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Ask a Theologian II

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

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  1. The Last Conformist

    The Last Conformist Irresistibly Attractive

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    That idea certainly existed (the only explicit statement I have at hand is, of all things, a passage from Aeschylus), and is surely presumed by the very word "sperm" (Gr. sperma, lit "seed"); but Aristotle had slightly different ideas.
     
  2. Maimonides

    Maimonides Chieftain

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    Common yes, but only at the Temple in Jerusalem. Jews who didn't live in Jerusalem & wanted to make a sacrifice had to travel. They probably took place every day except the Sabbath. The animal sacrifices at the Temple carried a variety of intentions, not necessarily atonement. The sacrifices around Rosh Hashanah & Yom Kippur probably intended atonement because that's when Jews worry about that. Sacrifices around Chanukah would have intended to thank G-d for a military victory. If somebody wanted G-d to sanctify their marriage, they might make a sacrifice. If somebody had a sick child, they might make a sacrifice asking for G-d's help. Most of the sacrifices were not about atonement.

    Animal sacrifices at the Temple also had two secondary purposes. The meat of the animals sacrificed was either donated to the poor or provided food for the Temple priests so making a sacrifice was also a way to support the priests or fulfill the Commandments to help the needy.

    As to whether or not a sacrifice really atoned for anything, I guess it's a matter of opinion. We haven't practiced animal sacrifice since the Temple was destroyed in 70 C.E. so the idea is pretty alien to me. I can't imagine myself taking a blade to an animal's throat as part of a religious ceremony.

    In Judaism, human sacrifice is a no-no whether it's one guy or a thousand. Jewish tradition remembers it as a pagan practice of the Jebusites, Canaanites &/or Phoenicians, therefore, it's taboo. In the Torah, only Abraham even came close to practicing it-on his son, Isaac, at G-d's order & he was stopped at the last moment. We regard Abraham as the 1st Jew which further reinforces the taboo.

    Jewish prophecies regarding the messiah don't mention anything about him needing to die to save anybody from anything. I just don't see how that Christian concept can be traced to Judaism. To me, the concept, "require the sacrifice of Jesus specifically, once and for all" is a clear sign that Judaism is off the table & Christianity is all that's left on the menu.:) Jewish tradition does hold, however, that the messiah will raise the dead so that is a thread common to both Judaism & Christianity.

    Thanks for this thread! I think I've learned allot lurking here.

    I don't know exactly, either, but the Talmuds mention the same rituals we use today & the Talmuds are much older than the time related in the Gospels. The very existence of the Temple meant that Jews practiced our religion very differently from how we do it today, but I think that the religious doctrine itself is pretty similar.

    The Gospels are interesting to me as a snapshot on Jewish life at that time & place. Over there is a Jew dunking people in a river. Over there is a Jew fishing. Over there is a Jew having a baby. Over there are some Jews worshipping G-d. Over there is a Jew changing coinage. Over there is a Jew helping the needy... When Jesus declares the kiddush wine to be his blood & the hamotze bread to be his flesh, I read: Over there is a Christian.

    If the Gospels were written about the 20th century instead, I'd read: Over there is a Jew theorizing about the nature of the universe (Einstein). Over there is a Jew launching an entertainment industry (Mayer, Cohen). Over there is a Jew fishing (me:D). Over there is a Jew asking people to try hallucinogens to open their minds (Ginsburg). Over there is a Jew exploring the human psyche (Freud). Over there is a Jew singing badly about civil rights (Dylan)... When it relates a story about a man hacking through the jungle to introduce people to G-d, I'd read: Over there is a Christian.

    That makes sense. You're a scholar looking at issues as they relate to Christianity & you don't have a religious tie to Christianity. I'm a layman looking at issues as they relate to Judaism & I'm a Jew. Seeing things through your scholarship & perspective is probably why I like following this thread.

    I'd also guess that Jews weren't as familiar with the Gospels in the early days of Christianity as they are today. Maybe they didn't know much about that part. The Gideons hadn't placed a copy in every motel in the world, yet.

    I see many, many things that seperate Judaism & Christianity. To me, that's one scene in the Gospels where Judaism leaves the building. The only Jew that would do & say what Jesus does & says in that scene is one who is embarking down a completely different path. There's nothing unusual about a Jew performing "miracles" or getting pissed off at something irreligious taking place in the synagogue (or Temple in that case).

    Yup. Those are all still big differences.

    Thanks for posting that! I'll read it later when I've had more sleep.:) I'm much more familiar with Christians stomping Jews in the Middle Ages than I am with Jews stomping Christians during the Roman empire.

    It's a certainly a difficult period of time to study. If only they had daily newspapers back then that were preserved.:)

    I'd imagine that the new ideas of the earliest Christians would have been pretty polarizing, but the revolts in 70 & 135 C.E. would have shook their world to the core & given them bigger things to worry about.

    The speed at which Christianity arose has always fascinated me. It went from an obscure little sect among many to the state religion of the Roman empire in a relatively short time. I wish we knew more about that & how it happened. Yes, I know about Constantine. I'm talking about the period between 30 C.E. & Constantine. Perhaps it can be attributed to Christianity's intense missionary aspect. Perhaps they had a really high birth rate. Perhaps other religions were already in decline leaving a void to be filled. It's probably all of those & more. I just wish we knew more. History rocks.:)
     
  3. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    Since the Commandments are older than the Temple, it follows that animal sacrifice is older than the Temple.

    The notion that Abraham even considered human sacrifice points to the fact that it is an ancient, even prehistoric, practice, evident in many, seemingly unrelated cultures.

    Obviously: the first gospels weren't written until 30-40 years post factum. (And, as you mention, Christianity started out as a - Jewish! - sect, the teachings of sects being usually unfamiliar to those not included in their community.)
     
  4. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Everything you say here is true apart from one point - some Jews were still practising animal sacrifices until about a century ago, in Ethiopia. Even in modern times, Judaism has been more diverse than one might think.

    Yes, and to many of the early Christians - above all Paul - Jesus' resurrection was a sign that the end of the world was imminent, because the end of the world was supposed to be marked by resurrections. At least, the Pharisees thought so. Some Jews, such as the Sadducees, didn't believe in the resurrection of the dead at all.

    So would you say that Jesus wasn't a Jew at all? Might it not be more reasonable to say that he was a Jew, but an unusual one? I've been trying to make the point that Judaism at that time was very diverse. I certainly don't think there are any known parallels to Jesus' words at the Last Supper (this is assuming that he really said them, of course, although I don't see any reason to doubt it), but I'd be inclined to think that that means, at most, that Jesus was doing something novel, not that it necessarily stopped him being a Jew any more. Suppose we were to discover some Jewish sect of the time who had a similar belief and practice - I think it would be reasonable then to conclude that in fact first-century Judaism was even more diverse than we thought, and that Jesus was even closer to common Jewish beliefs and practices that we thought. We wouldn't be inclined to think that that sect wasn't Jewish.

    Thank you, and perspectives like yours are very helpful.

    By an amazing coincidence, I've just finished writing a book on precisely that subject, so you must watch out for it. Briefly, it was a very complex process that isn't really well understood. The Christians did indeed have a higher birth rate than other people in the Roman empire, which actually had a lower birth rate than death rate. This was partly because Christianity had a higher proportion of women than the empire as a whole (it's been estimated that Rome had around five men for every four women - largely because of the practices of infanticide, which was commonly practised with girls, and abortion, which was extremely dangerous for the mother). The missionary element is harder to assess, especially since there seems to have been very little Christian missionary activity between the end of the first century and the beginning of the fourth. In fact it is quite possible that Christianity mostly stagnated during this period, as far as expansion went. Paganism wasn't going through any kind of natural decline, although some forms of paganism (such as Mithraism) seem to have done so. In fact there were some interesting developments in paganism at the start of the fourth century, involving the appropriation of ideas from Christianity. But Christianity did manage to supplant paganism during the fourth century, thanks to a combination of factors. One was the fact that bishops took over many of the functions of pagan priests and civil governors, weaving the church into the fabric of society in a way that couldn't really be undone. Another was the fact that the pagan aristocracy allied themselves to various imperial usurpers who were subsequently defeated by Christian emperors, which really broke the spirit of pagan resistance to Christianity. And another was the effective proscription of pagan practices by the end of the century. However, paganism took a long time to be stamped out; Justinian was still doing it in the sixth century, by which time the measures had increased to the point where paganism had become a capital crime.
     
  5. The Last Conformist

    The Last Conformist Irresistibly Attractive

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    Why did they stop? Influence from European Jewry?

    (Totally tangentially, am I the only one who is annoyed that attributed quotes are put in italics? It hides any italics of the original, which is why I've changed Plot's italics above to bold.)
     
  6. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    That's right. In fact it was one person who got them to stop, Jacques Faitlovitch, a Polish Jew who lived with the Ethiopian Jews in the early twentieth century and who did a huge amount to try to re-integrate them with Judaism in other countries. He persuaded them to stop the animal sacrifices and taught them Hebrew, and apparently they were very excited by this and quite willing to change their traditions. Faitlovitch also spent much time trying to persuade European Jewish leaders that the Ethiopian Jews really were Jews, which they were pretty sceptical about, partly because of the divergent religious practices. He failed in his own lifetime (he died in 1955) but of course his efforts were ultimately successful. There's an interesting article about it here.

    I agree with you about the italics.
     
  7. Maimonides

    Maimonides Chieftain

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    I read several chapters of Dialogue with Trypho & intend to read it all. It's very interesting. I expected to see a nasty argument, but it reads more like two old friends having a philosophical discussion. Nobody's getting stomped. It's a bit amusing to me that I find myself agreeing more with the arguments of Trypho. I've had similar discussions with Christian friends throughout my life so that work seems timeless.

    It sends a chill up my spine to read the chapter titles of Barnabas which are also on that page. If Judaism & Christianity had had the same relationship as Trypho & Justin throught the centuries, allot less blood would have been spilled.

    That site is certainly not objective, but it holds allot of interesting information. Bookmarked.:)

    Of course, but we were discussing the 2nd Temple period.

    I don't see anyone arguing that. The pre-Columbian Aztecs practiced human sacrifice at a horrifying level.

    I was pointing out the Jewish taboo regarding the practice.

    I wouldn't say, "factum," but that was something I was guessing at. Plotinus would probably know more than I.

    Thanks. I wasn't aware of that.

    It seems that the Pharisees' opinion won out. Some of our practices today are based on the belief that the messiah will raise the dead. It can be seen on the news when there's a street bombing in Israel. Ultra-religious Jews can be seen in the background mopping up blood & bady parts with towels. They're not trying to clean the street & sidewalks. It's because they want to be sure the fluids & parts get properly buried with the bodies so that the bodies will be resurrected as whole as possible when the messiah comes.

    Secular & Reform Jews spend little to no time thinking about messianic prophesy while religious Jews pray for the messiah to come during their lifetimes.

    It's also interesting to me how differently the history of 2nd Temple period is taught. Rabbis & Jewish professors almost never mention the various sects (Pharisees, Sadducees, Zealots, etc.) instead focusing on things like the relationship with Rome, the Temple's role & Herod's massive building projects. Christian & secular professors seem to focus on the sects, their philosophies & the differences between them. Maybe it's just me, but that always seems to be the case.

    I think I've been unclear. Jesus (Yeshua), if he existed, was certainly a Jew. I was trying to point out a part in the Gospels that I think illustrates a difference between Judaism & Christianity while also pointing out parts that don't seem alien to Jewish culture & practices.

    Understood. The 1st generation or two of Christians were almost certainly Jews. When Christianity spread to Greeks, Romans & others, that, of course, ceased to be the case. At some point, the two set off down distinctly different theological paths. I can't say exactly when that occurred, but Christianity hasn't been a sect of Judaism for a long, long time.

    Cool! Please let us know if it hits the bookshelves in the U.S.

    Thanks for posting that! Lots of interesting info in that article!

    I 1st met Ethiopian Jews when I spent the summer of 1989 in Israel-just a couple of years after that article was written. Their integration into modern society was still a work in progress. Most of the men seemed to be employed as security guards for tourist groups & places commonly targetted in terrorist attacks (malls, markets, grocery stores, night clubs, etc.). They were supplementing their income by buying hard-to-find items from tourists & reselling them to Israelis. I sold a well-used pair of Levi's jeans to an Ethiopian for twice what I paid for it in the U.S. & he was happy that he was getting such a great deal.:) There was some racism going on, but, overall, the Israelis were very excited & proud of their return & trying to help them integrate-kinda like their reaction when boatloads of Holocaust refugees were arriving.

    That article brought back allot of memories-most happy, some sad.
     
  8. IronMan2055

    IronMan2055 Korra 2011

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    Based off what it known of Jesus's teachings what Christian sect would you say most closely follows what he thought should be believed, Or do Christian religions not follow his ideas well at all?

    Also based on your study how likely are the events shown by people like Michael Baigent in books like "Holy Blood Holy Grail" and "The Jesus Papers"? Are they very likely, possible, complete bs?
     
  9. Birdjaguar

    Birdjaguar Entangled Retired Moderator Supporter

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    I'm not sure if the author wrote this or not, but I'm pretty sure if you ask him nicely he will pass along the title. :)

     
  10. Fifty

    Fifty !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    Plotinus: Whats your favorite solution to the problem of the trinity?
     
  11. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Yes, it's an interesting book from that point of view (although a very dull one from another point of view!). Justin does seem to have been a very open-minded and agreeable sort of person - he's probably most famous for his belief that because Christ is the divine Logos (Reason), anyone who leads a rational life is really following Christ, which means that philosophers and others who lived before Christ would be saved. The character of Trypho is unknown except from this book, so it is uncertain whether he was a real person or not, but it is very likely that Justin's Dialogue was based on real discussions he had with Jews. There is good evidence that at least some Christians and Jews were on friendly terms at least until the end of the fourth century. But it is uncertain how typical this was.

    Yes, the letter of Barnabas (which was probably written shortly before Justin Martyr was writing) isn't quite so friendly, to say the least. It certainly goes beyond anything you'll find in the New Testament. The letter to the Hebrews, for example, argues that Christians have inherited the promises made to the Jews, and that Christ fulfils the promise of the Law, so Judaism is now superseded. But Barnabas goes much further by arguing that the Judaism was never legitimate in the first place and that God's promises were always applied to the Christians. The letter of Barnabas was quite popular in the early church - more so than the letter to the Hebrews in most places - but fortunately it never made it into the canon.

    It's an incredibly useful site. The Library of the Fathers was a major series of editions from the nineteenth century, which you'll find in any decent theology library, and to have them all online is very useful. Many of these texts have still not been translated into English in any other edition. The translations are generally reliable although somewhat archaic in their tone. You're right that the editorial matter is not objective. The translations were made as part of the revival of patristic scholarship in the Church of England in the nineteenth century, which itself was part of the theological and liturgical movement in a Catholic direction. In fact some of the translations are based upon Newman's. So the editorial matter is very nineteenth-century Anglo-Catholic, and they try to present the authors as Anglo-Catholics. They are particularly keen to attack Roman Catholic interpretations of the authors - it is quite funny to read the footnotes to those passages (eg in Cyprian) which seem to teach the primacy of Rome, something the editors try to spin as actually teaching something else entirely. So the chapter headings (which are editorial) are not always reliable, and the opinions in the introductions are not either. However, the purely historical information is generally reliable and the editorial material does give you a good idea of what it's all about.

    That's interesting - I didn't know that. You're right, though, that the Pharisaic view won out. As I'm sure you know, the Great Bet Din at Jamnia in the late first century AD was dominated by Pharisees (indeed it was set up by one of the most prominent Pharisees, Johanan ben Zakkai). It was the Great Bet Din that basically founded rabbinic Judaism, which would go on to dominate Judaism in late antiquity and become the ancestor of modern Judaism. So by the Middle Ages, the notion of the resurrection of the dead would be regarded as an essential Jewish doctrine; it's among Maimonides' 13 fundamental principles of Judaism.

    I think that non-Jewish scholars do talk about the Temple and the other things you mentioned. There has certainly been rapprochement between Christian and Jewish scholars since the 1960s, which has fuelled new interpretations of early Christianity (basically, Christian scholars have realised that the portrayal of early Judaism in traditional Christianity was ridiculous). I suppose Christian and secular scholars focus on the sects because they are of particular interest to the study of the historical Jesus: which sects was he most closely related to? Also, of course, Paul was a Pharisee so they are important from that point of view too.

    You might be surprised. Don't forget that it was perfectly possible to be Greek or Roman and also Jewish. In the past, scholars often thought in terms of binary opposites: Hellenistic or Jewish; Jerusalem (Jewish) or empire (non-Jewish); and so on. But in fact things were much more complex. As I said before, some scholars think that Christianity remained very Jewish for centuries. Apart from the evidence of friendly relations between the two religions mentioned above, for example, there is evidence that Christians (at least many of them) continued to observe Jewish dietary regulations for centuries.

    One Jewish text from third-century Palestine tells of the first-century Pharisee Rabbi Eliezer, who was mistaken for a Christian and arrested. He assures the judge of his loyalty to the emperor and is released. Afterwards, the rabbi recalls that he had been listening cheerfully to a Christian in the marketplace, and this must have been the reason why he himself was mistaken for a Christians. Perhaps third-century Palestinian Jews often mixed with Christians in this way.

    Some Christian sources hint at an even closer relationship between Judaism and Christianity. A particularly interesting one is the sixth-century Syriac life of Mar Abba, one of the leaders of the Persian church in that period. One passage recounts a meeting between Mar Abba (at that time a pagan) and a man who claimed to be both Jewish and Christian. Mar Abba asked him how this was possible, and the man replied:

    So even as late as the sixth century AD, in the border regions between the Roman and Persian empires, there were people who regarded Christianity and Judaism as basically the same religion; who worshipped Jesus but identified themselves as Jews because the very word "Christian" was usually restricted to Marcionites (Christians who tried to purge the religion of all Jewish elements).

    These examples come from Boyarin, D. Dying for God: martyrdom and the making of Christianity and Judaism (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press 1999) which is well worth having a look at. Stark, R. The rise of Christianity: a sociologist reconsiders history (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press 1996) also has some very interesting ideas in it.

    But examples such as these lead some scholars to argue that we shouldn't think of "Christianity" and "Judaism" in the first few centuries AD at all; rather, we should think of a spectrum, with "Christianity" at one end and "Judaism" at the other but many positions in the middle as well. What we think of as "Judaism", namely rabbinic Judaism, took time to emerge from this complex muddle, just as what we think of Christianity did too.

    Of course - it might be a while yet though, as I only just finished the first draft. It'll be called The crucible of Christianity.

    That is very interesting. There have apparently been many tensions between the Ethiopian Jews and the Israelis. There was a bit of a scandal when it turned out that blood banks had been throwing out blood donated by Ethiopians, on the grounds that it wasn't as good as proper Israeli blood. There was a big outrage when that was discovered. Beta Israel do seem, in many ways, to be one of the most unfortunate groups of people in history; after centuries of persecution in their own country they finally made it to Israel but found that things weren't quite as rosy as they'd hoped.

    That's hard to answer. Jesus' main message seems to have been that the end of the world was coming soon, so it's rather hard for anyone today to agree with that. So I'm not sure that any mainstream church really follows his ideas closely.

    They are absolute rubbish.

    It's funny you should ask that as I have just finished the first draft of an article suggesting a new solution to precisely that problem. I have always thought that Gregory of Nyssa's approach was the most promising, as set out here and here (the former of these texts is presented here as a letter by Basil of Caesarea to Gregory, but in fact Gregory wrote it). This is a form of social Trinitarianism. As I'm sure you know, it's usual to distinguish between social Trinitarianism - which begins with the three persons and then tries to explain how they are one God - and Latin Trinitarianism - which begins with the one God and then tries to explain how he is three persons. I've always thought that social Trinitarianism was superior. Although Brian Leftow wrote a famous article a couple of years ago called "Anti-social Trinitarianism" (in Davis, S., Kendall, D., and O’Collins, G., eds. The Trinity Oxford: Oxford University Press 1999) which in my opinion gives a very powerful set of arguments against this position. And Leftow's other paper "A Latin Trinity" (in Faith and philosophy vol. 21 2004) gives a very clever version of Latin Trinitarianism, based on time travel. So now I'm not so sure!
     
  12. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    Not having read back your entire dialogue, I was unaware of that.

    I wasn't trying to argue anything, merely observing a fact. But taboos generally refer to an existing practice. (Otherwise, why ban it?) One might therefore even assume that the practice had at one point even been known in (pre-)Jewish circles, which is corroborated by Abraham's son's sacrifice story.

    Although it is true there are no historical records of Jesus' existence (he simply wasn't well known enough during his lifetime), there is a reference to a revlutionary being executed around the time the Gospels claim Jesus died.

    Post factum is correct: it need not refer to Jesus himself, but the apostles' activities are closely linked and well testified. (And post factum may very well be translated as after the deed, although after the fact has become the standard.)
     
  13. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    I didn't know that.

    Again, I didn't know that. I always felt that the later virulant Christian anti-semitism stemmed originally from the need to identify Christiany from Judaism, but for that to happen the two needed to grow apart first.

    I would say then the answer is easy: no Christian church today follows Jesus beliefs closely. Contrary to what the Gospels or the churches claim, Jesus never intended to found a church. As is made, inadvertently no doubt, made clear be the, supposedly original, quote saying he hath come "to fulfill the Law" (i.e. Jewish Law, since to Jews this was the only - religious - law to follow).

    Most interesting viewpoints. I have always felt the need to have such a doctrine as the Holy Trinity a remarkable hint to the fact that, for the most part, Christian religion isn't monotheistic at all. Part from the problem (for the Holy Trinity is basically a dilemma following from a problem) stems ofcourse from the doctrine that Jesus is literally God's Son, something to which he himself, I think, would not adhere.
     
  14. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Of course there are historical records of Jesus' existence; they are called the Gospels. If you don't count them, then I'm not sure what you mean by "historical records" at all. I'm also not sure what you mean by the reference to a revolutionary being executed. I have never heard of that. No official Roman documents relating to Jesus survive from the time. Tertullian claimed at the end of the second century that the official record of his trial existed in Rome, but that was pretty unlikely even then.

    Well, the idea that Jesus was "literally" God's Son would be very unorthodox from a Christian point of view. Orthodox Christianity holds that Jesus is God, not that he is literally "God's Son". The title "Son of God", as I seem to have to remind people constantly, meant only that he was favoured by God. The idea that Jesus was a sort of cross between God and human being, the result of a literal union between God and Mary, would also be heretical because it would make Jesus out to be half-human and half-divine.

    Now the basic motive for the doctrine of the Trinity comes from the belief that Jesus was divine, and that the Holy Spirit is divine, but that they are not identical with each other and also not identical with the Father.

    Properly understood, the doctrine of the Trinity isn't about abandoning monotheism at all. If it were then it would be perfectly simple - Christians would simply believe in three Gods. But the whole point of the Trinity is that there are three persons and yet there is only one God. A doctrine of the Trinity that is not compatible with monotheism is not really a doctrine of the Trinity at all. This is why the doctrine is problematic, because it is not very clear how it can be explained in a way which is monotheistic and yet not modalist (the denial of the real distinctions between the persons).
     
  15. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    The Gospels are'nt historical records, they're historico-religious sources. What is fact in them and what fiction has, I believe, been a further source of discussion ever since they were made public. (The reference is by Tacitus, who mentioned a "Christ, who was kiled under Tiberius by the governor Pontius Pilatus" or, in the original: auctor nominis [i.e. Christianos] eius Christus Tiberio imperitante per procuratorem Pontium Pilatum supplicio affectus erat, Annales 15, 44. This dates from 117 AD, i.e. after the Gospels had begun to be composed; no contemporary source actually mentions Jesus.)

    While I may have chosen my words less than careful, the notion of Jesus literally being the Son of God (which obviously indeed is a title), has, I believe been the source of some debate in religious history. (Just correct me if I'm wrong, I haven't studied these matters in quite a while.) Needless to point out that there are historical precedents to it as well.

    But I wasn't referring the the doctrine of the Holy Trinity (which, as it is now, is just the end result of many a religious controversy), but the notion. The fact that the intricacies of the concept of the Holy Trinity need constant explanation (as you point out) to laymen and/or non-believers, is an unfortunate one, but, I think, inherent to its nature.

    Further, the mere fact that the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is unclear (to a laymen even) stems from the pretense of monotheism (there is one God), contrasted with the notions of the Son of God and the Holy Spirit, which is resolved through the three persons doctrine. (Again, this has been the subject of countless religious disputes until it finally crystalized out in the present doctrine.)

    While this may result in a perfect theological solution, this does not solve the average laymen's problem. Simply put: how can one God be three persons? (Again, this has been the subject of countless religious disputes until it finally crystalized out in the present doctrine.)

    From a historical viewpoint the question of development into the present doctrine is ofcourse much more interesting.

    Finally, I certainly don't think the Holy Trinity doctrine is about abandoning monotheism, on the contrary, it's merely a step into the direction of monotheism, which, in my view, hasn't been completed yet.

    (On a personal level: I am perfectly willing to believe in one God, but I see no reason or need to believe in the divinity of Jesus or the Holy Spirit. Why? Simply because Jesus didn't believe in them. He couldn't have, as they are doctrines, which have developed since then. Again, just correct me if I'm wrong.)
     
  16. Erik Mesoy

    Erik Mesoy Core Tester / Intern

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    Possibly relevant: Jesus says "in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit" in Matthew 28:19, and I'm under the impression that "name" is specifically singular in the original.
     
  17. Plotinus

    Plotinus Philosopher Administrator

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    Well, all ancient texts are just "sources" which must be evaluated for their historical value, and this goes for historians such as Tacitus just as much as it does for evangelists, although no doubt to different degrees and for different reasons. The Tacitus reference isn't to a "revolutionary" but merely to the fact that Christ was executed by Pilate; it's also largely worthless as a historical testimony to Jesus independent of Christianity because it is quite clear from the context that Tacitus' knowledge of Jesus came solely from what Christians believed about him. There's no doubt that Jesus was executed by Pilate (whether he was a "revolutionary" is quite another matter), but that isn't because of what Tacitus said, or the other (apparent) reference to him in Suetonius.

    I'm not sure what you mean by contrasting the "notion" of the Trinity to the "doctrine". What's the difference? The doctrine is simply that there are three persons, each of whom is God, but nevertheless there is only one God. The question how that can be is one that is puzzling to everyone, not just (or even, I think, mainly) laymen; but the different answers that people have proposed to it should not be confused with the doctrine itself. So the doctrine itself is perfectly monotheist, because it explicitly includes the statement that there is only one God. Whether it does so consistently or coherently is another matter. As I said before, I'm not convinced that it is possible to give a coherent account of the doctrine which is orthodox in every way.

    The second person of the Trinity isn't the "Son of God", by the way. He's just the "Son". He is God, according to the doctrine, just as much as the Father is, although they are only one God.

    I agree that there's probably no good reason to suppose that Jesus believed in the the Trinity, but I would disagree with the assumption that, from a Christian point of view, that is enough not to believe in it. The mere fact that Jesus didn't know about something doesn't make it not true. Many theologians have supposed that, in becoming incarnate, the Son limited his knowledge, perhaps even his knowledge of himself; it is thus perfectly consistent to have faith in Jesus, believe him to be the second person of the Trinity, and also believe that he didn't know about the Trinity. This links in with the earlier discussion about the nature of Jesus' perfection.
     
  18. Fifty

    Fifty !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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    Awesome! We're reading pretty much all of those articles right now, plus some stuff on William Lane Craig's trinity monotheism. For my term paper I'll be focusing on Michael Rea's attempts to shed light on the problem of the trinity via the more general problem of material constitution in metaphysics. What do you think of relative identity approaches?
     
  19. warpus

    warpus In pork I trust

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    Warpus has a question.

    If Jesus is God, how could he have not known about something?
     
  20. Agent327

    Agent327 Observer

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    The precise formulation of this church formula is a clear indication that it is a a later addition. The Gospels are full of such "corrections", so I wouldn't attach much value to this specific one. There is, however, no doubt that Jesus felt a very personal relation to the Innamable One, which is evident from his usage of "My Father". Jesus couldn't have considered himself the Son of God, however, since this church doctrine hadn't been formulated yet. But the most clear indication is that it is a Christian formula, and Jesus was a Jew.
     
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