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Ask a Theologian II

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

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  1. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    If David was anything at all the way that the Old Testament presented him (or his sons) then half of Palestine would be descended from him . . .
     
  2. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    Again, theoretically possible, but very hard to prove. (Which, in the case of Jesus, is just the point.)

    @Plotinus: Glad we agree. (And people bring up issues all the time here, don't they? I don't see why I should be an exception.)
     
  3. UNeverNo

    UNeverNo Chieftain

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    Nearly (or maybe all?) religions state, that their god is the one and only and if you believe in any other you go to hell or whatever.

    But how can one know, what is _the_ god?

    I can believe in the muslim god, die and then...damn i should have taken the christian one...

    In many cases one doesn't have the chance to chose it's god; if you were born as an indian in 1000 a.d. there was no chance to chose the christian version (assuming he is the right one)...tough luck?

    So either god does not care if you believe in the muslim, christian, jewish, ... version of him (you always go to paradise) or he don't care if you go directly to hell/perdition?
     
  4. flyingchicken

    flyingchicken 99 117 110 116 115

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    :coffee: Read through even [wiki=religion]Wikipedia[/wiki] at the very least.
     
  5. UNeverNo

    UNeverNo Chieftain

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    :crazyeye:

    I was referring to christians, jews and muslims. Sorry if I misused the word 'religion' :mischief:

    I do know that there are religions that believe in multiple gods or just reincarnation, but that's not my kind of understanding ;)
     
  6. Miles Teg

    Miles Teg Nuclear Powered Mentat

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    Another factor that springs to mind is the Roman governor. As I seem to recall you mentioning before, Pilate had a mean streak and a very casual attitude towards execution, which was edited out of the Gospels for political reasons.

    It's worth noting that Matthew's genealogy in particularly mythic in character. As Eran mentioned, by the time Jesus was born, a fair portion of the country could probably trace it's lineage back to David, if they had records of that sort of thing. But actually being descended straight from the royal line, all the way to Babylonian Exile is rather unlikely. And of course, the timeline is far too short. If you add things up, it's obvious that their just are too few generations in Matthew's genealogy, because he went for a symbolic "something special happened every seven generations" thing. Overall, Matthew's genealogy just has a fairy tale feel to me.

    Question for Plotinus: Most scholars agree that Matthew's gospel is older than Matthew's. Why is that?
     
  7. El_Machinae

    El_Machinae Colour vision since 2018 Retired Moderator

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    In another forum, I made the bold claim that Muslim mythology draws more upon Christian mythology than it does Jewish mythology (regarding the Creation and early books). My idea is that the Christian 'spin' on the earlier OT books is different from the Jewish flavour.

    Now, how would I go about figuring out if this claim was warranted? I couched in "I think, I believe, I suspect ..." types of language, but it would be nice to know.
     
  8. Veritass

    Veritass Chieftain

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    I don't often find things that I want to add to my signature, but this one is a keeper!
     
  9. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    We've done this a million times already... see here for example. These religions don't (necessarily) say that if you're in the wrong religion you'll go to hell.

    That's right. Or rather, not "edited out", just not mentioned in the first place.

    I'm guessing that you mean Mark's Gospel is older than Matthew's... Basically, Matthew and Mark have so much in common that there must be textual dependence between them. The commonality is in two ways. First, almost all the material in Mark is in Matthew - something like 90%. And it is word-for-word the same. But there's lots of other stuff in Matthew that's not in Mark. Second, the order of the material that is common to both is also the same. So if story A and story B both appear in both Gospels, they appear in the same order.

    The word-for-word similarity means that it's not enough to say that similar oral traditions appeared in both Gospels; either Mark copied Matthew, or Matthew copied Mark, or they both copied some other (lost) text. The last of these is rarely seriously discussed, I think because it's just an unnecessary hypothesis. Then there's Luke, which also exists in a similar relationship to Mark. So we have two main possibilities:

    (1) Mark copied both Matthew and Luke, creating a sort of "best of" of both of them. (The Griesbach Hypothesis, named after the major scholar who proposed it.)

    (2) Both Matthew and Luke independently used Mark. (There are variations of this, such as the Two-Source Hypothesis, or an alternative according to which Luke used Mark and Matthew, but we needn't bother with that now.)

    Basically, a careful study of the text generally shows that (1) explains the evidence far better than (2). I'm not qualified to go into this in detail. But perhaps the simplest point is this. As I said, almost all the stories that appear in Mark appear in Matthew too. But they are generally somewhat abbreviated. There are many little details that appear in Mark but not in Matthew - for example, in the story of the calming of the storm, Mark mentions the cushion that Jesus was using as a pillow, but Matthew doesn't. Now if Matthew wrote after Mark, this makes sense. Matthew wanted to include all the material that he read in Mark, but he also had a load of other material from other sources that he wanted to include as well. So he cut out the unnecessary details, and shortened each individual story so he could fit them all in. But think about it the other way around. On this theory, Mark read Matthew's Gospel and decided write a new Gospel using it as a source. For some reason, he left out lots of really good bits (such as the sermon on the mount), and yet expanded the stories that he did include by adding lots of little details about cushions and so on. Why would anyone do that?

    So this is the main reason why Matthew is thought to be later than Mark - the theory that Matthew used Mark makes far more sense than the other way around. (There are some things that are still hard to explain though, notably those cases where Matthew and Luke agree with each other but not with Mark, which would make most sense on the Griesbach Hypothesis.) There are other reasons too, such as the attitude to the Jews that I mentioned a couple of posts ago. Matthew seems to presuppose a state of relations with the Jewish authorities that reflects a later stage in the evolution of the two religions than Mark does. Considerations such as this are always tentative because we don't really know much about this (and what we do know is mostly gleaned from texts such as Matthew's Gospel, raising the risk of circular reasoning), but it does fit in with the stronger textual evidence.

    That's hard. I'm not sure how you'd go about it, except to read scholarly books on early Islam! I do know that there are intriguing hints that early Islam might have been influenced by Christianity (especially the Monophysitism which was the main form of Christianity among the Arabs immediately before the rise of Islam). For example, the title "seal of the prophets" - an early title for Muhammad - actually comes from Tertullian, who applies it to Jesus. Although I can't give you a reference off-hand.
     
  10. Miles Teg

    Miles Teg Nuclear Powered Mentat

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    Oh dear, that was an embarrassing oversight.

    But no, I'm familiar with the basics of the topic. My intended question is why Matthew is supposed to be older than Luke.
     
  11. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Ah - well, that I'm not sure about, I'm afraid.
     
  12. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Entangled Retired Moderator Supporter

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    I read somewhere, perhaps in one of your posts or in one of your books, or perhaps not at CFC, that the gospel of John is "organized" as if someone dropped the manuscript's unnumbered pages and put them back in the wrong order which became the final sequence.
     
  13. Eran of Arcadia

    Eran of Arcadia Stormin' Mormon Retired Moderator

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    If I recall (and this was an LDS scripture class that said it, even) that the first part of John 8 (the woman caught in adultery) is pretty clearly stuck in the middle of John 7 and the rest of John 8, which is otherwise a continuous narrative.
     
  14. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Yes, it is one possibility which might explain a lot! This is also a possibility with some other books, namely 2 Corinthians and Philippians.

    Yes, the story of the woman caught in adultery is very anomalous. It doesn't fit in the narrative and it is not found in some of the best manuscripts. Its style is also unlike the rest of the Gospel. I had a tutor who believed it was actually a part of Luke that had somehow come adrift and got attached to the wrong Gospel.
     
  15. Bill3000

    Bill3000 OOOH NOOOOOOO! Supporter

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    Isn't the Two-source hypothesis the currently prevailing one, not the Greisbach? From what I read, the Greisbach Hypothesis is supported only by a minority of scholars...
     
  16. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Yes, that's right. As I said, Markan priority makes much more sense that Matthaean priority, and I think the vast majority of scholars accept this. Not all of them accept the existence of Q but most of them do.
     
  17. Ziggy Stardust

    Ziggy Stardust New Englander

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    I am guessing this has already been asked, so a quick and dirty answer will be fine by me.

    In the How Religious Are You thread, discussion is about what Jesus meant for the validity of the OT. Only thing I was able to dig up, wading through contradicting google searched sources was:

    Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. (Matthew 5:17)

    But I do remember people talking about the coming of Jesus as a change in management. Can you please shed some light on this?
     
  18. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    I'm not sure what you mean by "the validity of the OT" - this would have been meaningless to Jesus, since the Old Testament, as a canon, did not exist in his time. If you mean his attitude to the Jewish Law, then there a long answer to that and a short one. The long answer consists of several shelves' worth of material (I know because I am sitting in the Bodleian Library and just went over to look). The short answer is that no-one knows.

    There is some evidence that Jesus regarded the Law as binding and unchanged - this includes the verse you mention as well as the following one. But then there is other evidence that he regarded the Law as limited or outdated, or at least less important than himself - such as Mark 2:27-28, Mark 10:2-12, Mark 13:1-3, or Matthew 8:19-22. Some scholars have regarded the first set of evidence as authentic and conclude that the other set is fabricated. Others have exactly the opposite view. Others think that Jesus had contrary attitudes towards different aspects of the Law. And others still think that Jesus simply didn't have any view on the matter.

    Here is a good summary which seems to me to be plausible. This is from E.P. Sanders' famous book Jesus and Judaism (London: SCM 1985), p. 267 (from the end of the chapter where he discusses all this stuff in detail):

    Note that Sanders thinks in general that Jesus can best be understood as an eschatological prophet, so this is an instance of that. This is an interpretation which goes back to Schweitzer and I think it is probably the most popular one today, but it is far from unchallenged.
     
  19. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    It may be challenged, but it appears as a very likely approximation of the person Jesus - possibly the closest one can get. (I must contest one conclusion however: "he admitted sinners to the kingdom" should read "he promised sinners the kingdom" [of Heaven]; also, I know of only the example of Jesus in his final moments, but I'd appreciate another.)

    Anyway, you once asked about notion vs idea; it's being discussed here by me: http://forums.civfanatics.com/showpost.php?p=8242759&postcount=114 (Interesting thread, BTW.)

    Finally, you once mentioned that the virtual omnipresence of religion (on Earth that is) would suggest evidence of its veracity. I'm sure you know very well that number of adherents does not constitute proof of fact. (In a democracy, that would equal "the majority is always right".)
     
  20. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    What a strange thread. Looks to me like it could do with a healthy injection of scholastic philosophy, most notably the distinction between the formal properties of an idea and its objective properties, but I'm not going to do that.

    Yes, but I'm sure that you also know that evidence isn't the same thing as proof, so I don't think your point there really addresses what I said (whatever precisely that was).
     
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