzzles me a bit.

    There certainly weren't any secular Jews back then. The Temple would have been the ritual center for all Jews. I realize there were sects like the Essenes living in self-isolation, but their basic doctrine & rituals probably weren't much different. Judaism was geographically far-flung, but not so much as it became in the centuries since. I do accept that Christianity was a sect of Judaism in it's earliest form.

    Today, we have Reform, Conservative, Traditional, Orthodox, several sects of Chasidism, Ashkenazic, Sephardi, Karaite, Ethiopian (whose isolation meant that they didn't know about some traditions observed by other Jews), secular/atheist/agnostic...& then there's even the Samaritans who we still can't agree on whether or not they're Jewish. There are even differences within those groups. For example, among the Sephardi, Yemeni Jews have some rituals & traditions that are different from Moraccan Jews. Granted, some of the differences above are just degrees of observance, but that list seems pretty diverse to me & there are probably some I'm forgetting.

    That being said, how was ancient Judaism so much more diverse?

    I've always viewed Judaism as more continuous. No doubt, the destruction of the Temple changed Judaism allot, but if there wasn't a huge mosque (actually 2) standing on the Temple mount, it would have been rebuilt by now. The cohenim would be running services there & sacrifices & other Temple rituals would have resumed. We still preserve & learn ancient Hebrew, the Torah, the Tanach, the Talmud. We still observe the holidays (with some added since) & laws.

    I brought this up in the 1st Ask a Theologian thread when I asked you your opinion of the validity of the term, "Judeo-Christian." Judaism & Christianity are sooo different that that term seems meaningless to me. Clearly, Christianity was born from Judaism, but it went it's seperate way so vigorously that it's hard to see any Jewish influence in it today.

    This is a touchy subject for us. There are the "Jews for Jesus" or "messianic Jews" as they call themselves that are funded largely by Christian groups hoping convert Jews. There are Christians who dress up as observant Jews & even learn Hebrew & observe Jewish law as an Orthodox Jew would to gain entry to Jewish congregations & communites where they try to proselytize. This actually happens quite often. There is a Black congregation in New York that preaches from street corners that they are the real nation of Israel & that White Jews are perpetrating a fraud by usurping their ancestry. We Jews in the West are a tiny minority trying to emerge from centuries of harsh persecution so the idea that Christianity & Judaism are basically branches of the same thing feels like the same old missionary shtick, a threat, whether real or perceived.

    No doubt.
     
  13. Moss

    Moss CFC Scribe Retired Moderator

    Joined:
    May 1, 2002
    Messages:
    6,584
    Location:
    Minnesota
    Plotinus - you said in the first Ask a Theologian thread that if you believed, you'd probably be a liberal-minded Anglican. I may have completely missed this and you wrote about this previously, and if so I apologize, but what stops you from believing?

    I find it interesting that you rationalize and explain certain questions (I was just re-reading your thoughts on textual biblical inconsistencies for example) better than most devout Christians could. You don't seem to think that it is completely impossible that God or Christ exists. Is it that for you the evidence against seems greater than the evidence for a Creator?
     
  14. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Entangled Retired Moderator Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2001
    Messages:
    35,118
    Location:
    Albuquerque, NM
    The answer depends upon what you believe when you ask/answer the question. If you see religion as nothing more than some outdated human construct, then you are likely to see Christianity as a chance event built upon a particular set of circumstances. New circumstances would create a different event or no event at all. Religious people will have a very different perspective.

    I believe that the forces that create religions are always at work and another religion would have taken its place. Christianity took over 350 years to become the religion of the Roman Empire. New religions crop up all the time. Any of the following could be the next world wide religion: Mormonism, Bahai, Jehovah's Witnesses, Scientology, Hindu/Buddhist/Islamic splinter groups. They are all quite young as religions go. Today they appear to many as cultish groups without much merit. I'm sure that the early christians appeared the same for the first 200 years of its existence.

    Your question is like asking what would Europe be like today if Napoleon/Lenin/Hitler had never been born. "Not the same" is the best answer.
     
  15. Moss

    Moss CFC Scribe Retired Moderator

    Joined:
    May 1, 2002
    Messages:
    6,584
    Location:
    Minnesota
    BJ - are you separating Hinduism, Buddhism, and Islam from "Hindu/Buddhist/Islamic splinter groups" and if you are, what do you mean by that?

    Since those three are hardly new religions (Hinduism being older than even Judaism).
     
  16. Elrohir

    Elrohir RELATIONAL VALORIZATION

    Joined:
    Nov 22, 2004
    Messages:
    12,507
    I've seen you make this claim before, and it's always struck me as a little odd. What's the reasoning behind it? I understand being skeptical of the miraculous events in the Gospels (If you don't believe in God, then believing that God would raise someone from the dead is obviously hard to believe), but why believe that it is "unlikely" that a specific claim was made, when there is evidence showing that he did, and none declaring that he definitively did not? Is this based on the scholarly....distrust of the Gospel of John? But there are passages in the other Gospels that at the very least imply that Jesus is God. (Mark 2:1-12 springs to mind) and many others that show a Father-Son relationship that is supposed to be far beyond any general "we are all God's children" sort of thing. For instance: In Matthew 11:27, Jesus claimed that no one knows the Father but the Son, and those to whom the Son has chosen. He publicly forgives sins on behalf of God in not just John, but in Mark and Luke as well. To be honest, the idea that Jesus was just claiming to be the "Son of God" in a general sense, or even in a "I'm a special prophet guy" way seems rather at odds with the evidence.

    I'm afraid I don't understand why you're saying what you are. I'm sorry if you've had to discuss this, or something similar to a great extent before, and I'll understand if you don't want to touch it anymore.
     
  17. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Entangled Retired Moderator Supporter

    Joined:
    Dec 24, 2001
    Messages:
    35,118
    Location:
    Albuquerque, NM
    I am just saying that sects or splinters of major religions can grow to dominance of their own. Buddhism was a splinter of Hinduism originally, Protestantism a splinter of Catholicism, Transcendental Meditation as proposed by Maharishi Mahesh Yogi is a recent offshoot of Hinduism and could in time become a "great religion" of its own. It is too early to tell. Even the Moonies have a shot at worldwide stature. Religious timelines are very long and we can only look back at the past and guess at the future.
     
  18. Moss

    Moss CFC Scribe Retired Moderator

    Joined:
    May 1, 2002
    Messages:
    6,584
    Location:
    Minnesota
    Okay, I get it. You should have said off-shoots. ;)
     
  19. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

    Joined:
    Oct 28, 2006
    Messages:
    16,080
    Location:
    In orbit
    Nor does it make any sense, given the (later) doctrines of Mary's virgin conception and Jesus being God.

    That I seriously doubt; perhaps it's only interesting in the light of the tradition of divine origin of dynasties - which goes back to well before Jesus, obviously.


    That's interesting: it would then be one difference between Judaism and Christianity, as the Temple (or what's left of it) has little meaning for most Christians; one of the few instances it is mentioned in the gospels is when Jesus raged against the traders who set up shop there - so for Jesus, as a very religious Jew, it obviously did hold significant importance.
     
  20. Lord Malbeth

    Lord Malbeth Chieftain

    Joined:
    Feb 28, 2006
    Messages:
    1,838
    Location:
    Tower of Fornost
    This is out of a more curiosity then anything really. I've read through this thread, which, might I add is very informative, and I'm started to wonder. What exactly are your beliefs, if you don't might me asking. I realized you're not a Christian, Jew, Muslim, etc, but are you Theistic, Deistic, Agnostic, Atheist, etc.? Anyway, just wondering, not meaning to pry. :)
     
Thread Status:
Not open for further replies.

Share This Page